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Posts Tagged ‘Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff’

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Killers of the Flower Moon, Chicago Film Fest, and Horror Picks for Halloween

October 24th, 2023 | Robin

The Pinnacle

Killers of the Flower Moon (Film, US, Martin Scorsese, 2023) Ambitious but dim WWI vet (Leonardo di Caprio) marries a self-possessed Osage woman (Lily Gladstone) and conspires with his wealthy, respected uncle (Robert De Niro) to murder her family for their oil money. Scorsese favors the restrained side of his style in the latest, epic entry in his sprawling saga of American crime. As historical figure Ernest Burkhart, di Caprio plays a type of person often seen in real life but typically written out of fictional portrayals, one of impossibly muddled, contradictory intentions. —RDL

Killers of the Flower Moon (Film, US, Martin Scorsese, 2023) Malleable nephew Ernest (Leonardo di Caprio) of Osage County rancher Bill “King” Hale (Robert De Niro) marries an Osage woman (and potential oil rights heiress) Molly (Lily Gladstone) to further his uncle’s murderous conspiracy. Ernest and Molly’s unequal (and uneven) love story provides the emotional throughline of a film that begins as a gangster Western and ends (literally) as a law-and-order tale. Gladstone also, simultaneously, plays the “woman in a serial killer movie who cannot reveal herself” part in a terrifyingly realistic key. —KH


Alien Island (Film, Chile/Italy, Cristóbal Valenzuela, 2023) Documentary begins with Chilean shortwave operators’ contacts with UFO witnesses in 1984, which led to lengthy radio discussions with “Ariel,” the representative of an unspecified island in southern Chile called “Friendship.” Without giving away the left turns the story takes, I can say the film makers probably found the hoaxer behind Ariel, and have a good reason for the seemingly irrelevant footage of Pinochet at the beginning. If there’s such a thing as a noir UFO documentary, this is kind of that. —KH

El Conde (FIlm, Chile, Pablo Larraín, 2023) When a fresh wave of blood-draining murders rocks modern day Santiago, the corrupt children of the vampire known as Augusto Pinochet (Jaime Vadell) travel to his island redoubt hoping to secure their share of his hidden wealth. Political satire borrows the pacing and black and white look of Browning’s 1931 Dracula for a sometimes poetic examination of our world’s truly immortal evil.—RDL

The Crime is Mine (Film, France, François Ozon, 2023) Young, impoverished, and semi-talented roommates, actress Madeline (Nadia Tereszkiewicz) and lawyer Pauline (Rebecca Marder) take credit for the murder of an odious producer and set 1935 Paris law and society on its ear. Isabelle Huppert as a fading silent star who refuses to fade adds a larger-than-life splash to this amiable neo-screwball exercise, which could be more frenetic but could hardly be more delightful. —KH

Late Night With the Devil (Film, Australia/UAE, Cameron Cairnes & Colin Cairnes, 2023) Also-ran talk-show host Jack Delroy (David Dostmalchian) books a victim of demonic possession (Ingrid Torelli) on his show on Halloween night 1977 in a make-or-break ploy for ratings. Beginning with a mockumentary exposition dump, the movie takes off with the “lost master tape” of that suppressed episode and never looks back. Dostmalchian hits the perfect mix of narcissism and flop sweat, and the Cairneses rival Ti West in their 1970s recall. —KH

Men (Film, UK, Alex Garland, 2022) Seeking calm after the shocking death of her abusive husband, a woman (Jessie Buckley) books a stay at a gorgeous country house, only to realize that something is very wrong with the local men (all played by Rory Kinnear.) Folk horror of aggressive male insecurity elegantly calibrates its descent from the subtly off-putting to hallucinatory body terror.—RDL

The Universal Theory (Film, Germany/Austria/Switzerland, Timm Kröger, 2023) At a physics conference in the Austrian Alps in 1962, grad student Johannes (Jan Bülow) meets pianist Karin (Olivia Ross) amid increasingly surreal (and murderous) machinations. If you can imagine a beautifully-shot paranoid SF thriller about the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics (which in our timeline was proposed in 1957), this is one possible outcome of that imagination. —KH

The Witch’s Mirror (Film, Mexico, Chano Urueta, 1962) When a plastic surgeon murders his wife, their housekeeper draws on her infernal powers to exact grim vengeance. Surreal contribution to the 60s gothic revival stitches together disparate horror motifs like the product of a sinister, owl-haunted laboratory.—RDL


Hello Ghost (Film, Indonesia, Indra Gunawan, 2023) Lonely young man’s suicide attempt allows him to see a quartet of ghosts, who demand that he perform tasks to complete their unfinished business. Innocuous supernatural comedy winds up to an unexpected tearjerker hammerblow. Remake of a 2010 Korean film.—RDL

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Severance, After Yang, and Chicago Film Fest Highlights

October 18th, 2022 | Robin

The Pinnacle

Severance (Television, US, Apple+, Dan Erickson, 2022) The unprepossessing new manager (Adam Scott) of an inexplicable department of a cult-like corporation that surgically walls off the memories of its workers begins to plumb its mysteries, in both of his separated incarnations. From its brilliant credit sequence to the work of a stacked cast including John Turturro, Patricia Arquette and Christopher Walken, this contemporary dystopian SF perfectly calibrates suspense, character drama, and dark workplace comedy.—RDL


After Yang (Film, US, Kogonada, 2021) A gentle father (Colin Farrell) tries to reactivate his daughter’s android brother after he suffers a fatal shutdown. Moody, hushed character SF posits that the real danger of AI is not that they will take our jobs or Skynet us, but that they will give us more people to lose and mourn.—RDL

The Beasts (Film, Spain/France, Rodrigo Sorogoyen, 2022) French organic farm couple (Denis Minochet and Marie Foïs) in Galicia find themselves in an escalating feud with the resentful locals. What begins as a Straw Dogs-like Western switches gears into a slower-simmering portrait of willpower and life, all against the hard Spanish hill country and Olivier Arson’s harsh score. –KH

Green For Danger (Fiction, 1944, Christianna Brand) During the Blitz, a patient dies under anesthetic in a Kent hospital, leaving Inspector Cockrill to find out whether murder has been done. Generally considered Brand’s first triumph, she joins her surgical character portraits to a  Carr-like ability with atmosphere, as the bombs and then the investigation ratchet up tension. I’m not sure whether my deducing a third of the puzzle a third of the way in was me being smart or Brand being clever. –KH

How To Blow Up A Pipeline (Film, US, Daniel Goldhaber, 2022) Orphaned by a heat wave, Long Beach leftist Xochitl (Ariel Barer, who co-wrote and co-produced) puts together a team with reasons and skills to blow up an oil pipeline in West Texas. Goldhaber brilliantly sets Andreas Malm’s agitprop text to pure Ocean’s 11 choreography, creating a top-line caper film in the process. Gavin Brivik’s needling score both drives this film and calls back to classic heists like Thief. –KH

Special Delivery (Film, South Korea, Dae-Min Park, 2022) Coolly ultra-skilled driver for a black market courier service (Park So-dam) finds her professional detachment challenged by her latest client, a young kid on the run from a murderous crooked cop (Sae-byeok Song.) Rattling car chase action thriller with a secondary plot device that would only work in Korea.—RDL


Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blues (Film, US, Sacha Jenkins, 2022) Bolstered by tapes of personal conversations and extensive excerpts from his letters, Jenkins paints a portrait of Armstrong as a musical phenomenon without peer and as a misunderstood figure in the civil rights era. (And as a fan of laxatives and Queens.) Neither of which I thought were particularly in question nowadays, meaning I’m not sure who this film was for. The lack of musical attention (we hear no song all the way through) would be enough to ding it a level even if it had a fresh argument, though. –KH

Man on the Edge (Film, Hong Kong, Ming-Sing Wong, 2022) Deep undercover cop (Richie Jen) experiences a crisis of loyalties when the triad boss (Simon Yam) who is his target and best friend decides to step down, triggering a succession crisis. In what must be seven or eight act structure, this incident-packed crime drama fuses together elements of Infernal Affairs, Election and A Better Tomorrow.—RDL

A Wounded Fawn (Film, US, Travis Stevens, 2022) Art broker Bruce (Josh Ruben) covets a statue of the Erinyes (aka the Furies), and also covets curator Meredith (Sarah Lind), setting up a truly unique supernatural slasher suffused with Greek myth and surrealist callbacks. From the grainy 16mm film to the bright karo blood, this movie loves the 70s horror beats and wants me to love it. Its flaws mostly come from Stevens taking big ambitious swings, except its core flaw: horror films flatten emotionally if you have no sympathy with the victim. –KH

The Year Between (Film, US, Alex Heller, 2022) Washed out of college, Clemence (Heller) moves back in with her suburban Chicago parents (a note-perfect Steve Buscemi and J. Smith-Cameron) and struggles with her new bipolar disorder diagnosis. It made me laugh and cry, which should be the bare minimum. But it wants to have the cake of “disruptive (wo)man-children are funny and right” and eat the Serious Mental Health Message too, and the result is perhaps aptly ambivalent. –KH


Amsterdam (Film, US, David O. Russell, 2022) One-eyed doctor Burt (Christian Bale), stoic Black lawyer Harold (John David Washington), and manic pixie artist Valerie (Margot Robbie) become best friends in a hospital during WWI and an idyll in Amsterdam; a decade later they become embroiled in a murderous plot. Russell channels his inner Terry Gilliam here in a film that almost seems like it lives up to American Hustle and I Heart Huckabees (and Jules et Jim) simultaneously, until the last act just deflates completely into a smug, syrupy mess. –KH

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Elvis, Everything Everywhere and The Flash

July 5th, 2022 | Robin

Ken and Robin Consume Media is brought to you by the discriminating and good-looking backers of the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Patreon. Each week we provide capsule reviews of the books, movies, TV seasons and more we cram into our hyper-analytical sensoriums. Join the Patreon to help pick the items we’ll talk about in greater depth on a little podcast segment we like to call Tell Me More.


Elvis (Film, Australia/US, Baz Luhrmann, 2022) On his deathbed, petty, venal promoter “Col.” Tom Parker (Tom Hanks) narrates a morphine-fueled melodrama of the life of musical demigod Elvis Presley (Austin Butler). Trademark Baz freneticism slows down a bit (as did the King) when it gets to Vegas, but always offers something to watch and listen to in between conventional biopic beats. Butler (game and open) and Hanks (a morality-play Satan) don’t so much play off each other as star in their own separate movies, which is after all the point of this one. –KH

Everything Everywhere All at Once (Film, US, Dan Kwan & Daniel Scheinert, 2022) Harried laundromat proprietor (Michelle Yeoh) learns to draw abilities from her varied alternate selves to protect the multiverse from destruction at the hands of an ultra-powerful nemesis. Inventively nerdtroped, exuberantly kooky family reconciliation drama.—RDL

The Flash Season 8 (Television. US, The CW, 2021) Barry’s archnemesis Reverse Flash (Tom Cavanagh) returns to rewrite the timeline and awaken powerful cosmic forces. The show does what Supernatural did at a similar point in its run, settling into its core elements—speedsters, pseudoscience and affirmations and delivering reliable genre comfort viewing.—RDL

Rams (Film, Iceland, Grímur Hákonarson, 2015) A slaughter order stemming from an outbreak of livestock disease escalates tensions between sheep farming brothers who haven’t spoken a word to each other in 40 years. The grim drollery of Icelandic humor comes to the fore in this snowy ode to rural recalcitrance.—RDL


The Mask of the Vampire (Fiction, Paul Halter, 2014) In 1901, a vampire panic grips the English village of Cleverley when the dead wives of Count Radovic are discovered in the tomb  with stakes in their chests. Two John Dickson Carr-style locked room murders plus a possible vampire should have delighted me beyond expression, but Halter’s style (perhaps hampered by his translator) remains too detached to truly achieve Gothic takeoff despite the promising set-up, and his detective, the Wildesque Owen Burns, is a not-entertaining-enough jerk. However, the ludicrously tangled plot resolves superbly, which is (I suspect) why most people read Halter in the first place. –KH

Time (Film, HK, Ricky Ko, 2021) Elderly members of a once-vaunted hit team (Patrick Tse, Bo Bo Fung, Lam Suet) reteam to confront the rigors of old age, finding a surprising new sideline and new friend along the way. Valedictory for three stalwarts of the Hong Kong movie acting repertory sweetly handles its occasionally harsh subject matter.—RDL

Episode 470: Snailteaser

November 5th, 2021 | Robin

The Gaming Hut axes of RPG design series turns toward setting for its next opposition, Canon vs. Open.

Ken is back from the Chicago Film Festival to report on his findings in the Cinema Hut.

In Ken and/or Robin Talk to Someone Else, Tristan Zimmerman of the Molten Sulfur Blog talks up his game, Shanty Hunter, on Kickstarter from November 2nd.

Finally we rev up Ken’s Time Machine to tackle, possibly once again, a perennial question: what does the world look like if Franz Ferdinand escapes assassination?

Want to pose a question to the show? Get your priority question asking access with your support for the KARTAS Patreon!

Our Patreon-backed Letterboxd list of all films mentioned on the show is now up and running.

Also check out the Goodreads list of books mentioned on the show.

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.

Dig out your plastic T-Rexes and get them ready to stomp and chomp on your players’ character miniatures as our pals at Atlas Games announce the Kickstarter for Planegea, their dino-filled 5E setting of prehistoric fantasy adventure.

Uncover the secrets that teem beneath the surface of your happy home, with Suburban Consumption of the Monstrous, now on Kickstarter from Pelgrane Press. Explore food, consumption, and the extraordinary ordinary with this an anthology of American freeform live action horror roleplaying games by game designer Banana Chan and designer and illustrator Sadia Bies.

The treasures of Askfageln can be found at DriveThruRPG. Get all issues of FENIX since 2013 available in special English editions. Score metric oodles of Ken Hite gaming goodness, along with equally stellar pieces by Graeme Davis and Pete Nash. Warning: in English, not in Swedish. In English, not Swedish. While you’re at it, grab DICE and Freeway Warrior!

Fear Is a Fractal …and your world is a lie. A horror freed from an antique book reverberates through reality. But don’t despair. There is hope. A King waits for us. And Impossible Landscapes, the  first campaign for Delta Green: The Role-Playing Game waits for you. In PDF now, hardback in May. Hailed as “one of the best RPG campaigns ever made” and “a masterpiece of surreal horror!”

Episode 299: Mostly Claw Dudes

June 29th, 2018 | Robin


The Gaming Hut has a bunch of vampires in the shop for adjustments as we look at the process of adapting creatures between systems.

In Ken and/or Robin Talk To Someone Else, Ken talks to Rich Ranallo about the new edition of Velvet Generation, now on Kickstarter. Listen close and you’ll hear Ken’s lightning bolt face makeup.

As a milestone beckons, Ask Ken and Robin finds us in the mood for a meta-question. Thank goodness Patreon backer Ian Carlsen is here to request a glimpse behind the KARTAS scenes.

Finally, Leprejuan beckons us into the Eliptony Hut to ponder the Mad Gasser of Mattoon.

Want to pose a question to the show? Get your priority question asking access with your support for the KARTAS Patreon!

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.

Join the intrigue of the Cursed Court, the award-festooned, quick-playing, gorgeous new board game from Atlas Games. Anticipate the moves of the King, Queen, Priestess and Assassin in the game Bruno Faidutti calls “an unexpected masterwork.” Ken’s latest roleplaying game, The Fall of Delta Green, is now available for preorder from Pelgrane Press. Journey to the head-spinning chaos of the late 1960s, back when everyone’s favorite anti-Cthulhu special ops agent hadn’t gone rogue yet, for this pulse-pounding GUMSHOE game of war, covert action, and Mythos horror.

Grab the translated riches of FENIX magazine in a special bundle deal from our friends at Askfageln, over at Indie Press Revolution. Score metric oodles of Ken Hite gaming goodness, a cornucopia of articles, complete games, plus the cartoon antics of Bernard the Barbarian. Warning: in English, not in Swedish. In English, not Swedish.

Just in time to save the world, though perhaps not your team of hardened covert agents, from the Mythos, the Delta Green Handlers Guide from Arc Dream Publishing is now in print and either at or headed to a game store near you. The slipcase print edition includes both the Handlers’ Guide and Agents’ Handbook, fitting snugly into your go bag along with your extra passports and list of weapons caches.

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