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Episode 229: Your Perspective on Trees and Badgers

February 17th, 2017 | Robin

The Gaming Hut stands at the service of Patreon backer Vince Arebalo’s son Dax, who asks for tips on getting comfortable around unfamiliar fellow players.

The CIA has finally put its trove of declassified historical documents in a readily accessible online database. In the Tradecraft Hut we find out what Ken searched for first.

Backer Jeremiah Genest commands the opening of the Narrative Hut to talk about political horror, and what distinguishes itself from its better known cousin, the political thriller.

Finally at the behest of backer Doc Cross we take a trip in Ken’s Time Machine to meet the most august Emperor Norton I of San Francisco.

Want to pose questions of your own? Support the KARTAS Patreon!

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


Sleepers awake, and travel through the secret pathways of the occulted world to preorder the new edition of Unknown Armies from Atlas Games. From the deluxe printed edition to ebooks in a variety of formats, the weird wonders of UA beckon!

Want to plunge headlong into Lovecraftian mystery, but lack a gaming group? Want to introduce a friend or loved one to the roleplaying hobby? GUMSHOE One-2-One has come to your rescue! Find this new system by some guy named Robin D. Laws, in the line’s flagship title, Cthulhu Confidential. Now pre-ordering at the Pelgrane Press store. Do intervals between episodes plunge you into Hite withdrawal? Never fear! his brilliant pieces on parasitic gaming, alternate Newtons, Dacian werewolves and more now lurk among the sparkling bounty of The Best of FENIX Volumes 1-3, from returning sponsors Askfageln. Yes, it’s Sweden’s favorite RPG magazine, now beautifully collected. Warning: not in Swedish. John Scott Tynes’ Puppetland is ready to knock the stuffing out of a game store near you in its gorgeous new full-color hardcover edition. Join the good folks at Arc Dream in battling the horrific forces of Punch the Maker-Killer!

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Space Vampire in the Mumbai Disco

February 14th, 2017 | 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 our new podcast segment, Tell Me More.

Recommended

Blindsight (Fiction, Peter Watts, 2006) A spaceship crewed by near-transhumans and commanded by a vampire makes first contact in the Oort Cloud while parrying the aliens’ incursion. The genetic reconstruction of an extinct human subspecies of vampires is only about the fifth-wildest concept herein, but it should get you through the door of this classic-style ideas-and-aliens hard SF novel. –KH

Disco Dancer (Film, India, Babbar Subhash, 1982) Now that he’s a rising star as a disco singer/guitarist, a former street musician returns to Mumbai to avenge the false imprisonment of his mother. Simultaneously an exuberant backstage musical and a bloody revenge actioner, in no way contaminated by subtlety. Kooky costumes! Blazing Bollywood funk! Star-crossed romance!  Class consciousness! Unremitting melodrama! Jarring transitions! Separate musical numbers in praise of Krishna and Jesus! A quasi-cover of “Video Killed the Radio Star!” Bump down a notch if you don’t think this is the sort of thing that ought to be 135 minutes long.—RDL

The Locket (Film, US, John Brahm, 1946) A traumatic childhood incident leaves an outwardly poised and charming woman (Laraine Day) with a penchant for jewelry theft and murder, bringing woe to a string of men. Delightfully outre neo-Freudian noir melodrama told in flashbacks within flashbacks.—RDL

Loving (Film, US, Jeff Nichols, 2016) Interracial husband and wife Richard and Mildred Loving (Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga) struggle to lead ordinary, quiet lives together, which in their home state of Virginia in 1958 is a criminal offense. Subtly engaging biopic succeeds at the tough task of centering a film narrative around undemonstrative protagonists whose goal is to simply be left alone.—RDL

Good

Monsieur Lecoq (Fiction, France, Émile Gaboriau, 1868) Brilliant yet unseasoned policeman investigates the mysterious prisoner behind a wine-shop triple murder, aided by a determined magistrate and an admiring older sidekick. I guess if you invent the police precinct crime novel 90 years before Ed McBain it’s churlish of us to expect you to figure out endings, too. Until then, redolent with then-contemporary Parisian grit and detail.—RDL

Okay

The Accountant (Film, US, Gavin O’Connor, 2016) “High-functioning autistic” accountant (Ben Affleck) built into a killing machine for some reason by his protective father obsessively-compulsively solves a tricky corporate embezzlement problem by murdering his way to the embezzler, who is protected by his own murder team headed by a delightful Jon Bernthal. Also a Treasury agent is hunting Affleck because he works for organized crime and terrorists, but he’s the good guy because he saves Anna Kendrick. Even without the iffy “autism as superpower” thing this movie would be a mess, and only Affleck’s war-against-himself performance (and the suspicion that a real-life Batman would look way more like this guy) holds it together at all. –KH

Phoenix (Film, Germany, Christian Petzold, 2014) After reconstructive surgery to repair injuries suffered in a death camp renders her unrecognizable, a woman who refuses to believe that her husband denounced her to the Nazis seeks him out in Berlin. Twisty melodramatic premise belied by in an overly austere, emotionally withholding directing style.—RDL

Not Recommended

Fury (Film, US, David Ayer, 2014) Traumatized tank crew consisting of gruff sergeant (Brad Pitt), raw recruit (Logan Lerman), preacher man (Shia LaBeouf), meathead (Jon Bernthal), and ethnic guy (Michael Peña) push into Germany during the final desperate days of WWII. The first two acts of war horror would be quite something if they were more than just stake-setting for a third-act shift into ridiculous heroics.—RDL

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (Film, US, Edward Zwick, 2016) Reacher (Tom Cruise) takes a break from walking the land righting wrongs when his contact in the Army’s Military Police (Cobie Smulders) is arrested on trumped-up treason charges. You’ll never guess why: corrupt military contractors! Do they start killing everyone around the case while ineptly threatening Reacher? You bet! Also he needlessly endangers his possible daughter (Danika Yarosh) who then needlessly endangers herself some more. Also there is running and some dull fights. Cruise intentionally mutes his charisma as Reacher, leaving nothing here to surprise or interest anyone who has seen more than three thrillers in their life. –KH

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Episode 228: I Assume Someone Has Blood-Typed All the Monkeys

February 10th, 2017 | Robin

In the Gaming Hut we ask ourselves how far rules and GM influence should go to prevent the players from idiot plotting their own characters.

Speaking of gaming the system, esteemed Patreon backer Jeremy Forbing acts as a stalking horse for a certain shadowy figure to convene the Politics Hut. With a mysterious knowledge of Ken’s thought processes, Jeremy asks for his theory on how Trump will destroy the Republican party.

On the Crime Blotter we find a report about Los Angeles organized crime in 1937, which just coincidentally happens to feature in Cthulhu Confidential.

Finally at the behest of backer and Hillfolk illustrator Jan Pospisil, the Eliptony Hut considers the connection between Rhesus blood factor and survivors of Atlantis.

Want to pose questions of your own? Support the KARTAS Patreon!

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


Sleepers awake, and travel through the secret pathways of the occulted world to preorder the new edition of Unknown Armies from Atlas Games. From the deluxe printed edition to ebooks in a variety of formats, the weird wonders of UA beckon!

Want to plunge headlong into Lovecraftian mystery, but lack a gaming group? Want to introduce a friend or loved one to the roleplaying hobby? GUMSHOE One-2-One has come to your rescue! Find this new system by some guy named Robin D. Laws, in the line’s flagship title, Cthulhu Confidential. Now pre-ordering at the Pelgrane Press store. Do intervals between episodes plunge you into Hite withdrawal? Never fear! his brilliant pieces on parasitic gaming, alternate Newtons, Dacian werewolves and more now lurk among the sparkling bounty of The Best of FENIX Volumes 1-3, from returning sponsors Askfageln. Yes, it’s Sweden’s favorite RPG magazine, now beautifully collected. Warning: not in Swedish. John Scott Tynes’ Puppetland is ready to knock the stuffing out of a game store near you in its gorgeous new full-color hardcover edition. Join the good folks at Arc Dream in battling the horrific forces of Punch the Maker-Killer!

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Crime, Guilt and Troglodytes

February 7th, 2017 | 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 our new podcast segment, Tell Me More.

The Pinnacle

Manchester By the Sea (Film, US, Kenneth Lonergan, 2016) After his brother dies, a closed-off custodian (Casey Affleck) discovers he’s been appointed guardian of his teenage nephew, which would require him to move back to the town that suffocates him with the guilt of his tragic past. Powerfully rendered drama without a frame of sentimental fakery.—RDL

Recommended

3 Story: The Secret History of the Giant Man (Comics, Matt Kindt, 2009) The stories of the “World’s Tallest Man” told (in Kindt’s loose watercolor) by his mother, wife, and daughter — including his brief career with the CIA. The result is a weird cross between Roald Dahl and Graham Greene. –KH

Black Dahlia (Comics, Rick Geary, 2016) The latest in Geary’s precise, controlled evocations of famous crimes reconstructs Elizabeth Short’s life and the investigation of her death. While the words give “just the facts,” Geary’s art bursts with life and emotion. –KH

Bone Tomahawk (Film, US, S. Craig Zahler, 2015) When troglodytes abduct a woman (Lili Simmons) and a deputy from the town jail, her injured husband (Patrick Wilson), a taciturn sheriff (Kurt Russell), an arrogant Indian killer (Matthew Fox) and a talkative old-timer (Richard Jenkins) head into the wilderness to effect a rescue. Nerdtroped men-on-a-mission Western ably combines, in a sentence I do not believe I am writing, Charles Portis-style dialogue and cannibal horror.—RDL

Very Semi-Serious (Film, US, Leah Wolchok, 2015) Documentary profiles Bob Mankoff, cartoon editor of The New Yorker, and its roster of cartoonists, from still-active nonagenarian George Booth to the latest up-and-comers. Informative look inside the creative and professional process of the nichiest of niche markets.—RDL

Good

The Book of Negroes (TV mini-series, Canada, Clement Virgo, 2015) Former slave Aminata Diallo (Aunjanue Ellis) recounts the events of her life, from capture as a child in Africa, to servitude in the US south and quasi-freedom in New York City and Nova Scotia, to a group of English abolitionists. Solid if inevitably softened adaptation of the Lawrence Hill novel, which you may know by its former US title, Somebody Knows My Name.—RDL

Okay

A Little Chaos (Film, UK, Alan Rickman, 2014) A woman working in the man’s field of landscape architecture (Kate Winslet) gets a rare opportunity to design an innovative fountain for Louis XIV (Alan Rickman) at Versailles. Although this period drama’s unfocused script fails to properly establish and develop the protagonist’s dramatic conflict, it does turn suddenly magical whenever Winslet and Rickman share a scene together.—RDL

Not Recommended

The Courtesan and the Gigolo: The Murders in the Rue Montaigne and the Dark Side of Empire in Nineteenth-Century Paris (Nonfiction, Aaron Freundschuh, 2017) Account of a sensational 1887 murder trial that sent a handsome foreigner to the guillotine, probably unjustly, for the murder of a prosperous demimondaine. Awkward hybrid of historical true crime and boilerplate academic analysis.—RDL

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Episode 227: Other Buopoths Do

February 3rd, 2017 | Robin

Another all-request episode starts in the Gaming Hut, where Patreon backer Gerald Sear wants us to consider the Mythos implications of the Disney corporation.

Then assemble your miniature greenhouses and sail over to the History Hut, where we make up interesting facts about botanist and tea smuggler Robert Fortune at the behest of backer Steve Sick.

Backer Theron Bretz revs up the projector in the Cinema Hut, as we tackle Spy Movies 101.

Then the Consulting Occultist unfurls some alchemical wisdom on a Paul Tevis request for the skinny on the Ripley Scrolls.

Want to pose questions of your own? Support the KARTAS Patreon!

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.

Get yourself some flat plastic Ken and Robin miniatures by supporting Arcknight’s Flat Plastic Miniatures 2 Kickstarter.


Sleepers awake, and travel through the secret pathways of the occulted world to preorder the new edition of Unknown Armies from Atlas Games. From the deluxe printed edition to ebooks in a variety of formats, the weird wonders of UA beckon!

Want to plunge headlong into Lovecraftian mystery, but lack a gaming group? Want to introduce a friend or loved one to the roleplaying hobby? GUMSHOE One-2-One has come to your rescue! Find this new system by some guy named Robin D. Laws, in the line’s flagship title, Cthulhu Confidential. Now pre-ordering at the Pelgrane Press store. Do intervals between episodes plunge you into Hite withdrawal? Never fear! his brilliant pieces on parasitic gaming, alternate Newtons, Dacian werewolves and more now lurk among the sparkling bounty of The Best of FENIX Volumes 1-3, from returning sponsors Askfageln. Yes, it’s Sweden’s favorite RPG magazine, now beautifully collected. Warning: not in Swedish. John Scott Tynes’ Puppetland is ready to knock the stuffing out of a game store near you in its gorgeous new full-color hardcover edition. Join the good folks at Arc Dream in battling the horrific forces of Punch the Maker-Killer!

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: The Post With Three Hands

January 31st, 2017 | 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 our new podcast segment, Tell Me More.

The Pinnacle

Wylding Hall (Fiction, Elizabeth Hand, 2015) Another (and one of the best) of Hand’s effortless blendings of art and the uncanny, in this case a folk-rock band encountering a faerie in 1972 during a lengthy summer stay at the titular Hall. There is nothing twee or forced about this short novel, and everything horripilating and oblique and terrible and wonderful: think Fairport Convention opening for Arthur Machen. –KH

Recommended

The Abominable Mr. Seabrook (Comics, Joe Ollmann, 2017) Canadian cartoonist Ollmann wields a deft, dark brush and a disapproving, dour view of William Seabrook in this thorough biography of the once-famous bestselling travel writer, drunkard, sadist, psychic experimenter, and cannibal who hung out with Aleister Crowley, Aldous Huxley, Man Ray, James Joyce, and J.B. Rhine, to hit just the highlights. Ollmann can’t quite bring himself to like Seabrook, but his Can-conventionality winds up giving the biography a needed backstop for Willie’s weirdness to bounce off of. –KH

Death of a Cyclist (Film, Spain, Juan Antonio Bardem, 1958) Guilt grips a mathematician and his married lover after they kill a cyclist in a hit and run incident. Jagged cutting, compelling compositions and sleek 50s modernist design energize this taut existential noir.—RDL

Girl in a Band (Nonfiction, Kim Gordon, 2015) Memoir from Sonic Youth singer/bassist covers a childhood overshadowed by a taxing older brother, her art and music, and the divorce that broke apart her family and band. While the breakup album is a rock n roll tradition, Gordon’s established writing chops make the memoir format an even sharper stake to drive through the heart of cheating rat Thurston Moore.—RDL

Hello My Name is Doris (Film, US, Michael Showalter, 2016)  Left with possibilities on her hands after the death of her mother, an eccentric woman (Sally Field) conceives an infatuation for a much younger co-worker (Max Greenfield.) Mix of drama and cringe comedy challenges our willingness to identify with a character whose objectives can only end in disaster, instead of merely feeling sorry for her.—RDL

Illyria (Fiction, Elizabeth Hand, 2007) Cousins Madeline and Rogan Tierney, scions of a theatrical lineage, fall in love in 1970s Yonkers. In this tight, intense novella the only magic is that of love and the theater, although little touches of “the fey” lurk in the wainscoting. –KH

Jackie (Film, US, Pablo Larraín, 2016) In a series of flashbacks framed by Theodore White’s (Billy Crudup) post-assassination interview, Jacqueline Kennedy (Natalie Portman) arranges her husband’s funeral and his legacy. Larraín’s protean direction and Portman’s superb performance pull what began as a squishy-safe HBO biopic up into Recommended country despite the tinny dialogue. Somehow Larraín has made a hagiography about the cynical work of making a hagiography. –KH

Marina Abramovic: the Artist is Present (Film, US, Matthew Akers, 2012) Documentary reviews the career of groundbreaking performance artist as she undertakes a marathon event involving prolonged silent eye contact with volunteer participants at her MOMA retrospective. At times moving, occasionally funny and sweet, with more focus on Abramovic’s surprisingly accessible backstage personality than on abstract artspeak.—RDL

Radiant Days (Fiction, Elizabeth Hand, 2012) Time-shifting story (written for YA?) of a graffiti artist in 1978 Washington DC meeting Arthur Rimbaud in 1870 lives and dies by Hand’s gorgeous language. Not quite enough myth or secret history for hard-core Powersians, but plenty of art and setting for Hand-philes. –KH

Good

The Ghost Ship (Film, US, Mark Robson, 1943) Junior officer’s first assignment aboard a freighter discovers that his captain’s mania for authority extends to murder. Val Lewton-produced nautical thriller imports the weird atmosphere of his non-supernatural horror films but suffers from a couple of classic script issues, including characters who bang on and on explaining its theme.—RDL

The Love Witch (Film, US, Anna Biller, 2016) In her narcissistic quest for the ideal lover, a foxy witch combines Helen Gurley Brown’s philosophy of man-catching with overly potent love potions. Obsessively detailed pastiche captures early 70s exploitation movie style from film stock to the era’s very specific sort of stilted acting. At two hours, this is overlong for what it is, and there are 20-30 minutes of easy cuts here.—RDL

Moana (Film, US, Ron Clements & John Musker, 2016) The ocean sends Polynesian Disney princess Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) on a quest to save her people by finding the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) and, of course, herself. As is standard, the villainous Tamatoa (Jemaine Clement) has by far the best song. Visually lush and narratively undistinguished, this rote Disney self-actualization flick does at least demonstrate how high the “average” bar is set by the studio now. –KH

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Episode 226: Yig is More of a Moundsville Ohio Guy

January 27th, 2017 | Robin

A surrealist sandbox and a structured mystery make a date in the Gaming Hut, as Josh Rose asks how to run Dreamhounds of Paris as a GUMSHOE One-2-One setting.

Given that the world has turned into a spy novel, and not a particularly believable one at that, maybe it’s time to duck into the Tradecraft Hut for an update on espionage in the news.

Ask Ken and Robin features a demand for parity from Drew Clowery, who wants a “how Robin runs games” segment to go with its Ken equivalent from Episode 220.

Finally Eben Lindsey asks us to rev up Ken’s Time Machine to reveal the fate of Cahokia, the North American city that suffered mass abandonment circa 1400.

Support the KARTAS Patreon!

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.

Get yourself some flat plastic Ken and Robin miniatures by supporting Arcknight’s Flat Plastic Miniatures 2 Kickstarter.


Sleepers awake, and travel through the secret pathways of the occulted world to preorder the new edition of Unknown Armies from Atlas Games. From the deluxe printed edition to ebooks in a variety of formats, the weird wonders of UA beckon!

Want to plunge headlong into Lovecraftian mystery, but lack a gaming group? Want to introduce a friend or loved one to the roleplaying hobby? GUMSHOE One-2-One has come to your rescue! Find this new system by some guy named Robin D. Laws, in the line’s flagship title, Cthulhu Confidential. Now pre-ordering at the Pelgrane Press store. Do intervals between episodes plunge you into Hite withdrawal? Never fear! his brilliant pieces on parasitic gaming, alternate Newtons, Dacian werewolves and more now lurk among the sparkling bounty of The Best of FENIX Volumes 1-3, from returning sponsors Askfageln. Yes, it’s Sweden’s favorite RPG magazine, now beautifully collected. Warning: not in Swedish. John Scott Tynes’ Puppetland is ready to knock the stuffing out of a game store near you in its gorgeous new full-color hardcover edition. Join the good folks at Arc Dream in battling the horrific forces of Punch the Maker-Killer!

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Tree Ninjas are the Worst

January 24th, 2017 | 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 our new podcast segment, Tell Me More.

Recommended

Five Element Ninjas (Film, HK, Chang Cheh, 1982) Martial artist vows revenge after invading ninjas use their elusive weapons to slaughter his master and comrades. Cheh, the Paul Schrader of the Shaw Brothers directing stable, takes overtly silly subject matter, with gold lamé ninjas and ninjas in tree costumes, and, aided by gallons of bright red stage blood, infuses it with his trademark doom, rage, and bodily mortification. Showcases top-notch acrobatics work with a hint here and there of the wire fu era that is just about to dawn.—RDL

It’s Love I’m After (Film, US, Archie Mayo, 1937) Caddish stage star (Leslie Howard) risks his fiery relationship with his leading lady (Bette Davis) by agreeing to disabuse a flighty heiress (Olivia de Havilland) of her infatuation with him. Witty dialogue delivered at requisite rattling speed by a cast you don’t associate with screwball comedy.—RDL

Girlfriends (Film, US, Claudia Weil, 1978) Aspiring photographer (Melanie Mayron) sinks into a funk when her best friend moves out of their shared apartment to get married. A winning slice of life that finds its charm in the real rather than the cute and quirky. Remains hugely influential on the indie movie style.–RDL

Leviathan (Film, Russia, Andrey Zvyagintsev, 2014)  Hard-drinking mechanic fights to stop corrupt mayor from expropriating his home—but forget it, Jake, it’s northern Russia. Majestically shot telling of the Job set story in a moral universe where God either doesn’t exist or has been bought off by the authorities. Though it doesn’t remotely smack of horror or the supernatural, H. P. Lovecraft would nod his head at the cosmic proportion of its bleakness.—RDL

Luke Cage Season 1 (TV, US, Netflix, 2016) Bulletproof dishwasher just wants to mind his own business in his new Harlem digs, but steps up to embrace his inner hero against the politically connected gangsters keeping the people down. Most of the nods to black history and culture that lend this its own distinct vibe among Marvel shows appear right in the text, but the biggest influence can be found in its adoption of the color palette, foregrounded music score and floaty pacing of early Spike Lee. I kept waiting for the tracking shot where Luke and Misty stand on the moving dolly while they trade information about Diamondback.—RDL

Silence (Film, US, Martin Scorsese, 2016) Two Jesuit priests, Frs. Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Garupe (Adam Driver) go to Japan in 1640, during the Tokugawa persecution of Christians, to discover the truth about Fr. Ferrera (Liam Neeson), who has reportedly renounced Christ. For a film called Silence there’s a whole lot of voiceover, and Andrew Garfield is so much weaker than Adam Driver as an actor that even Scorsese can’t entirely save him. But when Liam Neeson reappears we get a glimpse of the Pinnacle this film could have been, and regardless of its flaws, it’s not a film you’ll forget any time soon. –KH

Silence (Film, US, Martin Scorsese, 2016) 17th century Jesuit priests (Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver) smuggle themselves into Japan at height of a murderous anti-Christian persecution campaign, in search of their mentor (Liam Neeson.) Based on a Shusaku Endo novel, this battle between faith and survival offers up one of the more overtly idea-driven, and thus stylistically classical, entries in the Scorsese canon.–RDL

Theeb (Film, Jordan, Naji Abu Nowar, 2014) In 1916 Theeb (Jacir Eid al-Hwietat), a young Bedouin boy, follows his brother and a mysterious English soldier into the desert and into danger. Deliberately recalling the stark, character-focused Westerns of Anthony Mann and the iconic imagery of John Ford, this Bedouin Western focuses on Theeb’s coming of age against a hazy backdrop of world war and technological change. Fortunately, Eid carries the film like a tiny Robert Duvall; the result is personal crisis made mythic. –KH

Good

The Fan-Shaped Destiny of William Seabrook (Fiction, Paul Pipkin, 2001) Aging SF fan obsessed with his lost love and William Seabrook meets a beautiful girl at WorldCon 1997 who turns out to be Seabrook’s lost love reincarnated and then it gets super weird. The hyper-fizzy potency of the high concept, and my sheer delight at someone having written a (footnoted!) literary thriller about William Seabrook and the many-worlds theory of quantum mechanics, keep the rating at Good. That said, it’s almost deathly talky, the Seabrook pastiches don’t really work, and the sex scenes are more than a little embarrassing. But if this is the kind of thing you like, you won’t be able to help liking this thing. –KH

Hidden Figures (Film, US, Theodore Melfi, 2016) Braided biopic follows three African-American women — math genius Katherine Goble (Taraji P. Henson), computer pioneer Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and engineer Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) — as they win key jobs at NASA’s Langley Research Center, overcome racism (Kirsten Dunst) and sexism (Jim Parsons), and oh yeah help John Glenn orbit the Earth. The acting is almost all top-notch (especially Monáe who more than holds her own), the score effective, and the orgy of midcentury design and space-race nostalgia everything an early-Gen-X boy could wish for. Sadly, it suffers from the set-em-up-knock-em-down rote that most biopics do, and as a triple biopic there’s no room for twists or even depth. You might say the script was pretty much … by the numbers. –KH

Okay

Furious Seven (Film, US, James Wan, 2015) Dom and the gang are back, and because Jason Statham wants to fight them, they have to get a McGuffin, requiring them to also fight Ronda Rousey, Tony Jaa and Djimon Hounsou. Over-the-top stuntfest misses just two ingredients to fully emulate the Hong Kong action aesthetic: a Faye Wong song playing under the Paul Walker tribute montage, and actual emotion in the melodramatic bits.—RDL

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Episode 225: Just Make Up a Bunch of Dwarves

January 20th, 2017 | Robin

Episode 225: Just Make Up a Bunch of Dwarves

Patreon backer Zachary Joyner poses some Gaming Hut questions about improvising a GUMSHOE game. How quickly do you give out clues? How do you maintain pace without leading the players?

Though our latest trip to London has faded into the mist of nostalgia, we would be remiss not to paw through the books Ken raided while there, in another edition of Ken’s Bookshelf.

Still on a bibliophilic note, Ask Ken and Robin fulfills the desires of backer Christopher Kalley for the secret scoop on our personal libraries.

Finally we enlist the Consulting Occultist to reveal the esoteric weirdness lurking in your bowl of Chex cereal, as he tells all about Ralstonism.

Support the KARTAS Patreon! Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic. Get yourself some flat plastic Ken and Robin miniatures by supporting Arcknight’s Flat Plastic Miniatures 2 Kickstarter.


Sleepers awake, and travel through the secret pathways of the occulted world to preorder the new edition of Unknown Armies from Atlas Games. From the deluxe printed edition to ebooks in a variety of formats, the weird wonders of UA beckon!

Want to plunge headlong into Lovecraftian mystery, but lack a gaming group? Want to introduce a friend or loved one to the roleplaying hobby? GUMSHOE One-2-One has come to your rescue! Find this new system by some guy named Robin D. Laws, in the line’s flagship title, Cthulhu Confidential. Now pre-ordering at the Pelgrane Press store. Do intervals between episodes plunge you into Hite withdrawal? Never fear! his brilliant pieces on parasitic gaming, alternate Newtons, Dacian werewolves and more now lurk among the sparkling bounty of The Best of FENIX Volumes 1-3, from returning sponsors Askfageln. Yes, it’s Sweden’s favorite RPG magazine, now beautifully collected. Warning: not in Swedish. John Scott Tynes’ Puppetland is ready to knock the stuffing out of a game store near you in its gorgeous new full-color hardcover edition. Join the good folks at Arc Dream in battling the horrific forces of Punch the Maker-Killer!

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Rats, Djinn, and the Vampyre

January 17th, 2017 | 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 our new podcast segment, Tell Me More.

Recommended

A Crack in the Wall (Fiction, Claudia Piñeiro, 2009)  Thwarted, middle-aged architect falls for a young woman who drops by his office to ask about a man he and his superiors at the firm buried in the foundations of an apartment building three years previous. Sharply conceived literary crime novel provides a master class in setting up expectations and then going somewhere more interesting.—RDL

The Overlook Film Encyclopedia: The Gangster Film (Nonfiction, Phil Hardy, 1998) Sadly the last in Overlook’s exceptional series, this massive crime-film reference covers 1,500+ films from Gang War (Bert Glennon, 1928) to Underworld (Roger Christian, 1997), including plenty of French and Hong Kong classics alongside the caper films, policiers, Mafia movies, and other subtypes of this fuzzy genre. (It excludes some “individualist” crime and noir films, which Hardy was saving for a sadly never-completed detective film encyclopedia.) Entries’ critical judgements are a little wonkier than in Hardy’s horror and Western compendia, but you can’t beat the scope. –KH

The Poet and the Vampyre (Nonfiction, Andrew McConnell Stott, 2014) Gossipy, divagatory, and hence entertaining, discussion of the menage (Byron, Percy Shelley, Mary Godwin, John Polidori, and Claire Clairmont) that briefly met in the Villa Diodati in June 1816 and galvanized the horror genre in between bouts of fornication, bickering, and laudanum. Not quite the hour-by-hour blow-by-blow I was looking for, but I found lots of other good stuff in it nonetheless. –KH

Rats (Film, US, Morgan Spurlock, 2016) From the hardboiled exterminators of NYC to pathologists in New Orleans, from the restaurant tables of Vietnam to a Hindu temple in India, humans confront the ingenious, disease-ridden, ever-multiplying rodent that swarms wherever we do. Urban nature documentary jazzed up by horror movie techniques revels in unflinching gross-out. I sure was surprised by the moment where about a dozen rats rise up on their haunches to chitter, “Your friee-e-e-ee-end Ke-e-e-e-enne-e-e-e-th, we are coming for him, we are coming for Ke-e-e-e-enne-e-e-e-th…”—RDL

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (Film, US, Joseph Sargent, 1974) Mister Blue (Robert Shaw) leads a fractious team of criminals in the hijacking of a New York City subway car, locking horns with coarse improviser Lt. Garber (Walter Matthau) of the NYC Transit Police. A profane, ironic tribute to New York City, its infrastructure, and its irritated, wiseass officials and citizenry, it’s now a period piece that doesn’t seem dated. David Shire’s score likewise nails it, a 70s jazz groove veering between atonalism and funk. –KH

Under the Shadow (Film, UK/Qatar/Jordan/Iran, Babak Anvari, 2016) As missiles rain down on Tehran during the Iran-Iraq War, a woman whose career ambitions have been stifled by the regime reluctantly concludes that maybe her preschool daughter and her neighbors are right to say that djinn have invaded their apartment building. Lays down a baseline of naturalism that makes its ever so incremental shift into jump scares and supernatural imagery all the more unsettling.—RDL

Good

Inspector Pancakes Helps the President of France* (Fiction, Karla Pacheco, 2014) Presented as a charming kids’ board book with fun illustrations by Maren Marmulla, this tale of a dog in a little hat finding a stolen croissant conceals a mystery! Specifically, a brutal, hardboiled mystery full of very bad words, told in tiny print throughout the book, which I am not kidding you do not want your kids to read. The joke is funny and carried off well, but I don’t envy any parents who forget to filch this from the nursery once little Abigail learns to sound out words. –KH   *solve the white orchid murders

Okay

The Limits of Control (Film, US, Jim Jarmusch, 2009) Taciturn assassin (Isaach de Bankolé) travels through Spain, making a series of rendezvous with mysterious messengers (Tilda Swinton, Gael Garcia Bernal, John Hurt, Paz de la Huerta) on his way to a  hit. Jarmusch’s most experimental feature mostly cares about beautiful compositions, the feeling that comes when you’re waiting to act, and paying homage to fellow director Claire Denis.—RDL

The Outfit (Film, US, John Flynn, 1973) Flynn’s adaptation of my favorite Richard Stark novel is great when it sticks to its source material, which sadly it only does intermittently. Watching Robert Duvall care about people and laugh and discuss his backstory badly damages what could have been a really great Parker performance, because hey Robert Duvall. Joe Don Baker, on the other hand, exceeds himself as a composite Parker sidekick; the all-hey-it’s-that-guy cast is the other reason to watch. –KH

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