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IR TV Review: CARNIVAL ROW [Amazon-S1]

Immigration stories tend to be cyclical but they show the undeniable structure of human spirit. The one great thing fantasy does, whether it be in “Game Of Thrones” or “Lord Of The Rings”, is that examines the notion of human behavior in its many shapes and forms. “Carnival Row”, the new Amazon series, is nothing if not a more tame version of “From Hell”. It wants to hit a wide audience and yet have something for everyone. In its two lead stars, Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne there is an interesting structure at play both because of their previous roles but also how their real lives distinctly push the plot in a certain way. It is well constructed in that way since the essence of their love and strife as the characters parallels the journey in a way that is genuine. Delevingne’s choices have been good for the most part (even with “Valerian”) but a bit below the radar. Bloom with his “Rings” and “Pirates” cred (even though he often gets some grief of being the second guy in the franchises he has been in) still challenges himself. His character here is the lead but is understated which belies the heart with which he plays it. It is an interesting irony seems this inspector character wears so much on his sleeve and yet betrays nothing. This character of Philo is a man fueled by secrets but it is interesting to see who he shares it with.

Like films set in the Old West, there is a certain lawlessness that is burrowed in this world with a degree of civility. This imbalance is what makes the plot work as it is the viciousness that lies underneath (without giving too much of the plot away) that fuels the fire. The progression is also about subversion. One of the most dynamic subplots examines the history and consolidation of power in a very specific way. While these are mostly secondary players these ideas are being examined through, their intention plays very much in tandem with the overall plot. Another aspect structures in the elements of class with an unlikely pairing but one that speaks of bridges and not denying those who fall in love. David Gyasi, who has picked to be part of some very interesting films, most specifically “Interstellar” and “Annihilation” is superb and understated here, again making a perception both on history but also on tolerance in a way.

All of this of course is in play from the main relationship structure between Philo and Vignette, Delevingne’s characters. Without giving too much away, the aspect of truth and consequence plays heavily in their journey. While both actors are trying admirably, the chemistry is seemingly not there for the most part. Delevingne is not a natural actress but she is getting undeniably better. Bloom’s chemistry actually with another actress is more palpable which might slightly be a function of the plot but also of the actual structure of what the story is. The similar aspect can be said of Delevingne and a former flame within the story as well. It is an interesting dichotomy that gives the story and its player indeterminate layers. Of course, the aspect of “Carnival Row” moves within the nature of the underworld or the power that moves beneath it.

The idea of family and what that connotates figures heavily into the proceedings. That power is incumbent throughout most of the season with The Chancellor played by Jared Harris and his wife subtly and then overtly moving and pushing buttons. The nature of their power is driven by love and perhaps fate. All of these characters are seemingly on a path of their own choosing which is nonetheless orchestrated by someone else. The show does well is not overdoing its technical elements making it functional enough without overdoing the CG elements. It in many ways mirrors “Warrior” on Cinema. Though that show is set in late 1800s San Francisco, it parallels the aspects of the downtrodden who in many ways don’t have a say within their own destiny until they actualldo. “Carnival Row” again shows Amazon’s continued predilection for interesting stories without going too far left field which sometimes other streamers do in an effective way to create interest. The most important angle is to tell the best story while not losing track of the actual story being told.

B+

By Tim Wassberg

The Runestaff – Book Review

The continuation of Hawkmoon and his trevails in “The Runstaff” [Michael Moorcock/Tor/208pgs] point to a more structural nature on the focus of his destiny. While this creates some interesting battle aspects, the initial abstract nature of the previous story in terms of who these men are is a little less volatile though much more linear. After defeating loads of vicious pirates at the end of the previous novel, Hawkmoon simply wants to return home to his people and wife having been transported away unwillingly. The notion of time though is played with so he might be eons before (though not likely because of the technology) but in more specified idealism, a parallel universe. However, because of the chess players above, his return seems much more unlikely. A wall of storms that keeps him from reaching their destination instead forces Hawkmoon and his trusted kinsman to go off on their own which plays as much to “The Odyssey” as anything else. The man they meet on an island is so chill he could almost be Jack Sparrow but in working with the gods, there is always mysticism in the air. Our heroes are led to a magical city where the spirit of The Runestaff (in human form) selects it master. In a lapse in strategy, the circumspect power of evil takes innocence by surprise. Hawkmoon calls upon the power of the dead army and defeats his attackers but the lack of logic in the set up defies a sense of intelligence. Eventually Hawkmoon is able to return home, and in similar fashion to the end of “Return Of The King”, he must battle against insurmountable odds while losing some of those close to him. Meanwhile his enemy is having internal power struggles only enhanced by a secret love triangle involving his wanton kinsman who eventually becomes somewhat of a martyr. The eventual return to what they consider reality to a flattened kingdom, which has been burned to the ground, seemingly negates the purpose. Like gladiators, the intention here points to the thrill of the hunt, the politics of sex and the glaring naivete of innocence but seems to eliminate the less melodramatic elements of emotional perspective. “The Runstaff” realizes its world and creates its mythos but, unlike the previous novel in the series, does it in a more formulaic progression. Out of 5, I give it a 2.

FIRST LOOK: Where The Wild Things Are – WB

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As part of its Fall 2009 Fall Preview Package, Warner Bros. just provided IR with this shot from “Where The Wild Things Are”, a suurealistic fantasy based on the children’s book directed by Spike Jonze (“Being John Malkovich”).

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