Fantastic Beasts, and were to find them on TV.

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As the days get cooler, the nights grow longer, our imaginations run even wilder, especially with All Hallows' Eve right around the corner.

No better time to discover some new fantasy TV series.

Amazon Prime has created a beautiful alternate universe—Burgue, akin to 1880 London— in which humans reluctantly co-exist with fairies (“faes”) and other fantastic beasts: gremlin-like kobolds, werewolves, and my personal favorite, “pucks,” who are saytres (half man, half ram).

These fantastic beasts, called “crits” by the humans, are war refugees in Burgue, which was its ally against the barbarous Pacts. Even so, except for those who have secured jobs as servants, they are confined to a ghetto called “Carnival Row.”

When a renowned Fae is murdered, a soldier-turned-police inspector,  Rycroft Philostrate (“Philo”; one of Orlando Bloom's best roles to date) is put on the case. It brings him in contact with his long-lost love: a fae called Vignette Stonemoss (Cara Delevingne). Both thought the other dead in the last great battle between the faes and the Pacts. Both feel betrayed by the other. Their attraction and animosity for each other ramps up along with the killings of crits by some unknown mystical force.

Great stuff indeed.

Click below to see a trailer.

Or click the photo above to read a Vanity Fair article about the series' shoots-and-ladders journey from concept to greenlight for series.

Another interesting television series on Netflix, The Frankenstein Chronicles, does a realistic twist on Mary Shelley's famous novel.  This is not a love story, but historical crime suspense about redemption for the early 19th Century London police investigator charged with finding a serial child murderer.

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Or is it?

Starring a Game of Thrones head honcho, Sean Bean, the series takes place in the 1820s (as bleakly post-Jane Austen as you can get), a time when corpses were considered public property and legally dug up by “immortalists” (I LOVE that period-appropriate word for “grave robbers!”) for the scientists and doctors who are pushing Britain's political leaders to approve “the Anatomy Act” so that cadavers can be legally used for medical study.

The world-building is sublimely authentic. Even indoors, the poor actors seem to be freezing, if their chilled breath is any indication.

This show has already gone into a third season and promises more head-spinning plots based on things that go bump in the night.

Click the photo above for a great recap article; or the video box below for a trailer peek.

Scared and Bemused,

Josie

Judy, Judy, Judy…and Renee.

 

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I'm a fan of Old Hollywood. And the fact that Judy Garland's rendition of Over the Rainbow makes me cry every time I hear it was reason enough for me to see Judy, the feature film bio-pic starring Renee Zellweger.

I'm also a VERY big fan of Renee's. As Roxie Hart in the musical movie, Chicago, I thought she knocked it out of the park: she was THE triple threat: singing, dancing, acting.

And it's because of Bridget Jones's Diary that I write humorous women's fiction. (By that I mean the novel, by Helen Fielding, albeit the movie version reinforced my love of romcoms.)

I was NOT disappointed. If you go to see it, I don't think you will be, either.

Can she sing like Judy?

I'll answer that with a question: Can anyone?

What you'll appreciate about Zellweger's performance is that she captures all the gestures, the vocal inflections (Judy's resonance and vocal depth was incomparable), the timing, and the pathos of one of the greatest performers to grace the silver screen, or for that matter a live stage.

I'll be shocked if she doesn't wind the Best Actress Oscar for it.

Below is a trailer of the movie.

Garland once famously said, “If I'm a legend, then why I so lonely?” This is aptly illustrated in the movie. One of the most touching scenes in the movie is how Judy asks two fans to grab a bite to eat with her for just this very reason: with celebrity comes awe, which creates a crevice between the famous and those leading normal lives.

I saw this first hand,  when interviewing celebrities for feature articles.

Debbie Reynolds came to San Francisco, to make the movie, Mother, written, directed, and co-starring Albert Brooks. At that point, and that time in her life, movie roles had essentially dried up for her. She realized it was a great break, perhaps even a comeback role. In fact, it garnered her a Golden Globe nomination.

At the beginning of our interview, she was nervous enough that her hand was shaking as she sipped her coffee.

When she heard that, as a little boy, my son insisted on watching Singing in the Rain over and over again, she kindly replied, “Did you bring a cassette tape? I'd sign it for you.”

Silly me, I didn't even think of doing so.

By the end of the interview, she hinted that she'd like company for a meal. Again, I was so stupidly awestruck that I didn't say, “Sure, let's grab a bite.”

I've always regretted it.

If you get that opportunity, take it.

Here's to those bright lights that entertain us.

—Josie

 

Game of Thrones’s Emilia Clarke tells her journey with brain injury. It will break your heart.

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If you feel you need yet another reason to admire actress Emilia Clarke, here it is. In this very person essay that runs in The New Yorker, she recounts her near-death experiences with two aneurysms—all while filming Game of Thrones.

Her candor is refreshing. Her response to her injuries—the creation of Same You, a foundation that raises money for treatment of others who are recovering from brain injuries and stroke—is nothing less than you'd expect from a woman who is the queen of so many hearts.

—Josie