Continuing on with my mini-series obsession, I thought I'd share some of my favorites in the fantasy genre. I have to say, SyFy's original mini-series are their best content (with the exception of Battlestar Galactica, obviously. But hey, that started off as a mini-series so there you go!). Of course incredible production value is part of the reason I love them, but it's also because they are reimagined stories. Characters you know, but with a twist on a classic tale. So without further adieu....
Neverland (2011) - Written and directed by Nick Willing, Neverland is sort of like a prequel to the well known story of Peter Pan. Back before Hook was "Hook" and Peter was "The Pan", they were pals pickpocketing the streets of London. When Jimmy Hook's crew of rambunctious young boys tries to burgle a jewelry store, they find a magic orb that when struck, sends everyone in its vicinity to an unknown land. This far off place is inhabited by pirates, Indians and even a crocodile with a few too many legs. The boys are aided by the tribe of Indians or Native Americans since I'm writing this in 2013. Young Charlie Rowe excellently plays the orphaned Peter who was saved from the retched workhouse by his not always benevolent guardian. Jimmy (Rhys Ifans) falls in with the pirate crowd whose Captain is Elizabeth Bonny, one badass lady pirate played by Anna Friel ("Pushing Daisies" and Public Enemies). You may recognize Mr. Smee since Bob Hoskins played the part in another reimagined Pan tale - Hook (love that movie!). Everyone wants to get home, but good ol' Jimmy Hook doesn't want to leave without a little loot. Particularly the mineral dust that comes from the tree spirits, which gives the power of flight. Capt'n Bonny has and would kill again for such power. Peter, being the upstanding pickpocket that he is, decides to stop Jimmy and save the tree spirits. With the tribe backing him and some fairy dust coursing through his body, Peter takes on Jimmy. You can probably guess what happens. My only problem with this reimagining is that Tinkerbell is very unattractive. She is voiced by Keira Knightly, but another actress did all the green screen work. The final result is a woman covered in silver body paint and slicked back hair so that she nearly looks bald. It's not a good look. That being said, you should still check it out. Neverland itself is full of beautiful landscapes and intricate details. The costuming for multiple time periods is ornate and downright lovely. It's a fun adventure story in the spirit of Peter Pan.
You can stream on Netflix. Click here for a preview
Alice (2009) - Writer/Director Nick Willing already had some experience with Wonderland by the time he took on this reimagining of the famous Lewis Carroll story. Back in 1999, he'd directed a more traditional take on Alice's journey for NBC that garnered four Primetime Emmy Awards. In this iteration, Alice is a grown woman, a judo sensei who spends her time searching for her father that disappeared when she was ten years old. When Alice follows Jack, the man she's been dating to return a ring she wasn't ready for, she's magically transported into another world. A very vertical world where the people she encounters believe she is "Alice of Legend" returned to Wonderland 150 years after bringing down the House of Cards. In her attempt to get home, Alice encounters a tea shop owner with quite the fashion sense, called Hatter. Marvelously played by Andrew Lee Potts, Hatter has his own agenda, yet is drawn to Alice and helping her find her way. Turns out that this too soon engagement ring is actually the key to the looking glass. The Queen of Hearts has been desperate to find it and will lop off anyone's head that is in her way. She sends her best (yet recently dead) assassin, Mad March after Alice. Kathy Bates is devilishly good as the Queen as is Colm Meaney as her constantly doting King. Alice and Hatter meet many interesting characters along the way. Pretty much everyone you'd expect from the story makes an appearance in one way or another. I like that this classic children's tale is updated and twisted. It feels more relevant and therefore more entertaining....at least to me. Well maybe not just me. It was nominated for two Primetime Emmy Awards and won a slew of others. My favorite part by far was Andrew Lee Potts as Hatter, but a close second was Matt Frewer as Charlie, the only remaining White Knight. Both gave wonderfully quirky performances. Check out all the classic characters by streaming Alice on Netflix. Click here for a preview
Tin Man (2007) - You're probably tired of hearing about Nick Welling, but I promise this is the last time. Directed by Nick Welling and written by Steven Long Mitchell & Craig Van Sickle (the team behind "The Pretender" - love that show!) this mini series is a reimagining (another word you're probably tired of) of The Wizard of Oz. The ever adorable Zooey Deschanel is DG, a small town waitress who never quite felt at home in Kansas. DG has been having reoccurring dreams of a beautiful, lavender eyed woman telling her that storm is coming. A storm comes alright, but it's no ordinary tornado. It's a travel storm sent by the evil Queen Azkadellia (Kathleen Robertson) for her Longcoat soldiers to journey through and kill DG. Fortunately, DG escapes by way of the storm and ends up in the O.Z. or the Outer Zone. It's here that she meets up with some wacky locals - Glitch (Alan Cumming), a former royal advisor has had half his brain removed under Azkadellia's reign. Raw (Raoul Trujillo) is a psychic empath whose people have been enslaved and Wyatt Cain, played by my favorite bottle blond Neal McDonough. Cain is a former Tin Man aka OZ cop whose family was killed after his opposing Azkadellia's rule. Sealed in an iron suit, Cain was forced to watch his family die over and over again on a loop. Together, this rag tag group of sad weirdos unearth the truth about DG's hidden past and fight to overthrow Azkadellia. As was the case with Alice, all the major characters make an appearance in some form. The production value is stunning. Gorgeous art direction and costuming. Out of the nine, Primetime Emmy nominations, Tin Man won for Outstanding Make-Up. If you ask me, this adaptation was much more exciting and adventurous than the L. Frank Baum classic. Then again, it was great material to work from. Follow the yellow brick road by streaming on Netflix. Click here for a preview
What do you think should be the next classic tale to be reimagined?
P.S. Netflix does not pay me to promote them. I'm just a streaming addict on a budget. If you've ever marathoned an entire TV season on Netflix, you know.....it's just like crack, only better. Or so I'm told.
- Jenna Sliter
- Hi, I'm Jenna and I'm addicted to great television. I'm on a mission to share with you what I think are the best of the best when it comes to shows and mini-series. Long format visual storytelling is my entertainment of choice. I've got a lot to say, so stay tuned..... P.S. I am under some sort of invisible legal obligation to state that I do not own any of the photos posted herein unless otherwise specified and if you see any of your images and would like me to credit you or take it down (‘cus you’re just a meanie), please contact me