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
Monday, January 21, 2013
Thursday, January 3, 2013
Just one of the many things I love about British television is that they embrace the mini-series, but not the kind that we're used to. Across the pond, they cut theirs down to one hour episodes. Sometimes on consecutive nights, sometimes once a week as any other series, but with the intention of one season.
I guess my love affair with television series' sprung out of my adoration of the mini-series as a longer form of storytelling. Remember when the networks would air sweeping epics over three nights? The British sure are talented at packing in a ton of information into each one hour episode. By the end, I feel like I've spent several seasons with these characters....but it's only been a few hours and it doesn't feel rushed. So if you are in the market for some great storytelling and don't have the time to invest in multiple 22 episode seasons, here are some recommendations for British mini-series/short self contained seasons.
Criminal Justice (2008) - You may know him as Q from Skyfall or recognize him from Cloud Atlas or even know him as Freddie Lyon of "The Hour", but Ben Whishaw's breakthrough performance was in season one of Criminal Justice. This five episode season follows a young man through Britain's criminal justice system. Whishaw's Ben Coulter spends a drunken evening with a pretty girl he meets, but wakes up in the middle of the night to find her stabbed to death. He can't remember what happened. Of course, all evidence points to him and he's arrested. A solicitor named Stone believes that Ben is innocent or at least that the case is not as straight forward as the evidence seems. This unsophisticated, schlubby, solicitor (lawyer) who wears bandages around his feet with flip flops because of chronic eczema is wonderfully portrayed by Con O'Neill. Another highlight of this series is the relationship between Ben and his cellmate, an older gentleman who's been behind bars for quite a while and knows the ropes. Hooch as he's known inside, is a listener, which from what I gather means that he gets a few perks for being an unqualified psychiatrist to other inmates. He is brilliantly played by the late Pete Postlethwaite. Oh and keep a look out for "Homeland" CIA head honcho as king of the cell block. This one has my highest recommendation. Stream all five episodes on Netflix. Here's a taste - Criminal Justice Promo
Public Enemies (2012) - Anna Friel ("Pushing Daisies" and Land of the Lost) and Daniel Mays (tons of Brit stuff you've probably never heard of) play Paula and Eddie, probation officer and newly released criminal. Eddie served ten years for the murder of his girlfriend and is now trying to get his life back, only the past and his reputation are making that pretty difficult to do. Paula gave her last parolee the benefit of the doubt and he killed again, leaving her career in shambles. She puts it all on the line to help Eddie when he confesses that he was innocent all along. Friel and Mays have incredible on-screen chemistry. In three short one-hour episodes Mays impresses with the portrayal of a boy, not yet a man trying to begin again. Paula and Eddie's relationship is complicated and messy, which is why it's so damn compelling to watch. Five stars. Stream all three eps on Netflix. Here's a sneak peak - Public Enemies Promo
The Silence (2010) - Genevieve Barr gives a breakout performance as 18 year old Amelia, a deaf girl that witnesses a murder and becomes entangled in her uncle's mission to expose police corruption. Amelia has recently had a cochlear implant and is feeling very pressured to integrate with the hearing world. She starts staying at her Uncle's house in Bristol during the week to avoid all the travel back and forth from the burbs for her speech therapy. While DCI Uncle Jim (Douglas Henshall) is spending every waking hour investigating murders at the cost of his home life, Amelia witnesses one of her own. With Amelia's help, he ties it to a drug related killing and uncovers evidence that his colleagues in the drug squad are dirty cops. It's up to him to uncover the whole truth before they get to Amelia. Props to Fiona Seres for writing a deaf leading character and Dearbhla Walsh for casting a deaf actor. Amelia's struggle with whether or not she wants to be part of the hearing world was just as prominent as the crime, beautifully portrayed by Barr who was born deaf, but had to learn sign language for the role. These four one-hour eps fly by. The action and suspense will keep you pressing play until you've shot four hours of your day, but definitely not wasted. Two ecstatic thumbs up. Stream it on Netflix. This promo doesn't nearly do it justice, but take a gander - The Silence Promo
Prisoners Wives (2012) - You can probably guess what this show is about by the title. Gemma, Francesca, Lou and Harriet all share one thing in common. The men in their lives are serving time behind bars at Her Majesty's Pleasure. Gemma is severely preggers when her husband is arrested for murder. She's shown the ropes by Francesca, a glammed up middle aged woman that dresses like a slutty teenager. Her man (Iain Glen) is on year six of an 18 year stretch for drug trafficking. You might recognize him as Sir Jorah from "Game of Thrones" or Sir Richard Carlisle on "Downton Abbey". This dude likes to be called Sir a lot..... and he's in contention for The Hardest Working Actor in Britain Award. Lou is a mum that deals drugs to support her kid, but her baby's daddy is doing her time. Not sure you could ask for a more supportive boyfriend. She probably can't ever ask him to take the trash out again, though. Harriet is a widow who turned her teenage son into the police when she suspected him of planning a killing spree. Over six 47 min episodes we watch these women deal with their circumstances and even bond over them. Can you still have a relationship when you only see your man two hours a week and have to be strip searched to do so? Season 2 is in the works, but from what I can tell, it will be a whole new cast of wives. Oh and it has a great opening credits including the music. I'm a sucker for good opening credits. Streaming on Netflix. Check out the trailer - Prisoners Wives Promo
Inside Men (2012) - If you're a fan of "Luther", you'll love "Inside Men". Warren Brown and Steven Mackintosh of the critically acclaimed and award winning series are joined by Ashley Walters in this high stakes drama about three cash depot employees that plan a multi-million pound heist. The series jumps back in forth in time to different points in the plan. Sometimes irritating, but mostly, it keeps you guessing as to who's all in and who's about to break. Brown, Mackintosh and Walters do not disappoint when it comes to intense, pressure filled scenes that fuel each episode. Keeping a long term caper on track would be difficult for any trio of thieves, but throw in one newly adopted daughter, a crazy wife and a pregnant girlfriend and there are bound to be hiccups. DVD on Netflix or stream all four episodes on Amazon Instant Video for $1.99 each. Take a look - Inside Men Promo
I hope this helps the next time you've got a rainy day with nothing to do or if you just love television (particularly British television) as much as I do.
Any mini-series to add to this list? Disagree? All thoughts welcome. Just leave a comment below.