Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
Tommy Wirkola, the writer-director of the Nazi zombie horror-comedy Dead Snow, makes his English-language debut with this steam punk-influenced take on the classic fairy tale. Here a grown Hansel & Gretel are bounty hunters whose specialty is tracking and burning the nefarious witches that capture and kill young children. Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton and Famke Janssen co-star.
I've argued Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is secretly great, and well worth the price of admission. But if you're looking for other inventive takes on the sugary fairy tales you remember from your childhood, these should satisfy, delving into these stories Grimm origins, taking them into a modern context, and revealing what came before.
Scary Tales (2011) This 3net series explores the origins of such classic stories as Red Riding Hood, Snow White, The Pied Piper, and Hansel & Gretel. Speaking with experts they not only unfold the grisly early versions of these bedtime tales—which include far more dismemberment and cannibalism than I ever knew—with discussions of what these ghastly stories reflected in old world society. Creepy and fascinating, this show makes clear why John Updike called fairy tales "the television and pornography of an earlier age."
Once Upon a Time (2011) Dealing strictly in fantasy, this ABC drama series centers on Emma Swan, a contemporary bounty hunter with a checkered and enchanted past. When the son she gave up for adoption finds her, she's shocked at his claims that he comes from a town under a spell and that she is the daughter of Snow White, destined to set the fairy tale inhabitants free from the reign of an evil witch. This one's a bit slow to start, but balancing its modern-mystery narrative with flashbacks to familiar stories told with a fresh and fierce perspective, it soon gets too good to turn away from. The first season, which is now streaming, boasts appearances from Snow White, Rumplestiltskin, Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and many more. Jennifer Morrison, Ginnifer Goodwin and Robert Carlyle co-star.
Neverland (2011) Serving as a prequel to the classic tale of Peter Pan, this two-part mini-series posits Peter in Victorian-era London, where he's the second in command to a band of boy pickpockets led by the wily adult crook, Jimmy Hook. But their bond is tested when a magical orb whisks these lost boys to a planet far away, where pirates, fairies and Indians promise plenty of adventure. Rhys Ifans, Anna Friel and Charlie Rowe star; but best of all Bob Hoskins plays Smee, reprising the role he played in the 1991 Peter Pan sequel Hook!