31 May, 2010

Script Study: "Little Miss Sunshine"



Michael Arndt interview (mp3)
Michael Arndt post award nominations interview (mp3)
Michael Arndt interviewed by Syd Field (video)
Michael Arndt, screenwriter, lecture (video)[discusses the ending]

Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton (directors) interview
Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton (directors) interview (spoilers)


Go Into The Story analysis
John Truby's spoiler free analysis

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Screenplay (pdf)

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Little Miss Sunshine, Channel 4, 11:35pm, tonight

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29 May, 2010

Linkage - 29/05/2010

Required Reading - online article compilation
Lucy Vee
Link

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Write A Screenplay In 3 Weeks by Dov Simens
Raindance (subscribe to their newsletter)
Link

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Notes from the Power of Story (By McKee)
Kilo 75
Link

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Notes from Story Structure (by McKee)
Writing for Performance
Link (pdf, 26 pages)

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Comedy is simple. But it's not easy
Euroscript
Link

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Writing from theme
John August
Link

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Report explores gender in movies and TV, and the results aren't good
Spare Candy
Link

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Does your script star ‘The’ Woman?
John Hunter
Link

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It's Not What You Said, It's How You Said It
Jane Espenson
Link


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The Script Lab
"The leading resource for screenwriters"
Link

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Random Word Brainstorming
Creativity Tools
Link

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Location, Location, Location and a Good Script
Movie Blog
Link

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How do you write a professional story treatment?
Go Into The Story
Link

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Go Into The Story Recommended Scripts archive
Link

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Motivation Techniques – Routine
Create Your Mind
Link

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The No. 1 Habit of Highly Creative People
Zen Habits
Link

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How to overcome procrastination
Writing Tips 4 U
Link

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Top 40 Useful Sites To Learn New Skills
Marc and Angel Hack Life
Link

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Writing the Second Act with Michael Halperin



"Writing the Second Act: Building Conflict and Tension in Your Film Script" at Amazon


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18 May, 2010

Meme: TV and Film

What single film or TV programme at some point in your life made you a) understand the filmmaking process and b) influence your own style of writing?

OK, this maybe answers David Bishop's blog-tag slightly better:

Television series

My biggest influences were Hill Street Blues and St Elsewhere which were emotional and had witty believable dialogue. They had strong characters who were different from the usual and they tackled big issues that other shows shied away from. More importantly they made me think and proved that intelligent populism need not be an oxymoron.

Homicide/The Wire and Chicago Hope/ER stood on the shoulders of those shows and advanced the art. (St Elsewhere seems so very slow now...)

Television serials

My biggest influences were Edge Of Darkness by Troy Kennedy-Martin and The Singing Detective by Dennis Potter.

The Kennedy-Martin because the author had something important to say but wrapped it in an accessible thriller genre. And, it has to be said, there is one raw emotional scene in particular that has proved impossible to dislodge from my memory. Not that I’ve been trying to but if I did try then I expect it would be, you know, difficult.

The Dennis Potter showed that it was possible to be imaginative and original in television drama. There was no need to play it safe. That’s the advice from the industry bods: don’t restrict yourself, don’t worry about budget or if it’s something not seen before. For our specs anyway…

Film

Although I’ve gone off the Coen Brothers recently, Raising Arizona is the first film that came to mind. It was a quirky, funny, intelligent, surprising, independent, looked gorgeous and had a heart. A film version of me, basically.

But it wasn’t Raising Arizona. It was something else. In monochrome by a legend. Not sure which legend. In the good old days (1980s) every single channel (all four of them) showed classic movies. I would watch the cartoons and then watch the oldies they showed after the children’s block.

My first understanding of the production process happened due to seasons where you would get loads of films by the same director but some were good and some were crap, which confused me. Why aren’t they all good? Then I noticed that following writers rather than directors made more sense.

So any lessons learned were probably from an amalgram of Alexander Mackendrick, Robert Riskin, Billy Wilder, Preston Sturges, Howard Hawks, Frank Launder & Sydney Gilliat, Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger and Ernst Lubitsch.

But it's been so long since I've seen them and I've probably forgotten all those lessons. I suppose I'm just going to have to watch them again. It's OK, don't feel sorry for me.

17 May, 2010

Meme: Stage

I've been blog-tagged by David Bishop.

What single film or TV programme at some point in your life made you a) understand the filmmaking process and b) influence your own style of writing?


I’m going to be awkward and start with stage influences as there are two plays that influenced me and their influence has carried me through my attempts to write for television and movies.

The first play I had staged was a radical feminist drawing room murder mystery. The director wondered why I had chosen such an old-fashioned setting and not a more contemporary style for the story but, to me, that was what a play was.

As a child, I was a regular at the Alexandra Theatre which showed touring plays and they did tend to be that sort of murder mystery type thing. And farces. And the nudie revues. Looking back, I think it’s outrageous that at aged 13, while I was prevented from seeing an 18 certificate film, I could watch fully naked women romp on stage. No, sorry, I don’t mean ‘outrageous’, I mean 'outstanding'.

A while later, after a successful workshopping, another director recommended me for a gig with a theatre company and I had to write something about myself and my writing. Not sure I should be telling you this as several years later I still feel embarrassed. I’ll trust you not to take the piss.

I was so eager to please that I bragged about my ability to replicate famous writer’s styles. Who did I namecheck? I can’t remember them all but Pinter, Brecht and Ayckbourn were on the list.

The theatre company were told about this bloke who had a completely original point of view who then turned out to be just a desperate hack for hire not someone they’d want to collaborate with.

As I’m forced to relive the pain via this meme (cheers David), I’m reminded of a meeting with Tony Jordan recently who explained why companies don’t want hacks. They want that fresh viewpoint and someone who can contribute their own ideas to long-running series to keep them going a good while longer.

I’ve long been able to tell who wrote episodes of TV series by their style. Even on team-written US shows. When I first told someone this, they looked at me as if wondering how soon they could get me sectioned before I caused them considerable harm.

It was therefore a colossal relief that Tony Jordan said the same thing about the same writers on Brookie, Corrie and Enders that I had mentioned. You can recognise writers who keep their original voice and Jordan believes that it’s those writers who are more likely to have a long career and get more commissions.

As we’re starting out, we are finding our voice and do naturally mimic other writers so perhaps we should forgive ourselves - unless we’re still copying years later.

There were two touring productions I remember most as a kid. The first one was Home at Seven by RC Sheriff with Arthur Lowe. Arthur Lowe had collapsed on stage the night before (and subsequently died) and someone with script in hand deputised for him). The play lacked truth and was a bit dull. I would have walked out but worried that everyone would think I was a philistine only there to see a TV star. The plot was predictable (including the ending) but during the ordeal I managed to think of a much more interesting version.

The second one was Quartermaine’s Terms by Simon Gray. I was happy with the (usually) entertaining garbage the Alex offered but this was different. I had an emotional reaction and lost interest in the average.

Of course at the time, I couldn’t explain what the difference was between the Simon Gray play and the RC Sheriff play (apart from 30 years) but I knew I wanted to be able to write the former and try and avoid writing the latter.

I can’t say I’ve entirely succeeded but I’m still learning and by aiming high, I might just reach an acceptable level.

I'll look at my film and TV influences next.

16 May, 2010

"Eight reasons 'The Good Wife' and 'Modern Family' are practically perfect"

LA Times

"2. Writing: Some will argue that comedy is harder to write than drama, but that's just the kind of fire and ice debate that skirts the obvious. No matter the genre, a great television show is the most difficult thing in the world to write because there are so many moving parts and, with any luck, the story goes on for years. "Modern Family's" Steven Levitan and Christopher Lloyd and "The Good Wife's" Michelle and Robert King all began with character. Each show follows a group of complicated and fully realized human beings working through interesting immediate issues under a canopy of über-narrative. In both cases, the big picture is the inevitable, but at times impossible, needs of — and need for — family."

"8. A reliance on story and character over plot device, quirkiness and gratuitous anything: Both shows are smart without being snarky, realistic about the limitations of the human soul without being jaded, carefully plotted without being overly clever. Sex is present but not exploited, marriage is respected but not revered and love, though in the end binding, is never reduced to syrup. What violence there is in "The Good Wife" is mostly psychological and/or off-screen. So, not only are these shows artful and exciting, but they're also family-friendly"

Article in full

15 May, 2010

Linkage - 15/05/2010

Printable checklist creator.
Link

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How do you know when your script is good?
Phill Barron
Link

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Internet Movie Firearms Database (Research)
Link

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Technically speaking: Drug use (Research)
WGA
Link

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The scariest pricing idea ever. That works.
The Freelancery
Link

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Tip sheet for low budget film scripts
The Online Communicator
Link

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The Quotes on the wall above my computer screen
The Copy and Paste Project
Link

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A dozen reasons TV shows get made BESIDES ratings
Boing Boing
Link

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Turn your script into a novel
Writing Tips 4 U
Link

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The Only Women In The Late Night Writers' Rooms - panel discussion
Jezebel
Link

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25 Words or Less
Upstart Crow Literary
Link

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The digital world 1 : How writers and filmmakers can use it to succeed, by Laura Wilson
Twelvepoint (free article)
Link

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How to prevent writers block
Helium
Link

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How To Destroy Negative Thinking Patterns Overnight
(probably not worth watching, what's the point?)
Link

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How to handle freelance writer burnout
Helium
Link

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Routes into film-making
Guardian Jobs
Link

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How to Write a Story

10 May, 2010

Beginnings: common mistakes

She's talking about novels but this applies across all writing, I reckon.

"Wendy Nelson Tokunaga: Common mistakes I’ve seen include starting the story in the wrong place (e.g. starting at the very beginning of the story is not necessarily the best strategy); opening with a scene that is too mundane and thereby lacking tension (e.g. the character wakes up, has a cup of coffee and ponders the start of his day); loading the opening with too much backstory and extraneous details; and using an action scene that serves no purpose other than the mistaken assumption that any “exciting incident” will draw in the reader."

Taken from here via here via Margit Keerdo

09 May, 2010

Freeway Poets (Bournemouth)

"Hi,

I run a creative Arts and Live Music Venue in Bournemouth, called The Winchester and I have started a night called Freeway Poets, and hope you will be interested and know people that would like to come along and take part, the first one was a great success and I hope they will just grow and bring more and more people together with a love of spoken word and poetry.

Freeway Poets on the 2nd of June, Doors open at 7pm and entry is £3, at The Winchester, 39 Poole Hill, Bournemouth Dorset Bh2 5PW, 01202552206 email the.artsbank@yahoo.co.uk.

Freeway Poets event we have a Headline London poet, Local Guest Poet, open stage for all travelling poets to come share their spoken word, verse, hip hop or beats, Live illustrators creating amazing images and drawings, Love cake baking amazing cakes for your delight, The Hat Exchange, bring a hat and trade with other at lovers... and Freeway Poets Book, a collection of travelling poets poems from the last Freeway Event plus a lot more going on...

All and everyone welcome.

Thank you

Louise Keeley,

The Arts Bank "

Freeway Poets facebook event page

08 May, 2010

Linkage - 08/05/2010

Festival Report 1: Tony Jordan and the Red Planet Prize...
John Fox
Link

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A is for Attitude
Adrian Reynolds
Link

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Research Links
Script Angel
Link

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Structure
Michelle Lipton
Link

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Sequences

Michelle Lipton
Link
(Download all the pages linked to in this handy pdf file)

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The writer's life: What are you afraid of?

Go Into The Story
Link

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Free mindmapping/storming software
XMind
Link

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The New 10 Commandments of Screenwriting
Screenwriting U
Link

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J’Accuse: Has Hollywood finally killed the Screenwriter?
Obsessed with Film
Link

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Nailing the Beat Sheet
Raindance
Link

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Writer, writer pants on fire!
The Story Department
Link

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4 Variations on the Theme
The Story Department
Link

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The GITS Club peer script review site

Link

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How To Train Your Brain

Dragos Roua
Link

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Writing for Continuing Drama

BBC Writersroom
Link

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Screenplay Format Guide

Lucy Vee
Link

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Bright Lights Film Journal
Link

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Writing Better Action
John August:

05 May, 2010

What the Papers Say: "Luther"


Sam Wollaston, The Guardian

"My girlfriend is a serial killer. How do I know? I yawned at her this morning and she didn't yawn back. Ha, got you! Murderer! It's a trick I picked up from Luther (BBC1). He – John Luther, wayward cop, bull of a man, intelligent, troubled, big on passion, less good at observing case management protocol – yawns at Alice Morgan in the interview room. And she doesn't yawn back. So she did it: killed her own mum and dad, shot them to buggery at point-blank range, as well as the family pet, a lovely golden retriever.

It's all to do with yawning being contagious. Only the unempathetic are immune – ie, killers. So that's it, case closed, they did it. Except, unfortunately, the yawn test doesn't stand up in court. There's no traditional evidence against Alice, no weapon to be found (it turns out the gun was inside the golden retriever, since she shoved it down his throat after shooting him – the dog ate my evidence, even though the dog was dead). So Luther has to let her go and do some normal non-yawn-test investigation. Well, normal for Luther, which is to put his head down and charge at a case.

His combative approach to investigating crime, and to life in general, leads to all sorts of problems. People fall from great heights and lie in comas. Others are hurt emotionally; relationships (including his own) are torn apart. The sexual tension between him and Alice is ratcheted up (come on Luther, that's the first rule of policing: never get off with the chief suspect). "Go on, kiss me, kill me, do something," she taunts him, rather ridiculously, as they hang off Blackfriars Bridge over the Thames. But, even though they are separated, he still loves Mrs Luther; and Alice knows that, so she threatens to stick a big pin into Mrs Luther's head. Alice, played by Ruth Wilson, really is wicked; I'm not surprised she failed the yawn test.

Luther is played, with lots of enthusiasm, by Idris Elba, who, of course, was Stringer Bell in The Wire (he has switched from crim to fed, poacher turned gamekeeper, citizen of Baltimore to Londoner, which is what he actually is). It must be tough to have been in, and to always be associated with, possibly the greatest TV show ever. Everything susequent will – unfairly – be compared with it, and will inevitably be a disappointment. Luther is not bad, but nor is it The Wire. It's an above-average cop show – more interesting than The Bill, a bit cooler, and London looks better (the Barbican looks fabulous). It tries hard, perhaps too hard, to be intelligent and interesting. But I don't believe it.

I don't believe in John Luther himself, bursting at the seams with rage and overdosing on maverickness. I'm not saying that TV policemen should be like real ones; that could get boring. But this could be taking it too far. Neither do I believe in Alice Morgan – genius (she's a physicist – dark matter is her thing, appropriately), seductress, killer – running round London with her big high-quality kitchen knife. I don't believe in their relationship: sometimes hunting each other, next minute flirting, then sparring academically about philosophical ideas such as Occam's Razor. (Maybe she's going to get him with Occam's Razor, because the Global kitchen knife wasn't sharp enough, or maybe she'll castrate him with her intellect.) I don't believe that inside a dead dog is really a good place to hide a gun. And I don't believe in the yawn thing. It's a shame. I was proud of discovering that my girlfriend is a murderer. And a little bit pleased – is that wrong?"

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Andrew Billen, The Times

"John Luther, the most maverick cop since Vic Mackey on The Shield, has woman trouble — which is funny, because the women in his life have John Luther trouble. Take his wife, Zoe, played by Indira Varma, a smart lawyer who works in an office so chrome and shiny that it makes the BBC’s election studio look like Steptoe’s yard. She has taken time out from their relationship after noticing that Luther was no longer in it, but, rather, in a bad place hunting a child abductor (this would be the same bad place that young Hathaway found himself in on Sunday’s Lewis — it’s crowded with telly cops). Now she’s met a gentle bloke with a beard. She dreads breaking the news to Luther, who has obviously alarmed her by telling her “I’ve got myself together and I’m good.”

When the Hackney boy comes round to Posh Street to visit, she is dressed in an off-the-shoulder number that he mistakes for something about to be removed for him. He needs to know something... His face registers astonishment, disbelief, grief but with dignity he picks up and replaces a candlestick on her mantelpiece. He has got himself together and he’s good. The next sec he is looming towards the kitchen door like Frankenstein’s monster, punching out its top two panels, and kicking apart the remainder. The rich never learn: if you’ve got the money, spend it on timber not MDF. “Why? Why?” he asks her, as in why has she left him. I couldn’t imagine.

Meanwhile in his work as a maverick cop with added insight into human nature, Luther is playing cat and mouse with a psychopath called Alice — the elastic mouthed Ruth Wilson — who has killed her parents, disposing of the weapon in their dog’s stomach (a plot point that produces the immensely quotable line, “The gun was in the dog.”). As a murderer, Alice, an infant phenomenon who went to Oxford aged 13, has got it all so far as guile and intellect go, but, despite diligent homework on the Look It Up search engine (if she’s that bright why doesn’t she use Google?), she lacks something when it comes to human empathy. Alice is so crazy she thinks she’s the cat and Luther the mouse.

The third woman in Luther’s life is his boss DSU Rose Teller, who actually welcomes back to her team the giant her boss refers to as nitro-glycerine. Luther had been suspended pending an investigation into how the paedophile had ended up not so much in a bad place as a coma when Luther could have saved him. Rose gives him a lecture on protocol or, as the excellent Saskia Reeves pronounces it, “pro-o-col”, and, also, a mug that says “You don’t have to be mad to work here but it helps”. It should, of course read, “You don’t need to have a glottal stop to work here, but the voice coach prefers it.”

Luther is the highest nonsense and the greatest fun. It’s not Cracker but crackers. Luther diagnoses Alice’s malignant narcissism with rapier speed after she fails to return his artfully inserted yawn in the interview room. Alice threatens his wife by inserting a hat pin down her ear hole. But for once a writer, in this case Neil Cross, has not been script-edited out of existence. It looks as if his jokes have been kept in, even the bad ones. So has the tortuous metaphor equating the astronomer Alice with one of her black holes. Nonetheless, it is Luther’s show, which means it is Idris Elba’s. As Stringer Bell on The Wire, Elba barely raised his voice. As Luther he’d smash up his office if someone fouled up and put sugar in his tea. Judging by the interview he gave The Times on Saturday, Elba is monstrously arrogant about his talents. Judging by the first Luther, he has cause to be."

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Tom Sutcliffe, The Independent

"John Luther has just returned from a long period of gardening leave, while an internal investigation establishes how he – oops – failed to prevent a serial-killing paedophile from falling four storeys. His immediate boss – Saskia Reeves, 'eaving out 'er 'aitches to show how down to earth she is – would like him to play it by the book in future. He is, she tells him at the beginning of Neil Cross's new detective series, Luther, to "observe case management protocol... any proactive strategies to be signed off by me". Fat chance of that, we know at once, because the only book Luther appears to care about is "So You Want to Be a Maverick Detective". Rule One. Have relationship difficulties so you can gloom about the place in between pounding desks and chasing killers. Tick to that, since Luther has just discovered that his wife plans to make a temporary separation permanent. Rule Two. Combine a penetrating psychological intuition with a grasp of the basic rules of evidence that would shame a probationary constable. Tick to that too, since all it took for Luther to spot that his suspect was a "malignant narcissist" and had just topped her mum and dad was the fact that she didn't yawn after he did during an interrogation.

And yet, despite the fact that that was all he'd got to go on, he still threw a tantrum in his boss's office when she was eventually released. Rule Three. Be a lot brighter than any of your suspects expect you to be. Big tick to that, given that Luther is able to discourse suggestively about dark matter and Occam's razor in a way that sends a frisson of sexual thrill through the psycho-killer physicist he's trying to crack.

They're so conventional mavericks, these days, rarely enlivened by anything that would genuinely give the conventions a bit of a twist, such as a passion for Civil War re-enactment, say, or a happy home life with a drag queen. It's all lonely drinking in late-night pubs and revelations of existential angst: "I love to talk about nothing... it's the only thing I know anything about," Luther said at one point. But Cross's series does have some things going for it. One is Idris Elba, who was magnetically commanding as the Baltimore drug dealer Stringer Bell in The Wire, and makes a pretty good fist of the hand he's dealt here. You might suspect that Luther is more a loose constellation of cop-show clichés than a fully formed character, but Elba brings the clichés to life on more than one occasion, his eyes jittering from agitation to acceptance in a way that suggests that there really is something going on behind them. Another thing in its favour – though you'll have to suspend your disbelief to relish it – is the pathological flirtation between Luther and the killer he can't quite nail, which looks as if it will run through the series to deliver a bit of Hannibal Lecter intrigue. It is, there's no getting away from it, a bit of a comedown after The Wire. But then it's hard to think what wouldn't be."

Luther, Tuesdays, 9:00pm, for six weeks

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Overnights: 5.76

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Catch up via iPlayer

04 May, 2010

TwelvePoint.com free trial


Taken from here

"Membership of TwelvePoint offers genuine professional advantage. Whether you're already earning a living in the entertainment business or just starting out, you'll find expert information, advice and guidance delivered by working industry professionals. You'll also find market news and networking opportunities that could help to boost your career.

The backbone of TwelvePoint is its unique, searchable database of articles analysing the craft and business of screenwriting. As a member, you'll have access to around 100 new, in-depth articles each year, in addition to many hundreds of articles from ScriptWriter Magazine's rich archive.

Joining is simple and at just £29 per year, it's amazing value. The articles alone work out at less than 4 pence each but there's so much more:

  • Where else can you send in a question and be sure that an industry pro will provide you with an answer?
  • Where else can you find script leads, contract advice, industry news and networking opportunities, all under one roof?

Don't take our word for it - browse the links below to sample the great content you'll receive when you become a member. If you like what you see but want a fuller view before making your decision, we'd like to offer you a ten-day trial membership of the whole website, completely free. Of course you could simply download everything and never come back - and there would be nothing to stop you - but you'd be missing out on the strong benefits of continuous membership.

Follow the links below for a small taste of the range and quality of information you'll receive when you join TwelvePoint, then enter your email address in the blue box at top left of the home page to sign up for your free trial."