Hi There,

This week’s question from my screenwriting poll :-

‘Tell us ONE undeservedly over-looked, under-rated movie or TV show that we should catch up with?’

So many great answers which will I’m sure enrich your viewing over the next few months – thank you again to everyone who took the time to contribute…

From a personal point of view, it was great to be reminded of that wonderful, unique and very funny series BARNEY MILLER from the very distant past!

…of MY SO-CALLED LIFE another cracking and largely forgotten series (from the ’80’s?)

…and of the feature film YOUNG ADULT, from JUNO writer Diablo Cody. One of those many really interesting-looking feature films that barely causes a ripple on release before disappearing without trace – definitely one to catch on DVD when it comes out this month.

SO here are your answers to the question \ request –


‘Toto the Hero’

‘Down Terrace, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1489167/ A wonderful spin on the Brit gangster flic as a soap opera with a morally bankrupt, but dignified ending …. great use of a single location … and made for £6k’

‘Once, a low-budget Irish musical that is by turns warm, life-affirming, heartbreaking and lyrical, and a genuine joy to watch. It’s a very understated film, but the music is wonderful, casting two non-acting singers in the lead roles was inspired, making them authentic and believable, and the budget nature of the film adds to its charm. Not necessarily overlooked in terms of praise and awards, but a hidden gem that the majority of people might not have heard of. Highly recommended.’

‘An obscure US curiosity called Huff. Created by virtual unknown Bob Lowry in 2004, it starred Hank ‘The Simpsons’ Azaria as a troubled psychiatrist. Brilliantly funny, off-the-wall and dramatic, it won three Emmy awards but was inexplicably cancelled after just two seasons, only the first of which is available on DVD. It features possibly the most spectacularly inciting of all inciting incidents ever, and I can’t recommend it highly enough, for countless reasons.’

‘Firefly/Serenity – the most underrated sfi-fi series to date, with a feature that also failed to launch, a hidden gem. Jos Whedon is King!’

‘Funland, the 2005 BBC serial written by Simon Ashdown (Eastenders) and Jeremy Dyson (League of Gentlemen). It’s a great story that is superbly crafted by the filmmakers, and deserves to be seen by more people. A real cult gem.’

‘The Shadow Line – written, produced and directed by Hugo Blick. It received good critical acclaim but you don’t hear many people talking about it. A really bold, complex, and unabashedly operatic thriller. It had an outstanding cast and a delicate, forensic writing style that proved talky scenes can be more tense and gripping than any rapidly-edited action sequence. For my money the best British drama of 2011, mostly overlooked by the recent BAFTA nominations.’

‘The Disappearance of Alice Creed entered and exited so quickly that many of mine hadn’t even heard of it. Again, for its minimalistic, low-budgeted phrasing and thriller-tense storytelling.’

‘Last year’s movie ‘Young Adult’. Charlize Theron’s perfect study of a woman who is as vile at the end of the story as she is at the beginning. Yes! There are no character arcs because real people do horrible things and don’t learn. Maybe that’s why no one went to see it? Bleak, true and horribly funny.’

‘Stone of Destiny – This wonderful film barely got any recognition when it came out a few years ago. Based on the true story of the Scottish students who contrived to steal the famous stone of destiny from its resting place in Westminster Abbey, this film was crisply written, beautifully directed and very well acted. If you haven’t seen it, you’ve missed out.’

‘Ultraviolet – not the film, the original TV series with Jack Davenport, Stephen Moyer and Idris Elba. Vampires long before they became fashionable mixed with that uniquely British requirement of using science as a tool to somehow make sci-fi more real or believable. The story is slow and unfolding, yet even watching it now, it isn’t dated or out of place. It is brilliant and compelling and a shame that it never went on from the initial series.’

‘Guy Richie’s 2008 film ‘Rocknrolla’. Seen to remember this film got ‘lost’ owing to the real life dramas of the cast and director but I thought it fresh and entertaining given that the genre had been done to death at the time. A superb cast and crackling dialogue- well worth a second look.’

‘MOVING WALLPAPER – satirical comedy drama written by Tony Jordan for ITV 2008. Hilarious satire on the TV industry/making of a TV soap Starring ego manic producer Ben Miller. Only ran for two episodes – possibly because about TV and too self referential. And tied to soap it was satirising, Echo Beach. However, humour, writing and performances were hilarious. Ben Miller has never been better…’

‘PEACOCK (2010). Even though the script is beautifully crafted – with an incredible schizophrenic performance by Cillian Murphy and featuring Susan Sarandon and Ellen Page – the movie was low budget and never got the distribution it deserved going straight to DVD. The only way I got to see it was by watching the trailer online over and over to make up the running time of a feature film, but when I got sick of that, I ordered a copy from the Czech Republic (the US version was the wrong region for my DVD player) and waited excitedly by my letterbox for it to arrive. At first the young writer/director Michael Lander and co-writer Ryan Roy seemed to have disappeared off the face of the planet since creating their feature debut, but after searching around on Google there are rumors of new films coming up – though nothing since Peacock on IMDB. The clever, hitchcock-esque storyline (a kind of “what-happened-to-Norman-Bates-after-Psycho”) is inspiring.’

‘The most underrated television show which is now actually recognized is ‘Getting On,’ Jo Brand knows what the NHS is like from her years nursing – forget Casualty – Gettin On – is what the NHS is really like and it is very funny to boot.’

‘Bob Martin – Scripted by Bob Mills and Jeff Pope, and starring the tortured Barrymore, this show ran for two series and is the most underrated comedy drama of recent times. Shunned because of the star’s subsequent wayward personal life, Barrymore not only acted the part, the part subsequently became him as his real catastrophes engulfed his career. Watching it back, his impending disasters imbue every scene and, if you can just concentrate on the performance – enhances the unfolding drama. Like Curb, Bob Martin had to be cynical about its world (tv) but the personalities in the studio setting(Keith Allan – particularly brillant) all adjusted their basic moral compass to accomodate the world that they found themselves in.’

‘Charlie Gormley’s ‘Heavenly Pursuits’ from 1987. Featuring Helen Mirren and Tom Conti, it is the tale of an atheist schoolteacher who finds he may be able to perform miracles. The script is whimsical while hinting at bigger existential concerns.’

‘The Sweet Hereafter (1997).’

 ‘I’d say The Cops, which was a bloody good British TV drama series from the late 90s, but I don’t it’s available anywhere. [If it is, someone please let me know, as I’ll be first in the queue to buy a copy.] So I’ll suggest Silk, created by Peter “Criminal Justice” Moffat and starring the great Maxine Peake [who’s also in dinnerladies and The Street, as it happens]. Again, not fashionable but gripping legal drama with compelling characters and good stories, well told. There’s a new series starting this month on BBC1 – I can’t wait.’

‘Wendy and Lucy’

‘My So-Called Life was so underrated at the time, I was a 15-year old girl living in a small town when I first saw it and the writing, and the central character, both spoke to me. You think you’re the only teenager going through it at the time but this programme was speaking in a voice I’d not heard before. Winnie Holzman had the dialogue down perfectly, some of the things she had her main character say (played by Claire Danes – now acing it in Homeland) were almost directly out of my own mind, she had her characters pinned. My So-Called Life never patronised you, in the way that Beverley Hills 90210 and Dawson’s Creek constantly did. There was no ‘vagina music’ soundtrack to lull you into a false sense of security and no ridiculous vocabularly spewing out of the young characters mouths. It was all so well-written and well-acted, it was no surprise to learn that Holzman had previously written on The Wonder Years as this series has comparisons with that. But for me, MSCL was better, probably because the protagonist was a young female and so was I when I saw it.’

‘Primeval. It’s a show about time traveling dinosaurs and yet the characters are so vivid they make the dinosaurs the least interesting part of the show to me.’

‘BARNEY MILLER, 1974-1982: This is an American series and my all time favourite comedy. To view it in full you’d have to have an NTSC-compatible DVD player, unfortunately. Most of the action centers on the detectives’ room in a run down police station, the cops getting through the day and processing their varied arrestees with a mixture of boredom, joking around and some of the funniest, wittiest moments in TV comedy. It’s of it’s time but as vivid and brilliant as when it was made. An episode called ‘THE CHILD STEALERS’ has the funniest pay-off final line I’ve ever seen on TV.’

‘This choice is a bit of a guilty pleasure. It received almost unanimously negative reviews. “Awful!” But I’m a great admirer of its screenwriter. And it’s called “Kiss of The Dragon”. I first saw this as a very stoned teenager and was bowled over. Mainly because I can’t remember being driven to, entering or buying the tickets for this film. But I do remember my Dad’s suspicious eyes – and what must of been my very red eyes from his POV. Anyway, way off the point there. In my opinion “Kiss of The Dragon” is Jet Li’s best film, and mixes a great villain and fighting with some pretty good drama. Some might say “cheesy”, but I’m on the side of dramatic with this one. Its writer, Robert Mark Kamen (“Karate Kid”, “Taken”), is the king of guilty pleasure. And I think it’s a great action film. You can get it on itunes for pennies. Oh, and don’t do drugs, ‘K!’

‘For me My Summer Of Love by Pawel Pawlikowski is a much under-rated movie. It manages to be both beautiful and weird and has an unsettling undertone to it with a twist in the end to match. A bildungsroman for the 21stC. Wonderful characters/performances and a really great script. It’s a film all about subtext and that kind of film is invaluable to screenwriters.’

‘”SouthLAnd”, I watched this mistakenly thinking it was Homeland and I was instantly gripped, Set in South Central Los Angeles it has a real HOMICIDE: Life on the street vibe, slightly theatrical, slightly real feeling, excellent characters and interpersonal relationships, on really late on channel 4 somewhere, I bought the box set for the first 2 series really cheap online.’

‘Chuck! And Episodes. Great US comedy shows.’

‘I wasn’t that impressed with ‘Scott & Bailey’ when it started but it’s growing on me, because it seems to be leaving behind the ploddy police procedural stuff and focusing on the darker character stories, which are much more of a pull. Stick with it, this could mature into something really quite powerful and interesting.’

‘American Horror by Ryan Murphy (Glee) or Flowers of War (Directed by Yimou Zhang)’


All the best




June 1st 2012