Contest: ‘Prime Suspect’ Complete Series

Posted on July 28, 2010 at 8:00 am

Prime_Suspect_Complete_3d.jpg

This is really special. I have one fabulous complete set of the brilliant “Prime Suspect” series from the BBC and PBS, starring Helen Mirren as police detective Jane Tennison. USA Today called it “A masterpiece” and “A perfect marriage of astoundingly talented actress and brilliantly conceived character.” The Washington Post raved, “One of the great character creations of our time.” It is a gritty drama about a dedicated woman who faces challenges to her authority inside the department as well as the challenges in solving crimes outside. Mirren is unforgettable as Tennison. You might not want to work for her but if someone happened to someone you cared about, you’d want her on the case. The show has won a basketful of awards including Emmys, Golden Globes, and the prestigious Peabody.

Send me an email at moviemom@moviemom.com and tell me which Helen Mirren role is your favorite. I will select a winner at random one week from today. Good luck!

Related Tags:

 

Mystery Television
ir.gif

Tribute: Dominick Dunne

Posted on August 27, 2009 at 12:57 pm

Fallen Hollywood luminary, name-dropper, world-class party-goer, best-selling author, and force for justice Dominick Dunne died of cancer yesterday at age 83. He was the brother of screenwriter John Gregory Dunne (the subject of The Year of Magical Thinking by his widow, Joan Didion). He was the father of actor/writer/director Griffin Dunne and Alex Dunne. And he was the father of Dominique Dunne, who played the oldest daughter in Poltergeist. She was murdered in 1982 by an ex-boyfriend whose inadequate sentence caused Dunne to devote the rest of his life to pursuing justice as a writer and activist.

Dunne was the best-selling author of novels based on real-life incidents of society scandal that were often adapted for glossy made-for-television productions like An Inconvenient Woman and The Two Mrs. Grenvilles. And he wrote non-fiction accounts of real-life scandal for Vanity Fair.

None of it was as entertaining as his own story, which he told in the books Fatal Charms and Other Tales of Today and The Mansions of Limbo and in a documentary called Dominick Dunne: After the Party.

I heard him speak once and he was filled with bubbly and sometimes wicked anecdotes about the rich and famous. But he was also an enormously appealing presence, completely sincere in his essential decency. That comes through in a wonderful story he told for The Moth called “My Bunkmate Was In For Murder.” It is the tale of his arrest for possession of marijuana, which, since it was found on him at the airport coming back from another country made it a very serious offence. His rescue by from a most unexpected friend for a most unexpected reason makes it a perfect way to remember him.

Related Tags:

 

Tribute

Frailty

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:17 am

Many great horror movies deal with families; that is where we are all most sensitive. This uneven film exploits that vulnerability but is ultimately unsatisfying.

The film opens on a dark and stormy night; Fenton Meiks, (Matthew McConaughey) a troubled-looking young man, has walked into the Texas offices of the FBI. He claims to know the identity of a serial killer, known as “God’s Hands” and he wants to tell his story.

As the story unfolds in flashback, Fenton describes growing up with his widower father (Bill Paxton) and younger brother Adam. It’s a generally happy household; Fenton and Adam are close, and kind to one another, and their father clearly cares for them both. Bill Paxton’s Dad character is convincing as a working-class guy with enough love and discipline to bring up his two boys alone, which makes his subsequent transformation very disturbing.

One night, he gets the boys out of bed to declare that an angel has brought him a vision. They’re living in the End Times, and God has selected the family for a special mission, to seek out and destroy demons, who are moving among humans in the last days. The demons look like ordinary humans, but Dad knows the difference — he says that he receives their names from heaven, and can see their sins at the moment he dispatches them by touching them with his hands. He uses a divinely selected ax and a lead pipe to perform the actual “destruction” of the demons.

Adam, the younger and more pious of the brothers, believes what his father tells him and immediately throws himself into the role of divinely appointed avenger. Fenton, older, keeps his doubts secret until his father actually drags home a bound woman and then executes her in front of his children.

Fenton is horrified, but forced to take an increasingly active role in the “demon” hunting. His initial rebellion against the new family business is handled by his father firmly, but lovingly. His dad has no doubts but realizes how difficult it is for his son to accept his new role in the universe. Nevertheless, as Fenton resists more and more, his father takes increasingly stern action, eventually locking his son in the cellar, to pray for a vision.

The genuinely horrifying premise of this film is undercut by its ham-handed writing, which makes the plot even less plausible. The dialogue is full of wooden homilies like “The truth is pretty unbelievable sometimes,” which Matthew McConaughey’s character drawls just before spilling the beans to the FBI. The dialogue is unintentionally funny at a number of points, especially when Bill Paxton is carefully delivering exposition on his insane plot. What is supposed to be a chilling matter-of-fact tone sounds more like a cold reading of the script.

This is not to say that the film is not frightening. The “destructions” are horrifying. The fact that we do not see the worst leaves the graphic details up to our imaginations. The scenes of Fenton locked in the cellar are extremely harrowing. But the most disturbing aspect of the plot is that the murders take place in front of the young sons, and committed by a beloved father. As Alfred Hitchcock said of the death of a child in an early film of his, “It was an abuse of cinematic power.” For a film as empty as “Frailty,” there is simply no excuse.

Many children will be disturbed by the spectacle of a loving father going crazy and becoming a homicidal maniac, and the consequences for the family. There are a number of shocking and tense moments among all the schlock.

Families seeing this film will want to discuss both Adam and Fenton’s reaction to their father’s revelations. What would you do if your father or mother told you they were commanded by God to kill the guilty? An especially troubling aspect of the movie implies that the father’s visions are real, and that God has actually selected a number of people to kill specific evildoers with an ax. Families of any faith will want to discuss the difference between the movie’s depiction and real-world religion.

Families who enjoyed this film will want to see “Psycho”, “The Brood,” “Carrie” and “Unbreakable”, four excellent films with similar themes.

Related Tags:

 

Horror

On the Waterfront

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:17 am

Plot: Based on a true story (with a less satisfying conclusion), this is the story of the men who had the courage to stand up to the corrupt longshoreman’s union. The union is controlled by Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb). He and his men decide who will work each day, which means that they get paid off by the men and by the ship-owners who rely on the union to unload their goods. “Everything moves in and out, we take our cut,” Johnny brags. One of Johnny’s top aides is Charley Malloy (Rod Steiger), whose brother Terry (Marlon Brando), a former prize-fighter, is treated almost like a mascot by Johnny. He gives Terry errands to run and makes sure he gets the easiest and most lucrative work assignments. Terry keeps pigeons, on the roof of his apartment building, and is a hero to the local boys.

As the movie begins, Joey Doyle, who dared to speak out about the corruption, is killed by Johnny’s thugs. Terry had unwittingly helped to set Joey up, and he is distressed. “Too much Marquess of Queensberry, it softens him up,” Charley explains, telling Johnny that Terry’s exposure to the rules of fair fighting in boxing have made him idealistic. Joey’s sister Edie (Eva Marie Saint) tells local priest Father Barry (Karl Malden) that he has to get out of the church to help them; “Saints don’t hide in churches.” Father Barry invites the longshoremen to the church, to talk about what is going on. Charley tells Terry to go to the meeting to keep tabs on who is being disloyal. At the meeting, one man explains that “everyone on the dock is D&D–deaf and dumb.” Everyone knows that if he speaks out, or even notices too much, he will not be allowed to work; he may even be killed, as Joey was. Thugs break up the meeting. Terry escapes with Edie. Dugan (Pat Henning) agrees to talk, and Father Berry agrees to support him. But Dugan is killed, too.

Terry and Edie fall in love. Johnny tells Charley to make sure that Terry does not tell the crime commission about his activities, because if he lets Terry tells the truth, everyone will do it, and he’ll be “just another fellow.” At first Charley resists, but Johnny makes it clear that if Charley can’t stop Terry, Johnny will get someone else to take care of him. So Charley finds Terry, and they talk, in the back seat of a cab. Terry tells Charley that he hates being a bum, that Charley should have looked out for him, and not made him take a dive in the boxing ring, a “one-way ticket to palookaville.” Charley lets Terry go, and then Charley is killed by Johnny’s thugs. Terry is overcome with grief, and swears he will get Johnny. Father Berry persuades him that the way to do it is to testify, and Terry does, while Johnny stares at him from across the room.

No one will talk to Terry. The boys who once worshipped him kill all of his pigeons. Down on the dock, at first Johnny wins, putting everyone to work except for Terry. When Terry calls him out, they have a furious battle, as the longshoremen watch. Terry is badly hurt. When Johnny tells them to go back to work, they refuse, saying they are waiting for Terry to lead them to work. Father Berry whispers to Terry that “Johnny’s laying odds you won’t get up.” Father Berry and Edie help him up, and he walks slowly to the dock. Johnny shouts, but everyone ignores him.

Discussion: This movie contrasts two conflicting ways of looking at the world and especially at responsibility. Edie and Father Berry see a world in which people have an obligation to protect and support each other. Johnny sees the world as a place where what matters is taking as much as you can. Terry is somewhere in the middle, with his kindness to the Golden Warriors and his pigeons on one side and his willingness to take what Johnny’s way of life has to offer on the other. Then Joey is killed, and Terry meets Edie.

In part, Terry falls in love not just with Edie, but with the vision of another life that Edie represents. At first, when she asks, “Shouldn’t everybody care about everybody else?” he calls her a “fruitcake” and says that his philosophy of life is “Do it to him before he does it to you…Everybody’s got a racket.” He tells her, “I’d like to help, but there’s nothing I can do.” Like Edie, Terry is inspired to fight back by the death of his brother. When he tells Charley “You should have looked after me,” he is acknowledging the obligation brothers have for each other. He should have looked out for Charley, too.

After Terry testifies, Edie tells him to leave town, asking, “Are they taking chances for you?” Terry tells her that he’s not a bum, and that means he must stay. Fighting Johnny, Terry finds a way out of “palookaville.”

This movie also raises some important issues about the nature of power. At the beginning, Johnny seems very powerful, and power matters more to him than money. But it is clear that the choices he makes to protect that power, more than any action taken by anyone else, are the beginning of the end. As he orders people killed, even Charley, his own close associate, he begins to appear desperate. The men who will kick back a few dollars and stay “D&D” about corruption will not stand for that level of violence and uncertainty.

Questions for Kids:

· Joey’s jacket is worn by three different characters in this movie. What do you think that means?

· Why do you think the director does not let you hear the conversation when Terry tells Edie about his role in Joey’s death?

· Edie admits that she is in love with Terry, but still wants him to leave. Why? What do you think of Edie’s ideas about what makes people “mean and difficult?” Do you think that applies to Johnny?

· How does Johnny get power? How does he lose it?

· If Johnny had not killed Charley, would Terry have testified against him?

Connections: The music is by Leonard Bernstein, composer of “West Side Story” and many others. This movie won eight Oscars, including best picture, best director, best actress, and best screenplay. Steiger, Malden, and Cobb were all nominated as well.

Related Tags:

 

Based on a true story Classic Crime Drama
THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2024, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at Rogerebert.com, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik