Film & TV
Elizabeth Foxwell

rosemarythyme_croppedA team of sleuths delves into garden-variety skullduggery, uncovering dirt—and bodies—along the way.

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Film & TV
Oline H. Cogdill

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Depp in Public Enemies; Courtesy Universal

A few years ago my husband I stopped going to the movies. It wasn’t that we disliked movies. Just the opposite, in fact. We both love movies and often quote some of the finest films in certain situations. Films like Animal House, Sunset Boulevard, any James Bond flick, What’s Up, Doc, and myriad other classics. It’s just that live theater took a priority in our lives. The last film we saw was Every Little Step, which was about the casting of A Chorus Line. Now we go for special films, or to join one of our godchildren. But one upcoming film has got my attention and I am really looking forward to venturing to the local movieplex. Public Enemies, starring Johnny Depp as John Dillinger, is set to open July 1 across the country. Directed by Michael Mann, the previews to Public Enemies look terrific. Here, see for yourself. Briefly, Public Enemies shows how the FBI hunted notorious American gangsters John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd during a booming crime wave in the 1930s. It also stars Christian Bale as FBI agent Melvin Purvis, Stephen Graham as Baby Face Nelson and Channing Tatum as Pretty Boy Floyd. Billy Crudup as J. Edgar Hoover is certainly an interesting choice. From the previews I’ve seen, Depp should carry this film. Ever since 21 Jump Street, Depp has proven himself to be a real actor who immerses himself into each role. Watch him in Ed Wood as he becomes this mediocre filmmaker who’s naïve, totally unaware of his own limitations and yet so in love with the movies. He embodies everyone who truly is passionate about something yet lacks talent. Or take Sweeney Todd, a totally different approach from the Stephen Sondheim theatrical musical. Yet onscreen, Sweeney Todd works because Depp understands the source material.

This article was originally published on the Mystery Scene Blog, June 2009.

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Film & TV
Oline H. Cogdill

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HBO photo

When it comes to crime drama, whether it’s movies or television, let me throw one name out at you:

Idris Elba.

Oh, come on, you know who he is.

Most of us first became aware of the British actor Idris Elba when he played Russell “Stringer” Bell in HBO’s brilliant series The Wire.

thewireEach time he was onscreen, Elba showed the complex personality of Stringer Bell—ruthless, compassionate, uncaring, loyal friend, murderous, streetwise, book smart, intelligent, dimwitted.

A drug dealer by trade, he was a businessman at heart, taking classes to better understand how an industry grows into an empire.

He could order—or commit—a murder without blinking an eye.

One could believe he truly cared about his best friend and partner Avon Barksdale and yet also be willing to kill him without hesitation.

I also have to add that Idris Elba is one sexy, handsome man.

He’s currently in the feeble Obsessed, a Fatal Attraction knock-off that disappoints on so many levels, except for Elba.

In Obsessed, Elba’s character Derek Charles is married with child to Beyonce Knowles but being stalked by the unstoppable Ali Larter (Heroes).

The plot never works and the twists are predictable. If you’ve seen the trailers, you’ve seen the movie.

But the cast makes Obsessed almost watchable, especially Elba.

Elba’s complicated charisma seems to show in just about every role he takes. His turn as crime boss Charlie Gotso in HBO’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency was a chilling piece of acting.

Elba made Gotso almost sympathetic at first but within seconds the crime boss’ dark heart was obvious.

Even Elba’s recent role as Charles Miner on the NBC comedy The Office showed a touch of malice. As Michael Scott’s new boss, Charles Miner was not going to suffer fools.

Elba could easily be the next face of crime drama.

Should Hollywood ever decide to film more of Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins novels, Elba could easily fit in that role, taking over from Denzel Washington. While I liked Denzel Washington in Devil in a Blue Dress, but he is getting a little too old to play the Easy of the earlier novels.

(By the way, Elba had a role in Washington’s American Gangster.)

I could certainly see Elba taking over as Lincoln Rhyme from the Jeffrey Deaver's novels, should that series ever be filmed again.

Yeah, that would mean Elba would be taking over another of Denzel Washington’s roles. But the Academy Award winning actor doesn’t seem to lack for roles.

But I also could see Elba in myriad roles. Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme wasn’t originally written as an African-American. But Washington was so perfect for the role that race didn’t matter. And frankly, race should not matter. Cast Elba because he is a good actor and can do just about any role.

Let Matt Damon have the franchise on action films.

Just give us Elba for the intelligent crime dramas.

This article was originally published on the Mystery Scene Blog, April 2009.

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Film & TV
Oline H. Cogdill

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One upcoming film I am looking forward to is Shutter Island, based on Dennis Lehane's novel. It’s due in national theaters Oct. 2, just in time for lots of discussions at Bouchercon.

Again, the previews look wonderful. It stars Leonardo DiCaprio and the film is directed by Martin Scorsese. Need I say more?

Set in the 1950s, Shutter Island is about two U.S. marshals who are called to investigate the disappearance of an inmate from a hospital for the criminally insane on a remote island off the coast of Massachusetts.

lehane_dennisShutter Island was totally unlike any of Lehane’s previous fiction and, if I remember correctly, readers were very mixed on it—either loving it or hating it.

I loved it and named it the top mystery of 2003 for the annual list I compile for the Sun-Sentinel.

Quoting myself, I stated that “Lehane takes still a different route in his seventh novel, Shutter Island, an unconventional psychological suspense tale with elements of an espionage thriller, a noir novel and even the locked-room mystery. It shares strong roots with the best of psychological cinema such as The Manchurian Candidate, The Wicker Man, Gaslight and The Game.”

Again, these previews look terrific. Take a look for yourself.

This article was originally published on the Mystery Scene Blog, June 2009.

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Film & TV
Oline H. Cogdill

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Jill Scott as Precious; Keith Bernstein photo/HBO

If the advance screenings and sneak peeks I’ve seen are any indication, HBO’s new series The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency should be a winner.

Based on the lovely, yet provocative novels by Alexander McCall Smith, the HBO series will feature the adventures of Precious Ramotswe, the Botswanan divorcee turned private investigator.

American singer Jill Scott seems perfect for the role of Precious. Scott captures Precious’ intelligence, her independence, her confidence, her refusal to submit to conventional thought.

Precious knows that she won’t make much money as a private investigator. But then no one else does either in the poor, dusty neighborhood of Gaborone.

But Precious knows that poor people have the same problems as the more affluent, but less opportunities to get help. Precious is there to help the “lost, the frightened.” She knows she can change people’s lives.

While there is an optimistic feel to Precious and her career choice, the series, like the novels, also delves into the darker side. Precious was an abused wife who lost her baby because of her husband’s beatings.

In addition to the wonderful Scott, Tony winner Anika Noni Rose makes a great turn as the whip-smart assistant, proud of making the highest grade at her business school. Rose’s plain clothes and thick glasses are a huge change from her role in Dreamgirls.

Except for the addition of a new character, B.K., The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series seems fairly faithful to the novels.

At least the clips I saw were right on target.

So, readers, what do you think of HBO’s new series The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency?

This article was originally published on the Mystery Scene Blog, March 2009.

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I’ve been binging a lot lately on British mystery series that are just now being made available to U.S. audiences.

These series are distributed by Acorn with DVD and Blu-ray sets available from select ret

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Tom Straw may be the best-known unknown writer.

He’s had seven novels that went straight to the New York Times Best Seller list, with one landing in the No. 1 slot. The books were hugely popular and the ch

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JOAN HESS (1949-2017)

From St. Martins Press:

Author Joan Hess has died. A pioneer in the mystery genre and a much loved fixture at mystery conventions for decades, she was the author of forty-thre

JOAN HESS (1949-2017)

From St. Martins Press:

Author Joan Hess has died. A pioneer in the mystery genre and a much loved fixture at mystery conventions for decades, she was the author of forty-three books, o

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