Movies of Excellence: 6 Film Collection, Vol. 4 [2 Discs] [DVD]
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Overview

Synopsis

The Execution of Raymond Graham
Jeff Fahey plays Raymond Graham, who for five years has lived on Death Row, awaiting execution for the murder of a store clerk. Having given up on any further legal delays, Graham wearily awaits the fatal injection. Joining the condemned man in his death watch are Graham's family and attorney, a crowd of anti-capital punishment demonstrators, and the inevitable TV crews. This drama concentrates on the final two hours of Raymond Graham's life, played out in "real time". Originally telecast November 17, 1985, The Execution of Raymond Graham was the ABC TV network's first live dramatic presentation in nearly 25 years. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Sophie and the Moonhanger
Originally made for and aired on the Lifetime cable network this 1955-set drama centers on a loving, white Southern housewife (Patricia Richardson) whose comfortable life is thrown into turmoil when she learns that her close friend and housekeeper Sophie (Lynn Whitfield) has been targeted by the Ku Klux Klan and that her beloved husband (Jason Bernard) has been living a secret life as the Grand Dragon of the racist fraternity. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

Go Tell It on the Mountain
In this poignant adaptation of James Baldwin's novel about a few generations in the life of an Afro-American family, a young boy's efforts to gain some approval from his Bible-thumping, disciplinarian father takes center stage, and the family's background is told in a series of flashbacks. The story begins in 1935 with young Southerner Gabriel Grimes (Paul Winfield) as he runs away from home and takes on the identity of a Baptist lay preacher. Childless by his timid first wife, Gabriel has an illegitimate son by Esther (Alfre Woodard), an irresistible temptress. Unfortunately, the son comes to no good, forcing an embittered Gabriel to move to Harlem and start over with another wife, and eventually, two more sons. But the man has by this time gone over the edge and is filled with a rage against the vicissitudes of his life (he cannot get ahead in the church and is forced to work as a day laborer just to keep food on the table). He takes out his anger on his family and is so single-mindedly fanatical about religion that he forces his sons to join regular home Bible study to the exclusion of all other activities -- especially those promoted by the white-dominated society outside of Harlem. When his timid but intelligent son John (James Bond III) wins a writing honor, Gabriel makes him give it back -- and in general, his fanaticism and anger turn life into intermittent misery for the talented and sensitive son who loves writing. John's desire to please his father is all the more touching when the impossibility of pleasing him is so obvious. ~ Eleanor Mannikka, Rovi

Race to Freedom: The Underground Railroad
Coproduced by two cable-TV servies-The Family Channel and the Black Entertainment Network--Race to Freedom: The Underground Railroad uses historical fact as background for a fictional adventure tale. Courtney Vance and Janet Bailey star as slaves on a brutal antebellum North Carolina plantation. Together with two other slaves, Vance and Bailey make a daring escape, travelling northward by means of the eponymous railroad. Though the film isn't as suspenseful as it should be, it provides a valuable educational service in detailing the history of the Underground Railroad, the people responsible for its maintenance, and its modus operandi. Race to Freedom was first telecast on the Family Channel February 19, 1994, in tandem with an encore presentation of Roots (1977). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Endgame
Vantage Point director Pete Travis turns his attention from high-profile political assassinations to the high-risk talks that ushered in the end of apartheid while securing the release of Nelson Mandela in this historical drama starring William Hurt, Chiwetel Ejiofer, Mark Strong, and Johnny Lee Miller. The time is the late '80s, a crucial period in the history of South Africa. President P.W. Botha is hanging on to power by a thread as the African National Congress (ANC) takes up arms against apartheid and the country tumbles toward insurrection. A British mining concern called Consolidated Gold is convinced that their interests would be better served in a stable South Africa, and they quietly dispatch Michael Young, their head of public affairs, to open an unofficial dialogue between the bitter rivals. Assembling a reluctant yet brilliant team to pave the way to reconciliation by confronting obstacles that initially seem insurmountable, Young places his trust in ANC leader Thabo Mbeki and Afrikaner philosophy professor Willie Esterhuyse. It is their empathy that will ultimately serve as the catalyst for change by proving more powerful than the terrorist bombs that threaten to disrupt the peaceful dialogue. As the story shifts between Mandela's jail cell, Botha's chambers, ANC headquarters, and a rented car occupied by a British bureaucrat, the prospect for peace becomes more than just a distant hope. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

Honeydripper
Tyrone (Danny Glover) is the proprietor of the Honeydripper juke joint. When business at the once-popular club begins to trail off and Tyrone hires unpredictable electric guitarist Sonny (Gary Clark Jr.) against his better judgment, Tyrone's last-ditch bid to draw in crowds during harvest time has surprising results that neither desperate Tyrone nor the ambitious Sonny could have ever anticipated. Blues guitarist Keb' Mo' co-stars in the film, which was written and directed by John Sayles. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

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