'The Nora Roberts DVD Collection'
(DVD / NR / 2009 / Sony Pictures)
Overview: Four Lifetime TV movies based on novels of best-selling author Nora Roberts -- High Noon, Midnight Bayou, Northern Lights and Tribute –– arrive on DVD August 18 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
DVD Verdicts: In 'Northern Lights,' Alaskan bush pilot Meg Galligan (LeAnn Rimes) doesn't mind at all taking a good, long look at newly-appointed police chief Nate Burns (Eddie Cibrian) - as it turns out, on screen and off! Originally a cop from Baltimore (with a complicated past), Nate's relocation to Alaska promises a respite from the pressures of his previous position.
Of course, nothing could be further from the truth in Lunacy, Alaska. When two young climbers find the body of longtime missing resident Pat Galligan in a frozen cave - Meg's father - she wants Nate to take over the investigation, since the killer more than likely still lives in Lunacy. But the State Police ace Nate out, and that seems like the end of the matter until events force a change.
Meg and Nate become lovers, and soon, a climbing buddy of Pat's turns up dead, too, in an apparent suicide. But big-town cop Nate knows better, and the investigation is on - one he hopes to solve before he's fired or killed.
Expert hostage negotiator Lieutenant Phoebe McNamara (Emilie de Ravin) barely has a moment of peace in her life. Juggling the demands of her job (which seemingly come at the most inopportune moments), with the responsibilities of being a single parent to her young daughter, Carly (Savanna Carlson), Phoebe can only really count on her mother, Essie (Cybill Shepherd), for help.
But even that situation is fraught with tension; Essie is an agoraphobic, and can't leave their house (a house that needs work for which, apparently, Phoebe can't afford to pay). Phoebe's work is also a source of tension, not only because of the dangerous (both physically and psychologically) nature of her job, but also because she has to fight against the dismissive attitudes of chauvinistic police officers like Arnie Meeks (Patrick Sabongui), who tries to razz Phoebe during her lectures on hostage negotiations.
A chance encounter with the boss, Duncan Swift (Ivan Sergei), of a jumper that Phoebe talks down off a ledge, blossoms into romance...despite the fact that Duncan won a 100 million dollars in the lottery. But this chance for a fairy tale ending for Phoebe turns ugly when someone begins to stalk her, eventually leading to an explosive climax for the professionally and personally conflicted Phoebe.
In Nora Roberts' Midnight Bayou, another in the series of these four telefilms based on the best-selling author's novels that were produced in 2009 for Lifetime, the storyline sports some interesting directorial touches - a quick pace, and the very sexy presence of Lauren Stamile as our heroine!
Eight years before, visiting college football player Declan Fitzpatrick (Jerry O'Connell) spots the Manet Hall plantation in Louisiana and feels an instant...connection with the house - as well as with the ghostly apparition of a housemaid that first steps in front of his car, and then sports herself on the second-story veranda (an apparition that no one else sees, including teammate and local, Remy, played by Chris Lindsay).
Fast-forward to today, and Boston-bred rich boy Declan has dumped his fiancé at the altar, quit his lucrative job at a prestigious law firm, and has set up shop down in New Orleans to aid the victims of Hurricane Katrina...all from his base of operations at Manet Hall, which he's bought with every last dime he had in the world.
The director finds some nice touches here and there, and the cast keeps a level head amid all the foolishness. Faye Dunaway looks like she's having fun, while dishy Lauren Stamile looks like she only has fun whenever she acts!
Down South, where antebellum mansions decay and molder with a reserved, gentile sigh, former child actress Cilla McGowan (Brittany Murphy) has escaped her dead-end Hollywood career and moved to her beloved grandmother's plantation, where she hopes to hone her newly-acquire house-flipping skills by renovating the mansion and getting her contractor's license.
Her grandmother, Janet Hardy (Tiffany Morgan), was a two-time Oscar winner as well as something of a...slut, because apparently she ruined many lives in her pursuit of good times during the heyday of the Age of Aquarious. However, those feel-good times came to a crashing halt when Janet took her life from an overdose of pills in 1971 - a fact that becomes anything but concrete when Cilla begins to converse with her grandmother in her dreams.
Cilla, clearing out the trash left in the house, finds a stash of love letters indicating Janet was having an affair with a married man, a man who shared a secret with Janet that could have prompted Janet's murder. Offering much-needed attention next door is hunky, sensitive neighbor, Ford Sawyer (Jason Lewis), a graphic novelist who wants to use Cilla as a model for his latest work!
Initially puzzled by Cilla's aggressive standoffishness, Ford soon becomes jealous when Cilla's ex-husand, Steve (Christian Oliver) shows up to help Cilla renovate the mansion. Very rapidly, however, things start to go bump in the night, and it becomes evident that someone either wants Cilla gone...or dead.