Mark Jean, Director | Writer
DUKE

Variety

Duke
Based on a True Story

The story of an inspirational man and his faithful dog sounds contrived enough, but throw in said dog owner being a homeless war vet, and the adorable Border Collie being deathly ill, and you have the makings of an epic tear-jerker. That's not even taking into account a long-absent daughter searching for her dad, a veterinarian with a heart of gold, and a community of kind-hearted people that rises up to help, a la "It's a Wonderful Life." Based on true events, Michael J. Murray's script tugs the heart with such precision it might touch even the hardest of them.

Steven Weber stars as Terry Pulaski, a marine who returns home from his tour in Afghanistan with a debilitating shrapnel wound and an unwanted desk job. His wife (Kendall Cross) and daughter Alice (Rowan Rycroft) try to help him through bouts of depression and post-traumatic-stress disorder, but a final medical discharge from the service throws him over the edge. He finds comfort with Duke, the stray dog that suddenly wanders into the family's life. Fast forward 10 years and Terry, like thousands of vets in California, is now living on the streets. Convinced he was dragging his family down with him, he abandoned his wife and daughter and hasn't seen them since. He does still have Duke, his faithful companion, who entertains locals while Terry works odd jobs fixing appliances.

When Duke suddenly falls seriously ill, Terry doesn't have the money for endless tests and decides to have him put down, but doesn't have the heart to stay and watch the deed done. Leaving a note at the animal hospital in apology, he goes off to try putting his life back together, without realizing the doc isn't ready to give up on Duke, or that his now-grown daughter (Sarah Smyth) has never really given up on him, either.

Director Mark Jean takes a script that has all the earmarks of a classic country song (even the old Winnebago breaks down at one point) and gives it more mettle than the average Hallmark yarn. The pic has a flag-waving, pick-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps ethos, but also delivers a look at a system that provides better care to pets than veterans returning from war.

Weber conveys the overwhelming heartache and trauma of PTSD while maintaining a sense of pride. By making it believable for a man who has everything to lose it all, "Duke" calls attention to the plight of troubled veterans without getting preachy.

- Laura Fries

HOMECOMING
Homecoming

Homecoming awards

New York Times
"... Heartwarming family entertainment, 'Homecoming' is a gem, thanks to incredibly good performances from the four youngsters as well as the always skillful Ms. Bancroft."

Los Angeles Times
"... a poignant journey of self-discovery ... Showtime's beautifully made adaptation starring Anne Bancroft and a splendid child cast ... Bancroft's vanity-free portrayal of a combative, aging recluse is a pleasure."

Boston Globe
"... gripping emotional journey ... well-developed script and lovely, clear-eyed acting. Bancroft fashions a shaded, fully dimensioned character. Homecoming is a movie about family that families should see and savor together ..."

USA Today
"Homecoming is that rare event, a first-rate family film with the sharp tang of reality ... genuinely emotional and engrossing heart-warmer."

TV Guide
"Eloquent performances distinguish this beautifully crafted 1996 made-for-cable drama."

Daily Variety
"Helmer/co-scriptor Mark Jean tells the story with deft framing and languid pacing ... the chemistry of the cast and Jean's intimate direction of them keeps the piece compelling."

Detroit Free Press
"Quality alert ... a superbly wrought family drama..."

Houston Chronicle
"A movie with Anne Bancroft and four child actors talented enough to hold their own with her is almost too much to expect. But that unlikely mix is just what happens in Homecoming, a heart warming family drama ... Jean takes top marks for his sensitive hand. It's to his credit that the children, all relative newcomers, do so well."

Mercury News
" ... so good, others in the series ought to be filmed, too. Homecoming will stand tall among the best made-for-TV films of the current season ... Bancroft is marvelous."

FINN ON THE FLY
Toronto Star
… a shaggy dog story with charm to spare, Finn on the Fly is a family flick that will engage young viewers … thanks to top-dog work by Alberta comic Ryan Belleville.

As the human incarnation of border collie Finn, Belleville exhibits every canine trait with such sweet enthusiasm that it's impossible not to like him. Whether he's hoovering up spilled chips, catching the Frisbee mid-air, or enthusiastically licking faces of those he loves, he makes for a remarkable Rover.

Finn on the Fly scored at Sprockets kids' film fest this spring, picking up the audience award for best feature film … there's something doggone lovable about Finn on the Fly, especially for pooch owners who spend time wondering just what's going on between those furry ears.- The Toronto Star

Metro News, Edmonton
And hey, my kid loved every minute of it. In a film of this, um, pedigree, that’s really the only critic that counts. - Chris Alexander, Metro News, Edmonton

PUBLIC SERVICE CAMPAIGN
FOX CHILDREN'S NETWORK

Public Service Announcement
Public Service Awards
Written and directed by Mark Jean for the Fox Children’s Network, this series of one-minute interstitials uses a variety of filmmaking styles to focus on the underlying causes of violence in society including learned anti-social behavior, low self-esteem, and rampant prejudice and racism. This campaign endeavors to influence the lives of younger viewers by teaching self-acceptance, racial and gender tolerance, sensitivity and love.
WHO OWNS THE SUN
WHO OWNS THE SUN is a powerful plea for freedom. The emotion-packed story of a slave father and his young son touches an essential part of the human spirit with a narrative that transcends into poetry. WHO OWNS THE SUN tells the story of Joshua, a six-year-old son of a slave in the antebellum south, who learns about prejudice, freedom and self-respect and that the human spirit, like the sun and stars, can never be owned.

The book WHO OWNS THE SUN was written by 14-year-old Stacy Chbosky. Its publication was the result of a nationwide writing contest sponsored by Landmark Editions. Disney secured the film rights and when production began, Stacy was flown to the Los Angeles set to observe filming. Her book adapted for the screen, was co-written and directed by Mark Jean.

SPECIAL DELIVERY
Andy Dick
Hollywood Reporter

And now for something completely different: an original movie that is, of all things, original. SPECIAL DELIVERY is a Christmas present from Fox Family Channel that entertains in a big way. And Dick’s (NEWS RADIO) performance as a bumbling but well-meaning adoption agency courier comes close to comic perfection in this extremely funny holiday pic.

Dick plays Lloyd Steadman, an incompetent employee at a Southern California adoption agency who is asked to deliver a baby to his new family in time for Christmas. But one minute into Dick’s performance we see that getting the baby anywhere is going to be a miracle. Lloyd must pick up the baby at LAX and fly with him to the East Coast to his adoptive family. Everything goes wrong, owing to Lloyd’s fear of flying and nervousness in taking on such a big responsibility. But he creates a charming mess for those of us watching.

Mark Jean directs Dick with flair, giving him plenty of room to mug for the camera and win over the viewer. Steven Kampmann’s script (from an original story by Kampmann, Chris Kampmann and Bosco Flanagan) is charming and tailor-made for Dick’s antics. SPECIAL DELIVERY is a riot from start to finish.

- Marilyn Moss