A billionaire TV producer (Robert Mammone) has a great idea for a reality show that he wants to put on the Internet and his goal is to beat the 40 million Super Bowl audience. He has compiled a crack team of young hip and immoral tech geeks directed by Goldman (Rick Hoffman) and puts cameras throughout a remote island where former prisoners are going to kill each other while audiences watch after shelling out the pay-per-view fee. The location is done on a remote secret island and the death row prisoners are bought from prisons around the world with the promise that the survivor gets to walk free. Among the contestants are a rogue Aussie named McStarley (Vinnie Jones) a martial arts expert (Masa Yamaguchi) a husband-and-wife team (Manu Bennett and Dasi Ruz) a monstrous killer who doesn't do much more than grunt (Nathan Jones) and others known only as The Italian The German and other monikers quickly forgotten. Enter the sole American Jack Conrad (Steve Austin) who's in a South American prison for some obscure reason and is recognized on TV by his wife (Madeleine West) who tries to save him. However it looks like Conrad is pretty good at helping himself. Don't expect the acting to be much more evolved than what could be seen among the World Wrestling Entertainment superstars especially since many of them were plucked from the ring to star in this morality tale. But Austin (who had in a strong cameo in Adam Sandler's Longest Yard) proves he has a sense of humor as well as strength. Vinnie Jones is ridiculously over-the-top as the Aussie who's the hand-picked winner of this game shown setting up alliances Survivor style only to turn on them later. The supporting cast are refreshingly entertaining but one-note caricatures both in the contest and running the contest. It's obvious that they aren't going to be around long but the actors do milk their tiny roles for every bit of attention they can get. Rick Hoffman as the brilliant camera mastermind of the project is both whiny sniveling and mean-spirited so when he joins some of the rest of the crew and suddenly develops a backbone and a conscience he ends up stealing the movie with his acerbic humor. But it's the understated American hero Conrad who holds a mirror up to the people who like to watch this stuff. Director Scott Wiper who co-wrote this story has also acted in similar movies like this (A Better Way to Die). It’s obvious he knows what he’s doing with The Condemned and develops a sense of voyeuristic angst like those of us who can't keep our eyes off a train wreck. Like the darkly subversive Belgian film Man Bites Dog the camera crew remains safely distant and remote until the reality directly involves them. Then the crew wonders "What the hell are we doing?" while the audience might be thinking "What the hell are we watching?" Much like Series 7: The Contenders Rollerball and other movies which show a dark and bloody near future this kind of reality doesn't seem too far away and maybe proves that movies which provide this type of gladiator spectacle target a certain segment of the human population who need to blow off steam.
Top Story: Septuagenarian Sues Dick Clark for Age Discrimination
Ralph Andrews, a 76-year-old game show producer, sued Dick Clark's production company Monday for age discrimination, claiming he was "embarrassed, humiliated and aggravated" when he was passed up for a job, Reuters reports. Andrews claims in his Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit that Clark, 74, sent him a letter in May of 2003 saying he was too old for a job with his production company. "People our age are considered dinosaurs. The business is being run by 'the next generation,' Clark allegedly wrote. "I've known Dick for 40 years. He misled me to believe he would happily give me a job doing what I do best--creating, developing or producing television shows," Andrews said in a statement. "If Dick's not too old then why am I?" A representative for Dick Clark Productions declined to comment, Reuters reports.
Blake Hires Lawyer No. 4
Robert Blake, charged with killing his wife three years ago, has hired his fourth lawyer since the case began, attorney M. Gerald Schwartzbach, to represent him, The Associated Press reports. Schwartzbach, 59, has practiced criminal law for more than 35 years. "I'm convinced of Robert Blake's innocence. I'm confident he's going to be acquitted at trial," Schwartzbach said outside court. Blake's first two attorneys resigned after clashing with the actor over conducting media interviews and a third attorney stepped down Feb. 5, on the eve of Blake's original trial date, because of "irreconcilable differences" with his client. The trial is now scheduled to begin Sept. 9, AP reports.
Phony Movie Critic Brouhaha May Go To Court
Remember David Manning, the fake movie critic invented by Sony Pictures whose positive comments about crummy films were used in ads to promote them? Well, the class-action lawsuit moviegoers filed against the studio, whose faux critic paid high compliments to such films as Hollow Man and The Animal in ads that ran in U.S. newspapers in 2000 and 2001, might actually reach a jury. A California appeals court ruled on Thursday that suit could actually go to trial, Reuters reports, saying, "Although the films themselves enjoy full First Amendment protection, Sony's film advertisements do not." Still, Justice Reuben Ortega called the lawsuit "a farce" and "the most frivolous case with which I have ever had to deal."
Oscar is Lord of the Ratings
Although the 76th Academy Awards ceremony Sunday night held few, if any, surprises, the show saw its highest ratings in four years, drawing in 43.5 million viewers, Reuters reports. It was a 31 percent jump for last year's record low of 33.1 million.
McCartney Goes Back to the Drawing Board
After the success of his animated short Rupert and the Frog Song 20 years ago, former Beatle Paul McCartney will draw again, creating a new short Tropical Island Hum, AP reports. "In animation, it's good to have a bit of a childlike quality about yourself and I certainly have. It's just something that is in me," said McCartney, announcing the imminent DVD release of the new short film. McCartney's Rupert cartoon was the best-selling children's video of 1984. It was accompanied by the chart hit "We All Stand Together."
Lowe is Dr. Vegas, Baby!
Rob Lowe, whose NBC series The Lyon's Den was axed earlier in the season, is trying his hand on the small screen again with the CBS drama pilot Dr. Vegas. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the West Wing alum plays an in-house physician at a Las Vegas casino.
Time Warner Seals Deal With Music Division
Time Warner Inc. has sold its Warner Music division to an investor group led by Universal media conglomerate chief Edgar Bronfman for a cool $2.6 billion, AP reports. In a statement announcing the completion of the purchase from Time Warner, Bronfman said the company would "move quickly" to implement a strategy to meet its business challenges. Stepping down were Atlantic Records co-chairman Val Azzoli, president Ron Shapiro and Elektra Records chief executive Sylvia Rhone.
Role Call: Timberlake Investigates Reporter Role, Disney Fantasizes Over Narnia Chronicles
Justin Timberlake is set to tackle his first feature film role alongside Kevin Spacey, Morgan Freeman and LL Cool J in Edison. AP reports Timberlake will play a reporter who uncovers an elite team of corrupt police…Walt Disney Studios has set its sights on adapting all seven books in the C.S. Lewis' children fantasy classic The Chronicles of Narnia, beginning with The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Variety reports the studio will co-produce with Philip Anschutz's Walden Media with shooting expected to begin in late June or early July in New Zealand and Czechoslovakia for a Christmas 2005 release. No cast or director has been attached as yet.
The self-proclaimed King of Pop, Michael Jackson, joined with ex-President Bill Clinton to raise money for the Democratic National Committee's voter registration effort to the tune of $2.7 million. Jacko treated the 1,400 people in the crowd at the Apollo Theater to a brief performance before Slick Willie addressed the adoring throng. Tony Bennett and the punctuation-challenged k.d. lang also performed.
Matt Damon, following in the footsteps of thesps such as Nicole Kidman, Kevin Spacey and Daryl Hannah, will star in a West End (London) theatrical production. Damon, Casey Affleck and Summer Phoenix will take over the lead roles from Hayden Christensen (Star Wars), Jake Gyllenhaal and Anna Paquin in This Is Our Youth.
Goodness gracious, great balls of fire! Rocker Jerry Lee Lewis, 66, is getting divorced for the sixth time. According to a press release, Lewis and his wife of 17 years, Kerrie, have split amicably.
In the Biz
Criminals, beware: Sgt. Joe Friday is making a comeback to the small screen. Dick Wolf, the brains behind TV's successful Law and Order franchise, is reported to write the pilot and serve as executive producer for an updated primetime version of Dragnet.
The producer/director of last year's charity gala America: A Tribute to Heroes and Not Another Teen Movie, Joel Gallen, is in final talks with MGM to handle--and perhaps helm--Romantic Comedy, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Gallen is also the creator/producer of the MTV Movie Awards.
The View's Meredith Vieira is the frontrunner to host the syndicated version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, The Los Angeles Times reports. Vieira, a former reporter for 60 Minutes, has allegedly been pursued by other networks to boost other struggling projects, most notably CBS' The Early Show.
Peter Jennings may want to rethink his retirement strategy. According to Daily Variety, an insider says Jennings, host of ABC's World News Tonight, should be expecting a drop in pay from his current salary of $10 million per year, although another insider was cited as saying a pay freeze, not cut, would be in effect.
Ozzy is a bona-fide hit! While bat-biting shock-rocker Ozzy Osbourne's music career may be on the wane, his TV career is on the rise. Tuesday's showing of The Osbournes drew 7.8 million viewers, the most ever for an MTV series in its 20-year history. The numbers also give rise to ABC's demise: MTV's viewer tally matched that of Sunday's The Practice re-run.
Speaking of ABC, it seems the alphabet network is ready to test the audience loyalty of surprise hit The Bachelor. Having risen to number 15 among 18- to 49-year-old viewers, ABC is airing a two-hour special on Thursday night, opposite such ratings stalwarts as NBC's Friends and CBS' CSI. Apparently, Enron's bigwigs have found themselves new work as TV execs for ABC.
Four new series--The Elite; I, Detective; Dominick Dunne's Power, Privilege and Justice; and Body of Evidence: From the Case Files of Dayle Hinman--have been ordered by Court TV for primetime airing, starting this summer. All four revolve around criminal investigations and forensics, the staples of already-popular TV shows Law and Order and CSI.
Pop diva Jewel, full name Jewel Kilcher, sustained a broken collarbone, broken rib and contusions when she was thrown from a horse Wednesday, The Associated Press reports. Atlantic Records co-president Ron Shapiro said Jewel is an experienced rider and was vacationing at her boyfriend's ranch south of Dallas, Texas, when the accident occurred. Jewel will have to cancel a scheduled promotional tour for her new album and may miss a European tour slated to start May 10.
Rockers Alanis Morissette and John Mellencamp have no such health worries. Their respective North American tours were announced to start May 1 and July 3.
Also according to the AP, comedienne and talk-show host Rosie O'Donnell has been awarded the 2002 Montblanc Arts Patronage Award for her tireless efforts in encouraging the public to experience and patronize live theater. Each year, the Montblanc Cultural Foundation awards 10 individuals in 10 countries an honorific of $15,000 for their respective charities, based on their efforts to advance culture and arts.