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: Playboy Models Undress for Musicians
It seems Grammy-winning rapper Nelly has managed to get a coterie of Playboy models to take off all their clothes. Nelly is one of several musicians picked to photograph the models in the buff for Playboy magazine's April issue, The Associated Press reports. The rapper's new shutterbug skills were recorded for the home video and DVD Playboy's Hip-Hop & Rock, released Tuesday. Other musicians participated, too, including Ja Rule, Xzibit, DMX, Bret Michaels, Tommy Lee, Korn's Jonathan Davis and Disturbed's David Draiman. According to Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, the guest photographers "took the work very seriously." Draiman, who photographed model Gina Patrone, said the shoot was easy for both of them, even though he had little experience as a photographer. "They gave me an idiot-proof camera that was basically point-and-shoot," he said.
MTV Hosts "T3" Party in Cannes
MTV and Sony will host a party at this year's Cannes Film Festival to celebrate the out-of-competition screening of Warner Bros.'Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Reuters reports. According to MTV Europe, T3 stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kristanna Loken, Nick Stahl and Claire Danes, along with director Jonathan Mostow, will attend the shindig at Pierre Cardin's private villa, Le Palais Bulles (Bubble Palace), on May 17. The film is set for release July 2.
O'Connell Apologizes for Stereotypes
Actor Jerry O'Connell, who stars in the comedy Kangaroo Jack, is visiting Down Under this week to stave off negative press about the film's stereotypes of Australians, the AP reports. "I don't want to say it generalizes and stereotypes, but yes [veteran Australian actor] Bill Hunter does get drunk in every scene and yes, it does take us an hour to walk from Coober Pedy to Alice Springs," he said, referring to towns that are 370 miles apart. "It's a little silly but it's a fun romp," he said, adding that the main purpose of his promotional visit is damage control.
"Malcolm" Back for Fifth Season
Fox has picked up Malcolm in the Middle for a fifth season, keeping the dysfunctional family sitcom in primetime through the 2003-2004 TV season, Variety reports. The network consistently dominates Malcolm's timeslot among adults 18-49 and recently moved the show to the tentpole Sunday 9 p.m. time slot after years of following The Simpsons. The show, which stars Jane Kaczmarek, Bryan Cranston and Frankie Muniz, will premiere in off-net syndication this fall.
Celebs Sue Fry's Electronics
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis and Denzel Washington filed lawsuits Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court against Fry's Electronics for allegedly using their images in newspaper advertisements without permission, the AP reports. The celebs say the ads, which ran in the Los Angeles Times and other major newspapers, could diminish their "hard-earned and well-deserved reputations as major motion picture stars and risks the potential for overexposure." Each actor is seeking $10 million in damages.
Pam Anderson Lettuce-Wrapped
Former Baywatch star Pamela Anderson has donned a lettuce-leaf bikini to persuade overweight Brits to become vegetarian. The BBC reports that Anderson launched the national campaign in Liverpool, which was recently named as one of the five "fattest" cities in the UK. The billboard poster, commissioned by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, will go up across Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stoke-on-Trent and Wolverhampton, the other four "fat" cities.
Dangerfield Recovering From Surgery
Comedian Rodney Dangerfield was in stable condition Wednesday as he recovered in an intensive care unit from a 12-hour arterial brain surgery to improve his blood flow for an upcoming heart valve replacement, the AP reports. Dangerfield, 81, remained heavily sedated and was expected to remain hospitalized for up to 10 days. His surgery took about four hours longer than expected, but his publicist, Kevin Sasaki, said Dangerfield was recovering on schedule. His heart valve surgery is planned about three weeks after he is released from the hospital.
Dr. Laura's Mother Not Murdered
Radio advice guru Dr. Laura Schlessinger's estranged mother, whose badly decomposed body was found in her Beverly Hills home in December, died of natural causes, Reuters reports. Police initially suspected foul play in Yolanda Schlessinger's death, but Los Angeles Coroner's officials said Wednesday that an autopsy and investigation revealed she had died of natural causes. Schlessinger, 77, had been dead for two months or more before her body was found. Police found her body after neighbors called them, concerned because they had not seen her in weeks and because her bird had stopped singing.
Role Call: Sullivan Tapped for "Barbershop 2," Newcomer Helms "Birdie" Update
Director Kevin Sullivan (How Stella Got Her Groove Back) will helm MGM's Barbershop 2, which is set for a summer start in Chicago. Sullivan replaces Tim Story, who directed the first installment and was on board for the sequel but later dropped out in favor of the DreamWorks comedy Date School ... Recent University of Southern California grad Jon M. Chu will direct a remake of the 1960 musical Bye Bye Birdie for Columbia Pictures and Red Wagon Prods. Although a script hasn't been written, Chu, 23, has turned in a treatment for his vision of the film--expected to be a more urban, hip-hop take than the original and aimed at younger moviegoers.