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.
Here's a complete list of winners for this year's SAG Awards...
Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - Winner!
The Station Agent
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl - Winner!
Peter Dinklage, The Station Agent
Ben Kingsley, House of Sand and Fog
Bill Murray, Lost In Translation
Sean Penn, Mystic River
Film: Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Patricia Clarkson, The Station Agent
Diane Keaton, Something's Gotta Give
Charlize Theron, Monster - Winner!
Naomi Watts, 21 Grams
Evan Rachel Wood, Thirteen
TV: Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Al Pacino, Angels in America - Winner!
Justin Kirk, Angels in America
Paul Newman, Our Town
Forest Whitaker, Deacons for Defense
Jeffrey Wright, Angels in America
TV: Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series
Sex and the City, HBO - Winner!
Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS
Will & Grace, NBC
TV: Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series
Tony Shalhoub, Monk - Winner!
Peter Boyle, Everybody Loves Raymond
Brad Garrett, Everybody Loves Raymond
Sean Hayes, Will & Grace
Ray Romano, Everybody Loves Raymond
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series
Megan Mullally, Will & Grace - Winner!
Patricia Heaton, Everybody Loves Raymond
Lisa Kudrow, Friends
Debra Messing, Will & Grace
Doris Roberts, Everybody Loves Raymond
TV: Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Meryl Streep, Angels in America - Winner!
Anne Bancroft, Tennessee Williams' The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone
Helen Mirren, Tennessee Williams' The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone
Mary-Louise Parker, Angels in America
Emma Thompson, Angels in America
TV: Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
Six Feet Under, HBO - Winner!
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS
Law & Order, NBC
The West Wing, NBC
Without a Trace, CBS
TV: Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series
Frances Conroy, Six Feet Under - Winner!
Stockard Channing, The West Wing
Tyne Daly, Judging Amy
Jennifer Garner, Alias
Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: SVU
Allison Janney, The West Wing
TV: Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series
Kiefer Sutherland, 24 - Winner!
Peter Krause, Six Feet Under
Anthony LaPaglia, Without a Trace
Martin Sheen, The West Wing
Treat Williams, Everwood
Film: Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
Renee Zellweger, Cold Mountain - Winner!
Maria Bello, The Cooler
Keisha Castle-Hughes, Whale Rider
Patricia Clarkson, Pieces of April
Holly Hunter, Thirteen
Film: Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
Tim Robbins, Mystic River - Winner!
Alec Baldwin, The Cooler
Chris Cooper, Seabiscuit
Benicio Del Toro, 21 Grams
Ken Watanabe, The Last Samurai
Screen Actors Guild Awards 40th Annual Life Achievement Award
Tune in to Hollywood.com next Sunday, Feb. 29, 2004, for complete Academy Awards coverage.
Billed as "a (mostly) true story," "Cradle Will Rock" is an interesting and vibrant look at American theater and art worlds facing adversity in 1930s New York played out as a cautionary tale against artistic censorship.
With an imaginative and informative original screenplay that seamlessly harmonizes true-life events and characters with fictionalized ones and acted with a labor-of-love energy by a cast of over a dozen well-respected actors from both film and stage, Tim Robbins' third directorial and writing effort employs a style that can be described as being both Altmanesque in scope and Sturgeslike in pacing and tone.
Although taking all this in can be a little too frantic and overpowering at times, "Cradle Will Rock" authentically re-creates the look and feel of the period admirably. With a highly charged theatricality that incorporates music and wit, viewing the film almost seems like experiencing live Broadway musical theater (that fact, combined with the subject matter at hand, should make the film a rare delight for theater aficionados yet a bit daunting for some mainstream moviegoers).
At the heart of the story is a production led by a young Orson Welles (Angus MacFadyen, a bit out of control). The production is a controversial musical piece about unionism by a little-known composer named Marc Blitzstein (an intense Hank Azaria). Under the auspices of the government's Works Progress Administration, Welles and his partner, John Houseman (captured with an amusing pretentiousness by Cary Elwes), lead a unit under the Federal Theatre Project (a Depression-era relief agency) headed by purposeful Hallie Flanagan (Tony winner Cherry Jones). Headed for trouble because of its supposedly inflammatory content, the play is eventually shut down by the federal government right before the first performance.
Also dealing with the concept of censorship is renowned Mexican artist Diego Rivera (spiritedly played by Ruben Blades), whose freedom of expression is denied after being commissioned by a controlling 24-year-old Nelson Rockefeller (a capable John Cusack) to paint a mural for the new Rockefeller Center.
Other figures of both the elite class, and struggling ones, are effectively played by diverse actors such as Joan Cusack, John Turturro, Emily Watson, Susan Sarandon, Jack Black, Paul Giamatti, John Carpenter and Bob Balaban.
Especially noteworthy are featured side stories involving Bill Murray as an alcoholic has-been ventriloquist and a breezy Kay Thompsonish performance by a delightful Vanessa Redgrave as the bohemian-spirited socialite wife of a fictional industrialist portrayed by the prolific Philip Baker Hall.
The coming together of all these tales is the climax of the piece, where the troupe of the ill-fated "The Cradle Will Rock" rally behind Welles, Houseman and Blitzstein to persevere in a show-must-go-on fashion (reminiscent of a popular theme in many musicals of the same time period). Extremely well-staged, this rousing finale captures an exciting yet fairly obscure moment in American musical-theater history and revels in it as a symbol of free expression triumphing over small-minded artistic oppression.
Outstanding technical expertise includes the work of esteemed French cinematographer Jean Yves Escoffier, frequent Altman editor Geraldine Peroni and Robbins' regular production designer, 1999 Tony Award winner Richard Hoover. Production is greatly served by the detailed work of costume designer Ruth Meyers (whose period work in 'L.A. Confidential' also left an impressive mark) and the team of hair and makeup artists headed, respectively, by Kathe Swanson and Linda Grimes.
* MPAA rating: R, for some language and sexuality.
"Cradle Will Rock"
Hank Azaria: Marc Blitzstein Angus MacFadyen: Orson Welles John Cusack: Nelson Rockefeller Cary Elwes: John Houseman Susan Sarandon: Margherita Sarfatti Emily Watson: Olive Stanton Joan Cusack: Hazel Huffman John Turturro: Aldo Silvano
A Buena Vista presentation. Director Tim Robbins. Screenplay Tim Robbins. Producers Tim Robbins, Jon Kilik and Lydia Dean Pilcher. Director of photography Jean Yves Escoffier. Editor Geraldine Peroni. Music David Robbins. Production designer Richard Hoover. Costume designer Ruth Myers. Art directors Troy Sizemore and Peter Rogers. Set decorator Deborah Schutt. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.
Funny Keanu Reeves doesn't look like Walter Matthau. But our favorite deadpan hunk will make like Mr. Matthau (the "Bad News Bears" years) in "Hardball," a new comedy about an inner-city Little League team that Daily Variety says Reeves will star in for Brian Robbins, the ex-"Head of the Class" kid who directed "Varsity Blues," which did not star either Reeves or Matthau, but instead featured that current "Dawson's Creek" kid.
SORT OF THE MATT DRUDGE OF HIS DAY -- MINUS THE WEB SITE: According to Variety, John Cusack is in talks to star in and executive produce a remake of "Sweet Smell of Success," the 1957 Burt Lancaster-Tony Curtis movie not-so-loosely based on the legendary columnist Walter Winchell.
MAKING A DECISION IS HELL: Tobey Maguire ("The Cider House Rules") is mulling a starring role in the World War II period drama "Hart's War," The Hollywood Reporter says.
MACAULAY WHO? Kieran Culkin, younger brother of you-used-to-know-who-but-since-he-hasn't-been-in-anything-in-a-while-you-forgot, has been tapped to star opposite Jena Malone in the Jodie Foster-produced "The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys."
SOME FOLKS CALL IT 'SLING BLADE': Billy Bob Thornton and Frances McDormand will handle lead acting duties in the new movie from the Brothers Coen ("Fargo"), Variety says. Right now, the flick's merely dubbed "the barber project."