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The Latest in ShowBiz News

Alex Florez

By

2008/08/28 at 12:00am

Traitor

Rated: PG-13 for intense violent sequences, thematic material and brief language.
Release Date: 2008-08-27
Starring: Jeffrey Nachmanoff,
Director(s):
Distributor:
Film Genre:
Country: USA
Official Website: http://traitor-themovie.com/

Go to our film page

Traitor

We know someone is either betraying a friend, a country or a principle – that we obviously get from the title. But who and why is something that’s buried deep enough in the film to keep us guessing and wondering how clever the filmmakers can actually get with this.

In some ways, ‘Traitor’ is the classic espionage film that mixes and matches modern day headlines to construct a plot where Americans continue fighting terrorism all across the world.  To its credit however, it manages to personalize the story of its protagonist to a certain degree, stripping the film of the politically sententious rhetoric that so often make these films come across as propaganda.

Deceptively, Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda, Crash) plays Samir Horn, a former U.S. military operative who is linked to illicit activities in the middle east.  When an FBI agent (Guy Pearce) heads the investigation, he begins to track Horn’s every move slowly uncovering the truth behind the massive conspiracy he’s been a part of.

Ultimately, the film is about a man trying to do the right thing for the right reasons, or his own convictions, but also about how wrong things can go in the process.  In Traitor, that man just happens to be a Muslim American who finds himself in the middle of the conflict with hard decisions to make.  However dangerously close the films comes to being about religious extremism and how far people will go for what they believe in, it is very careful with its commentary on the matter. 

With a story that’s so rooted in politics and religion, the filmmakers actually manage to say very little about either subject. Both a good and a bad thing depending on how you look at it.  Its moral ambiguity may frustrate some but alleviate others just tuning in to watch bombs being disarmed at the last possible second.

The film’s strong performances (save for Jeff Daniels as the veteran CIA contractor with a personal agenda) almost do the impossible: make it cliché-proof.  Unfortunately, it is what it is: another spy thriller mirroring the ever present war on terror.

 

Mack Chico

By

2008/08/28 at 12:00am

Audrey Tatou to play Coco Chanel in new Warner Bros. biopic

Audrey Tatou to play Coco Chanel in new Warner Bros. biopic

Warner Bros. has signed on to produce and distribute the biopic ‘Coco Avant Chanel’, starring Audrey Tautou and Alessandro Nivola.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, House of Chanel art director Karl Lagerfeld has been hired to supervise re-creations of the legendary designer’s attire. Warner Bros. International is joining Haut et Court, Cine-@, Warner Bros. Entertainment France and Films Distribution as a producer on the feature.

Warner Bros., which has been in talks to join other producers on the French-language project for the past few months, plans to release the film domestically. Given the shuttering of its Picturehouse and Warner Independent Pictures divisions, Coco Avant Chanel will be one of the studio’s first new tests in handling a specialty release.

Anne Fontaine‘s adaptation of Edmonde Charles-Roux’s biography “L’irreguliere” will focus on Chanel’s early years. The four-month shoot will begin Sept. 15 in Paris, with a planned 2009 release.

Mack Chico

By

2008/08/28 at 12:00am

George Clooney to star in ‘Up in the Air’

George Clooney to star in 'Up in the Air'

George Clooney is in talks to star in “Up in the Air,” an adaptation of the Walter Kirn novel that Jason Reitman adapted and will direct for DreamWorks.

Clooney will play an unapologetic corporate downsizer whose untethered life is consumed by collecting air miles.

The project is set up at the Montecito Picture Co., which has its first-look deal with DreamWorks.

Producers are Ivan Reitman, Tom Pollock, Joe Medjuck and Jeff Clifford for Montecito and Hard C’s Daniel Dubiecki and Jason Reitman. Ted Griffin will also be involved in a producing capacity.

Kirn’s novel was previously set up at Fox 2000 and Jay Roach’s Everyman Pictures.

Montecito has controlled the book since 2004, when it was bought and packaged with a spec script by “The Longest Yard” scribe Sheldon Turner, with Griffin producing.

Reitman had separately been infatuated with the book and came into Montecito with 30 pages that showed how he saw the film. He has been writing it on and off for five years, putting it down when he read Diablo Cody’s Junoscript. Reitman returned to the project in the spring (Daily Variety, May 15). He completed the script weeks ago and just showed it to Clooney.

Reitman and Dubiecki just completed producing the Karyn Kusama-directed Cody-scripted cheerleader-from-hell comic thriller “Jennifer’s Body” for Fox Atomic. Reitman hopes for “Up in the Air” to be his directorial followup to “Juno.”

Clooney will next be seen in Burn After Reading and is voicing the title character in “The Fantastic Mr. Fox,” Wes Anderson’s animated adaptation of the Roald Dahl novel.

Mack Chico

By

2008/08/28 at 12:00am

Tom Cruise defends ‘Valkyrie’

Tom Cruise defends 'Valkyrie'

“I LOVE Paula Wagner but she wants to produce elsewhere and in her own venue and I don’t intend to stand in her way. I’ll say this of her leaving United Artists — whatever Paula wants is what I want her to have! And I hope we’ll continue working together on future projects.” So spoke Tom Cruise on the phone with me this week. He added, cryptically: “I don’t run United Artists; I just own it.” It’s always fun to talk to Tom who tells me that his now “controversial” film about the German resistance attempt to assassinate Adolph Hitler in World War II is coming out on Dec. 26. All those critics who have panned the project, Valkyrie,” in advance, should know that nothing can deter Tom from his belief in this story. He says, “It’s original. It’s suspenseful. The writers Chris McQuarrie and Nathan Alexander are just great and I can’t say enough good things about the director Bryan Singer. I first met him at the ‘Mission: Impossible’ premiere and we’ve been hoping to work together ever since. (Singer is the man who did “X-Men” and “Superman Returns.”

WHEN I asked Tom why he felt so many people in the business have gone after the “Valkyrie” project as if it’s a bad idea or something historically obscene, he sighed: “It just doesn’t make sense to me either. The moment I read the screenplay I knew it was an important story and as it’s a true tale of heroic resistance to one of the great villains of history, I can’t imagine that people won’t want to see it.”

I ASKED Tom if he will continue doing comedies on the heels of his “character” impersonation as a fat, horrid studio executive in Ben Stiller‘s “Tropic Thunder?” He laughed, “Well, I’m always looking for something new and Ben’s movie is hilarious. He and I are old friends and he is a really good director, so originally I said I’d do it just for friendship. But it turned out great. I actually love comedy and I did it in ‘Risky Business‘ so I’ll do more if it presents itself. I’m also always looking for a good love story and I think I have one in a coming international thriller called ‘The Tourist.’ I believe I will be doing that.”

I told Tom I was looking forward to his wife’s debut on Broadway in the revival of Arthur Miller‘s “All My Sons.” He said, “Things are going really well for Katie and we’ll see you on opening night, Sept. 18.” I congratulated moviedom’s big star on his little baby girl. He began to burble: “Oh, yes, she’s so charming; she’s so beautiful; she’s just great!” (That was Daddy talking, not the formidable icon who has made billions of dollars for Hollywood since 1983.)

Jack Rico

By

2008/08/27 at 12:00am

Will Michael Phelps play "Namor the SubMariner" on film?

Will Michael Phelps play "Namor the SubMariner" on film?

As I was sitting in the second tier deck of the Water Cube Arena in Beijing, China watching history made as US Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps shattered all kinds of long standing swimming records, I couldn’t stop thinking how Phelps looks to me like a living, breathing human fish. His body moves in ways I never saw another human move under water.

The only thing that I could possibly compare him with was a super-hero of some sort, and that is when it hit me – ‘Namor The Sub-Mariner’! Phelps would be THE PERFECT lead actor for this project. Aquaman entered my mind, but he’s a bit too perky. Namor is dark, complex and overall just cooler. Now I know he has never acted, but can you see anyone better than him in the water? Obviously, producers will have to see what potential he has to bring to life the brooding character. Regardless of acting talent, simply on his name alone global curiosity will be sparked, in particular by legions of ladies worldwide. That to me spells box-office success!

Marvel owns the rights to the aquatic hero and as I understand it, two years ago, Universal Pictures announced that Johnathan Mostow was attached to rewrite and direct the film. Kevin Misher is producing through his Misher Films, along with Marvel Studios. There was a screenplay that had initially been written by David Self. Nothing else has been talked about the film since… until now. Look for Columbia or 20th century Fox to distribute the film since they have the know-how and track record in the super-hero genres.

Here is an EXCLUSIVE fan teaser poster that ShowBizCafe.com obtained today of Phelps as Namor.

By the way, did you know there was also a television show that was planned in the 50’s starring Richard Egan, unfortunately it never went into production. Similarly, a Sub-Mariner TV pilot was announced during the seventies but never filmed due to the similarities it had with another cancelled copycat show “The Man from Atlantis”. The idea of bringing Namor to TV isn’t a bad one. Look at Smallville. It is already going into its seventh season. They created an episode with Aquaman and were reportedly doing a spin-off with the character. I never heard from the project again.

I remember when we interviewed Jon Favreau for Iron Man, he mentioned how the armored one was the last of the iconic Marvel characters not be put on a live action film. To be quite frank Jon, what about Namor? I would have liked to have seen Namor first before Iron Man. The Sub-Mariner is just a bad ass. Look, I’m not going to lie, nor get my hopes up, Phelps could just bomb, eternally bomb, but if there was a once in a lifetime movie that he could pull off, wouldn’t it be this one!?

Would love to hear your comments on this and do you think there would be a better protagonist than Phelps?

Jack Rico

By

2008/08/25 at 12:00am

Paul Newman – A retrospective of his career

Paul Newman - A retrospective of his career

Paul Newman, the Academy-Award winning superstar who personified cool as the anti-hero of such films as ”Hud,” ”Cool Hand Luke” and ”The Color of Money” — and as an activist, race car driver and popcorn impresario — has died. He was 83.

Newman died Friday after a long battle with cancer at his farmhouse near Westport, publicist Jeff Sanderson said. He was surrounded by his family and close friends.

In May, Newman had dropped plans to direct a fall production of ”Of Mice and Men,” citing unspecified health issues.

He got his start in theater and on television during the 1950s, and went on to become one of the world’s most enduring and popular film stars, a legend held in awe by his peers. He was nominated for Oscars 10 times, winning one regular award and two honorary ones, and had major roles in more than 50 motion pictures, including ”Exodus,” ”Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” ”The Verdict,” ”The Sting” and ”Absence of Malice.”

Newman worked with some of the greatest directors of the past half century, from Alfred Hitchcock and John Huston to Robert Altman, Martin Scorsese and the Coen brothers. His co-stars included Elizabeth Taylor, Lauren Bacall, Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks and, most famously, Robert Redford, his sidekick in ”Butch Cassidy” and ”The Sting.”

Paul Newman in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

He sometimes teamed with his wife and fellow Oscar winner, Joanne Woodward, with whom he had one of Hollywood’s rare long-term marriages. ”I have steak at home, why go out for hamburger?” Newman told Playboy magazine when asked if he was tempted to stray. They wed in 1958, around the same time they both appeared in ”The Long Hot Summer,” and Newman directed her in several films, including ”Rachel, Rachel” and ”The Glass Menagerie.”

With his strong, classically handsome face and piercing blue eyes, Newman was a heartthrob just as likely to play against his looks, becoming a favorite with critics for his convincing portrayals of rebels, tough guys and losers. ”I was always a character actor,” he once said. ”I just looked like Little Red Riding Hood.”

Newman had a soft spot for underdogs in real life, giving tens of millions to charities through his food company and setting up camps for severely ill children. Passionately opposed to the Vietnam War, and in favor of civil rights, he was so famously liberal that he ended up on President Nixon’s ”enemies list,” one of the actor’s proudest achievements, he liked to say.

A screen legend by his mid-40s, he waited a long time for his first competitive Oscar, winning in 1987 for ”The Color of Money,” a reprise of the role of pool shark ”Fast” Eddie Felson, whom Newman portrayed in the 1961 film ”The Hustler.”

Paul Newman in 'The Hustler'

Newman delivered a magnetic performance in ”The Hustler,” playing a smooth-talking, whiskey-chugging pool shark who takes on Minnesota Fats — played by Jackie Gleason — and becomes entangled with a gambler played by George C. Scott. In the sequel — directed by Scorsese — ”Fast Eddie” is no longer the high-stakes hustler he once was, but rather an aging liquor salesman who takes a young pool player (Cruise) under his wing before making a comeback.

He won an honorary Oscar in 1986 ”in recognition of his many and memorable compelling screen performances and for his personal integrity and dedication to his craft.” In 1994, he won a third Oscar, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, for his charitable work.

His most recent academy nod was a supporting actor nomination for the 2002 film ”Road to Perdition.” One of Newman’s nominations was as a producer; the other nine were in acting categories. (Jack Nicholson holds the record among actors for Oscar nominations, with 12; actress Meryl Streep has had 14.)

As he passed his 80th birthday, he remained in demand, winning an Emmy and a Golden Globe for the 2005 HBO drama ”Empire Falls” and providing the voice of a crusty 1951 car in the 2006 Disney-Pixar hit, ”Cars.”

But in May 2007, he told ABC’s ”Good Morning America” he had given up acting, though he intended to remain active in charity projects. ”I’m not able to work anymore as an actor at the level I would want to,” he said. ”You start to lose your memory, your confidence, your invention. So that’s pretty much a closed book for me.”

He received his first Oscar nomination for playing a bitter, alcoholic former star athlete in the 1958 film ”Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” Elizabeth Taylor played his unhappy wife and Burl Ives his wealthy, domineering father in Tennessee Williams’ harrowing drama, which was given an upbeat ending for the screen.

In ”Cool Hand Luke,” he was nominated for his gritty role as a rebellious inmate in a brutal Southern prison. The movie was one of the biggest hits of 1967 and included a tagline, delivered one time by Newman and one time by prison warden Strother Martin, that helped define the generation gap, ”What we’ve got here is (a) failure to communicate.”

Paul Newman in 'Cool Hand Luke'

Newman’s hair was graying, but he was as gourgeous as ever and on the verge of his greatest popular success. In 1969, Newman teamed with Redford for ”Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” a comic Western about two outlaws running out of time. Newman paired with Redford again in 1973 in ”The Sting,” a comedy about two Depression-era con men. Both were multiple Oscar winners and huge hits, irreverent, unforgettable pairings of two of the best-looking actors of their time.

Newman also turned to producing and directing. In 1968, he directed ”Rachel, Rachel,” a film about a lonely spinster’s rebirth. The movie received four Oscar nominations, including Newman, for producer of a best motion picture, and Woodward, for best actress. The film earned Newman the best director award from the New York Film Critics.

In the 1970s, Newman, admittedly bored with acting, became fascinated with auto racing, a sport he studied when he starred in the 1972 film, ”Winning.” After turning professional in 1977, Newman and his driving team made strong showings in several major races, including fifth place in Daytona in 1977 and second place in the Le Mans in 1979.

”Racing is the best way I know to get away from all the rubbish of Hollywood,” he told People magazine in 1979.

Despite his love of race cars, Newman continued to make movies and continued to pile up Oscar nominations, his looks remarkably intact, his acting becoming more subtle, nothing like the mannered method performances of his early years, when he was sometimes dismissed as a Brando imitator. ”It takes a long time for an actor to develop the assurance that the trim, silver-haired Paul Newman has acquired,” Pauline Kael wrote of him in the early 1980s.

In 1982, he got his Oscar fifth nomination for his portrayal of an honest businessman persecuted by an irresponsible reporter in ”Absence of Malice.” The following year, he got his sixth for playing a down-and-out alcoholic attorney in ”The Verdict.”

Paul Newman in 'The Verdict'

In 1995, he was nominated for his slyest, most understated work yet, the town curmudgeon and deadbeat in ”Nobody’s Fool.” New York Times critic Caryn James found his acting ”without cheap sentiment and self-pity,” and observed, ”It says everything about Mr. Newman’s performance, the single best of this year and among the finest he has ever given, that you never stop to wonder how a guy as good-looking as Paul Newman ended up this way.”

Newman, who shunned Hollywood life, was reluctant to give interviews and usually refused to sign autographs because he found the majesty of the act offensive, according to one friend.

He also claimed that he never read reviews of his movies.

”If they’re good you get a fat head and if they’re bad you’re depressed for three weeks,” he said.

Off the screen, Newman had a taste for beer and was known for his practical jokes. He once had a Porsche installed in Redford’s hallway — crushed and covered with ribbons.

”I think that my sense of humor is the only thing that keeps me sane,” he told Newsweek magazine in a 1994 interview.

In 1982, Newman and his Westport neighbor, writer A.E. Hotchner, started a company to market Newman’s original oil-and-vinegar dressing. Newman’s Own, which began as a joke, grew into a multimillion-dollar business selling popcorn, salad dressing, spaghetti sauce and other foods. All of the company’s profits are donated to charities. By 2007, the company had donated more than $175 million, according to its Web site.

Hotchner said Newman should have ”everybody’s admiration.”

”For me it’s the loss of an adventurous freindship over the past 50 years and it’s the loss of a great American citizen,” Hotchner told The Associated Press.

In 1988, Newman founded a camp in northeastern Connecticut for children with cancer and other life-threatening diseases. He went on to establish similar camps in several other states and in Europe.

Paul Newman, a 10 time Oscar nominated actor

He and Woodward bought an 18th century farmhouse in Westport, where they raised their three daughters, Elinor ”Nell,” Melissa and Clea.

Newman had two daughters, Susan and Stephanie, and a son, Scott, from a previous marriage to Jacqueline Witte.

Scott died in 1978 of an accidental overdose of alcohol and Valium. After his only son’s death, Newman established the Scott Newman Foundation to finance the production of anti-drug films for children.

Newman was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the second of two boys of Arthur S. Newman, a partner in a sporting goods store, and Theresa Fetzer Newman.

He was raised in the affluent suburb of Shaker Heights, where he was encouraged him to pursue his interest in the arts by his mother and his uncle Joseph Newman, a well-known Ohio poet and journalist.

Following World War II service in the Navy, he enrolled at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, where he got a degree in English and was active in student productions.

He later studied at Yale University’s School of Drama, then headed to New York to work in theater and television, his classmates at the famed Actor’s Studio including Brando, James Dean and Karl Malden. His breakthrough was enabled by tragedy: Dean, scheduled to star as the disfigured boxer in a television adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s ”The Battler,” died in a car crash in 1955. His role was taken by Newman, then a little-known performer.

Newman started in movies the year before, in ”The Silver Chalice,” a costume film he so despised that he took out an ad in Variety to apologize. By 1958, he had won the best actor award at the Cannes Film Festival for the shiftless Ben Quick in ”The Long Hot Summer.”

In December 1994, about a month before his 70th birthday, he told Newsweek magazine he had changed little with age.

”I’m not mellower, I’m not less angry, I’m not less self-critical, I’m not less tenacious,” he said. ”Maybe the best part is that your liver can’t handle those beers at noon anymore,” he said.

Newman is survived by his wife, five children, two grandsons and his older brother Arthur.

Mack Chico

By

2008/08/25 at 12:00am

Cher to play ‘Catwoman’ in next Batman film?

Cher to play 'Catwoman' in next Batman film?

The 62-year-old singer and actress is reported to be in talks to play Catwoman opposite Christian Bale in the third Batman film from British director Christopher Nolan.

The Oscar-winner will join a cast that includes Johnny Depp as The Riddler as she plays the whip-carrying burglar. The character has also been played by Michelle Pfeiffer and Halle Berry.

A studio executive said: “Cher is Nolan’s first choice to play Catwoman. He wants to her to portray her like a vamp in her twilight years.

“The new Catwoman will be the absolute opposite of Michelle Pfeiffer and Halle Berry’s purring creations.”

Filming of the new Batman instalment, provisionally entitled The Caped Crusader, is due to begin in Vancouver early next year.

The Dark Knight, this summer’s blockbuster, has become the most successful of the Batman movies. Warner Bros expects the film to make about $530m.

It stars the late Heath Ledger, who was found dead in his Manhattan apartment after taking an accidental drugs overdose. His performance as The Joker is widely expected to garner an Oscar nomination.

Cher’s recent acting performances have included Tea with Mussolini in 1999 and Stuck on You, in 2003 in which she played herself.

Jack Rico

By

2008/08/24 at 12:00am

Tropic Thunder #1 for second week

Tropic Thunder #1 for second week

Action movie spoof “Tropic Thunder” commanded the No. 1 spot at North American box offices for the second straight week, narrowly conquering sorority-themed college romp “House Bunny.”

“Tropic Thunder,” which stars Robert Downey Jr, Ben Stiller and Jack Black, had an estimated weekend total of $16.1 million at U.S. and Canadian theaters, bringing its total domestic take to $65.7 million, according to studio estimates on Sunday.

Downey, Stiller and Black have won much laughter from audiences playing a group of self-absorbed Hollywood actors caught up in a real-life battle with narco-terrorists while filming a war movie in Southeast Asia. The film was directed, co-written and co-produced by Stiller and was distributed by Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom Inc.

“House Bunny,” from Sony Corp’s Columbia Pictures unit, debuted at No. 2 with ticket sales of $15.1 million.

Written by Kirsten Smith and Karen McCullah Lutz of “Legally Blonde” fame, the comedy stars Anna Faris as a former Playboy playmate who becomes house mother to socially inept sorority sisters after being cast out of the Playboy mansion.

In third place was “Death Race” with a weekend tally of $12.3 million, according to a spokesman for Universal Pictures, a unit of General Electric Co’s NBC Universal.

The film, loosely based on 1975’s “Death Race 2000,” stars Jason Statham as a former Nascar champion and ex-con who is framed for his wife’s murder and forced by a prison warden to compete in a brutal winner-take-all race of weaponized monster cars. Joan Allen stars as the icy prison warden.

Batman Slips

The blockbuster Batman sequel “The Dark Knight” slipped from last week’s No. 2 slot to No. 4 as ticket sales tumbled 37 percent to $10.3 million.

“The Dark Knight,” a Warner Bros release, has amassed more than $489 million in six weeks of domestic ticket sales and is the second-highest grossing domestic film ever behind “Titanic.”

Warner Bros’ animated “Star Wars” movie, “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” rounded out the top five with an estimated $5.7 million in North American ticket sales.

“Pineapple Express,” a stoner comedy named for a strong type of marijuana, stoked box offices with $5.6 million in sales in its third week, while the American remake of the South Korean horror film “Mirrors,” starring Kiefer Sutherland of the hit TV series “24,” grossed $4.9 million in its second week to land in the No. 7 spot.

“The Longshots,” based on the real-life story of 11-year-old Jasmine Plummer — the first girl to compete as a quarterback in the Super Bowl of Pop Warner football, squeaked past “Mamma Mia!” in its first week in theaters with $4.3 million in ticket sales.

Lumbering in at No. 10 with $4.1 million in sales was Universal’s “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.”

Mack Chico

By

2008/08/24 at 12:00am

Gael García y Diego Luna ready to show "Rudo y Cursi" in December

Gael García y Diego Luna ready to show "Rudo y Cursi" in December

Leading Mexican heartthrobs Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna will be releasing ‘Rudo y Cursi’ December 19th in Mexico. The dramedy was written and was directed by Carlos Cuarón, who with brother Alfonso co-wrote Y tu mamá también, which also starred the two actors.

Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) co-produces with Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, director of last year’s Oscar-winning Babel and Guillermo del Toro.

Rudo y Cursi, which broadly translated as “Rough and Corny,” is a tale of love and hate between professional soccer-playing brothers played by Luna and Garcia Bernal.

Inarritu, Alfonso Cuarón and fellow Mexican Guillermo del Toro, who directed last year’s Pan’s Labyrinth, recently formed a production company that will make five films in a $100 million deal with Universal Pictures. Rudo y Cursi is the first film in the package.

Filming took place in the small coastal town of Cihuatlan, close to a banana plantation owned by the Cuarón family that the brothers visited as children.

Alex Florez

By

2008/08/21 at 12:00am

Death Race

Rated: R for strong violence and language.
Release Date: 2008-08-22
Starring: Paul W.S. Anderson
Director(s):
Distributor:
Film Genre:
Country: USA
Official Website: http://www.deathracemovie.net/index.php

Go to our film page

Death Race

A remake of Roger Corman’s 1975 cult action film starring David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone, Death Race pumps even more adrenaline and senseless gore into a film that seems more like a video game adaptation than a ‘B’ movie remake.

Set in the not so distant future, Death Race tells the story of Jensen Ames (Jason Statham), a former speedway champion turned blue collar worker who is framed for a gruesome murder.  He soon realizes however, it’s all been part of a plot to coerce him into participating in the world’s most popular televised sport: a car race set in a maximum security prison in which the inmates must brutalize and kill one another in order to win. If they are lucky to finish the race alive and in first place, then they’ll also gain their freedom.

Despite all the action, the film attempts to make its subtle satirical jabs at our culture – the one that can’t enough reality television, extreme fighting competition, and violent video game titles.  One in particular, ‘Twisted Metal’ certainly comes to mind as a game which essentially shares the same premise as the movie.  But like those video games, Death Race’s plot is thin and lacking the emotion necessary to really push a story forward.  In this film, its all about outfitting cars with weapons you pick up along the way and blowing up your competitors off the tracks.

For Statham, its a no brainer role, as he slowly turns into the Jean-Claude Van Damme of our era, funny accent and all. For Joan Allen however, this might be her worst mistake as a professional actress.  Allen playing the role of the Warden who organizes the race is as believable as the film’s own premise.  One pleasant surprise is the addition of Natalie Martinez, the rookie cuban american actress, who teams up with Statham playing ‘Case’, his ‘navigator’.  Giving the film its sexiness, I’m sure we’ll be seeing much more of her in these Angelina Jolie/female action star type roles.

Although a case can be made that these days, video game have evolved with much more complex story-lines, there will always be a great appetite for the ‘shoot em up’ types games where users can’t wait for the next level to keep smashing the buttons on their controllers.  For those type of people, Death Race is must.

 

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