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Series 7 - The Contenders (DVD)

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Genre: Comedy / Theatrical Release: 2001 / Director: Daniel Minahan / Actors: Brooke Smith, Glenn Fitzgerald ... / DVD released 14 April, 2003 at Cinema Club / Features of the DVD: Anamorphic, PAL, Widescreen

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    Your dooyooMiles Miles

    19 Reviews
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      13.06.2013 10:34
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      "Reality TV" that's a little too real for comfort

      If you take current moronic, asinine reality TV to its logical conclusion, the ultimate prize is not a part in some West End Musical or the latest plastic boy band. It's something more fundamental: the ultimate prize is the right to live.

      Which is where Series 7: The Contenders, a mock reality TV series comes in. A group of contenders are selected via a government-sponsored lottery and forced to compete in the game, with their every move captured on camera. Their goal is simple: kill the other contestants to be last man (or woman) standing and you win your life back. A big hit in America, the show is already into its seventh series (hence the title) and sees the return of reigning champion (and heavily pregnant) Dawn. Dawn simply needs to survive this series to be free once and for all.

      Part satire, part warning Series 7 is an excellent little film that was criminally overlooked on release back in 2001 but has gradually (and deservedly) built up a cult following on DVD. In fairness, the film probably works better on the small screen since it is, effectively, aping the style and presentation of a TV show. As such, it is most effective when you are sitting on your sofa at home watching just another reality TV show.

      Series 7's genius is that it is clearly set in a future not too far removed from our own. Whilst it might have some common themes with Stephen King's The Running Man (the book more than the film), it is not set in some distant future, but in the very near-future. It is, in effect, a warning: if reality TV continues on its current trajectory, it's only a matter of time before such a show becomes possible.

      The whole thing is filmed in the precise style of a TV reality show which gives it a sense of authenticity. Director Daniel Minahan (adapting his own screenplay) has clearly studied the style, language and tone of reality TV and nails it perfectly. It features strident voice-overs from an unseen narrator, slow-mo replays of key events, dramatic reconstructions of off-screen events, talking heads with contestants and even recaps to remind the viewer what happened in previous shows or before the advert break. It's a brilliantly observed piece of film-making that deconstructs how clever editing and presentation can be used to manipulate viewers and tell them what they should be thinking.

      Series 7 also has its own rather warped morality which is used by the writers to take a sideswipe at the worrying power and influence of the media. For example, since they are under the auspices of the TV show, it is perfectly legal (indeed, required) for contenders to kill each other; but if an ordinary person kills someone (even a contender), it's still murder. Another example: security checks on the entrance to a mall stop anyone taking a gun inside... unless they announce themselves as a Contender, in which case they are allowed in fully armed. There are plenty more clever examples that show the dangerous influence of TV and how, in many ways, it considers itself above the law.

      Yet despite these warnings, Series 7 never feels preachy. Yes, it makes some important social observations, but it does so in a subtle and understated way. It doesn't shout about the evils of television, but it does question the dubious relationship between TV and government and how one can prop up the other. Yet Series 7 never forgets that its first duty is to entertain.

      The script is an excellent blend of tense character study and social satire. As with the direction, it aims for realism over thrills. "Kills" are limited, and usually violent, brief and nasty. It gradually peels back the layers on the characters to show how quickly otherwise decent individuals can be reduced to the level of animal when it's a case of either kill or be killed.

      Whilst the overall direction of the script might be fairly obvious from an early stage, you're never quite sure who is going to kill who next and there's a fair amount of dramatic tension rung from this. It also shows how reality TV shows can suck you in because, almost despite yourself, you find yourself rooting for a particular contender or dividing them up into those you like and those you would be happy to see killed.

      What's really surprising is the amount of emotion that Minahan manages to wring out of the tale. This is not a story about killing -if you go in expecting an Arnie body fest, then you will be sorely disappointed - rather it's a film about the lengths ordinary people will go to in order to survive. The most obvious emotion (though never over-wrought) comes from the pregnant Dawn who will do anything to ensure the survival of her soon-to-be-born baby. Equally interesting, though, are the reactions of the other contestants and their loved ones; from the over-protective parents of sixteen year old Lindsay through to the extreme selfishness of Tony. Series 7 is as much a study in human nature as it is in the dangers of television.

      The one bum note comes from a rather convenient plot point that sees reigning Champion Dawn having to take on a new contender, who just happens to be an ex-school friend and someone with whom, of course, she has A Past. This is the one bit of an otherwise tight story that smacks of lazy writing; an artificial element inserted to add that extra emotional jolt. It's a shame because the script doesn't need to resort to these lazy Hollywood clichés.

      For the most part, the acting is surprisingly good. It stars no big names, with the cast mostly consisting of people who (at the time of first release) would have been virtual unknowns. Whilst they have some acting experience, this is mostly limited to bit parts and walk-on roles. The fact that none of the faces are recognisable means that they are much more convincing as "ordinary" people.

      Yet despite their relative unfamiliarity, they do an excellent job. The acting is naturalistic, as befits the documentary style and when they talk to camera, they are nervous, guarded or overly aggressive... exactly the sort of personalities we see every week on stuff like Britain's Go (No) Talent or The X(crement) Factor. Whilst there are occasional lapses into hammy acting, these are limited. Overall, the performances are what you would expect from people who suddenly find their every move being captured and broadcast to an entire nation.

      Series 7: The Contenders is a genuinely excellent piece of film-making. From the tight, convincing script, the naturalistic acting and the manipulative TV presentation it is a compelling story in its own right. It's also a warning about where we might end up if we continue our current obsession with vacuous reality TV.

      Basic Information
      ------------------------
      Series 7: The Contenders
      2001
      Director: Daniel Minahan
      Running time: approx. 86 minutes
      Certificate: 18

      (c) Copyright SWSt 2013

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        12.02.2012 23:18
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        If you haven't seen it yet, now is a good a time as ever

        SERIES 7 - THE CONTENDERS (2001) DVD/C18/87MINS/£4.83N/£2.93U



        When people talk about this film they mention something that I totally disagree with: that this films is a prediction of where reality TV will one day go. In the same way Irreversible is more than one horrific 12 minute scene, this film is more - and less, than a take on the evils and future evils of reality TV. If you wan't to see a film that accurately skewers the reality of TV years before they were entitled to - watch Network. If you wan't a satire with a pitch black heart and bright blue soul - check out Series 7 - The Contenders.

        -----WHO-----

        I like to think this film is a little special to me - it was the last film I remember watching on video. I also love it, and since added in a non-historic format of it to my movie collection. Despite this, I've never paid attention to the cast or crew. Non were recognizable at the time of the film, and non have been that obvious to me since with the exception of Will Arnett who narrates the film and makes a brief appearance towards the end. I had to do a little digging and I was nicely surprised to see the films writer and director Daniel Minahan worked on many HBO productions in recent years - both as a writer and director. From True Blood, Deadwood and Six Feet Under all the way up to Game Of Thrones - hes done pretty well since this film, however this film still seems to be his most credited work. The film is led by two main roles; Glenn Fitzgerald as Jeffery and Brooke Smith as Dawn - only Smith who is still in the business with a leading role in Grays Anatomy. This independent film was Minahan's first major work and looking at his most recent work, some of the spirit of this film seems to be still with him.

        ------WHAT-----

        This film has a simple set up. A nationwide TV show exists in the US, and at the centre of this TV show is a lottery. The 'winners' of this lottery are given a gun, a film crew and millions of viewers. The last one alive wins, well 'wins' as in they are not dead - but go on try their luck with the next 5 'contestants' to be drawn. The 'game' is played within a towns limits and they have to win three rounds in order to escape and are allowed to no longer take part in the killing of other random people.

        This story lands just as Dawn is entering her 3rd round having survived the last 2 - a montage of sorts shows her hunting down and killing the unlucky lottery winners and makes clear what type of person she is: ruthless. She has reason to be though, she's 8 months pregnant. She battlworn and brave, and headfast - and makes this clear as footage of her killings are interwoven with the next 5 contestants getting their unlucky numbers. Five more are revealed, put in front of the camera and given a gun. An older lady and a student among the five, as if to give the impression it could happen to anyone, and Jeff - an unemployed terminally ill cancer patient.

        The film is shown as if it were the show, that would be on TV - complete with narration that is typically overvoiced and over the top, filmed with fast action camera crews that struggle to keep up with the contenders and they typical edit a show like this - cut and pasted to suit what the producers want you see. Chopped up beyond any sense of normality - much like your weekly dose of Big Brother of Xfactor. We only see the contenders at times of panic or strife, of when are required to see the otherside - scared or emotional.

        Its these aspects of the film that give it its obvious comparisons to the Running Man - reality TV has reached such a grusome point watching people kill each other is now classed as entertainment. I love this about this film, its extreme satire - but I find it so hard to imagine this ever happening, so when I read this is a prediction of what will happen I find it frustrating. This film works better when you consider it entertainment rather than a prophecy.

        Anyway, back to the plot. Its made obvious from the start who the final 2 will be (the screen time, higher billings and level of dialogue are a big give away) when Dawn and Jeff remain the final two contenders. This is where the films tries to be clever - and it works slightly, Jeff has cancer and Dawn is pregnant so there becomes a tension to do what seems obviously 'right'

        This point comes about 30 minutes before the end of the film, and to tell you the rest will give too much away - and give away the real kicker at the end, but its good and less than predictable ending. It serves as fitting way to hammer home what this film is saying about the nature of reality TV.

        The film is low budget and independent. A clever tricked the film makers use is to make it feel like a reality TV show - this makes it feel both realistic and you get the sense it helped with the budget. No expensive camera shots here, many filmed with handheld cameras and seemingly on the fly. A chase scene is simply filmed by chasing the actors as if on an actual reality TV show. I love this kind of film making, one where the makers use their nugget and create an asset out of something otherwise seen as a restriction.


        -----WHY----

        It would be naive to say Minahan was trying to take on reality TV - back in 2001 reality TV was nothing like the beast it is now - Big Brother was only 2 years old and Xfactor/Pop Idol/American Ideal/TV as we know it was nothing more than a twinkle in Simon Cowells eye. This film has that yes, but it more a satire on TV in general and the morals it holds - specifically how TV is always 'right' when its wrong. About how TV producers choose whats moral or not - and how those morals are dictated by what sells. This film plays to the same tune as the Running Man, Battle Royale and Death Race - but gives it a more human edge that makes it more easy to relate to the real world - this film has many, many aspects you'd recogines from your average Saturday night viewing. Unfortunately this film keeps its distance and the punch is less impactive when you consider the unrealistic notion of the set up, as well as the holes and implausibility in the film itself. Very little is explained about the show, how they got there and quite a few other bits that just seem unexplained (if I mention the big ones, its a bit of a spoiler). The Running Man didn't have the problems, as it was so comic and over the top - you expected holes and flaws. With a film though thats trying to place itself in reality - holes and flaws just add to the surreal.

        This film sits well alongside Network, The Running Man and Battle Royale as either clever or fun takes on the power of the goggle box - and its got a nice cult feel that gives the film a big spoonful of personalty. Its not a casual watch - its rated 18 as its violent, has bad langue and is generally a bit disturbing - but its not too heavy.

        -----WHAT ELSE-----

        This is a film to add to your list if fresh, interesting films that make you think are you're thing. It moves at steady pace and has a sturdy plot and is in no way slow, so is an accessible film to many film fans - both casual and hardened. Its not a switch off film and its not the kind of film to relax to on a Sunday night. It doesn't offer the action of The Running Man, the gore of Battle Royale or the cleverness of Network - but has hints of all three - without ever really being the sum of its parts. I would love to consider this film an underrated classic, and I once saw it as that (when I was younger and angrier) but its just on the cusp, instead its just seriously relevant.

        ------DVD EXTRAS-----

        The DVD is not packed, but OK. A director commentary and some interviews with the crew give some insight into to the how and why of the film, but not really anything that adds too much to the experience of the film. It always nice to hear about film makers made films, especially with budget constraints and how they work around them - and you get that here. Its not overly insightful, but worth a listen if you appreciate the ins and outs of film making.

        All prices are on Amazon at the time of writing

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        17.03.2009 12:53
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        Real People In Real Danger

        Meet Connie Trabucco, Jeffrey Norman, Franklin James, Anthony Reilly and Lindsay Berns, the contestants of the seventh series of reality TV show 'The Contenders'. Along with reigning champion, Dawn Lagarto, they will have to face each other in an attempt to win the series and get one step closer to the grand prize; freedom.

        The only way to win the series is to simply be the only one to not get killed.

        Series 7 : The Contenders is an over-exaggerated take on the increasingly popular reality tv show phenomenon. So far, Big Brother (and various other reality tv shows) participants might have tried to kill each other but it has never been in the rulebook. Until now. The contestants in 'The Contender' are picked at random via their social security numbers and are forced to take part in the game. They are each given a gun and are expected to kill all of the other contestants. Last one standing wins. Simple.

        Comparisons can easily be drawn with Running Man, I agree, but this film is set in modern times, not a dystopian future. It seems so much more realistic also. The contestants are normal people who have been dragged into this game without ever wanting to take part. They are all resigned to the fact that they must kill to win. There are no 'gladiator' type characters that work for the TV channel that are provided with high-tech weapons or vehicles, it is just raw animal insticts. This comes across from the acotrs really well. For a cast of unknowns (I didn't recognise any of them and only a few have done anything note worthy) I was very impressed. They all played their parts really well and expressed the emotional rollercoaster that playing a game like 'Contender' would involve. Sometime reluctant and sometimes eager to kill, each feeling was shown clearly, this helped with the 'realness' of the film and aided the emotive feeling.

        The other aspect of 'the game' that aided its appeal was that it was played in the 'real world'. The contestants were allowed to go home if they wished and continue with their normal lives. It made them an easy target but that was their choice. There is one particularly poignant scene where a number of contestants are at a shopping mall expecting some help with winning the game. It doesn't really work out like that but you'll have to watch the film to see what happens! The fact that reigning champ Dawn is heavily pregnant and has a past with fellow contestant Jeffrey is another source of emtional scenes.

        Cast:

        Brooke Smith as Dawn Legarto
        Michael Kaycheck as Anthony Reilly
        Merritt Wever as Lindsay Berns
        Richard Venture as Franklin James
        Marylouise Burke as Connie Trabucco
        Glenn Fitzgerald as Jeffrey Norman

        I would strongly recommend this film to anyone that has ever seen Big Brother or the numerous other reality TV shows that have saturated our tv channels in recent years and have a love of extreme violence.

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          14.11.2002 22:02
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          I don’t think it’s giving anything away to say that "Series 7: The Contenders" is a spoof movie. Its target it is all those true-life TV shows, mainly the competitions (a la Big Brother, Popstars, Gladiators, you name it), but also the crime-scene, worst drivers, etc. etc. documentaries. Before the film begins we see the statement “a film by Daniel Maniham”, but there’s no cast list (until the end) another statement that “everything you are about to see is real”. And it is filmed in a highly realistic way. The action is so over the top, that it is obviously a spoof from the start. We are shown Dawn, a heavily pregnant woman, with a revolver in her hand, looking very determined, very angry – and she shoots a man dead in a grocery store. That’s it, stark and matter-of-fact. Not what you’d describe as funny. Not even done in a suspense film or horror film kind of way. The fact that the shop owner asks her what she’s going to do about the body is reminiscent of the black humour of movies like “Clerks” but this is in an altogether different league. Series 7: The Contenders is macabre, and yes, it’s black, but it’s not humour. Can a spoof work even if it’s not funny? I’m not sure. It doesn’t work for me, anyway. The front cover has the quote “You’ll be choking on your popcorn with laughter” Me? I was so bored with the whole thing I found myself staring out of the window, praying the thing would end soon. It was a long drawn out 87 minutes. A short 15 minute programme could have worked quite well. This does not. The basic idea isn’t a bad one – take the reality game show to the ultimate extreme, where they are expected to kill one another in order to win. Battle Royale tried a similar idea, more seriously, and a lot more effectively. An
          d I hate reality TV shows, and find the idea of fame and what you have to do to achieve it intriguing, so I’m game for a spoof film about them – this just isn’t the one for me. Throughout the entire, tedious, 87 minutes I found one single good scene – this came about 10 minutes towards the end, when the whole thing takes a U-turn, which I found very refreshing, and even funny, in an ironic kind of way. The only other thing I liked about it all was the way the onscreen cameramen kept getting in the way and occasionally affected the action. There are so many problems with the film – first, we are never told what the rules of the ‘game’ are (it seems to be against the rules to shoot a camera, but we don’t really know). Second, the acting isn’t convincing enough for us to even start to believe these are real situations. The actors are all unknowns, as far as I could tell, and it seems like they've been trained in the Blair Witch School of Acting. Third, it’s a one joke spoof. Fourth, fifth and sixth – it’s dull, dull, dull. There are some places where there would have been an obvious ad break, if this really was on TV, and I genuinely wished there would be some ads coming up, to relieve the boredom, I tell you! DVD – no extra features. I was even desperate enough to try the subtitles but they didn’t work. Very disappointing all round, then.

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            20.06.2002 04:30
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            The Contenders is the latest in american reality tv shows. An area is selected at random and then six contestants are selected by impartial lottery. These six are then given a gun a months supply of food and a camera man. They then have to kill each other until one is surviving and they go through to the next series. The popular show is in it's seventh series (hence the title) and it stars Dawn(Brooke Smith) who is eight months pregnant and the reigning champ. Is she survives this series she is free. The other who join her is nurse and catolic Connie (Marylouise Burke), unemployed father of three Tony (Michael Kaycheck), 18 year old student Lindsay (Merritt Wever), hermit Franklin (Richard Venture) and testicular cancer victim Jeff (Glenn Fitzgerald). When the people learn that they are to compete they are none to happy except for Jeff who wants to die anyway and tries to commit suicide when he is handed the gun. However they all have to really participate because otherwise they die. Dawn especially wants to win so she can deliver her baby and be free from the contenders, there is a snag in her plan. The town that was chosen was her home town and the only man she ever loved, Jeff is there and she is going to have to kill him. I can't really say much more about the plot because I don't want to give anything away. Survivor, Big Brother and all those fly on the wall reality tv shows are very popular in this day and age. Big Brother is in it's 3rd series and still going strong. This film explores what would happen if these types of tv shows where taken to the extreme. Unlike other reality tv shows like EDTV and The Truman Show this film is shot and complied like a tv show. The whole film is basically a marathon session before the start of series 8 of series 7. It even has ad breaks and is divided into shows with cheesy voiceovers reminding everyone what happened in the last episode. As well as showing each characters journey through th
            e show we also get interviews from the cast, somethings about their past and reinactments using different actors instead of the actors that play the characters. The characters themselves are intresting with Dawn and Jeff being explored the most. Connie is also shown a great deal and to an extent Lindsay although Franklin and Tony aren't seen very much. Dawn is an interesting character and good enough to carry the film. At first she seems cold and inhumane with her idea to mess witht the contenders heads before the game, but as the film progresses the audience feel a great deal of sympathy for her beacuse even though she does kill people she is really just an average person who got chosen for the show and her only real escape is to win the game. The fact she is pregnant and really only playing the game for the sake of her unborn child we urge her on. Brooke Smith does an excellent job as her and brings out her more humane side. Jeff is the next character focused on. Again we feel sympathy for him because he has had a hard life and is close to death anyway and doesn't want to play because he is a pacifist and wants someone to kill him. He also is not as enthusiastic about his wife as is wife is him. Glenn Fitzgerald puts in a fine performance as him. Connie is at first this sweet old woman but turns into a killer. We first get an incling for this when she freely admits to commiting euthinasia (although it is not made clear if it was wanted, I don't think it was) although she is a devote catholic. She is quite funny at times like when she goes to confession and brings up silly things like having inpure thoughts about a tv host but doesn't even mention the killer. Lindsay is also sometimes a source of comic relief with her over encouraging parents who buy her guns and drive her to Franklin's house to shoot him. Her remark about her boyfriend really loving her because he paid for half a bullet proof vest is also funny. Esse
            ntial this film is a satire on reality tv shows but it also is interlaced with jet black comedy (the punk video is funny). It makes a comment about how america will broadcast anything for ratings and also how being in the spotlight and being forced to kill can completely change people and on tv people are willing to admit and say anyhting to get their 15 mintues. There are some annoying parts, the end is a bit of a let down, I don't like the parts when you see someone run into a room then hear a gun shot and then it will cut to another scene. Apart from that the film is great and wonderfully directed and written by Daniel Minahan he has made the film look so much like a tv show that if you were flicking through channels and saw this you'd think it was the real thing. Overall a brilliant film.

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              06.03.2002 02:40
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              My 'other half' wanted to see this film at the cinema, but I declined as I had heard that was graphically violent and wasn't sure if I could cope with the brutality on the big screen. When it recently came out on DVD, I reluctantly agreed to rent it for the evening, telling myself that I could always hide my head in a cushion if it got too gory! In actual fact, I found myself glued to the screen from start to finish. This is a very, very clever spoof of 'reality' TV with some simply superb acting that will have you almost - but not quite - believing in what you see. *** THE FORMAT 'The Contenders' is a long running reality TV show where members of the public are selected at random and ordered to hunt down and kill the other 'contenders' by any means possible. They are advised to arm themselves with at least two guns but are allowed to use anything at their disposal to 'dispatch' their rivals. Each contender is followed constantly by a camera crew who records each successful or unsuccessful kill in graphic close up. At the end of each series the surviving contender is carried over to the next series, and marketed as the 'champion'. *** THE STORY Series 7 begins with the introduction of 'Bloody Mama' Dawn, the survivor from series six, who is eight months pregnant and is determined to stay alive for the birth of her baby. The new contenders who will join her include a middle aged catholic nurse, a wife beater, a sheltered eighteen year old girl, an elderly gent and a young man dying of testicular cancer, who just so happens to have been Dawn's old high school boyfriend. These unlikely characters have to hunt each other down and kill each other in order to 'win' a temporary extension of their own lives. I won't spoil your enjoyment of the film by telling you what happens, you can make your own guesses as to who will be
              killed the quickest, who will make an astonishing escape, and how it will all end. *** WHAT'S GOOD The film is obviously very tongue in cheek, but it's so like the over the top 'reality' American TV shows that we see regularly on channels like UK Living and Sky, that you'll laugh out loud. This film will also get you thinking...We're encouraged to suspend our disbelief so regularly when we watch the real thing that it's not too difficult to let the voyeur in us disregard the 'spoof' element of the show and almost forget that it isn't a real reality TV show. The actors pull off the melodramatic, egocentric gameshow contestant impression extremely well, and I guarantee you'll be rooting for the one you want to win and shouting for your least favourites to die by the end of the movie - which is in itself quite disturbing. The violence in the movie is surprisingly low key, there are just a couple of bloody scenes, nothing like the gore fest I was expecting. This left unashamedly squeamish me free to concentrate on what was going on, rather than having to hide every few moments. *** WHAT'S BAD I thought that the ending could have been managed better. The viewer is told that the 'original fottage' has been lost and actors are brought in to play the part of the surviving contenders, but this threw me slightly, as we don't know what really happened and can't really empathise with these stand ins. I suspect that that was exactly why the directors did it this way - to emphasise that we're NEVER seeing the reality of a situation in this type of show and that we can be manipulated into seeing whatever the makers of the show want us to see. Clever, but it left me a bit disappointed. It's also never explained why the contenders have to agree to participate in the show. The show is obviously not set too far into the future, as
              everything looks pretty much the same as it is now, but the state appears to have the power to demand that people sacrifice their lives as part of a gameshow...This was a bit puzzling. *** SUMMARY See this movie. If you're a fan of reality TV shows, it will make you sit up and think. Even if you're not, it's a very well made, clever black comedy, and very entertaining. A refreshing alternative to the hyped up drivel that makes up 80% of the cinema releases these days. I highly recommend it.

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                12.02.2002 21:07
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                The following opinion contains some spoilers which could hamper your enjoyment of the movie if you have not seen it! I wasnt really knowing what to expect when i sat down to watch this. I had heard the phrase 'American Battle Royale' bandied about but after viewing the trailer I didnt think so. Series 7 The Contenders not really about a reality TV show- more an episode of a reality TV show with actors. The game show rules are simple- 6 memebers of the public are given weapons and have to kill each other to win. This series contestants are an 18 year old student, a middle aged nurse, an artist suffering from testicular cancer, a father of 3, a crazy old man, and the defending champion a woman who is heavily pregnant. The contestants attitudes towards killing change throughout the movie. Neither the cast or director are household names, but this doesnt stop the film being a very good exercise in asking 'what would you do?' Its not a perfect however. The public seem ambivilent to some of the murders and the climax in the cinema is, in my opinion, terrible- with a resconstruction replacing the actual film- which leads you to ask all kind of question about what actually happened. If I had to compare it to Battle Royale, then I'd go with Battle..., bu that said Series 7 is a good effort, but a better climax would have been appreciated by me at least

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                05.02.2002 22:10
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                "Due to the graphic nature of this program, viewer discretion is advised." The words enter the screen, they let you know what type of film you are about to watch. Let it begin... Two words can describe Series 7 - The Contenders and they are Raw and Edgy, it's just the next step in reality TV. With shows like Big Brother, Airport and to a degree Pop Stars we seem to have a thing about watching real people live their real lives, so it's a wonder that Series 7 - The Contenders did not come out early then it did. The film is made so it is like 3 half an hour episodes of a show called The Contenders which is in its 7th series, each of the six contestants are given a gun and have a cameraman follow them around at all times, the contestants win when all the others are dead, the winner then goes onto the next series. The film looks real and the director says in the linear notes on the DVD that he wanted it so if the film was on TV and someone flicked it on half way through, they would think they were watching a real TV show, it even has breaks and last episode recaps in it. The current champion of The Contenders is Dawn, she has won the last two series and is favourate to win here, only now she is heavily pregnant and due to drop her sprog any day now. Connie is an older lady, who is a strict Catholic and a nurse; she starts off scared but soon develops into a sneaky and cold killer. Young teenager Lindsay doesn?t really want to be her, but her parents are pushing her all the way, driving her around and giving her masses of guns, but can she handle the pressure. Tony is a dad, but he is having problems with his wife and when he is entered into the game his wife tries to run away with the kids, Franklin is an old man who lives in a caravan and seems a bit nuts. Last is Jeff, an ex boyfriend of champion Dawn, who is now married but dying of testicular cancer, will he even try and win the fight? The acting is great, the ent
                ire cast put in superb performances, the best being Brooke Smith as current champion Dawn. Brooke Smith is best known for being the girl who is kidnapped and stuck down the well by Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs, as I said she is the best here, but that is probably only because she has by far the most screen time. Next is Glenn Fitzgerald who plays cancer victim Jeff, he acts very convincingly and you could easily think he was a confused and sick of life cancer victim who doesn't know whether to bother even picking up the gun. Marylouise Burke as Connie the nurse is convincing enough when she is scared, but is even better when she finally cracks and goes mad, Micahel Kaycheck plays Tony who thinks he is hard but is the biggest chicken ever, Merritt Wever plays the young and naïve Lindsay well and Richard Venture as Franklin isn't in the film enough. The contestants also seem to like to walk around their houses staring out of the windows with other contestants outside, contestants outside sit in their cars instead of bursting in and killing the others and none of the contestants ever seem to have their guns at the ready. How much money much the cameramen get as well, standing right next the contestants every day. The film lasts a tight one and a half hours, which is just about right and never feels like it is stretched at all, the pacing of the film is also spot on. While I was enjoying the movie all the way through at times the film felt a bit redundant, I think this was to do with most of the violence being off screen, it didn?t catch your eye and drag you in. When the violence is on screen however, at times it?s very brutal especially one beating that occurs near the end. The script also mixes the horror of the violence and the reality of it all with a vain of very, very dark comedy, at times the things the contestants say to the camera are just stupid, at others their reactions are very amusing. At times the film decides to pa
                rody real life events, you cant leave a certain area, pre-defined at the start of the game, when one contestant tries to leave we see a real life police chase on the TV, just like OJ Simpson. Direction by Daniel Minaham is as good as it could be, remember this has to mimic a TV show, so it cant look too flash, but it does look very, very real. It's shot on digital video and has cheesy TV style voice over recapping the episodes or telling us what is going on when there is no dialogue. The soundtrack - apart from Love will tear us apart by Joy Division - is completely by Girls against Boys and is very rocky but perfectly fits the tone and style of the film. There are some negative points about the film, like the contestants are decided by a lottery, but do you have to enter or is it randomly selected out of everyone in America. At one point a contestant makes it out like he had no chose but to be in the game, but when a cameraman tries to film a bystander at one point Dawn tells him to stop it as she didn't sign up for it? A lot of the violence happens off screen, that could be a good thing, but at times were left only hearing the sound effects of what is happening before one contestant runs out of the house or over a hill back into view. The ending is also strange, a bit of a let down in one aspect but it does tie up all loose ends well. I raw and gritty film that maybe hard to watch for some, but others will love, I am totally in at latter section, I absolutely loved the film and was left wanting more, half because the film was great and another because the ending was crap. Make your own mind pu and watch the film. I watched Series 7 - The Contenders on a nice region 1 DVD called the marathon edition. It came with a good set of linear notes and a cool director's commentary, but also 9 deleted scenes. The menus are also some of the coolest I have seen on a DVD.

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                  25.01.2002 00:57
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                  Dark black comedy filmmaking is very rare so for that reason you should maybe give this one a look. From the opening credits you are watching the ultimate reality game show from your own home in the seventh edition of Americas most successful kill or be killed game show. The production team meets in secret to pick six total losers from a random lottery draw which will totally change their lives (sound familiar!).and for five of the six end it. But Camelot are not running this one although I would like to see the British version with Dale Winton as a player. Series 4 winner Del is the hot favorite as she returns to the selected state to defend her title. Theres no getting out of this absurd fictional sport as the camera crew knocks on your front door with a pistol and very bad news. The rules are simple and its kill or be killed with the local law enforcement turning a blind eye. It’s aired live on TV like Big Brother as the contestants run for their lives in a hail of gunfire. Player one is an old guy who is not best pleased to be taking part in Series Seven and tries to make a run for it. Player two is defending champion, rough brassy 38year old Fay who had history with player six in her ex boyfriend and only love now dying of testicular cancer. Contestant number four is a local 18-year old girl student with a retired nurse and an unemployed dosser making up the six. The only prize is your life as the nation tracks the action on their TV, interacting with the players in their everyday lives. The contestants are restricted to their home state and any attempt to flee will result in termination. Don, the 39 year old unemployed builder is the first to run with the obvious contestant biting lead first. One of the funnier moments is the pushy middle class parents of the young student who buy her the latest”labelled” guns and bulletproof vest whilst mum and dad tag along giving advice. And when
                  things don’t go her way after her first attempt to kill a player she is lambasted by her father for being useless. Like I say theres some scrummy dark humor here. Its obviously not going to stand up to close inspection and im sure that the players could get together and say no thanks TV people. But it’s all about social hang ups, humorous character study and peoples animosity to other social classes amongst other issues. Theres lots of trailer park trash comments and illegitimate children moments. It plays like a student film project where the director and friends get to have a pop at the lower classes through celluloid and im sure that pleases most of the renters. It also looks like a TV movie and has a strong documentary direction with sharp political comment on American society and TV culture. It’s a bold experiment along the lines of Japan film Battle Royal also out this month. Although this is a much cheaper production with total unknown actors and a very slim budget set in the present day. But they perform well and portray that small town”we are never ever going to get out of here”mentality that is so prevalent in arty American movies. I can imagine that this is mostly rented by film students and Mettalica fans as we are rewarded with a bit of clever anarchic film making by an up and coming director along the line of Buffallo 66. If you want something less glossy and very original this ninety minutes of evil humor may just grab your attention. There are some cool Spinal Tap moments and gruesome bludgeoning. The most powerful scene is when the champion who is pregnant and about to drop pleads with the other contestant she’s about to kill to deliver her baby. The rules of the game state that no together person outside of the contestants must be harmed which results in this paradox of the nurse delivering the baby to the woman she’s supposed to kill. It’
                  ;s set in a game show context from start to finish with commercial breaks”next on series seven!”and profiles of the players Survivor style.Its not for some and many wont get it but there is a powerful message there that we generally don’t get on with each other and try hard to like most people around us. What if you could blow away people legally you really didn’t like!……..And could this be real in twenty years time!.

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                    13.11.2001 20:18
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                    Well, what can I say about this film. For a start it's not even a film, it's a game show, and it is just so unrealistic. When I first saw it I thought yeah that looks ok i'll take a look. But as soon as I started to watch it I realised that it was one of the worst things I've seen and not worthy of being called a film. It's all about a randomly selected group of people from America, and their aim is to kill the other opponents to win the game and go into the next round of the game to face a new load of players. Each player is given a gun and then left on their own to do whatever they wish. There are 5 people in each round and the winner then goes onto the next round of people. If a player gets to 21 kills then they are a loud to be set free. It may sound quite good and funny, but believe me it's all a shambles. The Film looks like it has been shot just by a random person. The acting is very poor and the special effects are even worse, well to tell the truth there isn't any. If someone is shot, they just fall on the fall and they expect you to believe this and just get on with watching the film. This is all done with no blood or nothing just a bang from a gun. Some of these parts do actually make you laugh at how perfectic it is. I give this film a rating of 2/10 and do not recommend anyone to watch this. But if really do want to then, don't say I didn't warn you.

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                      01.10.2001 05:52

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                      Brill, addresses the future of realilty tv along with the recient Battle Royale. If you are a fan of Chris Morris (Jam mostly) them you should love this. I went with a friend and we both left with sore cheeks from laughter. Some people may find it offensive but the comedy lies not at the actual violent act, but at true o.t.t. in the media today. Daily Mail readers may not like this. Watch out for the house bomb at the beguining, and the actor change in the cinema.

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                      12.08.2001 21:34
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                      'Hello Big Brother house, this is Davina. You have 1 minute to shoot Kimberley dead...'. Well, despite it being a more entertaining concept than the housemates making a pigs ear out of porridge, Channel 4 haven't quite yet as desperate as to introduce a reality game show involving killings. (Although flick occassionally to 'Brookside' and you might think the contrary...). 'Series 7' is a film which shows the extreme potential of reality TV in all of its horror. The film takes the form of a fly-on-the-wall programme, featuring a game where 6 contenstants have to gun each other down until there is only one survivor left. The survivor then continues into the 'next series'. Perhaps not the subtlest way to look at the grim voyeurism that is beginning to infiltrate to small screen, but it certainly has its moments and is laugh out loud in places. The contestants are compelled to take part through state law (although it is never explained as to why this is the case). The film starts by introducing us to the highlights of the 'last series'. The current survivor is the 8 months pregnant Dawn (Brooke Smith), who successfully killed 5 people in the last show to be given the role of reigning contender. Resigned to her participation in the show, she philosophically talks about wanting to protect her baby when she finally gets out of the show (by surviving enough series). Five others helpless individuals are chosen, and all know the show and its rules automatically. They are 18 year old schoolgirl, an unemployed worker, a Catholic nurse, an elderly man, and Dawn's former high-school boyfriend. The show, complete with its title sequences and previews of 'what's coming up', is crassly made. Dawn's old boyfriend Jeff (Glenn Fitzgerald) has testicular cancer, and on the surface seems the most secure of the contenders about his possible fate. However, the show illu
                      strates his condition by using graphic close-up textbook diagrams, and by saying what a terrible disease it is, without irony for inevitable death of most of its contestants anyway. The programme involves camera crews following each of the contestants as they stalk each other. Some of these scenes are particularly funny, especially as the act of stalking, threatening and killing is often incorporated into the daily lives of the contenders (i.e. getting some groceries shortly after gunning someone down). The camera crew will go to any lengths to capture certain moments, (e.g. the birth of Dawn's baby), and if they can't, they'll do a dramatisation of the events as they believe them to have happened (complete with bad acting and audience cheering). Without giving the final plot away, (there is the typical ironic twist at the end), the best part of the film is the invasiveness of the show into the former relationship between Dawn and Jeff, where we get to see a rather amusing 1980's concept video that they both made whilst teenagers, accompanied by music from the Joy Division. Perhaps the most disconcerting aspect of the film is the way in which the game is accepted into mainstream culture seemingly without question, as if TV entertainment is completely devoid of morals. Of course it is an extreme example, but it makes you think about how quickly we are progressing towards mandatory participation by reluctant people in TV shows. It also shows that such behaviour is more than acceptable if it is within the rules and followed by camera, but when the contestants rebel (i.e. no longer want to kill each other), they are seen as comptemptable. The film is very well written, and is very observant, incorporating many of the quirks of reality TV as we know it into the more extreme framework of the 'Contenders' game. Very clever, and also very original. Whilst some people may find that the film d
                      oesn't explain its background sufficiently, it is still an enjoyable (and not overlong) film, which deserved to do better at the box office than it did. Look out for it on video and DVD at some point next year - it's definitely an antidote to 'Big Brother' and 'Survivor'. Director: Daniel Minahan Running Time: 85 minutes

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                      30.07.2001 21:17
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                      A government sponsored Reality TV show picks five members of the public at random plus the eight-months-pregnant reigning champion and gets them to stalk and kill each other on the streets. This is a well-timed black comedy that makes the most of a small budget, but despite its intentions, its ideas have already been explored in mainstream sci-fi like The Running Man, Starship Troopers and Robocop. The cast are all unknown and it is hard to get involved enough to care for any of the leads as much as you might like.

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                        24.07.2001 12:20

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                        This is not part of the Hollywood trash-factory. It is an Independent film, with the resultant low budget which makes it all the more effective. The film has no stars, just talent - and a great script. A reliance on big-name stars and fancy SPFX would have ruined it. It is a parody on the current craze for reality television. The show depicted in the film is similar to the show in Schwarzenegger's Running Man . Six randomly selected people, the Contenders, must hunt and kill each other. The last one standing is the champion, who will appear in the next series. The returning champ is a pregnant woman [Brooke Smith - the girl down the pit in Silence of the Lambs]! Like the Arnie movie the game is Government-orchestrated, and like the Arnie movie this film is increasingly cynical about its subject.

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                        17.07.2001 00:48
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                        This is an ambitious film, which has to tread a fine line between realism and satire, and, I think, pretty much succeeds. The premise is simple. “The Contenders” is a TV game show in which six people are picked randomly by government lottery and each is required to kill the others, with only one survivor to pass to the next series, and ultimately, with luck, to freedom from the show’s clutches. The film is presented in the form of several successive episodes of Series 7, exactly as the television viewer would see them. First we meet Dawn, the reigning champion, as it were, as she polishes off the last of her previous rivals, then we see the horrified reactions of the new contestants as the news of their participation is broken to them. Much of the film’s effectiveness derives from just how ordinary and useless these people are. Connie the god-fearing nurse, Franklin the elderly paranoid, Tony the idiot, Lindsay the teenager and Jeff the cancer victim are all shown to be more or less dysfunctional in their first few scenes. As they argue with their families and with the cameramen who follow them everywhere, and as they demonstrate quite amazing hopelessness in the matter of their own survival, the viewer is forced to wonder what sort of society produces these people. The whole idea of the programme itself soon seems much less outrageous and more vaguely inevitable. Where would the gumption to resist it spring from? Not from this bunch. But the fascination does not stem from seeing incompetents die horribly. It comes from watching the all too familiar voiceover as it tries to make heroes and villains out of these people. The viewer is aware of the facile moralising, the falseness of the commentator’s righteous attitude, and the blatant trickery of the editing and presentation. But just enough, in this viewer’s case, to be uncomfortably reminded that this is essentially how most TV works, while remaining
                        very much caught up in the action. In short, I was made to notice, repeatedly, how much I am satisfied by dramatic images and sound-bites, however vacuous, and to notice some of the strings which are pulled to elicit my knee-jerk reactions. I really did want Dawn and Jeff to ride off into the sunset, however temporarily. I was quite revolted by how much I wanted Dawn to shoot the smug TV exec who was holding her baby to ransom. The final scene was very cleverly done in other respects. From the moment the voice claims that the original film was destroyed, but that no expense was spared duplicating it, I was thinking: “What really happened, that they didn’t want to show? Are these the real people, I mean actors, made up to look different, or stand-ins made up to look similar?” and similarly foolish thoughts, while simultaneously being gripped by the tension of it all. And this is where the film succeeds. It doesn’t preach, it doesn’t moralise, and the presentation is entirely low-brow. And yet it manages to make you think about all sorts of things. If you can cope with the subject matter, then I really do recommend it.

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                      • Product Details

                        Series 7: The Contenders takes a look into the formula that has recently topped television polls; the reality game show. Modern culture has come so close to fulfilling the prophecies of films like Rollerball, Death Race 2000 and The Running Man that this rerun of the future game show plot is mounted as a satire rather than a prophecy, with an aesthetic drawn from American reality-TV shows like Cops or Survivor. In a society where the media and the authorities have absolute power, contestants in "Series 7" of The Contenders are chosen by lottery--six players must compete to kill each other, with the survivor/winner competing in the next series. Current champion Dawn (Brooke Smith)--who is heavily-pregnant--returns to her home town and finds herself pitted against a terrifying Christian nurse, a desperately unemployed man, an embittered old timer, a tough-talking teenage girl and a terminally-ill artist. Writer-director Daniel Minahan stages credibly ragged action sequences (with the camera crew jogging to keep up and sometimes getting in the way), clever performances that hint at complexities the show tries to tidy away (especially from the underrated Smith), chilly or funny interview segments, and deep black satire ("reconstructions" are used for sequences the cameras missed or, crucially, where the show's makers want to cover up part of the story they don't want tell). These techniques skewer exactly the way real lives are transformed into soaps by contrived "reality TV" shows. --Kim Newman

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