• A Review Page For Those Movies You Watch At Home!

    Couch Potato Movie Reviews is, obviously, a blog that exclusively reviews movies. What makes this blog different is the fact that all of the films we are reviewing are all movies that are available on home movie rental companies such as Redbox, Netflix, Blockbuster, and your quickly disappearing neighborhood rental store. This blog is designed to take a more detailed look at those movies that either were sent straight to DVD, received a very limited release in the theaters, or were distributed through the art house or film festival circuit. We will also review those big Hollywood films, but only after they are available for home viewing.

    All the reviews are written by fans of the great art of film making rather than some newspaper reviewer or stuffy film student. We don’t know everything about film but we do know what we like, and we are more than happy to share our opinions with you. What you do with those opinions are totally up to you, although comments are welcome and encouraged.

    Each film review has a one to five star rating at the end of the critique. Here is what those star ratings mean for you couch potatoes:

    * * * * * : Five stars: go and buy this one, don’t just rent it!

    * * * * : Four stars: put this at the top of your rental list.

    * * * : Three stars: average, not bad just not great either.

    * * : Two stars: only rent if you have to see everything.

    * : One star: don’t waste your time with this.

Death Race

TITLE: Death Race

YEAR: 2008

GENRE: Science Fiction and Action/Adventure

Director Paul W.S. Anderson for some reason receives a bad rap from many moviegoers. When attending conventions with our poster business I have never heard any director more complained about by overly critical fans, but the truth of the matter is that Anderson has a strong resume of quality films. Anderson directed two of the best video game adaptations ever made in the original Resident Evil as well as the kung fu on acid Mortal Kombat, plus he also helmed the quality sci-fi horror epic Event Horizon. Yes Anderson makes a lot of dumb action movies, but he makes good dumb action movies. I will admit that even I was a tad bit nervous about Anderson’s hands around the sequel to the legendary 1975 car race epic Death Race 2000, but I am glad to say that my fears were unwarranted. Death Race is a fantastic action film filled with fast cars, a simple yet exciting script, and numerous explosions.

Our setting is an America where the economy has collapsed due to bug business blunders and a bankrupt government. In order to finance the prison system a corrupt warden named Hennessey (played by Joan Allen) creates the ‘death race”, an annual car race involving convicts in armored and gunned-up vehicles where the losers usually die and the winner can receive their freedom after five victories. Jensen Ames (Jason Statham) is an ex-con who is framed for the murder of his wife and is sent to Terminal Island Penitentiary where the “death race” is held. Ames is forced to take on the role of Frankenstein, a legendary masked racer who is one victory away from his freedom, in order to keep the rating as high as the Super Bowl. Aided by a convict pit crew led by Coach (Ian McShane) and his sexy co-pilot Case (Natalie Martinez), Ames must fight for his life against the booby trap-filled course and psychotic opponents such as Machine Gun Joe (Tyrese Gibson) and Pachenko (Max Ryan). Will Ames be able to survive the “death race”, let alone win his freedom?

The story of Death Race is admittedly thin, but what holds the storyline together is the quality performances by the thespians throughout the film. Allen gives her best performance since Pleasantville as the crazy warden hell-bent on delivering a bloody show as well as a high profit margin, and McShane is utterly fantastic as the career send down. McShane also gets to deliver some fantastic one-liners: during a fight during chow Coach says “I guess he didn’t like the oatmeal”, and after a huge explosion he states in a matter of fact tone “Now that’s entertainment”. It was also a nice touch to bring back David Carradine, the original Frankenstein in Death Race 2000, to relive the role in a flashback scene. Death Race also uses real stuntmen and car explosions instead of the usual CGI, and this gives Death Race a more gritty and real feel with the race scenes and subsequent explosions. The film has a more somber and pessimistic viewpoint than the original Death Race 2000, but when considering the times of both films’ releases this is probably for the best. Anderson uses lots of camera angles and makes repeated cuts to various viewpoints throughout the film to make the race scenes seem to be quicker in nature and break neck in speed. The film editing my Niven Howie (who also edited The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy and the 2004 re-make of Dawn Of The Dead) is especially good and adds to the fast pacing of Death Race.

Yes, Paul W.S. Anderson has made clunkers like Soldier, but even George Lucas has his Howard The Duck and Joel Schumacher his Batman and Robin. This film is not going to be mistaken for Hemingway, but Death Race is another quality entry into executive producer Roger Corman’s resume and his cap of successes. It is great to have the wrecked wonder Frankenstein back behind the wheel, and Death Race is a quality way to bring the character back to the masses. Death Race is not the brightest film like a lot of Anderson’s work, but it is a quality fast-paced thriller that is a whole lot better than any of the Fast and Furious films. Turn off your brain and enjoy the crazy, blood soaked ride.

* * * *

–Mark

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