REALITY QUEEN! (2020)

January 9, 2020

 Greetings again from the darkness. While we can’t dismiss it, we can surely question the popularity of those who have reached celebrity status via Reality TV or Social Media presence. Are these folks brilliant or simply cashing in on the ignorance and gullibility of the American public? That’s the core question asked in this mockumentary from first time director Steven Jay Bernheim (and his 7 credited co-writers).

Thanks to shows like “TMZ” and “Entertainment Tonight”, sites like Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube, and the seemingly endless supply of Reality TV series, it’s no wonder we have come to accept that people can get famous for being famous. Julia Faye West (a no-holds barred performance) stars here as London Logo, a “celebutante” who has reached the pinnacle of fame by flaunting her lifestyle of excess. The obvious comparisons are Paris Hilton and the Kardashians. As with these real life celebs, we learn much more about London Logo than we would prefer to know. And that’s where the fun begins.

And by fun I mean the type of twisted comedy presented by a mockumentary that has us questioning why our society heaps so much attention on those represented here by London Logo. She has her entourage comprised of actor-friend Angelina Streisand (Denise Richards), her image-salvaging PR manager Winston Spritz (Loren Lester), her personal designer Simon Debris (John R Colley), and her manager/agent Louis Lozenger (Ben Begley). You have likely noticed that the character names are punchlines unto themselves. Adding competition to the incredulity is London’s nemesis and arch-rival Kristy Kim (Candace Kita), one of the Kim sisters from the (pretend reality) show “Katching Up with the Kims”. One of Kristy’s most prominent features is her large hind-quarters, making her real life comparison quite easy to place.

Most of the film is based on the “tell-all” documentary being filmed by British TV journalist Diana Smelt-Marlin (Kate Orsini), who affords London every opportunity to explain her actions and motives. The interviews are pure gold in eye-opening (and eye-rolling) cluelessness. This is the documentary that makes this an effective mockumentary. The cameras follow London around as she tries to bounce back after the Kims have stolen “her thunder”, and a beach incident captured on camera sends London to jail.

Book deals, TV shows, cosmetics, music drops, private jets, Twitter followers … all of these play a part in London’s attempt to keep her name in lights. Along the way we are treated to some outlandish bits. These include her pet gerbil getting stuck in the toilet (and the first Richard Gere joke in years), which results in a visit from Joe the plumber played by the recently deceased talented character actor John Witherspoon. There is also a Larry King style talk show host (Charles Fleisher), regular ‘breaking news’ from a TMZ knock-off, hilarious throw-pillows, London’s “traumatic brain injury”, unfortunate spelling errors, an opportunistic pet whisperer, and a questionable celebrity stalker.

London’s wealthy parents are played by Jill Jacobson and Cliff De Young. Dad is at a loss of words when asked to describe his daughter, while mom proudly states “busty”. London even attempts to reconcile with her TV partner played by Shelli Boone, in an attempt to reunite for their “Heir Heads” show (you have to say it out loud). Ralph Rieckermann, former member of the rock band The Scorpions, plays a DJ named Messiah, and the titles of competing books by London and Kristy are not to be missed. Boxing legend Mike Tyson makes an appearance attempting to provide evidence showing that he was not the other participant in the sex tape titled “A Night in London” … and his evidence is pretty compelling.

Mr. Bernheim’s film not only stars his wife (Julia Faye West), but it also points out just how much work is involved in getting and staying famous. It’s a full-time job! There are so many gags throughout, and of course, most of the acting is purposefully over-the-top. These days, it’s almost impossible to take things too far … what captures the attention of the American public is usually about as disappointing as finding out the world’s smallest dog isn’t really a dog, and that hipsters aren’t homeless …they just look that way. The best advice here is to sit back, relax, and spend an evening laughing at our society. So many already are.

watch the trailer:

 


RANGO

March 6, 2011

 Greetings again from the darkness. I just can’t believe it. Last year I was raving about Toy Story 3 being my favorite film of the year, and now here I am again extolling the excellence of another animated feature. However, Rango is a different experience … these are all new characters and a whole new look for animation. I would even say this is more a film for grown-ups than for kids, though kids will certainly get a kick out of Rango, a colorful chameleon energetically voiced by Johnny Depp.

 The story and film pay homage to many classic movies and especially to spaghetti westerns. You will easily spot the tributes to Star Wars, Apocalypse Now, Hunter S Thompson, Sergio Leone, Lee Van Cleef, Clint Eastwood, High Noon, and of course Chinatown. The main story line is nearly identical to Chinatown … the control of a town’s water. Here we get the Mayor, voiced by Ned Beatty, in the John Huston role. For film fans, this is just so much fun!

Rango the chameleon is a very likable character who just wants to make friends. He dreams of being a hero so that people will look up to him. Of course, he learns the hard way what being a hero really means. The town of Dirt, the desert, and multitude of characters are all fantastically drawn. There are times the film has a look of live action with terrific lighting and detail, and the colors are perfect.

 The voice acting in the film is truly outstanding and it starts with Depp’s fine work. Also contributing are Ned Beatty (Mayor), Bill Nighy (Rattlesnake Jake), Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Stephen Root, Alfred Molina (Armadillo), Ray Winstone, Charles Fleisher (from 1988’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit?) and Timothy Olyphant as the Clint Eastwood character no-named Spirit of the West. There is also a useful and very funny Mariachi band that pops up periodically to push the story along.

Director Gore Verbinski is known best for his Pirates of the Caribbean movies (with Depp) and he really gets to go all out on his visual style here. He is helped immensely by George Lucas‘ Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) and their first foray into animation. Heads up Pixar … you definitely have some tough competition!

A note of caution: I did notice a lot of younger kids seemed to get bored and had trouble following the story.  There are some terrific action scenes, but there is also a great deal of time spent on the story and characters – not exactly perfect for keeping a kid’s attention.

SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you love a good western or good animation (this one is both)

SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: you have very young kids … there are long dialogue-driven sequences between the few action effects