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:

 


AMERICAN VIOLENCE (2017)

February 4, 2017

american-violence Greetings again from the darkness. Making a political statement is nothing new for movies; however, if a filmmaker takes a stance on a controversial issue, the final product needs to be insightful and compelling in order to make a difference. Seemingly intent on making a mockery of the death penalty, director Timothy Woodward Jr delivers little more than a B-movie with a hyper-serious tone, but a script that is at times laughably off the mark.

Even before the opening credits roll, we get our first brutal murder … just moments after persnickety Bruce Dern belittles his wife over the sandwich she made for him. Next up, Dr. Amanda Tyler (Denise Richards) is being asked by the Assistant District Attorney to consult on the case of a death row inmate, to determine if a stay of execution should be granted. See, Dr. Tyler is a criminal psychologist. Yes, she’s played by Denise Richards. If this causes you frightening flashbacks to Ms. Richards’ role as a physicist in The World is Not Enough, then you begin to have some idea what this movie is like.

The inmate is Jackson Shea (a formidable Kaiwi Lyman-Mersereau) and as he tells his life story, we are provided scenes that explain how he got to this point. It’s a pretty interesting backstory starting with sleazy Uncle Mike, an alcoholic mother, and a seemingly endless array of circumstance that might have formed the basis of a better movie.

You will note many familiar faces along the way: Michael Pare as Shea’s partner, Patrick Kilpatrick as a criminal kingpin, Johnny Messner as a fellow criminal, and Emma Rigby as Shea’s love interest. For you football fans, you’ll likely reminisce about Brian Boswell when you witness Rob Gronkowski as a gun-toting bodyguard.

All of this could have been good criminal fun if we weren’t being incessantly slapped upside the head with the anti-Death Penalty message … how trading death for death isn’t appropriate, and for tilting the scales to show how criminals are basically good guys who accidentally end up in a bad spot thanks to a broken system and culture of violence. It’s all a bit too heavy-handed and self-righteous, taking away some of the joy in chuckling at Ms. Richards playing it straight as an intellectual idealist.

watch the trailer: