It’s Worth Heading to Silvio Berlusconi’s Italy If Paolo Sorrentino is the Director

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Toni Servillo in Loro

Starring: Toni Servillo, Elena Sofia Ricci, Riccardo Scamarcio, Kasia Smutniak, Euridice Axen, Fabrizio Bentivoglio

Director: Paolo Sorrentino

Running Time: 151 Minutes

Rating: Unrated, But Be Aware of the Molly-Fueled Orgiastic Parties

Release Date: September 20, 2019 (Limited)

If you see a film directed by the Italian Paolo Sorrentino, chances are you’re going to be intoxicated. He’s developed a reputation for lavish, sensuous experiences – non-stop pleasure gardens, if you will. They have the sort of sumptuous vibe that I imagine Silvio Berlusconi wanted to engender while he was prime minister of Italy. So it’s no wonder that Sorrentino has made the ambitiously sprawling Loro, which attempts to capture no less than the essence of the orbit around Berlusconi. Interestingly, but also vitally, the man himself doesn’t show up until about halfway through. Instead, the beginning is a mix of businessman attempting to make power moves in a culture that would much rather have endless poolside orgies to the tune of such classics as Harry Nilsson’s “Jump Into the Fire” and Santigold’s “L.E.S. Artistes.” It’s beautifully, vibrantly shot, almost dangerously so. You practically want to tear off your clothes and jump in yourself.

But then Berlusconi (Toni Servillo*) steps in with his paunchy belly, and the party crashes hard. (*-Servillo also pulls double duty as billionaire businessman Ennio Doris.) As he takes stock of how things didn’t turn out the way he hoped while he ruled over his beloved country, Loro becomes tinged with melancholy, as the promise of hedonism proves, naturally enough, to be less than fulfilling. But a moment of clear-headed reflection would be all wrong for this subject, and that is in fact not what Sorrentino has in mind. The soullessness of the man at the center is clear enough when he says things like, “Altruism is the best way to be selfish.” Loro is an autopsy for the innocence of all involved, but it’s cleansing for viewers if you let yourself go through the whole thing.

Loro is Recommended If You Like: Paolo Sorrentino’s Filmography and TV-ography

Grade: 4 out of 5 Bunga Bungas

This Is a Movie Review: John Wick: Chapter 2

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This review was originally published on News Cult in February 2017.

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamarcio, Common, Ruby Rose, Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne

Director: Chad Stahelski

Running Time: 122 Minutes

Rating: R for BANG! BANG! BANG!

Release Date: February 10, 2017

The first John Wick was one of the loudest theatrical experiences I have ever endured. I did not encounter this complaint from anyone else, but I’m fairly certain I was not going insane. It’s possible that this particular auditorium’s sound mix was way out of proportion, but I am intimately familiar with that theater, so that explanation is unlikely. With Chapter 2 now on the way, I can safely say I feel vindicated about calling this franchise the most aurally assaulting around.

This hitman free-for-all kicks off with engines revving and metal crashing in an opening car chase that leaves you no opportunity to get your bearings. You might have enough time to put your hands over your ears, but barely. At least there appears to be a rhythm to the volume – a physical one, that is. In conclusion, I have spent two paragraphs explaining that my favorite part of John Wick: Chapter 2 is how great a massage it gave me, via the vibrations caused by the cacophony. I may have some moral qualms about deriving relaxation from such wanton violence, but this is a patently fantastical universe (despite its lived-in New York trappings), so we can skate around that a bit.

The concepts that the first John Wick introduced to the action genre are ones for the ages. The global hitman battle royale is like a magical underworld that exists within the shadows. Plus, the hotel serving these assassins, in which all killing is forbidden, with Concierge Lance Reddick whisking us in, is a rich setup for comic relief. But it was all undone by sloppy editing that I could not believe an otherwise sophisticated flick thought it could get away with. Maybe a new hand on the controls is just what was needed, as Evan Schiff takes over for Elísabet Ronalds, and there is a whole lot more patience in the cuts. If Keanu Reeves is going to shove a pencil in one guy’s ear and another guy’s neck, we want to be able to see it. And in Chapter 2, we see EVERYTHING.

John Wick films are less about plot and more about setup. In this edition, Wick is forced to repay his debt, but it proves to be a trick to make him vulnerable. This is all just an excuse to get to the action, and it is effective. Wick’s reputation is an almost supernaturally skilled killer, often discussed in hushed tones and referred to as “The Boogeyman.” Yet his actual name is also repeated ad infinitum. The highest compliment I can pay this movie is that the action is so relentlessly intense that that lapse in logic does not matter.

John Wick: Chapter 2 is Recommended If You Like: The first John Wick But Wish It Had Been Edited Better, Laurence Fishburne Shouting to the Heavens

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Million Dollar Bounties