Review Round-Up: “Corporate Animals,” “Loro,” And “Zeroville”


Yes, it’s that time again. You know the one, where we catch up on all of the theatrical releases that haven’t gotten a review yet in one fell swoop (such is the case during the busy fall season). Today, it’s three very unique films, all hoping to get your attention this weekend. We have the comedy Corporate Animals, the foreign biopic/satire Loro, and the Hollywood drama/thriller Zeroville, based on the acclaimed book of the same name. Each movie has something to offer, but do they all offer enough to warrant a recommendation? Do any? Well, you’ll just have to read on below to find out…

Corporate Animals


Back at the Sundance Film Festival, buzz was pretty strong initially for Corporate Animals, a satirical comedy. Most of it centered on how Demi Moore would fare in a baity role. Well, Sundance came and went, with middling response to the film. Sometimes, that’s just the nature of the festival. However, in this case, people were on to something. Despite a clever premise and some funny lines here and there, this is a bit of a misfire.

The movie is a comedy centered on what happens when everything goes wrong during a corporate retreat. I’ll let the IMDb synopsis set things up: “Lucy (Demi Moore) is the egotistical megalomaniac CEO of Incredible Edibles, America’s premier provider of edible cutlery. In her infinite wisdom, Lucy leads her staff including her long-suffering assistants, Freddie (Karan Soni) and Jess (Jessica Williams), on a corporate team-building caving weekend to New Mexico. When disaster strikes, not even their useless guide, Brandon (Ed Helms), can save them. Trapped underground by a cave-in, this mismatched and disgruntled group must pull together in order to survive.” Mainly, we follow as Moore’s Lucy acts awful, while Williams’ Jess and Soli’s Freddie try and figure out if there’s a non cannibal-related way to stay alive. Hilarity supposedly ensues. Patrick Brice directs a script by Sam Bain, with supporting players including Dan Bakkedahl, Frank Bond, Martha Kelly, Jennifer Kim, Nasim Pedrad, Calum Worthy, and Isiah Whitlock Jr., among others.

Demi Moore deserves credit for going all in on a bold role like this. Unfortunately, while her performance has bite, the film itself doesn’t really. Too many of the jokes are obvious, while the pacing is fairly ponderous. Patrick Brice did a much better job with awkward comedy in The Overnight. Here, he never gets a handle on the type of movie he’s trying to make. It tries a lot of different things, but rarely succeeds, sadly.

Corporate Animals could have been a lot of fun. Sporadically, it is. However, despite some ample comedic talent in front of the screen, as well as a committed turn by Moore, it never comes together to form a film worth making much of a fuss about. Alas.

Loro


Tell me if this person sounds familiar to you? A rich businessman with shady dealings, multiple wives, and a predilection for extramarital affairs becomes the head of a country? No, this isn’t a Donald Trump biopic, but instead a look at Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the controversial leader who has inspired Loro, from Paolo Sorrentino. Initially a two part affair, it has been streamlined into one long movie, one which isn’t quite as strong as it could have been, but still provides a consistently compelling portrait into what makes someone tick.

The film is a somewhat biographical drama, as you can see in the synopsis from IMDb here: “During a tumultuous period in the career of Silvio Berlusconi, as his marriage to second wife Veronica Lario fractures, LORO speculates on what may or may not have taken place behind closed doors, depicting a wide variety of characters from multiple levels of society and their attempts to either ingratiate or distance themselves from him.” Toni Servillo plays Berlusconi, a debauchery loving leader who fancies himself above the law. Familiar, right? The aforementioned Sorrentino directs and co-writes here with Umberto Contarello. Supporting players include Elena Sofia Ricci, Riccardo Scamarcio, and many more.

There is something inherently fascinating about watching power corrupt, and Loro understands that, often quite perceptively. The parade of naked women is just a front, a way to let in to the world that Berlusconi created for himself. In some ways, this is a King Lear type tale, with a towering turn by Servillo. Sorrentino directs the hell out of the film, even if it never quite reaches the emotional levels that Youth did a few years back.

Loro is a definite curiosity. Even if there weren’t clear comparisons you could make to Trump and the current situation in the United States, this would be a fascinating watch. Sorrentino indulges in his normal extravagant impulses, though it certainly doesn’t hurt that this is the perfect subject and subject matter for it. Anyone interested in the topic would do well to check it out.

Zeroville


James Franco is a fascinating director. Up until The Disaster Artist, it would be tough to call anything he’s helmed “good.” However, he’s clearly experimental and not afraid to tackle tough material. Here, with the long on the shelf Zeroville, he goes epic in scope to tell a Hollywood tale. While it’s a definite misfire, there’s moments that really are strong. It easily shows why he was finally up to the task of The Disaster Artist shortly thereafter.

Adapted from the novel by Steve Erickson, this is how Rotten Tomatoes describe’s Franco’s film: “Ike Jerome, a 24-year-old architecture student inspired by the few films he has seen, rides the bus into Hollywood. Jerome is almost autistic (later, his friend dubs him a “cineautistic”) in his interactions with the world. With a tattoo of Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor as they appear in A Place in the Sun (a film that plays an important role in the plot) on his shaved head, he makes an impression on the people around him. Soon breaking into film as a designer and eventually a film editor, Vikar (as he is nicknamed) begins a dreamlike journey into the world of films that eventually ends in tragedy and almost horrific discovery.” Franco plays Vikar, while also directing (Paul Felten and Ian Olds wrote the script), with the rest of an impressive cast includes Will Ferrell, Megan Fox, Joey King, Craig Robinson, Seth Rogen, Jacki Weaver, and a whole host of others.

Parts of this flick are terrific. Parts of it are terrible. Early scenes without Franco attending a party with Rogen’s clear stand in for John Milius are strong, especially involving the other stand ins for Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, etc. Franco loves movies and movie history, which shows. However, once the plot itself kicks into gear, things grind to a halt and his filmmaking style of throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks starts to grate on you.

Franco mined Hollywood and its appeal to outsiders far more successfully in The Disaster Artist. Zeroville would be his most accomplished directorial outing if not for that, which isn’t saying much. Franco devotees will want to give this one a look, but others really need not apply. It’s far too much of a mixed bag.


All three films are in theaters now!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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