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Preview: 75th Venice Film Festival

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There is still life in the old festival yet. The oldest running film festival in recent years has been dubbed as a leap-pad for Oscar contending films. After The Shape of Water won the Golden Lion last year, it went on to win big at the Academy Awards. Will one of Venice’s films repeat that in 2019? Many cinephiles are dubbing this year’s programme as one of the greatest line ups in the festival’s long and illustrious history.

We were aware of Damien Chazelle’s return on the Lido, with the opening night film ‘First Man’. Along with Bradley Copper’s directorial debut ‘A Star is Born, starring Lady Gaga. The rumour mill has been rife with who is coming and who isn’t coming, especially as Toronto Film Festival will be opening soon after Venice concludes. The list of films at Venice could not stop any cinephile from smiling from ear to ear. This included ‘Roma’ (Alfonso Cuaron), Peterloo (Mike Leigh), ‘The Nightingale’ (Jennifer Kent), ‘Suspiria’ (Luca Guadagnino), ‘The Favourite’ (Yorogs Lanthimos) and ‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’ (The Coen Brothers).

Venice has welcomed Netflix with open arms this year, compared to the Cannes Film Festival banning them. “We must come to terms…with these new production realities,” Venice Film Festival director Alberto Barbera told a news conference on Wednesday. The Netflix films in competition are the Coen brothers’ western ‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’, which was originally a mini series but it’s now a feature length feature. ‘Roma’ by Alfonso Cuaron which is a black and white tribute to 1970’s Mexico. Paul Greengrass will present ’22 July’ – about the aftermath of the 2011 massacre of 77 people in Norway by Anders Breivik. Netflix is also bringing Orson Welles’ unfinished “The Other Side of the Wind” to the festival out of competition. Venice had a few notable absentees in the press conference with ‘High Life’ (Claire Denis), ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ (Barry Jenkins), ‘The Beach Bum’ (Harmony Korine), ‘Widows’ (Steve McQueen) and ‘Beautiful Boy'(Felix Van Groeningen). The omissions alone would create another festival line up, but the full official line up doesn’t disappoint.

Here are a few films to keep an eye out for during the festival; Yorgos Lanthimos returns to Venice with his period dramedy The Favourite, I would interpret it as his attempt at a Barry Lyndon-esque tale with a Lanthimosian twist. Starring Emma Stone, Olivia Coleman and Rachel Wiesz it a certain award contender, and my most anticipated at the festival. French director Jaques Audiard makes his English language film debut with The Sisters Brothers. An American style western filmed entirely in Europe with a twist. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, John C.Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix this will be a film not to be missed on the Lido. Doubles Vies by Olivier Assayas with Guillaume Canet and Juliette Binoche. This is a comedy story of two couples who interact romantically and professionally, and a reflection on the changes of the intellectuals after the digital revolution. It will be interesting to see if Assayas will continue his hot streak after Clouds of Sils Maria and Personal Shopper.

Jennifer Kent brings The Nightingale to Venice. The Babadook director is the only female filmmaker in the main competition, which has come as concern as many others should be in main competition too. It is set in 1825 Tasmania, follows a young female convict out for revenge against the British officer (Sam Claflin) who she witnessed commit an act of brutality against her family. Kent can create suspense out of nothing, let’s hope The Nightingale will deliver. From Call Me By Your Name to Suspiria, Luca Guadagnino returns to Venice. It has been heavily rumoured for sometime that the remake of Dario Argento’s classic will feature and now it’s official. The remake has had a large backlash, but the secrecy of the film and trailer for Guadagnino have the audience hooked. Expect to see Tilda Swinton, Dakota Johnson and Chloë Grace Moretz on the red carpet. The opening film at the Festival is probably it’s biggest title Damien Chazelle’s First Man. La La Land opened the festival in 2016 and went on to win multiple Academy Awards. Could Ryan Gosling’s Neil Armstrong character study take him and Chazelle back into awards season? First Man is probably one of the big fishes in the early stages no doubt.

The 75th Venice Film Festival looks set to be the festival highlight of 2018. Movie Marker will be covering the festival, so be sure to keep an eye on our site and on social media for all the reviews and news.

Casting News

Ana de Armas Joins Daniel Craig In Rian Johnson’s Knives Out

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Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049) has officially signed on to join actors Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, and Michael Shannon in Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson’s Knives Out.

The film, which Johnson also wrote, is scheduled to start shooting next month. Knives Out has been described as a contemporary whodunit, with Craig portraying an archetypal grizzled detective, tasked with getting to the bottom of a classic locked-room murder mystery.

Johnson is set to produce with his creative partner Ram Bergman, and studios are expected to bid fiercely for the rights to distribute the feature in the coming months. Craig was previously pencilled in to begin shooting Bond 25 for director Danny Boyle at the tail end of this year, but when Boyle departed that project following creative differences it freed up the Casino Royale actor’s schedule to join Knives Out.

Somewhat ironically, Ana de Armas can next be seen in an untitled project from Danny Boyle, which is likely to release prior to Johnson’s crime thriller.

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The Grinch Eyeing $50m+ Opening Weekend

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Illumination Animation’s forthcoming The Grinch, with Benedict Cumberbatch voicing the green grouch, has landed on early tracking – and Universal could be looking at quite the Christmas present.

Yes, by all accounts, The Grinch is looking at a minimum $50m opening weekend, with that number potentially ballooning as the weeks roll on and the film’s marketing pushes deeper into the public consciousness.

It’s worth bearing in mind that the franchise (and character) has proven itself before to have both presence and staying power; 2000’s live-action version, starring Jim Carrey in the title role, opened to $55 million and went on to score $260 million total, not adjusted for inflation.

The Grinch is due out in UK cinemas on the 9th November, rated PG.

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Venom Producer Gives Weak Excuse For Carnage Not Being The Film’s Villain

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When a Venom movie sans-wallcrawler was first announced, many assumed that the smart move would be pitting the black symbiote against well-known comic antagonist Carnage; a red palette-swap of the film’s titular antihero, inhabited by serial-killer Cletus Kasady.

However, that turned out to not be the case. Sony still went with the age-old classic superhero movie villain formula (exactly like the hero, but, y’know, evil – see also; Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, etc etc.) but eschewed the better-known Carnage for, of all characters, Riot – a silver-coloured symbiote inhabited by Carlton Drake, head of the LIFE Foundation, and birthed from an oft-forgotten 90s comic book arc.

When asked the reasoning behind the decision to scrape through the bottom of the Marvel barrel and to drudge up a Z-lister like Riot for their initial, flagship Spidey-cinematic-universe-minus-Spidey feature, producer Matt Tolmach gave an almost unbelievably pathetic excuse:

“[If you have Carnage] you have two origins, and it really limits. We thought about it long and hard. It limits what you can do with the origin of Venom. So, what do you do with that? Well, then the movie itself becomes the origin of Venom, and then Carnage enters the equation. That was always the idea, that you would be setting it up, from the very beginning.”

Now, putting aside that the movie gives an origin to Riot as part of its structure, and the fact that the movie’s post-credits scene gives a pretty complete set-up for Cletus Kasady (portrayed by Woody Harrelson, donning an incredibly cheap-looking ginger wig), it’s still a staggeringly weak reason. Complaining that a villain also needs setting up – something that most superhero origin films manage to pull off quite neatly – smacks of an almost impressive level of laziness. Granted, once you’ve done ‘Venom vs. Carnage’, there’s not a tremendous amount of places left to take a webslinger-less Venom franchise, but it’s still going to feel deliriously samey when/if Venom 2 rolls around.

Venom stars Tom Hardy and is in cinemas now, rated 12A.

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