‘Joker,’ ‘Ad Astra,’ ‘The Laundromat,’ ‘Marriage Story’ to Compete in Venice [includes ‘Waiting for the Barbarians’]

A robust roster of awards contenders, including Brad Pitt space odyssey “Ad Astra” and Steven Soderbergh’s star-studded financial scandal comedy “The Laundromat,” will launch from the Venice Film Festival, which features a bit less high-wattage Hollywood fare this year but no shortage of hotly anticipated world premieres and stars.

The four U.S. pics in the Lido’s 21-title competition are all high-profile entries, starting with Fox’s “Ad Astra,” directed by James Grey, which features Pitt as an astronaut on a mission to save the solar system from imminent destruction. Netflix continues its strong track record on the Lido (where “Roma” debuted last year) with Noah Baumbach’s intimate divorce drama, “Marriage Story,” with Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson as a couple in conflict, and “The Laundromat,” which stars Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas in a tale based on the Panama Papers exposé. Warner Bros. is launching “Joker,” directed by Todd Philips and starring Joaquin Phoenix and Robert De Niro in what is expected to be a deliciously dark and gritty R-rated comic-book movie.

Amazon will be in Venice with out-of-competition entry “Seberg” (previously titled “Against All Enemies”), toplining Kristen Stewart as actress Jean Seberg. The political thriller directed by Benedict Andrews centers on attempts by the FBI to discredit Seberg through its Cointelpro program in retaliation for her support of the Black Panther Party.

Australian helmer David Michod’s Netflix title “The King,” an adaptation of several Shakespeare plays with an ensemble cast including Timothée Chalamet, Robert Pattinson, and Lily-Rose Depp, is also launching out-of-competition.

The competition slate features only two films directed by women: Saudi Arabian director Haifaa Al-Mansour’s “The Perfect Candidate” and the directorial debut of Australia’s Shannon Murphy, “Babyteeth.” “The Perfect Candidate” is a comedic drama about a young Saudi female physician who maneuvers through her conservative, male-dominated society to run in municipal elections. “Babyteeth” is a comedy involving a couple whose seriously ill teenage daughter has fallen madly in love with a drug dealer.

French auteur Olivier Assayas will compete with his English-language spy thriller, “Wasp Network,” which stars Penelope Cruz and Gael Garcia Bernal.

Other entries from France vying for a Golden Lion are “Gloria Mundi,” set in Marseille and directed by Robert Guediguian, and Roman Polanski’s “An Officer and a Spy,” starring Jean Dujardin as the French army officer who works to get to the bottom of the Dreyfus Affair, a notorious case of anti-Semitism in France. Polanski’s arrival on the Lido is likely to cause a stir in the wake of his expulsion from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The in-competition opener, as previously announced, is French-Japanese co-production “The Truth,” from Palme d’Or-winner Hirokazu Kore-eda, starring Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche and Ethan Hawke and marking the helmer’s first work set outside his native Japan.

Asia has a strong competition presence besides “The Truth.” With berths in the lineup are Hong Kong director Yonfan’s animation debut, “No. 7 Cherry Lane,” a love triangle involving a university student, a single mother and her teenage daughter, and Chinese director Lou Ye’s black-and-white thriller “Saturday Fiction,” starring Gong Li as an iconic actress in 1941 Shanghai during the Japanese occupation. But whether the latter film gets its “Dragon Seal” release permit, and then whether it remains in Chinese authorities’ good graces all the way to the screen, is not certain.

South American helmers have scored two competition slots. Chilean director Pablo Larrain (“Jackie”) is back with “Ema,” starring Garcia Bernal as a dancer in a marriage crisis, and Colombia’s Ciro Guerra (“Embrace the Serpent,” “Birds of Passage”) with his adaptation of J.M. Coetzee’s prize-winning novel “Waiting for the Barbarians.” It stars Johnny Depp, Mark Rylance and Robert Pattinson.

Veteran Swedish auteur Roy Andersson, who won the 2014 Golden Lion with “A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence,” will be back in competition on the Lido with his similarly absurdist “About Endlessness.” Czech director Vaclav Marhoul will compete with his adaptation of Jerzy Kosinski’s Holocaust novel “The Painted Bird,” with an ensemble cast including Stellan Skarsgard, Julian Sands and Harvey Keitel.

The Italian titles in the running for a Lion are all set in southern Italy. Mario Martone (“Capri Revolution”) is back with “The Mayor of Rione Sanità,” a contemporary adaptation of the play about organized crime by late Neapolitan playwright Eduardo De Filippo. Pietro Marcello’s “Martin Eden” is an adaptation of Jack London’s novel about a young self-taught American sailor struggling to become a writer, with the story and setting transposed to a fable-like 19th century Naples. And Sicily’s Franco Maresco has landed a slot with “La Mafia non è più quella di una volta” (which translates as “The Mafia Isn’t What It Used to Be”), billed as a grotesque look at present-day Palermo through the eyes of famed photographer Letizia Battaglia, who chronicled Palermo’s Mafia wars in the 1970s and ’80s.

Two high-end Italian TV skeins, Paolo Sorrentino’s new limited series, “The New Pope,” and Stefano Sollima’s cocaine-trafficking drama, “ZeroZeroZero,” are getting a Venice bow, out of competition.

Also granted an out-of-competition slot is the directorial debut of U.S. screenwriter Matthew Michael Carnahan (“World War Z”), based on journalist Luke Mogelson’s stories in the New Yorker about his time embedded with a SWAT unit as they fought against ISIS on the front lines in northern Iraq.

As previously announced, Argentinian director Lucrecia Martel will preside over the jury, and Julie Andrews and Pedro Almodovar will be honored with Golden Lions for lifetime achievement, following the pattern of Venice awarding career prizes to an actor and a director.

The festival also features a competitive virtual-reality section.

The 76th Venice Film Festival runs from Aug. 28 to Sept. 7.

VENICE FILM FESTIVAL LINEUP

IN COMPETITION

“The Truth,” Kore-eda Hirokazu (France, Japan) – OPENING FILM
“The Perfect Candidate,” Haifaa Al-Mansour (Saudi Arabia, Germany)
“About Endlessness,” Roy Andersson (Sweden)
“Wasp Network,” Olivier Assayas (France, Belgium)
“Marriage Story,” Noah Baumbach (U.S.)
“Guest of Honor,” Atom Egoyan (Canada)
“Ad Astra,” James Gray (U.S.)
“A Herdade,” Tiago Guedes (Portugal, France)
“Gloria Mundi,” Robert Guediguian (France)
“Waiting for the Barbarians,” Ciro Guerra (Italy)
“Ema,” Pablo Larrain (Chile)
“Saturday Fiction,” Lou Ye (China)
“Martin Eden,” Pietro Marcello (Italy, France, Germany)
“La Mafia non è più quella di Una Volta,” Franco Maresco
“The Painted Bird,” Vaclav Marhoul (Czech Republic)
“The Mayor of Rione Sanità,” Mario Martone (Italy, France)
“Babyteeth,” Shannon Murphy (Australia)
“Joker,” Todd Philips (U.S.)
“An Officer and a Spy,” Roman Polanski (France)
“The Laundromat,” Steven Soderbergh (U.S.)
“No. 7 Cherry Lane,” Yonfan (China)

OUT OF COMPETITION – Fiction

“The Burnt Orange Heresy,” Giuseppe Capotondi (U.K., Italy) – CLOSING FILM
“Seberg,” Benedict Andrews (U.S.)
“Vivere,” Francesca Archibugi (Italy)
“Mosul,” Matthew Michael Carnahan (U.S.)
“Adults in the Room,” Costa-Gavras (France, Greece)
“The King,” David Michod (U.K., Hungary)
“Tutto il mio folle amore,” Gabriele Salvatores (Italy)

OUT OF COMPETITION – Non-Fiction

“Woman,” Yann Arthus-Bertrand, Anastasia Mikova (France)
“Roger Waters: Us + Them,” Roger Waters (U.K.)
“I Diari di Angela – Noi Due Cineasti. Capitolo Secondo. Yervant Gianikian, Angela Ricci Lucchi (Italy)
“Citizen K,” Alex Gibney (U.K., U.S.)
“Citizen Rosi,” Didi Gnocchi, Carolina Rosi (Italy)
“The Kingmaker,” Lauren Greenfield (U.S.)
“State Funeral,” Sergei Loznitsa (The Netherlands, Lithuania)
“Collective,” Alexander Nanau (Romania, Luxembourg)
“45 Seconds of Laughter,” Tim Robbins (U.S.)
“Il pianeta in mare,” Daniele Segre (Italy)

OUT OF COMPETITION – Special Screenings

“No One Left Behind,” Guillermo Arriaga (Mexico)
“Electric Swan,” Konstantina Kotzamani (France, Greece, Argentina)
“Irreversible – Inversion Integrale,” Gaspar Noe (France)
“ZeroZeroZero,” (Episodes 1 and 2) Stefano Sollima (Italy, France)
“The New Pope” (Episodes 2 and 7) Paolo Sorrentino (Italy, U.S.)
“Never Just a Dream: Stanley Kubrick And Eyes Wide Shut,” Matt Wells (U.K.)
“Eyes Wide Shut,” Stanley Kubrick (U.S., U.K.)

HORIZONS

“Pelican Blood,” Katrin Gebbe (Germany, Bulgaria)
“Zumiriki,” Oskar Alegria (Spain)
“Bik Eneich – Un Fils,” Mehdi M. Barsaoui (Tunisia, France, Lebanon, Qatar)
“Blanco en Blanco,” Theo Court (Spain, Chile, France, Germany)
“Mes Jours de Gloire,” Antoine De Bary (France)
“Nevia,” Nunzia De Stefano (Italy)
“Moffie,” Oliver Hermanus (South Africa)
“Hava, Maryam, Ayesha,” Sahara Karimi (Afghanistan)
“Rialto,” Peter Mackie Burns (Ireland)
“The Criminal Man,” Dmitry Mamuliya (Georgia, Russia)
“Revenir,” Jessica Palud (France)
“Giants Being Lonely,” Great Patterson (U.S.)
“Balloon,” Pema Tseden (China)
“Verdict,” Raymund Ribas Gutierrez (Philippines)
“Just 6.5,” Saeed Roustaee (Iran)
“Shadow of Water,” Sasidharan Sanal Kumar (India)
“Sole,” Carlo Sironi (Italy)
“Madre,” Rodrigo Sorogoyen (Spain, France)
“Atlantis,” Valentyn Vasyanovych (Ukraine)

 

Total results: 241

Fran Drescher, Justin Long Make Plea for Compassion at ‘Safe Spaces’ Tribeca Film Fest Premiere

Despite the title feeling “polarizing,” the ‘Safe Spaces’ director explained that the film takes a nuanced approach to the contentious subject.

Daniel Schechter’s latest film, Safe Spaces, premiered at Tribeca Film Festival on Monday, continuing the debate over the value of the so-called areas, whether physical or metaphorical, in which people can be fully self-expressed without facing judgement or harassment.

Safe spaces are most often discussed within the context of college campuses, and Schechter’s film follows suit. In the film, Justin Long plays an adjunct creative writing professor who’s forced to grapple with the backlash to a class discussion that he saw as innocent, but others felt crossed the line.

“I think it is a fascinating debate. Anyone who’s like, it should be all this way or all the other way, I think they’re being just too certain about their behavior,” Schechter told The Hollywood Reporter. “This movie doesn’t offer any particularly easy, quick answers on it.”

Schechter revealed that Long’s character is actually partially inspired by himself and his experience as a teacher.

“I went into that job probably being on one side of the argument. I didn’t really see the value of [safe spaces]. I hadn’t done a lot of research about it,” he said. “But I think being there, and seeing circumstances with my own eyes, I started to change my opinion a little bit. I think the #MeToo movement started happening, and I kind of started thinking any opportunity to maybe make an environment feel a little safer probably isn’t a preposterous thing to consider at all. And I think the movie tries to offer the benefits of that and the potential dangers of that going too far. [It’s] trying to walk a fine line of nuance.”

Though Schechter said he definitely doesn’t want Safe Spaces to seem controversial, he did admit the title is a bit polarizing. But it “stuck,” and he thought if moviegoers ignored the stigmatization of the term, “it actually feels like a very warm, nice title for the movie.”

Long explained that, at its core, Safe Spaces is about compassion. “I think the big thing that I hope people take away from the movie is, just have more empathy for people and their struggles and where they’re coming from,” he told THR.

Fran Drescher, who plays Long’s mother, preached a similar message when describing her feelings toward safe spaces. “I think it’s a very interesting time we’re moving through because there’s a heightened sensitivity to other people’s, particularly women’s, feelings. And that’s a good thing,” she said, adding that she “doesn’t know a woman that has not, at one point in her life, been compromised to one degree or another.”

Like Long’s character, Drescher’s role in the film is based on a real-life person: Schechter’s mother, who even suggested that Drescher play her.

“It’s about a Jewish New York family so it was kind of a no-brainer,” Drescher said.

Beyond the college controversy, Safe Spaces follows this family — Kate Berlant as Long’s sister, Michael Godere as his brother and Richard Schiff as their estranged father — all of whom are brought together by the siblings’ ailing grandmother (Lynn Cohen).

“What’s unique about this family is they’re extremely honest with each other, to this beautiful degree of willing to get painfully truthful with each other,” Godere told THR. “And the result is kind of this dynamic comedy.”

Adds Schiff, “It’s very complicated and complex but kind of beautiful. It’s really about how love is fluid underneath all this confusion and complexity that we live with. It’s a beautifully written script.”

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Megan Fox, Brian Austin Green Team to Star in Family Adventure ‘Dakota’

It’s the first time the real-life husband-and-wife team will headline a movie together.

Real-life married couple and pop culture fixtures Megan Fox and Brian Austin Green have teamed to star in their first feature together.

Fox, who starred in the Michael Bay Transformersmovies, and Green, one of the headliners of the original Beverly Hills, 90210, will star in Dakota, a family action-adventure thriller from Andrea Iervolino and Monika Bacardi’s AMBI Media Group and Iervolino Entertainment S.p.A.

Kirk Harris will direct the film, which marks a reunion of the teams behind the family-adventure indie hit Bernie the Dolphin, and its sequel, now in postproduction. Harris helmed the two Berniemovies.

Like BernieDakota will be produced by AMBI along with Marty Poole of Fairway Film Alliance and Ace Underhill of Brilliant Screen Studios.

Dakota centers on Kate (Fox), a widow who lost her husband in the war in Afghanistan and is struggling to maintain her small-town farm with her daughter while also running the local volunteer fire department. Into her life enters a soldier (Green) who is seeking to full a promise by bringing home her late husband’s best friend, a combat dog by the name of Dakota.

And just in time, too. Because as Dakota adjusts to life on the farm and becomes a local hero after rescuing a woman from a burning building, the local sheriff has designs on the widow’s valuable farm land and has been leaning on her to sell the property. He’ll stop at nothing to get his hands on the land, including setting fire to the farm. With the help of the soldier, her daughter and her new best friend, Dakota, the woman will realize the true value of the family farm and most importantly, friendship.

Johnny Harrington (I Still Know What You Did Last Summer) wrote the screenplay.

“Having Megan and Brian star together is really cool for us as we certainly won’t have to manufacture the kind of chemistry and magic that makes a family film like this so special!” Iervolino said in a statement. “This is the type of lighthearted yet adventurous material that audiences are really responding to these days, so we’re very happy to be making more films in this space and know Dakota will touch on the soft spots audiences have for feel-good entertainment.”

AMBI Distribution, the worldwide sales arm of the AMBI Media Group, is handling global sales and will be introducing the project to buyers in Cannes.

Principal photography is set to commence this summer.

Dakota represents AMBI’s continued push into PG- and G-rated films as it seeks to build a family brand and follows the success of Bernie the Dolphin, which it is trying to turn into a franchise. Bernie had a 25-city theatrical release in December via Lionsgate, with the same planned for Bernie 2.

Fox and Green have numerous credits between them but have largely avoided working together. Green did appear, however, in an uncredited role in a scene in How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, a 2008 comedy in which Fox starred with Simon Pegg and Kirsten Dunst. The duo are repped by ICM Partners.

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‘Bernie the Dolphin 2’ Heads Into Production

Andrea Iervolino and Monika Bacardi’s Ambi Media Group is re-teaming with Kirk Harris and Marty Poole’s Fairway Films Alliance to finance and produce a sequel to “Bernie the Dolphin.”

Lola Sultan, Patrick Muldoon, Logan Allen, Kevin Sorbo, and Dahlia Legault (“The Walking Dead”) will reprise their roles in the family dolphin adventure. Ambi Distribution, the worldwide sales arm of the Ambi Media Group, will be introducing the project to international distributors at the American Film Market, which opened Oct. 31.

Bernie the Dolphin 2” will shoot on location at Marineland Dolphin Adventure in St. Augustine, Fla., as well as in St. Petersburg-Clearwater starting in December.

Kirk Harris will direct “Bernie the Dolphin 2” from a screenplay written by Emerson and Poole, who are also producing along with Ambi principals Iervolino and Bacardi, as well as Tony Armer, the film commissioner for St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla. Digital Caviar is the Florida based production partner. Executive producers are Barry Brooker and Stan Wertlieb.

“Bernie the Dolphin” centered on a brother and sister who befriend a badly sunburned dolphin separated from his family and uncover a secret plan that could destroy the beach and their new friend’s home. The sequel includes a new dolphin named Rascal.

“Bernie the Dolphin” opens in limited theaters nationwide next month. Grindstone Entertainment has acquired all North American distribution rights on behalf of Lionsgate Home Entertainment.

Iervolino said, “Approaching the release of the first film, we’re seeing the popularity of ‘Bernie the Dolphin’ and now know that it should be treated as a true family franchise. Greenlighting a sequel quickly, and bringing back the original charming cast is an easy decision for us having sold the film in over 135 countries around the world. This is a fun, light-hearted story with lots of dolphins that resonates globally and we see as evergreen.”

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Sarah Jessica Parker’s ‘Here And Now’ To Hit Theaters In November In AMBI & Paramount Deal

AMBI Distribution and Paramount Worldwide Acquisitions have teamed to acquire rights to Here and Now, the drama produced by and starring Sarah Jessica Parker that bowed at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival under the title Blue Night.

The film is directed by Fabien Constant in his feature helming debut and co-stars Simon Baker, Common, Taylor Kinney, Waleed Zuaiter along with Jacqueline Bisset and Renée Zellweger. It will hit theaters November 9 via AMBI with a commitment of at least 50 markets, we’re hearing, day-and-date with digital and VOD through Paramount Home Media Distribution.

Parker stars as Vivienne, a a singer-songwriter who lives in New York City and has enjoyed a successful career with the help of her manager, Ben (Common). Upon receiving world-shattering news, she crisscrosses the city in a single day as she tries to balance her music, family and friends, and reflect on her successes and failures. With the support of her worried mother Jeanne (Bisset) and ex-husband Nick (Baker), Vivienne strives to make peace with the city around her. Laura Eason (House of Cards) penned the script.

Parker and Alison Benson produced with AMBI Group’s Andrea Iervolino and Monika Bacardi, and Phil Hunt, Compton Ross, Anna Dokoza and Luca Matrundola executive produced.

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