Venice Film Festival Line Up Announced

The Venice film festival which launches in late August has announced its official line up for 2019. Brad Pitt’s space drama Ad Astra and Robert Pattinson’s Shakespearean drama The King are among those set for world premieres.

Meryl Steep and Gary Oldman’s Steven Sodenberg drama The Laundromat is also included in this year’s line-up.

In a controversial move director Roman Polanski, currently locked in a legal battle over his recent expulsion from the American Academy, will screen his latest film An Officer and a Spy at the festival.

Marriage story featuring Scarlett Johansson and Adam driver also features this year as does Joaquin Phoenix much anticipated comic book movie Joker.

Overall the line-up is considered to potentially have fewer Oscar front runner compared to last year’s selection which launched The Favourite, First Man and A Star Is Born with world premieres.

Dickens Drama Opens London Film Festival 2019

This year’s BFI London Film Festival will officially open with the premiere of director Armando Iannucci’s Charles Dickens adaptation The Personal Life Of David Copperfield.

The film has attracted attention for the casting of Slumdog Millionaire star Dev Patel in the lead role, deliberately ignoring the racial expectations of a character traditionally portrayed by white actors due to the historical and cultural setting.

Iannucci himself commented on the deliberate move towards so called colour-blind casting.

“ You shouldn’t have to bat an eyelid and you don’t. Because the best people are cast for the parts. I’ve noticed it’s something that’s been happening in theatre for a long time… Dev has the potential to flit in seconds form being vulnerable and gawky and funny to being quite dramatic and strong.”

The rest of the cast includes Benedict Wong, Peter Capaldi, Tilda Swinton and newcomer Rosalind Eleazar.

The period drama will also have a more modern and pointedly diverse take on the famous novel with director Iannucci asserting he wanted to give the costume drama a more contemporary feel.

The film is set to have its official European premiere opening night of the 63rd London Film Festival which runs from 2 to 13 October 2019.

TIFF 2019 Announces First Line Up Details

The Toronto International Film Festival announced its first wave of movies set to be included in this year’s line-up.

Renee Zellweger’s Judy Garland Biopic and Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker origin story are among the prominent Oscar hopefuls included in this year’s typically sensational collection of films.

Other films in the initial line up include Taika Waititi’s black comedy Jojo Rabbit starring Scarlett Johansson and Tom Hanks Mr Rodgers biopic A Beautiful day In The Neighbourhood.

Just Mercy, Le Mans ’66, The Goldfinch, The Two Popes, Bad Education, Marriage Sotry, Uncut Gems, The personal History of David Copperfield and Meryl Streep drama The Laundromat also get high profile premiere’s at this year’s festival attracting awards buzz of their own.

Significantly this year more than half the gala presentations are director or co-directed by women. A landmark achievement proudly acknowledged by the festival’s artistic director Cameron Bailey.

This year’s TIFF festival runs from 5-15 September.

Spider-Man Far From Home Review

The Plot

Peter Parker returns to his normal life following the climactic events of Avengers Endgame and sets out on a summer holiday to Europe with his friends looking to escape the pressures of being Spider-Man and possibly even find love.

The Good

Marvel takes an assured first step as it casually launches the next phase in its vast cinematic universe. After the dramatic and universe re-defining adventures of Avengers Endgame, it’s refreshing and vaguely appropriate to have the adolescent Peter Parker guide audiences back to more earthbound human drama in a post ‘snap’ world.

Swinging back into action as Spider-Man, young star Tom Holland continues to do great work in making his version of the costume clad web crawler an endearingly awkward and earnest young hero, reluctantly drawn into the responsibilities of saving the world yet again. Holland does well in playing the genuine conflict between Peter Parker’s desire for an ordinary teenage existence and the obvious responsibilities of being a super hero. This is the true essence of the character that Stan Lee originally created and Marvel clearly understands that.

Having obviously lost the excellent chemistry between Holland and Robert Downey Jnr’s mentor like Iron Man, Marvel is quick to replace this with a new adult chaperone for Spider-Man in the form of a stern faced Nick Fury, played with usual flare by Samuel L Jackson. It’s a smart move that gives both characters a more natural place in the MCU going forward. Combined with the more affectionate mentorship of Jon Favreu’s Happy Hogan it’s a successful substitution for the scene stealing bond between Peter and Tony Stark.

A solid supporting cast lends Far From Home much of its comedy and heart with particular praise due to Jacob Batalon as Peters pal Ned, Martin Starr as his clueless teacher and Zendaya as love interest MJ. Jake Gyllenhaal is also another welcome and long overdue addition to the MCU, playing the suitably mysterious new hero Mysterio.

The Bad

Some of the film’s plot points might be a little too easily second guessed by those familiar with the comics. Also given the sheer number of films Marvel have already offered up to fans it’s a little difficult to find a story that offers something truly original and unexpected at this stage.

The film is also burdened with having to explain how a post Thanos world functions, forcing the film to hastily gloss over the many unanswered questions about the ‘snap’ and its eventual undoing. This new world presents plenty of unique storytelling opportunities that could have been explored by much more than just a couple of minutes of casual exposition nestled amongst an otherwise unrelated adventure.

While the film offers plenty of the usual action it’s perhaps also noticeably slightly more cartoonish and obviously CGI enhanced than past Spider-Man versions have been. Likewise the film’s set pieces and European setting does at times fell like an obvious parade of recognisable landmarks. As a vehicle for moving the story forward a literal tourist road trip feels just a little heavy handed at times. Though certain to be a huge help with international marketing campaigns.

The Ugly Truth

Spider-Man Far From Home is another pleasingly playful addition to the never ending MCU that gives Tom Holland another chance to shine as a convincingly adolescent Pete Parker and an increasingly seasoned Spider-Man. The film follows a similar formula as Spider-Man Homecoming and offers fans the usual mix of action, winking comedy and even a few genuine surprises along the way.

Review by Russell Nelson

Extremely Wicked Shockingly Evil and Vile Review

The Plot

Handsome and charismatic young law student Ted Bundy becomes the centre of a sensational series of murder trials during the 1970s that suggest he may in fact be a prolific and dangerously violent serial killer, leaving his girlfriend and family struggling to know what to believe.

The Good

Zac Efron has gradually graduated from High School Musical teen stardom to achieve a firmly cemented status as a credible leading man. The impeccably handsome and charismatic star is a surprisingly good fit for Ted Bundy. A million miles away from the silly comedy antics of Bad Neighbours, Dirty Grandpa or Baywatch; in this drama Efron offer audiences a performance that is compelling and subtle. It makes it easy to root for Bundy in the way so many people actually did during his exceedingly public legal battles. It also displays a genuine acting talent that goes well beyond Efron being merely blessed with movie star good looks and a perfectly chiselled physique.

Alongside Efron actress Lily Collins portrays Bundy’s supportive girlfriend. Following their relationship from domestic bliss through a series of increasingly difficult and shocking court cases. Collins does well at portraying the complex mix of emotions faced by a young woman confronted by the possibility that her seemingly perfect partner and surrogate father to her young daughter may perhaps be secretly monstrous. Paired well with Efron she lends the story a fresh perspective to all the previous documentary explorations of the Bundy cases.

Overall the film is well produced with a visual style and authentic attention to detail that does justice to the film’s source material and perfectly captures the spirit of the 1970s and the famous hysteria surrounding the case. Director Joe Berlinger has previously directed the Netflix Ted Bundy documentary series and clearly has a highly detailed knowledge of Bundy’s life. Having already explored the subject at length he was clearly the perfect filmmaker to produce this expertly dramatized account.

The film’s choice to refrain from depicting any of the horrific crimes which Bundy was accused of allows the focus to remain firmly on the extraordinary dynamic between Bundy and those closest to him in his normal life. In a way obviously this refusal to make entertainment out of such violent acts allows he film to avoid allegations that it is merely sensationalising or glamourizing acts of brutality. It keeps the film focused more interestingly on the emotional aspects of the stunning events surrounding Bundy’s long running legal battle.

The Bad

Those familiar with the real life drama and ultimate outcome of the Ted Bundy trials will undoubtedly find the film robbed of an element of suspense. The film’s carefully crafted efforts to keep Bundy’s guilt or innocence as a source of apparent ambiguity will obviously prove less effective to those already familiar with the case.

Likewise audiences hoping to see dramatic depictions of some of the horrific crimes Bundy was accused of will perhaps feel cheated by the film’s deliberate choice to avoid showing any of this ugly violence. While that is a deliberate choice it obviously won’t be welcomed by true crime and horror fans hoping for the adrenalin rush of seeing the actions of an alleged mass murdering monster first hand.

The Ugly Truth

Compelling central performances particularly form leads Zac Efron and lily Collins, combined with riveting real life source material makes for a truly intriguing piece of drama about one of the most notorious cases in modern legal history. The film offers a rounded portrayal of courtroom drama that will admittedly be familiar to many, leaving audiences with thoughtful insights into the true human impact of these events.

Review by Russell Nelson