If one ‘Haunting’ isn’t enough, watch these 8 Venice-set movies next

A close-up of Michelle Yeoh screaming
Michelle Yeoh in “A Haunting in Venice.”
(20th Century Studios)

Welcome to Screen Gab, the newsletter for everyone who’d give anything to jet off to Venice right about now — even if they have to do it vicariously.

With the latest in Kenneth Branagh’s Agatha Christie series, “A Haunting in Venice,” in theaters Friday, Screen Gab No. 99 features film critic Justin Chang recommending more movies set in the Floating City. Death not (always) required.

Also this week, “The Morning Show” director and executive producer Mimi Leder stops by to mark the start of Season 3 and we recommend two more TV series to stream this weekend.



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Turn on

Recommendations from the film and TV experts at The Times

A woman standing on stage with a microphone wearing a white jacket.
Michelle Wolf in her new Netflix program, “Michelle Wolf: It’s Great to Be Here.”

“Michelle Wolf: It’s Great to Be Here” (Netflix)

Curly-haired hand grenade Michelle Wolf has returned to Netflix with “It’s Great to Be Here,” a stand-up special presented in three episodes (and five parts), which she produced herself and licensed to the platform. Wolf’s CV includes writing for and appearing on “The Daily Show” and “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” her own single-season Netflix series, “The Break with Michelle Wolf” and the 2018 White House Correspondents dinner, where she famously joked about Press Secretary Sarah Sanders “burn[ing[ facts” and using the ash to create “a perfect smokey eye.” Playing to small venues in Madison, Wis., and Philadelphia, Wolf riffs on sex and beauty and privilege; there is something at once abrasive and joyful in her performance. Some might find her reading of #MeToo, for example, a little … nuanced, or a little exaggerated, for their taste, but nuance is what makes comedy instructive, just as exaggeration makes it funny. “If you’re starting to take offense,” she says, “just cross your arms.” —Robert Lloyd

Two guys look into a camcorder.
Patrick J. Pespas and Sam Lipman-Stern in “Telemarketers.”

“Telemarketers” (Max)

If you, like me, are old enough to remember the “citizen journalism” discourse of the early aughts, you are sure to conclude “Telemarketers” (Max), HBO’s infuriating three-part docuseries, with the name of the movement’s Woodward and Bernstein on your lips. Co-director Sam Lipman-Stern and true character Patrick J. Pespas, his former colleague in a shady New Jersey call center that skims 90% off the top of donations to the Fraternal Order of Police, emerge here as born investigative journalists, calling charities for comment and confronting power players like Sen. Richard J. Blumenthal. In the process, the pair, aided by co-director (and Lipman-Stern’s cousin) Adam Bhala Lough, expose the involvement of state and local FOPs in the scheme, connect the scams to the rise of political robo-calls and indict government officials for failing to address the problem with adequate regulations for decades now. Imagine if Pete Davidson and Chris Farley made a Peabody-worthy documentary about rampant fraud while smoking blunts and you have some sense of the tonal high-wire act the project pulls off with aplomb; indeed, if form is function, there’s no better match for “Telemarketers’” examination of morally bankrupt 21st century America than a pair of pissant scumbags with a camcorder heroically stirring the corporate pot. —Matt Brennan

Catch up

Everything you need to know about the film or TV series everyone’s talking about

A man in bed on the phone as his wife looks on.
Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie in “Don’t Look Now.”
(The Criterion Collection)

Even if you aren’t able to see Kenneth Branagh’s gorgeously atmospheric “A Haunting in Venice” in theaters — and even if you were unable to attend the recently concluded 80th Venice International Film Festival — there are myriad opportunities to celebrate the rich cinematic legacy of this most magnificent of cities. For many, the journey will begin and end with “Don’t Look Now” (multiple platforms), Nicolas Roeg’s 1973 masterpiece of psychological horror, in which a grieving husband and wife (Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie) travel to Venice seeking temporary relief from tragedy. Of all the memorable images that follow in this artfully splintered mosaic of grief and anguish, the sight of a small, red-jacketed figure darting through the city’s dimly lit streets will never leave you.

But Roeg’s movie isn’t the only memorable tale of troubled travelers looking for refuge in this city’s alleys and waterways. A sickly composer (Dirk Bogarde) heads to the Lido for a restorative holiday and instead is pulled into a devastating new obsession in “Death in Venice” (multiple platforms), Luchino Visconti’s luxuriant 1971 adaptation of Thomas Mann’s novella. That film’s doomy romanticism would make it a nicely contrasting double bill with David Lean’s 1955 charmer, “Summertime” (multiple platforms), a happier tale of romantic happenstance starring the incomparable Katharine Hepburn as an American on a long-overdue Italian holiday. And if you want to make it a triple bill, do make time for “The Wings of the Dove” (multiple platforms), Iain Softley’s piercing 1997 adaptation of the Henry James novel. As two lovers (Helena Bonham Carter and Linus Roache) scheme their way into a dying benefactress’ good graces, Venice’s impossible beauty, much like their ill-fated romance, seems to putrefy before your very eyes.

Some movies spend only a chapter or two in Venice and yet somehow make the most of it: I’m thinking of Anthony Minghella’s dreamy 1999 adaptation of “The Talented Mr. Ripley” (multiple platforms), in which Ripley’s trail of duplicity wends its way through Piazza San Marco, and also of Joanna Hogg’s 2019 semi-autobiographical drama “The Souvenir” (multiple platforms), where, the stunning views aside, a lovers’ getaway turns out to be anything but serenissima. Fans of “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (multiple platforms) will have fond memories of that 1989 caper’s early Venice-set action scenes, though as waterway chases go, I’m partial to the one in F. Gary Gray’s snazzy 2003 remake of “The Italian Job” (multiple platforms), a high-speed boat chase and underwater heist sequence rolled into one. —Justin Chang

Guest spot

A weekly chat with actors, writers, directors and more about what they’re working on — and what they’re watching

Two women talk on the terrace of a massive New York apartment.
Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston in the Season 3 premiere of “The Morning Show.”
(Apple TV+)

“The Morning Show” (Apple TV+), a series not exactly known for its subtle handling of topical subject matter, returned for Season 3 on Wednesday without skipping a beat. With the COVID-19 pandemic behind them, broadcast journalists Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston), now hosting her own 1-on-1 interview show, and Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon), now anchoring the nightly news, must confront draconian limits on abortion rights, a tech billionaire with a space fetish (Jon Hamm) and a hack on their network that exposes intimate details of their lives — and that’s just in the first two episodes. Their director, Mimi Leder, who also serves as executive producer on the series, stopped by Screen Gab recently to talk about the real-life issues that continue to inform her work, her love of Fellini and what she’s watching. —Matt Brennan

What have you watched recently that you are recommending to everyone you know?

There are three I would recommend to everyone I know. They are “Pachinko” [Apple TV+]. I was profoundly moved by the breathtaking storytelling of this family saga. Powerful and heartbreaking. Beautiful artistry all around. It blew me away.

“Beef” [Netflix] is a brilliantly wicked dark comedy. An incredible exploration of anger, rage, despair, and it exudes heart. The writing, directing and the performances are stellar. I couldn’t stop watching it.

And “The Bear” [Hulu] makes me hungry for more!

What is your go-to “comfort watch,” the movie or TV show you go back to again and again?

My comfort watch is anything Fellini! But first among equals is “8 1/2” [Max, Criterion Channel, Kanopy].

The second episode of Season 3 features a cyberattack on UBA that’s reminiscent of the Sony hack. What’s your most vivid memory from that wild time in Hollywood?

I don’t have a particular personal memory, other than it was a stark reminder that potentially very little of you is really yours anymore.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of your film “Deep Impact,” which might be my very favorite disaster movie. (Perhaps it’s that it uses journalism as a way into the disaster.) If you could tackle a different kind of disaster on screen now, whether it be a film or TV series, what would you focus on and why?

The disaster I would tackle today is pretty much the same one as before: the extinction of our planet. Only this time, the disaster is man-made, and time is running out to get “that” picture made.