Sundance has the indie cred. Cannes gets the big names in world cinema, and the best parties. Venice has the best location, and often the most interesting line-up. Berlin contains the hidden gems. SXSW is the up-and-comer. Telluride has the mountain air. But increasingly, the Toronto International Film Festival is becoming the most important in the film industry.
A key pivot point of Oscar-season but also a launching pad for under-the-radar indie features, genre fare, as well as a chance to see festival favorites from other places in the world, no other festival has the depth of program as TIFF does this year, with hundreds of films from all over the world, including more than 100 world premieres. While Telluride only just wrapped up and Venice is still ongoing, the Playlist team are already heading off for Toronto, and to get you ready for our extensive coverage from the festival, we’ve picked out ten films that we’re particularly looking forward to.
We’ve left out those that have already seen/will be seeing at Telluride and Venice, hence the absence of films like “At Any Price,” “Spring Breakers” “The Master” and “To The Wonder.” You can read our picks below (note: the dates mark the first screening, check TIFF for additional showtimes) and let us know what you’re looking forward to in the comments section below.
Synopsis: Based on the knotty novel by David Mitchell, “Cloud Atlas” tells six interlocking tales tackling everything from a transpacific voyage in 1850 to a 1970s-set conspiracy thriller to a sci-fi parable set deep in the future.
What You Need To Know: If anyone can pull off bringing Mitchell’s sprawling novel to the big screen, it just might be the directorial tag team of The Wachowskis and director Tom Tykwer. Starring Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Ben Whishaw, Keith David, Hugo Weaving, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant and Jim Sturgess in multiple roles that cross race and gender, the A-list cast has their work cut out for them to fall into the background of a movie that will be boasting heady visuals and big ideas. Will this film be a bold, ambitious success, a disastrous failure or something else entirely? We’ll soon find out.
When? Saturday, September 8th. The film hits theaters on October 26th.
“Silver Linings Playbook”
Synopsis: Based on the book by Matthew Quick, the story centers a former high school teacher who, after being released from a four-year stint in a mental institution, moves back in with his mother, then seeks to reinvent himself, finding the titular silver linings in his life.
What You Need To Know: Following on the heels of “The Fighter,” the film which finally brought David O. Russell awards season and industry recognition as a Best Director nominee at the Oscars, the curiosity factor around this one is high. Gathering a pretty high wattage cast in Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver and, surprisingly, Chris Tucker, The Weinstein Company are hoping that Russell’s blend of comedy and drama works the same magic here as it did with his boxing film. Thus far, the film seems to be leaning more toward the former than the latter, but if it becomes a crowd pleaser, you can bet this one will have some serious legs heading into the fall.
When? Saturday, September 8th. The film hits theaters on November 21st.
Synopsis: Two ‘sisters’ (actually 200-year-old vampires) descend on a small English seaside town to escape their pursuers, wreaking havoc on the locals, even as the younger one falls for a sweet-natured waiter.
What You Need To Know: It’s pretty fair to describe Neil Jordan‘s career as somewhat hit and miss. For every “Company of Wolves,” there’s a “High Spirits,” for every “Crying Game,” there’s an “In Dreams,” and for every “Ondine,” there’s a “The Brave One.” But his latest, “Byzantium,” sees him in the gothic territory that’s all too often led to his best work. He returns to the bloodsucker genre for the first time since “Interview with a Vampire” and teams up with “Jane Eyre” screenwriter Moira Buffini for a project that sounds like it could work for both genre fans and those after something a little more soulful. Particularly given the cast that he’s assembled that includes the ever-rising Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan, plus “On the Road” star Sam Riley, “X-Men First Class” mutant Caleb Landry-Jones, the great Daniel Mays (“Red Riding“) and Jonny Lee Miller. This could still be an off entry for Jordan, but we’ve got a good feeling about this.
When? Sunday 9th at the Ryerson, Tuesday 12th at the Visa Screening Room and Saturday 15th at the Bloor Hot Docs. No distributor as yet.
Synopsis: In a future where time travel exists but is outlawed, hitmen are enlisted to eliminate mob targets sent back from even further in the future, so as to leave no bodies. However, the system falls apart when Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) fails to pull the trigger on his older self (played by Bruce Willis).
What You Need To Know: Writer-director Rian Johnson has already put an inspired spin on both film noir with the high school-set “Brick” and the con-man caper with “The Brothers Bloom.” To see him tackle heady sci-fi action with a cast that includes “Brick” lead Gordon-Levitt, Willis, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels, Piper Perabo, Paul Dano and Garret Dillahunt is an exciting prospect indeed. Early word is that this one is big success, and as it opens TIFF, it promises to get festivalgoers off to an exciting start of ten days of movie watching.
When? Thursday, September 6th. Opens in theaers on September 28th.
Synopsis: A playwright attempts suicide to win back her ex-boyfriend, and is forced to live with her gambling addict mother.
What You Need To Know: Kristen Wiig must have had a dozen offers after “Bridesmaids” went supernova, but the actress held out for this, something of a passion project, penned by relative newcomer Michelle Morgan and directed by “American Splendor” duo Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini. It seems to be significantly darker than the comedy that made her name, and they’ve landed something of a coup with the presence of Annette Bening as Wiig’s mother, with Matt Dillon, “Glee” star Darren Criss, Nathan Corddry and Natasha Lyonne making up the rest of the eclectic cast. The directorial pair plus the promise of Wiig and Bening trading lines and barbs has us optimistic for this one.
When? Friday September 7th. The film is seeking U.S. distribution.
Synopsis: An English couple and their children on holiday in the Indian Ocean are torn apart by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, and set out on desperate quests to find each other again.
What You Need To Know: “The Impossible” marks the long-awaited return of Juan Antonio Bayona, who made a strong debut with 2007 ghost story “The Orphanage,” and this charged, emotional drama (which seems to include some impressive effects) looks like a fine comeback. Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts topline the film, along with three young British actors, which looks to pack an emotional wallop among scenes of horrific devastation. Already considered an Oscar contender, TIFF could mark the starting journey for this film’s award season run.
When? Sunday, September 9th. Hits theaters on December 21st.
Synopsis: A frustrated screenwriter finds himself in trouble when two of his friends kidnap a dog belonging to a psychotic mobster
What You Need To Know: Martin McDonagh gives you seven reasons to be very, very excited for his follow-up to “In Bruges“: Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Colin Farrell, Tom Waits, Abbie Cornish, Olga Kurylenko and Woody Harrelson. If that alone doesn’t pulse on your radar, we don’t know what else to tell you. McDonagh has suggested there may be some connective tissue between “In Bruges,” whether it has the same soulful quality that made that film so special remains to be seen, but it looks like an awful lot of fun.
When? Friday, September 7th. Opens in theaters on October 12th.
“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”
Synopsis: A high school freshman struggles to get over the suicide of his best friend.
What You Need To Know: If you’re going to make an adaptation of one of the most beloved cult novels of the last fifteen years or so, it’s always going to reassure fans to know that the project has the backing of the original author. But Stephen Chblosky doesn’t just approve of the adaptation of his bildungsroman “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” he’s written and directed it as well, thanks to the backing of John Malkovich‘s Mr. Mudd company (who were also behind “Juno“). And he’s managed to attract a solid cast too, with Logan Lerman taking the central role, Emma Watson looking to break out beyond Hermione as female lead Sam, and Ezra Miller, Mae Whitman, Kate Walsh, Paul Rudd, Nina Dobrev and Johnny Simmons also involved. Of course, being an author doesn’t help you be a filmmaker, but Chlobsky’s got some experience on screen, adapting “Rent” for Chris Columbus and creating and producing the cult post-apocalyptic TV show “Jericho.” Plus the trailer was pretty promising, and we’ve heard some good advance buzz already (Lerman and Miller are meant to be especially good). If nothing else, the soundtrack, which features New Order, The Smiths, Sonic Youth and David Bowie, is pretty kick-ass.
When? Saturday, September 8th. The film opens on September 21st.
“A Place Beyond the Pines”
Synopsis: A motorcycle stunt rider (Ryan Gosling) considers committing a crime in order to provide for his ex-girlfriend (Eva Mendes) and their child, an act that puts him on a collision course with a rookie cop (Bradley Cooper).
What You Need To Know: “Brother Tied” put filmmaker Derek Cianfrance square on the indie map in 1998, but another feature would not coalesce for some time (instead he made documentaries). That all changed in 2010 with Cianfrance’s re-breakthrough film, “Blue Valentine,” and ‘Pines’ will see him reunited with that picture’s star, Ryan Gosling. Called a “generational crime flick about fathers and sons” by the director, the film also stars Ray Liotta, Eva Mendes, Rose Byrne, and up-and-coming Aussie actor (and star of another generational crime film in “Animal Kingdom”) Ben Mendelsohn, to name a few. The director’s thrown some lofty comparisons around (“The Deer Hunter,” “The Godfather”), but hopefully these are simply tone comparisons rather than a suddenly inflated ego talking. Still being kept very close to the chest (still only one image has been released).
When? Friday September 7th. The film doesn’t have a distributor yet.
“Thanks For Sharing”
Synopsis: “The Kids Are All Right” writer Stuart Blumberg makes his directorial debut in a film that will follow three people who become unlikely friends while undergoing a 12-step treatment for sex addiction.
What You Need To Know: For all the star power in this film — Mark Ruffalo, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim Robbins, Josh Gad, Joely Richardson, Patrick Fugit, Carol Kane and Alecia Moore (aka Pink) — this one is flying remarkably under the radar at the moment. But TIFF audiences can be very generous, and if they like what they see, this one could easily become a surprise hot ticket. Blumberg has already shown he can confidently handle ambitious subject matter both dramatically and comedically, and we’ll be very interested to see how he weaves these characters and storylines here.
When: Saturday, September 8th. The film is seeking U.S. distribution.
Honorable Mentions (in no particular order): Nick Cassavetes‘ “Yellow,” “Tabu,” Argentinean Viggo Mortensen thriller “Everybody Has A Plan,” Joss Whedon‘s “Much Ado About Nothing,” Bahman Ghobadi‘s “Rhino Season,” Francois Ozon‘s “In The House,” the Eli Roth-starring earthquake thriller “Aftershock,” Indonesian death squad doc “The Act Of Killing,” Costa-Gavras‘ “Capital,” Ken Burns‘ “Central Park Five,” Robert Redford‘s “The Company You Keep,” Peter Webber‘s “Emperor,” David Ayer‘s “End of Watch,” Jeff Buckley biopic “Greetings From Tim Buckley,” Cate Shortland‘s “Lore,” Philip Seymour Hoffman starrer “A Late Quartet,” Dustin Hoffman‘s “Quartet,” Hugh Laurie vehicle “Mr. Pip,” Julian Assange biopic “Underground,” ensemble indies “What Maisie Knew” and “Writers,” “Song For Marion,” Laurent Cantet‘s “Foxfire” and many, many more…..