ComingSoon.net is absolutely thrilled to let everyone know that for the fourth year in a row, we will be covering the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), running from September 9 through the 19th. This year’s festival looks even more exciting than past years with literally hundreds of new movies from some of the world’s greatest filmmakers and most of the film’s stars should be in attendance.
Along with the Telluride and Venice Film Festivals, TIFF is the official start of awards season and invariably you’ll see many of the movies mentioned below come up when the season kicks into high gear in November and December. While TIFF showcases many movies that already have distribution and release plans, and we will often focus on those, TIFF is also one of the biggest movie markets, up there with Sundance and Cannes, so one can expect many strong films premiering there that have yet to find distribution. As examples of the above, both The Hurt Locker and Crash debuted at TIFF without distribution and were picked up for release the following year, beginning a long haul until their inevitable Oscar Best Picture wins over a year after their TIFF debuts.
To kick things off, we’ll go through some of the movies we’re most looking forward to seeing. Of course, we’ll be lucky to see half of them, because we’ll hopefully be doing interviews for many of them as well, but the following are some of what should be highlights of the festival. (If we do miss movies at TIFF, we may be able to catch them at the New York Film Festival when we get back to town.)
Due to the size of the festival and the amount of journalists and industry folks who attend every year, TIFF has become the most convenient place to get press and generate buzz for movies being released in the coming weeks. With that in mind, TIFF’s opening weekend includes four movies that are opening in North America the following week, including two of the wide releases.
Will Gluck’s sex comedy Easy A (Sony/Screen Gems Sept. 17) may seem like a strange choice for the film festival, until you remember this is where Jason Reitman’s Juno premiered. Easy A has a similar appeal towards young women with its tale of a brainy girl, played by Emma Stone, who pretends to have sex with some of the high school’s losers in order to help earn them cred, a plan that ultimately backfires on her.
Ben Affleck’s second movie as a director, The Town is another Boston-based crime drama, this one starring himself as a bank robber who takes a bank manager (played by Rebecca Hall) hostage, only to reengage with her later without her realizing he’s the criminal that terrorized her. It also stars Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm and Blake Lively.
It’s been almost eight years since music video director Mark Romanek’s thriller One Hour Photo starring Robin Williams. For his follow-up, he directs Alex (28 Days Later Garland’s adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s sci-fi drama Never Let Me Go (Fox Searchlight – Sept. 15) with a young cast to die for, including Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield as students of an isolated private school whose lives aren’t what they think.
Philip Seymour Hoffman is one of the country’s most consistent dramatic actors and his directorial debut Jack Goes Boating (Overture – Sept. 17) pairs him with the delightful Amy Ryan for a quirky New York City dramedy in which the awkward duo try to find romance just as the friends who introduced them (John Ortiz, Daphne Rubin-Vega) are facing their own relationship crisis.
Another TIFF regular is Woody Allen and his latest movie You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (Sony Pictures Classics – Sept. 22) is a starstudded family comedy starring Josh Brolin, Anthony Hopkins, Naomi Watts, Antonio Banderas, Freida Pinto and Lucy Punch. As someone who prefers Allen’s comedic work to his thrillers, we’re hoping this is as fun as it looks.
That same week sees the release of Rodrigo Cortes’ tense thriller Buried (Lionsgate – Sept. 24), starring Ryan Reynolds as a truck driver working in Iraq who finds himself buried alive without knowing how he got there or how to escape. The movie was picked up from Sundance where it got a lot of attention, and it will be interesting to see how it plays with the potentially more mainstream audiences of TIFF.
George Hickenlooper’s Casino Jack (Metropolitan Oct. 1) stars Kevin Spacey as Jack Abromoff, the government lobbyist who stole millions from Native Americans in exchange for political favors. Having already been the subject of Alex Gibney’s extensive doc Casino Jack and the United States of Money, it will be interesting to see how that story is dramatized.
John Curran’s crime-thriller Stone (Overture Oct. 8) stars Robert De Niro as a prison warden and Edward Norton as an inmate known as “Stone,” who is trying to convince the warden he’s reformed after covering up the death of his grandparents with a fire years earlier. It also stars Frances Conroy and Milla Jovovich as their respective wives.
It’s Kind of a Funny Story (Focus – Oct. 8), the new movie from Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden (Half Nelson, Sugar), allows them to explore lighter fare with a comedy set in a psychiatric ward that looks like another great showcase for the inimitable talents of comedian Zach Galifianakis. It stars Keir Gilchrist as the young lad subjected to Zach’s idiosyncrasies as he tries to woo a fellow patient, played by Emma Roberts.
Oscar-nominated filmmaker Stephen Frears adapts Posy Simmonds’ graphic novel Tamara Drewe (Sony Pictures Classics Oct. 8) with the lovely Gemma Arterton in the title role as the sexy entertainment writer who returns to the small country village where she was raised and immediately turns the place upside down.
Tony Goldwyn’s Conviction (Fox Searchlight – Oct. 15) tells the true story of Betty Anne Waters, played by Hilary Swank, who spends 18 years trying to get her brother Kenny (Sam Rockwell) out of jail, believing he had been wrongly convicted of murder.
The one movie we’re looking forward to seeing more than any other is Black Swan (Fox Searchlight – Dec. 1), Darren Aronofsky’s follow-up to The Wrestler, which is already getting a lot of buzz leading into next week from its premiere at the Venice Film Festival, and it’s sure to be the hottest ticket in town when it screens Friday morning. It stars Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis as ballet dancers who get caught up in a rather complicated and competitive relationship.
Right after that on our list of must-sees would be 127 Hours (Fox Searchlight Nov. 5), Danny Boyle’s follow-up to the Oscar-sweeping Indian film Slumdog Millionaire, which debuted at the fest two years ago. It stars James Franco as a free-spirited mountain-climber who gets trapped in the mountains for five days and desperately tries to find a way to survive.
Every year that there’s a new Mike Leigh movie is a good year, and his new one Another Year (Sony Pictures Classics – Dec. 29) stars Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen as an aging couple trying to come to terms with their later years as one of their middle-aged friends (Lesley Manville) starts flirting with their son who is 20 years younger. Having already impressed audiences at Cannes over the summer, Leigh’s movie is doing the festival circuit before inevitably being cited during awards season.
Similarly, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Biutiful (Roadside Attractions – Dec. 29) follows Javier Bardem as a man leading a complicated life in modern-day Barcelona. We’ve heard its one of Bardem’s best performances since The Sea Inside, for which he was robbed of an Oscar nomination.
It’s been a long road for Shakespeare in Love director John Madden’s The Debt (Miramax Dec. 29), co-written by Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goodman (Kick-Ass), to come to the screen, starring Helen Mirren as Mossad agent Rachel Singer whose mission to capture a Nazi war criminal ends in his death… Until 30 years later, when he resurfaces in Eastern Europe. It also stars Sam Worthington, Ciaran Hinds and Tom Wilkinson, a cast and director that should insure the film’s quality.
The Weinstein Company has a trio of films that have been generating buzz already, and one can probably assume that at least some of them will play a part in this year’s awards season:
Tom Hooper, whose movie The Damned United premiered at TIFF last year, returns with the highly-acclaimed The King’s Speech (Weinstein Co. Nov. 24) starring Colin Firth as King George Vi, thrust into the highest position of power after his brother abdicates, and Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue, the Australian speech therapist who needs to help George find a voice to lead his country.
Derek Cianfrance’s drama Blue Valentine (Weinstein Co. – Dec. 31) was the talk of this year’s Sundance due to the pairing of Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams as a couple trying to save their marriage.
Lastly, there’s Miral (Weinstein Co. – Dec. 3), Julian Schnabel’s follow-up to his Oscar-nominated The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, starring Slumdog Millionaire‘s Freida Pinto as the title character, an orphan in war-torn Jerusalem of 1948 who is later assigned to teach at a refugee camp where she falls for a political activist and has to decide whether to fight or win the war through education.
Sadly, we rarely have time to watch a lot of smaller foreign films but one we’ve already seen is Im Sang-Soo’s remake of the Korean thriller The Housemaid, which was picked up by IFC Films at Cannes earlier this year. It’s a really freaky thriller starring Eun-yi (Secret Sunshine, finally being released this December) as a young nanny who is tormented and tortured by the wealthy family who hired her.
Then there are the movies that have yet to find distribution but shouldn’t have a problem considering the talent involved. One we expect to sell pretty quickly is Robert Redford’s The Conspirator, which explores the assassination of Abraham Lincoln with an all-star cast including James McAvoy, Robin Wright, Justin Long, Tom Wilkinson, Evan Rachel Wood, Kevin Kline, Alexis Bledel and Danny Huston. Similarly intriguing is Amigo, John Sayles’ fictionalized look at the Philippines-American War during the turn of the previous century based on his 1000-page novel “Some Time in the Sun.”
One of the best movies at TIFF a few years back was the Spanish horror film The Orphanage, and this year, Guillermo del Toro is bringing Guillem Morales’ Julia’s Eyes to the festival, with that film’s gorgeous star Belén Rueda as a woman investigating her blind sister’s suicide.
Two tense dramas premiering at the fest are David Schwimmer’s Trust, starring Clive Owen and Catherine Keener as the parents of a 14-year-old girl who has been victimized by a sexual predator, and John Cameron Mitchell’s Rabbit Hole, an adaptation of David Lindsay-Abaire’s play, with Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart as a married couple whose happy lives are disrupted by tragedy.
Fortunately, there are a few comedies to balance things out, and we’re especially looking forward to Michael Winterbottom’s The Trip, an improvised road comedy that spins off of the hilarious duo of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, who starred in Winterbottom’s period comedy Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story.
We don’t know much about Abe Sylvia’s coming-of-age comedy Dirty Girl, except that it’s set in the ’80s, it involves a road trip between a teen slut and her gay high school friend, and it stars Juno Temple, William H. Macy, Milla Jovovich, Tim McGraw and Dwight Yoakam, a very odd cast indeed.
Henry’s Crime, directed by Malcolm Venville (44 Inch Chest), stars Keanu Reeves as a man accused of a bank robbery he didn’t commit who gets out of prison and decides to rob the bank for real with the help of an amateur actress, played by Vera Farmiga.
Not a comedy but Brighton Rock is the directorial debut by Rowan Joffe, writer of this past weekend’s #1 movie The American. The film is an adaptation of the Graham Greene novel starring Sam Riley (Control) as a gangster who is being blackmailed by a waitress who knows about his misdeeds.
Beginners is video director Mike Mills’ follow-up to Thumbsucker, which premiered at the festival in 2005. It’s a multiple timeline story starring Ewan McGregor as an illustrator dealing with the death of his father (Christopher Plummer) and a budding relationship with a French actress (Mélanie Laurent from Inglourious Basterds).
A movie that’s taken some time to get financed and made, Steven Silver’s The Bang Bang Club stars Ryan Phillipe as one of four photographers capturing the last days of Apartheid in South Africa and Malin Ackerman as the photo editor who tried to protect them while getting their photos to the world.
The “Midnight Madness” film track at TIFF is often one of the festival’s biggest draws for younger folk, featuring many brand-new horror and action flicks from some of the masters of genre, this year featuring the return of John Carpenter with The Ward, his first feature film since Ghosts of Mars in 2001. It stars Amber Heard as a girl admitted to a psychiatric ward that’s haunted by a mysterious girl.
Other horror movies featured in the “Midnight Madness” section include Insidious, the new movie from Saw creators James Wan and Leigh Whannell, starring Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson as parents trying to cope with evil entities trying to possess their comatose son, while Session 9 director Brad Anderson’s Vanishing on 7th Street stars Hayden Christensen, Thandie Newton and John Leguizamo as the survivors of a global power outage. Mulberry Street creators Jim Mickle and Nick Amici make their TIFF debut with Stake Land, an Apocalyptic thriller set in a world overrun by vampires starring Amici as a vampire hunter and “Gossip Girl” star Conner Paolo as his young liege. It also marks the return of Kelly (Top Gun) McGillis, and we’ll finally be running our report from the set over on ShockTillYouDrop.com later this week.
We’re also looking forward to James Gunn’s Super, his first feature film since Slither and his return to superhero comedy for the first time since The Specials ten years ago. It stars Rainn Wilson from “The Office” as a guy who takes on a superhero guise when his wife (Liv Tyler) falls in with a shady drugdealer, and if it’s nearly as funny as some of Gunn’s “PG Porn” work, it should go over well.
We first heard about Guy Moshe’s Apocalyptic homage to samura films, Bunraku, over two years ago when we spoke to Ron Perlman, who stars as Nicola the Woodcutter, a crime boss who controls nine assassins in a world where guns have been banned. Josh Hartnett plays a man who comes to town with plans to kill Nicola, so of course he has to take on all of his assassins first. It also stars Woody Harrelson and Demi Moore.
Oddly, Takashi Miike’s own samurai movie 13 Assassins, this one set during the Japanese feudal era, isn’t playing during the “Midnight Madness” track, but maybe that’s because Miike has made a serious Japanese samurai film with lots of swordfights and blood for sure, but none of the genre craziness he’s known for.
Infernal Affairs is one of Hong Kong’s finest crime thrillers, having been remade into The Departed by none other than Martin Scorsese, and Andrew Lau is bringing his martial arts epic Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen to this year’s TIFF, starring Donnie Yen in a role made famous by Bruce Lee. Last but not least and also in the martial arts vein is The Butcher, the Chef, and the Swordsman, period foodie action-comedy, the debut from Mongolian director Wuershan that impressed filmmaker Doug Liman enough for him to put his name on it as the movie’s official presenter.
That should probably be enough movies to keep us busy over the next two weeks.
Stay tuned to ComingSoon.net for our full TIFF coverage this coming week and for quick updates, make sure to follow our special festival feed on Twitter.