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ComingSoon.net's Toronto Film Festival Preview

Source: Edward Douglas
September 8, 2011

Now that Labor Day has passed, it's that time of year again when filmmakers and distributors start releasing their awards-worthy prestige fare for the impending fall Oscar season, which also means... it's officially "Festival Season"! Granted, Venice and Telluride kicked things off last week, but we're going to focus on the two festivals ComingSoon.net is able to attend this year, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and Film Society of Lincoln Center's annual New York Film Festival (NYFF), though we'll mainly be talking about the former right now.

TIFF officially starts on Thursday, but since we'll be spending a lot of our time over the next few days doing interviews, we may not be able to see as many of the movies we're hoping to see, which makes the timing of the New York Film Festival, starting on September 30, just perfect to allow us to catch up on anything we've missed.

We've already seen a lot of movies including Jonathan Levine's 50/50 (Summit – 9/30), starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen and Anna Kendrick, which is just terrific, as well as Roland Emmerich's Anonymous (Sony – 10/28), a period drama starring Rhys Ifans as the prince who some theorists believe was the actual author of Shakespeare's works. Add in Vanessa Redgrave's performance as Queen Elizabeth and you have a period drama on par with... well, Elizabeth.

Ryan Gosling has two really strong movies playing at TIFF, both which will be released over the next month: George Clooney's political drama The Ides of March (Sony - 10/7) in which he plays a campaign manager to Clooney's presidential candidate, as well as playing a nameless getaway driver in Nicolas Refn's Drive (FilmDistrict – 9/16) - look for our reviews for both of these very soon.

Already receiving raves from Cannes before heading into the festival season is Michel Hazanavicius's black and white silent film The Artist, an absolutely fantastic film starring Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo as two film actors on divergent paths. You're going to be hearing a lot about this intriguing film in the coming months.

Speaking of Shakespeare (as we were earlier), Ralph Fiennes' adaptation of the great bard's later works Coriolanus is a modern take on the Roman war epic starring Fiennes in the lead role and co-starring Gerard Butler, Jessica Chastain and Vanessa Redgrave. It probably won't be everyone, and neither will Lars von Trier's Melancholia, which is playing at both festivals, which stars Kirsten Dunst as a woman getting married (to Alexander Skarsgard no less!) who is going through some emotional issues that may or may not involve another planet colliding with earth.

Having already gotten raves out of Sundance, Jeff Nicholls' rather timely thriller Take Shelter (Sony Pictures Classics – 9/30) continues its festival run with an eye to get actor Michael Shannon some awards attention as a man who predicts an enormous storm coming but no one in town believes him. (It has that in common with Melancholia, but that's about all it has in common.) Similarly, Sean Durkin's Martha Marcy May Marlene (Fox Searchlight - 10/21) received a ton of attention at Sundance for the performance by Elizabeth Olsen as a woman trying to escape from the leader of a cult. There have been similar raves for Adepero Oduye's performance in Dee Rees' Pariah (Focus Features – 12/25), while the last featured Sundance film appearing at TIFF is Drake Doremus' Like Crazy (Paramount - 10/28) starring Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones as two college lovers from different countries separated by their respective country's immigration systems.

Premiering at TIFF before their theatrical releases on September 23 are two very different action movies, Marc Forster's Machine Gun Preacher (Relativity), starring Gerard Butler as the real-life preacher turned African mercenary, co-starring Michelle Monaghan and Michael Shannon, and the spy thriller Killer Elite (Open Road – 9/23), based on Ranulph Fiennes' "The Feather Men" and starring Jason Statham as an assassin on a mission to kill ex-SAS Agents, and Clive Owen as the agent hired to stop him.

That essentially gets most of the movies we've seen out of the way and just leaves the movies we're hoping to catch, and there are way many more of those, that's for sure.

Toronto will kick off on Thursday night with Davis Guggenheim's U2 doc From the Sky Down, the first doc in a long time to be selected as the Opening Night Selection and especially odd since it doesn't have the Toronto connection of past selections.

Another movie we're really looking forward to is Alexander Payne's The Descendants (Fox Searchlight - 11/23), also starring George Clooney, which is Payne's first movie since the Oscar-winning Sideways, which came out six years ago. It's set in Hawaii as Clooney plays a family man who has to contend with the absence of his wife when she suffers a boating accident. It will also be the Closing Night Selection of the New York Film Festival, which is a good sign that Payne won't want to make other plans on Oscar night.

Sarah Polley's directorial debut Away From Her received two Oscar nominations, so many will be closely eyeing her latest drama Take This Waltz, a film about infidelity starring Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen and Sarah Silverman, when it premieres at TIFF. It's one of the movies playing the festival without distribution in place.

Toronto's native son David Cronenberg returns with A Dangerous Method (Sony Pictures Classics - 11/23), his third movie in a row starring Viggo Mortensen, this time playing influential psychiatrist Sigmund Freud with Michael Fassbender playing his counterpart Carl Jung, and Keira Knightley as the woman who comes between them. Fassbender also reunites with Hunger director Steve McQueen for his erotic thriller about sexual addiction, Shame, which co-stars Carey Mulligan and is already thought to earn the deadly NC-17 rating. Both films have received raves out of the Venice Film Festival last week, so they should be hot tickets at TIFF.

Rodrigo Garcia, director of Mother & Child, one of our favorite movies from TIFF 2009, is back at the festival with Albert Nobbs (Roadside Attractions), an adaptation of a play co-written by and starring Glenn Close as a 19th Century woman in Ireland who disguises herself as a male butler for 20 years. That being said, Jim Field Smith's Butter (The Weinstein Company) may be one of the odder offerings, being a star-studded comedy about a butter-carving competition, starring Jennifer Garner, Hugh Jackman, Ty "Modern Family" Burrell, Ashley Greene and Olivia Wilde.

Luc Besson is coming off the relative success of his action movie Colombiana, but he gets a bit more serious with The Lady, a drama starring Michelle Yeoh as Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi, who created civil unrest in her country after she was placed on house arrest for 15 years.

Sundance regulars the Duplass Brothers make their Toronto debut with Jeff Who Lives at Home (Paramount – 3/2/12), a stoner comedy starring Jason Siegel and Ed Helms, while The Exorcist director William Friedkin is back with Killer Joe, a movie starring Emile Hirsch as a young drug dealer who needs to call upon Matthew McConaughey's title character to help him when he has to come up with $6,000 he doesn't have - he offers his sister (Juno Temple) to "Killer Joe" as collateral.

A few weeks after TIFF comes to a close, the New York Film Festival will offer a couple of exclusive North American premieres with Roman Polanski's Carnage (Sony Pictures Classics – 12/16) as its opening night, a big screen version of Yasmina Reza's play "God of Carnage" starring Jodi Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly. This year's Centerpiece is Simon Curtis' My Week With Marylyn (Weinstein Co. - 11/4), starring Michelle Williams as the iconic film starlet Marilyn Monroe.

A couple of foreign films playing both festivals that have received raves from their debuts at Cannes include the Dardenne Brothers' The Kid With a Bike, Aki Kaurismäki's Le Havre and the Iranian movie This is Not a Film, but there's a good chance we'll be waiting for NYFF on these ones.

You can follow along with all of ComingSoon.net's festival coverage on Twitter or on our Toronto Film Festival Blog, where we're hoping to have daily updates. Look for a bunch of reviews in the next couple of days as well.





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