Though Variety might have scooped them a bit early, the Toronto International Film Festival, which takes place in Degrassitown from September 6-16th, has announced its slate of films and, as always with this increasingly exciting festival, we're intrigued about many of the films making their world premiere. We could talk about them all, but in the interest of time, let's just focus on our top ten most-interesting picks.
The Festival's opening film, Looper is the third feature film from Brick director Rian Johnson. The plot — involving a hitman sent back in time to be killed by his younger self — sounds bendy and twisty and weird, all things Johnson does well. And the cast, which includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, and Emily Blunt, is uniformly likable. Johnson's second feature The Brothers Bloom was an admirably ambitious but ultimately confused misfire, so this is by no means guaranteed to be good, but we're holding out hope that Looper is the mainstage arrival of a major new talent. Now if only they could do something about JGL's weird Bruce Willis-y prosthetics.
Based on David Mitchell's time-spanning novel, Cloud Atlas could be a big, unwieldy disaster. I mean, it's directed by not only the Wachowskis (The Matrix, Speed Racer) by also by Tom Tykwer, the German who made the absurdly cool Run Lola Run but then never delivered on that early promise. Still, something about this joint project was alluring enough to snag Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Hugo Weaving, and Hugh Grant. Whether this film — which presents a series of stories set throughout time that are all linked — is a visual and emotional marvel or an overstuffed mess of course remains to be seen, but we're eager to find out either way.
The Place Beyond the Pines
Fans of Derek Cianfrance's bruising debut film Blue Valentine might expect his followup to be another lo fi human drama, but instead he's made something of a thriller. Or at least that's what the premise makes it sound like: "A motorcycle stunt rider considers committing a crime in order to provide for his wife and child, an act that puts him on a collision course with a cop-turned-politician." Ryan Gosling plays that stunt rider, while Bradley Cooper is that politician, while Rose Byrne and Eva Mendes play the ladies in their lives. The story itself doesn't sound all that compelling, but the cast and an eagerness to see what Cianfrance does next have us hungry to see the film.
Yeah, this old story. But, the cast this time around includes Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Sally Hawkins, and War Horse's likable Jeremy Irvine. And the director is Mike Newell, who has certainly made some stinkers — Mona Lisa Smile, Prince of Persia — but also made a Harry Potter film and Four Weddings and a Funeral. And, y'know, sometimes it's nice to see a big knotty Dickens story on the big screen. In terms of classic lit this fall, we'll bet this will be a whole lot better than Les Misérables, even if that has the musical trainwreck factor. Who knows, it could even be better than Joe Wright's Anna Karenina.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Based on the seminal 1999 coming of age novel by Stephen Chbosky, who also adapts and directs here, Wallflower is a thoughtful and melancholy look at a few quiet, curious, misfit teenagers who meet and grow up (a little bit) together. The first trailer for the film version doesn't look all that promising, but we should probably trust Chbosky with his own material, right? Plus, we'll get to see Hermione Granger herself, Emma Watson, do something non-magical and, gasp, American. We're hoping (perhaps foolishly) that this is some sort of new touchstone teen flick in the vein of a John Hughes film. But to find out, we have to see it! Hence our enthusiasm.
A dark comedy about a woman who tries to kill herself and gets put in the custody of her mother, Imogene stars Kristen Wiig in her first kinda serious major role, and pairs her up with the indefatigable Annette Bening. American Splendor's Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini direct the film, while an intriguing cast of Matt Dillon, Natasha Lyonne, and Darren Criss, of all people, support the two leads. This is Wiig's first big post-Bridesmaids movie, and we're hoping it solidifies her as a true leading lady. Plus maybe this will finally be that movie that earns Annette Bening a long-deserved Oscar. Consistent Bening-thwarter Hilary Swank isn't doing anything this fall, is she? Let's hope not, for Annette's sake.
Much Ado About Nothing
Joss Whedon made this movie in secret in his backyard and cast a bunch of his friends/former colleagues. So, Whedon fanboys are freaking out, even though it's a modern adaptation of a Shakespeare play and not a sci-fi/fantasy kind of thing. Featuring Whedon repertory players like Amy Acker, Nathan Fillion, Tom Lenk, and Alexis Denisof, this is a strange reunion we're nerdily excited for. Might this finally be the film that puts all of these deserving actors into the next plane of stardom? Ha, well, probably not, but at least it means they're working.
Another movie made kind of in secret, this is a film directed by Noah Baumbach that stars and was written by his current main squeeze Greta Gerwig. We're not exactly aboard the Greta Gerwig fan train, but Baumbach makes consistently interesting films. And really it's just cool that we don't know anything about this movie beyond that it's "a love story about girls," according to Gerwig. Bring it on with your mysterious movie, Baumbach!
We also don't know very much about this film, beyond the fact that it's a vampire movie about mother and daughter vampires starring Saoirse Ronan and a bunch of other interesting young British actors. Oh, and it's directed by Neil Jordan, who's made fare as varied as The Crying Game, The End of the Affair, and, appropriately, Interview With the Vampire. So who the hell knows what it will be, but aren't you curious to find out?
The Orphanage director Juan Antonio Bayona directs Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor in this drama/thriller about the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. A dubbed Spanish-language trailer makes the film look stylish and scary. It's hard to tell what the film is about after the tsunami hits, but we can't imagine they had any shortage of harrowing material to work with. To that end, we'd hope that the story is not exclusively told from the perspective of a tourist family, as obviously the disaster affected far more than just wealthy white tourists.