Previewing the 2011 Toronto Film Fest!

It’s once again time for the Toronto International Film Festival, and again, I’m going to be covering it for JoBlo.com. One of the true highlights of my year, this is my third time covering TIFF, and it seems like the festival programmers have outdone themselves yet again. Last year was a banner outing for the fest, with films like THE KING’S SPEECH, BLACK SWAN, SUBMARINE, INSIDIOUS, LET ME IN, and THE TOWN all playing within the first few days (to be fair, I also caught the infamous PASSION PLAY at TIFF and I hear Madonna’s WE is going to be this year’s low-light). Last year, I called that Colin Firth would win an Oscar for THE KING’S SPEECH, and my hunch paid off. Will I be able to make a similar prediction this year? Through my ten-day film odyssey in Toronto, I’ve got a list of forty films I’m dying to check out, and the following are some of the highlights that jump out.


Holy shit do I want to see this movie! Jimmy O’s recent rave has made me even more eager to check it out, and to say this is my most anticipated movie of the year is a major understatement. In fact, my expectations are so high that it being anything less than perfect will be disappointing. I should note that I though Refn’s BRONSON was a masterpiece, and I’m anxious to see Ryan Gosling take up the mantle of cool-action hero. Bryan Cranston’s involvement is another major plus, with BREAKING BAD having my vote for the best TV show to come along since THE WIRE.

The Ides of March

Gosling’s “other” TIFF film, this one co-starring, and directed by none other than George Clooney. The buzz out of Venice is so-so, but I’m always game to see a Clooney passion project. Certainly, the political campaign plot is right up his alley, and the supporting cast - including Paul Giamatti, Jeffrey Wright, Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei and Philip Seymour Hoffman - is spectacular.

The Descendants

Gosling’s not the only guy with two films at TIFF, with this being star George Clooney’s long-awaited team-up with director Alexander Payne, who’s been lying low since the phenomenal success of SIDEWAYS. The buzz on this one is white-hot. Will this one finally land Clooney an Oscar for best actor?


This long-awaited baseball drama comes to TIFF with a tortured production history (with Steven Soderbergh being fired shortly before the film started production and Aaron Sorkin being brought in to re-write Steven Zaillian’s screenplay). Bennett Miller, who hasn’t made a film since CAPOTE is now at the helm and it boasts a lead performance by Brad Pitt that many are calling Oscar-worthy. Jonah Hill also has a supporting role, which, from what I hear, is a strong change of pace for the newly trim funny-man.

Machine Gun Preacher

Gerard Butler’s passion project, this is the true story of a former Hell’s Angels biker/drug-dealer, who found God, and started a new life as the pistol packing head of an orphanage in the Sudan. While I’m sure that Butler will deliver, it’s the involvement of Michael Shannon in a key supporting role that’s really got me intrigued. Directed by Marc Forster- who raised the ire of many 007 fans (myself included) with his ADD-style direction of the otherwise solid (if unspectacular) QUANTUM OF SOLACE.

The Killer Elite

Jason Statham at TIFF? Sure enough, the Stafe is hitting the red-carpet with THE KILLER ELITE, which sounds like a very solid action flick, boasting a killer role as a bad guy for the great Clive Owen (also at TIFF with INTRUDERS), and a better-than-average role for Robert De Niro, who’s been on a pretty awful streak lately. Fingers crossed this will be the hard-core shot of adrenaline the trailers make it look like (although the “based on a true story” line always gets a laugh). Incidentally, I’m seeing this and DRIVE back-to-back on Friday morning! Methinks this will be a morning chock-full of badassitude.

A Dangerous Method

David Cronenberg comes home to TIFF, with his psycho-sexual look at the relationship between Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and his patient Sabina Speilrein (Keira Knightley). Word is, not only is this a major comeback for the recently absent Knightley (although she did hit TIFF in last year’s NEVER LET ME GO), but also features an award-worthy performance by Viggo Mortensen as Sigmund Freud.

Killer Joe

Why am I excited to see KILLER JOE? William Friedkin, that’s why. Friedkin’s one of my all-time favorite directors (FRENCH CONNECTION, THE EXORCIST, SORCERER and TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A are among my top films) and I’m dying to see what he does with this hit man tale- starring Matthew McConaughey, who between this, THE LINCOLN LAWYER and his upcoming film with Jeff Nichols, seems to be in the middle of a dramatic re-invention.


The early buzz on 50/50 has been terrific, with many saying Joseph Gordon-Levitt's role as a terminally-ill young man is the breakthrough performance that will put him on the A-list. As a long-time fan of his, I certainly hope this is the case, as I found his exceptional performance in INCEPTION was neglected in favour of some of the bigger names. I also thought his last film, HESHER was unfairly maligned by many mainstream critics, as it was truly an exceptionally good film. Seth Rogen's also been picking up a lot of buzz for his role as Levitt's best-friend, who dedicates himself to keeping his friend happy, sane and stoned (yeah!) through his illness.

Take This Waltz

Another role for Seth Rogen, this one opposite Michelle Williams (who's on a white-hot roll) in a dramady from Sarah Polley, about the trails and tribulations of a flawed romance. Sounds a bit like a lighter variation on BLUE VALENTINE to me. Regardless, it's a must see, as Polley proved with AWAY FROM HER that she's got a keen eye as a director. It will also be interesting to see how Rogan fares outside his typically comedic wheelhouse. Sarah Silverman also has a key role, although I can't say I enjoyed her work in her last film to play at TIFF, PEEP WORLD.


The bard meets THE HURT LOCKER, is how many have described Ralph Fiennes' directorial debut, and adaptation of the Shakespeare play, updated to modern times. Sounds to me like the most interesting Shakespeare adaptation since Julie Taymor's TITUS. The trailer is really cool, and the fact that this co-stars Brian Cox (who was born to recite the Bard), Gerard Butler (a stretch), Vanessa Redgrave (already getting Oscar buzz) and Jessica Chastain (is she in everything now?) make this yet another hot ticket flick.

Paul Williams: Still Alive

Why am I so excited to see this doc. Simple, I'm a big Paul Williams fan. While mostly forgotten by modern audiences, Williams was the mac daddy of seventies singer songwriters (despite his short 5'2 stature, and haircut that made him look like a red-headed version of Cousin It), who won in addition to writing most of The Muppet's biggest hits, won Emmy's, an Oscar, and a Grammy. He also starred in, and wrote the soundtrack for Brian De Palma's superb PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE. Interestingly, De Palma's a frequent guest at TIFF (it's easy to spot him sitting in most of the press and industry screenings wearing his signature cameraman jacket), and I'd love to see his reaction to this doc.

Jeff Who Lives at Home

As all-star cast joins Jason Segel in the Duplass' Bros., follow-up to indie-gem CYRUS, about the titular slacker who, you guess it, lives at home. Sound a little too much lie CYRUS? Have faith. I think Duplass Bros, not to mention Jason Segel, are the real deal, so I'm walking into this one with lofty expectations. Ed Helms, the always underrated Judy Greer and Susan Sarandon co-star.

Kill List

A few weeks ago, I finally sat down and watched DOWN TERRACE. I freakin’ loved every second of it, and from what I hear, KILL LIST is a big leap forward for director Ben Wheatley, with the reviews out of SXSW being white-hot. I really can’t wait to see this with the wild TIFF Midnight Madness audience, and I’m certain this will be a highlight of the festival.


A badass cop movie, starring Woody Harrelson, and from the director (Oren Moverman) of THE MESSENGER? Yup- count me it! I’m anxious to see this expose of the LAPD circa the Rodney King riots, and hopefully, this will be one of the big discoveries of the fest.


Francis Ford Coppola's interactive Edgar Allan Poe-inspired gothic horror tale finally makes it's debut, in the presence of the maestro himself. After his display at Comic Con, it's obvious that Coppola's doing some bold experimentation here, with the film designed to be DJ'd in a fashion for a live audience. No word yet on whether or not this will be the interactive version, or a more conventional cut. We'll see.


Juan Carlos Fresnadillo's long-awaited follow-up to his excellent sequel, 28 WEEKS LATER. Here, he enlists one of my favorite actors, Clive Owen, in a story that traces the origins of race of monsters that are passed on family-to-family, like a disease. Sounds frightening, and if he's pedigree promises anything, it will be all that and more. This could be a real sleeper.

Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory

Considering that the West Memphis 3 just got released, it'll be interesting to see how the story is updated here. It'll be even more interesting if the 3 actually appear at the fest for the Q&A, but that's probably expecting too much. If anything, it will be nice to finally see this story get the (mostly) happy ending it deserves. If any of you haven't been following their story, I highly suggest you check out the previous films. It's a shocking miscarriage of justice, and one that took almost twenty years to set right.


Carrying on with Shakespeare, this film, from Roland Emmerich no less, suggests that William Shakespeare DID NOT write his plays, and in fact stole them from the Earl of Oxford, played here by Rhys Ifans. This sounds like a stretch for Emmerich, but I think, if anything, this will be even more of a stretch for the historical genre, as this is unlikely to be some mere bodice ripper. It'll probably be trashy, melodramatic, and more than a little ridiculous, but I also think it will be a lot of fun. Also- Rhys Ifans in a leading role is fine by me. I recently got the chance to catch him in MR. NICE, and I think he can chew the scenery with the best of 'em.


A film about the abdication of Edward VIII, due to his love affair with Wallis Simpson. But wait, wasn't that already covered (well) by THE KING'S SPEECH. Why yes, it has, but here it gets the Madonna treatment, with her not only directing, but co-writing the script. Mercifully, she doesn't act in it, but the buzz out of Venice is noxious. According to one early review, compared to how badly they're portrayed in WE, being forced to abdicate the throne doesn't seem so bad in comparison.
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