Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) 2012 Preview!

Well folks- it’s time again for the Toronto International Film Festival, and once again, I’ll be covering it for JoBlo.com. As always, I’m extremely excited, as a visit to TIFF is like a visit to Mecca for me. It gives me ten solid days where I can forget about everything and just devote myself to non-stop movie watching- a luxury to be sure.

More than ever, the programmers at TIFF have outdone themselves putting together an absolutely knock-out list of films, which dwarfs a lot of the competition. The following is a list of twenty movies I’m particularly excited to see. It’s worth noting that in the last two years, I ended up seeing the eventual Best Picture Oscar winners (THE KING’S SPEECH in 2010, THE ARTIST in 2011) at TIFF, so who knows? A film on this list may walk away with the big prize! Read on…

1- Cloud Atlas

A sprawling epic from directors Tom Tykwer (RUN LOLA RUN) and the Wachowski’s (THE MATRIX), there’s no film quite as intriguing playing the fest. Sporting a cast that’s fit for a king (Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Hugo Weaving, Jim Broadbent, etc), and a handsome budget, it’s rare that such an offbeat project gets the big studio treatment. The non-linear story is certainly going to be a challenge to follow, and despite the great trailer, I’m still not 100% they’ll be able to pull it off. Still- whatever happens; it’ll at least be an interesting film. And heck- it could be brilliant. Fingers crossed.

2- Looper

I’ve been hearing great things about LOOPER for the past few months, and I’m really looking forward to catching up with it. I’m a big fan of everyone involved, from Joseph Gordon-Levitt, to Bruce Willis, to director Rian Johnson- director of BRICK and THE BROTHERS BLOOM. The time travel plot is intriguing, and this looks like intelligent sci-fi, that nonetheless doesn’t skimp on the action. If this one is as good as I’ve been hearing, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see Johnson get the reins of a huge franchise (perhaps even the Robin-TDKR spinoff with star/bud Levitt). The stakes are high- but the payoff can be huge.

3- Argo

It’s amazing that Ben Affleck, an actor I was never a huge fan of, has managed to totally reinvent himself in the space of a few years. GONE BABY GONE (an incredible film) proved he was a really talented director, and THE TOWN proved that he could not only make an epic that would do the masters proud, but also that- given the opportunity, he could be a terrific leading man. ARGO looks to be another winner, and I must admit that as a Canadian, I’m intrigued by Affleck’s decision to tell the stranger-than-fiction tale of Iran Hostage rescue- where several embassy escapees were sheltered by the Canadian Ambassador to Iran. From there- things got really crazy, with the CIA inventing a phony sci-fi movie shoot to cover their rescue operation. Truly an amazing story and it should make a gripping film.

4- The Master

The early reviews for THE MASTER have been puzzling, as it they’ve been so obscure about whether or not it’s a good film that it seems the early critics are waiting for a general consensus before deciding. I’m certain that it’s a challenging film, as are all of Paul Thomas Anderson’s films, and I can’t wait to experience this for myself. One thing they have agreed is that Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix (a comeback from his gonzo-rapper period) are incredible, and Oscar worthy. As an added bonus, I’ll be seeing it in 70MM.

5- To The Wonder

In addition to ARGO, Ben Affleck’s also starring in Terrence Mallick’s new film- TO THE WONDER. In true Mallick fashion, nobody’s quite sure what it’s about- and heck, even after seeing the movie we may not be sure. Still, love him or hate him, Mallick’s a visionary and I’m sure TO THE WONDER will be an experience. I really liked TREE OF LIFE- so I’m hoping this delivers, although- from what I hear Affleck's only got about 10 lines of dialogue, and McAdams is almost completely cut out.

6- Dredd 3D

I AM THE LAW! Ah yes, I can still here good ol’ Sly Stallone screaming this line while being dragged off to the Cursed Earth in the 1995 version of JUDGE DREDD, which certainly hasn’t stood up as one of his better films. Seventeen years later, we have a new, grittier version- DREDD 3D starring Karl Urban, that reportedly adheres closer to the source material (Judge Dredd’s 2000 A.D is HUGE in the UK). JimmyO saw it at Comic Con, and loved it, and that recommendation, paired with the fact that it’s written and produced by none other than Alex Garland (writer of my favorite book- ‘The Beach’, as well as 28 DAYS LATER) has me pretty psyched.

7- Seven Psychopaths

Martin McDonagh’s IN BRUGES is one of my favorite films to come out over the last few years, so I’ve been anxiously awaiting his follow-up, SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS. Sporting a cast to kill for (Colin Farrell, Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, and more) and a funky, dog-napping premise (shades of WRONG), this should be a nutty, but awesome ride. As it’s playing the usually hardcore Midnight Madness, I’m willing to bet that this puts the “psycho” back in SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS. Also- you gotta love that cheeky, self-aware trailer.

8- The Iceman

The early reviews on THE ICEMAN out of Venice are saying that Michael Shannon’s turn as contract killer Richard Kuklinski- who chalked up a body count in the hundreds during his heyday, is Oscar worthy. Shannon’s one of my favorite actors, and I love a good crime sage- so this one sounds like it’s right up my alley. I’m also hearing that Chris Evans does standout work as one of his murderous colleagues, and that Winona Ryder has a really solid comeback role as Kuklinski’s put-upon wife.

9- The Place Beyond The Pines

Derek Cianfrance’s BLUE VALENTINE was a stunningly directed film, and I’m very curious to see what we does with a multi-generation crime saga, as THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES has been described. Other than TO THE WONDER, this is the TIFF movie I know least about going in, but it’s high on my must-list. After DRIVE, anything Ryan Gosling does has my attention- and I’m certain that this film, which pairs him with Eva Mendes, and Bradley Cooper, is going to be one of the hottest films of the fest.

10- End of Watch

David Ayer’s END OF WATCH is apparently a really hyper-kinetic “day in the life” of a couple of LA beat cops (Michael Pena and Jake Gyllenhaal) - with lots of found-footage style HD cam work being worked into the plot. Also starring Anna Kendrick, obviously END OF WATCH must be pretty solid, otherwise the studio- which is giving it a major release only a few weeks later wouldn’t bring it to TIFF- as the word-of-mouth on this one will likely spread fast. I’m willing to be this is solid- even if the “found footage” gimmick is old.

11- On The Road

Walter Salles’ adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s ON THE ROAD is one of those projects that I think we all assumed would never see the light of day. After all- Hollywood has been trying to adapt Kerouac since the fifties, with none other than Marlon Brando once being attached. Against all odds, the film is done, and while the reception at Cannes was muted (it’s since been recut), there was enough praise- even in some of the negative reviews, to suggest this one might be a diamond in the rough. Apparently Kristen Stewart and Garrett Hedlund do standout work.

12- Much Ado About Nothing

Not much is known about Joss Whedon’s Shakespeare adaptation- MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, other than the fact it was shot in twelve days (in black & white no less), and keeps the Shakespearean prose intact. The cast list reads like a who’s who of Whedon’s past projects, including Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker from ANGEL, Nathan Fillion from FIREFLY, and Clark Gregg from THE AVENGERS. Like other films on this list, it’s a mystery- but certainly one I’ll be checking out.

13- Sightseers

Ben Wheatley’s a director that seems on the verge of crossing over in a big way. His last two films, DOWN TERRACE and KILL LIST- were remarkable, and his latest, SIGHTSEERS, played to raves at Cannes. A horror-comedy mix, produced by Edgar Wright, this one is high on my list of priorities. Wheatley’s a truly original voice in genre films, and I can’t wait to see what he has up his sleeve with this one.

14- Rust & Bone

Jacques Audiard’s last film, A PROPHET, was robbed in the best foreign film Oscar race by Michael Haneke’s THE WHITE RIBBON, and it looks like Haneke’s going to do it again with AMOUR. But- I’ve heard this offering from Audiard, featuring Marion Cotillard as a maimed whale trainer, and Matthais Schoenaerts (BULLHEAD) as her brutish but compassionate lover- is a force to be reckoned with.

15- Pusher

A remake of Nicolas Winding Refn’s 1996 film (albeit done with his blessing- he has a producer credit), this UK offering takes us through a hectic week in the life of a drug pusher- played by Richard Coyle, who did a great job in the recent horror-comedy GRABBERS. I’m a huge Refn fan, so this is high on my list, and Coyle, coupled with a score by electronica legends Orbital are giving me high hopes.

17- The Company You Keep

Robert Redford’s latest, which he also directs, featuring him as a Weather Underground fugitive, whose new existence is threatened by his outing by a journalist (Shia LaBeouf) – and has to go on the run to clear his name. At seventy-six, Redford seems a little long in the tooth to be doing a man-on-the-run thriller, but then again, he’s pretty in-shape for his age, and judging from his other films as director, this will be less along the lines of his earlier THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR, and much lower key.

18- The Sapphires

THE SAPPHIRES, based on a real girl-group made up of Australian Aboriginals in the sixties, got raves at Cannes, with The Weinstein Co., picking it up. Starring the great Chris Dowd, I’m hoping this will inject a little breezy fun into a pretty heavy-duty festival. The Weinsteins usually have a good eye for these feel-good crowd-pleasers (see INTOUCHABLES), so I’m looking forward to it.

19- The Silver Linings Playbook

If it wasn’t for one important factor, I wouldn’t be too keen on THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK. Starring Bradley Cooper as a former mental patient, who’s come home to his parents (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver) and falls in love with a young widower (Jennifer Lawrence), this sounds like typical Oscar bait. Lawrence seems ridiculously young for her role, which- in the book this is based on, is written as a woman in her mid-thirties (Lawrence was 21 when this was filmed), and De Niro’s involvement means nothing after a run of atrocious films. BUT- this is directed by David O’Russell, who’s made a couple of great films (THREE KINGS, FLIRTING WITH DISASTER, THE FIGHTER) so that, and a rare appearance by Chris Tucker, makes this one to check out.

20- Passion

Supposedly a return to form for Brian DePalma (who hasn’t done truly good film in years), PASSION is a sexually charged thriller featuring Noomi Rapace and Rachel McAdams as a corporate big-wig, and her possibly homicidal assistant. McAdams looks absolutely smoking hot in all the stills that have come out so far, and I’m very curious to see if De Palma’s still got the touch that made his earlier thrillers, BODY DOUBLE, BLOW OUT, and DRESSED TO KILL- so much fun. This also marks De Palma’s reunion with composer Pino Donaggio- which is intriguing.
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