2013 Toronto International Film Festival Preview!

I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since last year’s edition of the Toronto International Film Festival, but here it is again! From September 5th to the 15th, I’ll be heading to Toronto for my fifth year (crazy how time flies) covering what’s got to be one of the best film festivals in existence. I honestly can’t wait. Even though I’ve been plenty, every year feels just as exciting as the first. It looks like this is going to be another killer year, as I already have a list of forty films or so that I’d like to catch for the site. Throughout the fest, make sure to check-in with JoBlo.com daily for all the latest reviews. Also, follow me on twitter (@cbumbray ) as I’ll be posting my first comments live immediately following each screening.

The following is a list of some of the big titles I’m most looking forward to covering.

1. Gravity

CHILDREN OF MEN is one of my favorite movies of the last decade, so to say I’m excited for director Alfonso Cuaron’s follow-up- which has taken a full seven years- is an understatement. GRAVITY was actually supposed to come out last year, but WB delayed it to give Cuaron more time to work on the VFX. According to the early reviews out of the Venice International Film Festival, it’s been worth the wait, with it getting unanimous raves. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to see the IMAX print, as if anyone can make that format work, it’s Cuaron. The trailers for this make me anxious and queasy, but in a good way.

2. Prisoners

PRISONERS is a doubly intriguing film for me this year. For one thing, it’ll be the first movie I check out at this year’s edition of the fest, as I’ll be participating in the junket. Secondly, it was shot in my hometown, Montreal, by local director Denis Villeneuve. This follows Villeneuve’s Oscar nominated Quebec-movie INCENDIES, and if anyone can turn this hot spec script (which almost got turned into a film numerous times) into a gripping feature, it’s this guy. With Hugh Jackman- in what looks to be his most dramatically challenging role to date- heading an all-star cast, Warner Bros seems to be pinning a lot of its Oscar hopes on it. Those hopes seem to be well-founded as PRISONERS just had it's debut at Telluride and played to raves.

3. 12 Years a Slave

Director Steve McQueen’s follow-up to SHAME, 12 YEARS A SLAVE seems to have Oscar written all over it. Chiwetel Ejiofor- a criminally underrated actor- stars in this true story, as a free black man who was sold into slavery in the pre-civil war south, where he spent twelve years as a slave. This one’s got an all-star cast, with Brad Pitt (who also produced), Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, Paul Dano and regular McQueen crony Michael Fassbender all having parts. This is one I’m quite excited for.

4. Rush

Ron Howard’s RUSH, based on the real-life F1 rivalry between legends Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) and James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth), seems like an unusually rock n’ roll-style film for the usually “prestige” Howard. From what I’m hearing, it’s his best movie in years. One thing’s for sure; anyone that knows anything about F1 can tell you the Lauda/Hut rivalry is nail-biting stuff. You can also bet they’ll be plenty of eye candy. The ladies get Hensworth, but the guys get Olivia Wilde (sporting a hot English accent) and Natalie Dormer.

5. Blood Ties

Despite playing to decidedly mixed reviews at Cannes, I’m really looking forward to Guillaume Canet’s BLOOD TIES, which sounds like a great throwback thriller in the vein of seventies Scorsese or Sidney Lumet. Apparently, this version is seventeen minutes shorter than what was shown at Cannes (which is disappointing- I like my crime epics EPIC), but hopefully Canet’s film plays better than ever. One thing’s for sure, it’s got one hell of a cast. Clive Owen, Mila Kunis, Marion Cottillard, Billy Crudup, and Jimmy Caan. Hell yeah!

6. The Fifth Estate

Bill Condon’s going to try and redeem himself after BREAKING DAWN with a return to the awards-calibre style of drama he does best. As far as I’m concerned, this is his REAL follow-up to DREAMGIRLS, with TIFF “It” star Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange. No doubt this will be one of the more controversial movies to play the fest, with “Wiki Leaks” still being a hot-button topic to say the least.

7. Can a Song Save Your Life

John Carney’s ONCE was a minor masterpiece, introducing the world to the powerful ballads of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. In the years since, Carney’s done a couple of small Irish movies, like ZONAD and THE RAFTERS, but his Mark Ruffalo/Keira Knightley music-driven drama, CAN A SONG SAVE YOUR LIFE? seems like a major return to prominence. If it has even half the magic of ONCE, this will be one of the most beloved films of the fest.

8. Dallas Buyers Club

Matthew McConaughey dropped a shocking thirty-eight pounds to star as AIDS patient Ron Woodruff is this true-to-life tale. Back in the eighties, when AIDS was still a mystery, Woodruff used experimental, non-FDA approved drugs from all over the world to try to stave off his illness. This sounds like prime Oscar-material for McConaughey, who’s in the midst of a career-redefining resurgence between this, KILLER JOE, MUD, MAGIC MIKE and the upcoming INTERSTELLAR.

9. Joe

After a couple of years directing studio comedies, David Gordon Green, following PRINCE AVALANCHE, is back doing the art-house dramas he does best. JOE stars Nicolas Cage as an ex-con who winds up being an unlikely role model for a fifteen year old boy (Tye Sheridan, MUD). Hopefully Gordon Green’s movie is going to give Cage the kind of role we’ve all be aching to see him play, as when Cage is at his best, few are better. One thing is for certain. If it’s a David Gordon Green movie, it’ll be beautiful to look at.

10. Under the Skin

Scarlett Johansson plays an alien travelling around Scotland in human form in Jonathan Glazer’s UNDER THE SKIN. I’m a huge fan of Glazer’s SEXY BEAST (as well as his follow-up BIRTH) and I’m assuming that this will be more BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET than SPECIES, although I could be wrong. Apparently, the Scottish cast is mostly made-up of non-actors, and Glazer opts for a cinema vérité style. Only, ya know, with aliens.

11. Labor Day

Jason Reitman’s (UP IN THE AIR, YOUNG ADULT) latest, which, according to the early reviews, is a major departure from his usual comic style. This one centers on a single mother (Kate Winslet) and her son, who are taken hostage by a charismatic fugitive (Josh Brolin) over Labor Day weekend. Apparently, this is quite the sweeping romance, with Brolin’s performance being compared to vintage Robert Mitchum, which is high praise indeed.

12. The Green Inferno

THE GREEN INFERNO marks Eli Roth’s first movie as a director in six years. Apparently, this is Roth’s homage to vintage exploitation curios like CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, with the movie following student activists who travel to the Amazon to a study lost tribe. Judging by the blood-soaked stills that have been released so far, it’s probably safe to say these students made a pretty bad choice.

13. Man of Tai Chi

Keanu Reeves makes an unexpected directorial debut with MAN OF TAI CHI, a kung-fu flick that reteams him with his MATRIX choreographer Yuen Woo-Ping. When it came out in China a few months ago, MAN OF TAI CHI was received rather “coolly” by the press, but this can be attributed to many different factors. Apparently Reeves’ movie, which also features him in a rare villainous turn, is being shown on IMAX, which is a super cool way to see a Kung-Fu movie. And, with fighters like Iko Uwais and Tiger Hu Chen involved, you can be sure the fights will be top-notch.

14. Life of Crime

An adaptation of the late Elmore Leonard’s novel “The Switch”, LIFE OF CRIME stars Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def) and John Hawkes as Ordell Robbie and Louis Gara, roles made famous by Samuel L. Jackson and Robert De Niro in JACKIE BROWN. Also starring Isla Fisher, and Jennifer Aniston, apparently this one had Leonard’s blessing, which was not necessarily an easy thing to get from the notoriously outspoken author. Hopefully it’ll be more like OUT OF SIGHT, JUSTIFIED, and GET SHORTY, than THE BIG BOUNCE or BE COOL.

15. Don Hemingway

Richard Shepard gets my vote for one of the most underrated directors out there. His Pierce Brosnan-starrer, THE MATADOR would be on my top 10 of the best movies to come out over the last decade. His follow-up, THE HUNTING PARTY, wasn't as well received, but I thought it was pretty solid even if Richard Gere didn't seem quite as good a fit to Shepard's rakish, self-abusing anti-hero archetype as Brosnan. As the titular DON HEMINGWAY, Jude Law seems poised to reinvent himself the same way Brosnan did, playing a harsh, non-glamorous character. This may well be Law's best role since ROAD TO PERDITION.

16. How I Live Now

The plot description of this film sounds a tad HUNGER GAMES-ish, with a bunch of English teens running around the English countryside while WW3 is fought, but I'm sure director Kevin McDonald (THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND) has got something a little more daring up his sleeve. Indeed, the movie just landed a hard R-rating, so this might be a little nastier than you'd think.

17. Enemy

Incredibly, PRISONERS isn't the only Denis Villeneuve/Jake Gyllenhaal collaboration to play TIFF. Turns out, the two also (somehow) found the time to do a whole other movie. This one is called ENEMY, and stars Gyllenhaal as a man who wakes up one day to find he has a double. Sounds trippy. I'm down.

18. The Devil's Knot

Coming from TIFF mainstay Atom Egoyan, THE DEVIL'S KNOT is a controversial film about the West Memphis Three. Apparently the film has led to a rift between Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin over the way Echols is portrayed in the high profile film, which boasts an all-star cast that included Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth. Anyone who knows about the West Memphis Three can tell you that their story truly is stranger than fiction, and I have no doubt it'll add up to an intriguing film.

19. Parkland

PARKLAND- the release of which not coincidentally coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination- tells a multi-character account of the hours following the JFK shooting. Paul Giamatti plays Abraham Zapruder, who caught the assassination on 8mm film in the now infamous Zapruder film. Meanwhile, Zac Efron, and Colin Hanks play two of the doctors who tried (in vain) to save Kennedy following the shooting. Sounds intriguing, and I'm a sucker for anything about the JFK assassination.

20. Horns

HORNS is Alexandre Aja's follow-up to his hilariously gruesome PIRANHA 3D. I loved that movie, and I can't wait to see what Aja has up his sleeve for this, which is an adaptation of the well-received novel by Joe Hill. It also marks a HUGE change of pace for Daniel Radcliffe, who, between this and another TIFF selection KILL YOUR DARLINGS (which I saw and loved at Sundance)- looks to be doing a brilliant job establishing himself as an adult actor.

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