13 buzz films unspooling at TIFF
The political thriller Argo, about the rescue of American diplomats from 1979 Iran dubbed the Canadian Caper, is directed by and stars Ben Affleck. (Claire Folger/Warner Bros.)
Amidst the Toronto International Film Festival's vast movie lineup each year, a smaller crop inevitably separates from the pack based on fervent anticipation and growing buzz.
Whether due to a hot director, an impressive cast, an extraordinary film shoot or perhaps previous kudos earned, certain titles pique interest heading into Toronto's event, considered one of today's most important festivals at which to debut a new film because of its public access and movie-savvy audiences.
CBC News offers up 13 of this year's most buzzworthy TIFF films.
1. Cloud Atlas
It has a top-shelf cast that includes Jim Broadbent, Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon, a trio of innovative directors (Run Lola Run's Tom Tykwer and Matrix creators Andy and Lana Wachowski) and is based on David Mitchell's novel, a time-tripping epic comprising six linked stories that span the centuries. It's an ambitious production, to say the least.
With each new stint in the director's chair, Ben Affleck is solidifying his place among the next generation of notable American filmmakers. After his acclaimed Gone Baby Gone and The Town comes Argo, which sees him both directing and starring in the political thriller about the late-1970s rescue dubbed the "Canadian Caper." Affleck portrays the CIA specialist who concocts a daring, far-fetched plan to extract U.S. diplomats hidden inside the Canadian Embassy in Iran by disguising them as a film crew.
3. English Vinglish
After an absence of 15 years, Indian screen siren Sridevi makes a major cinematic return in the upbeat and inspirational fish-out-of-water dramedy English Vinglish, about a devoted wife and mother who finds the strength to overcome language barriers and discovers a new confidence after a move to Manhattan.
Though appearing as a typical Hollywood production, TIFF's opening night film is actually a Chinese-U.S. co-production and one of the anticipated genre titles of the fall season. Set in the near future, the brainy and action-packed sci-fi film sees director Rian Johnson reteaming with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the increasingly prominent star (The Dark Knight Rises, Premium Rush) of his high school noir debut Brick. Indie heartthrob JGL offers amazing mimicry in his turn as a younger, more foolish version of Bruce Willis' grizzled contract killer. Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels and Paul Dano co-star in the dark, mind-bending tale that delighted audiences offered a glimpse at San Diego Comic Con.
5. Midnight's Children
Deepa Mehta's film Midnight's Children is an adaptation of Salman Rushdie's classic, award-winning novel. (TIFF)
Salman Rushdie's magic realist classic has often been described as an unfilmable novel, but Canadian director Deepa Mehta is no stranger to feats of the impossible. Despite the fatwa against Rushdie and Mehta's history of inflaming religious fundamentalists with her brave and provocative Elements trilogy (Fire, Earth and Water), the pair united to create a vibrant, internationally minded and long anticipated adaptation of the Booker-winning epic, set against the birth of modern India.
Appearing undeniably sexy and suspenseful in its trailer, Brian De Palma's latest pits two alluring Hollywood starlets -- Noomi Rapace and Rachel McAdams -- against one another in this corporate world thriller about a bright, ambitious woman and her ruthless mentor. The film is a remake of director Alain Corneau's recent Crime d'amour, which featured French actress Ludivine Sagnier and the incomparable Kristin Scott Thomas.
7. Seven Psychopaths
Ace Irish playwright and filmmaker Martin McDonagh teams up with past collaborators (stage play A Behanding in Spokane's Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell as well as In Bruges star Colin Farrell) for his latest cinematic endeavour: a dark, Los Angeles-set crime comedy about a struggling writer and his oddball, canine-kidnapping pals running afoul of a dog-loving gangster. With McDonagh at the helm and a supporting cast that includes Woody Harrelson, Abbie Cornish, Tom Waits, Olga Kurylenko and Gabourey Sidibe, the film looks like a winner.
8. To the Wonder
Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams are drawn together in Terrence Malick's latest, To the Wonder. (TIFF)
Compared with the years -- and sometimes decades -- that typically passed between new projects from Terrence Malick, the reclusive American filmmaker's recent flurry of movie-making activity comes at a lightning pace. He's following up 2011's thought-provoking and critically lauded The Tree of Life with another philosophical meditation: To the Wonder. The basic premise sees Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Javier Bardem and Rachel McAdams cast in a tale of a newly married man who finds himself drawn to a former flame. Still, with the visionary Malick behind the lens, what unfolds will undoubtedly encompass much more.
Coming to TIFF on the heels of international accolades is the Canadian film Rebelle, which delves into the horrific realities faced by Africa's child soldiers. The searing drama centres on Komona (Rachel), a girl abducted by a rebel army, brutally forced to murder her parents and join the ranks of her captors. Filmmaker Kim Nguyen draws an authentic, award-winning performance from the young Mwanza, a newcomer who earned the Berlin film festival's best actress trophy for the difficult role, as well as from the production's cast of nonprofessionals.
10. A Late Quartet
A world-renowned classic troupe's future is in jeopardy when one player falls ill and the suppressed emotions of the others are awakened in the drama A Late Quartet. (TIFF)
Some early award-season chatter is bubbling around A Late Quartet, which follows a world-renowned classical troupe thrown into disarray as the illustrious group approaches its 25th anniversary. As its founding member (Christopher Walken, in a reportedly fantastic turn) is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, long-simmering rivalries and explosive secrets arise that affect the rest of the players (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener and Mark Ivanir).
The Chilean-U.S. production No is a buzz title on the lips of many a jaded film critic in advance of TIFF. For one, it marks the final entry in Pablo Larrain's trilogy about dictator Augusto Pinochet's rule and was well received at Cannes. The director's decision to go old school -- opting to shoot grainy footage and use a 4:3 aspect ratio so as to meld his new material with archival video -- is also an intriguing stylistic choice. The suspenseful political story stars indie favourite Gael Garcia Bernal as a savvy ad-man who concocts the publicity campaign that eventually leads to the end of Pinochet's reign.
12. Tai Chi 0
Dubbed a "steampunk kung-fu throwdown," Tai Chi 0 looks to be an eye-popping, everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink riot that mashes up martial arts, pop art, bizarre plotlines and crazy sets. Based on (and we're talking extremely loosely) the origins of tai chi, the film is headlined by a rising action star and choreographed by Hong Kong action great Sammo Hung. Oh, and did I mention it's the first of an in-progress trilogy?
French master Michael Haneke's sombre end-of-life examination won over the notoriously picky audience at Cannes, where the film received the prestigious Palme d'Or. Starring French screen legends Jean-Lous Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, it follows an octogenarian couple dealing with their mortality as one succumbs to illness.
For more TIFF 2012 coverage, go to CBCNews.ca/tiff.
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