Jake Gyllenhaal plays a man and his doppelganger in Enemy, Denis Villeneuve's adaptation of Jose Saramago's novel The Double. (Toronto International Film Festival)
Cementing the Toronto International Film Festival's place at the top tier of the world's cinematic circuit, hard-working programmers have once again snagged an enviable slate for movie-loving audiences.
Still, with 366 films (including feature-length and shorts) overall, one can understandably feel overwhelmed by TIFF's vast offerings.
There are inevitably a crop of films each year that separate from the overall pack, whether due to powerhouse performers, the return of a talented filmmaker, buzz from a previous outing or perhaps an auspicious debut.
CBC News highlights TIFF-bound films already causing chatter among moviegoers.
12 Years a Slave
After widespread kudos for his searing films Hunger and Shame, British artist and filmmaker Steve McQueen tackles the Civil War era with 12 Years a Slave. Based on the biography of Solomon Northup, a free-born black man sold into slavery, the impressively cast drama stars the phenomenally talented Chiwetel Ejiofor, surrounded by equally strong performers including frequent McQueen muse Michael Fassbender, Paul Giamatti, Paul Dano, Alfre Woodard and Brad Pitt, who is also a producer. TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey, who left his first screening of an unfinished version only to learn that legendary film critic Roger Ebert had died, said he knew instantly that he wanted 12 Years a Slave in this year's lineup.
The Fifth Estate
Putting aside its highly prominent slot as TIFF's opening film, the WikiLeaks origin story The Fifth Estate would still be one of this year's buzziest titles. It checks all the boxes, including a veteran Oscar-winning director (Bill Condon), a ripped-from-the-headlines topic, and one of today's hottest and most respected stars -- Brit Benedict Cumberbatch -- turning in what already seems like a mesmerizing turn as activist editor Julian Assange.
August: Osage County
With a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award already under its belt, the darkly comic, cruelly honest and entertaining drama August: Osage County required some Hollywood heavyweights for a significant movie adaptation. Consequently, producers (who include George Clooney) enlisted the doyenne of American cinema -- Meryl Streep -- and an impeccable and star-studded cast (including Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis, Dermot Mulroney and Sam Shepard) to bring to life playwright Tracy Letts's darkly comic, heart-piercingly honest and entertaining dysfunctional family tale.
Prisoners and Enemy
One of several celebrated Canadian filmmakers now on Hollywood's radar (after his searing, French-language films Polytechnique and the Oscar-nominated Incendies), Quebec's Denis Villeneuve offers an intense one-two punch for his big-budget and English-language debuts. Incidentally, both highlight noted Hollywood actor Jake Gyllenhaal. In Enemy, he adapts author Jose Saramago's thriller about a man who discovers he has a doppelganger and sets out to find him, while Prisoners (also headlined by Hugh Jackman, Terrence Howard, Viola Davis and Maria Bello) revolves around the desperate search for a pair of missing children.
Tom at the Farm
Xavier Dolan directs and stars in his latest film, the psychological drama Tom at the Farm. (TIFF)
The brilliant bad boy of Quebec cinema and one of Canada's most promising and evolving young filmmaking talents, Xavier Dolan is on a furious pace, bringing his latest to TIFF just a year after his sumptuous and unconventional romantic epic Laurence Anyways. In the psychological drama Tom at the Farm, Dolan portrays a grieving man who attends the funeral of his lover, only to discover his existence is completely unknown to the family of the deceased.
Labour Day, starring Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin and Gattlin Griffith, is a departure for director Jason Reitman. (TIFF)
Jason Reitman has become one of the most consistently interesting and reliable young Hollywood directors. After an award-winning track record that includes Up in the Air, Juno and Thank You for Smoking, he takes a step in a different, more dramatic direction with latest endeavour Labor Day, about an escaped convict who holes up with a reclusive single mother and her preteen son during a holiday weekend in the mid-1980s.
Has it really been seven years since Children of Men? Noted Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron has been holed up working on his followup to that apocalyptic tale, teaming up with his son Jonas to pen space thriller Gravity, starring Oscar winners George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. Special effects for the 3D production reportedly delayed the film's debut, but from the dread-inducing trailer alone, we're intrigued.
All is By My Side
Hip hop artist André Benjamin stars as Jimi Hendrix in the biopic All is By My Side. (TIFF)
OutKast's undeniably creative hip hop funkmaster André 3000 as legendary guitar hero Jimi Hendrix? How can anyone resist?
Daniel Radcliffe in Kill Your Darlings, The F Word and Horns
Post-Harry Potter, Daniel Radcliffe is tackling quite an eclectic cinematic slate. He's one of a few actors (alongside equally busy Cumberbatch and Mia Wasikowska) with a trio of TIFF offerings this year. The versatile star appears as Beat poet Allen Ginsberg (Kill Your Darlings), a lovestruck young man stuck in "friend mode" (The F Word), and a murder suspect who develops a paranormal appearance and talent (Horns).
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
One of the films already garnering pre-awards season buzz is Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. In the twilight of Mandela's life, there have already been multiple film and TV productions revisiting the South African icon's story. Still, the brilliant Idris Elba is turning heads for what some are touting as the standout, seminal interpretation of the anti-apartheid hero.
The Wind Rises
Any new film from Oscar-winning Japanese auteur Hayao Miyazaki causes a stir, but the maestro of animation has also sparked controversy with his latest, The Wind Rises. Already a box office smash in Japan, his fictionalized portrait of a real-life Second World War fighter plane designer has been blasted by some for celebrating Japanese militarism. On the opposite end of the spectrum, conservatives have criticized the left-leaning filmmaker for the film's message about the futility of war.
Blue is the Warmest Color
A headline-grabber at Cannes for its prolonged and graphic lesbian love scenes (which also raise the ire of Julie Maroh, author of the originating graphic novel), Blue is the Warmest Color nevertheless left La Croisette triumphant, as winner of that festival's top prize. TIFF will be a wider, North American audience's first look at this French-language coming-of-age tale.
Dallas Buyers Club
Matthew McConaughey has dazzled of late with a variety of strong, memorably scene-stealing turns (from Killer Joe and Mud to The Lincoln Lawyer and Magic Mike). Insiders are now predicting awards season kudos for the Texan's next venture. In Canadian Jean-Marc Vallée's Dallas Buyers Club, he plays a rough-living cowboy who, floored by an HIV diagnosis during the 1980s AIDS crisis, becomes an unlikely hero of sorts when he begins to smuggle and sell alternative, unapproved anti-viral treatments to his fellow afflicted.
Only Lovers Left Alive
Otherworldly performers Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston portray centuries-old vampires in the modern world, as imagined by indie filmmaker-musician-poet Jim Jarmusch. Yes, please!
John Turturro directs and stars opposite the incomparable Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Sofia Vergara and Vanessa Paradis in this quirky rom-com about a middle-aged florist-turned-male escort. An unlikely plot? Perhaps. But the nostalgia-inducing trailer harkens back to Allen's cinematic portrait of Manhattan and Turturro highlights the legendary director at his "Woody Allenest."
Rhymes for Young Ghouls
Jeff Barnaby was self-deprecating at TIFF's Canadian lineup announcement in August, but festival staffers were abuzz about the young director's feature-length debut, Rhymes for Young Ghouls, which arrives after several highly praised short films. Once the trailer rolled, we all saw why: Barnaby promises to deliver a dark, drug-infused tale about an aboriginal teen who plots revenge against her reserve's sadistic and corrupt Indian agent. TIFF programmer Steve Gravestock memorably branded the stylish-looking thriller "S.E. Hinton on hashish."
The Armstrong Lie
Alex Gibney had unprecedented access to disgraced champion cyclist Lance Armstrong for his doc The Armstrong Lie. (TIFF)
When Alex Gibney was first commissioned to make a film about cycling champion Lance Armstrong's return to the Tour de France in 2009, it came a few years before the devastating flood of revelations that would be his undoing. Granted unprecedented access to interview Armstrong and his inner circle, the Oscar-winning documentarian proceeds to weave together the explosive accusations, the cyclist's emphatic denials and -- after Armstrong's eventual admission to talk show diva Oprah Winfrey earlier this year -- new interviews with the disgraced star for a more detailed account of his double life.
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