22 Must Watch Movies From The Toronto Film Festival

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The Toronto International Film Festival has rapidly established itself as one of the best on the planet. The perfect mix of big names, arthouse fare and no-holds-barred weirdness, against the backdrop of one of our favourite cities, the TIFF – as acronym fans like to call it – is a highlight of the festival calendar. Here, we take a look at a bunch of movies that should be lighting up Scott Pilgrim’s hometown from September 6 onwards.

Vampires are so passé, right? Well, Neil Jordan – who last tackled bloodsuckers in 1993 with Interview With A Vampire – begs to differ with this dark, Gothic tale of two sisters (who may be mother and daughter) who pitch up in a dead-end seaside town with a dark secret guaranteed to make the neighbours twitch more than their net curtains. Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan head up an intriguing cast that also includes Sam Riley, Jonny Lee Miller and X-Men: First Class’s Caleb Landry Jones. But the real reason this excites? It’s the reunion of Jordan with his old producing partner, Stephen Woolley, after almost a decade apart. Given that their partnership began with The Company Of Wolves, and subsequently begat Mona Lisa, The Crying Game and Michael Collins, we’re expecting big things from this one.

When will we see it in the UK? TBC

How do you follow up The King’s Speech? If you’re Gareth Unwin, one of the Oscar-winning producers on the Britflick that conquered the world, the easy option would be to find something along similar lines. But Unwin has not taken the easy option. Instead, his next project is a heart-rending low-budget drama about the slow-forming bond between an Israeli fighter pilot and a Palestinian refugee, as they try to make their way home across hostile Lebanese territory. The cast, unlike The King’s Speech, isn’t studded with big names (Stephen Dorff as the fighter pilot is as big as they come here), but this is very much a passion project for Unwin.

When will we see it in the UK? TBC

David Ayer has made a career out of chronicling the travails of being an officer in the LAPD, from Training Day to Street Kings and Harsh Times. But he’s added a new wrinkle to proceedings with this movie, which follows Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena’s cops as they go about their business and try to fend off a gang intent on punching their tickets. Shot entirely on desk-mounted cameras, iPhones and anything else Ayer could get his hands on, this should be a thriller of impressive immediacy and tempo.

When will we see it in the UK? November 23

Eli Roth hasn’t been seen behind the camera for a while, and it’s been three years since his surprisingly effective turn in Inglourious Basterds. So, even though it’s directed by Nicolas Lopez, it’s hard not to see Aftershock – part of TIFF’s much-vaunted 'Midnight Madness' programme – as his comeback on both sides of the fence. Roth co-wrote and produced this Chilean-shot-and-based action horror, in which an American tourist (Roth) gets mixed up in all kinds of bloody goings-on in the wake of a huge earthquake. The stills we’ve seen so far suggest this one doesn’t skimp on the claret.

When will we see it in the UK? TBC

Another Midnight Madness entry, this hugely anticipated flick sees In Bruges writer-director Martin McDonagh reteam with Colin Farrell for a sweary, meta-textual, blood-soaked comedy thriller set in Hollywood. Farrell, as a writer called Martin who’s working on a script called Seven Psychopaths, heads a mouthwatering cast that includes Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell (who both worked with McDonagh on his stage play, A Behanding In Spokane), Woody Harrelson, Abbie Cornish and Olga Kurylenko. Expect the best dialogue this side of Tarantino, and enough cuss-words to fill up a swear jar.

When will we see it in the UK? December 7.

Juan Antonio Bayona’s follow-up to The Orphanage isn’t a horror film. At least, not in the supernatural sense. The Impossible, which follows a family’s struggle for survival in the wake of the Boxing Day 2004 Tsunami that killed almost a quarter of a million people, is a horror film in the most literal sense, in that it aims to convey, unflinchingly, true horror. But Bayona is driven by a sense of obligation to the survivors of the greatest natural disaster in centuries, and this is a thought-provoking, emotional story which may just emerge as an Oscar front-runner. Expect its stars, Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor and newcomer Tom Holland (son of British comedian, Dominic Holland), to give gangbuster performances, while the tsunami sequence will enthrall and appal in equal measure.

When will we see it in the UK? January 2013

Ben Affleck is on course to hit a hat-trick as a director with this meticulously recreated, gripping and often surprisingly funny recreation of one of the great clandestine CIA operations of all time. In the late 1970s, six US embassy workers in Iran went into hiding at the home of the Canadian ambassador in the midst of an anti-US uprising. If they were found, they would be executed as spies. Cue an audacious rescue attempt marshaled by CIA agent Tony Mendez (Affleck), who teamed up with a Hollywood producer to conjure up a fictional film – Argo – as a cover for entering Iran and leaving with the embassy workers. The truth can often be stranger than fiction, and never more so than here.

When will we see it in the UK? November 9

Interesting portmanteau horror piece featuring contributions from a host of the biggest and bloodiest names in horror. Among the likes of Adam Wingard and Ben Wheatley, though, is one name that’s particularly intriguing: Lee Hardcastle, grisly purveyor of stop-motion gore, and former runner-up in our Jameson Empire Done In 60 Seconds competition. Hats off to you, Lee!

When will we see it in the UK? TBC

Barry Levinson has grappled with most genres in his illustrious career to date, but horror has been conspicuous by its absence (unless you count Toys). He seems keen to atone for it with The Bay, a Cronenbergian/Romero-esque tale of panic in a small town; panic that sets in when a terrible infection – or giant metaphor - takes hold of its residents. Worth looking out for, if only to see Levinson way out of his comfort zone.

When will we see it in the UK? TBC

Robert Redford is back back back in this chase thriller about an activist who went underground in the '60s, only to have his identify compromised in the present day by a nosey journalist (Shia LaBeouf). We’re hoping for a combination of Sneakers and Three Days Of The Condor. With Redford behind the camera, the chances are high.

When will we see it in the UK? TBC

Paging Planet Weird: the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer team up with an all-star cast – Hanks! Berry! Weaving! Grant! Sturgess! – for this multi-layered adaptation of David Mitchell’s book, which spans the centuries. Early word is bonkers, but brilliant. When they’re on form, there’s nobody quite like the Wachowskis (and Tykwer), and this could be their (and Tykwer’s) best film since The Matrix (and Run Lola Run).

When will we see it in the UK?* March 22, 2013

If Hyde Park On Hudson elbows its way into the Oscar race, it will be the second film featuring King George VI and the Queen Mother to do so in three years. You know, after The King’s Speech. There, George and Liz were played by Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter – here, Samuel West and the brilliant Olivia Colman play them, but they’re merely supporting figures. The film is all about Franklin D. Roosevelt, the charming and capricious US president as he intersects with the Royals over the course of one weekend in 1939, and all the talk could be of Murray. Will he finally snag that long overdue Oscar?

When will we see it in the UK? February 1, 2013

The brilliant Michael Shannon stars as Richard Kuklinski, a family man with a dark side: he was a notorious contract killer, responsible for the deaths of dozens. With Chris Evans in his first major post-Avengers role, and a cracking cast including Winona Ryder, David Schwimmer and – yes! – the legend that is Robert Davi, we’re hoping for big things from this one.

When will we see it in the UK? TBC

Now there’s a title that needs a spoiler warning. Don Coscarelli’s offbeat horror musings have given us the likes of Phantasm and Bubba Ho-Tep, and his latest offering is a mind-bending metaphysical entry about two slackers caught up in the middle of an invasion of extra-dimensional beings who enter our world via an addictive new drug called Soy Sauce. Can’t wait for this one.

When will we see it in the UK? TBC

Here’s all you need to know about Rian Johnson’s time-travel thriller, in which Bruce Willis’ hitman from the future is sent back in time to be dispatched by his younger self (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), only for things to not go according to plan: we gave it five stars. It is truly brilliant, and should be one of the hits of the festival. Here’s hoping it breaks out beyond the arthouse crowd.

When will we see it in the UK?* September 28

Paul Thomas Anderson’s first movie since There Will Be Blood will have already played at Venice before hitting Yonge Street. But the Joaquin Phoenix / Philip Seymour Hoffman / Amy Adams drama-about-Scientology-that’s-not-about-Scientology-honest-guv should be one of the festival’s finest, bringing acting so intense it’s JAMMED THE CAPS LOCK.

When will we see it in the UK? November 9

Anything the director of Thor can do back, the director of The Avengers can manage using only his back garden with a bunch of mates in 12 days. At least, that’s what Joss Whedon will attempt to demonstrate with this determinedly lo-fi, homegrown take on Shakespeare’s knockabout comedy of errors (not to be confused with his Comedy Of Errors). Whedon called in many of his regular collaborators – Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg, Amy Acker, Alexis Denisoff, Fran Kranz, Sean Maher – and made the film secretly post-Avengers in lieu of a summer holiday. The play’s one of the Bard’s funnier efforts, so we’re intrigued to see what Whedon has done with it.

When will we see it in the UK?

David O. Russell’s first film since The Fighter (with Nailed still unfinished, and looking likely to remain that way) is a romantic drama starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper as two troubled souls inexplicably drawn to each other. Robert De Niro and Chris Tucker, in a rare non-Brett Ratner-directed appearance, lend support.

When will we see it in the UK? November 21

The latest collaboration between Anthony LaPaglia and Australian writer-director Robert Connelly, following the excellent Balibo, might not whip Toronto into a frenzy, but it’s on our list purely because it’s the story of the young Julian Assange. Alex Williams plays the Wikileaks founder at an early age. Rumours that the movie will premiere in Toronto’s Ecuadorian Embassy are unfounded.

When will we see it in the UK? TBC

Ben Wheatley’s brilliant road movie, written by and starring Steve Oram and Alice Lowe as a murderous couple who go on a caravanning/slashing/stabbing/pushing/bludgeoning holiday, continues his hot streak, following Down Terrace and Kill List. The blackest comedy we’ve seen in many a moon.

When will we see it in the UK? November 30