After the initial slate for the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival was announced last month there were many observers, including this pundit, who wondered of the annual September event had once again lost the battle of premieres to its Fall festival cousins. While debuting Ridley Scott's “The Martian,” Jean Marc Valle's “Demolition” and Michael Moore's “Where Do We Invade Next” is nothing to sneeze at the fact some of the most anticipated films of the year are heading to Venice and Telluride first has to be a bit disheartening. Especially when it's your 40th anniversary. Never fear fans of the Great White North, Toronto always seems to land some eyebrow raising last minute additions and this year is no different.
Today TIFF announced that David Gordon Green's “Our Brand Is Crisis” with Sandra Bullock, Marc Abraham's “I Saw The Light” with Tom Hiddleston, Catherine Hardwicke's “Miss You Already” with Drew Barrymore and James Vanderbilt's “Truth” with Cate Blanchett will all screen for the first time at Toronto. All four flicks are potential awards season films with the former, “Crisis,” a potential commercial player for Warner Bros. as well.
Other notable films added to the slate include “Man Down” with Shia LaBeouf (another world premiere), “Equals” with Kristen Stewart (debuting at Venice) and closing night flick “Mr. Right” with Anna Kendrick and Sam Rockwell. Oh, and there are a bunch of former Cannes titles including “Maryland” and “Mia Madre” and Sundance premieres including “Mississippi Grind” and “The Witch.”
Here's a rundown of all of the new additions with some added commentary where applicable.
Alice Winocour, France/Belgium North American Premiere
In this masterfully engineered thriller, a young ex-soldier suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder protects a beautiful woman and her child from a brutal home invasion. Starring Matthias Schoenaerts and Diane Kruger.
Lowdown: Reviewed this thriller out of Cannes.
Dito Montiel, USA North American Premiere
In a savage post-apocalyptic America, U.S. Marine Gabriel Drummer searches desperately for the whereabouts of his estranged son and wife. Accompanied by his best friend, a hard-nosed Marine whose natural instinct is to shoot first and ask questions later, the two intercept Charles, an apocalyptic survivor carrying vital information about the whereabouts of Gabriel”s family. By revisiting the past, audiences are guided in unravelling the puzzle of Gabriel's experience, and what will eventually lead to the origin of this war-torn America. Starring Shia LaBeouf, Kate Mara, Gary Oldman and Jai Courtney.
Lowdown: Praying for an official festival press conference for this one.
“Miss You Already”
Catherine Hardwicke, United Kingdom World Premiere
This honest and powerful story follows two best friends, Milly and Jess, as they navigate life”s highs and lows. Inseparable since they were young girls, they can”t remember a time they didn”t share everything – secrets, clothes, even boyfriends – but nothing prepares them for the day Milly is hit with life-altering news. A story for every modern woman, this film celebrates the bond of true friendship that ultimately can never be broken, even in life”s toughest moments. Starring Toni Collette, Drew Barrymore, Dominic Cooper, Paddy Considine, Tyson Ritter and Jacqueline Bisset
Lowdown: Roadside Attractions has unexpectedly dropped this in the middle of awards season with a Nov. 6 release date.
Ryan Fleck, Anna Boden, USA Canadian Premiere
Gerry is a talented, but struggling poker player about to be swallowed up by his unshakeable gambling habit. But his luck begins to change after he meets the young, charismatic Curtis. Gerry convinces his new lucky charm to hit the road with him, towards a legendary high stakes poker game in New Orleans. The highs and lows unveil the duo”s true characters and motivations, and an undeniable bond forms between them. Starring Ben Mendelsohn, Ryan Reynolds, Sienna Miller, Analeigh Tipton and Alfre Woodard.
Lowdown: Potential original screenplay nominee that debuted at Sundance. Read Drew McWeeny's review.
“Mr. Right” – [Closing Night Film]
Paco Cabezas, USA World Premiere
Martha is unlucky in love, but when she finally meets her Mr. Right it seems like she”s found her match – even if he”s an international hitman on the run from the crime cartels who employ him. On the bright side, as long as Hopper or Shotgun Steve don”t kill them first, these two may actually have a chance at happily ever after. Starring Sam Rockwell, Anna Kendrick, Tim Roth, James Ransone, Anson Mount, Michael Eklund and RZA.
Lowdown: You had us at Anna Kendrick and RZA in the same movie together.
Andrew Haigh, United Kingdom Canadian Premiere
While preparing for their 45th anniversary, Kate and Geoff”s marriage is shaken with a discovery that calls into question the life they”ve built together, in this emotional tour-de-force. Starring Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay.
Lowdown: Very well respected drama out of Berlin that is expected to screen at Telluride as well.
Gaby Dellal, USA World Premiere
The touching story of three generations of a family living under one roof in New York as the life-changing transformation by one ultimately affects them all. Ray is a teenager who realizes that she isn”t meant to be a girl and decides to transition from female to male. His single mother, Maggie, must track down Ray”s biological father to get his legal consent to allow Ray”s transition. Dolly, Ray”s lesbian grandmother, struggles to accept that she now has a grandson. They must each confront their own identities and learn to embrace change and their strength as a family, in order to ultimately find acceptance and understanding. Starring Naomi Watts, Elle Fanning, Susan Sarandon, Tate Donovan, Linda Emond, Sam Trammell and Maria Dizzia.
Lowdown: The only Weinstein Company film heading to Toronto this year which is something of a shock as Harvey is usually over the fest. It opens the Friday following its TIFF premiere (Sept. 18).
“Angry Indian Goddesses”
Pan Nalin, India World Premiere
A comic drama about a group of Indian women finding their hearts and losing their heads! A wild bunch of girls from all over India descend upon Goa. Their closest friend Frieda has invited them to her family home for a surprise announcement: she”s getting married. Thus begins an impromptu bachelorette. Starring Tannishtha Chatterjee, Sandhya Mridul, Sarah Jane Dias, Pavleen Gujral, Anushka Manchanda, Rajshri Deshpande and Amrit Maghera.
Rob Reiner, USA World Premiere
Being Charlie is based on a compilation of real-life experiences written by two friends who lived through being stuck in the cycle of rehab. Eighteen-year-old Charlie Mills is a sharp-mouthed addict fighting to get back home, while his father constantly stiff-arms him to limit the distractions during a big election for governor of California. Charlie”s parents are at odds about their son”s return to rehab. Following a feeble attempt at an intervention, he agrees to work the program at a new adult rehab facility where he meets a handful of misfit personalities; among them is Eva, a beautiful but troubled girl, and Travis, a supportive house manager. Charlie”s internal struggle with his addiction is confronted by the envy for his best friend and his separate addiction with Eva. Starring Nick Robinson, Morgan Saylor, Devon Bostick, Cary Elwes, Susan Misner, Common and Ricardo Chavira.
Lowdown: One of the few under the radar additions to TIFF's slate but it does have one of the kids from “Jurassic World” in it (Nick Robinson)…so there's that.
Ma?gorzata Szumowska, Poland North American Premiere
Set in Poland, this absurdist dark comedy follows the intertwined stories of a criminal prosecutor, his anorexic daughter, and her therapist who claims she can communicate with the dead. Starring Janusz Gajos, Maja Ostaszewska and Justyna Suwala.
Drake Doremus, USA North American Premiere
In a futuristic, utopian society known as the Collective – where inhabitants have been bred to be peaceful and emotionless – a man and a woman discover that they have feelings for one another. Together, they attempt to understand this connection. Starring Kristen Stewart, Nicholas Hoult, Guy Pearce and Jacki Weaver.
Lowdown: This Sci-Fi drama debuts in Venice, but will look to lock up U.S. distribution at TIFF. Smart move assuming its good.
“I Saw the Light”
Marc Abraham, USA World Premiere
This film tells the story of legendary country western singer Hank Williams, who in his brief life created one of the greatest bodies of work in American music. The film chronicles his meteoric rise to fame and its ultimately tragic effect on his health and personal life. Based on Colin Escott”s award-winning biography. Starring Tom Hiddleston, Elizabeth Olsen, Bradley Whitford, David Krumholtz Cherry Jones and Maddie Hasson.
Lowdown: There was some question where this late November release might debut and, much to AFI Film Fest's disappointment, Sony Classics decided to go with an earlier Toronto berth. Will Hiddleston join the best actor field? That's the big question surrounding this biopic.
Matthew Cullen United Kingdom/USA World Premiere
Set in 1999 London, this noir crime thriller based on Martin Amis” novel of the same name features a star-studded cast, including Johnny Depp, Amber Heard, Cara Delevigne, Theo James, Billy Bob Thorton and Jim Sturgess.
Lowdown: The Depp newlyweds reunite on screen for the first time since 2011's “The Rum Diary.” Another major acquisition title (assuming the filmmakers will consider changing the title).
Julio Medem, Spain/France International Premiere
This is the story of Magda. Confronted with tragedy, she reacts with a surge of life that flows inside of her, from the imaginable to the unimaginable. Accompanied by her closest circle, she will live the most unexpected situations filled with humour and delicate happiness. Starring Penélope Cruz, Luis Tosar and Asier Etxeandia.
Lorene Scafaria, USA World Premiere
Marnie Minervini, recent widow and eternal optimist, moves from New Jersey to Los Angeles to be closer to her daughter. Armed with an iPhone and a full bank account, Marnie sets out to make friends, find her purpose, and possibly open up to someone new. Starring Susan Sarandon, Rose Byrne and J.K. Simmons.
Lowdown: Scafaria's long awaited follow up to “Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World” just wrapped filming this past Spring so it's a pretty quick turnaround for the indie drama. Could it be an awards play for Sarandon? Certainly one to watch on the acquisition front.
“Mr. Six (Lao Pao Er)”
Guan Hu, China North American Premiere
With his son captured, Mr. Six and his old pals stand up to the new, younger generation of hooligans, defending their dignity as once respected gangsters in the neighbourhood. Starring Feng Xiaogang.
Gamze Ergu?ven, Turkey/France/Germany North American Premiere
It”s the beginning of the summer in a village in the north of Turkey; Lale and her four sisters come home from school, innocently playing with boys. The supposed debauchery of their games causes a scandal with unintended consequences. The family home slowly turns into a prison, classes on housework and cooking replace school, and marriages begin to be arranged. The five sisters, driven by the same desire for freedom, fight back against the limits imposed on them. Starring Gunes Sensoy, Dogba Doguslu, Tugba Sunguroglu, Elit Iscan, Ilayda Akdogan, Ayberk Pekcan and Nihal Koldas.
“My Mother (Mia Madre)”
Nanni Moretti, Italy/France North American Premiere
Margherita is a director shooting a film with the famous American actor, Barry Huggins, who is quite a headache on set. Away from the shoot, Margherita tries to hold her life together, despite her mother”s illness and her daughter”s adolescence. Stars Nanni Moretti, Margherita Buy, John Turturro and Giulia Lazzarini.
Lowdown: A Cannes favorite that is also screening a few weeks later at the New York Film Festival.
“Our Brand Is Crisis”
David Gordon Green, USA World Premiere
A Bolivian presidential candidate enlists a management team led by damaged but brilliant strategist “Calamity” Jane Bodine, who seizes the chance to beat her professional nemesis Pat Candy, coaching the opposition. But as Pat zeroes in on every vulnerability, Jane faces a personal crisis as intense as the one her team exploits to boost their numbers, in this drama revealing the machinations of political consultants for whom nothing is sacred and winning is all that matters. Starring Sandra Bullock, Billy Bob Thornton, Anthony Mackie, Joaquim de Almeida, Ann Dowd, Scoot McNairy and Zoe Kazan.
Lowdown: Commercial or awards-y or both? We're leaning towards the former, but the subject matter, Bullock and the fact George Clooney is producing mean the latter is up for discussion…until its not.
“A Tale of Love and Darkness”
Natalie Portman Israel/USA North American Premiere
Based on Amos Oz”s international best-seller, this is the story of his youth at the end of the British Mandate in Palestine and the early years of the state of Israel. The film details young Amos”s relationship with his mother and his birth as a writer, looking at what happens when the stories we tell become the stories we live. Starring Natalie Portman, Gilad Kahana and Amir Tessler.
Lowdown: Natalie Portman's directorial debut was not well received at Cannes and is still looking for distribution. Perhaps it will play better on this side of the Atlantic.
“A Tale of Three Cities (San Cheng Ji)”
Mabel Cheung, China International Premiere
Based on the miraculous true story of Jackie Chan”s parents, this film is about the unbreakable bond of love between an opium-peddling widow and a former spy on the run. Together they witness love and humanity in the face of war, famine, and overwhelming danger. Starring Tang Wei and Sean Lau.
James Vanderbilt, USA World Premiere
In the vein of All the President”s Men and The Insider, this is the incredible true story of Mary Mapes, an award-winning CBS News journalist, and Dan Rather”s producer. The film chronicles the story they uncovered of a sitting U.S. president that may have been AWOL from the United States National Guard for over a year during the Vietnam War. When the story blew up in their face, the ensuing scandal ruined Dan Rather”s career, nearly changed a U.S. presidential election, and almost took down all of CBS News in the process. Based on Mapes”s book Truth and Duty. Starring Cate Blanchett, Elisabeth Moss, Robert Redford, Topher Grace, Dennis Quaid and Bruce Greenwood.
Lowdown: Another Sony Classics world premiere at Toronto (at least someone is filling in for Harvey this year) and another potential awards play for Cate Blanchett besides her role in “Carol.” We'd feel more confident if this one was also playing New York, but perhaps it will turn out to be a Toronto surprise. It hits theaters on Oct. 16.
Roar Uthaug, Norway International Premiere
Experienced geologist Kristian Eikfjord accepts a job offer out of town. As he”s getting ready to move from the city of Geiranger with his family, he and his colleagues measure small geological changes in the underground. Kristian worries that his worst nightmare is about to come true, when the alarm goes off and disaster is inevitable. With less than 10 minutes to react, it becomes a race against time in order to save as many people as possible, including his own family. Starring Kristoffer Joner, Ane Dahl Torp and Jonas Oftebro.
Robert Eggers, USA/Canada Canadian Premiere
A colonial family leaves plantation life and attempts to reap their harvest on a fledgling farm at the edge of an imposing ancient New England forest. Superstition and dread set in as food grows scarce, a family member goes missing, and the children”s play takes on a frenzied and menacing undercurrent. As they begin to turn on one another, the malevolent machinations of an ethereal presence from within the woods exacerbate the growing corruption of their own nature. Starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw, Ellie Grainger and Lucas Dawson.
Lowdown: This moody thriller won the directing award at Sundance in January (read Drew McWeeny's review). A24 is opening it in 2016, but we're curious where the Toronto press will land.
The 2015 Toronto International Film Festival runs from Sept. 10-20. Look for full coverage on HitFix.