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Friday, August 10, 2012

Toronto International Film Festival Preview

Written by Kirk Baird

The Toronto International Film festival kicks off September 6 and offers 10 days and nights filled with some of the best mainstream, avant-garde, and international movies. There will be nearly 140 feature-length films screened at the event. Here are some highlights, separated into four categories, along with write-ups from the Toronto Film Festival website. 


9.79: Filmmaker Daniel Gordon investigates the 1988 Olympic race that resulted in disgrace for Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson, a gold medal for the USA’s Carl Lewis, and major controversy over drug testing.

The Central Park Five: The devastating new documentary by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon on the infamous "Central Park Jogger" case details how a rush to judgment by police, media and an outraged public led to five black and Latino teenagers being convicted for a heinous crime that they did not commit.

How to Make Money Selling Drugs: This fascinating documentary offers an in-depth look at the high-stakes world of drug dealing and drug enforcement, featuring interviews with top-ranking government officials and such celebrities as Woody Harrelson, Susan Sarandon, The Wire creator David Simon and rappers Eminem, 50 Cent and Rick Ross.

Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp: Director Jorge Hinojosa blends pulp fiction imagery with ambitious biographical digging to tell the story of legendary pimp/author Iceberg Slim, whose gritty and poetic books about ghetto life gave birth to Street Lit. Interviews include Chris Rock, Ice-T, Snoop Dogg and Quincy Jones.

Men at Lunch: This remarkable new documentary explores the story behind one of the most iconic images of the twentieth century: the 1932 photograph of workmen taking their lunch while perched on a girder high above New York City.

Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out: Marina Zenovich dives into the mysterious details of Roman Polanski's arrest in Switzerland in 2009, which came suspiciously soon after the release of her ground-breaking 2008 documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired. In this follow-up investigation, Zenovich raises fresh questions about legal manipulation, media distortion and power politics.

Venus & Serena: An intimate documentary that takes us inside the lives of tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams, during a year when debilitating injuries and life-threatening illness threatened to take them out of the game once and for all.

Major Films:

Byzantium: A pair of female vampires (Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Arterton) wreaks havoc on an unsuspecting English seaside community in this deliciously depraved supernatural drama from Academy Award winner Neil Jordan.

Cloud Atlas: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and Hugo Weaving head a stellar international cast in this visionary, time-tripping science-fiction epic from directors Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) and Lana and Andy Wachowski (The Matrix).

Looper: A mob hitman (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is assigned to kill his own future self (Bruce Willis) in this mind-bending futuristic thriller.

Silver Linings Playbook: Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Julia Stiles and Jennifer Lawrence star in this acerbic comedy-drama from David O. Russell (Three Kings, The Fighter), about a former high-school teacher who returns to his family home after four years in a mental institution and begins to slowly rebuild his life.

Art House:

Frances Ha: Greta Gerwig stars as Frances, an apprentice in a dance company who wants so much more than she has but lives life with unaccountable joy and lightness. This modern fable from Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Greenberg) explores youth, friendship, class, ambition, failure and redemption.

Hyde Park on Hudson: Bill Murray and Laura Linney star in the true story of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's relationship with his distant cousin and soon-to-be mistress Margaret Suckley, over a weekend at the president's country estate with the visiting King and Queen of England in 1939.

Jayne Mansfield’s Car: A top-notch cast — including Robert Duvall, Kevin Bacon and John Hurt — star alongside writer-director Billy Bob Thornton in this drama set in 1969 Alabama, about the culture clash between two families — one American, one British-brought together by the death of a loved one.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower: In this witty and affecting coming-of-age story (adapted by writer-director Stephen Chbosky from his own novel), a shy teenager (Logan Lerman) with a dark family secret is coaxed out of his shell by a sympathetic teacher (Paul Rudd) and two wild, carefree new friends (Emma Watson and Ezra Miller).

Thanks for Sharing: Gwyneth Paltrow, Mark Ruffalo and Tim Robbins star in this comedy-drama about a group of people who are brought together when they join a support group to overcome their sex addictions.

To the Wonder: Rachel McAdams, Ben Affleck, Javier Bardem and Olga Kurylenko star in the new film from Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life), about a man who reconnects with a woman from his hometown after his marriage to a European woman falls apart.

Special Presentations:

The ABCs of Death: Over two dozen of the world's top horror directors bring you twenty-six alphabetically-inspired ways to die in this provocative, shocking and deadly funny compendium of carnage.

Dial M for Murder: Alfred Hitchcock’s devilish drawing-room thriller, about a retired tennis pro (Ray Milland) who plans the "perfect" murder of his adulterous wife (Grace Kelly), is revived in a new, eye-popping 3-D digital restoration.

Much Ado About Nothing: Shakespeare's classic comedy gets a contemporary spin in Joss Whedon's stylized adaptation. Shot in just twelve days using the original text, the story of sparring lovers Beatrice (Amy Acker) and Benedick (Alexis Denisof) offers a dark, sexy and occasionally absurd view of the intricate game that is love. 

Seven Psychopaths: An alcoholic screenwriter (Colin Farrell) struggling to write a serial-killer script gets more real-life inspiration than he can handle when a dognapping scheme gone awry brings a galaxy of crazies to his doorstep. A top-notch cult-movie cast — including Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Tom Waits, Harry Dean Stanton — anchors this wacky, blood-spattered commentary on the psycho-killer thriller from the writer-director of In Bruges.

For a complete list of titles being screened, or for more information, check out:

What are you most looking forward to from the Toronto International Film Festival? Let us know in the comments section below.

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