“The Age of Shadows (Miljeong)” Kim Jee woon (South Korea)

My first bias of the day: South Korean cinema. If you know the names of Hong Sang-soo, Park Chan-wook, Bong Joon-ho, Kim Jee-woon, Kwak Jae-yung, or a plethora of others just getting started, you know the 2000s have been a boon for South Korean cinema and on my word, I believe that country has the most consistency in terms of quality films.

This is from one of the names just mentioned, Jee Woon-kim, whose A Bittersweet Life made waves in 2005. While The Age of Shadows has yet to get an IMDb plot spec, AsianWiki claims the film is about an anti-Japanese independence organization called “Heroic Cops” who fought for South Korea’s freedom during Japan’s occupation of the country.

It stars Song Kang-ho (Oldboy, Thirst) and sounds like the most

“All I See Is You” Marc Forster (U.S.)

One of the bigger director names in the SP programme (and a TIFF regular with films such as Stranger Than Fiction. Starring Blake Lively (The Shallows, The Town) and Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty, Lawless), this is a film about a married woman who gets her sight back, only to see the unsavory truth in her relationship. Co-written by Sean Conway, who’s writing accomplishments include films with the titles The Orgasm Diaries and Older Women. It’s almost needless to say that this film might border tawdry or voyeuristic at times.

This will be one of those hit or miss movies, to be sure, because it’s got a few interesting names attached to it, but no American distributor insofar. It’s also worth noting that every filming location is Thai or Spanish, so this will probably also have to do with surgeries and intimacy away from home. I will say that, if there is nothing much playing against this one, it will be worth a shot for the pairing of Lively and Clarke, actors who have shown great range and depth in recent years. (7/10 priority for TIFF, only distribution holdings are by the Lebanese company Eagle Films, who are scheduled to release Blair Witch this year)


“American Honey” Andrea Arnold (U.K./U.S.)

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Andrea Arnold at this festival (in 2011) and even more the pleasure of following her work since 2006’s Red Road, so not only is my bias showing, but I don’t care.

She is one of the finest directors working today. If Fish Tank didn’t eloquate that, well Wuthering Heights certainly did. If only the stories she told were a bit tighter all around… but I digress. Her stories are conveyed very naturally and emotions are exposed without a veil. With this, a story that sounds reminiscent of Almost Famous, this film is about a young woman (Sasha Lane) getting caught up in . Arielle Holmes and Shia LaBeouf lend support, which honestly, when coupled with who is directing the feature, is enough for me to just do it. (8/10 priority for TIFF; would be more, but A24 holds distribution rights and the film is slated for a September 30th limited release.)

“American Pastoral” Ewan McGregor

The directorial debut of Ewan McGregor (Velvet Goldmine, Star WarsBeginners) comes after Phillip Noyce (Dead Calm, The Quiet American) stepped away from the project. This had been a project of Noyce’s since 2003 when Lakeshore Entertainment held the rights, but for almost that long, Ewan McGregor has been attached to play the protagonist.

I say all of this because no matter what the content of the film, this is most notably the directorial debut of a fine actor, who is now a veteran in the industry. The film is about an American family, parented by Ewan McGregor and Jennifer Connelly as the Levov’s, whose set of values and unity are questioned after their daughter (Dakota Fanning) commits a violent act in the name of politics. For fans of McGregor, of course you have got to see this, and I know I eventually will, but I’m personally kind of tired of these domestic ideas turned into films. We Need To Talk About Kevin was the last great one and I hope the best in reception for this one. (6/10 priority for TIFF, Lionsgate is releasing the film on October 21st nationwide)


“Asura: The City of Madness” Sung-su Kim

TIFF’s rundown of the film sounds simple enough: a shady cop gets in over his head when he’s caught between a corrupt mayor and Internal Affairs. However, the highlight of this selection is the film’s director, who is known for a few under-the-radar works from a decade ago. He’s worked with Ziyi Zhang (The Warrior) and City of the Rising Sun is a film that, if more people had seen it, may actually be highly regarded in America as it is reminiscent of 1970s works.

That said, the film is world premiering at the festival and no one can attest to its quality. But if you have a penchance for South Korean cinema, and some free time on your hands, I would blindly recommend this because it’s been made by a man who is 20+ years into his career and there is a chance that given its two hour run time, this material will go interesting places. (7/10 priority for TIFF, no distribution announced)


“Barakah Meets Barakah (Barakah yoqabil Barakah)” Mahmoud Sabbagh

A self-financed (re: independent) film about a blossoming love in Saudi Arabia. The man is named Barakah, the woman is also (nickname Bibi) and romance is described as a couple trying to bloom in a loveless environment.

This movie premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival this year and the only thing (slightly) off-putting to me is that it is labeled as a comedy. As it were, I would be more inclined to watch a more dyspeptic love story. (7/10 priority for TIFF, no North American distribution as of yet)


“Barry” (Vikram Gandhi)

So here it is: our first official Barack Obama biopic. Not unlike W., this film is making its premiere at TIFF and is about an American president who will, after his eight years in office, leave the White House. Starring Jason Mitchell as the current commander-in-chief, Barry is about President Obama during his years in college.

While the film already has Canadian distribution (with no scheduled date for release), it’s hard to say whether or not this will play theatrically before Barack Obama leaves office. However, with a writer (Adam Mansbach) and a director who have been critically untested, it’s also impossible to estimate how good or bad this might be. On that alone, there is curiosity. Co-starring Ashley Judd, Ellar Coltrane (Boyhood) and Anya Taylor-Joy. (8/10 priority for TIFF, no American distributor as of yet)


“Birth of the Dragon” (George Nolfi)

The title for this one sounded reminiscent of a Bruce Lee-esque martial arts film – lo and behold, it’s actually another moment-in-time biopic of the very legend.

All I know is that the film is set around a no-holds barred fight with Wong Jack Man (Yu Xia) in California and that Phillip Ng (Once Upon a Time in Shanghai) will play Bruce Lee. Director George Nolfi only has The Adjustment Bureau to his credit when it comes to feature films, but it was written by the duo who penned Nixon and Ali, so expect an expansive and honest look at Bruce Lee. (8/10 priority for TIFF, with no distribution rights owned anywhere yet)


“The Birth of a Nation” (Nate Parker)

Here’s some more of my bias: You can count me in already. Nat (Nate Parker) plays slave who was raised literate by the family who owned him, so that he could preach to the other servants growing up. He is taken across America to preach to other slaves and in doing so, bears witness to the ungodly scope of his people’s indescribable torment and begins to orchestrate change.

I don’t know if my words do what Nat Turner thought or did, and I don’t know if the film will unearth those accounts and truths perfectly, but I do know that I must see this film. (10/10 priority for TIFF, with an October 7th limited release across North America)


“Bleed for This” (Ben Younger)

The fourth biography I’m describing in a row. From the director of Prime (2005, Uma Thurman and Meryl Streep – in case you’ve forgotten) is the story of Vinny Pazienza, a multiple time WBC champion in each the lightweight, super lightweight and middle-lightweight weight classes, and I’m going to go off-topic, but why is Miles Teller so entitled? I’ve seen the trailer for this one, and it looks just fine, and Aaron Eckhart plays his boxing coach, but this actor – and that is all he is – comes across as too damn smug to have the brains or heart of a boxer. Perhaps he’ll have his moments; perhaps I’ll be dead wrong and this will turn out to be a big-time Oscar player.

But this guy, man. A very fine and affluent performer – he clearly conveys what he believes is the right emotion in every scene, but this is a triumphant story and I love boxing. I’ll probably even go see this without thinking twice, but I hope this joins the catalog of fine boxing films that dates back even beyond 1949’s The Set-Up (but that is an unforgettable one). Co-starring: Katey Segal, Ted Levine and Ciaran Hinds. (9/10 priority for TIFF, scheduled for a November 23rd limited release in North America by Open Road Films)


“Blue Jay” (Alex Lehmann)

Ah damn, my heart hurts already. From writer Mark Duplass comes the story of high school sweethearts who have a serendipitous reunion when they both return to their home-town in California.

Starring the writer alongside Sarah Paulson (American *insert word* Story), and set at an effective 85 minutes, this promises to be tender and emotional, and I would hope as audacious and sincere as The Puffy Chair, which, to me is a lot, but when cinema honestly looks at imperfect people, I don’t care who’s on the screen or what the budget.  (9/10 priority for TIFF, no distribution as of yet – also, world premiere)

“Brimstone” (Martin Koolhoven)

This movie sounds crazy if you read the description on IMDb. From what I gather, this is some kind of period mystery about a young woman (Dakota Fanning), her family (Carice van Houten, Kit Harrington, Jack Roth, presumably) and the preacher (Guy Pearce) who terrifies her.

The film is also classified as a thriller and western, and if it weren’t directed by a man whose last film was Winter in Wartime (which you should check out if you like sleek European war films; finer than Max Manus and even The Counterfeiters, I thought) I would have no words for what to expect with this. However, you have great actors (and you can dispute Fanning’s worth, but she is a desired actress who turned down roles to be in this), so there might be something here, especially given its epic 140 minute runtime. That said, at two and some-odd hours, I do wish to see an ambitious film that features women in lead roles, but these almost-long films fit oddly into schedules. It does sound worth a watch, though. (8/10 priority for TIFF, with no set release dates anywhere, though the company in France that released The Neon Demon and The Duke of Burgundy holds its rights)

“BrOTHERHOOD” (Noel Clarke)

I haven’t seen KiDULTHOOD or AdULTHOOD, so I can’t really comment on this. Noel Clarke is a gifted individual, though, and if you have the time I would suggest checking them out because my friends often say they are great films. (0/10 priority for TIFF, unless I somehow see the first two, and it has a late August release date scheduled in the U.K.)


“Carrie Pilby” (Susan Johnson)

Starring Bel Powley from the recently acclaimed Diary of a Teenage Girl comes yet another film about a young woman struggling to find peace with her sexual desires and personal relationships. This time, however, it is about an “extremely intelligent” woman and is labeled as a comedy.

It comes from the director of Mean Creek and is an adaptation of an acclaimed 2003 novel. Co-starring Gabriel Byrne as her father and Nathan Lane as her therapist, it’s almost promised to pack a few witty punches and could wind up being the surprise hit of the festival. It was also made out of earnest – through Kickstarter crowdfunding – and was co-written by the scribe of Death at a Funeral. (8/10 priority for TIFF, with no distributors yet)


“Catfight” (Onur Tukel)

Now this sounds like a probable miss at the festival (although, again, I hate being negative, but there are always a handful of trite and cliche films that make it through virtue of name recognition).

Starring Sandra Oh and Anne Heche, this dark comedy has the image of two bloodied women fighting each other on its TIFF page and could be a little bit crazier than imagined. However, I don’t like the title and I know I’ll hate myself if it turns out to be a hilarious film everyone can’t stop talking about (because the talent is there for greatness). I just can’t see myself wanting to watch another story of former high school friends who now rival one and other because they are in each other’s lives. (6/10 priority for TIFF, no distributor as of yet)


“City of Tiny Lights”(Pete Travis)

From the director of Vantage Point and Patrick Neate, writer of 2003’s Tesseract, comes a BBC produced crime/mystery about London private eye Tommy Akhtar (Riz Ahmed) investigating the disappearance of a Russian prostitute. In following this task, he is confronted with personal demons (or something like that).

It sounds good solely because it stars Riz Ahmed and not because the character’s last name sounds like “actor”. Ahmed is an undeniable talent in film and if he’s in every single frame of this one, I can promise you that I will watch it. But without anyone I know in the supporting cast, and nothing much to go on except a half-racist sounding IMDb plot synopsis, I can’t promise I’ll have enough gall to see this there. But if I do, it’s for Riz Ahmed. (7/10 priority for TIFF, no distributor as of yet)


“The Commune (Kollektivet)” (Thomas Vinterberg)

Not having seen The Hunt, I will still blindly walk toward the call of a new Vinterberg film. With Ulrich Thomsen and Trine Dryholm, I can almost guarantee that I will watch this somewhere down the line. However, this is a film festival, and this isn’t ones I’m going to select. Mostly because it’s been out in Denmark since January and that means that it will come to Bell Lightbox somewhere down the line and I can see it there.

However, for those visiting Toronto, this story of a community crumbling by way of clashing priorities might be exciting to watch. I’m sure it’ll be a lucid film and an accurate account of what it’s trying to represent, and to any huge fan of Thomas Vinterberg (The Celebration, Submarino, Far From The Madding Crowd) it’s a must. (7/10 priority for TIFF, with many release dates across Europe, but the next being January of 2017 in France)


“Daguerrotype (Le Secret de la chambre noire)” (Kiyoshi Kurosawa)

Oh wow, a French-Japanese fantasy-horror from Kiyoshi Kurosawa? If that weren’t enough it stars Constance Rousseau, Tahir Rahim, Olivier Gourmet and Mathieu Amalric.

Sitting at 131 minutes runtime and stars Gourmet as a photographer obsessed with the techniques of 19th century photography for its supernatural/life-sustaining powers. Rousseau plays his daughter and Rahim his assistant who falls for the daughter. I have no idea how it will play out, but it was purchased by Celluloid Dreams at Cannes last year, so all of those boxes it checked obviously intrigued many from the jump. Hopefully it’s as good as it sounds. (9/10 priority for TIFF, with an October release in Japan and one in France come February of next year)


“A Death in the Gunj” (Konkona Sensharma)

Set in 1979, in the town of McCluskieganj (which had been colonized by England until 1933) the story of Shutu (Vikrant Massey), a young Indian student who begins to unravel as he and his family embark on a road trip. I imagine “the Gunj” will be a town wherein there is a penultimate moment for the protagonist, but apart from this being Kon Kona Sensharma’s directorial debut, I can’t say much more about this.

It’s making its world premiere at this year’s film festival and I hope Ms. Sensharma the best of luck in her first reception as a director. The vague outline sounds like there is a lot of room for plot and character development. (7/10 priority for TIFF, no distribution as of yet)


“Denial” (Mick Jackson)

From journeyman director Mick Jackson (everything from 1992’s The Bodyguard to 1999’s Tuesdays with Morrie to most recently the television-adaptation of Temple Grandin’s life) comes another real-life story to add to his catalog.

This drama about a historian and the Holocaust denier who sues her for libel stars Rachel Weisz and Timothy Spall. Now, this isn’t a story I know anything about, but if history serves correctly, there was a Holocaust and yeah, this film will be a cacophony. However, with Tom Wilkinson in support, alongside Weisz and Spall, this will undoubtedly be one of the finest exhibitions of actorly talent this festival. With a screenplay by David Hare (The Hours, The Reader) this even has the potential to be Oscar-nominated because of the familiar names attached. (7/10 priority for TIFF, in North American theaters October 7th)


“Elle” (Paul Verhoeven)

I have heard a lot of good word from a few friends out of Cannes about this film. It’s heavily been on my radar for its star, Isabelle Huppert, and to be honest, if there’s anyone I would hope to meet this year, it’s her. She’s been a favorite actress of mine for years now and if you see Story of Women or The Ceremony then she just might become one of yours as well.

The film, directed by someone I’m sure you feel one way or another about, concerns the life of the head of a video game company (Huppert) and the ruthlessness with which she lives her life. When there is a domestic problem, I don’t know what happens because I don’t want to know anything else. This is another bias and this is me being sold on yet another title. (9/10 priority for TIFF, with a November 11th release in the U.S.)


“Foreign Body (Jassad Gharib, Corps Etranger) Raja Amari

This Tunisia/France co-production is about a young Tunisian woman who, after informing on her radical Islamist brother, immigrates to France and, as the TIFF website says, finds a world full of hope and danger.

This is Raja Amari’s fourth feature and she has some acclaim across the globe. While I haven’t seen any of her work, she is a frequent collaborator of Hiam Abbass and she shows up again in this film. If I were more familiar with Amari’s work, I would feel some way about whether or not I would see this, so, to make sure I don’t miss something I may love, I will check out something of hers (perhaps Red Satin). (6/10 priority for TIFF, no distributor as of yet)


“Frantz” (François Ozon)

I’ll always regard Francois Ozon because he’s one of two directors (the other being Jan Hrebejk, Divided We Fall), that directed a work of R.W. Fassbinder since his passing in 1982. With a long list of work, from the playful 9 Women to the provocative In the House and many films before, between and since, Ozon’s work ethic is as prolific as the many genres he has dabbled in.

Starring relative unknowns Paula Beer and Pierre Niney, and filmed in black and white, Frantz is set in post-WWI France wherein a widow develops a relationship with a stranger who she finds mourning by his grave. It sounds interesting, it’s 113 minutes long, and Ozon seems to have been on a roll as of late, so I imagine this will be a very good film. But, once again, this is a film that will be released in Canada (it already has French distribution lined up for September 7th) and unless it’s scheduled at a convenient time, I’ll pass on it for something I can’t wait for. (7/10 priority for TIFF, no North American distributor yet, but it has a home in ten countries and counting.)


“The Handmaiden (Agassi)” (Park Chan-wook) 10/10

Park Chan-wook. That is enough of a reason for me. Thirst, Oldboy, Joint Agent Security — if you’ve seen a film of his, you’ve probably fallen in love with his visual aesthetic and the way with which he translates the roughest human emotions and experiences so delicately to his audiences.

Who’s in it? Kim Min-hee, Ha Jung-woo, Kim Tae-ri. What’s it about? A handmaiden-turned-crook and I stopped reading there because I want it to be as much of a surprise as it can, personally. There’s a trailer out. It looks Victorian from the stills I’ve seen. I highly recommend you see this if you’re unfamiliar with Chan-wook’s work. (10/10 priority for TIFF, Amazon owns the distribution rights.)


“Harmonium (Fuchi ni tatsu)” (Kôji Fukada)

There is an elegiac style to Koji Fukada. With this story, a tale of quiet tension, Toshio owns a workshop and hires Yasaka, an old friend who has just been released from prison. Yasaka begins to meddle in Toshio’s family life and again, that’s where I stopped reading.

I have a bias toward Japanese films as well. It could be viewed as a stereotype, but from the most acclaimed ones of recent memory (Departures) to the most obscure I’ve seen (Ramblers, Vacation) there is an ordinariness to the approach of storytelling, as well as visual compositions, that I find mesmerizing. It doesn’t mean every film is good, and of course each director is different, but I’m keeping my eyes out for this one. (8/10 priority for TIFF)


“I Am Not Madame Bovary” (Feng Xiaogang)

Shot through a circle the entire time, Feng Xiaogang’s latest film is about a woman (Fan Bingbing) who fights against her country’s legal system after her ex-husband was able to leave her broke.

I watched two trailers for this one, but couldn’t make much of it, except that it looks almost as ambiguous as it does ambitious. That said, those are some of the best films to see, in my opinion (I loved Post Tenebtas Lux), so, I’m more interested in this than a few of the others, although the visual conceit might become bothersome at some point. We’ll see. (8/10 priority for TIFF)


“The Journey” (Nick Hamm)

This almost sounds like a television film, but it’s a couple of great actors running the show, so surely this showcase will not disappoint.

Timothy Spall and Colm Meaney play two political leaders in 2006 who brought about an agreement to end the fighting between Republican (those for Irish freedoms) and Unionist (those for continued political relations between Great Britain and Ireland) after decades’ long violence. I’m not crazy over the sound of this, but again, Timothy Spall is enough of a reason to see any film, so one where he is a lead is a must. (6/10 priority for TIFF)


“King of the Dancehall” (Nick Cannon)

First of all, this is a film directed by Nick Cannon. So I guess it being a musical about an American man, from Brooklyn, travelling to Jamaica and getting lost in the dance culture is not a crazy scenario to imagine. It even sounds fitting – and given the amount of enthusiasm and general joy Nick Cannon seems to have been generating all his life, it could be a great fit. We’ll see what happens.

Directing himself alongside Busta Rhymes (Finding Forrester), Beenie Man and Whoopi Goldberg, this definitely promises to boom with personality. (7/10 priority for TIFF)


“La La Land” (Damien Chazelle)

I was considering skipping this one at the film festival because, well, it stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, is a musical and is undoubtedly going to come out to a lot of love when it his theaters. Damien Chazelle just proved his aptitude with Whiplash and that alone is enough to get a ticket. I don’t know what it’s about, but it’s a hot ticket right there.

That said, the head of Venice Film Festival recently proclaimed to be the best film he’s seen submitted to the festival in years and will be “an American classic” which is the heaviest praise I can think of, so I’m going to have to get a ticket. Doesn’t matter what it’s about – if a film is good, you’ll understand it all when it’s over. (10/10 priority for TIFF, set for a North American release in November)


“The Limehouse Golem” (Juan Carlos Medina)

From Juan Carlos Medina, a rather new director (one feature to his credit from 2012), comes this story of skepticism in a British town. From IMDb: A series of murders has shaken the community to the point where people believe that only a legendary creature from dark times – the mythical so-called Golem – must be responsible.

It stars Olivia Cooke, Douglas Booth, Bill Nighy and Eddie Marsan – and with the latter two you’re definitely in store for a couple of dependable and committed performances. The story also sounds interesting, but with over 300 films playing at the festival annually, this horror/thriller isn’t quite in my wheelhouse. (6/10 priority for TIFF)


“Manchester by the Sea” (Kenneth Lonergan)

While You Can Count On Me was an accomplished film and commendable for its amount of compassion, despite its lack of shine, Margaret was even more of a compelling viewing for me personally. The three-hour cut was fantastic to behold and ever since the debacle, and not knowing whether or not that long-gestated film would ever be released in a form approved by its director, I have wanted to see everything this man makes. Forever. He is a legend of someone who has fought distribution companies for his voice to be heard and whether or not he feels he accomplished that, he’s back with a new story and I couldn’t be more excited.

I’m sorry to be so vague, but I don’t know much about this film – I did around the time of Sundance – but thankfully drinking has helped me to forget most of it. What I have retained is that Casey Affleck is the lead (an actor of fantastic highs), Michelle Williams (potentially the best actress working today and that Kyle Chandler deserves an Oscar nomination. I don’t know how everyone will be, I don’t know what will come together, but I’m absolutely anticipating this one. (10/10 priority for TIFF, set for a limited release on November 18th in North America)


“Maudie” (Aisling Walsh)

A film set in Canada (Nova Scotia) and pretty extreme in length (150 minutes). This, I guess you could call it an epic, is about Maudie (Sally Hawkins) an artist with arthritis who works as a housekeeper. She has a husband (Ethan Hawke) and with time, she becomes a pillar of the community. At least that’s what I imagine how it will unfold.

It’s a shame that I will probably find the film too long to fit into my schedule because I love Sally Hawkins and any chance I get to watch her demonstrate her mercurial talents is one that I’ll seize. Ethan Hawke is a great actor, too, so to anyone who wants to get more bang for their buck, I doubt you will be very disappointed. It also has a release date in Canada – not yet America – so if I want, I believe I can see it in a few months, (6/10 priority for me, set for an October release through Mongrel Media)


“Neruda” (Pablo Larraín)

From IMDb’s page: An inspector hunts down Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, who becomes a fugitive in his home country in the late 1940s for joining the Communist Party.

Luis Gnecco plays the titular character, but the task of inspector is Gael Garcia Bernal’s, who you probably have adored in anything from The Science of Sleep to The Motorcycle Diaries. Alfredo Castro also stars in what looks to be a significant role, and if you’ve seen Tony Manero, then you know what kind of chaos Larrain and his familiar co-stars can get up to. (That film, by the way, is the reason I will always be excited to watch a Pablo Larrain flick; his unpredictability can leave one aghast) (9/10 priority for TIFF, slated for a December 16th release in North America)


“Nocturnal Animals” (Tom Ford)

I remember back in 2009, I thought  A SingleMan sounded kind of tame and potentially too soft, especially with actors like Colin Firth and Julianne Moore. Then, there was this buzz surrounding the festival about it and no one who didn’t own a ticket could get one. Waiting until December to see what it was all about was one of the longest waits I’ve had for a movie and when I finally saw it, my mind changed completely about what I could ever assume about a plot outline or the capacity of anyone. Tom Ford instantly became a director I wanted to see more from and now is the opportunity.

Starring Amy Adams, Nocturnal Animals is the story of an art gallery owner who, after the publication of her ex-husband’s latest novel, feels as if what was written is what he plans to do to her. I suppose this will have some stalking and many ominous tones, but with Jake Gyllenhaal as the potential maniac, I’m very excited to see the visual acumen of Tom Ford against what could be considered a Hitchcockian tale (from the logline). I know I have to see it, so that’s me. (10/10 priority for TIFF, schedule for a December 9th release date through Focus Features)


“The Oath” (Baltasar Kormákur)

From the TIFF website: Icelandic auteur Bathasar Kormakur directs and stars in this psychological thriller about a father who tries to pull his daughter out of her world of drugs and petty crime, only to find that danger can be found in unexpected places.

His daughter is played by Hera Hilmar and while I’m sure this will be another good action film for Bathasar Kormakur to add to his already solid resume (Contraband, 2 Guns) I think I can wait a few more months for what sounds like another version of the Taken plot. It could be better than that, but who knows? (7/10 priority for TIFF, no distribution in North America yet)


“Orphan (Orpheline)” (Arnaud des Pallières)

Damn, dude. Why does the world have to do me like this?

Starring Adele Exarchopoulos and Adele Haenel, two actresses I adored based on one performance each, comes a film about orphans. That said, Arnaud des Pallieres has the distinct honor of making a film called Parc, which I think is the most tonally uneven foreign film I’ve seen at the festival (but then, I have pretty good taste, ha). So I don’t know what to say about this except that I want to see it, but also don’t want to see it. So I’ll probably see it. (8/10 priority for TIFF, no North American distribution as of yet; world premiere)

“Paris Can Wait” (Eleanor Coppola)

The debut of Francis Ford Coppola’s wife, Paris Can Wait is about an unfaithful movie producer’s wife (Diane Lane) who, en route to Paris from Cannes, is joined by one of her husband’s associates (Alec Baldwin) in this wistful and light-hearted affair. 

I don’t know where the film intends to go, but it’s being marketed as something that Nancy Meyers’ might have directed. Not only that, but even as a film directed by a woman married to a big-time American producer and director it comes across as a bit of a privileged storyline. A rich person with emotional crisis? I don’t think the world cares about those stories anymore. (5/10 priority for TIFF, no distributor as of yet)


“Paterson” (Jim Jarmusch)

I did myself a disservice by watching the trailer TIFF uploaded for this one. I know what Jim Jarmusch is like – I even moderately enjoyed The Limits of Control – but this movie looks very stifling; as if we’re meant to accept that Adam Driver is a ruminative and harrowingly existential poet/bus driver. It doesn’t even seem funny or amusing, but maybe it’ll be deep? 

Call me presumptuous, but this one looks a bit too solipsistic for me. Adam Driver is a very good actor (still waiting to see Hungry Hearts) and Jim Jarmusch is an independent legend (if you’ve yet to see Night on Earth, please do so). I just don’t think that, with the myriad films playing, I want to be subjected to a downtrodden protagonist on any of those days. Maybe some lonely winter day, but for now… (7/10 priority for TIFF, slated for a late December limited release through Amazon)


“The Salesman” (Asghar Farhadi)

While A Separation wasn’t my cup of tea, and I found The Past even more melodramatic by comparison, you cannot deny the effort that director Asghar Farhadi gets from each member of his cast. With The Salesman, a four-person ensemble about the deterioration of a couple’s love for one and other during their stage production of Death of s Salesman, I can’t help but be drawn to the romantic truths Farhadi will look to convey. 

Admitting that he is a sincere filmmaker — or at least tries to be — is undeniable. This movie has played at Cannes and already has North American distribution (which is a huge sign for an Iranian film, no matter who directed it). Amazon holds the rights to this film, as well, so while missing this wouldn’t be a tough pill to swallow, I would prefer to get at it as soon as possible. (9/10 priority for TIFF, a December 9th release date at select cinemas is scheduled)


“Salt and Fire” (Werner Herzog)

There are quite a few people doubting the prowess of Werner Herzog these days, but I don’t think I’ll ever be one of them. Starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Michael Shannon, this film is about the nature in South America and man’s hand in destroying it the ecology. IMDb’s synopsis is vague, but it sounds like Gael Garcia Bernal plays a man aimed at bringing down the corrupt power of Michael Shannon, but before he can see his resolve, the two men must come together to overcome a more immediately pressing crisis. Adapted from a short story by Tom Bissell.

I love those two actors – I love the director. The film has distribution lined up for November in Germany and December in France, so if it were absolutely terrible, I think France of all places would have avoided a winter release. Pure speculation, but there’s no reason for anyone to say whether or not it will be good. I’m just hopeful. And if you haven’t seen Herzog’s work from the 70s until Fitzcarraldo, you’ve missed out on the best streak of any actor in cinema’s history (my words). (9/10 priority for TIFF, with no North American distribution yet)


“Sing” (Garth Jennings)

From the director of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Son of Rambow comes Garth Jennings’ first film in almost a decade. With an all-star cast supplying the voices for his first animated film, it’s impossible to know exactly how good versus how popular Sing will be after its American release in December, but I can promise you that if this film has the same type of comedy as his previous films, it will be the perfect counterbalance to the R-rated Sausage Party

If madcap, family-friendly animation is your bag, and if you like Guy Maddin’s The Saddest Music in the World, then this is probably the perfect movie for you. Featuring dozens of chart-topping songs from the 1940s ’til now, it’s about a koala bear (Matthew McConaughey) who tries to get more business at his theater by sponsoring a singing competition, which sounds like a movie that is going to be either really entertaining and jovial or outright annoying. For the latter possibility alone, I think I have to skip this. With Scarlett Johansson, Taron Egerton, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlaine, Leslie Jones and John C. Reilly in support. (7/10 priority for TIFF, scheduled for a wide release across North America in December)


“Souvenir” (Bavo Defurne)
“Things to Come (L’Avenir)” (Mia Hansen-Løve)
“Toni Erdmann” (Maren Ade)
“Trespass Against Us” (Adam Smith)
“Una” (Benedict Andrews)
“Unless” (Alan Gilsenan)
“The Wasted Times (Luo Man Di Ke Xiao Wang Shi)” (Cheng Er)

I imagine The Light Between Oceans would be here if not for its September 2nd release date.


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