TIFF 2014: The Lineup

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It’s TIFF time! Film lovers (especially those that live in Toronto) rejoice!  The Toronto International Film Festival has grown to be one of the biggest and most eclectic film festivals in the world – with over 300 films from over 60 countries, and 16 programmes including Galas, TIFF Docs, Special Presentations, City to City, TIFF Kids, and Masters.

This year some of the biggest stars, brightest filmmakers and boldest talent are coming to Toronto with a diverse and truly exciting collection of films. TIFF also marks the beginning of awards season for most Hollywood-types – bringing out the big winners, like last year’s 12 Years A Slave.

I’ll admit that I’m as much drawn to the stars as I am to the films themselves, and while I often try to attend the big, star-studded premieres, there’s so many interesting and smaller films to catch. For a full list of films and talent, head over to the TIFF website.  Here’s a listing of some of the films with the most buzz heading into TIFF14:

The Judge
TIFF opens with a family drama in which Robert Downey Jr. stars as a big city lawyer who returns to his hometown in an attempt to clear his estranged father’s name (Robert Duvall) in a high profile murder case. The big draw here is to sit in on a Q&A with the charismatic Robert Downey Jr. and the absolutely legendary Robert Duvall.

This Is Where I Leave You
In This Is Where I Leave You, a dysfunctional family comes together and must survive each other for a weekend funeral. It sounds like a typical dark comedy set up. But, it’s the cast that makes it stand out! Tina Fay. Jason Bateman. Corey Stoll. Adam Driver. Rose Byrne. Timothy Olyphant. Jane Fonda.  I shouldn’t have to say more – and the film will more than likely achieve wide theatre release – but I’d love to see this collection of people on screen and on stage together for the TIFF premeire.

Nightcrawler
Jake Gyllenhaal continues his dark streak (with excellent performances in last year’s Enemy and Prisoners) in Nightcrawler. Gyllenhaal plays a petty thief who joins the ranks of L.A.’s crime scene paparazzi. Gyllenhaal’s been choosing interesting and more complicated films (when compared to Prince of Persia, anything is, really), and he’s become something of a TIFF favourite.

St. Vincent
September 5th has officially been named Bill Murray Day during the Toronto International Film Festival. TIFF will be playing a series of his comedy hits for free at the TIFF Bell Lightbox (including Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day), followed by the premiere of St. Vincent. Murray stars as a bad-tempered and foul-mouthed retiree who becomes an unwilling and unlikely mentor for his 12-year-old neighbour.  It’ll be great fun to have Murray sauntering around the streets of Toronto – hopefully hitting up a few house parties in his wake.

The Drop
The late-great James Gandolfini joins Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace in the mob thriller about a Brooklyn bartender who finds himself at odds with Chechen mobsters and the police. This cast is phenomenal, and the story looks gritty and fitting of the tough guy image that Gandolfini crafted so well.

The Equalizer
Based on the 1980’s series with the same name, Denzel Washington stars as Robert McCall, a former black ops commando who has faked his death to live a quiet life in Boston. When he comes out of his self-imposed retirement to rescue a young girl, Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz), he finds himself face to face with ultra-violent Russian gangsters. This will be a definite wide-release action thriller with its bankable stars – but it’ll be great to see Denzel “Man On Fire” Washington on the red carpet in person.

Foxcatcher
The true-life drama tells recounts the story of two brothers, both former Olympic wrestling champions (Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo) who become entangled in a dangerous and fatal friendship with an obsessed millionaire (Steve Carell – in a surprisingly dark and serious turn).  Of all the films coming to TIFF this year, Foxcatcher has the most “awards season” buzz attached to it.

Maps To The Stars
Canadian filmmaking legend David Cronenberg returns to TIFF with his take on the audacious and absurd lifestyles of the Tinseltown elite. Starring Julianne Moore, post-Twilight Robert Pattinson, and Mia Wasikowska .

The Imitation Game
Last year was the year of Benedict Cumberbatch at TIFF, headlining three high-profile films and drawing in fangirls by the hordes. Cumberbatch returns to Toronto with the Imitation Game, the real-life tale of the brilliant Alan Turning and his efforts in spearheading the Enigma code-breaking operation during WWII, and his later persecution for his homosexuality. Cumberbatch is supported by an incredible all-Brit cast including Matthew Goode and Kiera Knightley.

Rosewater
Jon Stewart took a leave of absence from his Daily Show duties to direct the true story of the five-month imprisonment of Iranian Canadian Journalist Maziar Bahari (Gael Garcia Bernal) after his appearance on the Daily Show.

Wild
Based on the best-selling memoir, Wild, takes Reese Witherspoon on a 1,000 mile journey of self-actualization. Canadian Jean-Marc Vallee (Dallas Buyers Club) takes on Cheryl Strayed’s solo journey along the pacific crest trail in an attempt to change her path of self-destructive behaviour.

Whiplash
An ambitious young drummer (Miles Teller!!!!) at a prestigious music academy clashes with a hard-driving instructor (J.K. Simmons) in this tense and melodious drama that has already become one of the year’s most talked-about films since its premiere at Sundance.

A Second Chance
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones) finds himself in a morally complex situation after making a decision that tests the limits of the law and examines the extremes that people will go to hold their families together. Jamie Lannister and fatherhood issues… amirite?

A Little Chaos

Sabine de Barra (Kate Winslet), a landscape-gardener is awarded the esteemed assignment to construct the grand gardens at Versailles, a gilt-edged position which thrusts her to the very centre of the court of King Louis XIV. Directed by Alan Rickman and co-starring Stanley Tucci and Jennifer Ehle, A Little Chaos will close out the festival with grandeur and fanfare.

Outside of the larger film premieres and special presentations, there’s a plethora of interesting and incredible work screening during TIFF. This year, TIFF also boasts a panel of discussions with some true Mavericks of cinema, with its “In Conversation With…” interview sessions with Juliette Bincohe, Robert Duvall, Reese Witherspoon, Denzel Washington and Antoine Fuqua and Julie Taymor.

Whether you’re attending screenings, celebrity hunting or taking in the general excitement of the festival, TIFF manages to involve and invigorate the City. Brave the lineups, the crowds, the cameras and the drama! TIFF – It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

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