Every film freak knows that sometimes the very best movies are the ones you haven't seen yet.
In fact, some would've been better off if they'd never been anything more than a smattering of tantalizing details, a cryptic trailer, some concept artwork and whatever visions these things spark in your imagination. After all, who didn't feel like their own personal Prometheus was better than Sir Ridley Scott's?
The exhilaration of anticipation is what's so fun about the weeks before the Toronto International Film Festival. As more and more movies are announced -- over 100 titles dropped earlier today -- the salivary glands of film freaks everywhere go into overdrive. As for which movies will rule and which will not, that's for audiences to discover once they hit Toronto's screens starting September 6. But for right now, here are ten films that are already must-sees.
TIFF's surprise choice for the opening slot, this science-fiction thriller re-teams Joseph Gordon-Levitt with Rian Johnson, the writer-director who featured the actor in his 2006 high-school crime story Brick. If their latest is half as smart, viewers should be pleased, even if it does mean enduring the sight of Gordon-Levitt's tweaked-out face. The actor had to undergo daily three-hour sessions of make-up and prosthetics work to make it plausible that he and Bruce Willis are playing younger and older versions of the same guy in this story of time-travelling hitmen. But at least he got to keep his hair.
There's been no limit to the speculation over Paul Thomas Anderson's follow-up to the mighty There Will Be Blood. Audiences will soon get to know for themselves: so is it or is it not a fictionalized version of the history of Scientology, Hollywood's closest thing to an official religion? Stars like Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman have been cagey about specifics in regards to this tale of a troubled war vet who falls under the sway of a charismatic intellectual. All will be revealed ... soon.
Silver Linings Playbook
Director David O. Russell may have gotten some Oscar love with The Fighter but his devotees know that his real forte is the edgy brand of comedy epitomized by early works like Flirting With Disaster. An adaptation of a novel by Matthew Quick, starring Bradley Cooper as a high-strung teacher with mental troubles and Jennifer Lawrence as a young woman he meets in therapy, Russell's latest will hopefully return him to that sweet spot.
The scheme to get six Americans out of Tehran during the country's 1979 revolution was a real-life drama wilder than any screenwriterly concoction. In his third feature as director (and latest as star), Ben Affleck sports a choice shag haircut to play the CIA fixer who cooks up the crazy plot. Time will tell whether Affleck can meet the high standards of Gone Baby Gone and The Town without the help of those awesome Beantown accents.
Berberian Sound Studio
While film may be a primarily visual medium, every savvy moviegoer knows how important soundtracks can be. Aural matters come to the fore in this highly intriguing British thriller. Peter Strickland's film stars Toby Jones as a sound-effects artist who comes to Italy to work on a lurid thriller full of outrageous sights that we the audience never get to see but will have plenty of fun (and chills) imagining.
Comprised of six interconnected narratives that span a huge array of settings and time periods, British writer David Mitchell's cunning cult novel is hardly an obvious pick for big-screen treatment. Perhaps that's why it took three directors to give it a go. Run Lola Run's Tom Tykwer and The Matrix's Lana and Andy Wachowski have forged ahead with a cast that includes Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, with many actors playing multiple roles. Epic will be one word for it.
I Declare War
How's this for a concept? Two groups of 13-year-olds play war in a forest, except we see it as they imagine it -- in other words, with guns, bazookas and a helluva lot of ammo. Parents and teachers nervous about kids messing with grown-up toys will likely have a conniption over this bold Canadian indie flick. Everybody else will be eager to unleash their own inner Rambo.
In the latest by Chile's Pablo Larrain, the reliably cool Gael Garcia Bernal stars as a marketing hotshot with a unique assignment. He's got to convince his countrymen to vote no in a plebiscite that may affect the fate of General Pinochet's regime. Though based on real events in 1988, Larrain's drama could just as easily double as a satire on the magic of marketing anywhere in the world.
How To Make Money Selling Drugs
For his documentary about America's drug trade, director Matthew Cooke tapped a veritable who's-who of hustlers to drop some valuable knowledge. 50 Cent, Eminem and Rick Ross talk about the ways of the street alongside The Wire creator David Simon and other folks in the know. We feel schooled already.
A surprise sensation at Sundance and Cannes, this spellbinding documentary may be the ultimate movie about another movie. With the help of some serious obsessives, director Rodney Ascher goes deep (very, very deep) into the wild web of conspiracy theories that surrounds The Shining, Stanley Kubrick's enigmatic adaptation of Stephen King's snowy saga of writers' block and cabin fever.
The ABCs of Death
Here's the movie most likely to satiate the special cravings of the audiences in Midnight Madness, the anything-goes program that rocks TIFF after hours. Organized by the brains behind Austin's cult-movie mecca, the Alamo Draft House, this anthology movie collects new efforts by some of the wildest filmmakers on the planet, including Hobo With a Shotgun's Jason Eisener, Kill List's Ben Wheatley and House of the Devil's Ti West. They'll all be set to outdo each other with mini-movies about the many ways to die. Bon appétit!
In the future, time travel will be invented -- but it will be illegal and only available on the black market. When the mob wants to get rid of someone, they will send their target 30 years into the past, where a "looper" - a hired gun, like Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) - is waiting to mop up. <strong>Cast:</strong> Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano and Jeff Daniels.
When militants storm the U.S. embassy in 1979 Tehran, six Americans manage to slip away. Knowing it's only a matter of time before they are found, a CIA "exfiltration" specialist comes up with a plan to get them out of the country: a plan so incredible, it could only happen in the movies <strong>Cast:</strong> Ben Affleck (also directing), Bryan Cranston, John Goodman and Kyle Chandler.
In June 1939, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Bill Murray) and his wife Eleanor host the King and Queen of England for a weekend at the Roosevelt home at Hyde Park on Hudson in upstate New York --- the first-ever visit of a reigning English monarch to America. <strong>Cast:</strong> Murray, Olivia Williams, Samuel West, Olivia Colman and Laura Linney.
Based on the best-selling novel by Stephen Chbosky, this is a modern classic that captures the dizzying highs and crushing lows of growing up. The film is a moving tale of love, loss, fear, hope and the unforgettable friends who help us through life. <strong>Cast: </strong>Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Nina Dobrev, Melanie Lynskey, Paul Rudd and Dylan McDermott.
This third collaboration of Keira Knightley with acclaimed director Joe Wright is a bold, theatrical new vision of the epic love story, adapted from Leo Tolstoy's timeless novel. <strong>Cast:</strong> Knightley, Jude Law and Aaron Taylor-Johnson.
After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany, a mysterious girl with problems of her own. <strong>Cast:</strong> Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Julia Stiles, Chris Tucker and Jacki Weaver.
After visiting Mont Saint-Michel -- once known in France as the Wonder -- at the height of their love, Marina and Neil come to Oklahoma, where problems soon arise. Marina makes the acquaintance of a priest and fellow exile who struggles with his vocation, while Neil renews his ties with a childhood friend, Jane. An exploration of love in its many forms. <strong>Cast:</strong> Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Javier Bardem and Rachel McAdams; Director: Terrence Malick.
Luke is a professional motorcycle rider who turns to bank robberies to support his newborn son. But when he crosses paths with a rookie police officer, their violent confrontation spirals into a tense generational feud. <strong>Cast:</strong> Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Rose Byrne, Ray Liotta and Eva Mendes.
When the beloved cellist of a world-renowned string quartet is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, the group's future suddenly hangs in the balance. <strong>Cast: </strong>Philip Seymour Hoffman, Mark Ivanir, Imogen Poots, Christopher Walken and Catherine Keener.
London, 1962: Two teenage girls, Ginger and Rosa, are inseparable. They play truant together, discuss religion, politics and hairstyles, and dream of lives bigger than their mothers' frustrated domesticity. But as the Cold War meets the sexual revolution, the lifelong friendship of the two girls is threatened. <strong>Cast:</strong> Elle Fanning, Alice Englert, Christina Hendricks, Annette Bening and Alessandro Nivola.
A playwright stages a suicide in an attempt to win back her ex, only to wind up in the custody of her gambling-addict mother. <strong>Cast:</strong> Kristen Wiig, Natasha Lyonne, Annette Bening, Darren Criss and Matt Dillon.
Based on a true story, this movie tells the unforgettable account of a family caught in the mayhem of one of the worst natural catastrophes of our time. True-life terror is tempered by the unexpected displays of compassion and simple kindness this family encounters during the darkest hours of their lives. <strong>Cast:</strong> Naomi Watts, Tom Holland, Samuel Joslin, Oaklee Pendergast and Ewan McGregor.
The directorial debut of Dustin Hoffman, this is a high-drama comedy about temperamental divas and old grudges, passion and pride, romance and Rigoletto. <strong>Cast: </strong>Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly and Pauline Collins.
Follow Jason Anderson's TIFF tweets
Follow Moviefone Canada lead editor Chris Jancelewicz's TIFF tweets