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10 Must-See Movies at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival

Gravity
Warner Bros.

The 2013 Toronto International Film Festival is about to get Cumberbatched!

OK, there are plenty of other talented filmmakers, directors and producers bringing movies to Canada for this year’s Canadian fest – which unveiled its first wave of programming Tuesday morning – but esteemed British thespian Benedict Cumberbatch lays claim to three TIFF titles, including this year’s Opening Night selection of ‘The Fifth Estate.’ And he doesn’t play Khan in a single one!

The full list of Galas and Special Presentations revealed by Toronto Film Festival programmers can be found on the fest’s official site. In the meantime, in preparation of September’s annual feast of global cinema, we have handpicked 10 Must-See Toronto Titles, the ones that are sure to emerge from the Great White North with massive amounts of awards buzz. I’m also singling out a handful of films that are expected to journey to Toronto but haven’t been announced yet. I’m looking at you, ‘Inside Llewyn Davis.’


'Gravity'

 
 

Alfonso Cuaron’s deep-space thriller brought a sizzle reel to Comic-Con’s Hall H and left jaws on the floor. Finally, the full film will screen, feature Sandra Bullock as an astronaut cast into the galaxies when an accident separates her from her satellite.

 

'12 Years a Slave'

 
 

After ‘Hunger’ and ‘Shame,’ Steve McQueen has become one of those directors whose films are anticipated, sight unseen. The fact that he’s tackling the difficult subject of slavery in the American South – with an outstanding cast that includes Chiwetel Ejifor, Michael Fassbender, Paul Giamatti, Paul Dano and Brad Pitt – means ’12 Years’ will be a hot ticket in Toronto.

 

'Dallas Buyer's Club'

 
 

Have you seen photos of a gaunt Matthew McConaughey? I mean, like a rail a thin version of the handsome leading man? Turns out he was shedding pounds to play an AIDS patient in ‘Dallas,’ Jean-Marc Vallée’s fact-based drama about a Texas electrician diagnosed with HIV who relies on legal and illegal means to procure non-toxic alternative treatments to the virus, which aren’t sanctioned by our government. Jennifer Garner and Jared Leto co-star.

 

'Labor Day'

 
 

Canada’s own Jason Reitman returns to TIFF – where he unveiled both ‘Juno’ and ‘Up in the Air’ – with a coming-of-age story set over the course of a long Labor Day weekend. It centers on a young boy and his peculiar mom (Kate Winslet) who take in a stranger (Josh Brolin) who turns out to be an escaped convict. Reitman hasn’t missed with a movie yet, and I’m anxious to see what he’s bringing to TIFF this year.

 

'August: Osage County'

 
 

From Oscar’s perspective, no film coming to Toronto has more awards potential than John Wells’ adaptation of Terry Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play. The cast screams “prestige,” from Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts to Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper and, yes, Cumberbatch. But the material – of a family reuniting and tearing itself apart – is pitch black. Will it be true to the source, or softer for mainstream crowds? TIFF audiences will be on hand to find out.

 

'Blue is the Warmest Color'

 
 

Yes, the teen lesbian movie. But reviews for French director Abdellatif Kechiche’s tender love story were so overwhelmingly positive coming out of the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year – it won the Palme d’Or – that ‘Blue’ instantly becomes a can’t miss at TIFF.

 

'The Fifth Estate'

 
 

One rule of thumb: Skip TIFF’s Opening and Closing Night films. Though they grab the splashiest headlines, they tend to disappoint. (Last year’s ‘Looper’ being the exception that proves the rule.) I might bend my rule slightly to attend this year’s ‘The Fifth Estate,’ if only because the tease of Cumberbatch sinking his teeth into the meaty and mysterious role of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is too much to pass up. David Thewlis, Stanley Tucci, Laura Linney, Anthony Mackie and Dan Stevens co-star in a contemporary morality play about secrets and lies in politics and society.

 

'Devil's Knot'

 
 

Like Reitman, Atom Egoyan is a Canadian filmmaker whose films always attract attention in Toronto. The fact that he’s working with his most mainstream cast to retell a controversial story turns up the heat on ‘Devil’s Knot.’ Reese Witherspoon, Colin Firth, Kevin Durand, Bruce Greenwood, Mireille Enos, Dane DeHaan and Stephen Moyer team with Egoyan to put a fresh spin on the West Memphis Three case. Do we need this movie after the thorough ‘Paradise Lost’ series?

 

'The Past'

 
 

‘A Separation’ director Asghar Farhadi returns with another gripping human drama rooted in complicated relationships. It follows a French woman who requests a divorce when her husband, an Iranian man, abandons his family to return to his homeland. The request creates fresh problems, as you might have imagined. ‘The Past’ was a Palme d’Or finalist in Cannes, and if it’s half as good as ‘A Separation,’ it will win fans in Toronto.

 

'Parkland'

 
 

There are so many intriguing titles on the TIFF schedule already. I’m going against the grain and singling out ‘Parkland,’ an offbeat historical drama from Peter Landesman that follows the events at the Parkland Hospital on the day that John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas. When you cast Paul Giamatti as Abraham Zapruder, then surround him with character actors like Jackie Earle Haley, Ron Livingston, Billy Boy Thornton, Mark Duplass, Jacki Weaver, Marcia Gay Harden and Zac Efron (!!), this will either be a masterpiece or a train wreck.

 

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