Toronto – Too many movies, not enough time. That’s the dilemma confronting anyone, whether a critic or just a film fan, lucky enough to attend the annual Toronto International Film Festival.
During the 10-day event, which kicks off Thursday night, 349 movies will unspool. Hollywood studios use Toronto to launch movies, mostly due out later this fall or during the holiday season, that they hope will be contenders come awards season.
Here are 10 titles boasting marquee names at Toronto that are – at least before I see ’em – on my must-see list:
• The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford: The title is the spoiler here. Brad Pitt saddles up as the Old West’s most notorious outlaw, who is eventually shot dead by a member (Casey Affleck) of his own gang. Possible uh-oh factor: the 160-minute running time.
• Rendition: In this sure-to-be controversial drama that delves into American-condoned torture of terrorism suspects imprisoned abroad, Reese Witherspoon plays a woman whose Egyptian-American husband (Omar Metwally) is put behind bars while on a trip overseas. Jake Gyllenhaal costars.
• Eastern Promises: Star Viggo Mortensen and director David Cronenberg follow up 2005’s stunning A History of Violence with another crime thriller, this one about Russian gangsters in London. Naomi Watts costars.
• Elizabeth: The Golden Age: Great Cate, also known as Cate Blanchett, returns to the commanding role of England’s first female monarch, a part which propelled her to stardom in 1998’s Elizabeth. Shekhar Kapur again directs this continuation of the story.
• Michael Clayton: George Clooney plays a hotshot Manhattan lawyer who begins to question his life and choices in a corporate thriller. Screenwriter Tony Gilroy, the wiz behind all three Bourne films, makes his directing debut here.
• Lars and the Real Girl: I’d see talented Ryan Gosling even if he was just reading off his grocery list. But in this quirky-sounding comic drama, he portrays a small-town oddball whose new girlfriend – they met on line – is a full-sized doll.
• Atonement: Ravishing Keira Knightley pairs up for another literary adaptation with director Joe Wright, for whom she starred in 2005’s Pride & Prejudice. This drama about a troubled British family is based on a best-selling novel by Ian McEwan.
• Lust, Caution: After striking box office gold with homosexual lust with 2005’s Brokeback Mountain, director Ang Lee showcases the heterosexual kind, and lots of it, in an NC-17 rated drama set in mid-century Hong Kong and Shanghai. Joan Chen and Tony Leung Chiu Wai star.
• Margot at the Wedding: Playing estranged sisters, Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Jason Leigh let long-simmering conflicts come to a boil in a comedy from Noah Baumbach, the writer-director behind The Squid and the Whale (and who’s wed to Leigh). Jack Black costars.
• I’m Not There: The times they are a-changin’, but Bob Dylan still remains a figure of mystery. Singular director Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven) uses not one, but six actors (including Cate Blanchett) to portray Dylan during various periods in the troubadour’s career. Christian Bale, Richard Gere, Julianne Moore and Heath Ledger costar.