Toronto: 10 Must-see Movies Playing This Year's Fest!

The first day of autumn officially arrives on September 22, but the fall film season kicked off over Labor Day weekend. Several buzz-worthy titles that will be screening in local theaters over the next few months screened for critics and lucky audience members at the Venice Film Festival and Telluride Film Festival, signaling the official start of the annual awards race. 
 
The awards conversation continues in Canada, which hosts the annual Toronto International Film Festival beginning Thursday, September 5 with the world-premiere screening of Bill Condon’s The Fifth Estate. We’ll be on the ground at TIFF reporting on the most compelling titles, and putting noteworthy films on your radar for the coming months. But to help you prepare ahead of time, here are the 10 movies we’re eagerly anticipating (with trailers, where available). Which one ranks highest on your own personal list? 
 

Critics in Venice and Telluride lost their minds over director Alfonso Cuaron’s latest, which strands an astronaut (Sandra Bullock) in outer space following an accident on a satellite. The buzz claims Cuaron (Children of Men) has graduated to next-level technical storytelling, which isn’t a surprise, given the man’s talent. By all accounts, this is a must-see for big-screen fanatics.  
 

Steve McQueen (Shame, Hunger) tackles the difficult, controversial topic of American slavery, but brings such a riveting cast of brilliant actors that we believe the Academy will have to sit up and take notice. The always welcome Chiwetel Ejifor plays a free man mistakenly enslaved. Michael Fassbender is the man holding him captive. Brad Pitt is the abolitionist who might return him to freedom. Word out of Telluride was very strong, though this was high on our list anyway due to McQueen’s past works (and obvious, visceral talent). 
 

On paper, this one looks like a major awards player. Director John Wells adapts Tracy Wells’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play, about a fractured family reuniting and facing their personal demons. But that cast! Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Juliette Lewis, Benedict Cumberbatch and more bring their star power to what could be an acting tour de force. But will it have enough dramatic heft to contend for Oscar’s top prizes? We’ll find out this week.  
 

Matthew McConaughey has been on a serious hot streak lately, earning raves for his turns in movies like Mud and Magic Mike. But it’s his searing portrayal of an HIV patient fighting to bring legal (but unapproved) medications into our country that could earn him a seat at the Academy Awards. The first Dallas Buyers trailer makes the movie look lighter in tone than you might guess from the subject matter. It could resemble a strong drama with a surprising comedic touch. We’ll have answers next week!  
 
Jason Reitman has become a staple of the TIFF schedule, bringing such crowd-pleasing awards contenders as Juno and Up in the Air to the Canadian film fest. He returns with an adaptation of Joyce Maynard’s coming-of-age novel about a depressed mother (Kate Winslet) and her young son (Gattlin Griffith) dealing with a bloodied wanderer (Josh Brolin) who approaches them for help. Reitman has proven himself to be such a gifted storyteller that I’m 100% on board with whatever he tries. Winslet and Brolin should carry this, though we’re hearing great things about young Griffith, as well, so stay tuned. 
 

Bill Condon’s The Fifth Estate has the distinction of opening this year’s TIFF. All eyes will be on Benedict Cumberbatch as he plays WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, a defender of a free press and the revealer of several important military secrets that might have compromised the U.S. Condon has assembled a powerful cast, including Stanley Tucci and Laura Linney, so we’re anxious to see how the Dreamgirls and Twilight director handles his ripped-from-the-headlines material. 
 

Ron Howard hasn’t directed a film since 2011’s relationship comedy The Dilemma. He roars back into theaters this fall with a Formula One drama centered on the intense rivalry between James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) in the 1970s. Universal is screening this film early and often, which means it believes in Howard’s feature. We’re on the edges of our seats waiting to see the type of race footage the Apollo 13 director has poured into Rush.  
 

Have you seen this trailer? It’s haunting. Two families are plunged into sorrow and madness when their daughters go missing on Thanksgiving. Hugh Jackman reportedly devastates as the father of one of the missing girls. Jake Gyllenhaal also is earning kudos for playing a dedicated detective who can’t seem to make up any ground in his investigation. Prisoners is being compared to David Fincher’s Zodiac and Ben Affleck’s Gone Baby Gone. Great company to keep.   
 

I’m cheating a little. I was lucky enough to see Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut at the South by Southwest Film Festival, and I can confirm that it’s a bold, provocative and enthralling character study from a talented actor who’s ready to make that step to the director’s chair. He plays the title character, a New Jersey womanizer who’s addition to online porn might cost him a relationship with the love of his life (Scarlett Johansson). Look out for Tony Danza, who’s mesmerizing in a supporting role.   
 
Director Abdel Kechiche’s intimat portrait of two young, lesbian lovers wowed crowds at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, where it took home that fest’s coveted Palme d’Or. Will the movie work similar magic over the Canadian crowds in Toronto? The good news is that the movie’s coming to the States in early October, so you won’t have to wait so long to see what all of the buzz is about. We’ll report on Blue the moment it drops, which will be early in the TIFF schedule. Stay tuned.
 

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