It's time to gorge on popcorn and chase the Oscar buzz, cinephiles. The Toronto International Film Festival, known as a hub for Academy Award-worthy titles, kicks off Thursday with nearly 400 films screening over 11 days. Here are some movies that are hotly anticipated among Canadian Press reporters, with expected release dates after TIFF (if known):
Ewan McGregor and Jennifer Connelly in "American Pastoral."
For his directorial debut, actor Ewan McGregor took on a biggie: An adaptation of Philip Roth's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. And judging by the trailer, it seems he may have nailed it. McGregor also stars in the 1960s-set crime-drama, as a father whose seemingly ideal family is torn apart when his teenage daughter, played by Dakota Fanning, joins a violent movement against the Vietnam War. The cast also includes Jennifer Connelly, Uzo Aduba, and Molly Parker of Maple Ridge, B.C. It's coming to theatres in October.
Amy Adams in "Arrival."
This star-packed alien invasion tale promises to offer more than just otherworldly thrills with Oscar-nominated director Denis Villeneuve at the helm. The Quebec auteur behind "Sicario,'' "Prisoners'' and the upcoming "Blade Runner'' sequel is known for balancing taut, cerebral explorations with slow-burning tension, so expectations are high for this sci-fi outing. Amy Adams stars as a linguist recruited by the U.S. government to communicate with aliens and avert possible disaster. Adams is expected to walk the TIFF red carpet with co-star Jeremy Renner after premiering the film in Venice where early reviews are already, ahem, stellar. "Arrival'' opens in theatres in November.
The cast of "Burn Your Maps."
"Burn Your Maps''
OK, we know kid actor Jacob Tremblay is adorable, but is he the real deal? The Vancouver star follows up his breakout role in the captive thriller "Room'' with this quirky family adventure tale, in which he plays an American eight-year-old who believes he is actually a Mongolian goat herder. The Alberta-shot film co-stars Vera Farmiga and was written and directed by Jordan Roberts, whose heartfelt scripts include the animated "Big Hero 6'' and the documentary "March of the Penguins.'' It begins screening in late November.
No, it's not a remake of Stephen King's killer-car flick, but this biographical take on Christine Chubbuck — a local news reporter who committed suicide on live television in the 1970s — is sure to give you chills in its own way. Lead actress Rebecca Hall is already generating Oscar buzz for her sympathetic portrayal of Chubbuck as a talented young woman who struggled to advance in the workplace, but wound up making history for how she shocked viewers.
Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in "La La Land."
"La La Land''
As TIFF director Piers Handling aptly put it: "Ryan Gosling singing and dancing — does it get any better?'' Yes, the Oscar-nominated pride of London, Ont., puts his "Mickey Mouse Club''-honed vocals to the test alongside his "Crazy, Stupid, Love'' co-star Emma Stone in this dreamy musical by "Whiplash'' filmmaker Damien Chazelle. She plays a fledgling actor while he plays a jazz musician in Los Angeles. Reviews from Venice indicate the love story could sashay straight to the Oscars. The film will hit screens during the prime pre-Christmas season.
"The Girl With All the Gifts''
Horror fans could find something fresh in this stark adaptation of M.R. Carey's zombie novel about a fungal infection that's wiped out much of society. Glenn Close plays an American scientist who's hunting for a cure while travelling across London with a convoy of survivors. But it's newcomer Sennia Nanua, an infected pre-teen who may hold the antidote, that's getting attention for her mature performance.
Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton in "Loving."
The landmark love story of interracial couple Mildred and Richard Loving was previously translated into a TV biopic and HBO documentary. On the heels of a well-received debut at Cannes, the big-screen adaptation by director Jeff Nichols is Toronto-bound. Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga portray the Lovings, whose 1958 marriage was deemed illegal in 21 U.S. states, including Virginia where the couple calls home. They wind up behind bars and sentenced to a year in prison — just the beginning of a legal fight that takes their case to the U.S. Supreme Court. The film is due to hit theatres in November.
Kyle Chandler and Casey Affleck in "Manchester by the Sea."
"Manchester by the Sea''
Keep the tissues handy: writer-director Kenneth Lonergan seems poised to deliver an emotional wallop with this gut-wrenching family drama set in a sleepy New England town. Casey Affleck portrays a melancholy loner working as a handyman in Boston who returns to his hometown after his brother dies. Up-and-coming teen actor Lucas Hedges joins the star-studded cast, which includes Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler and Matthew Broderick. Oscar winner Matt Damon is a producer of this breakout hit from the Sundance fest, which was acquired by U.S. streaming service Amazon and is gaining momentum heading into Toronto. Its release is slated for this winter.
Lupita Nyong’o in "Queen of Katwe."
"Queen of Katwe''
A young girl from a poor family in Uganda trying to become an international chess champion against all odds? Now there's a character we can root for. Newcomer Madina Nalwanga plays the determined Phiona Mutesi alongside Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong'o and "Selma'' frontman David Oyelowo. "Queen of Katwe,'' from director Mira Nair, promises to be a feel-good film made all the better by the fact it's based on a true story. It's being released later this month.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt in "Snowden."
One of the most relevant films at the fest, this look at National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden serves as a stark reminder of the privacy perils we all face online. In the trailer, Joseph Gordon-Levitt seems to completely embody Snowden, who took great risks to expose the NSA's global surveillance programs. Three-time Oscar winner Oliver Stone directs the cast, which also includes Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Tom Wilkinson and Zachary Quinto. It hits theatres on Sept. 15.
Hailee Steinfeld in "The Edge of Seventeen."
"The Edge of Seventeen''
This comedy drama grounded in teen angst appears charming, funny and rather relatable. Hailee Steinfeld plays an awkward, dramatic, yet unintentionally hilarious high schooler whose life turns upside down when her best friend starts dating her annoyingly charming older brother. Woody Harrelson is the teacher who reluctantly listens to his student's troubles while peppering the film with his sarcastic quips. A directorial debut from Kelly Fremon Craig, "The Edge of Seventeen'' may turn out to be the next great teen movie. It's coming this November.
— compiled by Canadian Press reporters Victoria Ahearn, David Friend, Lauren La Rose, Diana Mehta, and Cassandra Szklarski