The Toronto International Film Festival Curtain Raiser: Ten Must-See Movies
Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures
Hugh Grant gets in touch with his inner leopard (grrrrowl!) as a voracious cannibal in the big buzz sci-fi epic "Cloud Atlas," premiering at the 37th Annual Toronto International Film Festival this Saturday evening. "I have six cameo parts in this strange, ambitious film," Grant told the English movie magazine "Empire" last February, "I do a lot of killing and raping." That's certainly playing against type for the handsome Brit best known for his floppy hair, posh stutter and way with a witticism (oh, and cheating on Elizabeth Hurley with hooker Divine Brown back in 1995). Grant's transformation from mild-mannered man-about-town to evil, skirt-wearing flesh-eater 200 years in the future nearly upstages the real-life transformation of transgendered co-director Lana Wachowski, nee Laurence, who wrote and directed the movie with brother, Andy, and Tom Tykwer. It's one of ten must-see movies at the Canadian eleven-day orgy of international film that starts this Thursday and runs through Sunday, September 16th:
"Cloud Atlas": Applying the word "ambitious" to adapting David Mitchell's 2004 best-seller is double edged: will it be brilliant or collapse under its own weight? Toronto attendees will be the first to judge at its world premiere. Multiple narratives set on the sea, in a post-apocalyptic island, and at a contemporary publishing house intertwine as individuals connect, and re-connect over time exploring the themes of slavery and the ways in which the victors rewrite the past., The directors' enthusiasm is contagious and co-star Susan Sarandon's snippet of narration intrigued me: "our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present. And by each crime, and every kindness, we birth our future." So it's about karma, Sarandon explained in a recent Yahoo! Movies interview, as opposed to reincarnation. Given that, I'm a little worried about a movie that pairs Halle Berry and Tom Hanks over centuries, multiple hairpieces and across the barriers of gender and race — but I'm still game. And, of course, who can resist Grant as a cannibal?
And, looking beyond the "Cloud Atlas," here are nine more must-see movies
"The Master": Paul Thomas Anderson's not particularly subtle look at the birth of Scientology with Joaquin Phoenix — still not retired — as a naval officer who returns home from WWII and becomes enmeshed in "The Cause." Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the group's messianic leader, and Amy Adams joins in as his steely wife. Contemplating the first film from Anderson since 2007's double Oscar-winner "There Will Be Blood," we're mesmerized and suspicious at the same time — apparently, like Phoenix's character.
"Hyde Park on Hudson": A bookend to "The King's Speech" finds handicapped American President F.D.R. (Bill Murray) welcoming stuttering King George VI (Samuel West in the part that earned Colin Firth an Oscar) for a visit to his country compound in 1939. In Roger Michell's period drama, the leaders connect, and commiserate, surrounded by the women in their lives, including F.D.R.'s distant cousin and mistress Margaret Stuckley (Laura Linney). Can Murray pull off this uncharacteristically weighty role? Word out of last weekend's Telluride Film Festival: He can, and he must be heading for the Oscar that eluded him for "Lost in Translation."