Three film festivals in three countries over the course of three weeks kick Hollywood’s awards season into gear: Italy’s Venice Film Festival, the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado, and the Toronto International Film Festival, which wraps up this weekend in Canada. The Buzz: After mostly positive early reviews from Venice and Telluride, the film got a huge reaction at TIFF.
Two of the best received titles at the Toronto International Film Festival are agonizingly tough-to-watch movies featuring kids in peril, Beasts of No Nation and Room. You could even argue that Abraham Attah and Jacob Tremblay gave two of the finest performances of the entire fest. The 14-year-old Attah was working as a street vendor in his native Ghana when he was tapped by director Cary Fukunaga (True Detective) to star in the Netflix release Beasts, an adaptation of the Uzodinma Iweala book.
The world’s collective view of Lance Armstrong shifted dramatically in 2013 when, after more than a decade of denials, he admitted to Oprah Winfrey that he had in fact taken performance-enhancing drugs on his way to winning seven Tour de France titles. The new film The Program, which recounts the rise and fall of Armstrong (Ben Foster), with a heavy emphasis on the disgraced biker’s doping habits, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival this week, and it paints the cyclist in an unflinchingly nasty light.
Anyone whose grandparents or great-grandparents (or great-great-grandparents, etc) immigrated from Europe in the early or mid-20th century will feel a special connection to Brooklyn, a swoon-inducing romantic drama that debuted with limited screenings yet major acclaim at Sundance and is racking up more fans this week at the Toronto International Film Festival. The always magnetic Saoirse Ronan (Atonement, Hanna) finally gets to flex her natural Irish brogue as Eilis Lacey, a mild-mannered shop clerk in the quiet seaside County Wexford who, with the help of the church, gets the opportunity to live in the United States. Brooklyn gets off to a slow start, admittedly, but that all changes once Eilis meets Tony (the perfectly cast Emory Cohen), a sweet and charming Italian-American plumber who shows up at her church dances admitting that “he likes Irish girls.” The chemistry between Eilis and Tony (as well as Ronan and Cohen) is immediate, and their connection deep.
Since wrapping up Breaking Bad in 2013, Bryan Cranston has faced the gargantuan task of breaking away from meth-cooking cancer patient Walter White, one of the most iconic characters in TV history. Cranston has cranked up his film work in recent years, with supporting roles in movies like Godzilla, Argo, and Total Recall. The actor is able to disappear beneath the horn-rimmed glasses, fantastic ‘stache, perpetually furled brow, and constant stream of witticisms from the mouth of famed screenwriter Dalton Trumbo.
Prometheus wasn’t a bad movie, not by any stretch, but it clearly left a bad aftertaste in the mouths of many of sci-fi maestro Ridley Scott’s most ardent fans. The Martian is also light years less jumbled than last year’s divisive space epic, Interstellar, with all its black holes and mystical bookshelves. At its core, The Martian is a crowdpleaser, delightfully retro and reminiscent of ‘90s sci-fi blockbusters like Apollo 13, Deep Impact, and Armageddon in its devotion to convention and accessibility (yes, that’s meant as a compliment).
Michael Moore returned to the Toronto International Film Festival to unveil his new documentary Where to Invade Next late Thursday night, and he found a warm reception from the mostly Canadian crowd of 1,700 moviegoers. Shouts of “Michael Moore for Prime Minister!” preceded the premiere, and a long standing ovation greeted the director when he returned to the stage for a post-screening Q&A. Where to Invade Next, as it turns out, is much broader in scope, with Moore using the gimmick of himself personally “invading” other countries to “steal” ideals that would make the U.S. better as the framing device of the globe-spanning film.