The Top 20 Films I'm Excited to See at Toronto

by keithsim | last updated - 1 month ago

A number of the big films that will be at Toronto (Mother!, Downsizing) are opening a little earlier in Venice and are on my Top 13 Films I'm Excited to See at Venice list. I've also seen a number of the films that I'd recommend you see at Cannes and elsewhere (In the Fade, for the performance of Diane Kruger alone). Thus those titles aren't appearing on this one. But, even though Toronto scaled back the number of films they programmed, it's still a packed two weeks of movies in Ontario. Here's some that I want to catch.

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1. Darkest Hour (2017)

PG-13 | 114 min | Biography, Drama, History

5.4
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75 Metascore

During the early days of WWII, the fate of Western Europe hangs on the newly-appointed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who must decide whether to negotiate with Hitler or fight on against incredible odds.

Director: Joe Wright | Stars: Lily James, Gary Oldman, Ben Mendelsohn, Stephen Dillane

Votes: 448

An extended clip of this film was shown at Cinema-Con. You could almost hear the "Best Actor Nominee #1" slot rotate closed. Also hopeful that this sets Joe Wright back on course after the painful experience of Pan.

2. Novitiate (2017)

R | 123 min | Drama

5.9
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Set in the early 1960s and during the era of Vatican II, a young woman in training to become a nun struggles with issues of faith, the changing church and sexuality.

Director: Margaret Betts | Stars: Margaret Qualley, Melissa Leo, Dianna Agron, Liana Liberato

Votes: 122

Director Betts won the Sundance Breakthrough prize this last January and this trailer gives some indication as to why. Powerhouse actresses in this cast including Leo and yet to break-through-but-totally-deserve-tos Margaret Qualley and Liana Liberato

3. Brad's Status (2017)

R | 101 min | Comedy, Drama, Music

6.7
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71 Metascore

A father takes his son to tour colleges on the East Coast and meets up with an old friend who makes him feel inferior about his life's choices.

Director: Mike White | Stars: Ben Stiller, Austin Abrams, Jenna Fischer, Michael Sheen

Votes: 363

Amazon Studios (full disclosure: IMDb is part of the Amazon family) showed a clip of this at Cinema-Con and it looked great. I've never been a huge Mike White fan. I might have to become one.

4. Kings (2017)

92 min | Crime, Drama, Romance

5.1
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A foster family in South Central a few weeks before the city erupts in violence following the verdict of the Rodney King trial in 1992.

Director: Deniz Gamze Ergüven | Stars: Daniel Craig, Halle Berry, Issac Ryan Brown, Rick Ravanello

Votes: 59

If you saw Mustang, Deniz Gamze Ergüven's Best Foreign Language Oscar-nominated film you know why this is a must on the Toronto list.

5. I, Tonya (2017)

119 min | Biography, Drama, Sport

7.5
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77 Metascore

Competitive ice skater Tonya Harding rises among the ranks at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, but her future in the sport is thrown into doubt when her ex-husband intervenes.

Director: Craig Gillespie | Stars: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Mckenna Grace

Votes: 196

This could really go a number of ways and director Gillespie has proved with Lars and the Real Girl that he can handle a quirky tale and find the humanity in even the oddest of situations. With the topic it would by easy (and boring) to make much of the white-trash, middle-America stereotypes, a la Butter, which will doom this picture. Let's hope it hews more to To Die For.

6. Unicorn Store (2017)

92 min | Comedy

6.9
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A woman named Kit receives a mysterious invitation that would fulfill her childhood dreams.

Director: Brie Larson | Stars: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Joan Cusack, Bradley Whitford

Votes: 91

I am not one for independent films that feature characters stricken by arrested development but this one stars and is directed by Brie Larson. Normally that hyphenate "stars-directs" give me caution and, yes, I saw Kong: Skull Island, but Larson continues to use her powers for good (see noble, if unsuccessful Glass Castle as Exhibit #22]). Support the good ones.

7. Hostiles (2017)

127 min | Adventure, Drama, Western

8.9
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63 Metascore

In 1892, a legendary Army captain reluctantly agrees to escort a Cheyenne chief and his family through dangerous territory.

Director: Scott Cooper | Stars: Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Jesse Plemons, Ben Foster

Votes: 228

Scott Cooper's last two films, Black Mass and Out of the Furnace, had a distance to them, an unapproachable macho reserve that made them sterile. Can he imbue this film with the heart of Crazy Heart, for which Jeff Bridges won his Oscar? Hard to say. It seems unlikely that this film would be any nearer to the Western genre than Dead Man or Slow West so they'll be no firm footholds. The cast is stellar including Bale (who was with Cooper on Furnace) and three personal favorites of mine, Ben Foster (robbed of a Best Spprt nom last year), Jesse Plemmons, and Q'orianka Kilcher.

8. Submergence (2017)

112 min | Drama, Romance, Thriller

6.9
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In a room with no windows on the eastern coast of Africa, an Englishman, James More, is held captive by jihadist fighters. Thousands of miles away in the Greenland Sea, Danielle Flinders ... See full summary »

Director: Wim Wenders | Stars: James McAvoy, Alicia Vikander, Alexander Siddig, Celyn Jones

Votes: 84

Wenders has been spending his time of late collecting Best Documentary nominations, including the stunning Salt of the Earth and Pina (oddly, he's only been Oscar-nominated for documentaries). Both McAvoy and Vikander are at the top of their game.

9. Stronger (I) (2017)

R | 116 min | Biography, Drama

7.6
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76 Metascore

Stronger is the inspiring real life story of Jeff Bauman, an ordinary man who captured the hearts of his city and the world to become a symbol of hope following the infamous 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

Director: David Gordon Green | Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Tatiana Maslany, Miranda Richardson, Richard Lane Jr.

Votes: 916

After Manglehorn I swore I was done with David Gordon Green. I moved back to my mother's, I changed my phone number and ditched him on social. But...ughh...I can't seem to quit him. Plus, Gyllenhaal has proven on several occasions (Nightcrawler, End of Watch) that he is one of our finest and fiercest actors today. So, once more into the Green I go.

10. Mary Shelley (2017)

120 min | Biography, Drama, Romance

6.5
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49 Metascore

The love affair between poet Percy Shelley and 18 year old Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, which resulted in Mary Shelley writing Frankenstein.

Director: Haifaa Al-Mansour | Stars: Maisie Williams, Joanne Froggatt, Bel Powley, Elle Fanning

Votes: 66

Director Al-Mansour made Wadjda, the film about the Palestinian girl who wanted a bike, that was nominated for Best Foreign Language at the BAFTAs and should have been nominated for an Oscar.

The Shelley mystique has been clumsily handled before. The presence of Al-Monsour and this cast suggest it will be done more deftly.

11. The Catcher Was a Spy (2017)

98 min | Biography, Drama, War | Post-production

Major league baseball player, Moe Berg, lives a double life working for the Office of Strategic Services.

Director: Ben Lewin | Stars: Connie Nielsen, Mark Strong, Sienna Miller, Guy Pearce

Ben Lewin directed The Sessions, a Sundance hit which was correctly recognized by Film Independent's Spirit Awards for the lead performances by John Hawkes and Helen Hunt. Plus the cast is like a "Who's Who" of actors I love.

12. Borg McEnroe (2017)

107 min | Biography, Drama, Sport

7.3
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57 Metascore

The story of the 1980s tennis rivalry between the placid Björn Borg and the volatile John McEnroe.

Director: Janus Metz | Stars: Stellan Skarsgård, Shia LaBeouf, Björn Granath, Sverrir Gudnason

Votes: 906

It's a helluva trailer with almost comical typecasting of LaBeouf as the original televised jerk (now elder statesman) John McEnroe. It looks like it has the teeth to be something more than a sports film as well.

13. I Kill Giants (2017)

104 min | Drama, Fantasy, Thriller

8.7
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Barbara Thorson struggles through life by escaping into a fantasy life of magic and monsters.

Director: Anders Walter | Stars: Zoe Saldana, Imogen Poots, Jennifer Ehle, Madison Wolfe

Votes: 126

Based upon the much-loved graphic novel by Joe Kelly this live-action adaptation includes Saldana and Poots.

14. Journey's End (2017)

107 min | War

7.7
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RC Sherriff's Journey's End is the seminal British play about WW1. Set in a dugout in Aisne in 1918, it is the story of a group of British officers, led by the mentally disintegrating young officer Stanhope, variously awaiting their fate.

Director: Saul Dibb | Stars: Sam Claflin, Asa Butterfield, Paul Bettany, Stephen Graham

Votes: 30

Will this be Sam Claflin's chance to show the actor that's been largely used as window-dressing up till now? (Okay, okay, I enjoyed the airplane-fare that was Me Before You.) This sounds like a bit of The Caine Mutiny, a bit of Paths of Glory, with some Gallipoli mixed in.

15. Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool (2017)

105 min | Biography, Drama, Romance

6.7
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71 Metascore

A romance sparks between a young actor and a Hollywood leading lady.

Director: Paul McGuigan | Stars: Jamie Bell, Leanne Best, Annette Bening, Stephen Graham

Votes: 76

Screw you I enjoyed director McGuigan's Victor Frankenstein. Plus, there's been Oscar talk about Annette Bening. But then again, that seems to happen every year, even when it's a turgid as 20th Century Women. She must have a killer publicist.

16. Kodachrome (2017)

Drama

7.1
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Set during the final days of the admired photo development system known as Kodachrome, a father and son hit the road in order to reach the Kansas photo lab before it closes its doors for good.

Director: Mark Raso | Stars: Elizabeth Olsen, Ed Harris, Jason Sudeikis, Bruce Greenwood

Votes: 61

Olsen continues to impress as an actress who holds her own in mega-movies like Captain America: Civil War and indies, like Wind River. I have to admit the plot line may suggest that this is just the Sudekis/Harris show, and that would be okay, but I'm going because of Olsen.

17. The Ritual (I) (2017)

94 min | Horror

6.2
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A group of college friends reunite for a trip to the forest, but encounter a menacing presence in the woods that's stalking them.

Director: David Bruckner | Stars: Rafe Spall, Robert James-Collier, Arsher Ali, Sam Troughton

Votes: 185

I love Rafe Spall and the tagline, "They should have gone to Vegas" hints at cleverness inspired by the film. Or then again it may just be good marketing.

18. The Death of Stalin (2017)

106 min | Biography, Comedy, Drama

8.0
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86 Metascore

Follows the Soviet dictator's last days and depicts the chaos of the regime after his death.

Director: Armando Iannucci | Stars: Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Jason Isaacs, Steve Buscemi

Votes: 98

Armando Iannucci is the writer/director who put his stamp on The Thick of It, In the Loop (the movie version of Thick), and Veep. And Jason Isaacs is always good.

19. Euphoria (I) (2017)

104 min | Adventure, Drama

6.4
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Sisters in conflict travelling through Europe toward a mystery destination.

Director: Lisa Langseth | Stars: Alicia Vikander, Eva Green, Charles Dance, Charlotte Rampling

Votes: 63

Two fantastic lead actresses and Charles Dance and Charlotte Rampling? Yes please.

20. Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood (2017)

98 min | Documentary

5.8
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A portrait of unsung Hollywood legend Scotty Bowers, whose bestselling memoir chronicled his decades spent as sexual procurer to the stars.

Director: Matt Tyrnauer | Stars: Peter Bart, Scotty Bowers, Robert Hofler, William Mann

Votes: 6

Give me a spoon because I could eat this kind of thing up.