The Toronto International Film Festival revealed a number of new galas and premieres for the upcoming September festival today including some long awaited features, some curious acquisition titles and a number of just plain surprises. Most notably is "Winnie" starring Jennifer Hudson as the controversial freedom fighter Winnie Mandela and Geoffrey Fletcher's thriller "Violet & Daisy." Here's a complete rundown with some thoughts for added measure.
"Page Eight" (David Hare)
Lowdown: Bill Nighy, Michael Gambom, Rachel Weisz. Ralph Fiennes and Judy Davis star in this unexpected modern spy thriller from the screenwriter of "The Hours" and "The Reader."
"The Awakening" (Nick Murphy)
Lowdown: Toronto refers to it as a "sophisticated psychological/supernatural thriller in the tradition of The Others and The Orphanage" that all starts with a woman who tries to discredit seances. Rebecca Hall, Dominic West and Imelda Staunton star.
"Beloved" (Christophe Honoré)
Lowdown: "Musical outbursts" occur in this dramedy starring Chiara Mastroianni and Catherine Deneuve as a mother and daughter who go in and out of the lives of the men the love.
"Hysteria" (Tanya Wexler)
Lowdown: A romantic comedy about - no joke - the world's first female vibrator which was discovered by a Victorian doctor hoping to please the ladies. Maggie Gyllenhaal, Hugh Dancy, Jonathan Pryce, Rupert Everett and Felicity Jones star.
"Killer Elite" (Gary McKendry)
Lowdown: Seemingly based on a true story, Jason Statham plays a former special forces op lulled out of retirement to rescue his mentor (Robert De Niro). Oh, and he only has Clive Owen and a bunch of assassins in his way.
"Machine Gun Preacher" (Marc Forster)
Lowdown: The prolific Marc Forster returns to Toronto with an inspirational true story, about Sam Childers, a former drug-dealing criminal who undergoes an "astonishing" transformation and finds an unexpected calling as the saviour of hundreds of kidnapped and orphaned children. Previously announced as as special presentation, the film has now moved up to gala status which means the festival couldn't fill one of their big slots (yikes).
"Trespass" (Joel Schumacher)
Lowdown: Before its simultaneous release on VOD and in theaters, audiences will suffer, er, take in a drama with a family suffering a vicious home invasion. Nicole Kidman takes her chances starring alongside the increasingly sporatic Nic Cage and reuniting with director Joel Schumacher.
"Winnie" (Darrell J. Roodt)
Lowdown: Jennifer Hudson's most challenging role since win an Academy Award for "Dreamgirls," the Grammy winner portrays controversial South African icon Winnie Mandela in this new drama. Terrence Howard, Elias Koteas and Wendy Crewson also star.
"Violet & Daisy" (Geoffrey Fletcher)
Lowdown: Perhaps one of the more commercially intriguing acquisition targets at the fest, Saoirse Ronan and Alex Blendil as young assassins in New York City. The "surreal and violent" thriller is the directorial debutof Fletcher who won the best adapted screenplay Oscar for "Precious." James Gandolfini, Marianne Jean-Baptiste and Danny Trejo star.
Other special presentations include Ermanno Olmi's "The Cardboard Village" starring Michael Lonsdale and Rutger Hauer, Whit Stillman's "Damsels in Distress" (debuting at Venice), Gianni Amelio's "The First Man," Agnieszka Holland' "In Darkness," Juan Carlos Fresnadillo's supernatural thriller "Intruders" with Clive Owen, Johnnie To's "Life Without Principle"Nicolas Klotz and Elisabeth Perceval's "Low Life," Pankaj Rapur's "Mausam (Seasons of Love)," Anne Fontaine's "My Worst Nightmare" starring Isabelle Huppert, Matieu Kassovet's French political drama "Rebellion," Julia Leigh's "Sleeping Beauty" (which was either loved or hated at Cannes), Emanuele Crialese's Italian drama "Terraferma," Philippe Garrel's "That Summer," Andrea Arnold's highly anticipated "Wuthering Heights" (debuting at Venice a week earlier) and Wei Te-Sheng's epic true story "Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale."
The 2011 Toronto International Film Festival runs from Sept. 8-18, 2011.
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