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

by keithsim | last updated - 23 Aug 2017

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 | 125 min | Biography, Drama, History

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
75 Metascore

In May 1940, the fate of Western Europe hangs on British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who must decide whether to negotiate with Adolf Hitler, or fight on knowing that it could mean a humiliating defeat for Britain and its empire.

Director: Joe Wright | Stars: Gary Oldman, Lily James, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ben Mendelsohn

Votes: 118,401 | Gross: $56.44M

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

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
73 Metascore

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: Maggie Betts | Stars: Melissa Leo, Lisa Stewart, Alyssa Brindley, Chelsea Lopez

Votes: 2,570 | Gross: $0.58M

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 | 102 min | Comedy, Drama, Music

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
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: 11,595 | Gross: $2.13M

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)

R | 92 min | Crime, Drama, Romance

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 4.8/10 X  
34 Metascore

The life of a foster family in South Central Los Angeles, a few weeks before the city erupts in violence following the verdict of the Rodney King trial.

Director: Deniz Gamze Ergüven | Stars: Halle Berry, Daniel Craig, Lamar Johnson, Kaalan Walker

Votes: 1,578 | Gross: $0.27M

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)

R | 120 min | Biography, Comedy, Drama

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
77 Metascore

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

Director: Craig Gillespie | Stars: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Julianne Nicholson

Votes: 117,574 | Gross: $30.01M

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

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.3/10 X  

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: 208

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)

R | 134 min | Adventure, Drama, Western

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
65 Metascore

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

Director: Scott Cooper | Stars: Scott Shepherd, Rosamund Pike, Ava Cooper, Stella Cooper

Votes: 42,858 | Gross: $29.82M

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

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.3/10 X  
38 Metascore

In a room with no windows on the eastern coast of Africa, a Scotsman, 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: Alicia Vikander, James McAvoy, Alexander Siddig, Jannik Schümann

Votes: 4,361

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 | 119 min | Biography, Drama

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  
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 after surviving the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

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

Votes: 29,214 | Gross: $4.21M

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)

PG-13 | 120 min | Biography, Drama, Romance

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  
49 Metascore

Life and facts of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, who at 16 met 21 year old poet Percy Shelley, resulting in the writing of Frankenstein.

Director: Haifaa Al-Mansour | Stars: Ben Hardy, Elle Fanning, Bel Powley, Stephen Dillane

Votes: 4,920 | Gross: $0.10M

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 (2018)

R | 98 min | Biography, Drama, War

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  
49 Metascore

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

Director: Ben Lewin | Stars: Paul Rudd, Connie Nielsen, Sienna Miller, Guy Pearce

Votes: 2,817 | Gross: $0.71M

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 vs McEnroe (2017)

R | 107 min | Biography, Drama, Sport

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  
63 Metascore

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

Director: Janus Metz | Stars: Sverrir Gudnason, Shia LaBeouf, Stellan Skarsgård, Tuva Novotny

Votes: 17,767 | Gross: $4.11M

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)

Not Rated | 106 min | Drama, Fantasy, Thriller

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  
74 Metascore

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

Director: Anders Walter | Stars: Madison Wolfe, Zoe Saldana, Imogen Poots, Sydney Wade

Votes: 20,688

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

14. Journey's End (I) (2017)

R | 107 min | Drama, War

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
73 Metascore

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, as they await their fate.

Director: Saul Dibb | Stars: Paul Bettany, Sam Claflin, Stephen Graham, Tom Sturridge

Votes: 3,741 | Gross: $0.16M

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)

R | 105 min | Biography, Drama, Romance

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  
65 Metascore

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

Director: Paul McGuigan | Stars: Annette Bening, Jamie Bell, Kenneth Cranham, Julie Walters

Votes: 5,368 | Gross: $1.03M

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)

TV-MA | 105 min | Drama

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
57 Metascore

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: Ed Harris, Jason Sudeikis, Elizabeth Olsen, Bruce Greenwood

Votes: 7,002

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)

TV-MA | 94 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  
57 Metascore

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, Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier, Sam Troughton

Votes: 45,102

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)

R | 107 min | Comedy, Drama, History

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
88 Metascore

Moscow, 1953. After being in power for nearly 30 years, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin takes ill and quickly dies. Now the members of the Council of Ministers scramble for power.

Director: Armando Iannucci | Stars: Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Jeffrey Tambor, Andrea Riseborough

Votes: 50,135 | Gross: $8.04M

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)

R | 104 min | Adventure, Drama, Mystery

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.8/10 X  

Sisters in conflict travelling through Europe toward a mystery destination.

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

Votes: 1,989

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

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

Unrated | 98 min | Documentary

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
67 Metascore

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: Scotty Bowers, Peter Bart, Stephen Fry, Robert Hofler

Votes: 215 | Gross: $0.46M

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

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