Toronto 2014: Reitman, Baumbach and Rock to premiere new films

Steven Zeitchik
Los Angeles Times (MCT)

New movies from veteran directors such as Jason Reitman, Noah Baumbach and Shawn Levy — not to mention the work of some less expected filmmaking types — will make their world premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival when it kicks off this September, organizers said Tuesday.

The Canadian confab, considered a key early stop for autumn hopefuls and awards contenders, made its first round of announcements Tuesday morning. Highlighting the slate are world premieres of Reitman’s “Men, Women & Children,” Baumbach’s “While We’re Young” and Levy’s “This Is Where I Leave You.”

The list also contained some less expected names. Chris Rock will bring a rare directorial effort, “Top Five” (formerly known as “Finally Famous”), about a comedy actor who tries to go dramatic that stars — who else? — Kevin Hart.

The noted playwright Israel Horovitz will, at 75, make his feature directorial debut with “My Old Lady,” a story of an inherited apartment and an unwanted guest; it stars Kevin Kline and another veteran who always seems to be up to new tricks, Maggie Smith.

And the actor Chris Evans, who while trying to save the world as Captain America also found time to direct and star in a new movie, will bring that film, titled “Before We Go,” to the festival. The movie is a drama about a woman who misses her train and ends up in an urban underbelly. Alice Eve stars alongside Evans.

Toronto can be a place where some beloved North American filmmakers help kick off their new releases — and, if things go right, a hefty awards campaign to go with it. Baumbach, Reitman and Levy all fit that bill.

Baumbach, who last year had a breakout with “Frances Ha,” will come to the festival with “While We’re Young,” a story of two contrasting couples and the effect their lives have on one another; Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Amanda Seyfried and Adam Driver star.

Reitman’s “Men” marks a return for the Toronto favorite after his turn to harder core drama with last year’s “Labor Day.” Based on Chad Kultgen’s controversial novel, Reitman new movie looks at modern sexual mores and how they reverberate through the lives of parents and children. It features a rather unexpected star, Adam Sandler.

Levy, best known for directing the “Night at the Museum” franchise (a third movie comes out later this year), marks a shift to more relationship-based drama with a look at a family that comes together in trying circumstances, based on Jonathan Tropper’s novel and starring Jason Bateman.

Levy is not the only studio director mixing things up. Comedy maestro David Dobkin (“Wedding Crashers”) will present the world premiere of his coming-home legal dramedy “The Judge” starring Robert Downey Jr. And longtime helmer Ed Zwick, not particularly known for fact-based drama, will premiere “Pawn Sacrifice,” his story about Bobby Fischer as the chess champion gets ready to face off against Russian chess grandmaster Boris Spassky.

Though carrying a reputation for awards-ready fare, a number of commercially minded movies will make their world or North American premieres at Toronto as well, including “Good Kill,” “Gattaca” director Andre Niccol’s story of a drone pilot that reunites him with star Ethan Hawke (that’s a North American premiere), and Antoine Fuqua’s “The Equalizer,” the Denzel Washington-starring revival of Robert Woodward 1980’s TV series (that’s a world premiere).

Some European and Asian directors will be on the docket as well, with films that include “The Riot Club, the new movie from “An Education” director Lone Scherfig, “Breakiup Buddies” from the Chinese up-and-comer Ning Hao and “Samba,” the world premiere of a movie that reunites the directors of the French breakout “Intouchable,” Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, with actor Omar Sy.

Some other notable world premieres include veteran producer Bill Pohlad directing “Love and Mercy,” a fact-based tale of the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, with Paul Dano and John Cusack playing the singer young and old(er).

Jean-Marc Vallee will bring “Wild,” his Reese Witherspoon-starring adaptation of the bestselling survival memoir, to the festival after debuting his “Dallas Buyers Club” there last year.

Screenwriter Dan Gilroy makes his directorial debut “Nightcrawler,” an L.A. noir that will see Jake Gyllenhaal return to TIFF after bringing two films to the gathering last year.

Longtime film and TV creator Richard LaGravenese marks his entry to the alternative-romance genre with “The Last Five Years” (the upcoming “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby” and “What If” also fit the bill).

And James Gandolfini’s final film role will be on display in “The Drop,” a crime drama starring Tom Hardy that marks the feature screenwriting debut of Dennis Lehane; it is directed by Michael Roskam (“Bullhead”).

A number of indie stalwarts will roll out new movies, including Hal Hartley (“Ned Rifle”), Oren Moverman (“Time Out of Mind”) and David Gordon Green, who after studio comedies such as “Pineapple Express” continues his recent return to indie roots with “Manglehorn,” a story about an ex-con starring Al Pacino and Holly Hunter (that one is a rare North American premiere).

Toronto this year is implementing a new policy in which films that screen at the Telluride Film Festival will not be eligible to screen in its all-important first four days. Fest director Cameron Bailey instituted the policy to avoid the practice made common in recent years for Telluride to steal the thunder of some of the season’s biggest films.

Last year, for instance, awards and commercial favorites such as “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Gravity” and “12 Years a Slave” all received prime first-weekend slots at Toronto. But not all premieres are created equal: “Dallas Buyers” was a true world premiere, “12 Years” had a sneak preview at Telluride and “Gravity” played both Venice and Telluride. Neither of the last two films would be eligible to play the first weekend at Toronto this year.

That policy means that there will be more true world premieres at Toronto this year. It also means some films will choose Telluride and won’t be there at all.

Not on the list Tuesday, indeed, are some high-profile awards bait some are expecting to make an early September festival debut — Brad Pitt’s “Fury” and partner Angelina Jolie’s “Unbroken,” most notably — but also Jon Stewart’s “Rosewater” and Thomas Vinterberg’s “Far From the Madding Crowd.” Toronto does have another round of big announcements scheduled for next week, so expect a few more dominoes to fall by the time the festival game gets underway.

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.