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2007 TORONTO FILM FESTIVAL

The Audience Prize for Best Film, the top award at Toronto's annual movie feast, went to "Eastern Promises." Other entries that were shown are described below. For complete details on the festival, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts, Vincent Cassel, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Sinead Cusack, Donald Sumpter, Jerzy Skolimowski, Michael Sarne (Directed by David Cronenberg; Written by Steven Knight; Focus Features) London is the workplace of some of the world’s meanest members of organized crime, perhaps none meaner than a certain Russian-born thug named Nikolai (Viggo Mortensen). This exceedingly illegal immigrant specializes in the business of sex and shows little mercy on his victims, though there is a chance he will treat Ana--a British midwife who knows more than it is healthy to know about a young woman who died giving birth--with a smidgeon of tenderness. Enraptured fans of 2005’s “A History of Violence” will be pleased to see Viggo Mortensen working once again under the splendid, mischievous direction of David Cronenberg. "Eastern Promises" is Now Playing in theaters.

 

ACROSS THE UNIVERSE: Evan Rachel Wood, Jim Sturgess, Joe Anderson, Martin Luther, Dana Fuchs, Cynthia Loebe, T. V. Carpio, Heather Janneck (Directed by Julie Taymor; Written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais; Sony Pictures) Singing, dancing, doping, making love, declaring war on war--that’s the way rebellious youths expressed themselves in the sixties. And that’s what director Julie Taymor, who gave us “Frida,” will be delivering in this partly live-action, partly animated musical peppered with classic Beatles songs. Jim Sturgess plays a lad from Liverpool who journeys to the U.S. in search of his long-lost father. He may or may not find his dad, but he definitely does find a lovely American pacifist (Evan Rachel Wood) whom he joins in demonstrating against the Vietnam War. Let it be. To read about more new musicals, click here. Now Playing in theaters

THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD: Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, Sam Shepard, Mary Louise Parker, Sam Rockwell, Zooey Deschenal, Jeremy Renner, Michael Parks, Barbara Kozicki, Garret Dillahunt (Directed by Andrew Dominik; Written by Ron Hansen; Warner Bros.) Jesse James, a good old Missouri boy, had little tolerance for the feds and railroad tycoons who relieved farm folk of their homes in the late 19th century. That’s presumably why he formed a gang and got into the profitable but risky business of robbing banks and terrorizing train riders. In the end, Jesse was undone by Robert Ford, a young gang member who went from revering his outlaw boss to deeply resenting him. Or so the story by novelist/screenwriter Ron Hansen--which is the basis for this film--goes. Brad Pitt, who’s at his best when playing on the wrong side of the law, is Jesse and Casey Affleck is Robert Ford. As for Sam Shepard, he plays Jesse’s brother Frank, a role which gave Henry Fonda the opportunity to steal the 1939 “Jesse James” from Tyrone Power. To read the Variety review of "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," click here; for details on more new biopics, click here. Now Playing in theaters

ATONEMENT: Keira Knightley, James McAvoy, Vanessa Redgrave, Romolo Garai, Saoirse Ronan, Brenda Blethyn, Juno Temple (Directed by Joe Wright; Written by Christopher Hampton; Focus Features) In the wake of her frantic yet flimsy contributions to the achingly trivial “Pirates of the Caribbean” trilogy, Keira Knightley apparently decided it was time to get serious. So she took on the challenge of playing the tormented Cecilia Tallis in “Atonement,” Christopher Hampton’s adaptation of the Ian McEwan novel. This heavy-duty drama has been directed by Joe Wright, who, in 2005’s “Pride & Prejudice,” helped Knightley reveal the wit and vulnerability beneath her glossy, high-fashion façade. Her spirited portrait of Emma Bennet earned an Oscar nomination, and the fact that “Atonement” was selected to open the 2007 Venice Film Festival suggests she may well be among the Best Actress nominees when the next batch of Oscars are handed out on the night of February 24, 2008. Keira--or, rather, Cecilia Tallis, the heroine of McEwan’s 2002 Booker Prize winner--is a privileged member of a prominent 1930s British family who is home from Cambridge in the summer of 1935 with handsome classmate Robbie Turner (James McAvoy), the son of the Tallis’ cleaning woman who has risen to the enviable position of Cecilia’s lover. Witnessing an intimate exchange between the two, Cecilia’s dangerously imaginative 13-year-old sister Briony contrives a story so shocking that it results in the imprisonment of Robbie. Life soon becomes a nightmare for the Tallis clan and for those unfortunate enough to have been part of their not-so-charmed circle. Their anguish endures through many stages and does not end until the dawning of the 21st century. So who plays the deceitful Briony? Saoirse Ronan, at the time of the big lie; Romola Garai at the age of 18; and , blessing of blessings, Vanessa Redgrave as the older, presumably wiser, Briony. To read the Variety review of "Atonement," click here; for details about more new movies based on books, click here. Now playing in theaters

THE BRAVE ONE: Jodie Foster, Terrence Howard, Naveen Andrews, Mary Steenburgen, Jane Adams, Nicky Katt (Directed by Neil Jordan; Written by Roderick Taylor, Bruce A. Taylor and Cynthia Mort; Warner Bros.) Erica Bain (Jodie Foster) had it all, and she knew it. The host of a popular Manhattan radio talk show, she’d finally hooked up with a super guy and was planning her wedding day. That was then and this is the tragic now. Erica is the physically and emotionally wounded survivor of a vicious assault, and her husband-to-be is dead. Before long, she is an armed and dangerous woman, night-stalking city streets in search of vengeance. Can a tough, well-intentioned cop (Terrence Howard) save her from self-destruction. This thriller was directed by the never-boring Neil Jordan, the man responsible for “Mona Lisa,” “The Crying Game” and “Breakfast on Pluto.” To read about more new murderpix, click here. Now Playing in theaters

CASSANDRA’S DREAM: Ewan McGregor, Colin Farrell, Hayley Atwell, Tom Wilkinson, Sally Hawkins, Tamzin Uthwaite, Mark Umbers, Andrew Howard (Written and directed by Woody Allen; Wild Bunch) Rumored to be Woody Allen’s darkest film ever, this London-set drama scrutinizes the unraveling relationship between two down-on-their-luck Cockney brothers (McGregor and Farrell). Why the bad blood? Blame it on Angela (Hayley Atwell), a gold-digging hottie who lures the siblings into a world of slime-crime, managing in the process to seduce one of them and traumatize the other. To read the Variety review of "Cassandra's Dream," click here; for Guy Flatley's 1978 interview with Woody Allen, click here. Opens in theaters on 1/18/08

THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY: Mathieu Almaric, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Emmanuelle Seigner (Directed by Julian Schnabel; Written by Ronald Harwood; Focus Features) It makes perfect sense that Jean-Dominique Bauby’s stunning book, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," should carry the subtitle of "A Memoir of Life in Death.” Bauby, a dynamic, articulate, happily married father of two, was the widely admired editor-in chief of France’s Elle Magazine in 1995 when, at the age of 44, he suffered a stroke that left him in a coma for 20 days. It was assumed that he would never again share thoughts and impressions with his loved ones and former colleagues. And when he did finally awake, the only part of his body that appeared to be functioning was his left eye. Soon, however, with the blink of that eye, he was able to make it understood that his brain had not been impaired. Amazingly, a system was devised by his family and friends whereby he would blink when a particular letter of the alphabet was read aloud to him. From there, it was a matter of his forming words, structuring sentences and conveying the complex, passionate ideas and images that filled his mind and then shape them into a unique manuscript. Bauby died in 1998, just two days after the publication of “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” It was thought that Johnny Depp, who worked with director Julian Schnabel in "Before Night Falls," would tackle the challenging role of Bauby, but that plan fell through. So Depp's loss is Mathieu Almaric's gain. To read the Variety review of "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," click here. Now playing in theaters

 

I’M NOT THERE: Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Marcus Carl Franklin, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, Ben Whishaw, Julianne Moore, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Michelle Williams, (Directed by Todd Haynes; The Weinstein Company) Did you ever have the feeling that there’s something baffling, if not downright bizarre, about legendary music man Bob Dylan? Well, the mystery may soon be cleared up in this brazen biopic. Who's been handed the task of acting (and singing) like Dylan in all of his shifting complexity? As it turns out, it took at least five men and one woman to rise to the challenge: Christian Bale, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, Ben Whishaw, Marcus Carl Franklin and, yes, a notably curly-haired Cate Blanchett. The women in Dylan’s life are played by Julianne Moore, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Michelle Williams (Heath Ledger’s wife in “Brokeback Mountain” and in real life). Director Todd Haynes, who worked wonders with Julianne Moore in “Safe” and “Far From Heaven,” will undoubtedly keep all of these heavyweight performers blowin’ eloquently in the wind. To read about more new biopics, click here. Now playing in theaters

IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH: Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron, Susan Sarandon, Jason Patric, Josh Brolin, James Franco, Frances Fisher, Barry Corbin, Jonathan Tucker (Written and directed by Paul Haggis; Warner Independent Pictures) Readers of Playboy magazine were shocked by “Death and Dishonor,” Mark Boal’s investigative article published in the summer of 2004. Boal interviewed Lanny Davis, a former U.S. Army M.P., about the death of his son, who had been reported AWOL following a tour of duty in Baghdad. Davis, refusing to accept the army’s version of his son’s disappearance, eventually discovered that the young man had in fact been brutally murdered by his army buddies after a night of partying in Georgia. Paul Haggis, the writer-director of “Crash,” purchased rights to the story, added a few fictional touches, and signed up a sterling cast headed by Tommy Lee Jones as the ex-soldier in pursuit of justice. To read about more new war-themed movies, click here. Now Playing in theaters

INTO THE WILD: Emile Hirsch, Vince Vaughn, Catherine Keener, William Hurt, Marcia Gay Harden, Hal Holbrook, Jena Malone (Written and directed by Sean Penn; Paramount) Christopher McCandless, a restless, searching idealist, graduated from college in 1992 but did not even consider competing with his peers for a prestigious, lucrative job. Instead, as readers of Jon Krakauer’s best seller know, McCandless left behind his worldly goods, hitchhiked to Alaska, and strived to become one with nature. Four months later, his corpse was discovered on an abandoned bus in a wilderness campsite. Under the direction of Sean Penn, “Alpha Dog’s” Emile Hirsch plays McCandless; Keener and Vaughn play a motherly stranger and a sensitive truck driver he meets on his journey. Now Playing in theaters

MARGOT AT THE WEDDING: Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jack Black, John Turturro, Ciaran Hinds, Barbara Turner (Written and directed by Noah Baumbach; Paramount Classics) “The Squid and the Whale” was one of the sharpest, funniest and most moving films of 2005, and it should have won at least one Oscar--maybe for Best Original Screenplay, for which Noah Baumbach was nominated. Unlike the dysfunctional Brooklyn family examined in “The Squid and the Whale,” the two sisters (Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Jason Leigh) and one husband-to-be (Jack Black) in writer-director Baumbach’s follow-up film dwell in upstate New York. But surely they will be at least a little bit dysfunctional. Incidentally, filmmaker Baumbach and actress Leigh are husband and wife in real life, and Barbara Turner is Jennifer's mom. So I guess that makes them a functional family. To read the Variety review of "Margot at the Wedding," click here; for Guy Flatley's 2000 interview with Jack Black, click here. Now playing in theaters

MICHAEL CLAYTON: George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton, Sydney Pollack, Sean Cullen, Michael O’Keefe, Ken Howard, Austin Williams, David Zayas, Kevin Hagan, Pamela Gray, Amy Hargreaves, Heidi Armbruster, Christopher Mann, Jack Fitz (Written and directed by Tony Gilroy; Warner Bros.) A phone tapper and a hit man are just two of the bad boys who may feel at home at the prestigious New York law firm where attorney Michael Clayton (George Clooney) works. Clayton himself, the divorced father of a troubled boy, has conceivably schmoozed with these and other thugs during the 15 years he has performed legal miracles for his slippery, high-profile clients. One thing he learns for sure: more than one of these clients have not told him the entire truth about matters of life and death. And now, at a time of personal peril, Clayton is probably wondering why the lovely young attorney with whom he’s been having a clandestine affair is asking him so many deeply probing questions about his unlovely work history. This thriller marks the directorial debut of writer Tony Gilroy, whose screenplays include “Devil’s Advocate,” “Proof of Life,” "The Bourne Identity," “The Bourne Supremacy”and "The Bourne Ultimatum." Now Playing in theaters

RENDITION: Jake Gyllenhaal, Reese Witherspoon, Meryl Streep, Peter Saarsgard, Alan Arkin, Omar Metwally (Directed by Gavin Hood; Written by Kelley Sane; New Line) The U.S. policy of abducting terrorist suspects, secretly transporting them to countries where torture is the favored tool for interrogation, and imprisoning them for prolonged periods is known as Extraordinary Rendition. The covert practice, much to the displeasure of the Bush administration, has recently been exposed and well documented by the press. And, not too surprisingly, more than one of these torture victims have been proven innocent beyond all doubt. Set in the Middle East, “Rendition” top-lines Jake Gyllenhaal as an idealistic CIA analyst who is shocked when he discovers, first-hand, the brutal methods employed by secret-police interrogators; Reese Witherspoon plays a panicked American whose spouse has gone missing, thanks to rendition. Gavin Hood, the man responsible for “Tsotsi," the powerful South African film about a vicious thug who “adopts” the child of a woman he has slain, is the director of this sure-to-be-controversial thriller. To read about more current and upcoming war-themed films, click here; for Diane Baroni's 2001 interview with Jake Gyllenhaal, click here. Now Playing in theaters

RESERVATION ROAD: Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Connelly, Mira Sorvino, Elle Fanning, John Slattery, Antoni Corone (Directed by Terry George; Written by John Burnham Schwartz; Focus Features) Dwight Arno, speeding through the night to return his 10-year-old son to his ex-wife on time, turns a bend, hits a boy who’d been walking on the side of the road, and drives on. Nearby, Ethan Learner, the father of the instantly killed boy, sits behind the wheel of his own car. Before long, Ethan will be consumed by grief, guilt and a deep thirst for revenge. If you’ve read John Burnham Schwarz’s 1998 novel, “Reservation Road,” you already know how this story ends, but you’ll probably rush to see the movie version all the same. Adapted by the novelist, the film is being directed by Terry George (“Hotel Rwanda”) and stars Mark Ruffalo as the fleeing father and Joaquin Phoenix as his potential avenger. Jennifer Connelly, who co-starred with Phoenix in 1997’s “Inventing the Abbotts,” plays his distraught wife on this occasion. To read about more new movies based on books, click here. Now Playing in theaters

THE SAVAGES: Laura Linney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Philip Bosco, Peter Friedman, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Cara Seymour, Debra Monk, Margo Martindale, Salem Ludwig (Written and directed by Tamara Jenkins; Fox Searchlight) Wendy and Jon Savage (Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman) are siblings who loathe one another with an intensity that does indeed border on the savage. Fortunately, they now live in different cities and are never ever tempted to turn back the clock and replay traumatic scenes from their dysfunctional-family past. Wendy, a wannabe playwright who dabbles in meds and steady-dates a guy she hopes to marry (the chief obstacle being his claim that he is madly in love with his current wife), resides in New York’s East Village. Brother Jon, on the other hand, has shuffled off to Buffalo, where his twin obsessions are the writing of perversely esoteric books and dodging conversations about commitment and marriage with his natural-born-homemaker girlfriend. What could possibly derail Wendy and Jon from their individual pursuits of non-familial happiness? Phone calls informing them that their dear old dad (Philip Bosco) is more demented than usual and in urgent need of hands-on caretaking. Sounds like a family reunion to remember. Now playing in theaters