All stories by Caroline Leung

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TIFF Teaser: Inescapable, sort of like Taken, but with more Syrian politics and less Liam Neeson


Inescapable is one of only two Canadian films to get the gala treatment this year (the other is Deepa Mehta’s adaptation of Midnight’s Children). The film, which was shot in Toronto, has already been pegged as a Syrian-flavoured Taken: Alexander Siddig plays a mild-mannered father forced to return to Damascus after a 30-year absence when his vacationing daughter goes missing. He enlists the help of a former flame (Marisa Tomei), encounters a bothersome bureaucrat (Joshua Jackson) and is remarkably quick in his Liam Neeson-esque transformation—asses are kicked, names are taken. The film is Toronto-based writer-director Ruba Nadda’s first thriller, and we’re hoping her taste for politically charged drama (her film Cairo Time won Best Canadian Feature at TIFF 2009) will add dimension to the action.

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TIFF Teaser: Looper, the latest mind-bending movie to star Joseph Gordon-Levitt


In director Rian Johnson’s world, “loopers” are assassins who kill targets from the future who have been sent back in time (just go with it). Joseph Gordon-Levitt, having earned some action flick cred with Inception, The Dark Knight Rises and Premium Rush, plays one such killer whose life (and professional integrity) is jeopardized when his newest target turns out to be his future self, played by a grumble-voiced Bruce Willis. The adrenaline-heavy flick will open the festival this year, and should set an appropriate mood for the rest of the week—with so many screenings, we’re constantly wishing we could be in two places at once.

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TIFF: Ryan Gosling to direct underwater fantasy film starring Christina Hendricks

Gosling and Hendricks at the L.A. premiere of Drive (Image: Eric Charbonneau/WireImage/Getty)

A handsome young actor’s attempt to stray from his prescribed little box is normally an occasion for great eye-rolling, but this is the Almighty Goz we are talking about. Ryan Gosling is set to direct an original screenplay of his own devising featuring Drive co-star (and Mad Men goddess) Christina Hendricks. The film, How to Catch a Monster, is apparently a modernized fairy tale about a single mother (presumably Hendricks) who discovers a sinister underwater town. So confident are the financiers of the film that they’re already making international sales available at this year’s TIFF—without a single scene shot (principal photography begins next year). Whether it turns out to be a fascinating look at the world beneath the water or merely a glorious train wreck, we’re crossing our fingers that Gosling also makes an appearance onscreen. [Indiewire]

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TIFF Teaser: Passion, Brian de Palma’s film about a really bad (but really sexy) boss

Brian de Palma’s recent efforts (The Black Dahlia, Mission to Mars) may not have lived up to his earlier works, but we’re still hoping that Passion will be a renaissance for the director. Noomi Rapace plays a young businesswoman who must contend with the sadistic mind games of her boss (Rachel McAdams)—mind games which apparently include girl-on-girl make-outs and shadowy boudoirs straight from the set of Eyes Wide Shut. This Sapphic game of cat-and-mouse follows the (successful) formula of Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan: Oscar-nominated director, professional intrigue, murder and a much-talked-about lesbian love scene that will crowd the lines at your local arthouse cinema with high-fiving frat boys.

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TIFF Teaser: Reincarnated, or how Snoop Dogg went to Jamaica and came back as Snoop Lion

The jokes write themselves about the newly renamed Snoop Lion (formerly Snoop Dogg), but the documentary Reincarnated, premiering at TIFF, takes a serious look at what exactly happened during Snoop’s month-long vacation/pilgrimage in Jamaica—and why he traded rap for reggae. Vice Magazine global editor Andy Capper hones in on how the rapper’s acquittal on a murder charge, numerous arrests and bans from the U.K., Australia and Norway culminated in the journey to Jamaica, where he found some peace and a lot of marijuana and renewed his conviction that he is a reincarnation of Bob Marley. The newfound mellowness is charming—though we’ve yet to accustom ourselves to his new moniker.

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TIFF Teaser: The Master, which is most certainly not about Scientology


The Master’s producers are denying any intentional parallels to the life of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, though we imagine the whispers surrounding Paul Thomas Anderson’s film won’t hurt ticket sales when it’s released in theatres just after TIFF. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Lancaster Dodd, an apparent polymath who founds a religious movement in the ’50s. Joaquin Phoenix co-stars as an alcoholic war vet who, in need of something to believe in, finds himself in the arms—or clutches—of Dodd and Dodd’s wife (Amy Adams). Three acting heavy-hitters, plus a perfectly creepy score by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood and compelling cinematography, all but guarantee a presence in the upcoming awards season.

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CONFIRMED: the ever-restless Julianne Moore will be back in Toronto for TIFF

(Image: TIFF)

Julianne Moore has a penchant for playing complicated, restless wives: take The Hours, The Kids Are All Right and Atom Egoyan’s Toronto-set Chloe (The Rivoli never seemed sexier). She returns to TIFF this year in a similar role for What Maisie Knew, a New York-based modernization of the Henry James novel that tells the story of a divorce between an aging, type-A rock ’n’ roll icon (Moore) and an amiable but clueless art dealer played by Steve Coogan, who’ll also be here (as will Sheriff Eric Northman, a.k.a. Alexander Skarsgård).

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CONFIRMED: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper are all expected at TIFF 2012

Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper first worked together in last year’s thriller Limitless. This year they return in David O. Russell’Silver Linings Playbook. Cooper, playing a cuckolded substitute teacher recently released from a mental institution, returns home to his father (De Niro), a football fanatic weary of his son’s emotional antics. Jennifer Lawrence plays the lovely but strange girl-next-door—i.e., Cooper’s love interest. The I Heart Huckabee’s director’s finely tuned eye for dramatic comedy could be the perfect fit for all three actors: for Cooper, who may just prove his acting chops; for De Niro, whose comic ability deserves far more than Meet the Parents/Fockers; and for Lawrence, who could use a little quirk to match her smoulder.

(Images: Lawrence and Cooper, TIFF; DeNiro, Lia Grainger)

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CONFIRMED: Greta Gerwig is coming to TIFF 2012

(Image: TIFF)

Greta Gerwig has been deemed “Mumblecore’s Meryl Streep,” though a recent appearance in Woody Allen’s To Rome with Love may signify a turn to more mainstream fare. At this year’s festival, she stars in boyfriend Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha, the story of a friendship between a pair of 20-something women. If Allen and Lena Dunham had a cinematic baby, we suspect it would look something like this.

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CONFIRMED: James Franco returns for another TIFF (this time, to promote a film)

Also confirmed: this is not Franco’s best look (Image: TIFF)

This year, James Franco appears on TIFF screens as a gangster who rescues (or ruins?) the spring break of four female students, including Disney favourites Selena Gomez (who’s also coming to Toronto) and Vanessa Hudgens, in Spring Breakers. Questionable as this cinematic dalliance may be, Franco is, of course, a gentleman in real life: he was spotted last year charmingly buying a self-portrait from a giddy fangirl after coming to town to unveil an art installation with Gus Van Sant at the TIFF Bell Lightbox Atrium.

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CONFIRMED: Kate Hudson will walk the red carpet at TIFF 2012

Both Kate Hudson and Riz Ahmed are confirmed for this year’s festival (Image: TIFF)

A promising, Oscar-nominated start to Kate Hudson’s career gave way to a series of rom-com cash cows, each more forgettable than the last—Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers called her most recent release, A Little Bit of Heaven, a “droolingly stupid weepie.” Hudson will be at TIFF to screen The Reluctant Fundamentalist, a film about a young Pakistani man torn between the American Dream and his homeland in post-9/11 America, which, thankfully, sounds neither like a weepie nor droolingly stupid. But we make no promises.

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CONFIRMED: Johnny Depp will be at TIFF 2012 (playing Johnny Depp)

(Image: Nicolas Genin)

Rarely would you find Johnny Depp lumped into a category with Kyle Humphrey and Graydon Sheppard, the Toronto duo behind Shit Girls Say, but at this year’s TIFF all three will appear as guest speakers in the same Mavericks talk series. Depp is here in support of the West Memphis Three doc West of Memphis (he’s been a vocal supporter, and has even optioned the wrongly accused Damien Echols’s death row memoir). We’re just hoping for some sort of Shit Depp Says mashup to emerge by the end of September.

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CONFIRMED: Robert Redford has still got it at 76 (and he’s coming to TIFF)

(Image: TIFF)

Robert Redford has been many things: a heartbreaker in The Way We Were, a truth seeker in All the President’s Men, a con man in The Sting. In The Company You Keep, which brings him to this year’s TIFF, Redford directs and stars as a former activist who plays hide-and-seek with a journalist (Shia LaBeouf). No, we can’t believe he’s already 76, either.

The Informer

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Toronto Underground Cinema to close next month; Metro Theatre to diversify into non-porn programming

Only at the Underground Cinema (Image: Will Perkins)

The Toronto Underground Cinema announced it’ll shut its doors next month. Despite garnering impeccable indie cred and hosting guests like Adam West and festivals like Images, competition from nearby cinematic giants, the need for expensive upgrades and claims on the space from “another group” brought the theatre down, according to co-owner Alex Woodside, who spoke to the Toronto Star. But it seems the cinema gods are not totally cruel: the Metro Theatre, Koreatown’s sleazy stalwart of a porn theatre, is getting a full cleanup and will begin showing more sophisticated programming in the evening, courtesy of the Studio Film Group, the people behind Gerrard East’s Projection Booth cinema. (The daytime repertoire will remain adults-only.) [Toronto Star]

The Informer

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Atom Egoyan taps fellow Canadian Ryan Reynolds for new film Queen of the Night

Ryan Reynolds (Image: Chris Jackson)

Atom Egoyan has an eye for gorgeously rendered depravity and kink, so we can’t help our befuddlement at his latest casting choice: fellow Canadian Ryan Reynolds, who seems about as vanilla as they come in Hollywood. Egoyan’s newest project, Queen of the Night, will feature Reynolds as a father who’s determined to find his daughter after realizing her abduction eight years ago may not have ended as tragically as he thought. Given Egoyan’s penchant for fanciful visuals and Reynolds’ action-ready torso, this just might be the happy marriage between avant garde and blockbuster we’ve been looking for. [Vulture]

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