18 Toronto Film Festival Premieres We're Looking Forward To

Including "Blair Witch," "The Magnificent Seven" and a young Barack Obama.
courtesy of TIFF

In Hollywood, Labor Day brings a triple punch: the annual Telluride, Venice and Toronto film festivals. Showcasing much of fall and winter’s finest film offerings, the cinema smorgasbords bid summer adieu and nod toward Oscar season. The buzz that emerges from these festivals will dictate a lot of how the awards conversation plays out over the next several months. But even without tending to all that expensive jockeying, this year’s festivals offer intriguing lineups that involve the Blair Witch, Jackie Kennedy, Terrence Malick, Justin Timberlake and Barack Obama, to name a few.

We’ll be on the ground in Toronto starting Thursday, so we’ve compiled a list of movies to anticipate there. Most of these titles are enjoying their world premieres, so check out our fall movie preview for the other big releases on the horizon, some of which will also screen in Canada.

Anne Hathaway tends to play straight-laced go-getters, making "Colossal" something of a throwback to "Rachel Getting Married." She stars as an aimless party monster who moves home after her boyfriend (Dan Stevens) kicks her out. But one morning, she awakens to the sight of an actual monster roaming around town. Scarier than Maranda Priestly, the enormous creature induces -- what else? -- an existential crisis.
Pablo Larraín directed two biopics displayed at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) this year -- one about Chilean poet Pablo Neruda and another starring Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy. The latter focuses on the days immediately following JFK's assassination. Greta Gerwig plays Pamela Turnure, who was Jackie's secretary and a rumored mistress of her husband, and Peter Sarsgaard portrays Robert Kennedy. But the real selling point, beyond what early reviews have called a Portman tour de force, is Beth Grant, who is the best part of "The Mindy Project," playing Lady Bird Johnson.
"A United Kingdom"
Amma Asante tackled race dynamics in her gentle 2013 movie "Belle." She's back at it in "A United Kingdom," one of two TIFF titles that depict controversial mid-20th-century interracial romances. (The other is "Loving," which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May.) "Kingdom" stars David Oyelowo as Botswana president Seretse Khama, who sparked international furor when he married a white insurance clerk (Rosamund Pike).
The year of Rachel Weisz continues. The Oscar winner has already appeared in "The Lobster," "Complete Unknown" and "The Light Between Oceans." Next up is "Denial," in which Weisz plays a historian who must prove the Holocaust's existence in English court when a conspiracy theorist sues her for libel.
"Blair Witch"
Seventeen years after "The Blair Witch Project" launched the found-footage craze, and 16 years after its ill-fated sequel seemingly terminated the franchise, the woods are ready, once again, for an ominous hunt. College students venture back to the site of the original Blair Witch sightings in hopes of tracking down the unseen phenomenon.
"I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House"
Remember David, the dorky law student Elle Woods defended by slapping him on the street in "Legally Blonde"? His name is actually Oz Perkins (son of Anthony Perkins), and he's a director now. Perkins' debut, "The Blackcoat's Daughter," opens theatrically this month, and his sophomore endeavor, "I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House," could be one of TIFF's breakout thrillers. Ruth Wilson plays a nurse caring for an elderly horror novelist (Paula Prentiss) whose new book provides ominous clues about her own fate.
"JT + the Tennessee Kids"
Jonathan Demme has one of Hollywood's most varied directorial careers, having made "Something Wild," "The Silence of the Lambs," "Philadelphia" and "Ricki and the Flash." He's also directed concert movies about Talking Heads, Neil Young, Robyn Hitchcock and Kenny Chesney. So it's not shocking that his latest effort is a documentary about Justin Timberlake. Demme got an intimate look at the final nights of Timberlake's 20/20 Experience Tour with the singer's backing band, the Tennessee Kids.
The new rage? Movies about a young Barack Obama. "Southside With You," a charming chronicle of the Obamas' first date, is now in theaters. "Barry" picks up not long before "Southside" takes place, showcasing Obama (Devon Terrell) as a junior in college.
Technology, man! Twenty-five years after an Indian child was separated from his family and adopted by Australians, he sets out to locate his original clan using Google Earth satellites. Based on a true story, the biopic stars Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, Nicole Kidman and David Wenham.
The TIFF program compares the brawl at the center of "Catfight" to a "martial-arts epic." Said brawl involves Sandra Oh and Anne Heche, so consider us intrigued. Oh and Heche play estranged college frenemies who reunite at a party and instantly reignite their old rivalry.
"My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea"
If the apocalypse hits, would social hierarchies crumble? Would sparring best friends reunite? Let graphic novelist Dash Shaw tell you. His debut feature uses crude animation and a trippy whirlwind of ideas to construct a droll disaster flick about a high school built on shaky foundation. When an earthquake hits, it quite literally sinks into the Pacific. How will its motley denizens (voiced by the likes of Jason Schwartzman, Maya Rudolph, Lena Dunham and Susan Sarandon) survive?
"The Magnificent Seven"
Two weeks before it hits theaters, "The Magnificent Seven" serves as TIFF's opening-night film. Directed by Antoine Fuqua ("Training Day," "Olympus Has Fallen"), this reboot of the 1960 Western pits the titular troupe against a crooked industrialist played by Peter Sarsgaard. Good luck besting Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt, Pete.
"The Edge of Seventeen"
Keeping yourself together as a teenager is hard enough. But sometimes the people you love the most complicate things, like when your best friend starts dating your brother. That's what happens to Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld), a self-absorbed junior who can't bear to stand it. Thankfully she has Woody Harrelson, who plays a history teacher armed with a bit of guidance for Nadine's neuroses.
"Deepwater Horizon"
In 2010, a BP drilling rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, causing the most severe oil spill in American history. The tragedy is ripe for a Peter Berg–directed disaster flick starring Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, Dylan O'Brien, Gina Rodriguez, Kate Hudson and John Malkovich.
"Voyage of Time"
Terrence Malick has been cooking up this IMAX documentary about the universe's origins for 40 years. The notoriously private director traveled across the globe to capture footage, some of which lent itself to 2011's "The Tree of Life." Malick company players Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett provide the narration -- Pitt in a 40-minute version and Cate Blanchett in a full 90-minute feature.
"American Pastoral"
For his directorial debut, Ewan McGregor chose a lofty task: an adaptation of one of Philip Roth's most celebrated novels. McGregor cast himself as Swede Levov, a businessman whose family becomes unhinged as the Vietnam War erupts. The supporting cast is stacked: David Strathairn, Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Connelly, Uzo Aduba and Molly Parker.
"Salt and Fire"
Werner Herzog has volcanoes on the brain. Two new Herzog films will premiere at the festival: the volcano documentary "Into the Inferno" and the volcano thriller "Salt and Fire." The latter stars Michael Shannon, Gael García Bernal and Veronica Ferres as rivals who must unite to avoid an ecological disaster.
"Gimme Danger"
Jim Jarmusch ("Stranger Than Paradise," "Only Lovers Left Alive") has made one documentary in his long career: a 1997 concert film about Neil Young and Crazy Horse. That changes with "Gimme Danger," which goes deep on The Stooges, the influential punk bank founded by Iggy Pop.

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