Toronto film fest has rich, diverse lineup


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TORONTO -- Harry who?

Daniel Radcliffe has not one, not two but three movies at the Toronto International Film Festival starting Thursday, each more different than the last and all a long way from Hogwarts.

In "Kill Your Darlings," he portrays poet Allen Ginsberg in the early days of the Beat Generation, while his small-town character in "Horns" literally sprouts horns after being blamed for the murder of his girlfriend in Alexandre Aja's supernatural thriller.

"The F Word" is a romcom that counts former Shadyside resident Jesse Shapira as an executive producer. It reunites the onetime Pittsburgher, a graduate of Shady Side Academy and Colgate University, with director Michael Dowse.

The pair were in Toronto in 2011 with the hockey comedy "Goon," which debuted to sold-out houses and was later released in theaters in major hockey markets such as Pittsburgh.

In "The F Word," according to the official festival description, Mr. Radcliffe plays Wallace, a medical school dropout and hopeless romantic who has been repeatedly burned. He has put his life on hold -- until he meets animator Chantry (Zoe Kazan).

They click immediately but she's living with her boyfriend. Bucking the odds, Wallace and Chantry become best friends -- but with the chemistry between them, can that last?

The film, from the director of "Fubar," "It's All Gone Pete Tong" and "Take Me Home Tonight," also stars Rafe Spall, Megan Park, Adam Driver and Mackenzie Davis. It will have its world premiere Saturday at the Ryerson Theatre in Toronto.

The "Harry Potter" star isn't the only one who will be movie multitasking.

Benedict Cumberbatch stars as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in the opening night film "The Fifth Estate" and is part of the "August: Osage County" ensemble led by Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts. He also portrays a preacher and slave owner in "12 Years a Slave," alongside Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender.

A year ago, the festival attracted more than 400,000 attendees to 372 films (289 features and 83 shorts) and sold the highest number of tickets and packages in its history.

This year, the festival will feature 288 features and 78 shorts and, based on long waits in TIFF's "Virtual Waiting Room" to buy single tickets online Sunday, demand may be even higher.

The lineup is a rich and diverse one, also including Ron Howard's "Rush," Joseph Gordon-Levitt's feature directing debut with "Don Jon," a documentary exploring "The Armstrong Lie" about disgraced cycling champion Lance Armstrong and final screen performances of James Gandolfini and "Glee" star Cory Monteith.

"Gravity" debuted in Venice with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in tow and Telluride Film Festival patrons were treated to a "sneak preview" of "Prisoners," but 146 features are billed as world premieres, 19 as international and 103 as North American.

Even though 28 screens will be used during the festival, including those at the home base of the TIFF Bell Lightbox, new hotels regularly incorporate screenings rooms into their design so studios can use them for separate showings.

The festival is many things to many people: a chance for reviewers to see as many movies as possible, do interviews or attend press conferences and suss out what will matter this fall; a promotional platform where actors and actresses pose on red carpets; a marketplace for buyers and sellers of movies with no or limited distribution; and a welcoming haven for moviegoers who want good films, food and maybe a side trip to the Hockey Hall of Fame, CN Tower or Royal Ontario Museum.

A year ago, audiences fell in love with "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" but Pittsburgh isn't front and center on screen this year. However, a couple of Carnegie Mellon University alums will have movies here.

Writer-director Tommy Oliver, who was born in Philadelphia and studied economics and digital media at CMU, makes his feature debut with "1982" about a father struggling to protect his daughter from the reality of her mother's drug addiction.

John Wells, a 1979 CMU graduate, directs "August: Osage County," based on the award-winning play of the same name about the strong-willed women of the Weston family.

Their lives have diverged until a family crisis brings them back to the Midwest house where they grew up and to the dysfunctional woman who raised them. In addition to Ms. Streep and Ms. Roberts, the cast includes Ewan McGregor, Abigail Breslin, Sam Shepard, Chris Cooper and Julianne Nicholson

Ms. Streep is considered a given for the Oscar race. The only question being debated is: Will she end up in the leading or the supporting category?

Ms. Bullock already is flying high on praise for her astronaut, a medical researcher on her first mission and paired with a NASA vet close to retirement in "Gravity."

So is Judi Dench, who plays the title character in Stephen Frears' "Philomena." It's the true story of an unmarried Irish-Catholic who, decades after being forced to give up her newborn son, looks for him with the help of a BBC reporter, played by Steve Coogan.

Academy favorite Kate Winslet stars alongside Josh Brolin and newcomer Gattlin Griffith in a movie version of Joyce Maynard's novel, "Labor Day," directed by Jason Reitman ("Up in the Air," "Juno").

The book tells the story of an alienated 13-year-old boy, his lonely mother and the stranger, an escaped convict, who comes into their lives one Labor Day weekend.

The male side of the awards ledger doesn't lack for names, either, with Mr. Ejiofor as a free black man from upstate New York who is abducted and sold into slavery in "12 Years a Slave," Matthew McConaughey as an accidental AIDS activist in "Dallas Buyers Club," and Idris Elba in an adaptation of Nelson Mandela's autobiography, "Long Walk to Freedom."

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Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: www.post-gazette.com/madaboutmovies.


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