TIFF 2014: The 14 most-anticipated films at Toronto
With nearly 400 films screening at the Toronto International Film Festival, prioritizing can seem a daunting and foolish task. But we’re rarely daunted and often foolish, so that’s just what we’ve done. Since it’s 2014, we’ve expanded our list from 10 films to 14 must-see films. Here’s what you don’t want to miss this year:
1. The Imitation Game
Benedict Cumberbatch injects some early life into the Oscar race in this wartime true tale of British mathematician Alan Turing and his efforts to crack the German’s Enigma machine during World War II. Cumberbatch has come in strong to the festival before (see last year’s disappointing “the Fifth Estate”), but this one feels like the real deal.
2. The Theory of Everything
Speaking of the Oscar race, Cumberbatch might not be the youngest man in the race as another heartstring-pulling biopic is coming out swinging at Toronto. Eddie Redmayne (“Les Miserables,” “My Week with Marilyn”) is already earning raves for his turn as theoretical physicist Sir Stephen Hawking in a film that chronicles his time at university as he falls in love and falls victim to a motor neurone disease that robbed him of his speech and mobility.
“Moneyball” director Bennett Miller returns to TIFF with this Cannes hit starring Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo telling the true story of a pair of Olympic wrestler brothers (Tatum and Ruffalo) and eccentric millionaire John du Pont (Carell).
4. Hector and the Search for Happiness
Simon Pegg goes for broke in Peter Chelsom’s winning, poignant fable about a stifled psychiatrist embarking on a round-the-world journey before even realizing exactly what it is he’s looking for. Plus, Pegg reunites with his lovely “the World’s End” co-star, Rosamund Pike, as his patient-to-a-point girlfriend waiting at home.
5. 99 Homes
Coming in on a wave of good buzz and great reviews from Venice and Telluride, this gripping drama brings “Amazing Spider-Man” star back to reality alongside Michael Shannon set deep within the 2008 housing meltdown.
6. The Humbling
Barry Levinson directs Al Pacino in a story about a venerated stage actor who goes off the deep end when he loses his gift and seeks solace in the arms of a much younger lesbian (Greta Gerwig).
Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton lead a massive British cast in this true-to-life crowd pleaser about a group of LGBT activists who throw their support behind striking minors in 1980s England — whether it’s welcomed or not.
8. Maps to the Stars
Local favorite David Cronenberg takes on a dysfunctional family mired in the depths of Hollywood and fame-seeking, featuring a stellar cast led by Julianne Moore.
Jake Gyllenhaal gets lean and mean and goes off the deep end in Dan Gilroy’s tale about a young man delving into the gritty and dangerous world of freelance crime journalism.
Jon Stewart leaves “the Daily Show” behind with his directorial debut, an adaptation of the New York Times best-selling memoir by BBC journalist Maziar Bahari, starring Gael Garcia Bernal. The film tells Bahari’s tale of detention and brutal interrogation in Iran in 2009.
11. St. Vincent
Bill Murray stars as a curmudgeon taking his 12-year-old under his wing and educating the boy in the world of race tracks, dive bars and strip club while the boy’s mother (Melissa McCarthy) is busy at work. There are worse ways to grow up.
Reese Witherspoon is after another Oscar with “Wild,” directed by Jean-Marc Vallee (“Dallas Buyers Club”), about a woman leaving her broken marriage and drug-addled past behind to embark on a thousand-mile solo trek along the Pacific Crest Trail.
13. The Keeping Room
This riveting drama chronicles three very different women (Brit Marling, Hailee Steinfeld and Muna Otaru) coming together to defend their home during the waning days of the Civil War.
14. Before We Go
“Captain America” star Chris Evans wasn’t kidding when he said he wants to spend less time acting and more time directing. At TIFF This year he offers up his first effort behind the camera with the story of two strangers whose lives intertwine while they’re stranded in New York for a night. Evans also stars alongside Alice Eve.
Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter: @nedrick