Cast: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfini, Matthias Schoenaerts, John Ortiz
Synopsis: An ex-con turned bartender is drawn back into the criminal life after a robbery at his workplace, which serves as a money drop for local mobsters, and after finding an abandoned puppy.
Last We Heard: This tough-looking crime-thriller, the English-language debut of “Bullhead” helmer Michael Roskam, has been in the can for a while, but is finally heading to U.S. theaters on September 12th. That would seem to give it a pretty decent chance for a bow early in TIFF (perhaps even as the opening gala?), which seems like a more natural home for it than Venice. Unless Fox Searchlight think that the movie is a purely commercial play (and we’ve heard that it’s really strong), this should pop up in Toronto somewhere.
“The Duke Of Burgundy” (Peter Strickland)
Cast: Sidse Babbett Knudsen, Chiara D’Anna, Eugenia Caruso, Monica Swinn
Synopsis: An amateur butterfly expert’s relationship with her lover begins to suffer due to her obsession with the insects.
Last We Heard: Peter Strickland had a major festival hit with arty giallo homage “Berberian Sound Studio,” and two years on, he’s pretty much done with his new film, a quieter tale that’s drawn comparisons, in advance, with “Persona.” Backed by the BFI and Film4, with Ben Wheatley producing and “Borgen” star Sidse Babbett Knudsen in the lead, this is likely a dead cert for TIFF, but don’t rule out a Venice appearance, even if it would be Strickland’s first appearance there.
“Manglehorn” (David Gordon Green)
Cast: Al Pacino, Holly Hunter, Chris Messina and Harmony Korine
Synopsis: An ex-con trying to start over as a locksmith in a small town, finds that despite attempts to lie low, his dark past is constantly in danger of being exposed.
Last We Heard: Getting a first glimpse back in February at a very Edward James Olmos-ian Pacino, we are wondering if Green might do for the great man what he recently did for Nicolas Cage with “Joe,” i.e. given him a decent, low key character role in which he can remind us all how great he is. “Joe” premiered in Venice last year, and with “Manglehorn” wrapped by last December, it’s not a big leap to suggest that it might be ready and primed to pop up on the Lido this year too.
“99 Homes” (Ramin Bahrani)
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon, Laura Dern, Tim Guinee
Synopsis: After losing his home, a young father seeks revenge on the real estate broker who caused his ruin.
Last We Heard: Clearly not put off by the (unfairly) tepid reaction to “At Any Price,” Ramin Bahrani is back, and working with bigger names than ever: “99 Homes” marks Andrew Garfield’s first appearance on screen as anyone other than Peter Parker since “The Social Network” in 2010. That alone should make it a hot festival ticket, but given Bahrani’s record at Venice, where almost all of his films premiered, they’ll likely grab the premiere, though it should pop up at Telluride and TIFF as well.
“The Cobbler” (Tom McCarthy)
Cast: Adam Sandler, Dustin Hoffman, Method Man, Melonie Diaz, Ellen Barkin, Dan Stevens and Steve Buscemi
Synopsis: A fourth-generation shoemaker discovers a magical sewing machine in his father’s basement which allows him to transform into other people by wearing their shoes.
Last We Heard: Honestly, that logline with Sandler as star would ordinarily have us running for the hills, so “Click”-like does it sound, so it just goes to show you how highly we think of director Tom McCarthy (“The Station Agent,” “The Visitor,” “Win/Win”) that we’re anticipating this at all. But along with a “serious” role in Jason Reitman’s “Men Women and Children,” perhaps this is the Adam Sandler season of redemption, and “The Cobbler” could well put in an appearance at one of the North American festivals to boot (yes, we went there).
“Eden” (Mia Hansen-Love)
Cast: Felix De Givry, Brady Corbet, Greta Gerwig, Golshifteh Farahani
Synopsis: The rise and fall of a DJ in the French electronic dance scene of the 1990s.
Last We Heard: Mia Hansen-Love proved herself one of the most exciting young filmmakers around with “Goodbye First Love” and “The Father Of My Children,” and the news that she has a new film on her way is promising on its own. That it sees her delve into the dance music scene that spawned the likes of Daft Punk, subject matter that’s relatively untouched on screen, makes it doubly so. The film wasn’t ready for Cannes, but it should comfortably be done in time for Venice and TIFF, unless she returns to Locarno, where “Goodbye First Love” had its first screening.
“True Story” (Rupert Goold)
Cast: James Franco, Jonah Hill, Felicity Jones, Gretchen Mol
Synopsis: A journalist discovers his identity has been stolen, by a suspected murderer
Last We Heard: This true-life drama has been somewhat under the radar by now, but with a cast like this, and the New Regency/Plan B alliance behind “12 Years A Slave” producing, don’t expect it to stay that way for long. The directorial debut of theater director Rupert Goold, who’s hoping to pull a Sam Mendes, it’s dark but star-driven stuff, which makes it perfect for a bow at Telluride or TIFF, ahead of a potential awards run.
“Slow West” (John Maclean)
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ben Mendelsohn, Caren Pistorius
Synopsis: A 17-year-old kid travels from Scotland to the American West looking for his lost love, paying a mysterious stranger to protect him.
Last We Heard: Last time Michael Fassbender and director John Maclean (a former member of the Beta Band) teamed up, they won a BAFTA, for short film “Pitch Black Heist.” This Western, Fassbender’s feature debut as a producer, shot down under late last year, and the arrival of the first image of the film earlier today suggests that this is done and ready to be unveiled. TIFF again should be a good bet.
“Serena” (Susanne Bier)
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Toby Jones, Rhys Ifans, David Dencik and Sam Reid
Synopsis: Based on the novel by Ron Rash, the film details the travails of a young couple in North Carolina during the great depression, as they attempt to set up a timber empire at any cost, only to discover that the wife, Serena cannot have children.
Last We Heard: Bier’s film wrapped forever ago, before “American Hustle” even began, and that film has since shot, released and netted four hundred acting Oscar nominations, including two for the lead pair here. We’re told all is well, and it’s simply Bier’s exacting editing process which is the cause for the delays, but if this doesn’t rock up at Venice, we’ll start to get very worried for it indeed.
“Nightcrawler” (Dan Gilroy)
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Bill Paxton, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed
Synopsis: A young man enters the dark underground world of the freelance crime journalists in Los Angeles.
Last We Heard: After “Michael Clayton,” we’re very interested in the directorial debuts of anyone in the Gilroy family, and Tony’s younger brother Dan becomes a helmer with this dark thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal. The film elicited a bidding war in Cannes, with Open Road beating out Focus, The Weinstein Company and others for the project, so this seems like a hot prospect. Maybe it’s mainly a commercial project, but we reckon it’ll turn up at TIFF regardless.