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If the movies pan out, the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival could see a flurry of deals — if being the operative word. The crop of finished movies looking for domestic distribution boast an impressive level of star power, both in front of and behind the camera, but until they’re seen in their entirety — and in front of an audience — their strength is unknown. One hitch: There aren’t many good dates left on the 2012 release calendar. To play this year, admits one indie sales agent, “The movie would have to be perfect.” Then again, Fox Searchlight snapped up eventual Oscar winner Slumdog Millionaire and The Wrestler at Toronto in 2008 and quickly launched those. Here are 15 titles to watch this year:
Arthur Newman (CAA, UTA)
Director: Dante Ariola; Stars: Colin Firth, Emily Blunt; The Buzz: An irresistible cast. The dark comedy, marking Ariola’s feature film debut, follows two people who, desperate to remake themselves, fall in love and move into an abandoned house.
Byzantium (WME, CAA)
Director: Neil Jordan; Stars: Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Arterton, Jonny Lee Miller; The Buzz: No buyer will dare miss out on seeing Jordan’s mother-daughter vampire pic. But how commercial can Jordan be?
Director: Peter Webber; Stars: Matthew Fox, Tommy Lee Jones, Eriko Hatsune; The Buzz: Historical epics — Emperor is set in post-World War II Japan — can be a tough sell, but Jones in particular has a strong box-office following.
Ginger & Rosa (Cinetic Media)
Director: Sally Potter; Stars: Elle Fanning, Christina Hendricks, Alice Englert; The Buzz: From the Director: of Orlando, the coming-of-age-story about two teenage girls living in London during the Cuban missile crisis is considered a smaller title.
The Iceman (Bleiberg/Millennium)
Director: Ariel Vromen; Stars: Michael Shannon, Chris Evans, Winona Ryder; The Buzz: Shannon is already drawing strong praise for his portrayal of Mafia hit man Richard Kuklinski.
Directors: Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini; Stars: Kristen Wiig, Annette Bening, Matt Dillon; The Buzz: Wiig, whose character stages a suicide in order to get her boyfriend back but ends up living with her mother, is one of the hit comedy actresses of the moment.
Midnight’s Children (FilmNation)
Director: Deepa Mehta; Stars: Satya Bhabha, Shriya Saran, Shahana Goswami The Buzz: The pairing of the Oscar-nominated Mehta and Salman Rushdie, who adapted his book for the big screen, is an immediate draw. The story follows two children born just after India declares independence from Great Britain.
Much Ado About Nothing (CAA)
Director: Joss Whedon; Stars: Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg, Amy Acker; The Buzz: The black-and-white film, shot in Whedon’s home, where he often holds Shakespeare readings, is a definite curiosity, but will it work in theaters?
No One Lives (Pathe)
Director: Ryuhei Kitamura; Stars: Luke Evans; The Buzz: The horror film, about a gang who takes a young couple hostage, tops the list of must-see titles playing in the Midnight Madness section, which turned out box-office hit Insidious.
The Place Beyond the Pines (CAA, WME)
Director: Derek Cianfrance; Stars: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Rose Byrne; The Buzz: Another must-see title for buyers, the film reunites Gosling with his Blue Valentine director.
Star: Snoop Dogg; The Buzz: The film, charting the hip-hop star’s transformation into the Rastafarian Snoop Lion, is one of several documentaries that could generate interest if more than a vanity project. Another is Cinetic Media’s Venus and Serena, about the tennis world’s most famous sisters.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Cinetic Media)
Director: Mira Nair; Stars: Riz Ahmed, Liev Schreiber, Kiefer Sutherland, Kate Hudson; The Buzz: Nair’s latest outing, about a Pakistani man’s journey in the aftermath of Sept. 11, is generating strong early reviews, but it could be tough to market since Ahmed isn’t known to American audiences.
Thanks for Sharing (UTA, WME)
Director: Stuart Blumberg; Stars: Mark Ruffalo, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim Robbins; The Buzz: Another irresistible cast. Blumberg’s film follows three friends in New York City trying to recover from sex addiction.
To the Wonder (CAA)
Director: Terrence Malick; Stars: Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Rachel McAdams, Javier Bardem; The Buzz: There had been speculation that Malick’s film, which comes on the heels of The Tree of Life, is more commercial than his previous titles, but early reviews suggest it is even more impenetrable. (See THR’s review on page 71.)
What Maisie Knew (WME)
Directors Scott McGehee, David Siegel; Stars: Julianne Moore, Steve Coogan; The Buzz: The drama, a modern-day retelling of Henry James’ 1897 novel, could surprise. Moore stars as a seductive rock ‘n’ roll icon.
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