Oscar race heats up as star-studded Toronto film festival begins

New films from Oscar winners Barry Jenkins, Michael Moore and Steve McQueen will be unveiled as part of this years lineup

Much-anticipated new films from Barry Jenkins, Steve McQueen and Michael Moore are set to be unveiled at this years Toronto film festival, beginning this week.

In one of the festivals stronger lineups in recent years, there will be 138 world premieres featuring a long list of stars, including Judi Dench, Julia Roberts, Steve Carell, Colin Farrell, Robert Pattinson, Viola Davis and Kristen Stewart.

The Oscar-winning writer-director Barry Jenkins will debut the follow up to his best picture winner Moonlight, an adaptation of James Baldwins If Beale Street Could Talk. The 70s drama follows a couple torn apart by a false accusation of rape and stars newcomer Kiki Layne alongside Race star Stephan James and Emmy winner Regina King.

The 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen will be premiering his new star-studded crime thriller Widows, based on the Lynda La Plante miniseries with a script co-written by Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn. Viola Davis, Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya, Jacki Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez and Robert Duvall all star.

Its a genre picture, McQueen said to Variety. I liked the idea of going into a genre, but still having social realism involved. Chicago had all the elements that I wanted to investigate, those of race, class, religion, policing Its such a fertile narrative environment. It has this criminality that goes all the way back to Al Capone.

Set to be one of the festivals most talked-about titles is Fahrenheit 11/9, the latest documentary from Michael Moore. Its a look at America under the presidency of Donald Trump, its title a reference to the day he was elected. My choir is the American people, Moore said to HuffPost. The old guard of the Democratic party has failed to speak to them. I will at least give them a song they can belt out.

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Timothe Chalamet and Steve Carell in Beautiful Boy. Photograph: Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Toronto also gives Oscars prognosticators a chance to put this years race into focus, with many hyped films and performances set to debut. After breaking out last year with Call Me by Your Name and scoring himself a best actor nomination, Timothe Chalamet could return to the conversation with his role as a meth-addicted teen in Beautiful Boy, also starring Steve Carell.

Julianne Moore, whose winning performance in Still Alice premiered at the festival in 2014, will return with the lead role as a woman facing first dates in her later years in Gloria Bell, a remake of the acclaimed Chilean drama Gloria, both directed by Sebastian Lelio. Last years ceremony saw Lelio take home the Oscar for best foreign language film for A Fantastic Woman.

Best supporting actor winner Mahershala Ali hopes to repeat his Moonlight success with a role in 50s drama Green Book alongside Viggo Mortensen. The film sees the pair taking a road trip in the deep south and encountering racial divisions.

The festival has previously been home to world premieres for major awards contenders, including Silver Linings Playbook, The Martian and The Theory of Everything.

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Judi Dench in Red Joan. Photograph: 1996-98 AccuSoft Inc., All right/Toronto film festival

Other much-anticipated world premieres include the adaptation of award-winning police brutality YA novel The Hate U Give, Jamie Lee Curtiss long-awaited return to face Michael Myers in Halloween, Judi Dench playing the KGBs longest-serving British spy in Red Joan, Sam Taylor-Johnsons adaptation of James Freys controversial bestseller A Million Little Pieces, Kristen Stewart playing an unlikely literary sensation in fact-based drama Jeremiah Terminator LeRoy and Robert Pattinson heading into space for High Life, the latest film from Claire Denis.

Both Taylor-Johnson and Denis join an impressive list of female directors premiering their films at the festival after this years Venice film festival came under fire for its largely male list of film-makers. Cameron Bailey, who acts as both co-head and artistic director, is set to sign a charter that aims for 50/50 gender parity at the festival by 2020.

The move will be part of the festivals Share Her Journey rally aimed at shining a light on both womens stories in film and the harassment many of them face behind the scenes. This years event will also see Geena Davis and the British director Amma Asante speak.

Toronto arrives after both the Venice and Telluride festivals unveiled the first set of Oscar contenders. The most buzz has been circulating around Lady Gagas performance in Bradley Coopers remake of A Star is Born, Olivia Colmans turn as Queen Anne in Yorgos Lanthimoss period comedy The Favourite and Alfonso Cuarns Netflix drama Roma.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/sep/05/toronto-film-festival-preview-oscars-barry-jenkins-michael-moore

Luc Besson on turning Rihanna into a 28th-century Cleopatra and being stood up by Prince

From The Fifth Element to Lucy, Bessons gender-splicing sci-fi films have never played by Hollywoods rules. Now hes taking the biggest gamble of his career by sending Cara Delevingne into space in Valerian

No one needs a hit right now more than Luc Besson. His production company, EuropaCorp, recently posted record losses of $135m. He was ordered last year to pay nearly half a million dollars after being found guilty of plagiarising John Carpenters Escape from New York in his 2012 screenplay Lockout. And his new futuristic adventure, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, is the most expensive independent movie ever made, with a budget of around $200m. The film needs to crack at least $400m worldwide (like his Scarlett Johansson action fantasy Lucy) to push the company back into the black. Right now, that looks as far fetched as any of the films 28th-century intergalactic escapades. Valerian had a dismal $17m opening weekend in the US last month. In Germany, it landed in third place behind Despicable Me 3, which had already been on release for three weeks.

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Luc Besson. Photograph: Lee Jin-man/AP

There are glimmers of hope. France welcomed the movie enthusiastically last week, as it usually does with anything by the Parisian film-maker, giving it the second-best opening day of the year. But these are still fraught times for Besson. Its difficult launching a film like this, the embattled 58-year-old director says when we meet in a London hotel. The big studios dont leave you any room. They love to take all the space. He is a stocky bear of a man but today he looks small and sheepish with unkempt hair, a more-salt-than-pepper beard and a T-shirt bearing the title of the movie on which his reputation rests.

Besson had tried to get Valerian made for seven years. Its my baby. Probably my most important one. He gives a soft heh-heh. Its kind of crazy. Adapted from the comic strip Valrian and Laureline, the film presents a jubilant, noisy, gaily-coloured alien world. Flirting and bickering their way through it are a pair of young law enforcers, played by Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne, investigating an attack on a peaceful planet. The movie opens with a warmly funny montage of interspecies etiquette, as scientists and astronauts encounter various alarming extraterrestrial counterparts throughout the centuries.

Thats the stuff that makes it real. I wanted to imagine the future positively. Today people look around them and say, Oh shes black or hes homosexual or this one is too old, this one too young. Theres always some barrier to make others difficult to be with. Imagine now that we have to deal with 8,000 different species coming from space. Suddenly anyone terrestrial will look like my brother. So the film is my way of saying, Are you sure its so difficult to live together? Really? How comfortable will you feel when you have to deal with these guys?

Bessons equally out-there 1997 adventure The Fifth Element was progressive in its view of race and gender, placing in the traditional damsel-in-distress role a priapic African-American man (Chris Tucker). The new film goes further, enabling several characters to personify male and female simultaneously. Society is structured around the differences between men and women, but if you have too much difference, there is trouble. I think the artistic part is more feminine. I have the feeling that I have been using that side of myself since I was 10. That was the age he got hooked on Valrian and Laureline. It was the first time I had ever seen a couple where the woman was so in charge. That was a big influence. He grins. Look at me. I am like the guy who cuts down trees in Canada. A lumberjack? Yes! Im the lumberjack. But inside I have the sensitivity of a woman.

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Chris Tucker in The Fifth Element. Photograph: Allstar/GAUMONT

This claim is hard to reconcile with the man who bashes out coarse action thrillers beginning with T: Taxi, Taken and Transporter can all be attributed to, or blamed on, him. Thats Besson in hack mode, as a one-man script factory, whereas the films he chooses to direct (such as the hippy-dippy diving drama The Big Blue and the hitman buddy movie Lon) tend to be more nuanced. There is certainly tenderness in Valerian, which is dedicated to the directors father, who died last year. It was Besson pre who first introduced him to the Valrian and Laureline comics. I dont think he ever offered me a novel in his whole life, he laughs. But he bought me so many comic books. Another absent figure looming large over the movie is David Bowie, whose song Space Oddity rings out during the opening sequence. I was trying to find a good moment to call him to show him how the song fitted into the film but he died before I got a chance.

They last met when Bowie provided one of the voices for Bessons animated adventure Arthur and the Invisibles. Indeed, the director has a penchant for directing musical performers, including Rihanna and Herbie Hancock in Valerian and Madonna, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and Snoop Dogg in Arthur and its two sequels. The Fifth Element also featured a cameo by Tricky and very nearly starred Prince in the Chris Tucker role.

Ah, Prince, sighs Besson, ruefully. I love him but it was impossible. He said yes to the part. You make a meeting for Monday at noon and he turns up on Tuesday at six. Or he cancels three times. Always so charming and sweet but the reality of musicians doesnt fit with film. I warned him a few times and he said, But this is my tempo. Finally, I asked him: Do you mind if we just do something less big another time? Working with Rihanna, who plays the shape-shifting dancer Bubble in Valerian, was more straightforward . He took particular pride in getting her to deliver lines from Anthony and Cleopatra. For me thats the ultimate pleasure Rihanna, the queen of music, as Cleopatra. Its the sort of mix I love. We can all listen to reggae music in Greenland while eating sushi. We are allowed to do whatever we like!

If this is Besson thumbing his nose at critics who accuse him of being lowbrow, then it wont be the first time. In his 2013 black comedy The Family, Michelle Pfeiffer blows up a shop in rural France because the owner is heard disparaging America. I am Michelle in that scene, he says. Ive heard so many French people saying, Oh, the Americans dont have culture. I want to say, When is the last time you went to the Louvre? Shut up!

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Jean-Marc Barr and Jean Reno in The Big Blue. Photograph: Columbia/Sportsphoto Ltd/Allstar

His career can partly be explained as a populist lashing out against the cinephile country of his birth but it is also the revenge of the nerd. Bessons parents divorced when he was a child and dumped him in a boarding school while they started families with their new partners. When he realised he wanted to make films, he was mocked by his friends. They said: Oh, youre gonna work with Alain Delon, are you? He felt completely alone. Youre by yourself. Youre too weird for girls. The two subjects I could talk about were dolphins and movies. The girls actually ran away when they saw me.

Out of these feelings of isolation came his witty 1983 debut, The Last Battle, set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland populated by mute, scavenging survivors. The first scene shows the hero having sex with an inflatable doll, a moment I had always taken to be a screw-you to the establishment which had denied Besson entry to film school because his influences (Spielberg, Scorsese, Milo Forman) were too mainstream. But he corrects me. The message of that scene was exactly the same as Valerians: look after what youve got before you lose it. It was a way of saying to people: Be careful. If you destroy everything, this is what youll be left with. Earth will be dying and you will be all alone, fucking a plastic Barbie.

Perhaps that message extends also to Bessons own future. A bruising for Valerian would still knock the stuffing out of EuropaCorp. But thats unlikely to hamper someone as passionate and eccentric as Besson: he has been making films for too long now to start playing it safe. My dreams are my dreams, he says proudly. I wanted to do Valerian for the longest time. I wondered, Can I do it? But once I get started, Im like the English foxhound: I will never let go.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/aug/03/luc-besson-valerian-interview-cara-delevingne-rihanna

The Mummy review Tom Cruise returns in poorly bandaged corpse reviver

Framed as more of a superhero origin movie than ancient curse mystery, a messy plot unravels fast

Be afraid, for here it is again emerging waxily from the darkness. This disturbing figure must surely be thousands of years old by now, a princeling worshipped as a god but entombed in his own riches and status; remarkably well preserved. It is Tom Cruise, who is back to launch a big summer reboot of The Mummy, that classic chiller about the revived corpse from ancient Egypt, from which the tomb door was last prised off in a trilogy of films between 1999 and 2008 with the lantern-jawed and rather forgotten Brendan Fraser in the lead. And before that, of course, there were classic versions with Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee both variously getting the all-over St John Ambulance treatment.

Traditionally, The Mummy is a scary movie (though un-serious) about taboo and transgression, based on the made-up pop myth about the mummys curse which has no basis in the history of ancient Egypt, but is a cheeky colonialist invention, which recasts local objection to our tomb-looting as something supernatural, malign and irrational.

Yet that is not what this Mummy is about. It brings in the usual element of sub-Spielberg gung-ho capers, but essentially sees The Mummy as a superhero origin movie; or possibly supervillain; or Batmanishly both. The supporting characters are clearly there to be brought back as superhero-repertory characters for any putative Mummy franchise, including one who may well be inspired by Two-Face from The Dark Knight.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/jun/07/the-mummy-review-tom-cruise