Us Weekly's film critic weighs in on the five best movies at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Prepare to grab those seat armrests for dear life. In this taut, ultratense sci-fi chiller, Sandra Bullock amazes as a newbie astronaut who survives a mid-mission disaster and must fend for herself in space. (Small comfort: The last person whom she sees is George Clooney. Well, a fellow astronaut played by George Clooney. But he's got Clooney's jocular charisma). The dizzying, dazzling 3-D technical effects are nothing short of spectacular. And Bullock’s performance is — dare I say it? — out of this world.
Dallas Buyers Club
Yes, this is why Matthew McConaughey lost all that weight. He uses his fiery twang to full effect playing Ron Woodroof, a real-life, red-blooded Texas bull rider who's diagnosed with AIDS in 1985. Determined to just keep livin', he smuggles illegal medication across the country and sells them to the ill and needy. His story is engrossing and surprisingly unsentimental. And though McConaughey's acting McRenaissance continues, it's Jared Leto — as Ron's tragic, transsexual business partner – who will leave audiences in awe.
12 Years a Slave
Meet your Oscar best picture front-runner. This sprawling, powerful epic follows the true story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man in 1841 who must persevere after he’s abducted and sold into slavery. Director Steve McQueen shows Solomon's physical and emotional abuse in a way that's unflinching and brutal to watch, yet impossible to look away from. In a top-notch ensemble cast, Michael Fassbender stands out as a sadistic plantation owner.
Can a Song Save Your Life?
The director of Once returns with another eloquent love letter to music. This time, a hard-luck NYC A&R guy (Mark Ruffalo) takes a young singer-songwriter (Keira Knightley, utilizing a wispy, gentle singing voice) under his grizzled wing. No ingenue herself, she's still recovering from a breakup with a big-time rock star (Adam Levine in his movie debut). The true star here, though, is the soulful soundtrack. In fact, Levine closes out the film with a ballad that's more powerful and stirring than anything on Maroon 5's last two albums.
August: Osage County
Sooo . . . a little full disclosure: There’s one too many melodramatic monologues in this tale of an Oklahoma family who excel at spilling secrets at inopportune times. Good thing a couple of A-list pros — Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, as mother and daughter, respectively — are doing the fighting. And for those who saw the Pulitzer Prize-winning play, a heads-up that the sunnier new final image is already generating controversy.
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