Posts Tagged ‘David Thewlis’

Steppenwolf’s Revenge

Justice League

Director: Zack Snyder

Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Amy Adams, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J. K. Simmons, Amber Heard, Joe Morton, David Thewlis, Billy Crudup, Ciaran Hinds

Uniformity of vision is key to director Zack Snyder’s films from his earlier films including 300, Suckerpunch and Watchmen to his onscreen tackling of the DC Comics universe starting with Man of Steel (2013) Batman v Superman: The Dawn of Justice (2016) and now with the latest Superhero extravaganza Justice League.

Batman aka Bruce Wayne played with a deadpan sense of humour by Ben Affleck has to assemble a team to fight the inexplicable and mythical power of Steppenwolf voiced by Ciaran Hinds as the evil underworld monster plans on destroying the Earth with enough energy to wipe out Wonder Woman’s secret Island and Aquaman’s Atlantic underwater liar.

Speaking of which Israeli actress Gal Gadot reprises her role of Wonder Woman aka Diana Prince following the hugely successful standalone film earlier in 2017 by Monster director Patty Jenkins.

New to the cast is Hawaiian actor Jason Momoa who plays Aquaman aka Arthur Curry who besides being able to control the oceans has some serious authority issues along with Ezra Miller (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) as The Flash aka Barry Alan and Ray Fisher as Cyborg aka Victor Stone.

The best scenes in Justice League are when the superheroes come together especially Batman and Aquaman who naturally have a healthy distrust for each other. The dialogue is peppered with some great lines like “Cool, like a bat, I dig it!” or when The Flash asks Batman what his superpowers are, he simply replies “I am rich”.

The good news is that Warner Brothers is set to release stand-alone films of Batman, Aquaman and Cyborg within the next three years, so fans can have a favourite superhero to themselves. Let’s hope these films do as well as director Patty Jenkins remarkable all female superhero film Wonder Woman which smashed all box office records.

Director Zack Snyder’s Justice League is slick, fast, action-packed and filled with quirky interactions between all the world’s favourite superheroes without being puerile or garish. With suitably Gothic production design by Patrick Tatopoulos, Justice League cleverly hints at the upcoming Aquaman and The Batman films. Audiences should look out for Oscar winner J. K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon.

With a funny screenplay by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon, Justice League is sure to entertain audiences that loved the previous Zack Snyder superhero films and will possibly get a glimpse of the Man of Steel.

Justice League gets a film rating of 8 out 10 and is thoroughly entertaining, visually rewarding and definitely worth seeing. As the tagline goes: You Can’t Save the World alone. Even Batman.

 

Princess of the Amazons

Wonder Woman

Director: Patty Jenkins

Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Said Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner, Eugene Brave Rock, Elena Anaya

Monster director Patty Jenkins delivers a feminine superhero film with DC’s Wonder Woman featuring the beautiful Israeli actress Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Princess of the Amazons.

Gal Gadot first appeared as Wonder Woman in the male-orientated film Batman v Superman and she certainly was no femme fatale, proving a viable counterpoint to Ben Affleck’s Batman.

The first fifteen minutes of Woman Woman, there is no man in sight as the tribe of Amazonian female warriors live blissfully unaware of external strife on an island Themyscira.

As a headstrong young woman, Diana (Wonder Woman) is heavily watched by her protective mother Hippolyta played by Danish beauty Connie Nielsen (Gladiator) while being influenced to train as a Amazonian warrior by her aunt Antiope played by Robin Wright soon to be seen in Blade Runner 2049.

The idyllic exclusion of Themyscira is shattered when the young Diana sees a plane crash into the distant sea and jumps into the ocean saving the bewildered WWI pilot Steve Trevor wonderfully played with bashful humour by Chris Pine (Hell or High Water, Into the Woods).

In an ironic female gaze, director Jenkins turns the camera on a naked Steve as he emerges refreshed from a luxurious infinity pool under the lustful eye of Diana who asks pointedly “Do all men look like that?”

The action moves swiftly to the gritty battle lines of World War 1 as Britain and the allies are about to sign a shaky armistice with Germany. There Diana sees the brutality of man first hand and director Jenkins does not shy away from a valid point that men are the cause of all the wars and the subsequent destruction in the world.

At this point, the audience assumes that the villain of Wonder Woman is the evil German officer Ludendorff played by Danny Huston (Hitchcock, Wrath of the Titans) who is developing chemical weapons with the help of poison specialist Dr Maru played by Elena Anaya.

Diana and Steve form a band of mercenaries set on destroying Ludendorff made up of smooth talking Sameer played by French Moroccan star Said Taghmaoui, Scotsman Charlie played by Trainspotting’s Ewen Bremner and Red Indian chief played by Eugene Brave Rock.

Serving as an origins story and since Wonder Woman is immortal, this is a snapshot of bravery at time when the World was fighting the War to end all wars, circa 1918. What Jenkins manages to do so brilliantly is defy the conventional roles woman play in superhero and adventure films by making the heroine the woman that boldly saves the day, instead of just portraying her as a helpless damsel in distress, leaving the men bewildered, confused and looking like idiots.

As a superhero film, Wonder Woman delivers on all fronts, including lots of humour, copious amounts of action, sufficient visual effects and a surprising plot denouement to keep audiences engaged.

The strikingly gorgeous Gal Gadot holds her own in a big budget franchise film opposite a brilliant blue-eyed Chris Pine, while the period costumes by Lindy Hemming add to the effect of a superheroine stuck in the middle of an antiquated man-made war, which only leaves death and devastation in its wake.

Wonder Woman gets a rating of 8 out of 10. Soon audiences will see more of Wonder Woman as Diana, Princess of the Amazons will next be seen in the highly anticipated Justice League opposite Batman and newcomer Aquaman.

 

Full of Scorpions is my Mind

Macbeth

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Director: Justin Kurzel

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Sean Harris, David Thewlis, Elizabeth Debicki, Paddy Considine, Jack Reynor, David Hayman

Australian director Justin Kurzel’s bold and bloody version of Macbeth envisions a bleak and brutal landscape where Scottish noblemen plot against each other all for the right to become King.

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Possibly Shakespeare’s most bloodthirsty play about power, vengeance and fealty, Macbeth has proved to be a perennial favourite among film makers and theatre performers alike. In this version, the two pivotal roles are played by Oscar nominee Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave) and Oscar winner Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose) and the combination of their immense talent can be relished as they present a complex interpretation of the scheming Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.

Soon the ambitious couple plot to murder King Duncan of Scotland, played by David Thewlis as he visits their family castle. Macbeth stabs King Duncan multiple times while he is sleeping and promptly dispatches his guards too. Macbeth blames this ungodly crime on the heir apparent, the King’s son Malcolm, played by Jack Reynor, who flees to England to gather an army.

Macbeth claims the Scottish crown for himself but soon absolute power corrupts malignantly and the callous couple plot again to kill Banquo, a friend of Macbeth’s and a rival Scottish nobleman.

During the infamous banquet scene, which is the best in the film, Macbeth in front of his royal retinue is tormented by the images of Banquo’s ghost appearing among the guests to such an extent that he breaks down in front of the Scottish court.

The tyrannical Macbeth wanders into the misty highlands and seeks solace with the three prophetic witches who tell him that his right to be king is threatened by Macduff, “Beware Macduff, Beware the Thane of Fife!”

In the most brutal scene in the film, Macbeth’s soldiers capture Lady Macduff, played by an unrecognizable Elizabeth Debicki (The Great Gatsby) and her three children, whose fate is sealed upon a fiery pyre.

In the final act, Macduff, played by Sean Harris (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation) returns with ten thousand soldiers and storms Macbeth’s castle and in a fiery confrontation, the two enemies seek vengeance amidst a burning and unforgiving battle, when Birnam wood comes to Dunsinane.

Kurzel’s vision of Macbeth is bloody and dark, the production design comprising strong earthy colours like deep reds, browns and shining gold. The costumes are traditional and authentic.

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Cotillard is brilliant as the deceptively innocent Lady Macbeth, a magnetic and hauntingly beautiful queen who challenges her husband to commit heinous crimes, only to discover that Macbeth is willing to go to unmentionable lengths to retain his crown.

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This 21st century film version of Macbeth is heavily influenced by HBO’s Game of Thrones and is as violent, spectacular and riveting as the hit series, making Shakespeare’s Scottish play accessible to a whole new generation of viewers. This is an epic portrayal of twisted fealty, rivalry and horrific ambition, held together by two masterful actors playing iconic characters, imbuing their scenes together with a brilliant Machiavellian mischief, bordering on insanity and unchecked bloodlust.

Visually stunning, violent and superbly atmospheric, this vivid version of Macbeth is one not to be missed by cinema lovers and Shakespeare scholars alike.

 

 

 

 

The Treacherous Twins

Legend

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Director: Brian Helgeland

Cast: Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, David Thewlis, Taron Egerton, Chazz Palminteri, Tara Fitzgerald, Sam Spruell, Christopher Eccleston, Nicholas Farrell, Colin Morgan, Paul Bettany

Tom Hardy delivers a suitably menacing performance playing both the Kray Twins, Ronald and Reggie Kray, the 1960’s gangsters who ruled London nightlife and definitely had links to American organized crime in the violent biopic Legend.

Screenwriter turned director Brian Helgeland (Payback) brings to life the true life account of the Krays based upon the book The Profession of Violence written by John Pearson in Legend and in a stroke of genius has British actor Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises, The Drop, Warrior, Mad Max: Fury Road) play both twins, distinguishable only by Ronnie’s thickset glasses, with an equal amount of menace, mayhem and murder.

Hardy’s performance is captivating especially in his portrayal of Ronald Kray who was a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, psychopathic gangster with homosexual proclivities. Ronnie liked to organize orgies at his East End flat involving rent boys and prominent British Lords, which naturally led to several political scandals.

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Reggie, on the other hand, initially appears to be the sensible twin, as he courts and marries an East End girl, Frances Shea, wonderfully played by Emily Browning. Reggie will never abandon Ronnie despite his often despicable and unpredictable behaviour which often exploded into bouts of extreme violence in public places, namely the nightclubs and bars that the twins owned.

As The Krays rise in notoriety becomes more noticeable they move from London’s East End to the casinos and nightclubs of the swankier West End, particularly the glamourous Esmeralda’s Barn in Knightsbridge.

In their attempt to attract credibility within upper class British society, their nightclubs soon had politicians rubbing shoulders with film stars such as Joan Collins along with gangsters.

Underneath the veneer of glamour is a more sinister propensity for unrestrained violence, which director Helgeland captures beautifully in the films best scene when Ronnie and Reggie fight each other like brothers, who are bound by blood and loyalty, without matching temperaments. This particular scene is so captivating specifically because it occurs in front of their gang as well as Reggie’s wife Frances, made even more compelling because it is played by one actor making it Hardy’s undisputed Oscar worthy moment.

At times, Legend appears as a parody of the gangster genre, so effectively done by Scorsese in Goodfellas, but in other ways the film is a peculiar love triangle between Frances Shea and the conflicted Reggie Kray which she has to share with his psychotic twin brother, Ronnie.

Best line in the film is when The Kray twins meet the American mob’s representative Angelo Bruno played by Chazz Palminteri who inquires after Ronnie’s sexual preference and Ronnie casually replies:

“I prefer boys, Italians. Sometimes Greeks. I am not prejudiced.”

Legend is a sleazy version of the rise of gangsters in the swinging sixties, and is more a biopic about the treacherous twins that ruled the London underworld until their power engulfed them in a dazzling yet brutal fall from grace. Audiences should look out for superb cameos by Tara Fitzgerald as Mrs Shea who is completely opposed to her daughter marrying a gangster. She even wears black to the wedding.

Rising star Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service) is cast as the gorgeous Mad Teddy Smith who is Ronnie’s casual boyfriend, although the sexuality is hinted at instead of explicitly portrayed. Christopher Eccleston plays the hapless cop Nipper Read who is both obsessed and entranced by the Krays rise to power.

Legend is highly recommended viewing for those that love factual gangster films such as Goodfellas, Bugsy and Public Enemies, yet has a more British scallywag twist assisted by a phenomenal career best performance by Tom Hardy. This is dazzling, daunting cinema at its best.

Infinite Probability of Happiness

The Theory of Everything

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Director: James Marsh

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox, Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Alice Orr-Ewing

Shadow Dancer director James Marsh delivers a fine, subtle film about the early Cambridge years of the brilliant theoretical physicist Professor Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything so remarkably portrayed on screen by Eddie Redmayne (My Week with Marilyn, Les Miserables) that he become one of the youngest best actor Oscar winners at the age of 33.

Redmayne’s portrayal of Stephen Hawking from gangly awkward scientist in the early 1960’s, through to his courtship of the lovely Jane Wilde, beautifully portrayed by Felicity Jones (The Invisible Woman, Hysteria) to his devastating diagnosis of the life altering motor neurone disease is absolutely phenomenal. The expressive face of Eddie Redmayne, his physical contortions in portraying Hawking is beyond superb as the Professor grapples with the horrendous paradox of being intellectually gifted yet physically crippled as the motor neurone disease takes effect on his body, limiting his speech, his ability to walk and even to eat properly.

Despite this crippling diagnosis, Professor Hawking and his wife Jane, manage to produce three children so obviously his reproductive abilities weren’t affected by the disease as weren’t his mental capabilities in which he managed to expound the Big Bang Theory and then later to disprove it in his ground breaking novel, A Brief History of Time, which sold millions of copies worldwide and propelled him to international fame http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Hawking.

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The intellectual conflict in the film between Jane’s Church of England upbringing and Hawking’s cosmic atheism is delicately portrayed. One the most poignant moments is when Jane Hawking confides in her mother played by Emily Watson that she cannot cope with her husband’s crippling disability and having to bring up several children simultaneously. Her mother’s advice is typically English and suggests she should join the Church Choir. During Choir practice, Jane meets the able bodied and charming choral master Jonathan, played against type by Irish actor Charlie Cox, who soon befriends Jane and her famous wheelchair bound husband, Professor Hawking.

Unnaturally this seemingly impossible ménage-a-trios is not set to last as soon Hawking’s motor neuron disease takes a turn for the worst after he collapses during a Wagner concert in Bordeaux. Jane Hawking soon realizes that she is going to require a full time care giver to look after her famous yet incapacitated husband. The fact that the caregiver looks like a 1960’s Bond girl is testament to Hawking’s own flirtatious nature and soon through the aide of an American sounding computerized voice he informs Jane that him and the caregiver are flying to America together.

The mathematical probability of happiness is discovered in all its infinity as soon as Jane and Stephen find partners suitable for their own physical requirements, and this eventual separation becomes the emotional crux of The Theory of Everything, apart from the bleak physical disabilities and momentous scientific breakthroughs which has characterized a highly unconventional marriage.

Despite some directorial embellishments, James Marsh’s The Theory of Everything is a well-structured and sensitive portrayal of one of the world’s most famous Physicists who despite all the odds and being unable to speak or walk, manages to expand a theory of time which transforms all future scientific endeavour and quantitative research. Hawking’s insatiable will to survive is testament to the power of the human spirit, considering he was given two years to live at the start of his diagnosis.

At the centre of this film, based upon Jane Hawking’s memoir, Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen is a story of a very challenging marriage and of a couple whose determination to overcome every physical and emotional obstacle eventually led to their separation yet ultimately finding their own individual fulfillment.

The casting of Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones is critical to this film’s success as they both give exceptionally meticulously and ranged performance of Stephen and Jane Hawking which is all the more admirable for portraying such venerated and surviving figures of the British academic establishment.

The Theory of Everything is brilliant cinema, and highly recommended viewing for those that enjoyed films such as My Left Foot and Julian Schnabel’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

This is first rate acting at its best and has proven beyond doubt that Redmayne and Jones are truly gifted screen actors with an infinite career ahead of them. The soft focus cinematography of the entire film gives Cambridge a hallowed glow that ensures the audience gets a feeling that they too are watching a miracle, ably assisted by an exceptional musical score by Jóhann Jóhannsson.

 

 

 

 

Whistle Blowers Anonymous

The Fifth Estate

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Director: Bill Condon

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Bruhl, Laura Linney, Stanley Tucci, Dan Stevens, Alicia Vikander, Carice van Houten, Anthony Mackie, David Thewlis

Dreamgirls director Bill Condon takes on the murky and explosive world of Wikileaks in the riveting if not slightly convoluted film The Fifth Estate based on the book by Daniel Berg “Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World’s Most Dangerous Website”. Rising British star Benedict Cumberbatch plays the dislikable and dysfunctional Australian cult-born hacker Julian Assange founder of Wikileaks, currently residing in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London much like Edward Snowden was last seen at a Moscow airport.

Daniel Bruhl plays Daniel Berg a tech reporter at German Magazine Der Spiegel who joins forces with Assange in a revolutionary groundbreaking journey of leaking sensitive diplomatic documents online – the core of Wikileaks. Naturally all sources were initially protected but the information was released online on the most sensitive subjects from cellphone recordings of victims of 9/11 to the rogue clients of a influential Swiss bank Julius Baer Group http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julius_Baer_Group .

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At the heart of The Fifth Estate, like in the brilliant Ron Howard film Rush, is a friendship between two men which eventually turns into a bitter rivalry with devastating consequences. Where Assange is reckless and pioneering, notoriously sociopathic, his partner superbly played by Bruhl is conservative, grounded and concerned about the actual consequences of leaking dangerous and sometimes sensitive government information online for the entire world with a laptop to read.

The action starts off with the massive hacking of the NSA (US National Security Agency) diplomatic cables which were leaked online first by deranged US soldier Bradley Manning  now known as Chelsea http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bradley_Manning   who leaked the information to Julian Assange and then in turn strikes a deal with three influential international newspapers  in New York, London and Berlin to release the sensitive and damaging diplomatic secrets of the world’s most powerful nation as it was involved in ongoing military action in Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq back in 2011. All this sensitive information is suddenly available online much to the horror of US under-secretary for the Middle East Sarah Shaw a superb cameo performance by Laura Linney.

Whilst The Fifth Estate’s narrative is an overload of media information which at times detracts from the characters of the story and gives the film its most fundamental flaw. That whilst all this hacking is taking place at conferences in Scandinavia, Iceland and Germany, it detracts from any real character development. Cumberbatch’s Assange comes across as self-absorbed megalomaniac whilst Daniel Bruhl’s character is more rounded by the limited scenes with his long suffering girlfriend Anke Domscheit  played by Alicia Vikander (Anna Karenina).

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The Fifth Estate, unlike the brilliant Aaron Sorkin scripted Oscar winning film The Social Network, suffers the fate of a flashy yet interesting film suffering from a poor script and lack of character development. That’s not to say the chain of events is engrossing, which with a figure as controversial as Assange still remains, The Fifth Estate lacks a decent and edited script treatment.

Character actors David Thewlis and Stanley Tucci make the most of their limited screentime as The Guardian editor Nick Davies and US agent James Boswell.  The Fifth Estate suffers too much from contrivance leaving the audience unable to really connect with Assange and Berg who were essentially anti-social hackers out to change the world, but ended up hurting themselves the most.

Ultimately The Fifth Estate is about the viewers own verdict of two whistle blower pioneers who exposed the world’s most intimate secrets using the most powerful and unedited tool of the 21st century: the internet. The film also stars Carice van Houten from Game of Thrones fame and Dan Rivers from Downton Abbey along with Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker).

See it and judge for yourself.

 

Project Nightshade

RED 2

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Retired and Extremely Dangerous

Director: Dean Parisot

Cast: Bruce Willis, Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker, Neal McDonough, Steven Berkoff, David Thewlis, Byung-Hun Lee, Tim Pigott-Smith, Brian Cox

Despite the inherent violence in the film’s narrative, Red 2 is an enjoyable yet not particularly lucid sequel to the 2010 hit Red, which stands for Retired and Extremely Dangerous. Both films are inspired by DC Comics so that should give the audience an indication of what to expect: lots of action, globetrotting assassins and a convoluted story line with a dash of witty one liners.

Considering the calibre of the cast of Red 2, including Oscar Winners Catherine Zeta-Jones (Chicago), Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs) and Helen Mirren (The Queen) along with the main stars, Bruce Willis, the fabulous Oscar nominee John Malkovich (Dangerous Liaisons) and Mary-Louise Parker (Red Dragon), this sequel’s script could have been sharper. Although thankfully the female stars do elevate the narrative beyond another sort of The Expendables type film, featuring all male action stars over 45 slugging it out with an armoury that could annihilate a small eastern European country. Director Dean Parisot goes for violence over sophisticated repartee, which is a great pity considering the cast he had at his disposal.

Red 2 is hugely entertaining but could have had a less complicated narrative and the action could have been diluted more effectively. There is the perennial car chase scene in Paris (straight out of A View to a Kill), the Kremlin scene in Moscow, straight out of countless spy movies and the more recent A Good Day to Die Hard and an aerial chase sequence across London’s slate grey skyline which is definitely inspired by the Bond franchise.

If audiences have not seen Red, then its best to see that first before seeing Red 2, but the premise is simply about an international group of retired spies and assassins (ex CIA, Mi6, Russian intelligence) who inadvertently stumble on a a plan to activate a so-called forgotten nuclear device in Moscow codenamed Project Nightshade after it was left there during the Cold War by a rogue American spy unit. The globe hopping from suburban America to London, Paris and Moscow is great but comically inspired and nothing as brilliant as the elegant cityscape changes seen in Skyfall.

Red 2 also features Byung-Hun Lee as a knife-wielding assassin last seen in GI Joe, Retaliation along with Neal McDonough as the vicious agent Jack Horton, but it is really Mary-Louise Parker’s performance which lifts Red 2 out of Comic book banality  as the sharp and sassy Sarah, girlfriend to Frank Moses played by Bruce Willis who is always hankering for more adventure and glamour, spicing up their crumbling romance.

Look out for a hilarious scene at the end of the film set in Caracas. Anymore details, then that would give the game away. Also featuring a briefly seen Steven Berkoff and David Thewlis as the Frog, a Wikileaks inspired classified intelligence hacker. Red 2 is fun viewing, heavy on action, light on content and plausibility!

2013 Toronto Film Festival

2013 Toronto International Film Festival Winners

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Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) takes place every year in September in Toronto, Canada.

Films which premiere at Toronto are often nominated for Academy Awards the following year.

TIFF does not hand out individual prizes for Best Actor or Actress but focuses on among others the following awards:
People’s Choice Award & Best Canadian Feature Film

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Opening Night Film: The Fifth Estate directed by Bill Condon starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Bruhl, Dan Stevens, David Thewlis, Alicia Vikander, Laura Linney, Stanley Tucci and Carice van Houten

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People’s Choice Award: 12 Years a Slave directed by Steve McQueen starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti, Alfre Woodard, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano and Sarah Poulson

Best Canadian Feature Film: When Jews were Funny directed by Alan Zweig (documentary) starring Howie Mandel, Shelley Berman, Norm Crosby, Shecky Greene, Jack Carter, David Steinberg

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_Toronto_Film_Festival

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