TIFF's first batch of 15 leaves plenty of room for movie discussion

TORONTO -- Hey, anyone got any coffee?

I mean, you'll never hear me complain about watching 15 movies in four days -- count 'em, that's FIFTEEN. Still, the process of running around, in and out, at all hours of the day and night to see 'em, especially when the theater hosting most of the press screenings can't keep their escalators running, does add some physicality to what remains an enjoyable process.

It's just that, how many times can an old movie guy walk up and down 75 stairs (a 150-step process per movie, but who's counting?) before simply wanting to close his eyes for a quick minute or two?

But we do digress. Here comes a little something about those first 15 Toronto International Film Festival-induced selections, in order of least embraced to most hug-worthy, and it's all just one man's opinion, of course.

"Nelly" -- Just call it soft-core porn disguised as a bio of escort-turned author Nelly Arcan, and how the Quebec writer died so tragically young.

"ARQ" -- Netflix already owns the rights to this sci-fi thriller that has a more serious "Groundhog Day" written all over it. "Orphan Black" writer Tony Elliot makes his directorial debut.

"The Sixth Beatle" -- Aging rock 'n' rollers certainly will find something to like in this documentary filled with talking heads who may or may not have been part of the process that helped those famous lads from Liverpool go on their merry way.

"Deepwater Horizon" -- Movies don't get more mainstream than this Peter Berg telling of what caused the big rig explosion behind the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

"Boundaries" -- On the other side of the border, Canadians such as director Chloe Robichaud prefer filling their politically tinged movies with satire and witty conversation. 

"In Dubious Battle" -- James Franco stars in and directs this John Steinback-based story of Depression Era apple pickers fighting The Man, as personified by Robert Duvall and his brood of bullies.

"American Pastoral" -- Ewan McGregor chooses an adaptation of Philip Roth's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel for his first directing gig, and it's not bad considering the scale of the book. His fellow co-stars (Jennifer Connelly and Dakota Fanning) produce most of the family drama.

"The Magnificent Seven" -- A rip-roaring "re-imagining" of the 1960 original, which is itself based on Kurosawa's best-of-all "Seven Samurai."

"American Honey" -- Kids just wanna have (all kinds of) fun, and director Andrea Arnold proves it in this long (2:38) road trip for a wild and raunchy bunch of so-called magazine sellers.

"The Bleeder" -- Cleveland gets some mention in this funny and, at times, touching tale of boxer Chuck Wepner (Liev Schreiber). Thankfully, director Philippe Falardeau makes it more of an engaging profile piece than a fight film, even though Wepner inspired the "Rocky" movie franchise after taking champ Muhammad Ali into the 15th round at the former Richfield Coliseum.

"The Rolling Stones Ole Ole Ole!" -- Speaking of touching, the iconic group's "Trip Across Latin America" earlier this year seriously moved folks throughout, especially in Havana, Cuba. Some IMAX images speak volumes and, of course, it's only rock 'n' roll, but I really, really like it.

"Free Fire" -- Think "Reservoir Dogs" continuously going off on one another in an even dirtier warehouse than the one Quentin Tarantino dreamed up. It's a bloody hoot from Brit bad boy Ben Wheatley, and Oscar-winner Brie Larson standing (and falling) toe-to-toe with a bunch of low-life men.

"I, Daniel Blake," "Loving" and "La La Land" -- Ken Loach's gut-wrenching, working-class drama; a genuinely beautiful and true story of interracial romance from Jeff Nichols; and Damien Chazelle's vibrant musical all get to show off the kind of genius offered at film festivals. More certainly will be written about these three before awards season is over.
  
Oh, by the way, the up escalator is now fixed. But nobody's going down yet.

Look for more Wednesday from the 41st annual Toronto Film Festival, which runs through Sept. 18. 


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