The Toronto Film Festival is currently underway, and several titles have pundits anticipating Oscar success come 2020.
Here are just some of the movies that have screened at the festival, beginning with a certain Daniel Craig murder mystery...
1. Knives Out
Fresh from his sojourn to a galaxy far, far away, writer-director Rian Johnson comes back down to Earth with this blackly comic murder mystery.
Mixing a dash of Agatha Christie with the knowing humour of 1985 cult classic Clue, Johnson's new movie Knives Out keeps us guessing and laughing at the same time, say critics.
Daniel Craig stars as wry detective Benoit Blanc, who is summoned to investigate the murder of a wealthy patriarch (Christopher Plummer) at his remote country house. Who committed the appalling crime?
Picking through the rogue's gallery is where the fun begins: Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Michael Shannon, Toni Collette, Ana De Armas, Jaeden Martell and Katherine Langford play the squabbling family under investigation.
"This, in other words, is one of those mysteries so clever and fiendishly well-engineered that you eventually have no choice but to stop trying to get ahead of it, to simply enjoy the way it plants and payoffs," raves A.A. Dowd for A.V. Club.
"It's an impeccably constructed roller coaster ride created by a mad (but meticulous) engineer, and when it ends you'll immediately want to get back on," writes Adam Chitwood for Collider.
Variety's Peter Debruge is equally enthusiastic: "With Knives Out, writer-director Rian Johnson shows that there’s life left in the genre, paying crowd-pleasing tribute to the likes of Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie and Ruth Rendell with a wondrously convoluted case recounted in the most roundabout way possible."
And The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney describes it as an "ingeniously plotted, tremendously entertaining and deviously irreverent crowd-pleaser, will figure significantly in a later payoff". Rooney adds: "A delicious throwback to the all-star whodunit, this juicy comedy thriller is a treat from start to finish, which should make it a sizable hit for Lionsgate."
Knives Out is released in the UK on 29th November.
2. Jojo Rabbit
How does one go about lampooning dictator Adolf Hitler? If you're film-maker Taika Waititi, you not only put a satirical spin on Christine Leunens' novel Caging Skies, you also play the reviled figure himself.
Waititi's childish portrayal of Hitler is at the heart of this irreverent black comedy, in which the titular Hitler Youth Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) discovers his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is sheltering a young Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their attic.
The twist is, the notorious Nazi leader is Jojo's imaginary friend, and is attempting to influence his actions. Will Jojo give the girl up, or will he develop a sense of empathy with the Jews?
Unsurprisingly, the movie's go-for-broke approach has divided critics. "Taika Waititi scores again thanks to his signature style of comedy, excellent cast, and message of love and hope," writes Collider's Adam Goldberg.
On the other hand, Variety's Owen Gleiberman decries the movie's approach as puerile. "It’s to get the audience to flatter itself about liking a movie that pretends to be audacious when it’s actually quite tidy and safe."
Jojo Rabbit is released on 3rd January 2020.
Is there a better marriage of actor and real-life figure than Tom Hanks and Fred Rogers?
The former has established himself as the 21st century James Stewart, a purveyor of decency via the likes of Philadelphia, Forrest Gump, Saving Private Ryan and Captain Phillips.
The latter, now deceased, established himself as America's surrogate pop culture father figure via the profile of his TV show Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, a generation-spanning testament to the power of imagination and compassion.
The two now come together for heartfelt drama A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, in which Rogers is profiled by a cynical journalist (Matthew Rhys). It's directed by Can You Ever Forgive Me? film-maker Marielle Heller, and has moved several critics at Toronto.
"There’s no question that Hanks is perfect in the part… people will relax into the movie so much that they’ll forget they’re watching an impersonation," enthuses Todd McCarthy in The Hollywood Reporter.
"It’s hard to imagine that [Hanks's] pitch-perfect channeling of Rogers's magnificent and slightly unsettling calm won’t put him in the thick of a supporting-actor race," raves Steve Pond in The Wrap.
"When the film comes out, there won’t be a dry eye in the megaplexes of America," says Variety's Owen Gleiberman.
And Indiewire's Eric Kohn is similarly enthusiastic: "In the hands of a lesser storyteller, [the film] would resort to cheap, maudlin devices…Heller, however, excels at pulling heartstrings from sturdy foundations."
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is released on 6th December.
Jennifer Lopez in decent film shocker? Say it isn't so. The pop diva and movie star hasn't delivered a critical hit since 1998's Out of Sight, in which she starred opposite George Clooney, but that's all changed with the release of Hustlers.
Lopez has generated the strongest reviews of her acting career for playing tough-minded pole dancer Ramona, one of a group of women who band together to rob their exploitative Wall Street clients. Lopez co-stars with Crazy Rich Asians actor Constance Wu and her visceral performance has stunned the critics.
"Lopez gives her most electrifying screen performance since Out of Sight," writes Justin Chang in Los Angeles Times, "slipping the movie into her nonexistent pocket from the moment she strides out onto a neon-lighted stage in a rhinestone bodysuit."
Writing for The Guardian, Benjamin Lee is similarly enthusiastic: "Blessed with one of the most memorable entrances in recent cinema history (pole-dancing to Fiona Apple’s Criminal and met with a swarm of money), Lopez slinks through Hustlers with a deceptive ease, as in control of the film as her character is of her situation."
"It's... funny, empowering, sexy, emotional, and a bit scary, with most of those superlatives coming care of a full-force performance from Jennifer Lopez genuinely deserving of awards consideration," says Kate Erbland in her Indiewire review.
Lastly, Leah Greenblatt, writing for Entertainment Weekly, says that beneath the razzle dazzle, the movie creates a sense of empathy with its characters. "What [the movie] does, smartly if sometimes a little too neatly, is make them feel real. The room it leaves for that humanity — and the draw of Lopez’s magnetic presence — gives the movie more than legs; beneath all the chinchilla and body glitter, there’s a smart, beating heart."
Hustlers is released on 13th September.
5. The Personal History of David Copperfield
Charles Dickens has been sliced and diced many different ways on the big screen over the years. Little wonder that Britain's premiere satirist, Armando Iannucci, has been applauded for putting a fresh, invigorating spin on familiar material with his latest feature, The Personal History of David Copperfield.
The creator of The Thick Of It, In the Loop, Veep and The Death of Stalin adapts Dickens's cherished novel (in the words of the pioneering author, "my favourite child"). And he's got a formidable cast on his side, all of whom give life to Dickens's canvas of eccentrics, creeps and virtuous heroes, headed up by Dev Patel as the eponymous David Copperfield.
"From the outset, [Armando Iannucci] employs some unexpected stylistic touches and adds racial diversity to his colour-blind cast – but stops short of anything that would drastically modernise the text," writes Benjamin Lee in The Guardian.
"Instead, he finds a way of transposing his rhythm on to the source material, creating the sort of well-choreographed, well-timed group comedy that makes his narrative work so distinctive. It’s a deceptively delicate art of his, one that comes to life with sharp dialogue and canny direction. But it wouldn’t work without a cast of actors who complement each other’s performance styles so perfectly."
"Iannucci has made his most human film, an attempt to find something helpful, funny and above all positive to help us to navigate the sorry state of Britain of today," writes Damon Wise in The Times.
"A buoyant tone and a frequently genteel sensibility – with some genuine directorial flair thrown in from a previously uninventive technical filmmaker – make The Personal History of David Copperfield a big step sideways in the careers of those who made it," says Adam Solomons in HeyUGuys.
"The same applies to the members of a remarkable ensemble, which includes Hugh Laurie, Tilda Swinton, Peter Capaldi and Ben Whishaw in support of a stellar Dev Patel in the titular role.
The Personal History of David Copperfield is released on 10th January 2020.
Which of these movies are you tipping for Oscar success? Let us know @Cineworld.