Sept. 1 2010 12:00 AM

Annual film festival has everything from Knightley to Newton-John

If you love movies — particularly the ones that often never make it to your local megaplex — you owe it to yourself to visit the Toronto International Film Festival.

Approximately 300 movies will be screened Sept. 9 to Sept. 19, and the variety is truly staggering, from the premieres of directors Clint Eastwood’s supernatural shocker “Hereafter” and Davis Guggenheim’s much-anticipated documentary “Waiting for Superman” to “Little Sister,” a Chinese version of Cinderella, and the teen comedy “Easy A.”

For those curious about made-in- Michigan films, you’ll have a field day with the Robert DeNiro/ Edward Norton drama “Stone" (filmed in Jackson), Jennifer Connelly’s black comedy “What Wrong with Virginia?” (Holland), Clive Owen’s thriller “Trust” (Northville) and Hilary Swank’s drama “Conviction” (Ann Arbor).

TIFF is traditionally a launching pad for some of the major Academy Award contenders. In fact, two years ago I got to see “The Hurt Locker” at a morning screening and “Slumdog” only a few hours later — two future Best Picture winners in one day.

What makes TIFF more exciting than your standard film festival is not only the generally high pedigree of the product. You’ll see stars everywhere. Not only do they regularly sit for post-show Q&A sessions, they also drop by to watch movies, too. Last year, I was nearly run over by a black SUV that was whisking George Clooney to the same screening of “Up in the Air” I was attending; how often does that happen?

Here are a few of the films I’m looking forward to at this year’s festival (if I don’t have another run-in with George Clooney’s daredevil driver, that is). Click on the titles for more information and trailers, if available:

“127 Hours”: Director Danny Boyle’s first film since “Slumdog Millionaire” tells the true story of Aron Ralston (James Franco), a mountain climber who resorted to desperate measures to save himself after being trapped in a Utah canyon.

“Black Swan”: The always-fascinating Darren Aronofsky directs Natalie Portman in a twisted tale of ambition and madness in the New York ballet world. According to a friend who saw it last month, “Words just cannot describe it.” Sold!

“Cave of Forgotten Dreams”: 3D movies are hardly a novelty anymore, but a 3D documentary from Werner Herzog? Now that’s news. Herzog took his cameras into France’s Chauvet Cave to capture images of the ancient paintings and fossils inside.


“Never Let Me Go”: Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield star in what’s said to be a powerhouse adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s bestseller about a British private school with a chilling secret.

“The Promise: The Making of ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’”: A documentary looking at how Bruce Springsteen put together his follow-up album to “Born to Run”; it’s a build-up to the Nov. 16 release of a 3-CD/3-DVD package, complete with 21 previously unreleased songs. Be still, my heart.

“Rabbit Hole”: David Lindsay-Abaire’s emotionally draining drama comes to the screen under the direction of John Cameron Mitchell (“Hedwig and the Angry Inch”). Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart star as a couple shattered by the sudden death of their son.

“Score: A Hockey Musical”: How Canadian can you get? Plus, Olivia Newton- John in her first big-screen musical since “Xanadu”!

“Super”: I was crazy about director James Gunn’s space-slugs-on-the-rampage comedy “Slither,” and I can’t wait to see what he does with the story of a cast-off husband (Rainn Wilson) who tries to reinvent himself as a superhero known as the Crimson Bolt. Ellen Page plays his protege.