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    Toronto Sets Hollywood-Centric Slate

    The address might say Ontario, but the Toronto International Film Festival seems all Hollywood.

    A-listers like George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Brad Pitt, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jude Law and Reese Witherspoon, along with such internationally renowned filmmakers as Sidney Lumet, Ang Lee, Denys Arcand, Julie Taymor, Woody Allen and Michael Moore, are on the invite list for North America's biggest cinematic party.

    Still, while Tinseltown is well represented, the 32nd annual edition of the venerable fest has unveiled a slate featuring 349 films from 55 countries unspooling between Sept. 6-15.  Along the way there will be 101 world premieres, 108 North American premieres and 20 gala presentations sure to keep the paparazzi flashbulbs a-poppin'.

    The opening gala will feature director Gavin Hood's Rendition, a political drama about a woman (Witherspoon) whose Egyptian-born husband is kidnapped as part of the Bush administration's secret detention program. The film costars Jake Gyllenhaal as a CIA analyst who questions his own government's policy of shipping suspects off to countries not bound by the Geneva Conventions, as well as Meryl Streep, Alan Arkin and Peter Sarsgaard.

    The next night finds Canada's very own master of suspense, David Cronenberg, presenting Eastern Promises, a disturbing drama about a sex-trafficking ring run by a Russian crime syndicate in the London underworld. Viggo Mortensen and Naomi Watts star.

    Other notable films in the gala lineup include:

    • Kenneth Branagh's remake of Sleuth, sporting a screenplay by Nobel Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter and pitting Jude Law and Michael Caine in a battle of wits;
    • Fugitive Pieces, a coming-of-age tale about a Polish boy who escapes the Nazis and makes his way to Canada;
    • MGM's Cleaner, a crime thriller from action director Renny Harlin starring Samuel L. Jackson, Ed Harris and Eva Mendez;
    • Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Shekhar Kapur's highly anticipated sequel to 1998's award-winning Elizabeth with Cate Blanchett returning as the monarch and Clive Owen as her adored Sir Walter Raleigh;
    • Michael Clayton, starring George Clooney as an in-house "fixer" who does the dirty work for one of New York's major corporate law firms;
    • Across the Universe, director Julie Taymor's Beatles-tinged take on young lovers turned activists in the '60s;
    • Cassandra's Dream, a crime caper from Woody Allen focusing on two brothers, played by Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell, who turn against one another;
    • and Reservation Road, an intense family drama featuring Joaquin Phoenix, Jennifer Connelly and Mark Ruffalo about two families whose paths cross after a child's tragic death.

    But that's just the tip of the iceberg, eh.

    Cannes East, as the Toronto fest is often called, will also spotlight a number of special presentations, among them Juno, a comedy-drama about an unplanned pregnancy starring X-Men's Ellen Page and Jennifer Garner. The film is Jason Reitman's follow-up to Thank You for Smoking, which made a splash at the fest two years ago.

    Also in the showcase:

    • Neil Jordan's The Brave One, starring Jodie Foster as a survivor of a brutal attack who seeks her own vigilante justice;
    • Death Defying Acts, Gillian Armstrong's romantic drama about the passionate love affair between master magician Harry Houdini (Guy Pearce) and a psychic (Catherine Zeta-Jones);
    • Joel and Ethan Coen's No Country for Old Men, based on the Cormac McCarthy novel and starring Tommy Lee Jones and Javier Bardem;
    • Margot at the Wedding, the latest comedy drama about family tensions from Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) featuring Nicole Kidman and Jack Black;
    • Michael Moore's Captain Mike Across America, a film charting his recent college tour;
    • Nothing Is Private, Alan Ball's tale about a young Arab-American girl who must contend with a racist Army reservist and her difficult father during the first Gulf War starring Aaron Eckhart and Toni Collette;
    • Before the Devil Knows Your Dead, Sidney Lumet's crime thriller about a jewelry store heist gone awry with Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke;
    • Sean Penn's latest directorial effort, Into the Wild, based on Jon Krakauer's nonfiction book about a young man (Emile Hirsch) who attempts to live off the land in Alaska;
    • and The Assassination of Jesse  James by the Coward Robert Ford, a western starring Brad Pitt as the gunslinger who's killed by a member of his own gang (Casey Affleck).

    On the documentary front, Don Cheadle will screen Darfur Now, an expose of the ongoing genocide.

    There's also Dinner with the President: A Nation's Journey, an examination of Pakistan's leader, Pervez Musharraf; and Body of War, a documentary from former talk-show star Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro chronicling the recovery of an Iraq war vet who was paralyzed by a bullet his first week in the conflict.

    That film is scheduled to debut on Sept. 11 and, per Billboard, Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder will be in town to perform "No More," and "Long Nights," two original tunes he wrote for the doc after meeting its subject, Tomas Young. Vedder will be plenty busy, having also contributed some songs to Into the Wild.

    Thefestival will close things out on Sept. 15 with Emotional Arithmetic, a drama from Paolo Barzman about three people who meet in a World War II concentration camp and reunite 40 years later to reflect on their emotionally traumatic experience. Max Von Sydow, Susan Sarandon, Christopher Plummer and Gabriel Byrne star.

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