As usual, the Toronto International Film Festival lineup is stacked in 2019 and after starting Sept. 5, reviews are starting to flow from some of the most anticipated films and the critics are separating some of the awards contenders from pretenders. 

To clarify, a contender is a movie that is well-reviewed or features aspects or performances worthy of awards. 

A pretender is a film prior to reviews that features a promising cast, a skilled filmmaker at the helm or a medium worthy for adaptation, yet the pieces do not mesh and the film fails in some tonal regard, a poor casting choice or because of poor creative choices. 

If you are someone like me who needs critic reviews to come in prior to viewing a film, these TIFF updates should be vital to you.

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While only a few major critics are at TIFF writing their reviews, these early reviews tend to make or break because more often than not, a couple early reviews mold the general attitude toward a film.

So, let’s take a look at some of the anticipated films that have underperformed at TIFF.

“Jojo Rabbit” Thought to be a major player in this year’s Oscar race, Taika Waititi’s “Jojo Rabbit” has aired at TIFF to mixed reviews, receiving a metascore review as high as 91 and another as low as 0. Where Waititi has found success making “Thor: Ragnarok” and vampire mockumentary, “What We Do in the Shadows,” it appears he may have missed the same crowd-pleasing qualities that made his past films glow. The general word right now is that “Jojo Rabbit” does not miss its mark because of a lack of ambition or endearment, but that it is too safe, burying the darkness inherited in its Third Reich subject matter, rather than embracing it and facing it.

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“The Goldfinch” — Known for his direction of the 2015 Oscar-nominated film, “Brooklyn,” John Crowley takes on the 2014 Pulitzer Prize winning novel, “The Goldfinch,” with an all-star cast headed by Ansel Elgort. Unfortunately, this could become part of the long line of failed novel adaptations as the film has come out to mixed reviews at TIFF without a single raving review attached. There has been some praise for performances and engaging characters, but the general word is that the drama is lifeless and a little soapy. 

Fortunately, these are the only two films at TIFF with major hype that have come out to underwhelming responses. 

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Films such as The Laundromat,” “Just Mercy,” “Dolemite is my name,” “Judy” and Honey Boy” have come out to decent or generally favorable reviews with certain qualities that are receiving high praise. Specifically, Renee Zellweger is an early Oscar favorite for her performance as the legendary Judy Garland in “Judy.” Shia LaBeouf is impressing critics with both his screenplay and performance in “Honey Boy.” While being described as a bit formulaic and predictable, “Just Mercy” is being praised for its heart-warming story and important message. 

Stay tuned: part two of the TIFF preview will be published on badgerherald.com on Sept. 10.