Picks and Pans Review: Spotlight On...

updated 09/25/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/25/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT

>The Toronto Film Festival

Like planes lined up on a runway, many of the movies Hollywood hopes will take off this fall and holiday season paraded by during the 25th annual Toronto International Film Festival (Sept. 7-16). Although studios don't bother to debut a Tom Cruise or Harrison Ford blockbuster in Toronto, the festival has become the buzz-building site of choice for quality films with lesser box office stars (last year's American Beauty) or tricky subject matter (the porno industry-themed Boogie Nights in 1997).

High-profile films from Toronto scheduled to unspool in multiplexes by year's end include:

State and Main, David Mamet's snappy showbiz satire about what happens to a Vermont village when a movie crew arrives. Alec Baldwin and Sarah Jessica Parker are hilarious as misbehaving stars.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, one of the year's best films, chronicles romance and derring-do by male and female warriors in ancient China. Directed by Ang Lee (The Ice Storm), it stars Chow Yun-Fat and Michelle Yeoh.

Dr. T and the Women, a rambling comedy by director Robert Altman, features Richard Gere as a Dallas gynecologist beset by female troubles.

Shadow of the Vampire rewrites film history with a comic edge by speculating that German director F.W. Murnau (John Malkovich) hired a real vampire (Willem Dafoe) as his leading man when making 1922's Nosferatu, one of the first vampire films.

The Contender is an engrossing, lurid political thriller about a female senator (Joan Allen) named in a sex scandal. Jeff Bridges is a hoot as the President.

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