a, Arts & Entertainment

Film Wrap-Up

Looking back on this year in film, the Tribune’s Arts & Entertainment editors weigh in on the hits, misses, and the movies that slipped through the cracks.

The Good


Telekinesis, time travel, mafia men—your average director would have combined these elements into something resembling a B-movie from the ’80s. In the hands of Rian Johnson (Brick), the result is the strongest sci-fi script since 2004’s Primer. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, and Emily Blunt, Looper has already grossed five times its budget, and received some of the best reviews of the year.

Moonrise Kingdom

Many contemporary films strive for ‘entertainment’; rarely does one achieve true aesthetic play. Deeply influenced by the French New Wave, Wes Anderson is one director who consistently delivers bubbling, joyous euphoria to the screen. Moonrise Kingdom brims with Anderson’s distinct and delightful vision. The all-star cast includes Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, and Tilda Swinton—though it is Edward Norton who truly steals the scene. Young love has never looked as sweet as it does under Anderson’s lens.

The Master

Paul Thomas Andersen’s latest tour-de-force is a sure Oscar bet. Joaquim Phoenix delivers an emotional deluge as the damaged veteran Freddie Quell, countered only by the wall of cerebral ice embodied in Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman). The script is intricate, without verging on excessive complexity; intelligent, without pretentiousness. The film is a sumptuous visual feast, with beautifully balanced scenes subtly-shot in 65mm film. Head to Bank Scotia Cinema on Tuesday—you’ll be seeing this one twice.

21 Jump Street

Another year, another bromance comedy starring Jonah Hill. In this remake of the ’80s TV series, Hill and Channing Tatum play undercover police officers who infiltrate a high school drug ring. The premise is as ridiculous as it sounds, and cheesy instances abound; nevertheless, few comedies play to the genre’s strengths so well. Genuinely clever dialogue and strong performances make 21 Jump Street one the best blockbuster comedies of the year.

The Bad

The Avengers

This evaluation is sure to turn some heads, and the available space is not enough for a full justification. But hear me out. Why assemble an A-list cast if you’re only going to create one-liners rather than characters? Why squander the vast vault of comic-book lore available with a formulaic and uninspired plot line? Why fumble your bottomless budget and the promise of a big-bad-climactic battle on something so joylessly predictable, and shot with the skill of Michael Bay? The only ones who ought to feel vengeful are the movie-goers.

John Carter

Does anyone still remember this disastrous sci-fi film? Disney, perhaps, given the smoking crater it left in their earnings. Why civilizations with technology like walking cities resort to swordplay to wage war still eludes understanding; Mars may have life, but it lacks logic. Andrew Stutton (WALL-E; Finding Nemo) ought to have been able to strike a tone of whimsical nostalgia; what resulted instead is laughably old-fashioned in its best moments, and cringe-worthy at its worst.

Total Recall

Children of the ’80s will remember their youth, peppered with Schwarzenegger’s forays into film. One of his better efforts was Total Recall, an original spin on the sci-fi action genre. In the 2012 version, Colin Farrell assumes the role of a secret agent embroiled in a nefarious government plot. Unfortunately, the script is as dull as Farrell’s acting—better off forgetting this lukewarm remake.

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games, the story of a post-apocalyptic world where society watches children battle in a duel to the death, was based on the hit book series (adding a sibilant to the term “hit” may be a more accurate descriptor). Pros: the script ensures that the inept actors are swiftly put out of their misery. Cons: the film reminds one of the cult-classic Battle Royale—without delivering any of the enjoyment.

The Underrated


Maybe a nominee for last year’s Best Foreign Film Oscar isn’t exactly ‘underrated.’ Nevertheless, Bullhead is an absolute, visceral punch-in-the-gut, much of it owed to Matthias Schoenaerts’ breathtaking turn as the muscle-bound and broken-down Jacky Vanmarsenille. I was fortunate enough to catch this tale of the illegal Belgian beef hormone underworld during its brief Montreal run, but if you didn’t, it’s definitely worth hunting down.


If there are two trends in contemporary cinema that scream to be put out of its misery, it’s one: ‘found footage’—Paranormal Activity; Project X; and two: the superhero genre—see The Avengers. This makes it all the more surprising that a film incorporating elements of both could be so remarkably inventive. Particularly striking is the cinematography, which gets incredible mileage out of the protagonist’s ability to levitate the camcorder. For Chronicle, low-key and low-budget means high quality.


Equal parts self-deprecating humour, tortuous plot twist, and masterful action sequence, Headhunters came out in Norway in 2011. Translated from the original Norwegian and released to North American audiences in 2012, the film is a rare example of the heights that directorial self-awareness, when coupled with clever writing, can reach. A strong, understated performance by Aksel Hennie makes Headhunters one of the year’s best.

Girl model

In this chilling documentary, David Redmon and Ashley Sabin go behind the picture-perfect façade presented by the modeling industry. Loneliness, crushing psychological issues, and an abattoir-like conveyor belt of naïve eastern-European girls are casually thrust before the viewer. Adroitly interviewed, models and bookers alike reveal the skeletons in the fashion world’s closet; Girl Model is painful, confronting, and wholly edifying.


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