10 War Horse Directed by: Steven Spielberg Starring: Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Peter Mullan, Niels Arestrup, David Thewlis, Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch
At the start of War Horse, Steven Spielberg plunges us into an overlit, twee vision of early 20th-century UK countryside, and we spend much of the rest of this harmless, conventional adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s novel seeking – even aching for – the real world amid the artifice. The main problem is that Spielberg doesn’t solve the conundrum of having an animal at the heart of his film.
For Morpurgo, it was a first-horse narration. For the play, it was scene-stealing puppetry. All Spielberg can do is observe the creature, make the most of its few situations of peril and hope the surrounding drama is distracting enough. Fairytale, quasi-mythical visions of life, even war, are fine, but there’s an alienating push and pull here between the savagery of war and Spielberg’s fear of scaring the horses. Dave Calhoun
Weekly box office: Dhs330,915 Weekly admissions: 8,382 Total box office: Dhs330,915 Total admissions: 8,382
9 Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows Directed by: Guy Ritchie Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law and Jared Harris
When Guy Ritchie’s witty, enjoyable reboot of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic detective stories busted blocks back in 2009, a follow-up was unavoidable. Cynics would argue that a visit from that scourge of movie sequels, the law of diminishing returns, was equally inevitable.
Here we find Holmes (Robert Downey Jr) already hot on the trail of his latest nemesis, ‘Napoleon of crime’, James Moriarty (Jared Harris). When the mad professor schemes to have Holmes’s on-off squeeze murdered, our hero spirals into depression – until the return of his trusty sidekick Watson (Jude Law) shakes him out of his torpor and sets him back on the warpath, following a trail of destruction that will lead to Paris, Germany and – inevitably – Switzerland’s Reichenbach Falls.
The best comparison to draw here is with the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels: the cast and crew remain unchanged, but a key ingredient is lacking. Perhaps it’s a sense of spontaneity: where the first film seemed genuinely sprightly and off-the-cuff, the outcome of every thunderous, whizz-bang, CG-fuelled action scene in the sequel feels – that word again – inevitable.
Salvation arrives in the form of Stephen Fry as Holmes’s brother, Mycroft, and while his schoolmasterly demeanour and encyclopaedic intellect isn’t exactly a stretch for Britain’s favourite quizmaster, it’s a welcome distraction from the increasingly stale banter of the two leads. The result is a fitfully amusing but largely unsurprising and uninvolving action-movie-by-numbers: elementary, and not in a good way. Tom Huddleston
Weekly box office: Dhs293,190 Weekly admissions: 8,862 Total box office: Dhs695,783 Total admissions: 18,082
8 X Large Directed by: Sherif Arafa Starring: Ahmed Helmy, Donia Samir GHanem, Emmy Samir Ghanem, Ibrahim Nasr
The story about overweight Magdy who is desperate for someone to love him for who he is on the inside. After meeting the beautiful Dina, Magdy pretends to be his cousin Adel to win her heart.
Weekly box office: Dhs306,718 Weekly admissions: 9,102 Total box office: Dhs4,090,632 Total admissions: 119,997
7 11-11-11 Directed by: Darren Lynn Bousman Starring: Timothy Gibbs, Michael Landes, Brendan Price
Capitalising on the once-in-a-millennium date, this weak attempt at numerological spookiness follows a novelist (Gibbs) travelling to Spain to see his dying father; he soon connects recent tragedies to the belief that the portals to heaven and hell will open once all those ones show up on the calendar.
A veteran of the Saw franchise, Darren Lynn Bousman trades torture antics for an old-fashioned Euro-horror vibe, complete with old dark houses and creepy maids; he then wastes what little suspense he generates with endless dorm-room philosophical debates about faith versus atheism and religio-conspiracy theories so far-fetched they’d embarrass Dan Brown. If the ineffectiveness knob goes up to 10, this film manages to turn it up to you-know-what. David Fear
Weekly box office: Dhs296,822 Weekly admissions: 9,477 Total box office: Dhs296,822 Total admissions: 9,477
6 The Descendants Directed by: Alexander Payne Starring: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller, Nick Krause, Patricia Hastie, Grace A. Cruz, Kim Gennaula, Karen Kuioka Hironaga
George Clooney’s bedraggled basset-hound features have never been better exploited than in Alexander Payne’s perceptive and moving dramedy about a Hawaiian household in mourning. The Hollywood super-celeb effortlessly dials down the star-power wattage as Matt King, the apprehensive scion of an Aloha State brood that goes back generations. Matt’s now facing twin challenges: the potentially lucrative sale of a prime parcel of land and the impending death of his wife, Elizabeth (Hastie), who lies in a coma after a boating accident.
Elizabeth haunts every frame of The Descendants. In short, she’s no saint: Matt is quick to acknowledge their marriage had problems, but even he is shocked when his eldest daughter (Woodley) reveals that mum was having an affair. So begins a leisurely, island-hopping road trip as Matt and his children spread the word about Elizabeth’s terminal condition and seek out the illicit lover. As ever, Payne – adapting a novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings – walks a fine line between caricature and compassion. This is an exquisite portrait of a family navigating the wreckage imparted to them by one of their own. Keith Uhlich
Weekly box office: Dhs498,217 Weekly admissions: 12,659 Total box office: Dhs498,217 Total admissions: 12,659
5 Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol Directed by: Brad Bird Starring: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton, Simon Pegg
In its towering scope and ambition, it resembles Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, from which star Tom Cruise famously abseiled during filming. But the fourth instalment of the Mission: Impossible franchise gets so tangled in its toddlers’ jigsaw puzzle of a plot that it barely scales the heights of a small skyscraper.
The film begins with a parody-like assassination scene in Budapest, before cutting to Ethan Hunt (Cruise) being broken out of a maximum-security Russian prison. ‘Things must be bad out here, to get me out of there,’ he quips.
Bad they are; his mission, should he choose to accept it, involves breaking into Moscow’s Kremlin to steal, well, something, before a suspected terrorist gets there first. When it goes awry and the Russian fortress is blown up, Cruise’s IMF team is blamed, forcing them to go awol to complete their (virtually) impossible mission. While the Bond saga is hopelessly trying to impersonate the gritty realism Bourne trilogy, in it’s fanatical stylings M:I is now playing catch-up to Bond, specifically Pierce Brosnan’s Bond – this movie’s ensuing shambles of a storyline about a nuclear satellite (recalling Goldeneye) and a fanatic’s inexplicable desire to cause the next apocalypse (Tomorrow Never Dies).
The spaghetti-hooped plot might befit the audience of director Brad Bird’s previous work – kids’ movies Ratatouille and The Incredibles – but here it’s little more than a cursory device to move from one thrilling set piece to another. It’s exhilarating to watch an increasingly-weathered Cruise dangling from a heavily-CGI’d Burj, but no one’s really sure why he had to climb out of the window in the first place. How he ended up moments later in the midst of an impenetrable sandstorm in Satwa is little more convincing.
Perhaps sensing the self-parody it’s in danger of becoming, the ‘humour’ is ramped up this time around. Brit funnyman Simon Pegg is promoted from a bit part role in the last movie to a grating movie-long script of aching one-liners and cringey comic-book facial expressions. Meanwhile, a barely necessary sub-plot about the death of Hunt’s wife and introduction of new team member Brandt (Jeremy Renner) is dealt with in clown-like clumsiness. The finale in Mumbai – a chauvinistic nod to the original TV series which sees Paula Patton’s Jane seducing an Indian playboy before some blatant BMW product placement – sadly lacks the knockout punch of the second and third films.
Any franchise that reaches its fourth instalment has lost its ability to fire on all four cylinders, but as a popcorn-munching rollercoaster ride this entertains enough, just. The film’s open ending worryingly points towards a fifth film that just may not. Rob Garratt
Weekly box office: Dhs440,399 Weekly admissions: 13,019 Total box office: Dhs22,854,698 Total admissions: 631,201
4 Contraband Directed by: Baltasar Kormákur Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Giovanni Ribisi, Kate Beckinsale, Robert Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Lukas Haas, Amber Gaiennie, Kent Jude Bernard
Chris Farraday (Wahlberg) used to be the go-to smuggler: there wasn’t anything he couldn’t get from one border to another with a minimum of fuss, time and effort. Yet those days are over: now Chris is a New Orleans family man with a wife, two kids and a legitimate job as a security-system installer. But then his deadbeat brother, a much-less-adept smuggler, tosses a load of illegal stuff belonging to Chris’s psycho former colleague (Ribisi). Just when he thought he was out…
What follows is a convoluted bit of hogwash involving a Panama-bound cargo ship, several crates’ worth of counterfeit money, plenty of gun-toting gangsters led by a posturing Diego Luna and an ill-treated Jackson Pollock canvas. Contraband looks and feels like something Entourage’s Vincent Chase and his posse might have come up with after bingeing on Michael Mann flicks (an impromptu armoured-truck heist even cribs shamelessly from Heat).
It’s mostly watchable: Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur (Jar City, Inhale) keeps things moving at a brisk clip, Wahlberg is his usual charmingly befuddled self, and the unsurprisingly terrible Ribisi – doing a gangland variation on his mentally challenged romantic in The Other Sister – has much less screen time than threatened in pre-release promotions. But none of that changes the fact that the movie amounts to little more than ‘Marky Mark’s South American Vacation’. Keith Uhlich
Weekly box office: Dhs533,498 Weekly admissions: 14,372 Total box office: Dhs2,153,863 Total admissions: 58,203
3 Underworld: Awakening Directed by: Måns Mårlind, Björn Stein Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Michael Ealy, India Eisley, Stephen Rea, Theo James, Sandrine Holt, Charles Dance
In what you probably could call the action-thriller equivalent to the Twilight franchise, Kate Beckinsale returns as Selene, the slinky vampire warrioress who likes to do her hunting in a PVC catsuit. Having skipped lead-role duties in the previous instalment of the franchise (that would be Underworld: Evolution), KB escapes from prison at the beginning of this film, only to witness the two tribes of immortal species (vampires and lycans) in the crosshairs of a human army who want to destroy them forever. We can deduce that there will be ample firepower and lots of sharp objects, and Beckinsale will run, slide, leap and spin around various murky locations, kicking posterior like her life depended on it. Rob Garratt
Weekly box office: Dhs740,636 Weekly admissions: 15,407 Total box office: Dhs2,713,985 Total admissions: 54,072
2 Haywire Directed by: Steven Soderbergh Starring: Gina Carano, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Michael Angarano, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Eddie J. Fernandez
Only Steven Soderbergh could produce a slick, modern, cine-literate deconstruction of the Hollywood action caper that also manages to be a rollicking good ride. With the high-style Haywire, he takes the most hackneyed, secret-agent-double-crossed-by-her-paymasters storyline imaginable and directs the living hell out of it. He drafts in former American Gladiator Gina Carano as svelte, skull-smashing special operative Mallory Kane.
What follows is a feminist tirade in the mould of Kill Bill as Mallory navigates the globe and coolly makes a string of potential assassins – Michael Fassbender, Channing Tatum and a ratty, side-parted Ewan McGregor – her unwitting punchbags. The combat scenes are ferocious, beautiful and refreshingly original, with the conventional frantic editing and ear-splitting techno stripped away to leave something closer to silent ballet (with pained grunting).
To prove that he’s taking all the pseudo-serious expositionary dialogue with a pinch of salt, Soderbergh infuses the material with various nods to Hitchcock classics such as Notorious and North by Northwest, and the finale is a brutal comic inversion of From Here to Eternity’s iconic beach scene. David Jenkins
Weekly box office: Dhs817,120 Weekly admissions: Dhs23,061 Total box office: Dhs817,120 Total admissions: Dhs23,061
1 Journey 2: The Mysterious Island Directed by: Brad Peyton Starring: Josh Hutcherson, Dwayne Johnson, Michael Caine, Vanessa Hudgens, Kristin Davis, Luis Guzmán, Anna Colwell, Michael Beasley
More adventures for teen Jules Verne fan Sean (Josh Hutcherson) in this sequel to 2008’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth. With basic dialogue and predictable plotting, most pleasures are visual (especially in 3D), though some CG creations are better than others. It’s a harmless family film with an old-fashioned spirit of adventure, but the writing doesn’t live up to the promise of the premise. Anna Smith
Weekly box office: Dhs2,369,475 Weekly admissions: 49,746 Total box office: Dhs2,369,475 Total admissions: 49,746