The Devils Double Director: Lee Tamahori Stars: Dominic Cooper, Ludivine Sagnier, Raad Rawi, Philip Quast, Mimoun Oaïssa, Khalid Laith, Dar Salim
Imagine an Iraqi take on The Sopranos, with Saddam Hussein in the Tony role, wringing his hands in despair at the young generation (Why must they torture in public? Isn’t that why we have Abu Ghraib?). This blinged-up, bizarre film is loosely based on an autobiography by Latif Yahia, who for five years was the body-double of Uday Hussein, Saddam’s sadistic first born. Weirdly, it’s in English with non-Iraqis playing the central characters. British actor Dominic Cooper plays both Latif and Uday – acquitting himself pretty well in the circumstances.
Uday’s psychotic streak was too much even for Saddam, who relegated him to number two successor. In 1987 he summoned Latif, an old school friend with an uncanny likeness, and made him an offer: become my body-double or I’ll kill your family. Latif underwent plastic surgery so that not even the Hussein family could tell the two men apart (though, as Uday’s brother notes, you know you’re watching Latif on TV because, ‘He’s sober and not foaming at the mouth.’).
What makes The Devil’s Double unsettling is its tone. In places, Uday is played for laughs, introduced as a mummy’s boy. But elsewhere, Tamahori doesn’t hold back from showing the worst of Uday’s depravity: we see him searching for barely pubescent girls to abduct. The result is a film which is even more tasteless than its main character’s gold ’n’ marble palace. Cath Clarke
Weekly box office: Dhs140,695 Weekly admissions: 3,717 Total box office: Dhs1,616,190 Total admissions: 45,644
Battle for Terra Director: Aristomenis Tsirbas Stars: Evan Rachel Wood, Luke Wilson, Justin Long, Chad Allen, Rosanna Arquette, Bill Birch, Brooke Bloom, Tom Connolly, Brian Cox
This is the third recent movie, after Planet 51 and Avatar, to riff on the rights and wrongs of man’s attempted takeover of an alien planet. With Earth destroyed by who knows what, the last humans are on course for Terra and its population of affable aliens. Man prepares to invade – but their plans might be scuppered by one of their own number… Terra is gorgeously rendered. But it’s the thought-provoking storyline, the dialogue and the voices (especially that of Evan Rachel Wood) that leave a lasting impression. Derek Adams
Weekly box office: Dhs220,623 Weekly admissions: 4,678 Total box office: Dhs220,623 Total admissions: 4,678
Frozen Director: Adam Green Stars: Shawn Ashmore, Emma Bell, Kevin Zegers, Ed Ackerman, Rileah Vanderbilt, Kane Hodder, Adam Johnson
There’s a moral here: never bribe a ski-lift operator to let you have one last run before sundown. It’s the end of their break and three students are heading for a final session when their ski chair comes to a halt, leaving the trio dangling 40 feet above hard-packed snow. Once night draws in, the lights go out and their jokey demeanour morphs into chilled fear.
Adam Green’s taut survival thriller is better than it should be: the concept and the characters’ behaviour are mostly plausible, the script is dark and funny, the acting is adequate, and the wildlife scenes are convincing. Sure, we can nitpick about continuity and tapered endings, but as far as low-key, low-budget filmmaking goes, Frozen is a minor success. Derek Adams
Weekly box office: Dhs320,806 Weekly admissions: 9,161 Total box office: Dhs320,806 Total admissions: 9,161
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close Director: Stephen Daldry Stars: Thomas Horn, Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Zoe Caldwell, Dennis Hearn, Paul Klementowicz, Julian Tepper
It is, simply, the ‘worst day’ – that’s how 9/11 is referred to in Jonathan Safran Foer’s 2005 child’s-eye novel, ambitious if a touch forced. In being true to the intentionally naive material, filmmaker Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot, The Hours) has now created an earnest puddle of slop.
Fragile nine-year-old Oskar (Horn), bereaved after his dad’s death, is too quiveringly stunned to be a long-form surrogate for a viewer. You watch him roam through a shaken city and wish this brainy kid could enjoy a non-glazed moment or two.
That’s not to say the best scenes don’t work. Some geeky, relaxed moments featuring Tom Hanks as the doting father help you feel the toll taken on a sensitive relationship filled with microscopic inquiries. Alas, you also have to endure the sad sight of Oskar’s handmade scrapbook, in which a red string restores a falling man to the 106th floor. We might have all felt like lost children for a while, but 10 years later, the innocence is shameless. Joshua Rothkopf
Weekly box office: Dhs412,829 Weekly admissions: 10,341 Total box office: Dhs412,829 Total admissions: 10,341
Project X Director: Nima Nourizadeh Stars: Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper, Jonathan Daniel Brown, Dax Flame, Kirby Bliss Blanton, Brady Hender, Nick Nervies, Alexis Knapp
Listen to a rough sketch of the plot and you’ll hardly raise an eyebrow: A trio of high-school losers – shy, nominal hero Thomas (Mann), motormouthed enabler Costa (Cooper) and chubby hanger-on JB (Brown) – decide to throw a ‘game-changer’ of a house party when the parents go away. How, then, does Project X, as generic as its title sounds, somehow raise the roof, even incinerate it? The movie pushes its reckless rager into an apocalyptic fury, with suburban blocks on fire, property damage in the millions and riot cops fleeing. Amazingly, the story is based on a real 2008 event from Australia.
It’s a style of anarchy that can be thrilling in itself; Project X bears the Blair Witch handheld stamp, shot by its participants, which adds to the YouTubeness of it all. Make no mistake: these kids have zero agenda save awesomeness, popularity and getting with that hot, topless girl. So ascribe a dollop of Occupy Wall Street rage to the film at your own risk. The brainless reality is a lot scarier. Deeply irresponsible, this a film that will give parents seizures – and give teens a big old smile. Joshua Rothkopf
Weekly box office: Dhs503,565 Weekly admissions: 12,308 Total box office: Dhs1,720,961 Total admissions: 42,825
Dr. Seuss The Lorax Director: Chris Renaud, Kyle Balda Stars: Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Danny DeVito, Betty White, Rob Riggle, Jenny Slate, Nasim Pedrad
Dr Seuss’s environmental fable gets a suitably whimsical-looking treatment in this animation from Despicable Me director Chris Renaud. Zac Efron voices Ted, a boy living in a fantastical world who goes in search of a tree. In the book, these colourful trees are used to make garments and are thus felled, causing a food shortage and environmental lessons all round. Ed Helms voices the story-telling Once-ler, while Danny DeVito is The Lorax, a pint-sized harbinger of environmental doom. It’s all done in a fairly cheerful fashion, mind you, judging by the perky trailer. Time Out Dubai staff
Weekly box office: Dhs678,165 Weekly admissions: 15,491 Total box office: Dhs3,126,331 Total admissions: 70,568
A blockbuster take on the Snow White fable with Julia Roberts as the wicked queen. The impression is of an end-of-the-pier pantomime which just happens to have a huge Hollywood star. Time Out Dubai staff
Weekly box office: Dhs802,458 Weekly admissions: 22,766 Total box office: Dhs1,900,788 Total admissions: 52,485
John Carter Director: Andrew Stanton Stars: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Willem Dafoe, Samantha Morton, Thomas Haden Church, Mark Strong, Ciarán Hinds, Dominic West, James Purefoy
This sprawling 3D adaptation of A Princess of Mars has all the makings of a monumental folly. It was absurdly expensive (rumours suggest upwards of Dhs900 million), stars no one you’ve ever heard of (the voice cast notwithstanding), is based on a property very few outside the geek community are familiar with, has a wildly convoluted storyline packed with silly names and outlandish locations, and is saddled with one of the least exciting titles in recent memory.
Now, maybe there are legions of multiplex-goers to whom the words ‘Sab Than, Prince of Zodanga’ sound like a sure-fire bet – but it’s unlikely. And this is merely the tip of a hefty iceberg: chuck in some four-armed Tharks, some eight-legged Thoats and Mark Strong as an evil spirit and you’ve got an unholy mess. Luckily, thanks to some stunning visual design, a sense of wry humour and Wall-E director Andrew Stanton’s knack with an action setpiece, it’s a very entertaining, unusual and loveable mess. John Carter could be Dune for the 21st century – or it could be the next Avatar. Only time will tell. Tom Huddleston
Weekly box office: Dhs1,141,696 Weekly admissions: 26,454 Total box office: Dhs7,389,176 Total admissions: 161,252
A Thousand Words Director: Brian Robbins Stars: Eddie Murphy, Cliff Curtis, Kerry Washington, Emanuel Ragsdale, Jill Basey, Greg Collins, Robert LeQuang, Michael G. Wilkinson, Lyndsey Nelson
Ageing funnyman Eddie Murphy plays a motormouthed literary agent who gets a crash course in holding his tongue after a mystical Bodhi tree sprouts in his backyard. Every word he speaks (or writes) costs him a leaf; if all the leaves fall, he croaks. The high concept breeds lowbrow gags – our hero ingests herbicides (don’t ask) and conducts conference calls using talking toys – but before this star vehicle devolves into a soggy New Age sermon, Murphy’s manic pantomiming offers a few faint flickers of the mad comic genius from 1987’s Raw. His best shot at reviving those glory days would be to drop hack director Brian Robbins (Norbit) like a superfluous sentence. A Thousand Words? We have one – meh. AA Dowd
Weekly box office: Dhs2,230,116 Weekly admissions: 60,475 Total box office: Dhs2,230,116 Total admissions: 60,475
The Hunger Games Director: Gary Ross Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Stanley Tucci, Wes Bentley, Willow Shields, Elizabeth Banks
The perils of allowing a successful author to adapt their own work for the screen are demonstrated once again in this absorbing but cluttered take on Suzanne Collins’s post-apocalyptic teen epic. This is a gripping, impressively mounted action movie – but its adherence to finicky details means there’s not enough time to fully explore Collins’s complex world.
Jennifer Lawrence excels as Katniss, a teen girl forced to take part in the televised Hunger Games, in which children from each of 12 districts fight to the death in tribute to the ruling Capitol. The central concept may be derivative, but as in the book, there are enough original ideas to make it feel fresh and involving.
But The Hunger Games is an oddly muted film. Director Gary Ross’s decision to avoid any sense of uplift or triumphalism may be appropriate for a story about children killing one another, but it leaves the film feeling a little one-note in its bleakness, which may harm its chances at the multiplex. This is a solid take on the material, but it could have done with a little less narrative incident and a little more cinematic sparkle. Tom Huddleston
Weekly box office: Dhs3,045,613 Weekly admissions: 78,541 Total box office: Dhs3,045,613 Total admissions: 78,541