How did such a poor film get to the top of the charts?
Time Out Dubai staff
Flowers of War
Director: Yimou Zhang Stars: Christian Bale, Ni Ni, Xinyi Zhang, Paul Schneider
Arguably the best stylist of China’s Fifth Generation filmmakers, Zhang Yimou has directed gorgeously colour-coded potboilers (Red Sorghum), opulent historical spectacles (Hero) and grit-flecked neo-realistic parables (The Story of Qiu Ju). He’s never tried to balance all three in one film, however, and this overstuffed movie, set during the Second Japanese-Sino War’s Nanking massacre, suggests that he’d be better off sticking to one mode at a time.
As that reign of terror begins, an American mortician (Bale) dodges bullets and bayonets on the way to a local church. Sharing this holy sanctuary with orphaned schoolgirls and dolled-up women of the night, his conscience will eventually awaken and heroic deeds will be done.
Essentially a ’40s melodrama laden with modern representations of brutality, The Flowers of War does put its star’s characteristic intensity to good use. Having played a youth suffering at the hands of WWII Japanese soldiers in Empire of the Sun, Bale’s presence as protector here makes this an unintentional answer film. But Zhang’s mixture of unsparing violence, mawkish sentimentality and garish flourishes creates one uncomfortable aesthetic. After watching gut-wrenching explosions throw brightly hued garments into the sky you wonder whether such floral, questionably flamboyant images are underwriting war’s horrors, or the other way around. Time Out Dubai staff
Weekly box office: Dhs165,958 Weekly admissions: 4,149 Total box office: Dhs165,958 Total admissions: 4,149
StreetDance 2 Director: Max Giwa, Dania Pasquini Stars: George Sampson, Sofia Boutella, Falk Hentschel
This energetic sequel to the Brit hit StreetDance begins like a 3D globe-trotting heist movie. Determined to form a winning street dance crew, Ash (Falk Hentschel) and Eddie (George Sampson) race around Europe whisking dancers off to Paris for a contest. It’s not clear quite how this is funded. But reality has never had much of a grip on dance movies.
This sticks closely to the tried-and-tested formula, as Ash dares to dream of pioneering a new fusion style. Aside from a few comic set-pieces and routine romance, the focus is squarely on the dancing, which looks impressive in 3D, and the speaking parts are sensibly limited to those who can act. Anna Smith
Weekly box office: Dhs221,225 Weekly admissions: 4,579 Total box office: Dhs2,316,839 Total admissions: 48,115
Outback 3D Director: Alex Soto Stars: Charlie Bewley, Alan Cumming, Tim Curry
The cutesy-looking family animation charts the antics of Jani, a lonely koala who lands in the middle of the Australian wilderness. This English-language version features the voices of Twilight heartthrob Charlie Bewley and Rocky Horror star Tim Curry. Rob Garratt
Weekly box office: Dhs231,120 Weekly admissions: 4,860 Total box office: Dhs586,361 Total admissions: 12,277
Buried Director: Rodrigo Cortés Stars: Ryan Reynolds, José Luis García Pérez, Robert Paterson, Stephen Tobolowsky, Samantha Mathis, Ivana Miño
Ryan Reynolds plays Paul Conroy, a US contractor ambushed in Iraq who wakes to find himself six feet underground with only a cellphone and a Zippo lighter. It’s an intriguing setup, and the early scenes are superbly clammy as Paul deals first with his gruff Iraqi kidnappers and then with the infuriatingly sceptical US authorities, all the while keeping an eye on his dwindling air supply.
But writer-director Rodrigo Cortés struggles to maintain the tension, and his desire to appeal to the multiplex crowd leads to some bizarre, incongruous episodes: the sudden appearance of a snake is more laughable than terrifying, while Paul’s teary, Oscar-bait farewell to his geriatric mum feels heavy handed. If Cortés had dialled back the narrative intrigue and audience manipulation in favour of a more grimly realistic approach, Buried could have been a bona fide, claustrophobic classic. As it is, this is a solid, unsettling, at times very entertaining thriller – but the jury’s still out on Reynolds. Time Out Duba staff
Weekly box office: Dhs180,871 Weekly admissions: 4,974 Total box office: Dhs180,871 Total admissions: 4,974
This comedy sees an Egyptian State Guard enjoy a sudden popularity rise after good fortune helps him prevent a series of incidents. He is then handed his most important mission: to protect a politician's young children and old grandmother from terrorists. Time Out Dubai staff
Weekly box office: Dhs 217,192 Weekly admissions: 6,211 Total box office: Dhs217,192 Total admissions: 6,211
How I Spent My Summer Vacation Director: Adrian Grunberg Stars: Mel Gibson, Peter Stormare, Dean Norris
Some 13 years after his role in well-received 1999 crime thriller Payback, Gibson reprises the character of Porter in this sequel, which is also being released under the title Get the Gringo. After making a career out of crime, Porter’s felonies have finally caught up with him and the Mexican authorities throw him in jail. It’s here that he meets a nine-year-old boy who teaches him the tricks to survive life on the inside. Time Out Dubai staff
Weekly box office: Dhs251,690 Weekly admissions: 6,932 Total box office: Dhs2,477,933 Total admissions: 61,665
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: Dhs310,827 Weekly admissions: 8,750 Total box office: Dhs6,923,580 Total admissions: 181,471
The Lucky One Director: Scott Hicks Stars: Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling, Blythe Danner, Riley Thomas Stewart, Jay R. Ferguson, Adam LeFevre, Robert Hayes, Joe Chrest
Beth (Taylor Schilling) doesn’t trust the stranger she’s just hired, but he sure is handy around the farm. ‘Can you believe he got that thing going?’ marvels grandma (Blythe Danner) when the young man, Logan (Zac Efron), successfully starts a tractor. That’s not his only talent. He plays piano and swaps wit with Beth’s violinist/chess-prodigy child (Riley Thomas Stewart). He dresses down Beth’s abusive ex-husband, a lawman (Mad Men’s Jay R Ferguson). He glows in the candlelight when the power goes out.
But Logan, we’ve already learned, is a marine with a dark past. In Iraq, grasping for a fluttering photo of a beautiful blonde, he dodged an explosion that would have killed him. Now he yearns to thank the mystery woman – spoiler: it’s Beth! – but just can’t find the words.
With a plot that, in the hands of half-attentive characters, would resolve itself in five minutes, this Nicholas Sparks adaptation devotes its remaining time to overwrought mooning, while director Scott Hicks lights every shot in the manner of a Zyrtec commercial. The basic premise is more appalling: in The Lucky One’s scheme, the Iraq War was just fate’s way of ensuring these two pretty things would get together. Time Out Dubai staff
Weekly box office: Dhs825,809 Weekly admissions: 21,092 Total box office: Dhs825,809 Total admissions: 21,092
Battleship Director: Peter Berg Stars: Alexander Skarsgård, Brooklyn Decker, Liam Neeson, Taylor Kitsch, Rihanna, Jesse Plemons, John Bell
This pixellated extravaganza pits US and Japanese seagoing forces against extraterrestrial foes that look suspiciously like kids’ action figures. Presumably it’s because the same toy company that has the rights to the original Battleship game (on which the movie is based) also brought you the Transformers range. Essentially, then, we’re talking a marketing exercise as much as a movie.
Unfortunately, it’s not much of a movie either. Predictably big on military hardware, explosions, explosions and, yes, more explosions, its appeal would seem largely limited to boys who like playing with plastic figures and detachable accessories, an age group forbidden from seeing it by the PG15 certification.
Taylor ‘John Carter’ Kitsch confirms that he lacks leading-man charisma as Alex, a youthful rapscallion who shows his mettle when he joins the navy, taking on the invaders so Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson, not over-taxed) will let him marry his blonde bombshell daughter, Samantha (Brooklyn Decker). Oh yeah, and he might save the world while he’s at it.
The action delivers a certain amount of mass destruction, but tends to assume the viewer has a four-second attention span – the aliens seem all-powerful one minute, laughably vulnerable the next. This dampens any prospect of excitement, and though director Peter Berg (Hancock, The Kingdom) seems to have played his most spectacular cards too early, the movie rallies in a final reel of such outrageous, shameless, unrepentant (not to say explosive) idiocy that one can’t help but smile. Briefly.
Elsewhere pop foxtress Rihanna gets little to do in a supporting slot, while otherwise supercool Japanese actor Tadanobu Asano seriously dents his arthouse cred in a clunky turn as Kitsch’s rival-turned-pal. The package never, ever lets you forget its brand-led priorities. Still, when the name of the toy company is above the title on the poster, you can’t say you weren’t given fair warning. Time Out Dubai staff
Weekly box office: Dhs1,435,087 Weekly admissions: 37,862 Total box office: Dhs5,508,454 Total admissions: 141,171
Safe Director: Boaz Yakin Stars: Jason Statham, Catherine Chan, Chris Sarandon, Robert John Burke, James Hong, Anson Mount, Chris Sarandon
Former Guy Richie protégé and general go-to hardman Statham continues his seemingly never-ending arc of identikit thrillers. Playing a former special agent, he re-enters the international theatre of espionage in order to rescue an abducted Chinese girl, no doubt outsmarting the corrupt forces bearing down upon him along the way. Rob Garratt
Weekly box office: Dhs2,805,016 Weekly admissions: 70,698 Total box office: Dhs 2,805,016 Total admissions: 70,698