The heroes and villains at the box office this week
Time Out Dubai staff
You won’t win a prize for guessing which super move is top of the box office charts in the UAE right now, but we will keep the most popular of the film’s heroes hidden behind the clapperboard for now all the same.
The ultimate comic book movie doesn’t need a strong narrative, or even a particularly good antagonist, when it has this much flat-out action, charm and genuine humour.
10 Main Street Director: John Doyle Stars: Colin Firth, Ellen Burstyn, Patricia Clarkson, Orlando Bloom, Amber Tamblyn, Margo Martindale, Andrew McCarthy
Firth puts on an embarrassing performance as a small-time American gent in a movie so forgettable, that despite his post-Oscar bankability, it has never seen a full cinematic release. Perhaps the film’s sudden arrival in Dubai is a last-chance bid to reclaim a fraction of the Dhs36 million budget from a neglected market the studio thinks won’t know better. Rob Garratt
Weekly box office: Dhs65,272 Weekly admissions: 1,867 Total box office: Dhs65,272 Total admissions: 1,867
9 Dr. Seuss The Lorax Director: Chris Renaud, Kyle Balda Stars: Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Danny DeVito, Betty White, Rob Riggle, Jenny Slate, Nasim Pedrad
Watching movies is never going to compete with a hike in the great outdoors, but how thrilling would it be to see a new generation turned on to Ted Geisel's 1971 eco-tragedy---as close as the author got to apocalyptic? For its Blade Runner--like smogscapes alone, this retelling of the nightmare (well-anchored by Ed Helms's "Once-ler," a likably ambitious young man with a guitar) comes close to recommendable. Down go the Truffula trees, out pops Danny DeVito's pissed-off woodland spirit, and suddenly you're watching a cautionary tale that no number of ancillary Lorax toys is going to dispel. (Geisel himself was aware of the irony of his popular book requiring forests to publish.)
Unfortunately, a new problem rears its head: It seems no young audience member can be trusted to enjoy a thoughtful story without a heroic, borderline-obnoxious surrogate (here, he's voiced by Zac Efron) zooming around on a scooter, bonking villainous heads and saving the day. Blame the trend on Home Alone, but few modern-day directors are impervious to it, not even Martin Scorsese and the non-Mlis parts of Hugo. The point of The Lorax isn't to see that preserved Truffula seed planted and Taylor Swift's lust object smooched. It's to inspire audiences to act out of fear. And we haven't earned this happy ending. Joshua Rothkopf
Weekly box office: Dhs78,935 Weekly admissions: 2,478 Total box office: Dhs4,362,395 Total admissions: 102,422
8 Retreat Director: Carl Tibbetts Stars: Cillian Murphy, Jamie Bell, Thandie Newton
After a distressing miscarriage, journalist Kate (Newton) and her architect husband Martin (Murphy) return to a remote island where they once spent an idyllic holiday to try to save their marriage. But a dodgy generator, a broken CB radio and the unexpected arrival of injured soldier Jack (Bell), who rants about a fatal airborne virus and a global pandemic, expose the couple’s vulnerabilities, pitting them against the interloper and each other.
Tibbetts’ laboured attempts to ratchet up the tension are not helped by below-par performances from the three poorly served leads – or by an increasing suspicion that he is about to pull a barely credible final twist out of the bag. Nigel Floyd
Weekly box office: Dhs91,103 Weekly admissions: 2,645 Total box office: Dhs91,103 Total admissions: 2,645
7 In the Land of Blood and Honey Director: Angelina Jolie Stars: Zana Marjanovic, Goran Kostic, Rade Serbedzija, Nikola Djuricko, Branko Djuric, Dzana Pinjo, Alma Terzic
We’ve seen Angelina Jolie hang out of cars and shoot people, raid tombs in form-fitting tops and appear as the more substantial part of a globally famous twosome. But if her celebrity has brought this tough Bosnian war drama into being, then the whole Brangelina thing can’t be half bad.
Jolie’s In the Land of Blood and Honey is an admirably complex take on the horror of camps where Serb militia men performed ritual humiliations upon Bosnian women. This isn’t material to be traipsed over, nor clopped on earnestly, and Jolie’s original script – yes – finds a deft personalisation to the crisis in delicate artist Ajla (Marjanovic), a prisoner, and conflicted Danijel (Kostic, terrific), a Serb officer who once escorted her on a pre-war date. Now he keeps Ajla as his exclusive plaything, ostensibly to protect her from worse offenders.
Occasionally, the movie italicises its points with heavy musical drones, but its tone is remarkably even and concentrated. It makes sense that Jolie excels at stewarding the scenes she usually tears apart on screen: two people struggling in an emotional death grip, the camera up close. Joshua Rothkopf
Weekly box office: Dhs113,822 Weekly admissions: 3,202 Total box office: Dhs113,822 Total admissions: 3,202
6 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: Dhs129,645 Weekly admissions: 3,679 Total box office: Dhs7,053,224 Total admissions: 185,150
5 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. Ben Kenigsberg Weekly box office: Dhs356,885 Weekly admissions: 8,935 Total box office: Dhs1,182,694 Total admissions: 30,027
4 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: Dhs399,480 Weekly admissions: 11,125 Total box office: Dhs5,907,934 Total admissions: 152,296
3 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: Dhs935,791 Weekly admissions: 25,082 Total box office: Dhs3,740,807 Total admissions: 95,780
Emraan Hashmi returns for more lip-locking and lip synching in Jannat 2. After tackling such subjects as adultery, match fixing, the illegal diamond trade, serial killers and racial abuse, producers Mukesh and Mahesh Bhatt turn their attention to the illegal arms trade in Delhi. What would the Bhatts do if crime disappeared from the world? Bake?
Those who missed Jannat part one needn’t worry. Hashmi’s Arjun Dixit died in that movie, and he doesn’t rise from the dead in part two. Rather, Hashmi plays the same character – a man who tries to right his wrongs after he falls in love. Hashmi is Sonu, a small-time gun supplier whose life takes a dramatic turn when he meets Pratap (Randeep Hooda), an inebriated, grief-stricken cop whose wife has been killed by dacoits. Pratap pledges to put an end to weapon trafficking. He coaxes Sonu into working as an informer and tracking down the big boss of the crooked enterprise. But all Sonu wants is to clean up his act and lead a happy life with the benevolent doctor Jhanvi (debutant Esha Gupta).
Every single plot development in Shagufta Rafique’s screenplay can be predicted. Sanjay Masoom’s profanity-laden dialogue loses its shock value early on. Apart from a couple of well-executed car chases in the bylanes of Delhi, there isn’t much in terms of action. The obligatory love-making moments between Hashmi and Gupta are tepid when compared to the light-hearted bromance of Hashmi’s crook with Hooda’s cop. The duo’s brash, potty-mouthed banter saves the movie from being an altogether drab affair. Suhani Singh
Weekly box office: Dhs1,050,854 Weekly admissions: 32,812 Total box office: Dhs1,050,854 Total admissions: 32,812
1 The Avengers Director: Joss Whedon Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner
It’s official: spring 2012 will forever be known as Joss Whedon season. Not content with co-writing and producing the best film of the year so far, the berserk horror romp The Cabin in the Woods , he’s now scripted and directed the season’s biggest. And if The Avengers doesn’t feel quite as Whedon-esque as Cabin, it retains enough of his ff-kilter wit and attention to character to set it high above your average multiplex crowd-pleaser.
For those unfamiliar with the Marvel canon, the Avengers comics unite superheroes from across the company’s roster who are together tasked with taking on Loki, who plans to flood the world with evil skeleton monsters from outer space. It’s not rare to see a blockbuster skimp on plot, but that tendency is taken to new extremes here: the story is just a bare frame on which Whedon hangs his characters and action sequences. But that – and a few dodgy CGI effects – is the only major fault. This is as close as cinema gets to a fairground ride: it’s shiny, noisy and exhilarating. Whedon directs with a sledgehammer, bashing the audience, with action piled upon action.
The Avengers may not be the Joss Whedon movie everyone remembers in 2012, but it does offer this hugely talented writer-director the opportunity (and the budget) to show what he’s capable of. Tom Huddleston
Weekly box office: Dhs11,944,260 Weekly admissions: 265,792 Total box office: Dhs11,944,260 Total admissions: 265,792