10 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: Dhs74,192 Weekly admissions: 2,125 Total box office: Dhs7,233,258 Total admissions: 190,290
9 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: Dhs96,424 Weekly admissions: 2,398 Total box office: Dhs6,224,216 Total admissions: 160,664
8 Bel Ami Director: Declan Donnellan, Nick Ormerod Stars: Robert Pattinson, Uma Thurman, Kristin Scott Thomas
Robert Pattinson steps into the shoes of antihero Georges Duroy for this lively, if muddled, adaptation of Guy de Maupassant’s 1885 novel. Duroy is a likeable rogue in a world of scoundrels, an ex-soldier in Paris who crosses the threshold of the chattering classes into a web of high-class intrigue that stretches from the boardroom to the bedroom.
Bel Ami is diverting and sometimes amusing, and Pattinson is adequate in the lead – pretty enough to convince as a womaniser, but with enough of a hint of ambition and a moral vacuum behind the eyes. There are serious themes afoot concerning backroom dealing in politics and media, but these are never fully brought out. This Bel Ami is spirited and sensible, but little more than period fluff.
Weekly box office: Dhs132,197 Weekly admissions: 3,690 Total box office: Dhs132,197 Total admissions: 3,690
7 The Moth Diaries Director: Mary Harron Stars: Sarah Bolger, Sarah Gadon, Lily Cole, Judy Parfitt, Melissa Farman, Laurence Hamelin, Gia Sandhu, Valerie Tian
Moths start life as formless, homely things before becoming mesmerising creatures blessed with the gift of flight. The filmmakers adapting Rachel Klein’s 2002 novel about a spooky boarding school have gone in the opposite route by taking an intriguing story about female neuroses and turning it into Twilight-lite.
A disturbed young woman finds her best friend being stolen away by the new girl on campus. Several people who aren’t on this transfer student’s good side wind up dead. Carmilla, our heroine begins to wonder: is her creepy classmate a… vampire?
Where is the filmmaker who gave us such memorable monsters as Patrick Bateman and Valerie Solanas? Someone has apparently stolen Mary Harron’s identity and is making movies under her name.
Weekly box office: Dhs196,996 Weekly admissions: 5,673 Total box office: Dhs196,996 Total admissions: 5,673
In Italy there’s a whole marketing world based around the Winx characters – TV shows, video games, books, clothes, DVDs – and now this second movie, in 3D. At the birth of a new school year, Icy, Darcy and Stormy are threatened by the evil Trix witches. In the absence of Princess Bloom, they must face the Trix alone.
Weekly box office: Dhs309,088 Weekly admissions: 6,545 Total box office: Dhs309,088 Total admissions: 6,545
5 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: Dhs333,261 Weekly admissions: 7,995 Total box office: Dhs4,664,844 Total admissions: 118,801
4 The Five-Year Engagement Director: Nicholas Stoller Stars: Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Chris Pratt, Alison Brie, Lauren Weedman, Mimi Kennedy, David Paymer, Jacki Weaver, Jim Piddock
All engaged couples go through rough patches on their journey toward walking down the aisle; for Tom (Segel) and Violet (Blunt), the road gets especially rocky. No sooner have the two lovebirds announced their nuptials than a career opportunity for the would-be bride forces a relocation from the Bay Area to Minnesota. Wedding plans are put on indefinite hold; as the years go on, resentments build up, emotional funk gives way to awful facial hair, and arguments become increasingly nasty.
Nicholas Stoller’s relationship-roller-coaster comedy has hints that something stronger and slightly edgier might lie beneath its smooth surface. But whereas Stoller and Segel did wonders with the formula in 2008’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall, a certain overfamiliarity creeps in long before the going gets rough. Combine that with outright laziness about using the filmmaking to complement the funny – would it kill people to construct a scene that doesn’t cut away after a punchline? – and the fact that relying on Segel and Blunt’s ample charms alone simply isn’t enough to carry an unnecessarily long, winding storyline, and the sense of deflation soon becomes overwhelming. There are two love affairs that are in danger of falling to pieces here, and only one of them is on the screen. David Fear
Weekly box office: Dhs402,211 Weekly admissions: 10,889 Total box office: Dhs1,176,141 Total admissions: 32,143
3 Cabin in the Woods Director: Drew Goddard Stars: Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Chris Hemsworth, Kristen Connolly, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams
Every few years, a horror movie comes along that promises to revitalise the genre, sometimes for the better (Night of the Living Dead, Ringu), sometimes not (Saw, Hostel). From the pen of Buffy creator Joss Whedon and Cloverfield scribe Drew Goddard, The Cabin in the Woods doesn’t so much set out to reinvigorate horror as pick it apart, analyse it, laugh at it, and then blow it to smithereens just for kicks. It’s the funniest horror film since Evil Dead 2, and one of the most entertaining movies of the year.
It begins as Hadley (Jenkins) and Sitterson (Whitford) discuss baby-proofing in an office building. Cut to a gang of nubile youngsters, heading off to a remote cabin for fun and frolics. How might the two stories connect? And what’s going on in the cabin?
It’s remarkable to see a mainstream movie touch on so many fascinating, powerful ideas without losing sight of its prime directive: to scare the socks off its audience. Tom Huddleston
Weekly box office: Dhs404,260 Weekly admissions: 11,367 Total box office: Dhs1,422,043 Total admissions: 40,342
2 Dark Shadows Director: Tim Burton Stars: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green, Helena Bonham Carter, Jackie Earle Haley, Jonny Lee Miller, Bella Heathcote
Of all the oddballs Johnny Depp has played for Tim Burton, few have been as one-note amusing as Barnabas Collins, the resurrected vampire aristocrat of Dark Shadows. Don’t be fooled by his ghostly pallor or Nosferatu fingernails: Barnabas is a gentleman, even when it comes to the undignified business of sinking his teeth into a stranger’s jugular. Buried for two centuries, he awakes to a brave new ’70s world of bell-bottoms and sideburns, mistaking the neon glow of a McDonald’s for a satanic oracle.
The bloodsucker as a befuddled tourist is an old joke. So thank Mephistopheles for Depp, whose deadpan delivery punches up easy gags about Lava lamps and Scooby-Doo. Even Eva Green throws herself into the role of bombshell villainess with gusto: Depp may have the fangs, but she’s the one with bite.
For all its fish-out-of-water dopiness, Dark Shadows comes closer to the unhinged, black-comic spirit of early Burton than anything the director has made in years. A.A. Dowd
Weekly box office: Dhs2,069,201 Weekly admissions: 54,844 Total box office: Dhs2,069,201 Total admissions: 54,844
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: Dhs 3,040,274 Weekly admissions: 66,940 Total box office: Dhs20,566,380 Total admissions: 455,490