Which big-budget sci-fi flick has you flocking to the cinema?
Time Out staff
10 Ted Director: Seth MacFarlane Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane, Joel McHale, Giovanni Ribisi, Patrick Warburton, Matt Walsh, Jessica Barth, Aedin Mincks
Christmas, Boston, 1985. Seven-year-old John wishes his teddy could come to life and be his best friend forever. A star shoots by, the wish is granted, delight ensues. Which is all very Spielberg. Then the bear works the talk shows, becomes a has-been and turns into a feckless hanger-on as John becomes a thirtysomething delayed adolescent with a taste for reckless escapism and kitsch pop culture. That bit’s very Seth MacFarlane.
Ted is the first feature from the creator of Family Guy and American Dad and shares their hyper-savvy sense of humour and yen for man-creature buddy dynamics. Though not as nuanced or engaging as Brian the dog from Family Guy or Roger the alien from American Dad, the computer-animated Ted – voiced by MacFarlane – is of the same type, surfing on his share of neuroses but basically the smartest guy in the room. If he were a guy.
Whether you enjoy the movie will depend on how much you like Ted. There are plenty of strong gags of the MacFarlane school, and the funniest moments involve Ted in full, rude flow, either holding forth or engaged in brawling, partying and other un-teddy-bear-like activities. Other than that, there’s little going on. MacFarlane opts for a predictable story in which the adult John (Wahlberg) is under pressure from his girlfriend (Kunis) to get his life together. She’s fending off a slimeball at work and Ted is being bugged by a fan (Ribisi), and that’s it. The plot runs out of steam, squandering its jeopardy and limping towards a cop-out climax with no technical flair to keep things going.
In many ways, Ted is reminiscent of Ricky Gervais’s misfiring film vehicles Ghost Town and The Invention of Lying: narcissistically over-reliant on the supposed charms of their leads, these movies are banal as films and mildly objectionable in tone. Women are long-suffering stooges who either crack up at the blokes’ gags or roll their eyes at their childishness. Sure, MacFarlane, you can make us laugh, but it’s time to grow up. Seriously. Ben Walters
Weekly box office: Dhs324,645 Weekly admissions: 8,794 Total box office: Dhs2,946,158 Total admissions: 75,783
9 Step Up 4: Miami Heat Director: Scott Speer Stars: Kathryn McCormick, Ryan Guzman and Cleopatra Coleman
Released as Step Up Revolution elsewhere, this latest instalment of the fleet-footed, dim-witted dance franchise introduces a fresh batch of attractively inexpressive urban toe-tappers, here under threat from Peter Gallagher’s oily property magnate.
Naturally, the way to save their working-class seafront community is to stage a series of elaborate pop-up dance routines in a range of moneyed hangouts before selling out at the first sniff of corporate sponsorship. It’s equal parts Flashdance, Burlesque and Lambada, all parts ludicrous – but abetted by in-your-face 3D, the dancing is astonishing, unexpectedly conceptual choreography. Time Out staff
Weekly box office: Dhs411,911 Weekly admissions: 9,450 Total box office: Dhs7,865,219 Total admissions: 172,819
8 Brave Director: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman Stars: Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson
With past achievements including the Toy Story trilogy, Finding Nemo and Wall-E, Pixar has pushed the envelope for digital animation so many times that there’s a tiny bit of disappointment involved when its latest offering turns out to be merely really good rather than an absolute knockout. It does offer the company’s first female heroine, a tomboy-ish medieval Scots princess, Merida (Macdonald). But its blend of warrior adventure, parental bonding, scary bits and cute hi-jinks leans more to established, slightly predictable Disney formulae than usual.
Yet Brave remains enjoyable. It’s grounded in authentic emotional conflict as free-spirited teenager Merida fails to see why her mum, the Queen (Thompson), insists on getting her married, since she’d rather be off shooting arrows than standing beside some stupid nobleman. With a super voice cast – including Billy Connolly and Kevin McKidd – clearly having a ball, there’s a degree of knockabout in the air, but no sense of shortbread-tin tweeness. No, not another Pixar classic, but for full-on family fun it’s a brave effort. Time Out staff
Weekly box office: Dhs530,982 Weekly admissions: 13,100 Total box office: Dhs7,364,749 Total admissions: 167,327
7 Lawless Director: John Hillcoat Stars: Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, Guy Pearce, Jason Clarke, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, Dane DeHaan
Virginia, 1931: a time of good men, bad cops, pretty girls and a world turned rotten by poverty and prohibition. Cinema has been in this glorified world many times before, and John Hillcoat and Nick Cave (yep, the musician), working together for the first time since 2005’s The Proposition, don’t much surprise with the thrust of their bone-cracking true tale of the bootlegging Bondurant brothers: Jack (LaBeouf), Forrest (Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clarke). In a rural backwater the boys run up against various obstacles: a mean cop from Chicago, Charley Rakes (Pearce); an Al Capone type from the big smoke, Floyd Banner (Oldman); and two beautiful women whose backgrounds stand in the way of love (Mia Wasikowska and Jessica Chastain).
Lawless is not a nuanced tale: the Bondurants begin as honest, if extremely violent, folk and finish up that way. Even the small-town cops seem apologetic whenever they have to put an awkward question or two to the brothers. Locally the boys have a reputation for being invincible, such is their ability to bounce back from adversity.
Hillcoat and Cave’s decision to be very liberal with the bloodletting and throat-cutting – knuckledusters in faces, body parts in jars – doesn’t stop their film from feeling a bit too pretty, in the same way that Wasikowska and Chastain are perhaps too glossily beautiful for Jack and Forrest’s respective love interests. Where Lawless has more to offer is Benoît Delhomme’s photography – there are great pastoral shots – and a relaxed direction by Hillcoat that gives time to endearing performances and a strong sense of time and place.
There’s little in Lawless to upset a romantic vision of the Bondurants’ lives and experiences. That’s surely because Cave’s script is based on a 2008 novel, The Wettest County in the World, by Matt Bondurant, the grandson of one of the brothers. Hillcoat and Cave tell this tale from a perspective of blind fondness, like elderly relatives romanticising their ancestors around the fireplace. It makes for an oddly comfy experience considering the death and hurt at the film’s core. Dave Calhoun
Weekly box office: Dhs600,431 Weekly admissions: 14,900 Total box office: Dhs600,431 Total admissions: 14,900
6 The Expendables 2 Director: Simon West Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Liam Hemsworth, Randy Couture, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Terry Crews
Instead of a pension, the 66-year-old Sylvester Stallone has discovered a better way to reward the action-film icons of yesteryear: give them a franchise! The sequel gets even closer to his steroidal ’80s-movie ideal than the original 2010 commando-genre reboot, as Stallone heads a team of mercenaries that includes shoot-’em-up stars of the past (Dolph Lundgren), present (Jason Statham) and possibly future (Liam Hemsworth). Meanwhile, Jean-Claude Van Damme plays a villainous character named Vilain, a mumbling gang leader out to steal six tons of plutonium. Only the crew known as the Expendables, with a geriatric assist from happy-to-be-there heroes Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis and Chuck Norris, can stop him. These vein popping he-men proceed to blast away evildoers with howitzer-level firepower, bad puns and stare-downs – in short, the holy trinity of Reagan-era cheese. Thankfully, The Expendables 2 also inherits the physicality of that bygone decade’s fight scenes, as director Simon West stages battles with clarity and blunt impact. The highlight is a bruising pas de deux between Statham and direct-to-video star Scott Adkins, a sequence that channels yesteryear’s testosteronised cinema instead of exhuming it. You can only hope the inevitable third entry will use that as a model. R. Emmet Sweeney (Time Out New York)
Weekly box office: Dhs590,465 Weekly admissions: 16,445 Total box office: Dhs8,693,556 Total admissions: 235,925
5 The Dark Knight Rises Director: Christopher Nolan Stars: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Gary Oldman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine
It’s been a summer of expectations. There was The Avengers, which ticked all the right boxes and made a truckload of dosh, and Prometheus, which disappointed most but still managed to ring a few tills. Now here comes the biggie: can Christopher Nolan see out his Bat trilogy in style? Can he make that so-far-elusive five-star superhero movie, or at least live up to the eye-popping standard he set with 2008’s The Dark Knight?
The answers are yes, no, and mostly. As its running time suggests (165 minutes!), The Dark Knight Rises is a sprawling, epic feast of a movie, stuffed to the gills with side characters, subplots and diversions. Yet there’s nothing here to match the intensity of Heath Ledger’s Joker, and the movie feels weaker for it.
We’re reintroduced to Bruce Wayne, aka Batman (Bale), living as a recluse, holed up in the east wing of Wayne Manor. But when marauding, mask-wearing psycho Bane (Hardy) muscles in with the intention of kick-starting a popular revolution, Bruce must don the cape and cowl once again. There’s also Anne Hathaway as a slinky, burgling Catwoman and lots of confusing financial shenanigans with the shareholders of Wayne Enterprises.
But when the Bat flies, such considerations go out the window. Nolan creates a grand, dirty, engrossing world, and his action sequences just hum. Predictable perhaps, but as our heroes swoop off into the sunset, we realise we’ve been witness to something truly impressive: a seven-year cinematic adventure that combined the epic and the personal in dizzying, inventive, sometimes perplexing, often enthralling, always imaginative ways. Tom Huddleston
Weekly box office: Dhs754,153 Weekly admissions: 17,557 Total box office: Dhs13,211,555 Total admissions: 322,218
4 Total Recall Director: Len Wiseman Stars: Colin Farrell, Bokeem Woodbine, Bryan Cranston, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bill Nighy, John Cho
The first question, of course, is why. Why take a film that has barely aged a day since its release in 1990 and subject it to the CG remake treatment? The second is who? What director worth his stripes would even attempt such a folly, and who could he persuade to be in it?
To be fair, Total Recall isn’t the unmitigated disaster many had predicted. Its future world is nicely detailed, if deeply derivative (rain, neon, Chinese people on bikes), the action sequences occasionally spark, and the central conceit of an economically and socially divided Earth linked by a lift passing through the planet’s core is interesting enough to almost – almost – begin to justify this project.
But the positives end there. As Doug Quaid, the seemingly ordinary Joe who finds out he’s really a double-agent super spy, Colin Farrell manages to be even less convincing than Arnold Schwarzenegger. The women in his life, especially Kate Beckinsale in the badass Sharon Stone role, are beyond dull, while poor Bill Nighy is relegated to a few portentous lines before being unceremoniously knocked off.
But the real culprit here is director Len Wiseman. There’s no denying his eye for a surprising angle, an unusual location – but the editing is so confusing, the action so consequence-free that it becomes almost unwatchable. Total Recall is Hollywood hack-work at its worst: pointless, witless, and so very unnecessary. Tom Huddleston Weekly box office: Dhs811,101 Weekly admissions: 21,348 Total box office: Dhs2,918,944 Total admissions: 74,712
3 Teta Rahiba Director: Sameh Abdel Aziz Stars: Mohammad Hindi, Emme Samir Ghanem
Translates as My Horrible Grandma, this Arabic movie is a story about young man’s trials with his controlling grandmother. Stars Mohamed Heneidy, Amy Sameer Ghanem, and Samiha Ayoub, is written by Youssef Moaty, and is directed by Sameh Abdel Aziz. Time Out Dubai staff
Weekly box office: Dhs883,085 Weekly admissions: 25,290 Total box office: Dhs883,085 Total admissions: 25,290
2 The Bourne Legacy Director: Tony Gilroy Stars: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Scott Glenn, Stacy Keach, Donna Murphy, Michael Chernus
No offence to Matt Damon, whose sinewy physicality provides its own kind of charisma, but do action heroes come any duller than amnesia-stricken supersoldier Jason Bourne? The more this humourless cipher learned about his mysterious past, over the course of three brisk, mechanically efficient chase pictures, the less interesting he became. So it’s a relief, not a liability, that the titular operative makes only a photographic cameo in The Bourne Legacy, which passes the torch to a new CIA lab rat gone rogue.
Introduced in the middle of Alaskan training, chemically enhanced field agent Aaron Cross immediately registers as a more vulnerable and sympathetic protagonist than his predecessor. Much of that has to do with the fact that he’s played by Hurt Locker headliner – and the Mission: Impossible franchise’s new leading man – Jeremy Renner, who lends a human heartbeat to a franchise that has long trafficked in coldly impersonal spy games.
After a crowded first act, partially set during the events of 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum and featuring enough global setting changes to give audiences jet lag, Cross discovers he’s a marked man. Going on the run from his makers, he eventually joins forces with a government scientist (Weisz) also on the execution list.
Director and series screenwriter Tony Gilroy makes these familiar plot points feel fresh again, staging the requisite set pieces – rooftop escape, metropolitan car chase – with a new-found clarity that’s a long way from the handheld incoherence of Paul Greengrass’s Bourne films. A too-abrupt ending lays the groundwork for more Bourne adventures, but that’s not such a depressing proposition, if we can expect future sequels to be as satisfying as this one. AA Dowd Weekly box office: Dhs1,257,103 Weekly admissions: 32,497 Total box office: Dhs4,560,373 Total admissions: 116,300
1 Stolen Director: Simon West Stars: Nicolas Cage, Malin Akerman, Josh Lucas
Will (Cage) is a con fresh out the clink who goes straight and burns thousands of dollars of dirty loot. But his old partner is less than happy, and kidnaps Will’s teenage daughter in a bid to get the money back. Our reformed hero has 12 hours to steal ten big ones before you-know-what, fighting against the law and the mob in pursuit of the greater good. Directed by Simon West (Con Air, The Expendables 2), you’re in safe hands. No alarms. No surprises. But plenty of silly action thrills. Rob Garratt
Weekly box office: Dhs1,852,816 Weekly admissions: 46,746 Total box office: Dhs1,852,816 Total admissions: 46,746