Which time-travel has the cash registers going loopy?
Time Out Dubai staff
10 The Expatriate Director: Philipp Stölzl Stars: Olga Kurylenko, Aaron Eckhart, Liana Liberato
This thriller, starring The Dark Knight’s Aaron Eckhart as an ex-CIA agent on the run, made its debut in Taiwan. Director Philipp Stölzl is best known for directing the music video for Garbage’s 1999 Bond theme ‘The World Is Not Enough’, while Olga Kurylenko was the Bond girl in Quantum of Solace. Perhaps the movie’s release here aims to fuel a wave of Bond-fever, building ahead of Bond’s 23rd adventure Skyfall, released on Friday October 26. Rob Garratt
Weekly box office: Dhs216,118 Weekly admissions: 6,102 Total box office: Dhs1,209,083 Total admissions: 32,404
9 Vicky and the Treasure of the Gods Director: Christian Ditter Stars: Jonas Hämmerle, Waldemar Kobus, Valeria Eisenbart, Olaf Krätke, Christian Koch
Children’s film. When viking Sven the Terrible kidnaps Halvar, his father Wickie is presented with an opportunity to prove his valour. Rob Garratt
Weekly box office: Dhs262,121 Weekly admissions: 6,786 Total box office: Dhs512,255 Total admissions: 12,989
8 Arbitrage Director: Nicholas Jarecki Stars: Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Brit Marling, Tim Roth, Laetitia Casta, Nate Parker
Intelligently engaging the zeitgeist without sacrificing suspense, Arbitrage arrives as one of the year’s most undervalued assets. Not only is it an absorbing, tightly paced thriller, it’s also a better movie version of The Bonfire of the Vanities than Brian De Palma’s film. The parallels are strong enough that Tom Wolfe could sue: Richard Gere plays Robert Miller, a Wall Street big shot whose universe-mastery has slipped. The financier has just days to sell his company before a friend withdraws a multi-million-dollar loan. Soon a car accident on a late-night drive with his mistress (Laetitia Casta) ensures that if Miller doesn’t go to jail for fraud, he might do time for manslaughter.
Gere, giving one of his most charismatic yet layered performances yet, invites simultaneous awe and revulsion as the character buys or bargains his way out of Dodge, making unconvincing excuses to a detective (Roth) who’s clearly on to him. If the movie, directed by Nicholas Jarecki (brother of filmmakers Eugene and Andrew), lacks Bonfire’s scope and equal-opportunity contempt, it has a more complex take on finance, depicted as a culture of endemic backslapping and elaborate charlatanism. The movie is also opening this week’s Abu Dhabi Film Festival. Nicholas Jarecki
Weekly box office: Dhs308,799 Weekly admissions: 7,071 Total box office: Dhs1,049,869 Total admissions: 24,623
7 Saa Wi Nos Director: Wael Ehsan Stars: Somiah Al Khashab, Fathi Abdel Wahab
Arabic film directed by Wael Ehsan.
Weekly box office: Dhs299,148 Weekly admissions: 8,554 Total box office: Dhs299,148 Total admissions: 8,554
6 The Possession Director: Ole Bornedal Stars: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Natasha Calis, Kyra Sedgwick, Jay Brazeau, Madison Davenport, Matisyahu
A suburban family already torn apart by divorce is almost rent asunder when, unable to decipher the ominous religious inscriptions on a carved wooden box bought at a yard sale, ten-year-old Emily (Calis) opens it, unleashing a host-seeking demon. Emily’s parents, teenage sister and school teachers are bemused and alarmed by her increasingly erratic and violent behaviour.
It all plays out just the way you’d expect. No possession movie cliché is left unused, as sibilant demonic whisperings and exploding light bulbs give way to bodily contortions and husky voices. An anodyne MRI scan stands in for the distressing arteriogram in The Exorcist, but the film was cut to scrape a PG-13 rating in the States, so everything is toned down for a teen audience. Nigel Floyd
Weekly box office: Dhs418,404 Weekly admissions: 11,777 Total box office: Dhs1,665,692 Total admissions: 45,592
5 Special Forces Director: Stéphane Rybojad Stars: Diane Kruger, Djimon Hounsou, Benoît Magimel, Denis Menochet, Raphaël Personnaz, Alain Figlarz, Alain Alivon, Mehdi Nebbou, Raz Degan
Well, this is unexpected – a ballsy French action film. Boasting a plot that would make Sylvester Stallone swoon, a group of six ‘forces spéciales’ soldiers are dropped into war-torn Afghanistan on a mission to recover a kidnapped journalist.
Recalling Antoine Fuqua’s Tears of the Sun, this film comes from first-time director Stéphane Rybojad, who cut his teeth filming documentaries alongside real Special Forces soldiers – so expect a degree of gritty realism lacking from that Hollywood film. Rob Garratt
Weekly box office: Dhs514,380 Weekly admissions: 13,496 Total box office: Dhs514,380 Total admissions: 13,496
4 End of Watch Director: David Ayer Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Peña, Anna Kendrick, Natalie Martinez, David Harbour, Frank Grillo, America Ferrera
Training Day screenwriter David Ayer’s Los Angeles-set police thriller begins with a smug fairy-tale invocation (‘Once upon a time in South Central…’), then plunges us headlong into the stout-hearted, profanity-laden world of California patrol officers Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Peña). Taylor is taking a filmmaking class, hence all the soulful direct addresses about a flatfoot’s forlorn life. But our hero isn’t the only one with a camera: there are some warring gangsters who also like recording their exploits – or at least their f-bomb-laced tirades – and they don’t take it too kindly when the heat crosses them.
End of Watch’s best moments are those between Gyllenhaal and Peña as they drive the beat. The first-person aesthetic, meanwhile, quickly becomes tiresome, and it almost becomes comical to count the number of ‘who’s holding the camera now?’ reverse shots that the filmmaker haphazardly inserts to propel the story forward. Such visual ineptitude, like much else in this tediously arrogant enterprise, is downright criminal. Keith Uhlich
Weekly box office: Dhs625,177 Weekly admissions: 15,204 Total box office: Dhs625,177 Total admissions: 15,204
3 Paranormal Activity 4 Director: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman Stars: Katie Featherston, Kathryn Newton, Matt Shively, Brady Allen, Alisha Boe, Tommy Miranda
The product placement in Paranormal Activity 4 is cynical and distracting, and the only visual innovation the directors can come up with is quickly overused. This is a film content to float on a pool of stagnant ideas: it can’t even be bothered to tread water. Nigel Floyd
Weekly box office: Dhs1,201,842 Weekly admissions: 33,711 Total box office: Dhs1,201,842 Total admissions: 33,711
2 Taken 2 Director: Olivier Megaton Stars: Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, Leland Orser, Jon Gries, D.B. Sweeney, Luke Grimes, Rade Serbedzija
This makes the Death Wish sequels look like The Godfather Part 2. It is one of the laziest, most incompetent mainstream films ever released.
Where the first Taken began with a believably nightmarish scenario – ex-CIA operative Bryan Mills (Neeson) was forced to act when his daughter, Kim (Grace), was snatched – the sequel doesn’t bother with fripperies like plot or intrigue. The relatives of the interchangeable, jabbering baddies that Bryan bumped off in the first film now want revenge. They follow him to Istanbul. They try to kill him. They fail. The end.
While much of the blame must fall on scriptwriters Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, the real culprit is director Olivier Megaton; the punch-up in a Turkish bath is marginally less interesting than watching someone else play Street Fighter.
Taken 2 is a cynical film whose sole reason for existing appears to be to squeeze the pockets of anyone who enjoyed the first movie. Don’t give it the satisfaction. Tom Huddleston
Weekly box office: Dhs1,239,573 Weekly admissions: 34,067 Total box office: Dhs8,011,164 Total admissions: 208,326
1 Looper Director: Rian Johnson Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Noah Segan, Piper Perabo, Jeff Daniels, Pierce Gagnon
The first thing you notice is Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s face. Has the star of Inception lost a fight with an orbital sander? His nose is oddly flat, his forehead unnaturally smooth. It’s distracting – which is a problem, because Looper offers the kind of head-bending sci-fi that you don’t want to be distracted from. Look away, and you’ll miss something important.
The face is intentional, of course: like a futuristic take on the surgerised celebrity lookalikes in LA Confidential, Gordon-Levitt has had a digital facelift to make him resemble Bruce Willis. In fact his character – gangland assassin Joe – is destined to become Willis, drop back through a portal in time and confront his ‘current’ self. Confused? If you pay attention, you won’t be.
The plot of writer-director Rian Johnson’s third feature is far too convoluted to explain: let’s just say it involves time travel, organised crime, future terrorism, death, loss, hope, regret and genetic mutation. But it’s to Johnson’s credit that, for the attentive viewer, none of these frantic plot contortions ever becomes bewildering: Looper lays out a wealth of clever, intriguing concepts lucidly and with precision.
Not that any of these ideas is particularly new. Both the time-travel structure and a late-arriving, even more compelling subplot involving Emily Blunt as an isolated woman with a unique child are familiar from decades of sci-fi, notably The Terminator, Twelve Monkeys and Jerome Bixby’s wonderful 1953 short story It’s a Good Life (memorably adapted for The Twilight Zone).
But, as with his 2005 debut Brick, it’s how Johnson organises these elements that makes Looper special. Nothing is predictable or comfortable: both the beautifully designed world of Kansas City 2042 and the characters who inhabit it feel entirely real, but also consistently surprising and often disconcerting. As the older version of Joe, brutalised by grief and self-hatred, Willis has never played such an unsympathetic role: although both Gordon-Levitt and Blunt give strong performances, it’s Willis you’ll remember. With this and Moonrise Kingdom, he’s on a roll.
Looper isn’t the super-smart sci-fi masterpiece many had hoped for: logically, it doesn’t quite add up, and there are slow spells. But if Johnson’s main aim was to strike a balance between conceptual cleverness and multiplex thrills, he could hardly have done better. This is a hugely satisfying, enjoyable and thoughtful movie. Tom Huddleston
Weekly box office: Dhs1,624,344 Weekly admissions: 40,086 Total box office: Dhs1,624,344 Total admissions: 40,086