No surprises: Bond is back at the top of the charts
Time Out Dubai staff
10 Ruby Sparks Director: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris Stars: Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan and Annette Bening
Directed by the husband and wife team behind the indie smash Little Miss Sunshine, there’s plenty of bitter in the bittersweet here, and the script is observant about how we try to control relationships – making this a smart, modern movie. And how often can you say that about a modern romcom? Cath Clarke
Weekly box office: Dhs84,548 Weekly admissions: 2,291 Total box office: Dhs84,548 Total admissions: 2,291
9 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: Dhs96,057 Weekly admissions: 2,768 Total box office: Dhs759,854 Total admissions: 19,075
8 Saa Wi Nos Director: Wael Ehsan Stars: Somiah Al Khashab, Fathi Abdel Wahab
Arabic film directed by Wael Ehsan. Time Out staff
Weekly box office: Dhs161,515 Weekly admissions: 4,608 Total box office: Dhs460,663 Total admissions: 13,162
7 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: Dhs352,843 Weekly admissions: 9,821 Total box office: Dhs1,554,685 Total admissions: 43,532
6 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: Dhs525,034 Weekly admissions: 12,569 Total box office: Dhs2,149,378 Total admissions: 52,655
5 Pitch Perfect Director: Jason Moore Stars: Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow, Rebel Wilson, Skylar Astin, Ben Platt, Alexis Knapp, Ester Dean, Hana Mae Lee, Kelley Jakle
The resplendent Anna Kendrick and Bridesmaids’ Rebel Wilson are the only reasons Pitch Perfect qualifies as a movie. Otherwise, this functionally shot feature from the director of Broadway’s Shrek the Musical alternately resembles Glee and a pre-canned American Idol episode.
Kendrick stars as incoming college freshman Beca, an aspiring DJ goaded into joining a sorority-like a cappella group desperate to recover from last year’s final-round humiliation. In between playlist spats, Beca falls for Jesse (Skylar Astin), who introduces her to The Breakfast Club, noting it has the ‘greatest ending to any movie ever’.
At its sitcom-level plotting there’s a tiresome running gag – the way the Bellas use ‘a ca-’ as a prefix for everything. How a ca-nnoying. Ben Kenigsberg
Weekly box office: Dhs590,957 Weekly admissions: 16,619 Total box office: Dhs590,957 Total admissions: 16,619
4 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: Dhs827,771 Weekly admissions: 23,184 Total box office: Dhs8,838,934 Total admissions: 231,510
3 House at the End of the Street Director: Mark Tonderai Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Elisabeth Shue, Max Thieriot, Gil Bellows, Nolan Gerard Funk, Eva Link, Allie MacDonald, Jordan Hayes
Something horrible from the past has come back to haunt Jennifer Lawrence – and it’s called House at the End of the Street. Shot two years ago, before the actress scored the lead in The Hunger Games, this utterly incompetent psychological thriller finds Lawrence’s new-girl-in-town cosying up to the handsome, sad-eyed college boy (Thieriot) next door. This horror film marks time until dropping its big, dumb reveal. How big and dumb, you ask? We refer you to co-screenwriter David Loucka’s last movie, Dream House – an equally moronic and twist-laden dose of residential evil. AA Dowd
Weekly box office: Dhs1,221,467 Weekly admissions: 34,575 Total box office: Dhs1,221,467 Total admissions: 34,575
2 Hotel Transylvania Director: Genndy Tartakovsky Stars: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Fran Drescher, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon
No one does saccharine like Adam Sandler. The man can be sharp, angry and funny – but when he lays on the sweetness, it’s like drowning in an avalanche of syrup. Even in animated form, as the voice of the world’s most famous bloodsucker, Sandler achieves sickening levels of ickiness and so sinks this otherwise pleasurable cartoon romp. He’s Count Dracula, owner of a hotel for ghouls, and on the eve of his daughter’s 118th birthday, he starts to fear that she’ll leave him for the big, bad world.
There’s plenty to like: the animation is crisp and the action well designed. But the script – co-written, astonishingly, by former The Day Today scribe Peter Baynham – is a mass of lazy father-daughter clichés, and it climaxes with the most stomach-churning song-and-dance sequence this side of High School Musical. Tom Huddleston
Weekly box office: Dhs3,902,039 Weekly admissions: 85,223 Total box office: Dhs3,902,039 Total admissions: 85,223
1 Skyfall Director: Sam Mendes Stars: Daniel Craig, Helen McCrory, Javier Bardem, Bérénice Marlohe, Ben Whishaw, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris
‘Were you expecting an exploding pen? We don’t really go in for that any more.’ That’s Ben Whishaw’s Q to Daniel Craig’s James Bond in Skyfall, a Bond movie that struts forward while looking back over its shoulder to the past. That’s what the 007 films are all about – an evolving mix of tradition and progress – and here we have director Sam Mendes bringing to the franchise a stately look, sombre mood and ample room to breathe.
The Bond films are savvy magpies, smartly pinching the shiniest, newest jewels of movie-making for themselves. Quantum of Solace (2008) came a cropper by putting its hand too obviously in the till of the Bourne films.
But Skyfall much more subtly takes its cues not only from the current, moodier breed of superhero movies, but also from the world around us. There are nods to terrorism, data theft, hacking and even attention-grabbing government inquiries – but nothing is specific or exact enough to mean anything significant. This is a Bond movie: atmosphere is all. The appearance of contemporary relevance is enough.
The story sees Bond in an emotional crisis after a failed mission to Istanbul leaves the names of secret agents in the hands of an unknown villain. Trips to Shanghai and Macau follow as 007 pulls himself together and tries to find the culprit. Meanwhile, a delicious foe emerges in Silva (Bardem), a camp, creepy and smooth character who dares to challenge Bond’s masculinity.
Skyfall is a highly distinctive Bond movie. It has some stunning visual touches, and it mostly manages to convince us of Bond’s emotional life beyond this story: rooting his crisis in his relationship (or lack of) with his parents. Mendes knows there’s a risk of coming over po-faced by omitting the traditional pleasures of a Bond movie, and its only in the second half of the film, which takes place entirely in the UK, that you get the feeling the director has played the compulsory 007 cards that any Bond director has to. Dave Calhoun
Weekly box office: Dhs9,062,642 Weekly admissions: 222,113 Total box office: Dhs9,062,642 Total admissions: 222,113