Which movie is temporarily keeping Bilbo off top spot?
Time Out Dubai staff
10 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) withhis 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: Dhs187,311 Weekly admissions: 4,833 Total box office: Dhs17,404,632 Total admissions: 423,196
9 Mr and Mrs Oways (Arabic) Director: Akram Farid Stars: Hamada Hilal, Edward, Boshra, Ahmad Rateb
After his father's death, a young man begins to spend his inheritance quickly, forcing his mother to step in. Her plan: to find her son a bride who will tame him.
Weekly box office: Dhs272,288 Weekly admissions: 7,789 Total box office: Dhs272,288 Total admissions: 7,789
8 Argo Director: Ben Affleck Stars: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Victor Garber, Tate Donovan, Clea DuVall, Scoot McNairy
It’s a little-known fact that Ben Affleck has a degree in Middle Eastern affairs. It’s a qualification he puts to good use in Argo, a nail-biting thriller based (fairly loosely) on real events that manages to mostly avoid expected Hollywood clichés and promote a balanced view of America’s dealings with the Middle East.
For 100 minutes, Argo is close to flawless. Modelling his directorial style on the stark, serious ’70s thrillers of Alan J Pakula and Sidney Lumet, Affleck cranks up the tension expertly. The script is witty and insightful, contrasting US and Iranian popular reactions to the 1979 hostage crisis. There’s not enough attention paid to character development – Mendez, in particular, never comes into sharp focus – but that was true in the Pakula/Lumet films, too, and it’s mitigated by a superb cast, notably Alan Arkin as a Hollywood old-hand.
But the film’s most abiding pleasure lies in the period detail: using multiple film stocks and reportedly blowing up some of the 35mm footage for a grainier texture, Affleck achieves the look, feel, and almost smell of the late ’70s. So it’s a shame he bottles it in the home stretch, bowing to the demands of the multiplex to offer an action-packed climax, and ending on a note of odious sentimentality. It’s almost enough to erase what’s gone before – but that would be to undervalue the skill, intelligence and craft that have gone into this oh-so-nearly brilliant political potboiler. Tom Huddleston
Weekly box office: Dhs381,736 Weekly admissions: 8,478 Total box office: Dhs2,921,127 Total admissions: 66,497
7 Red Dawn Director: Dan Bradley Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Isabel Lucas, Josh Hutcherson, Adrianne Palicki, Connor Cruise, Edwin Hodge, Brett Cullen, Alyssa Diaz
Like John Milius’s 1984 film, the new Red Dawn begins with intimations of global political meltdown: news footage hints that everything from cyberterrorism to the European debt crisis is somehow linked to the North Korean invasion we’re about to see. Second-unit veteran Dan Bradley’s remake has been on the shelf for a few years, but that hasn’t prevented half-baked stabs at topicality. Why bother? As if any scenario is more timeless than teens waging guerrilla warfare to save the nation.
As with 2005’s Assault on Precinct 13, a weird, allegorical original has been made grittier and more ‘real.’ The lead is now a Marine, Jed (Hemsworth), who trains the high-school-age Wolverines to be warriors. Bradley delivers some cleanly cut action, though it can’t compensate for the goofy plot, which dates from a less globalised planet. Ben Kenigsberg
Weekly box office: Dhs324,315 Weekly admissions: 8,874 Total box office: Dhs1,921,979 Total admissions: 48,737
6 The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 Director: Bill Condon Stars: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Ashley Greene, Jackson Rathbone, Kellan Lutz
There’s much talk of ‘forever’ in the fifth and final instalment (or so we’ve been promised) of ‘The Twilight Saga’, the screen’s most vanilla vampire chronicle. It’s an apt word to stress, signifying both the deathless devotion the series has inspired in legions of ferocious fans and the interminable tedium these rather inelegantly protracted films present to the unconverted. Neither camp’s minds are going to be changed by Bill Condon’s alternately thudding and thrilling closer, but that is as it should be: right down to the celebratory parade of every participating player across all five films in the end credits, ‘Breaking Dawn – Part 2’ is less a freestanding film than a victory lap for a franchise that hasn’t wavered in its commitment to its fanbase.
That’s a gentle way of saying that ‘Part 2’ does little to prove the necessity of splitting Stephenie Meyer’s concluding novel, ‘Deathly Hallows’-style, into two halves. The bulk of the book’s most savoury action – sullen teen Bella Swan’s long-delayed sexual awakening, mutant pregnancy and conversion to the bloodsucking faith – was covered in last year’s gratifyingly bonkers exercise in junior Cronenbergia. That leaves the follow-up a rather talky affair for its first half: while the Cullen clan pad around their luxury woodland lodge, discussing intricate global vampire politics and wearing gilets, the film most resembles an underexposed Next catalogue.
By and by, however, an engaging sense of humour emerges, even flirting with self-parody when Taylor Lautner’s lupine Jacob – whose eerily marzipan-like consistency, even in wolf form, remains his sole interesting feature – perfunctorily gets his kit off before Bella’s horrified dad. Across both the ‘Breaking Dawn’ films, that playfulness has been Condon’s chief gift to the series. It pays off grandly in a riotous showdown between the heroes and the malevolent, Michael Sheen-led Volturi tribe, which finds an absurdly ingenious way both to preserve and subvert the contentiously passive climax of Meyer’s novel.
Most energised of all, for once, is Kristen Stewart, often unfairly maligned for a performance restricted by the maddeningly morose behaviour of Bella in human form. Reborn as a vampire, her newly red eyes visibly glint with the pleasure of finally getting to kick some ass, leaving all memories of Edward-Jacob love tussles for the inconsequential dust they are. If we learn anything from this silly but satisfying finale, it’s that everyone could stand to get some vampire in them. Guy Lodge (Time Out London)
Weekly box office: Dhs393,344 Weekly admissions: 10,783 Total box office: Dhs10,888,420 Total admissions: 278,952
5 So Undercover Director: Tom Vaughan Stars: Miley Cyrus, Alexis Knapp and Autumn Reeser
As a tomboyish private eye drafted by an FBI agent to infiltrate a super-girly college sorority and protect a witness’s daughter, Miley Cyrus is hopelessly miscast. Guy Lodge
Weekly box office: Dhs396,958 Weekly admissions: 11,190 Total box office: Dhs396,958 Total admissions: 11,190
4 Anna Karenina Director: Joe Wright Stars: Keira Knightley, Jude Law and Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Many people won’t have noticed that Joe Wright has directed two films since Pride & Prejudice (2005) and Atonement (2007). His LA-set biopic of a homeless cellist, The Soloist (2009), was as sparsely attended as its title implies. More saw Hanna (2011), a startling chase thriller starring Saoirse Ronan (essentially playing Jason Bourne’s kid sister), but they might not have recognised it as the work of a man whose greatest career accolades have come from putting Keira Knightley in lovely period frocks.
On the surface, his latest outing, another adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s oft-filmed doorstop, might seem a retreat to the tried-and-true. Knightley is back. So – and how – are the frocks. But this playfully heightened, sporadically glorious Anna Karenina seems to have picked up more from its heroine’s near-namesake Hanna than you might expect, with Wright kicking the fizzy stylisation of his last film up several notches, into territory that recalls Baz Luhrmann.
Wright’s chief postmodern gambit here is setting Tolstoy’s epic Russian romance – horse races, frozen lakes and all – almost entirely within the confines of a theatre, the characters oblivious to their new context as they emote around stage hands and pulleys. It’s a bravely disorientating move, the play-within-a-film providing an effective metaphor for the inescapable gaze of Moscow high society.
But, as Anna herself learns, all this beauty comes at a price, and while Wright’s ornate contraption dazzles on a scene-to-scene basis, it never really moves us. It’s as if Wright has lavished so much energy on reframing the familiar narrative that the story itself has become secondary: everyone may be inside the theatre in this impressive film, but a Russian chill has crept in anyway. Guy Lodge
Weekly box office: Dhs437,681 Weekly admissions: 11,631 Total box office: Dhs437,681 Total admissions: 11,631
3 Rise of the Guardians Director: Peter Ramsey Stars: Hugh Jackman, Alec Baldwin, Isla Fisher, Jude Law, Dakota Goyo
If you think you know all there is to know about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Sandman and the Tooth Fairy, think again. According to this mostly disposable 3D animated feature, those grand heroes of our childhood don’t only deliver toys, hide eggs, conjure sweet dreams and collect baby teeth. They also wield scimitars, throw boomerangs and command a miniature fairy army. But when bogeyman Pitch threatens the peace, North, Bunnymund, mute Sandy, and Tooth must train reluctant recruit Jack Frost to fight alongside them.
The high-concept silliness wears out its welcome fairly quickly. As revisionist holiday fables go, you’re better off watching Aardman’s delightful Arthur Christmas than this lump of coal. Keith Uhlich
Weekly box office: Dhs506,865 Weekly admissions: 11,692 Total box office: Dhs2,114,410 Total admissions: 47,860
2 Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning Director: John Hyams Stars: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren and Scott Adkins
The ringleader of a gang of murderous home invaders unmasks himself as genetically enhanced series hero Luc Deveraux (Van Damme), who then proceeds to shoot the wife and child of a military man named John (Adkins). Our strapping protagonist awakes from a coma nine months later with vengeance on his mind. But is John seeking out Van Damme’s test-tube-cloned killer of his own free will – or is something else making him do it?
Director John Hyams treats this Z-level trash with a pomposity that verges on laughable. But get past all that ephemera and you’ll witness some genuinely inventive action scenes. It’s almost worth wading through the wearisome setup to get to the fun stuff. But there is a reason fast-forward buttons were invented. Keith Uhlich
Weekly box office: Dhs903,542 Weekly admissions: 19,499 Total box office: Dhs903,542 Total admissions: 19,499
1 Killing Them Softly Director: Andrew Dominik Stars: Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta and Richard Jenkins
This adaptation of George V Higgins’s 1970s crime novel Cogan’s Trade drags the book’s down-and-dirty story of poker games, petty criminals and the mob forward to 2008. But it keeps that decade’s crumbling, end-of-the-world look in its near-apocalyptic New Orleans setting and its commitment to entertaining American cinema.
Two penniless young crims, Frankie and Russell, shoot up a backroom poker game run by Markie (Liotta). As quick as you can say ‘naive’, they have a mob fixer, Jackie (Pitt), on their tail, who hires an assassin, Mickey (Gandolfini), to do his dirty work.
It’s all defiantly male, but Killing Them Softly is also anti-macho in presenting the world of gangsters as a chaotic show undermined by human fallibility. The film’s occasional bursts of violence are tempered by such moments as a character sobbing and vomiting after a beating.
Writer-director Andrew Dominik lays it on a little thick, both the state-of-the-nation nods and the idea that this grimy noir is a metaphor for sickness in the financial sector. But, those niggles aside, it’s a cracking piece of storytelling with a restrained balance of laid-back chat and canny visual outbursts – and it has a delicious thread of gallows humour. Massively pleasurable and just smart enough. Dave Calhoun
Weekly box office: Dhs1,272,324 Weekly admissions: 29,402 Total box office: Dhs1,272,324 Total admissions: 29,402