Which film ws top of the cinema box office this week?
Time Out staff
10 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Director: Peter Jackson Stars: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen and Richard Armitage
Size isn’t everything, but cinema doesn’t come much bigger in scale than when Peter Jackson is telling tales. It’s a decade since the New Zealand filmmaker unveiled the last of his Lord of the Rings films and went on to tackle the ultimate in movie giants, King Kong. Now he’s back in the head of JRR Tolkien and applying the latest in technology to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (in 3D and an untried, super-speedy frame rate of 48 frames per second – 24 is usual).
It’s the first of three films to be fashioned from the professor’s novel of faux-medieval fantasies chronicling how a magic ring (‘the precious’) came to be in the possession of a mere hairy-footed Hobbit in the first place. The movie may be grand, but lots of its folk are tiny, which makes for unusual juxtapositions, both odd and amusing. Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman, squished) is a Hobbit living the pipe-and-slippers dream in the Shire.
One evening, the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen, towering over the artificially shortened Freeman) and 13 itinerant, hungry dwarves – many of them with a knack for annoying the audience – come knocking. They persuade Bilbo to join them on a quest to win back their lost kingdom from a dragon. So begins a journey across wild terrain and back-to-back run-ins with larger, more vicious creatures
Many have wondered exactly how Jackson and his co-writers have found three movies in the relatively slim pickings of Tolkien’s early novel (compared to the later novels of the Rings trilogy). The answer is that he opts for the detail and pacing of an extended TV series – an approach that has its drawbacks over more than two-and-a-half hours. The initial coming-together of Bilbo and the dwarves feels overlong, and the start of their journey is sluggish and lacks a vital sense of forward momentum.
It’s during the film’s final third that, at last, we feel a true sense of peril and the dwarves’ journey starts to feel energetic and purposeful. The big turning point is the entry of Gollum. The more dark and sinister things become, the more The Hobbit becomes compelling as a story, and achieves a tone and look that feel right. Thank Hobbitses for Gollum, then. And thank Hobbitses for the film’s more involving later scenes, including a showdown between two stone giants and a run-in with a villain who gives Jabba the Hutt a run for his money in the beauty stakes. It’s scenes such as these that leave you looking forward to the next one rather than wanting to strangle one of the more annoying dwarves – or at least bury him in a hole in The Shire. Dave Calhoun
Weekly box office: Dhs308,487 Weekly admissions: 6,873 Total box office: Dhs9,274,254 Total admissions: 200,262
9 The Impossible Director: Juan Antonio Bayona Stars: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor and Tom Holland
On Boxing Day in 2004 a tsunami hit Thailand. Among those swept away were the Alvarez Belons, a Spanish family of five replaced here by the English-speaking Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor. A box-office phenomenon in Spain, The Impossible is littered with contrivances and coincidences which undermine its credibility. Nigel Floyd
Weekly box office: Dhs367,224 Weekly admissions: 9,091 Total box office: Dhs2,841,339 Total admissions: 76,942
8 Tad, the Lost Explorer Director: Enrique Gato Stars: Meritxell Ané, Óscar Barberán, Carles Canut, Fiona Glascott, Adam James, Michelle Jenner
This Spanish-language 3D kids’ film is about eponymous dreamer Tadeo, whose youthful indecision is broken when he is mistaken for a famous archaeologist and sent on an expedition to Peru. He’s joined by his faithful dog Jeff, a fearless teacher and a parrot on his bid to save the mythical lost city of the Incas from an evil corporation hunting long-lost hidden treasures. TO
Weekly box office: Dhs494,975 Weekly admissions: 10,376 Total box office: Dhs494,975 Total admissions: 10,376
7 The Tall Man Director: Pascal Laugier Stars: Jessica Biel, Jodelle Ferland, William B. Davis, Stephen McHattie, Samantha Ferris, Eve Harlow
When a child goes missing, the mother decides to investigate the local kidsnatching legend of ‘The Tall Man’, launching us into a supenseful horrorthriller. TO Weekly box office: Dhs434,799 Weekly admissions: 12,080 Total box office: Dhs434,799 Total admissions: 12,080
6 Les Misérables Director: Tom Hooper Stars: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway
Do you hate musicals? Do you think West End shows are naff? Well, you might find yourself converted by Tom Hooper’s rabble-rousing film of London’s longest running musical (staggering fact: 60 million people worldwide have seen Les Mis). On Hooper’s side is a dream cast of Hollywood’s finest performing live on camera. Not everyone will be sold by the emotional thwack of Claude-Michel Schönberg’s earworm numbers. What gives it a beating heart is that the actors are singing live – rather than the normal practice of lip-synching in the studio. Cath Clarke
Weekly box office: Dhs551,063 Weekly admissions: 13,747 Total box office: Dhs1,733,625 Total admissions: 44,111
5 This is 40 Director: Judd Apatow Stars: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Maude Apatow, Iris Apatow, Jason Segel, Annie Mumolo, Robert Smigel, Megan Fox
Any filmmaker who casts his wife and children in central roles is inviting autobiographical readings, though one hopes Judd Apatow’s family life is less tumultuous than the one in This Is 40. Billed as a ‘sort-of sequel’ to his Knocked Up, this scattered but ambitious comedy from the writer-director-producer plays more like a spin-off, focusing on the supporting characters of that 2007 smash. No more financially or emotionally stable than they were five years earlier, bickering spouses Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Mrs Apatow herself, Leslie Mann) navigate the rocky terrain of marriage, parenthood and middle age. The kids are played by the filmmaker’s own brood (14-year-old Maude and ten-year-old Iris), who have grown into confident child actors.
For all its broad comic bits – Pete faking bowel movements to sneak off for alone time, Debbie confronting a teenage boy who’s been harassing her daughter – the film demonstrates a shrewd understanding of the cycles of fighting and reconciliation that plague long-term relationships. What Apatow hasn’t outgrown, alas, is his tendency to overstuff every movie with superfluous bit players. AA Dowd
Weekly box office: Dhs591,107 Weekly admissions: 14,586 Total box office: Dhs591,107 Total admissions: 14,586
4 Jack Reacher Director: Christopher McQuarrie Stars: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike and Richard Jenkins
Jack Reacher is based on the popular Lee Child novel ‘One Shot’, and follows the title character as he investigates the murders of five random victims of a sniper shootout. The movie begins with a sharp-looking sniper, selecting his victims through a sniper scope and then quickly eliminating them in one brisk shot. The police investigate and arrest the suspect, who they believe is the shooter. During his interrogation he says nothing, but on a notepad he writes ‘Get Jack Reacher’.
The following scene has two police investigators reading up on Reacher with the conventional dialogue of a tough as nails guy, served in the military, brilliant investigation skills, numerous awards and the ever so clichéd, “Can’t find him, unless he wants to be found”. This marks the entry of Jack Reacher, portrayed by a younger (he is now 50) looking Tom Cruise with a broad physique and a no-nonsense look on his face, who’s there to learn why the man he despises the most has asked for his help.
During his investigation Reacher learns that the killings weren’t random and there is a much higher conspiracy at play. His shrewd detective skills and years of hardened military training ensures he leaves no stones unturned and takes on hired thugs, a brilliant thundering car chase sequence between Reacher and the assassins and outsmarts nearly the entire police unit to uncover the truth.
The supporting cast although credible in their performances somehow fell flat and redundant half way through the movie. Rosamund Pike started off very motivating, but her character lacked the anxiety and urgency once the plot started to thicken. The addition of legendary German film-maker Werner Herzog as the film’s spooky villain seemed quite intriguing at first, but he was reduced to nothing more than a shadowy figure simply lurking in the background. Although quite late into the movie, a magnificent special appearance from the seasoned Robert Duvall as Reacher’s sidekick provided excitement and thrill to a climax that was quickly losing its momentum. Lastly, a splendid performance by Jai Courtney as the master assassin is proving he has the mettle to grab a foothold in Hollywood. He put up a tough fight against Tom Cruise in the finale and next spring he will rub shoulders with another Hollywood heavyweight - Bruce Willis in ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’.
Jack Reacher is Tom Cruise’s show from the very first moment he enters the frame. His performance as the judge and executioner to those who think they are above the law pays homage to a modern age persona of Harry Callahan aka Dirty Harry. The film clearly does have its flaws with underused performances and unexplained sub plots, but these can easily be overlooked due to the movie’s thrilling momentum and Tom’s onscreen persona. It’s not the usual over the top movie audiences have come to expect from Cruise’s previous films, but a rather down to earth execution makes Jack Reacher a first-rate action thriller. Ashford Fernandez
Weekly box office: Dhs636,791 Weekly admissions: 16,240 Total box office: Dhs7,516,527 Total admissions: 187,535
3 Life of Pi (3D) Director: Ang Lee Stars: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan and Adil Hussain
Yann Martel’s 2001 novel Life of Pi divided readers: some found its wide-eyed spirituality and magic-realist invention intoxicating, while others choked on its pantheistic platitudes and winsome authorial voice. Against all the odds, Ang Lee’s epic 3D adaptation might just unite the two camps: fans will lap up the film’s dedication to capturing the spirit of Martel’s words, while doubters may well find themselves – slowly, grudgingly – persuaded by the film’s astonishing visual confidence and narrative force.
Three actors (notably teenager Suraj Sharma, recently spotted in Dubai on the red carpet to launch the film) play Pi, the middle-class lad from Pondicherry whose adolescent explorations of faith are interrupted when the container ship on which he’s travelling goes down in the Pacific. Everyone on board drowns, except for Pi and four denizens of his father’s zoo, among them a ferocious Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. The question is how long boy and tiger can coexist, miles from land and fresh water, and with precious little hope of rescue.
A word of warning for the traditionalists: Life of Pi is a film steeped in CGI, and there are very few shots here without some kind of process element. But this isn’t some sort of sickly, soupy digital phantasmagoria: Lee handles the special effects and especially the 3D with absolute surety, creating moments of jaw-dropping, eye-ravishing beauty.
Finding Neverland writer David Magee’s script isn’t quite so successful: mostly he manages to avoid both syrupy sentiment and hazy magical thinking, but a late diversion onto an island randomly populated by meerkats feels jarringly out of place, while some of the voiceover is a little heavy-handed.
But it all comes together in a blunt but forceful finale, as the scales fall from our eyes and all our doubts are cleverly addressed. It’s here that Lee stamps his claim on Martel’s work, and all that rampant visual excess comes into sharp focus. For Lee, this isn’t just a story about God, life, death and our place in the world – it’s about cinema too and how, in the modern age, it’s inextricably interlinked with everything we feel and experience. It’s a remarkable moment in a remarkable film: flawed, yes, but marvellously ambitious, and unforgettably gorgeous to look at. Tom Huddleston Weekly box office: Dhs1,056,516 Weekly admissions: 21,684 Total box office: Dhs9,508,353 Total admissions: 192,209
2 Matru ki Bijlee ka Mandola Director: Vishal Bhardwaj Stars: Imran Khan, Anushka Sharma and Pankaj Kapur
This is the sort of film where people have visions of pink buffaloes, where a man piloting a burning jet finds time to light his cigar with the flaming propeller. And it’s all the better for it.
This isn’t to say that Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola doesn’t talk about “real issues”. Along the way, the film addresses the Indian economy’s shift from agriculture to industry to services, touches on the builder-politician nexus, bungs the 3G scam into a song, and even says the words “honour killing”.
More than anything else, Vishal Bhardwaj’s film follows the example of Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro, which also mixed its social criticism with scenes of inspired lunacy. Yaaro fans will find a lot here that’s familiar: Babbar’s buffoonery brings to mind the hyperactive Ravi Baswani, and there’s a scene with a screen door that’s reminiscent of the phone call gag from the earlier film.
Weekly box office: Dhs1,177,456 Weekly admissions: 35,666 Total box office: Dhs1,177,456 Total admissions: 35,666
1 Chinese Zodiac Director: Jackie Chan Stars: Jackie Chan, Oliver Platt, Laura Weissbecker, Caitlin Dechelle, Emilie Guillot
Writer-director-producer-star Jackie Chan flashes his exuberant spirit in his latest flick, a mildly diverting, predictably written and earnestly executed action adventure that has all the vibe of being one of his last. Playing the leader of a heist team that specialises in priceless artworks, he starts out as an opportunistic master thief who sells his discoveries to the villains (read: the auction houses) before finding conscience and patriotism – true story of his life? – during a mission to track down the lost bronze zodiac animal heads looted from the Old Summer Palace in Beijing.
The film does have its moments: the pre-credit getaway in a roller suit and the climactic skydiving mission are just two of the few. But the takeaway impression here is one of its star’s weariness: Chan’s trademark blooper reels, often the most hilarious bits of his movies, are replaced by a sentimental voiceover that every time he does action he feels like ‘maybe it’s the last shot in my life’. A pedestrian film aside from its action design, Chan has set the stage to go out respectably as his generation’s pre-eminent martial arts icon. The rest is up to him. Edmund Lee
Weekly box office: Dhs3,128,774 Weekly admissions: 69,204 Total box office: Dhs3,128,774 Total admissions: 69,204