Which films were top of the box office in the UAE this week?
Time Out Dubai staff
10 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: Dhs212,810 Weekly admissions: 4,774 Total box office: Dhs2,375,144 Total admissions: 59,209
9 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: Dhs549,626 Weekly admissions: 11,271 Total box office: Dhs11,021,372 Total admissions: 223,109
8 Deadfall Director: Stefan Ruzowitzky Stars: Eric Bana, Olivia Wilde, Charlie Hunnam, Sissy Spacek, Kris Kristofferson
Familial dysfunction lurks around every snowy corner in Stefan Ruzowitzky’s recipe for an over-determined, undercooked thriller. Start with siblings Addison and Liza, whose abusive childhoods have left them incestuously close. Then, when a car crash following a heist strands them in a blizzard, make sure she falls into the rippling arms of a disgraced boxer – who happens to be estranged from his retired-sheriff dad (er, Kris Kristofferson).
The pugilist, meanwhile, is being tracked by an officer; her own police-chief father. And don’t let something as inconvenient as a howling storm keep Addison from stumbling onto a hunting cabin where an ogreish stepfather holds thrall, chasing his baby-toting wife out into the snow. That the characters will converge in a single, bloody set piece is foreordained, but it doesn’t feel like much of a culmination because the movie’s theme hasn’t been developed so much as simply reiterated. Sam Adams
Weekly box office: Dhs452,412 Weekly admissions: 12,675 Total box office: Dhs452,412 Total admissions: 12,675
7 Snowflake, the White Gorilla Director: Andrés G. Schaer Stars: Claudia Abate, Pere Ponce, Joan Sullà
A Spanish kids’ film about Snowflake, the only white gorilla in the world. While he’s the star attraction in his zoo, he grows weary of how other gorillas treat him, and hatches a plan to change his colour. TO
Weekly box office: Dhs472,529 Weekly admissions: 13,374 Total box office: Dhs472,529 Total admissions: 13,374
6 The Last Stand Director: Jee-woon Kim Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Eduardo Noriega, Forest Whitaker, Arron Shiver, Sonny Landham
Schwarzenegger isn’t quite right for the plot’s easy-going Eastwoodian setup, yet these shortcomings disappear as the movie strips down to its surprisingly satisfying payoff: an ’80s-style actioner heavy on the squibs and catchphrases. He’s back in the place that deserves him. Joshua Rothkopf
Weekly box office: Dhs531,827 Weekly admissions: 15,008 Total box office: Dhs2,342,694 Total admissions: 59,724
5 Django Unchained Director: Quentin Tarantino Stars: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins
In the past decade there were those who – reasonably – assumed that Quentin Tarantino’s hour had passed. Following the movie-geek sprawl of the Kill Bill movies, the crass indulgence of Death Proof and the diverting but directionless Inglourious Basterds, it seemed as though the ultimate fanboy had slipped into a terminal decline.
Well, somebody’s clearly rattled the man’s cage, because Django Unchained is a blazing return to form. The topic is American slavery: Jamie Foxx is Django, freed from a chain gang by German bounty hunter Schultz (Waltz), and on a mission to rescue his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington). Only trouble is, Hildy is owned by Mississippi slavemaster Calvin Candy (Leonardo DiCaprio), whose ugly reputation precedes him.
It isn’t without problems: Django Unchained feels a little ersatz, favouring momentary thrills over lasting emotional punch. But it’s bursting with pleasures great and small: the note-perfect performances, a brace of close-to-the-bone moments, the soaring cine-literate soundtrack, the sheer, relentless drive. Tom Huddleston
Weekly box office: Dhs661,737 Weekly admissions: 15,907 Total box office: Dhs2,308,430 Total admissions: 55,608
4 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: Dhs712,702 Weekly admissions: 17,378 Total box office: Dhs5,392,409 Total admissions: 124,480
3 Texas Chainsaw 3D Director: John Luessenhop Stars: Alexandra Daddario, Tania Raymonde, Scott Eastwood, Dan Yeager, Trey Songz, Shaun Sipos, Keram Malicki-Sánchez, James MacDonald
Extending the mythology of the cannibal Sawyer family with reams of back story, 3D limb-severing and not a hint of the terror generated by Tobe Hooper’s 1974 original, John Luessenhop’s sequel is as pointless as one feared it might be. After learning that she is adopted and has inherited a house, Heather (Daddario) sets out on a road trip with boyfriend Ryan (R&B singer Trey Songz), her pal Nikki (Raymonde) and Carl (Clint Eastwood’s son, Scott). After picking up a hitchhiker, the friends arrive at the imposing property, only to find that Leatherface (Dan Yeager) has been hidden in the basement ever since.
Chronological consistency is not the script’s strong suit (this would make Heather 39 years old), but at least the writers have made some attempt to revivify the Sawyer family history. If only director Luessenhop had confined the action to the house, this scenario’s narrative potential might have been realised. Instead, he splits between several locations and fails to deliver the nightmarish intensity. Nigel Floyd
Weekly box office: Dhs1,046,262 Weekly admissions: 22,891 Total box office: Dhs1,046,262 Total admissions: 22,891
2 Zero Dark Thirty Director: Kathryn Bigelow Stars: Jessica Chastain, Joel Edgerton, Chris Pratt, Jason Clarke, Reda Kateb, Kyle Chandler, Jennifer Ehle
Director Kathryn Bigelow and reporter-turned-screenwriter Mark Boal’s 2009 Oscar-winner The Hurt Locker followed a bomb disposal unit in Iraq. Now they’ve made this sidekick – a gritty, tense procedural about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. These are action films for people who think action movies are dumb: they put us on the inside of history and grip us with their journalistic detail.
Zero Dark Thirty is lean, mean storytelling: no back stories, no frills – just action and an effortless forward momentum. Boal spent the best part of a decade talking to counterterrorism operatives, and it shows in his faultless dialogue. The endgame – a raid on a suburban house in Pakistan – is a white-knuckle watch. And when a Seal finally puts a bullet into a thin, grey-bearded man, you don’t doubt for a second this is what it was like: dogs barking, freaked-out locals raising a mob outside. This is an instant classic. Cath Clarke
Weekly box office: Dhs1,073,172 Weekly admissions: 25,195 Total box office: Dhs1,073,172 Total admissions: 25,195
1 Gangster Squad Director: Ruben Fleischer Stars: Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Holt McCallany, Wade Williams, James Hébert, Ambyr Childers, Josh Brolin, Mick Betancourt
Drawing heavily on the audience’s familiarity with the era, Gangster Squad is a slick, very violent and entirely unconvincing recreation of seedy, post-war Hollywood. The plot is essentially The Untouchables goes west. Josh Brolin plays John O’Mara, the square-jawed, clean living cop tasked with bringing down the operation of gangland kingpin Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn, channelling Al Pacino). John forms a task force, hauling in interestingly named pal Jerry Wooters (Gosling) who, unknown to O’Mara, is having an affair with Cohen’s squeeze Grace (Stone).
Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer keeps things moving at a breakneck pace, resulting in a handful of enjoyably pacy action sequences, but lots of head-scratching plot holes. And despite some immersive period design, the visuals possess a bland, digital sheen.
Given the cast and subject matter Gangster Squad was never going to be a total washout. But it’s fatally ersatz, never coming close to recapturing the spirit and intensity of the films and novels it imitates, let alone the vibrant historical period it aims to evoke. Tom Huddlestone
Weekly box office: Dhs1,598,771 Weekly admissions: 37,620 Total box office: Dhs1,598,771 Total admissions: 37,620