10 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: Dhs182,873 Weekly admissions: 5,100 Total box office: Dhs655,402 Total admissions: 18,474
9 Life of Pi 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: Dhs295,292 Weekly admissions: 6,191 Total box office: Dhs11,316,663 Total admissions: 229,300
8 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: Dhs293,066 Weekly admissions: 7,774 Total box office: Dhs2,601,496 Total admissions: 63,382
7 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: Dhs334,311 Weekly admissions: 7,785 Total box office: Dhs5,726,720 Total admissions: 132,265
6 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: Dhs413,226 Weekly admissions: 9,887 Total box office: Dhs1,486,398 Total admissions: 35,082
5 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: Dhs535,071 Weekly admissions: 12,930 Total box office: Dhs2,133,842 Total admissions: 50,550
4 Warm Bodies Director: Jonathan Levine Stars: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, John Malkovich, Analeigh Tipton, Rob Corddry, Dave Franco, Cory Hardrict
Following a successful diversion into slacker comedy, director Jonathan Levine returns to the genre he pioneered in his debut All the Boys Love Mandy Lane – the horror-romcom – with this tale of a zombie outbreak told from the zombie’s point of view.
Adapted from the novel by Isaac Marion, Warm Bodies tells the tale of R, a brain-eating zombie who acquires the memories of those he devours. When he gobbles up the grey matter of one lovelorn victim, R falls madly in love with the dead man’s girlfriend (Palmer), and vows to keep her safe. A kind of post-apocalyptic Romeo and Juliet, with John Malkovich. Time Out staff Weekly box office: Dhs647,408 Weekly admissions: 18,456 Total box office: Dhs647,408 Total admissions: 18,456
3 Lincoln Director: Steven Spielberg Stars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, Hal Holbrook, Tommy Lee Jones
The combination of Steven Spielberg and America’s most beloved President might seem like a recipe for sentimentality. But the surprisingly spare, riveting Lincoln is after something more complex. At once a further mythologising of Honest Abe and an absorbing demystification of 19th century politics, it’s one of the most mature films Spielberg has made.
While the director has planned a Lincoln project for a decade, and the finished film credits Doris Kearns Goodwin’s 2005 Team of Rivals as a source, Lincoln works from fewer than 90 pages of her 750-page book. Process-minded, it focuses almost exclusively on the events of January 1865, as the 16th President (Day-Lewis) covertly delays a truce with the South to pass the slavery-ending 13th Amendment in the House.
If the script’s declamatory style sometimes gives Lincoln a theatrical feel, Day-Lewis’s high-pitched Kentucky twang drowns out the creaks of the floorboards. The actor’s folksy, uncannily lived-in portrayal thankfully provides a warm counterpoint to the cerebral proceedings.
Lincoln is less a literal history than a work that uses a historical moment to meditate on grand themes. It reminds us that there is no halcyon age of politics, and that even an act as self-evidently righteous as outlawing slavery was forged through compromise, backroom deals and legal loopholes. All politics involves facing an uncertain future. Ben Kenigsberg
Weekly box office: Dhs913,969 Weekly admissions: 21,253 Total box office: Dhs913,969 Total admissions: 21,253
2 Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters Director: Tommy Wirkola Stars: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Peter Stormare, Famke Janssen, Pihla Viitala, Derek Mears, Robin Atkin Downes, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal
As kids, they shoved a ravenous witch into an oven. As adults, orphaned siblings Hansel (Renner) and Gretel (Arterton) are the scourge of every spell-caster, hiring themselves out to rid the land of wart-encrusted enchantresses. No stranger to one-joke premises, writer-director Tommy Wirkola (of 2009’s Nazi-zombie ‘classic’ Dead Snow) populates this frenzied horror-satire with tons of incoherently staged bloodletting and curse-accentuated kiss-off lines. It’s a grim fairy tale, all right. Keith Ulrich
Weekly box office: Dhs2,600,575 Weekly admissions: 50,923 Total box office: Dhs2,600,575 Total admissions: 50,923