10 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: Dhs153,221 Weekly admissions: 4,094 Total box office: Dhs2,754,717 Total admissions: 67,476
9 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: Dhs211,214 Weekly admissions: 5,311 Total box office: Dhs2,345,056 Total admissions: 55,861
8 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: Dhs198,149 Weekly admissions: 5,567 Total box office: Dhs853,551 Total admissions: 24,041
7 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: Dhs319,361 Weekly admissions: 7,763 Total box office: Dhs1,233,330 Total admissions: 29,016
6 The Guilt Trip Director: Anne Fletcher Stars: Barbra Streisand, Seth Rogen, Julene Renee-Preciado, Zabryna Guevara, John Funk, Robert Curtis Brown, Kathy Najimy, Miriam Margolyes
One might be tempted to write off The Guilt Trip as overly familiar, but Barbra Streisand volunteering for a one-hour steak-eating challenge is almost certainly a screen first. Streisand’s food-loving Jersey mom, Joyce, does so during a cross-country road trip with her grown son, Andrew (Rogen). His dorky ineptitude at marketing his environmentally friendly cleaning product – the journey’s ostensible purpose – is matched beat for beat by her capacity for nagging. Meanwhile, Andrew secretly plans to reunite Joyce with a long-lost lover at the trip’s last stop, San Francisco. Along the way, ‘jokes’ consist of Streisand trotting out overbearing mother stereotypes and repeated cutaways to the duo listening to the audiobook of Jeffrey Eugenides’s Middlesex.
Barely a minute of The Guilt Trip passes the plausibility test. Anne Fletcher relays the pair’s thoroughly innocuous bickering with the same barely functional camera setups she brought to 2009’s Sandra Bullock-Ryan Reynolds fake-marriage comedy The Proposal. The movie is not so much terrible as fatally slight, refusing to allow its characters to behave in ways that don’t directly tie into the screenplay’s third-act lessons. Only Streisand gets a full meal. Ben Kenigsberg
Weekly box office: Dhs417,481 Weekly admissions: 10,319 Total box office: Dhs417,481 Total admissions: 10,319
5 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: Dhs431,789 Weekly admissions: 12,117 Total box office: Dhs1,079,196 Total admissions: 30,573
4 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: Dhs934,044 Weekly admissions: 21,938 Total box office: Dhs3,534,61 Total admissions: 72,861
Starring comedian Ahmed Helmy, this Egyptian comedy tells the story of Raouf, an interior decorator who falls into a coma.
Weekly box office: Dhs1,104,496 Weekly admissions: 30,733 Total box office: Dhs3,259,909 Total admissions: 90,687
2 Broken City Director: Allen Hughes Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jeffrey Wright, Barry Pepper, Alona Tal, Natalie Martinez
Though just about anything would have been preferable to his warbling turn in last month’s Les Misérables, there’s real pleasure in watching Russell Crowe throw himself into the zesty role of a crooked New York politician. Crowe’s Mayor Hostetler is an oily, two-faced scoundrel, the kind of fat-cat foe Hollywood is churning out a lot these days.
A political thriller that’s never quite as smart as you wish it were, Broken City pits this scheming one-percenter against a working-class adversary: disgraced detective Billy Taggart (Wahlberg), who now works as a private eye. Hired to spy on Hostetler’s wife (Zeta-Jones), our hero uncovers a deeper conspiracy involving an upcoming election and a massive real-estate scam.
Noir in narrative if not aesthetic, Allen Hughes’s thriller trots out several familiar genre components, while the plot contains echoes of Chinatown. Broken City never asks its gumshoe to repent for the blood on his own hands, and the anti-corruption but pro-vigilantism ethics here are especially murky. AA Dowd
Weekly box office: Dhs1,388,023 Weekly admissions: 32,882 Total box office: Dhs1,388,023 Total admissions: 32,882
1 Bullet to the Head Director: Walter Hill Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Momoa, Christian Slater, Sung Kang, Sarah Shahi, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
Leaner and meaner than the Expendables’ escapades, Bullet to the Head makes a superior ode to Sylvester Stallone’s star power and ageing yet still mysteriously bulked musculature. The movie plays like a disposable but well-crafted action vehicle from the ’80s, right down to the buddy-cop banter. Or maybe its origins reach earlier, to the western.
New Orleans hit man Jimmy Bobo (Stallone) teams up with incorruptible, PDA-addicted cop Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang) to solve a murder linked to a real-estate scam that stretches into the world of politics. Jimmy is out for revenge: these guys hired him for a job and then set him up, killing his partner. Kwon, furtively reporting to his superior officer, just wants justice. The question of what will happen when Law and Lawless are the last men standing gives their pairing an edge.
Veteran filmmaker Walter Hill (The Driver, The Warriors) directs with a brusqueness that’s exceedingly rare. Tongue-in-cheek humour is also an asset, with Christian Slater’s weasel lawyer hilariously eager to compromise and a showdown between Jimmy and a mercenary fought not with guns, but axes. ‘What are we, Vikings?’ Jimmy asks him before the brawl. No, just old-school – and proud. Ben Kenigsberg
Weekly box office: Dhs1,675,054 Weekly admissions: 42,922 Total box office: Dhs1,675,054 Total admissions: 42,922