Cinema feeds on stories of love and death, but how often do filmmakers really offer new or challenging perspectives on either? Michael Haneke’s Amour is devastatingly original and unflinching in the way it examines the effect of love on death, and vice versa. It’s a staggering, intensely moving look at old age and life’s end, which at its heart offers two performances of incredible skill and wisdom from French veteran actors Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva.
The Austrian director of Hidden and The White Ribbon offers an intimate, brave and devastating portrait of an elderly Parisian couple, Anne (Riva) and Georges (Trintignant), facing up to a sudden turn in their lives. Haneke erects four walls to keep out the rest of the world, containing his drama almost entirely within one apartment over some weeks and months. The couple’s flat becomes a theatre for their stories: past, present and future.
He asks hard questions: what do love and companionship mean when one half of a couple is facing the end? How can we cope? What’s the right way to behave? Can anyone else understand what you’re going through? Is life always worth living?
A winter light and a sense of half-dark, fading afternoons pervade the film. Our only glimpses of the outdoors are seen through the windows of the flat. This is a drama played out under grey clouds. There’s no storm, just gradual changes from one day, week or month to the next. Haneke rejects the idea of death as a communal experience and presents the slow act of dying as intensely isolating. Georges and Anne’s daughter (Isabelle Huppert) and son-in-law (William Shimell) come to visit, but their own feelings and experiences are less and less connected to what’s happening in this apartment. Death creates a fortress, and it feels piercingly true.
Haneke presents the stark realities of sickness – problems of washing, mobility, going to the toilet – but his aim is not solely to present a realistic portrait of the end. More than that, he wants to explore the emotions and instincts felt by this couple – pride, despair, impending loss, empathy and its limits. There are strong feelings at play, but there’s also an intense pragmatism afoot. Georges has made a pledge to Anne: ‘Please never take me back to the hospital… Promise… Promise me.’ Among so many other things, this is a film about loyalty and being true to your word. Amour is a staggering, highly intelligent and astonishingly performed work. It’s a masterpiece. Dave Calhoun
Weekly box office: Dhs26,991 Weekly admissions: 776 Total box office: Dhs26,991 Total admissions: 776
9 Evil Dead Director: Fede Alvarez Stars: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Jessica Lucas
A remake of Sam Raimi’s 1981 horror classic. The original followed five college students on a trip to an isolated cabin in the woods where their holiday was rudely interrupted by a horde of demons. So can we expect a darker, nastier update? Yes, if the film’s tagline is anything to go by: ‘the most terrifying film you will ever experience’. TO
Weekly box office: Dhs36,050 Weekly admissions: 882 Total box office: Dhs2,035,708 Total admissions: 54,988
8 G.I. Joe: Retaliation Director: Jon M. Chu Stars: Channing Tatum, Dwayne Johnson, Ray Park
In his guise as the President of the United States, the evil Zartan frames the GI Joes as traitors to the American cause and uses his position to aim nuclear warheads at peaceful nations in order to seize control of the planet. Without any back-up, Roadblock, Flint, Lady Jaye, Duke and Snake Eyes seek out the original GI Joe, General Joseph Colton, and enlist his services to defeat Zartan and his heinous henchmen, Storm Shadow and Firefly. TO
Weekly box office: Dhs58,722 Weekly admissions: 1,492 Total box office: Dhs11,874,055 Total admissions: 258,285
7 Oblivion Director: Joseph Kosinski Stars: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Andrea Riseborough
After a foray into musicals with Rock of Ages and a very public divorce, Tom Cruise is back doing what he does best: big blockbuster action. Oblivion is certainly big. With a budget of more than Dhs700 million, the film follows a veteran soldier who is sent to a distant planet. Once there, he is instructed to destroy the remains of an alien race, but an encounter with an exiled traveller forces him to question his perceptions of the planet and his mission. It will be interesting to see if relatively new director Joseph Kosinski, whose only other credit is Tron Legacy, can transcend the trappings of a CGI sci-fi film. TO
Weekly box office: Dhs143,304 Weekly admissions: 3,828 Total box office: Dhs6,054,659 Total admissions: 146,694
6 The Croods (3D) Director: Kirk De Micco, Chris Sanders Stars: Nicolas Cage, Ryan Reynolds, Emma Stone
Nicolas Cage voices a caveman in this comedy animation from the Dreamworks stable. Forced out of his home by an earthquake, Grug takes his family on the road (well, ‘path’, maybe) and encounters an imaginative nomad (Ryan Reynolds) whose forward-thinking manner unsettles him. His daughter (Emma Stone), however, has other ideas about the attractive stranger. The writer-directors of this movie have form with How to Train Your Dragon and Space Chimps, so there may well be family appeal. Time Out Dubai staff
Weekly box office: Dhs209,771 Weekly admissions: 5,158 Total box office: Dhs8,231,497 Total admissions: 184,261
5 Scary MoVie Director: Malcolm D. Lee Stars: Ashley Tisdale, Simon Rex, Charlie Sheen
And so it continues… In 2000 the Wayans brothers scored big with their silly dumbed-down horror spoof Scary Movie, which followed a group of kids stalked by a serial killer. Thirteen years later, with Anna Faris and Regina Hall both signing off the franchise, hopes were not high for the fifth instalment. A new storyline finds ballet dancer Jody (Tisdale) and primate researcher Dan (Rex) haunted by a devilish presence. This time around the films in line for parodying are Black Swan, Paranormal Activity, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and 127 Hours. Possibly the only chink of humour here is cameo appearances by Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan and Snoop Dogg. TO
Weekly box office: Dhs194,359 Weekly admissions: 5,545 Total box office: Dhs1,133,422 Total admissions: 29,977
4 Pain & Gain Director: Michael Bay Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Mark Wahlberg, Rebel Wilson
Michael Bay finally returns to his small-scale indie roots… well, not really, but this is Bay’s first film since his debut Bad Boys that doesn’t feature spaceships, robot smackdowns or anyone trying to destroy the world. It’s the comically-dramatic drawn-from-the-headlines tale of a pair of not-so-bright Miami bodybuilders – played by Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson – who become inadvertently involved in a kidnapping and extortion plot. Ed Harris plays the private detective who cracked the real-life case. If Bay can resist the temptation to blow things up and actually keep the focus on character, this sounds like a lot of fun. But don’t worry, mayhem fans, Bay will be back in his comfort zone with Transformers 4 in 2014. TO
Weekly box office: Dhs778,045 Weekly admissions: 20,791 Total box office: Dhs4,164,359 Total admissions: 102,558
3 Sameer Abu Elneel (Arabic) Director: Amr Arafa Stars: Ahamd Meky, Nicol Saba and Alaa Mursy
Arabic film directed by Amr Arafa.
Weekly box office: Dhs903,236 Weekly admissions: 25,365 Total box office: Dhs903,236 Total admissions: 25,365
2 The Call Director: Brad Anderson Stars: Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Morris Chestnut
Brutishly effective and only modestly vile, Brad Anderson’s snuffish thriller pits Halle Berry’s 911 operator against a serial-killing psycho riding around with a young woman (Abigail Breslin) in his car trunk.
There’s an argument to be had about whether serial-killer movies should ever be easy to watch, but when Anderson starts shoving a fish-eye lens into Breslin’s terrified face, it feels less like autocritique and more like an attempt to out-deprave Criminal Minds.
Fair’s fair, however: Crude as it is, The Call milks its jump scares and don’t-go-down-to-the-basement tension for all they’re worth. See it with a full house, if you absolutely must see it at all. Sam Adams
Weekly box office: Dhs1,326,934 Weekly admissions: 37,048 Total box office: Dhs1,326,934 Total admissions: 37,048
1 Iron Man 3 Director: Shane Black Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Guy Pearce, Gwyneth Paltrow
Calling Iron Man 3 a mixed bag doesn’t really do justice to the heady peaks and interminable troughs. In the minus column, there’s the tedious, talky first act, the script’s uneasy attempts at psychological realism, and Robert Downey Jr’s disastrously smarmy facial furniture. But they’re balanced out by a handful of punchy one-liners courtesy of Lethal Weapon scribe Shane Black, and a sprawling cast of reliable supporting players. Towering above them all is Ben Kingsley as one of comic book cinema’s most astonishing and unlikely supervillains.
Despite his unimpeachable screenwriting CV, this is only Black’s second film as a director and it shows. When he’s in his element Black delivers the goods in style, but he seems out of his depth during the larger set pieces: the action sequences are busy and confusing, especially the misjudged, threat-free climax.
The result is a film which never settles into a comfortable groove. It tries to be an angsty Dark Knight-style game changer, an ’80’s-throwback action romp, a nudge-wink pastiche and a CG-fuelled spectacular. It’s undeniably entertaining with the misfires never fully overshadowing the moments of glory. But Iron Man 3 still feels like something of a disappointment. Tom Huddleston
Weekly box office: Dhs12,700,317 Weekly admissions: 272,796 Total box office: Dhs12,700,317 Total admissions: 272,796