White House Down and World War Z go head to head in this week's box office chart
Time Out staff
10 The Purge Director: James DeMonaco Stars: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Max Burkholder, Adelaide Kane, Edwin Hodge, Rhys Wakefield, Tony Oller, Arija Bareikis
This sci-fi thriller’s fun, Tenth Victim-like premise – in the near-future, violent crime is legalised one night a year as a ‘lawful outlet for American rage’ – deserves a more thorough push into perversity. Where are the glitzy TV ads for firearms, the decadent murder parties, the scheming wives and husbands? Instead, we settle into a manicured suburban neighbourhood, where affluent security-system salesman James (Hawke) tucks his loving spouse (Headey) and two kids in for what he hopes will be an uneventful evening. Planted a bit too obviously are signs of trouble, such as the teenage boyfriend who likes to use bedroom windows, or the catty neighbour. Local warning sirens wail, and soon comes a knock at the door.
As you start hatching cooler ideas of your own (and trust us, you will), the movie drifts into a dead zone from which it never escapes. A bloodied street-gang victim (Edwin Hodge) is admitted by James’s kindhearted son, but the guy quickly turns out to be a red herring as the film morphs into a dull version of Straw Dogs. And why, on this officially licensed night, would lynch mobs require creepy masks to commit a crime? The plot dumbs down dramatically, even as bumpy handheld camerawork keeps the energy sporadic.
Watch Ethan Hawke in Before Midnight – or even last year’s Sinister – and you’ll know he can do punctured arrogance expertly. The Purge’s law-abiding patriarch deserves a moment of terrible doubt as well, but the filmmakers are too much in love with their made-up holiday to observe it to the fullest. Joshua Rothkopf
Weekly box office: Dhs345,867 Weekly admissions: 9,477 Total box office: Dhs1,547,240 Total admissions: 43,249
9 Now You See Me Director: Louis Leterrier Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Mélanie Laurent, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine
Movies about magic rarely work – a good trick requires the gasp of a live audience – and the unsubtle hands behind this abracadabra heist film aren’t the ones to prove otherwise. Right from the get-go, we doubt the skills (heavily buttressed by CGI) of our heroic quartet: Daniel (Eisenberg) seduces with card tricks; wild-eyed Merritt (Woody Harrelson) can hypnotise strangers at a touch; Henley (Isla Fisher) mysteriously escapes a glass box swarming with piranhas; and Jack (Dave Franco, James’ clonelike younger brother) boosts wallets on the ferry. Drawn together by a mysterious invitation, they become the Four Horsemen, raining millions of dollar bills on thrilled Vegas crowds and perhaps committing crimes in the process.
Nothing about their antics is remotely believable or, worse, charming in the slightest; the camera leaps across the stage, slinging our eyeballs around as the lights swivel. It’s not like we’ve ever turned to Louis Leterrier (the French hack-for-hire behind 2010’s Clash of the Titans) for psychological realism. But shouldn’t someone have warned him that his hyperventilating technique might kill the mood? When Mark Ruffalo shows up as a crumpled detective, you expect a dose of reality, yet on his heels come twin hams Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman, whose solemn presences (as Christopher Nolan knows well) prove wonderful distractions from silliness. Joshua Rothkopf
Weekly box office: Dhs368,863 Weekly admissions: 10,224 Total box office: Dhs7,552,616 Total admissions: 201,782
8 Phantom Director: Todd Robinson Stars: Ed Harris, David Duchovny, William Fichtner, Lance Henriksen, Jason Beghe, Dagmara Dominczyk, Derek Magyar
Manly, sharp-edged submarine B movies don’t come along often anymore – so consider this Cold War off-white-knuckler a welcome blast of recycled air. It helps that writer-director Todd Robinson takes on a real historical question; why the Soviet nuke-sub K-129 sunk in 1968. Once a KGB contingent seizes control of the boat and prepares to start WWIII, it’s mano-a-mano in a tin can, with Ed Harris and William Fichtner as old-school vets. As far as such potboilers go, Phantom is literate, tense and, thankfully, modest. Michael Atkinson
Weekly box office: Dhs389,547 Weekly admissions: 10,768 Total box office: Dhs389,547 Total admissions: 10,768
7 Man of Steel Director: Zack Snyder Stars: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane, Russell Crowe, Antje Traue, Harry Lennix, Richard Schiff
It’s a cliché followed by a yawn when the makers of comic-book movies boast about how ‘real’ and ‘psychological’ their stories are. Yes, we know, Spider-Man and Batman were just troubled sons with daddy issues. But it’s harder to make those claims for a Superman tale, even when the producer is Batman regenerator Christopher Nolan – a man with more backstories than an osteopath. Just how ‘real’ can the story of a genetically-modified baby launched to Earth from a planet called Krypton ever feel?
And so it’s no surprise that Man of Steel feels both modern and traditional – a halfway house between the broodier Nolan way of shaking things up and the louder, bone-crunching style that director Zack Snyder established with films such as 300 and Sucker Punch. Man of Steel is punchy, engaging and fun, even if it slips into a final 45 minutes of explosions and fights during which reason starts to vanish and the science gets muddy.
It opens with a lengthy preamble explaining how Jor-El (Russell Crowe) launched his son Kal to Earth just as his planet was falling apart, and how failed coup leader General Zod (Michael Shannon, a muted villain) was banished at the same time. It’s here, and at the end, that Snyder is at his most baroque: first, he indulges the weird science of Krypton, and later he enjoys giving America a vicious pounding when Zod tracks down Superman.
It’s in the middle section, post-Krypton, pre-showdown, that the film hits its stride. Clark Kent (Henry Cavill, a good choice for Superman: solid, sturdy, fairly anonymous) is a twenty-something wanderer uneasy with his powers. Rather than leading us through his whole life so far, Snyder tells the tale of Kent reconnecting with his past, finding the super-suit (unshiny, like the movie) and testing his powers, while often flashing back to his childhood. Soon, journalist Lois Lane (Amy Adams) knows what’s up. Adams’s character is different to the Margot Kidder version: she’s a tough-cookie investigator and not the sort to be hoodwinked by a pair of thick-rimmed glasses and a comb-over.
Mostly, this Superman is more action than angst. But those daddy issues are still in play. Crowe – never an actor to show his ticklish side – plays Jor-El like he’s Hamlet’s father. Kevin Costner is Superman’s Earth dad in pastoral scenes full of cornfields, clothes on the line and snapshots of an easier time which look like they were conceived soon after a screening of Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life.
At times, you wish for a quick dash into a phone box and a cat that needs rescuing from a tree. Snyder is no party pooper, though. He might not resurrect Superman’s old theme tune, nor does he allow the word ‘Superman’ to be spoken (it’s all Clark and Kal). But by the end, he’s teased in some of the more amusing elements of the old story we thought were missing, leaving the way open for a sequel that will surely be more Earthbound. Dave Calhoun
Weekly box office: Dhs816,234 Weekly admissions: 16,631 Total box office: Dhs15,089,446 Total admissions: 327,294
6 Hammer of the G's Director: Farren Blackburn Stars: Charlie Bewley, Clive Standen, James Cosmo, Elliot Cowan, Glynis Barber, Ivan Kaye, Michael Jibson, Theo Barklem-Biggs, Alexandra Dowling
The first feature from longterm TV director Farren Blackburn – Luther, Silent Witness and, er, Holby City – this 871 AD-set action epic charts how a young man becomes a brutal warrier as his people rely on him to restore order to the their kingdom. Early reports suggest this is a bit of a turkey, but fantasy fans may be in for a treat. Time Out staff
Weekly box office: Dhs633,258 Weekly admissions: 17,452 Total box office: Dhs633,258 Total admissions: 17,452
5 Officer Down Director: Brian A Miller Stars: Stephen Dorff, Stephen Lang, David Boreanaz, AnnaLynne McCord, Dominic Purcell, Walton Goggins, James Woods, Elisabeth Röhm
Straight up cop thriller about an officer with a shady past tasked with investigating a series of vicious assaults against women. Lead Stephen Dorff has a long track record, while it’s director Brian A Miller’s third feature, following 2011’s House of the Rising Sun. Time Out staff
Weekly box office: Dhs857,792 Weekly admissions: 21,839 Total box office: Dhs857,792 Total admissions: 21,839
4 The Heat Director: Katie Dippold Stars: Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy, Demián Bichir, Marlon Wayans, Michael Rapaport, Jane Curtin, Spoken Reasons, Dan Bakkedahl
There are high hopes for this cop comedy, which reunites two key elements from the Bridesmaids dream team: director Paul Feig and actress Melissa McCarthy. She is officially Hollywood’s new favourite funny lady after bagging an Oscar nomination for her hilarious turn in that movie. Here she’s a tough, profanity-spewing, scenery-chewing FBI agent. Sandra Bullock plays an officer so uptight that her minions mutiny. So yes, you guessed it, they get buddied up to take down a crime baron. The plot might sound as old as the hills, but the trailer is promising, with McCarthy freestyling her brand of hyper-weirdness and the Missy Ellliott remix of M.I.A.’s Bad Girls on the soundtrack. The studio behind the film, Fox, is clearly impressed: they’ve snapped up Feig to produce and direct his own comedy movies, in a deal not a million miles away from former collaborator Judd Apatow’s arrangement with Universal. Time Out Dubai staff
Weekly box office: Dhs1,124,786 Weekly admissions: 26,270 Total box office: Dhs2,820,177 Total admissions: 68,733
3 World War Z Director: Marc Forster Stars: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale, Daniella Kertesz, Ludi Boeken, Matthew Fox, Fana Mokoena, David Morse
So here it is: Brad Pitt vs zombies. The traditionally low-budget zombie genre has been treated to a blowout Dhs700 million blockbuster makeover. The result looks less like a horror flick and more like a thinking man’s action-thriller. The film is adapted from Max Brooks’s novel, and Pitt stars as a UN investigator on a global mission to find patient zero in a zombie epidemic. That eye-popping budget buys some mindblowing scenes. The best are skin-crawlingly nightmarish shots of a swarm of zombies over-running a city like truckloads of ants in a garden. But that kind of cash should have stretched to a third act, set in a laboratory in Wales, that doesn’t look like a cheap TV drama.
It begins with some sharp thrills and jolts. Director Marc Foster (Quantum of Solace) doesn’t hang about. One minute Pitt (who’s just quit the UN to be the hottest dad on the school run) is driving the family into the city. Then bam. The first wave of zombies hits. These scenes inspire a cold sweat. Obviously science leans against the likelihood of a zombie epidemic wiping out a chunk of humanity – but, watching the anarchy here, you can well believe that if something bad does happen, we’ll retreat to the Dark Ages in 15 minutes.
There are shades of real-world thrillers such as Contagion or Children of Men as Pitt is recalled to the UN and packed off with a viral expert to find the source of the outbreak. First stop is South Korea, where we get a sense of how governments are responding. North Korea has the genius idea of pulling out people’s teeth (think about it). One nation took the threat seriously early on and put itself into quarantine. Pitt suspects they might be to blame, but the truth is subtler. All this unfolds between explosions and the splatting of undead brains. Wearing an Arab scarf, Pitt is convincing as a veteran of conflicts in Liberia and the Balkans, half bleeding heart liberal, half tough guy.
What’s missing is a sense of loss. The horror and grief that should be etched on the faces of the living. As for that third act, you’ll be breaking into Shaun of the Dead giggles at the sight of middle-aged men in labcoats chasing Brad Pitt around the set of a hospital drama. Cath Clarke
Weekly box office: Dhs1,815,202 Weekly admissions: 39,520 Total box office: Dhs11,889,296 Total admissions: 272,248
2 Monsters University Director: Dan Scanlon Stars: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Helen Mirren, Peter Sohn, Joel Murray, Sean Hayes, Dave Foley
More than a decade after Monsters, Inc. comes this prequel detailing the university days of Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sulley (John Goodman) – a time when they weren’t quite so chummy. Eventually Mike’s fierce rivalry with natural-born scarer Sulley gets them both kicked out of Monster University’s elite Scare Program. Steve Buscemi will reprise his role as Randall Boggs while new voice cast members include Dave Foley, Julia Sweeney, Joel Murray and Peter Sohn. Also coming back for more is Jennifer Tilly as Celia. Dan Scanlon (Tracy) directs. Time Out Dubai staff
Weekly box office: 1,755,749 Weekly admissions: 43,291 Total box office: Dhs9,527,336 Total admissions: 230,110
1 White House Down Director: Roland Emmerich Stars: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Richard Jenkins, Joey King, James Woods
We’re expecting this back-to basics action caper to mark a return to form for director Roland Emmerich. A man who has previously threatened to annihilate mankind in Independence Day, Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow and 2012, this time it’s just the fate of the USA which is at stake. In a delightfully dumbed-down, one-man-against-the-world premise which takes its cues from the Die Hard franchise, beat cop John Cale (a beefed-up Channing Tatum) has just been denied his dream job with the Secret Service of protecting President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx). Not wanting to let down his little girl with the news, he takes her on a tour of the White House, when the complex is overtaken by a heavily armed paramilitary group. So, with the nation’s government falling into chaos and time running out, it’s up to Cale to save the president, his daughter and the country. Cue dramatic music. Time Out staff
Weekly box office: Dhs2,296,846 Weekly admissions: 56,235 Total box office: Dhs5,723,560 Total admissions: 163,312