Spookfest Djinn takes on Hollywood in the box office top ten
Time Out staff
10 Upside Down Director: Juan Solanas Stars: Kirsten Dunst, Jim Sturgess, Timothy Spall, Blu Mankuma, Neil Napier, Jayne Heitmeyer, Agnieshka Wnorowska
After a pie-eyed voiceover that rivals Dune in its free-associative incoherence – twin planets with their own gravitational forces, combustible inverse matter, pink bee pollen that makes objects levitate – director Juan Solanas’s alterna-universe romance begins in earnest. And we do mean in earnest: wide-eyed sentimentalist Adam (Sturgess) comes from the dank, poverty-stricken world below, while radiant Eden (Dunst) hails from the gleamingly wealthy orb above. The latter society feeds off the former’s resources, all at the behest of the gluttonous TransWorld corporation, and residents of one civilization (who view their counterparts as if they were…upside down!) are not to mingle with the other.
Adam and Eden break that dictum, of course, and this results in much moony-eyed romantic cooing – not to mention a convenient bout of amnesia, an infiltrate-TransWorld subplot.
To his credit, Solanas unabashedly believes in this heartstring-plucking hooey, and he certainly has a knack for striking images. (The planets-joining TransWorld skyscraper is an especially inventive creation, with its positive-negative floor designations and topsy-turvy cubicles that extend into seemingly infinite space.) But Sturgess and Dunst never generate much heat; they’re mostly exposition-spouting stick figures. And the movie builds to a particularly deflating anticlimax, passing over an inevitably apocalyptic confrontation between spheres with a wink-wink, nudge-nudge bit of dialogue that’s like a rejected punchline from a Douglas Adams novel. Keith Uhlich
Weekly box office: Dhs169,586 Weekly admissions: 4,541 Total box office: Dhs968,279 Total admissions: 24,964
Arabic romantic comedy about a policeman who is transferred to another part of his country, where he falls in love.
Weekly box office: Dhs227,705 Weekly admissions: 6,216 Total box office: Dhs227,705 Total admissions: 6,216
8 Escape Plan Director: Mikael Håfström Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, 50 Cent, Jim Caviezel, Vincent D'Onofrio, Vinnie Jones, Sam Neill
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone re-team for another bruising action vehicle, this time following Sly as a high-security prison designer who gets incarcerated in one of his own creations. Arnie assumes the wisened, Morgan Freeman-type role in the prison courtyard, aiming with his square-jawed partner to devise the ultimate break-out. The trailer showcases enough CCTV footage interspersed with fistfights to fill a Bourne movie – which is what you would expect from these two. Time Out staff
Weekly box office: Dhs381,596 Weekly admissions: 9,382 Total box office: Dhs7,954,545 Total admissions: 197,355
7 Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 Director: Cody Cameron, Kris Pearn Stars: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, Will Forte
It’s only when the sentient snacks are front and center that this middling sequel to the 2009 animated hit truly comes alive. Pickles stalk the town in search of their own food, mosquitoasts sting, apple-pie-thons slither, and there’s a cheespider with French-fry legs that’s sure to make plenty of kids happy in its inevitable plastic toy form. Until then, the young ’uns have got a movie heavily reliant on groaner food puns that would work better on the page (‘There’s a leek in my boat’ gets running-gag honours) and slathered in the usual sentimental gibberish about following your instincts, dreams, etc. Not even a reheat could save these leftovers. Keith Uhlich
Weekly box office: Dhs404,665 Weekly admissions: 10,576 Total box office: Dhs6,786,150 Total admissions: 156,436
6 Maximum Conviction Director: Keoni Waxman Stars: Steven Seagal, Steve Austin, Michael Paré
Steven Seagal and ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin team up in this forgettable action romp. Weekly box office: Dhs 500,671 Weekly admissions: 13,519 Total box office: Dhs500,671 Total admissions: 13,519
5 Escape from Planet Earth Director: Cal Brunker Stars: Brendan Fraser, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jessica Alba, Rob Corddry, Ricky Gervais, Jonathan Morgan Heit, Sofía Vergara
The late author Douglas Adams summed up Earth as, ‘mostly harmless,’ a description that also applies to this eminently tolerable animated time-filler. Brawny Scorch Supernova (Brendan Fraser), hero of the planet Baab, responds to a distress call from Earth. Trapped by Area 51 overlord Shanker (William Shatner), Scorch learns to respect his nerdy rescuing brother (Rob Corddry) and stop calling him a, ‘computer-lovin’ mama’s boy.’ Alongside jokes about product placement and actual plugs for 7-Eleven (kids will want a Slurpee afterward), lessons about teamwork are rendered in passable CGI. Vadim Rizov
Weekly box office: Dhs633,829 Weekly admissions: 15,376 Total box office: Dhs633,829 Total admissions: 15,376
4 Enders Game Director: Gavin Hood Stars: Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin, Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis, Aramis Knight
Hollywood producers should stop listening to nerds. The cheerleaders of the geek-net already managed to talk gullible studio bosses into bankrolling flops like Watchmen and John Carter, but their work is not yet done. Based on a moderately popular 1985 sci-fi novel, Ender’s Game is yet another intriguing, complex, strangely unlikeable big-budget experiment destined to thrill the fans and befuddle the rest of us.
The first half is crammed with ideas, as 12-year-old strategic prodigy Ender Wiggin (a wonderfully frosty Asa Butterfield) is hand-picked to lead Earth’s military in the war against alien Formics. The cast is strong, the effects well designed, and the script’s interest in how violence influences and inspires children is timely and insightful.
But it falters once the actual war begins: Ben Kingsley shows up as a Maori warrior with the weirdest imaginable accent, the final battle is uninvolving, and there’s an unconvincing upbeat coda. Ender’s Game ends up being fitfully engaging and endearingly odd. Tom Huddleston
Weekly box office: Dhs1,103,485 Weekly admissions: 26,307 Total box office: Dhs1,103,485 Total admissions: 26,307
3 Gravity Director: Alfonso Cuarón Stars: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris
‘You gotta admit one thing,’ drawls George Clooney’s hardened astronaut, floating some 600km above the surface of the Earth. ‘You can’t beat the view’.
The same could be said of Alfonso Cuarón’s engaging, exceptional and inimitable masterpiece Gravity. Taking place entirely in the depths of outer space, the cosmic vistas of Earth and the final frontier are rendered in painstaking beauty, while the weightlessness of space – floating objects, a world lacking in up/down orientation – offers perhaps the best use of 3D we’ve seen yet.
But this picture is far more than eye candy. It’s a gripping, emotive and original thriller rendered in a rich and immersive environment. Essentially a disaster movie in space, a routine satellite upgrade mission goes awry when a cloud of debris strikes the craft and crew. Thus begins an incredible half-hour of real time, white-knuckle action, as soul survivors Matt Kowalski (Clooney) and Ryan Stone (an incredible Sandra Bullock) spin off into the great unknown, their hopes of survival as limited as their oxygen tanks.
It’s frantic, gripping and immediate, the claustrophobia of space acutely rendered with a balance of silence, shock, heart and technique.
Mexican writer-director Cuarón is best known to cinemagoers for helming 2004’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and to movie geeks for his coming-of-age, Spanish language road movie Y Tu Mamá También (2001). But Cuarón’s only prior work to hint at his talents for this kind of conceptually engrossing affair is dystopian novel adaptation Children of Men (2006). Like that movie, Gravity should be commended for making the implausible feel not just realistic, but viscerally, heart-pounding real.
Don’t let the space put you off; while we’re forced to reluctantly label this a sci-fi, it’s one of those rare, once-in-a-decade moments where a genre flick transcends its label, and simply demands viewing, like Alien or The Shining. A brief detour into Bullock’s backstory might frustrate some viewers, chiming an emotionally manipulative bell, but ultimately this film needs to be commended for not conforming to the Hollywood ending many movie buffs may be expecting (we’ll say no more). An absolute triumph utterly deserving in all the Oscar hype it’s already attracting. Robert Garratt Weekly box office: Dhs1,577,383 Weekly admissions: 31,664 Total box office: Dhs10,450,978 Total admissions: 201,728
2 Djinn Director: Tobe Hooper Stars: Aiysha Hart, Razane Jammal, Khalid Laith, Paul Luebke, Kristina Coker, May El Calamawy, Carol Abboud, Rajeev Daswani
The first ever Emirati horror movie made its debut at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival this October. The plot revolves around a couple who return home from a trip abroad to discover that their new apartment has been built on a site where malevolent forces are at work. In fact, the protagonists discover that the neighbours in their high rise apartment in Ras Al Khaimah may not even be human at all... Time Out staff
Weekly box office: Dhs1,370,503 Weekly admissions: 38,153 Total box office: Dhs1,370,503 Total admissions: 38,153
1 Captain Phillips Director: Paul Greengrass Stars: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, Faysal Ahmed, Mahat M. Ali, Michael Chernus, Catherine Keener, David Warshofsky
Captain Phillips is the true story of a cargo ship skipper whose vessel was overrun by pirates off the coast of Somalia in 2009. It gives British director Paul Greengrass, the man at the helm of United 93 and the first two Bourne films, licence to indulge two of his favourite storytelling pastimes: high-stakes tension and real-world politics.
It also sees Tom Hanks playing an unexceptional guy at the heart of an exceptional crisis. Bearded and paunchy, he’s a no-nonsense manager-type whose workplace becomes the focus of a Navy Seals operation. Greengrass doesn’t deny him heroic qualities – Phillips shows resilience and courage – yet there’s nothing superhuman about him. It’s one of Hanks’s most affecting performances in years.
Much of Captain Phillips feels like being slapped in the face by rigging and blasted by sea spray. It deftly combines a sense of measured calm with one of creeping hysteria. The emotions of its lead character are like a bottle of bubbly whose cork only pops right at the end of the movie – although there’s little to celebrate. Some survive, some don’t. But the world remains as divided at the end of Greengrass’s tale as it was at the beginning, and if there are some telling moments of communication between Phillips and pirate Muse, they always remain a world apart. Dave Calhoun
Weekly box office: Dhs3,375,247 Weekly admissions: 78,831 Total box office: Dhs3,375,247 Total admissions: 78,831