Jack Ryan and The Wolf of Wall Street head-to-head at the box office top ten
Time Out Dubai staff
10 The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Director: Peter Jackson Stars: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage
By now, after the enormous success of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, many viewers will know where they stand in relation to Peter Jackson’s epic new trilogy of films – this reviewer, for one, is a fan of almost every big, bloated, bombastic moment. So if you weren’t taken by the first instalment of this series adapted from JRR Tolkien’s slim children’s novel along with several of his Lord of the Rings appendices, it’s unlikely you’ll suddenly warm to the second. But compared to the first film, the pace has picked up considerably.
There’s a brief flashback to the initial meeting of the grey wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and the exiled dwarf king Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage). Mostly, though, the movie sticks to the company of Thorin, his fellow dwarves and the resourceful hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) – still carrying the invisibility-cloaking Ring of Power in his pocket – as they continue on their quest to reclaim the kingdom of Erebor from the vicious dragon Smaug (a motion-captured Benedict Cumberbatch).
The Desolation of Smaug shows Peter Jackson in an especially overabundant mood, orchestrating all manner of chaos like a master conductor unleashing his inner fanboy. There’s a shape-shifting bear, the massive spiders of Mirkwood and an army of orcs. Returning archer elf Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and his fellow warrior Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly, auto-tuned into ethereality) provide multiple, gory decapitations. There’s even an extended set-piece involving some barrels and a roaring river that’s so giddily, gloriously executed that you forget it could all just be an elaborate prototype for a yet-to-be-built theme-park ride.
Exhaustion starts to set in by the time Bilbo and his friends encounter Smaug around the two-hour mark, so it’s a good thing that’s also the point at which Jackson goes full bore with the adrenalising, digitally-augmented braggadocio. By the time the beast finally spreads his wings to full span, soaring skyward toward a moon vaguely reminiscent of the one in E.T., you’re left in the kind of breathless awe that so few current cinematic superproductions are able to offer. Keith Uhlich
Weekly box office: Dhs194,285 Weekly admissions: 5,528 Total box office: Dhs9,807,080 Total admissions: 216,006
9 Philomena Director: Stephen Frears Stars: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Sophie Kennedy Clark
Philomena is directed by British veteran Stephen Frears (The Queen) and co-written by comedian Steve Coogan – who also stars opposite another much-loved old hand: Judi Dench. Coogan is Martin Sixsmith, a hard-nosed ex-BBC journalist trying to find his feet in the early 2000s after an unhappy stint in the shadows of politics. Dench is Philomena, she’s an ageing, working-class Londoner who grew up in Ireland and whose late-life admission that she had a baby taken away from her in an convent as a young woman finds her travelling to Ireland and the US with Sixsmith, who’s intent on turning her life into column inches.
Sixsmith – played with reserve by Coogan, is writing a ‘human-interest story’ on Philomena for a mid-market tabloid. Philomena – given strength, vulnerability and wit by Dench – is not sure why, or if, she wants to uncover these ghosts in her past. We see scenes of her youth in harrowing flashbacks and the story takes us to places of deep loss and pain. Dave Calhoun
Weekly box office: Dhs235,228 Weekly admissions: 5,660 Total box office: Dhs235,228 Total admissions: 5,660
8 The Book Thief Director: Brian Percival Stars: Sophie Nélisse, Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson
Narrated by Death himself (solemn-voiced Roger Allam), this sumptuous, faintly unrealistic version of Markus Zusak’s best-seller bypasses wartime horror at every juncture. Angelic orphan Liesel (Sophie Nélisse) arrives in fictional Molching, Germany, in 1938 with separation anxiety and an inability to read. Kindly foster parents Hans (Geoffrey Rush, defined by his jaunty accordion playing) and Rosa (Emily Watson, sweet under a tough exterior) fix both problems in what feels like a matter of weeks. Soon, Nazis start roughing up the townsfolk, but Liesel has unerring moral instincts, hiding a young boy escaping persecution in the cellar and softening hearts all around, while developing into an avid reader.
Where the book had a kernel of intellectual irony to it – words betray a nation – this drama goes shamelessly for the heart. Joshua Rothkopf
Weekly box office: Dhs229,377 Weekly admissions: 6,536 Total box office: Dhs229,377 Total admissions: 6,536
7 Esh El Bolbol Director: Hossam Elgohary Stars: Karim Mahmoud Abdel Aziz, May Selim
A comedy about a taxi driver who wants to achieve his goal of becoming a famous pop singer. Time Out staff
Weekly box office: Dhs241,405 Weekly admissions: 6,941 Total box office: Dhs241,405 Total admissions: 6,941
6 Black Rock Director: Katie Aselton Stars: Katie Aselton, Lake Bell, Kate Bosworth
They call it a triple threat: as the director, co-writer (with her husband, mumblecore icon Mark Duplass) and star of this budget, female fronted survival slasher, Katie Aselton is making a bid for glory. It’s a solid rather than spectacular effort, low on ambition but efficiently constructed and very watchable.
Aselton is Abby, who travels with her dysfunctional old pals Sarah (Kate Bosworth) and Lou (Lake Bell) to the island of Black Rock, scene of many a youthful rampage. But when a gang of ex-soldiers crashes the party, things turn ugly, fast.
Aselton walks the line between exploitation and feminist reversal with abandon. The script contains a handful of effective surprises, but it’s hamstrung by the generic set-up: once the gloves come off, the remainder of the plot – one woman finds her inner strength and fights back – is inevitable. Tom Huddleston
Weekly box office: Dhs245,310 Weekly admissions: 7,076 Total box office: Dhs245,310 Total admissions: 7,076
5 August: Osage County Director: John Wells Stars: Meryl Streep, Dermot Mulroney, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor, Margo Martindale
It’s dark days for the Weston family. As if the mouth-cancer diagnosis afflicting tetchy matriarch Violet (Meryl Streep) wasn’t enough, her husband, Beverly (Sam Shepard), has gone missing, perhaps permanently. A stream of relatives—sisters Barbara (Julia Roberts), Karen (Juliette Lewis) and Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) chief among them—descends on the couple’s dank, exceedingly hot Oklahoma house to pay their respects and parryViolet’s insults with barbs of their own.
The bloom is a bit off the rose with this starry, streamlined adaptation of Tracy Letts’s Tony- and Pulitzer-feted 2007 play. What ran more than three hours onstage now barely cracks two, and the cutting can be felt in the way the often gut-busting bad behavior is privileged over psychological credibility. (Sullen, vegan-knocking brother-in-law Charles, played by Chris Cooper, suffers the most from this divide.) Regardless, every cast member sinks his or her teeth into the red-meat bitchery of Letts’s material. Streep is, unsurprisingly, a standout as some kind of Kabuki Dragon Queen of Flyover Country. The movie may be all ephemerally simple pleasures when compared to the play’s durable grand statements—but they’re pleasures nonetheless. Keith Ulrich
Weekly box office: Dhs425,322 Weekly admissions: 9,279 Total box office: Dhs425,322 Total admissions: 9,279
4 Justin and the Knights of Valour Director: Manuel Sicilia Stars: Antonio Banderas, James Cosmo, Michael Culkin, Charles Dance, Tamsin Egerton
David Walliams, Rupert Everett, Julie Walters, Mark Strong, Saoirse Ronan... judging from the impressive voice cast you’d think this fantasy family animation was a British/Irish production, but it’s actually Spanish.
The Spiderwick Chronicles’ Freddie Highmore is weedy young Justin, who dreams of becoming a Knight of Valour like his grandfather. But knights have been ousted from the kingdom, so he must go on a journey to find three monks to mentor him in the ways of courage and valour.
Uninspiring animation and a plodding story (it’s co-written by Spanish director Manuel Sicilia and Brit Matthew Jacobs) mean there’s little in the way of excitement, and most attempts at jokes fall flat.
There’s a glimmer of hope when sprightly henchman Sota bounces onto the scene – you know he’s going to be voiced by Rupert Everett before he even opens his mouth. But, like David Walliams’s wizard and Antonio Banderas’s self-styled knight, his comic potential isn’t exploited.
Too many cooks or a language barrier? Who can say, but the result won’t entertain many beyond sword-obsessed toddlers too young to follow the story anyway. Anna Smith
Weekly box office: Dhs410,396 Weekly admissions: 10,438 Total box office: Dhs1,185,132 Total admissions: 29,010
3 Frozen Director: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee Stars: Kristen Bell, Josh Gad, Idina Menzel
There are three things classic Disney animations are supposed to have. One: belting show tunes. Two: a bit of danger and darkness amid all the schmaltz. Three: an ultimately conservative message wrapped up in a traditional feel-good happy ending. Loosely inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, Frozen initially promises to deliver on all three.
We open with two tiny princesses playing together in their parents’ palace. Elsa is entertaining her younger sibling Anna by magically shooting ice and snow from her hands, creating a secret nocturnal playground that recalls the classic Mice Follies episode of the Tom and Jerry’ cartoons.
As the girls grow up through the medium of song, the film proper begins, with icy blonde Elsa (voiced by Enchanted star Idina Menzel) charged never to use her dangerous powers or show the wider world who she really is. Cut off from her increasingly repressed older sister, spunky redhead Anna (Kristen Bell from TV’s Heroes) is bored beyond belief, dreaming of true love. As a first act, it’ll do. We get where the characters are coming from, we can see where it might all go wrong for them, and everything looks very pretty.
It’s as Frozen unfolds that the film kicks up a notch. The standout song, ‘Let It Go’, feels like Disney’s most inspired empowerment anthem yet (‘Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know. Well, now they know’). It’s also in the second act that we meet the irresistible comic relief, Olaf the Snowman (Josh Gad, familiar to musical fans as Elder Cunningham in The Book Of Mormon), and encounter the danger essential to a satisfying Disney experience.
So Frozen has both tunes and darkness. But most satisfying is a formula-defying finale that successfully subverts fairytale status quo. We’ll have more of this sort of thing please, Disney. Catherine Bray
Weekly box office: Dhs894,216 Weekly admissions: 21,121 Total box office: Dhs10,123,212 Total admissions: 245,620
2 The Wolf of Wall Street Director: Martin Scorsese Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner
The director. The subject matter. The epic running time. All the signs point to real-life stock-market story The Wolf of Wall Street being classic, old-school Martin Scorsese: swearing, big speeches, bigger performances, a spot of social critique and lashings of classic rock. But while many of these elements are present, something unexpected has snuck in alongside them: huge crowd-pleasing laughs.
This is the funniest movie of Scorsese’s career – earlier efforts like The King of Comedy and After Hours may have been brilliant, but their chuckles were colder and more unsettling. The Wolf of Wall Street plays modern tragedy as epic farce, reminding us just how much fun Scorsese can be when he’s in a playful mood.
It also proves – equally unexpectedly – that Leonardo DiCaprio can do comedy. He plays Jordan Belfort, an unscrupulous stock-market wizard who, in his early twenties, became a multi-multi-millionaire by fleecing Americans out of their hard-earned investments. Belfort – along with his goofy-toothed sidekick Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) – lived the good life for the best part of a decade. That is, until the authorities came a-knocking...
Predictably, The Wolf of Wall Street is more flash than substance. Scorsese never digs too deeply under the skin of these reprehensible conmen, and there are times where the swooping photography, smash-and-grab editing and toe-tapping soundtrack conspire to almost – almost – make us like them. But when the film’s cylinders are firing, it’s impossible not to be dragged along. The big set-pieces – a squirm-inducing encounter between DiCaprio and Joanna Lumley on a London park bench, a Mediterranean cruise that goes horribly wrong and, most memorably, a grandiose slapstick sequence involving a sports car – are among the most memorable of Scorsese’s career, rivalling Goodfellas for sheer vitality. The result may not be the most measured take on the ongoing financial crisis, but it is without doubt the most entertaining.
However, some viewers may be disappointed to learn that an estimated 45 minutes of material has been cut from the international release to suit regional audiences. Tom Huddleston
Weekly box office: Dhs1,109,254 Weekly admissions: 25,498 Total box office: Dhs4,404,693 Total admissions: 100,657
1 Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Director: Kenneth Branagh Stars: Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Keira Knightley
This action thriller based on Tom Clancy’s novels is the fifth since the 1990s, in a reboot that brings the action into the present day with an original story by David Koepp. Jack Ryan is a CIA analyst who discovers a plot by Russian terrorists (old and new school baddies rolled up in one) to take down the American economy. After Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck in the role of Jack Ryan, we now have Chris Pine (Star Trek’s Captain Kirk) alongside Keira Knightley and Kevin Costner. Oddly, the film is directed by Sir Kenneth Branagh, who also stars in the film. TO
Weekly box office: Dhs3,399,228 Weekly admissions: 74,745 Total box office: Dhs3,399,228 Total admissions: 74,745