The movies making a mark this week at the UAE's cinemas
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: Dhs82,930 Weekly admissions: 2,387 Total box office: Dhs9,890,009 Total admissions: 218,393
9 The Numbers Station Director: Kasper Barfoed Stars: John Cusack, Malin Akerman, Liam Cunningham
When Agent Emerson Kent’s (Cusack) last operation goes wrong, the disgraced veteran CIA agent is given one last chance to prove that he’s not past his best.
Dispatched to a remote CIA broadcast station to protect a code operator Katherine (Akerman), the pair are ambushed by a team of armed assailants and they soon find themselves in a life-or-death struggle to stop a deadly plot before it’s too late. Time Out staff
Weekly box office: Dhs119,403 Weekly admissions: 3,419 Total box office: Dhs119,403 Total admissions: 3,419
8 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: Dhs274,288 Weekly admissions: 7,366 Total box office: Dhs4,678,981 Total admissions: 108,023
7 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: Dhs341,735 Weekly admissions: 8,941 Total box office: Dhs10,464,946 Total admissions: 254,561
6 Devil's Due Director: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett Stars: Allison Miller, Zach Gilford, Sam Anderson
This thriller appropriates the storyline from Rosemary’s Baby, of a woman possibly pregnant with the devil’s child, then amps it up with found-footage and telekinetic mayhem.
A perennial complaint about horror movies is that they don’t develop their characters to a point where the audience actually cares about them. You can’t level that criticism at Lindsay Devlin’s naturalistic script or the direction by Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin. In fact, Devil’s Due spends too much time on home movie footage of newlyweds Zach (Gilford) and Samantha McCall (Miller), while neglecting to scare the life out of us.
Yes, the digitally documented progress of Sam’s disturbing pregnancy is punctuated with hints that she is swollen with something more than motherly pride. But all these elements are too familiar: a biblical quote about the coming of the Antichrist; a honeymoon in the Dominican Republic that ends with a night of amnesia and fuzzy video images of a weird ritual. Also, the big question remains: Why does Zach carry on filming as he is being flung against the ceiling by demonic forces? Nigel Floyd
Weekly box office: Dhs621,851 Weekly admissions: 17,446 Total box office: Dhs621,851 Total admissions: 17,446
5 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: Dhs802,202 Weekly admissions: 19,467 Total box office: Dhs4,201,430 Total admissions: 94,212
4 The Nut Job Director: Peter Lepeniotis Stars: Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser, Liam Neeson
After he accidentally destroys the winter food supply of his fellow Liberty Park residents, Surly (Arnett), a squirrel, is banished to the streets of Oakton. Luckily, Surly finds the town’s nut shop and hatches a plan to plunder its bounty. However, unbeknown to Surly and his ragtag team of animal associates, the nut shop is really a front for mobsters who plan to rob the bank next door. While Surly and his team break in to the shop, the mobsters carry out their own scheme. Time Out staff
Weekly box office: Dhs911,576 Weekly admissions: 21,852 Total box office: Dhs911,576 Total admissions: 21,852
3 I, Frankenstein Director: Stuart Beattie Stars: Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy, Miranda Otto
If a list is ever compiled of the most embarrassing screen moments featuring otherwise talented actors, the scene a few minutes into ‘I, Frankenstein’ in which Miranda Otto announces, with a completely straight face, that she is Leonore, High Queen of the Gargoyle Order, must surely place somewhere near the top. But then, this excruciating 3D romp catching up with Mary Shelley’s literary creation 200 years after he first drew breath is little more than a long series of such nail-bitingly awful moments, haphazardly stitched together. Aaron Eckhart plays the title character (the monster, not the scientist, in case there’s any confusion), who becomes entangled in a war between the aforementioned sentient statuary (the goodies) and an army of hellspawn led by Bill Nighy’s demon prince Naberius (the baddies). Nothing about this works: the effects are dire, the mythology confused and idiotic, Aussie director Stuart Beattie’s direction is leaden-footed and the entire affair is devoid of humour (not that it isn’t funny, just not intentionally so). Death would’ve been kinder. Tom Huddleston
Weekly box office: Dhs1,724,476 Weekly admissions: 27,621 Total box office: Dhs1,724,476 Total admissions: 27,621
2 The Legend of Hercules Director: Renny Harlin Stars: Kellan Lutz, Gaia Weiss, Scott Adkins
Lutz plays Hercules, son of Zeus, in this latest Hollywood origins story. Caught in a forbidden love, Hercules is exiled by his stepfather, King Amphitryon, and sold into slavery. The legendary strongman endures harrowing battles and death matches in the gladiator’s arena, and must use his formidable powers to fight his way back to his rightful kingdom, overthrow its traitorous ruler and restore peace to the land. Time Out staff
Weekly box office: Dhs2,046,182 Weekly admissions: 52,408 Total box office: Dhs2,046,182 Total admissions: 52,408
1 Ride Along Director: Tim Story Stars: Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, Tika Sumpter
Security guard and aspiring cop Ben (Hart) wants to propose to Angela (Sumpter), but her big brother isn’t too keen. Protective sibling James (Ice Cube) is a burly Atlanta police officer, and in an attempt to scare Ben away, invites him on a 24-hour patrol around the mean streets of Atlanta to make him prove his worth. Time Out staff
Weekly box office: Dhs2,205,361 Weekly admissions: 53,972 Total box office: Dhs2,205,361 Total admissions: 53,972