The biggest grossing blockbusters at the UAE box office
20. White House Down UAE box office gross: $2,230,791
Roland Emmerich has already blown up the White House – a fact noted here when an over-enthused tour guide namechecks Independence Day – but here he is back at it again in this thrill-a-minute actioneer about a terrorist invasion of the President’s Palace. Submit to the imbecility of the plot’s unfathomable leaps and 24-style twists, and it’s a helluva ride.
More used to the grand set pieces of 2012 and Godzilla, some of the close quarters combat is confusingly edited, but once the Black Hawks come out Emmerich is back in his element. If you’re prepared to laugh along with – and often at – White House Down, it’s a veritable white-knuckle riot. Rob Garratt
19. Escape Plan UAE box office gross: $2,232,312
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
18. Jack Reacher UAE box office gross: $2,248,429
Jack Reacher is based on the popular Lee Child novel ‘One Shot’, and follows the title character as he investigates the murders of five random victims of a sniper shootout. The movie begins with a sharp-looking sniper, selecting his victims through a sniper scope and then quickly eliminating them in one brisk shot. The police investigate and arrest the suspect, who they believe is the shooter. During his interrogation he says nothing, but on a notepad he writes ‘Get Jack Reacher’.
The following scene has two police investigators reading up on Reacher with the conventional dialogue of a tough as nails guy, served in the military, brilliant investigation skills, numerous awards and the ever so clichéd, “Can’t find him, unless he wants to be found”. This marks the entry of Jack Reacher, portrayed by a younger (he is now 50) looking Tom Cruise with a broad physique and a no-nonsense look on his face, who’s there to learn why the man he despises the most has asked for his help.
During his investigation Reacher learns that the killings weren’t random and there is a much higher conspiracy at play. His shrewd detective skills and years of hardened military training ensures he leaves no stones unturned and takes on hired thugs, a brilliant thundering car chase sequence between Reacher and the assassins and outsmarts nearly the entire police unit to uncover the truth.
The supporting cast although credible in their performances somehow fell flat and redundant half way through the movie. Rosamund Pike started off very motivating, but her character lacked the anxiety and urgency once the plot started to thicken. The addition of legendary German film-maker Werner Herzog as the film’s spooky villain seemed quite intriguing at first, but he was reduced to nothing more than a shadowy figure simply lurking in the background. Although quite late into the movie, a magnificent special appearance from the seasoned Robert Duvall as Reacher’s sidekick provided excitement and thrill to a climax that was quickly losing its momentum. Lastly, a splendid performance by Jai Courtney as the master assassin is proving he has the mettle to grab a foothold in Hollywood. He put up a tough fight against Tom Cruise in the finale and next spring he will rub shoulders with another Hollywood heavyweight - Bruce Willis in ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’.
Jack Reacher is Tom Cruise’s show from the very first moment he enters the frame. His performance as the judge and executioner to those who think they are above the law pays homage to a modern age persona of Harry Callahan aka Dirty Harry. The film clearly does have its flaws with underused performances and unexplained sub plots, but these can easily be overlooked due to the movie’s thrilling momentum and Tom’s onscreen persona. It’s not the usual over the top movie audiences have come to expect from Cruise’s previous films, but a rather down to earth execution makes Jack Reacher a first-rate action thriller. Ashford Fernandez
17. Now You See Me UAE box office gross: $2,287,714
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
16. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug UAE box office gross: $2,335,413
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
15. The Croods UAE box office gross: $2,394,640
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
14. The Smurfs 2 UAE box office gross: $2,669,430
The first big-screen Smurfs movie was a harmless Saturday-morning romp that earnestly catered to the youngest crowds. For the sequel, director Raja Gosnell sticks to the formula: Smurfette (voiced by Katy Perry) is again kidnapped by the Great Gargamel (Hank Azaria), this time taken to Paris, where the sorcerer has become a world-renowned magician.
Lost in the jump across the Atlantic is the original’s New York charm: The rest of the Smurfs venture off to save their blond sister; married couple Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris) and Grace (Jayma Mays) tag along for human support; and Gosnell finds a surprising balance between the wacky and the heartfelt.
The Smurfs 2 is lively but routine. Gargamel’s pair of artificial underlings, who take Smurfette under their wings for airborne joyrides through the towers of Notre Dame. Gosnell treats it like a Smurfified version of Avatar, but the antics wear thin. Matt Patches
13. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire UAE box office gross: $2,674,772
What are the odds? Like Katniss Everdeen ducking a poison-tip arrow, the keepers of Suzanne Collins’s trilogy of fantasy novels have dodged the perils of the sloppy second franchise film. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is leaner, gutsier and smarter. In hand-to-hand combat, it would have the first film on the floor, trapped in a headlock, whimpering for mercy. Over two-and-a-half heart-pounding hours, it doesn’t drag for a second.
A hefty chunk of the story is similar to the last one – except this time there’s more to lose. Jennifer Lawrence returns as Katniss, whose defiance has revolution a brewin’ in the districts. President Snow (Donald Sutherland, playing evil Santa) can hear the howl of fury rising. ‘Would you like to be in a real war?’ he threatens, shark-eyes glinting. Snow puts his snakish sidekick (Philip Seymour Hoffman) on the job of devising a new version of the Games to eliminate Katniss – a champions’ championship.
J-Law burns the screens. She’s stunning, suggesting a storm raging behind her eyes and powerfully conveying Katniss’s terror of leading the revolution. She’s no Bella Swan. Instead of batting her eyelashes at love interests Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson, less drippy this time), she shoos them away to focus on staying alive.
The Games are more fun to watch this time around. In The Hunger Games we got a bunch of samey-looking teenagers fighting to the death. This is the Olympics of Hunger Games, with the best of the best up against each other, like Usain Bolt with daggers in his Pumas. Cath Clarke
12. Monsters University UAE box office gross: $2,903,934
You needn’t have seen 2001’s Monsters, Inc. to understand or enjoy this prequel; it’s enough to know that a decade before audiences first met one-eyed blob Mike Wazowski and turquoise gorilla ‘Sulley’ Sullivan they were dewy hopefuls striding the corridors of higher learning. At ‘MU’ they first tussle, then are forced into an unlikely partnership when Dean Hardscrabble targets them for expulsion.
Monsters University aces a two part test. First, appealing to kids with gorgeous, hyper-realistic animation. Second, luring in parents with several knowing jokes about youthful student days. Behind the gentleness lies a significant message of sticking up for honesty, along with the value of studying hard. If the film lacks the heartbreaking quality of Pixar’s revolutionary best, there’s no demerit in playing it solid and safe. And adult fans of horror will love the idea of a fearsome school of hard knocks. Time Out staff
11. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 UAE box office gross: $2,994,389
There’s much talk of ‘forever’ in the fifth and final instalment (or so we’ve been promised) of ‘The Twilight Saga’, the screen’s most vanilla vampire chronicle. It’s an apt word to stress, signifying both the deathless devotion the series has inspired in legions of ferocious fans and the interminable tedium these rather inelegantly protracted films present to the unconverted. Neither camp’s minds are going to be changed by Bill Condon’s alternately thudding and thrilling closer, but that is as it should be: right down to the celebratory parade of every participating player across all five films in the end credits, ‘Breaking Dawn – Part 2’ is less a freestanding film than a victory lap for a franchise that hasn’t wavered in its commitment to its fanbase.
That’s a gentle way of saying that ‘Part 2’ does little to prove the necessity of splitting Stephenie Meyer’s concluding novel, ‘Deathly Hallows’-style, into two halves. The bulk of the book’s most savoury action – sullen teen Bella Swan’s long-delayed sexual awakening, mutant pregnancy and conversion to the bloodsucking faith – was covered in last year’s gratifyingly bonkers exercise in junior Cronenbergia. That leaves the follow-up a rather talky affair for its first half: while the Cullen clan pad around their luxury woodland lodge, discussing intricate global vampire politics and wearing gilets, the film most resembles an underexposed Next catalogue.
By and by, however, an engaging sense of humour emerges, even flirting with self-parody when Taylor Lautner’s lupine Jacob – whose eerily marzipan-like consistency, even in wolf form, remains his sole interesting feature – perfunctorily gets his kit off before Bella’s horrified dad. Across both the ‘Breaking Dawn’ films, that playfulness has been Condon’s chief gift to the series. It pays off grandly in a riotous showdown between the heroes and the malevolent, Michael Sheen-led Volturi tribe, which finds an absurdly ingenious way both to preserve and subvert the contentiously passive climax of Meyer’s novel.
Most energised of all, for once, is Kristen Stewart, often unfairly maligned for a performance restricted by the maddeningly morose behaviour of Bella in human form. Reborn as a vampire, her newly red eyes visibly glint with the pleasure of finally getting to kick some ass, leaving all memories of Edward-Jacob love tussles for the inconsequential dust they are. If we learn anything from this silly but satisfying finale, it’s that everyone could stand to get some vampire in them. Guy Lodge (Time Out London)
10. Despicable Me 2 UAE box office gross: $3,091,601
Children learn through repetition, something that Hollywood’s animation studios are taking to heart this year. With sequels to Monsters, Inc and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs also on the way, the multiplex is a veritable Sesame Street of cuddly familiarity. Quite what kids stand to learn from this loud, broad and disjointedly amusing follow-up to the 2010 surprise hit is open to question. But its repetitive qualities are beyond reproach. Every bit as amiable and disposable as its predecessor, it recycles everything from slapstick gags to its own voice cast (Kristen Wiig pops up again, but as an entirely different character).
The first film ended with Steve Carell’s reformed Russian super villain Gru settling down with his sickly-sweet trio of adopted daughters. Here, he’s still trying to go straight, with an unpromising business making jellies and jams in the pipeline. The MI6-style Anti-Villain League, however, has other plans. Enter goofy secret agent Lucy (Wiig) to whisk Gru into a madcap scheme to take down an unidentified despot with dastardly designs on Gru’s cute, cackling horde of canary-yellow minions. Right down to the closing-credits ‘audition’ for their upcoming spin-off feature, the frantic antics of these critters are scarcely disguised as the film’s raison d’être. The human activity, including Gru and Lucy’s appealing but half-baked romance, is strictly to get us from A to, well, A. Youngsters won’t mind. Their parents will be as charmed or annoyed – or, maybe, both – as they were the first time. Guy Lodge
9. Gravity UAE box office gross: $3,195,492
‘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
8. Life of Pi UAE box office gross: $3,217,147
Yann Martel’s 2001 novel Life of Pi divided readers: some found its wide-eyed spirituality and magic-realist invention intoxicating, while others choked on its pantheistic platitudes and winsome authorial voice. Against all the odds, Ang Lee’s epic 3D adaptation might just unite the two camps: fans will lap up the film’s dedication to capturing the spirit of Martel’s words, while doubters may well find themselves – slowly, grudgingly – persuaded by the film’s astonishing visual confidence and narrative force.
Three actors (notably teenager Suraj Sharma, recently spotted in Dubai on the red carpet to launch the film) play Pi, the middle-class lad from Pondicherry whose adolescent explorations of faith are interrupted when the container ship on which he’s travelling goes down in the Pacific. Everyone on board drowns, except for Pi and four denizens of his father’s zoo, among them a ferocious Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. The question is how long boy and tiger can coexist, miles from land and fresh water, and with precious little hope of rescue.
A word of warning for the traditionalists: Life of Pi is a film steeped in CGI, and there are very few shots here without some kind of process element. But this isn’t some sort of sickly, soupy digital phantasmagoria: Lee handles the special effects and especially the 3D with absolute surety, creating moments of jaw-dropping, eye-ravishing beauty.
Finding Neverland writer David Magee’s script isn’t quite so successful: mostly he manages to avoid both syrupy sentiment and hazy magical thinking, but a late diversion onto an island randomly populated by meerkats feels jarringly out of place, while some of the voiceover is a little heavy-handed.
But it all comes together in a blunt but forceful finale, as the scales fall from our eyes and all our doubts are cleverly addressed. It’s here that Lee stamps his claim on Martel’s work, and all that rampant visual excess comes into sharp focus. For Lee, this isn’t just a story about God, life, death and our place in the world – it’s about cinema too and how, in the modern age, it’s inextricably interlinked with everything we feel and experience. It’s a remarkable moment in a remarkable film: flawed, yes, but marvellously ambitious, and unforgettably gorgeous to look at. Tom Huddleston
7. G.I. Joe: Retaliation UAE box office gross: $3,241,225 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
6. Thor: The Dark World UAE box office gross: $3,347,550 Some ingredients for making a Thor sequel: one copy of The Lord of the Rings; one DVD of Hellboy 2 one complete set of Masters of the Universe dolls; one footballers’ hairdressing manual from 1983; one ‘Idiot’s Guide to Norse Mythology’; and one retrospective rock album: The Very Best of Yes. This is a deeply silly, extremely noisy and sometimes impenetrable action movie that’s drowning in CGI, wild overacting and mullets. And it’s actually enormously entertaining.
We pick up the story shortly after events in 2012’s The Avengers: hissable horned villain Loki (Tom Hiddleston) languishes in Asgard’s deepest dungeon; bulging hero Thor (Chris Hemsworth) battles to reunite the Nine Realms; and Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is in London studying dimensional anomalies and dating Richard (Chris O’Dowd). But it’s not long before an ancient enemy arises: this time it’s the dark elves, a gang of unpredictable intergalactic Tolkien re-enacters led by Brit actor Christopher Eccleston in facepaint.
Most of what worked in 2011’s first Thor works again: Hiddleston is campy and treacherous, Hemsworth is puppy-dog keen and there’s a nice line in knowing jokery clearly inspired by Joss Whedon’s script for The Avengers. But the first film’s shortcomings reappear too: the realm of Asgard looks like a gold-plated chocolate-box nightmare, Anthony Hopkins looks bored as uber-God Odin, and Thor’s gang of forgettable divine sidekicks do little but get in the way.
It’s when the action gets going that The Dark World scores points over the original. This is a grander, pacier film crammed with sprawling prog-rock landscapes, masked elf armies and giant spaceships. And if the wormhole-hopping battle scenes do get a bit eye-frazzlingly and brain-bendingly convoluted, the best advice is just to buckle up and go with it. Tom Huddleston
5. World War Z UAE box office gross: $3,716,897 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
4. Man of Steel UAE box office gross: $4,307,822
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
3 Skyfall UAE box office gross: $4,837,394
‘Were you expecting an exploding pen? We don’t really go in for that any more.’ That’s Ben Whishaw’s Q to Daniel Craig’s James Bond in Skyfall, a Bond movie that struts forward while looking back over its shoulder to the past. That’s what the 007 films are all about – an evolving mix of tradition and progress – and here we have director Sam Mendes bringing to the franchise a stately look, sombre mood and ample room to breathe.
The Bond films are savvy magpies, smartly pinching the shiniest, newest jewels of movie-making for themselves. Quantum of Solace (2008) came a cropper by putting its hand too obviously in the till of the Bourne films.
But Skyfall much more subtly takes its cues not only from the current, moodier breed of superhero movies, but also from the world around us. There are nods to terrorism, data theft, hacking and even attention-grabbing government inquiries – but nothing is specific or exact enough to mean anything significant. This is a Bond movie: atmosphere is all. The appearance of contemporary relevance is enough.
The story sees Bond in an emotional crisis after a failed mission to Istanbul leaves the names of secret agents in the hands of an unknown villain. Trips to Shanghai and Macau follow as 007 pulls himself together and tries to find the culprit. Meanwhile, a delicious foe emerges in Silva (Bardem), a camp, creepy and smooth character who dares to challenge Bond’s masculinity.
Skyfall is a highly distinctive Bond movie. It has some stunning visual touches, and it mostly manages to convince us of Bond’s emotional life beyond this story: rooting his crisis in his relationship (or lack of) with his parents. Mendes knows there’s a risk of coming over po-faced by omitting the traditional pleasures of a Bond movie, and its only in the second half of the film, which takes place entirely in the UK, that you get the feeling the director has played the compulsory 007 cards that any Bond director has to. Dave Calhoun
2. Iron Man 3 UAE box office gross: $5,727,571
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
1. Fast & Furious 6 UAE box office gross: $5,807,195
Episode six in this overcooked cars ’n’ girls franchise offers no surprises, although British expats might feel a frisson of excitement when watching their capital city being trashed, for a change, raced around in by V8 saloons and souped-up Mad Max-style single seaters. It opens with brawny diplomatic security service agent Luke Hobbs (Johnson) handing Vin Diesel’s retired con Dom Toretto a dossier. The folder relates to a ruthlessly efficient gang of military equipment hijackers fronted by an ex-SAS operative-turned-bad-guy-felon (Luke Evans) and also to Dom’s former lover, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), now presumed dead. Before long, we’re on the streets of a grimy, dimly lit London for another fusillade of mind-numbing automobile bedlam, all of it staged with the usual risible disregard for any of the laws of physics.
With its puerile dialogue, daft performances, flat comic repartee and ear-rupturing loud sound levels, the experience of watching Fast & Furious 6 is like listening to death metal pour out of 500-watt speakers while being strapped to a pneumatic drill. Apart from Diesel’s likeably mild-mannered persona, there’s little here that we haven’t seen before. Time Out staff