7 exciting movies to watch (and one to skip) in Dubai

A kid accidentally calls in the universe’s deadliest hunter, the world’s clumsiest spy is out to save the world again and Blake Lively has a ‘simple’ favour to ask

Slowly but surely we’re creeping into the season of Halloween flicks – whether that may be a complete gore-fest or eerie mysteries that keep you guessing. We say bring them on.

Leading the march on the horror movie front is the triumphant comeback of The Predator. It’s a welcome return of an old favourite, and we’re suckers for this series of human meets the universe’s best hunter. Expect playful banter, marine camaraderie and finding out what it takes to survive being stalked by a horrifying alien.

Looking for less blood and more slap-stick humour from Mr Bean? That’s right, Johnny English is coming out from retirement to save the world in the worst way possible once again. Rowan Atkinson may be giving us more of what we’ve already seen in prequels, but hey, who doesn’t like to see a spy beat up a man with two baguettes?

Finally, we have mystery movie A Simple Favour, which is directed by Paul Feig – the man behind Bridesmaids and The Heat. We do have a little trust in Feig though, so here’s hoping for a good thriller.

Go on, have a glance below to check out what’s in store. Also check out one flick below you definitely don’t want to see…

Johnny English Strikes Again
Preview

(PG) Director: David Kerr
Cast: Rowan Atkinson, Emma Thompson, Olga Kurylenko
Release: September 20

Like most semi-successful franchises that have an open-ended sequel, it was inevitable that Johnny English would have a third instalment to make it a trilogy.

But just because Johnny English Reborn was nominated for blockbuster of the year at the Evening Standard British Film Awards, doesn’t mean the world needs to see the talented Rowan Atkinson don his James Bond spin-off garb and spout some more dated jokes again.

This time round, the identities of all current undercover agents in Britain have been released thanks to a cyber-attack, which brings English out of retirement to track down the mastermind.

In true Skyfall style, the clueless agent goes through a series of trials, including virtual reality training, so he can keep up to scratch with the latest technology.

As we can see in the trailer, nothing goes to plan (of course) as English scoffs at the notion of “losing track of his surroundings” and ends up wreaking havoc in London. How original (and how Mr Bean).

It’s the same routine we’ve witnessed throughout the series, and were pretty sure we’ll see the same climatic redeeming act from English to save the day.

The bottom line is, does he really have to strike again? Not really, but Johnny English Strikes Again will surely entertain those who can’t get enough of the spy’s antics.
Darragh Murphy

The Predator
3/5

(PG15) Director: Shane Black
Cast: Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay
Released: Sep 13

Shane Black, co-writer and director of the rebooted The Predator, appeared in the 1987 original as the kind of wise-cracking character that gets killed off early.

As satisfying as it’s been to see Black evolve into a distinctive, banter-friendly voice—The Nice Guys is a recent example—his Predator is exactly the sort of flick he would have made 30 years ago when he played that gangly supporting clown.

It’s aggressively pacey, overloaded with smug one-liners, gore-laden and unlikely to have much of a future.

Today’s run through the jungle doesn’t include Ah-nold or, indeed, anyone to gaze with bewilderment at a dreadlocked alien with a cloaking device.

But it does feature the intriguingly hard-edged Olivia Munn as a biologist who’s called into a secret lab to do some explaining. (Munn has a variation on the first movie’s sole memorable line, but she swaps out “ugly” for “beautiful.”)

Also on hand for combat with the green-blooded invaders (there’s more than one this time) are a wry ex-Army Ranger (Boyd Holbrook), a Con Air–chatty busload of military nuts (including Keegan-Michael Key and Moonlight's Trevante Rhodes) and an autistic child (Room’s Jacob Tremblay).

Were it not for the hard-R violence and a generous amount of computerized splatter, The Predator would play like a slightly naughtier Independence Day or Armageddon – sci-fi movies that had their squareness dirtied up by pop-culture-riffing jokesters hired to polish up a draft or two.

The love of ’80s and ’90s action movies may be palpable, but Black always feels the need to be winking at us with his hyperactive dialogue, so some of the dorky solemnity of the older films is lost.

In its Rambo-alike moments, the first Predator converted echoes of Vietnam into cheesy thrills, and Black captures this in a modern way. It’s a so-so movie for grown-up kids.
Joshua Rothkopf

A Simple Favour
Preview

(15+) Director: Paul Feig
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding
Released: September 14

What do you get when you put two talented and experienced female leads in a film directed by Paul Feig (the comical mind behind Bridesmaids and The Heat)?

Apparently, a dark and twisted tale riddled with mysterious family secrets. Surprised? Us too. But we like where this is going.

Starring Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively, A Simple Favour sees a curious Stephanie (Kendrick) befriend the striking and seemingly elusive Emily (Lively) while picking their kids up from school.

After Emily asks Stephanie for a “simple favour”, she suddenly goes missing, and it’s up to Stephanie to uncover the truth behind the sudden disappearance in their small town. Intriguing stuff.

This isn’t the director’s first foray into the darker side of cinema, as he also made the heart-breaking I Am David. We have a little trust in Feig, so here’s hoping for a good thriller.
Darragh Murphy

Juliet, Naked
Preview

(PG15) Director: Jesse Peretz
Cast: Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke, Chris O’Dowd
Released: Sep 13

For those who aren’t already fans of Nick Hornby’s novel of the same name, the title of this British/American comedy drama references a fictional album that’s recorded by one of characters in the movie, nothing else.

Hornby, whose earlier books High Fidelity and About a Boy made for such entertaining films (the same can’t be said for A Long Way Down) is a warm-hearted storyteller who has a knack of getting under the skin of his flawed male characters.

Here we meet Annie (Rose Byrne) who’s stuck in a long-term relationship with her music-obsessed boyfriend Duncan (Chris O’Dowd), who idolises iconic American rocker Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke). Feeling like she’s wasted the past 15 years with a man besotted by someone else, Annie writes a harsh review of Crowe’s new album (Juliet, Naked) which leads to an unlikely encounter (and impending relationship) with the rocker himself. Commence the comical encounters between the trio and some heart-warming revelations.

The trailer alone shouts “feel-good flick of the year” with its acoustic soundtrack, funny quips from O’Dowd and scenes of romance between a lovable Byrne and always dependable Hawke.
Darragh Murphy

Also Showing
Elizabeth Harvest
(PG 15+) Director: Sebastian Gutierrez
Cast: Abbey Lee, Ciarán Hinds, Carla Gugino
Released: September 20

Directed by Sebastian Gutierrez, the trailer for this veritably bonkers-looking, genre-defying film has us scratching our heads. Is it science-fiction? A romance? Gothic horror? We’re not sure.

Perhaps that’s the point – we have more questions than answers, which only makes us want to find out more. This curio appears to be packed to the brim with sinister undertones.

What we do know is that there is something slightly unsettling about the relationship between the naïve, innocent Elizabeth (played by Abby Lee) and her new husband Henry (Ciarán Hinds) – and, no, we’re not talking about the 30-year age gap between the pair.

When she’s told she can have anything she wants, but can’t go in one particular room, she can’t help but start wondering why.

We hope the direction and performances make this the excellent psychological thriller we think it might be.

It’s a mystery indie-flick about an fairly odd marriage.
Ben Jones

Final Score
Preview

(PG15) Director: Scott Mann
Cast: Dave Bautista, Pierce Brosnan, Martyn Ford

Not too long ago, the official storyline for Final Score on IMDb was “Some scores will never be settled”. So is it final or not? It’s a pretty conflicting with its title, and doesn’t say much for what this film will turn out to be.

However, it does star the extremely likeable and talented Dave Bautista, who has been smashing it in the last few flicks he’s been in. We expect he alone will make this action-thriller tolerable.

Final Score takes place in, of course, a soccer stadium (from that you can tell how American this movie will be) where a group of criminals abduct Bautista’s on-screen niece at a match. In true Taken-style, he’s an ex-soldier with lethal fighting skills, and to get his niece back, he wages a one-man war to save her. Not just that, but to also prevent mass destruction. They always take it one step too far, don’t they?

We’re not expecting Final Score to break any new ground in cinematic action, in fact, quite the opposite. However, we are excited to see Bautista take on more of a lead role. Here’s hoping he gives it his all.
Darragh Murphy

Last chance to see
Alpha
3/5

(PG13) Director: Albert Hughes
Cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Morgan Freeman, Natassia Malthe
Release: Sep 6

It may surprise you to learn that the denizens of “Europe, 20,000 years ago” – as the prehistoric adventure Alpha situates us – rocked some beautifully tailored fur-lined parkas and cosy boots that look a lot like Uggs.

Evidently, facts aren’t terribly important here (even the movie’s title comes from a civilisation that’s still millennia away), but if you can get past that, there’s a moderately gripping tale of survival and natural kinship to be had, one in the long-forgotten vein of 1983’s Never Cry Wolf.
Teenage Keda (The Road’s Kodi Smit-McPhee) has a stern but loving father to impress: “Hunting the Great Beast” is a rite of passage that’s arrived for him.

But after Keda is flung off a high ledge by a charging buffalo, his tribe assumes the worst. The kid survives the ordeal, though, and, left alone in the wild, comes to befriend a relatively sweet-natured wolf that he muzzles and that nurses him back to health.

The film works best during its (too-brief) getting-to-know-you section, which balances humour against snarly danger. Alpha makes the most of gorgeous British Columbia locations and occasional slickness, making for a raw-boned survival movie for children and parents alike.
Joshua Rothkopf

One to skip…
Peppermint
1/5

(PG15) Director: Pierre Morel
Cast: Jennifer Garner, Richard Cabral, Tyson Ritter
Release: Sep 6

What kind of vigilante thriller doesn’t give you the satisfaction of watching the heroine take out the thugs who took out her family? A movie as brainless and incompetent as Peppermint.

Star Jennifer Garner must have thought this flick would do for her career what director Pierre Morel’s Taken did for Liam Neeson's, but the result is bad enough to make any actor take an alias.

Garner plays Riley North, who watches her husband and little daughter get shot by three minions of a gang who her husband’s friend tried to rip off.

A sleazy lawyer and a paid-off judge assure that the trio won’t face justice and almost get Riley committed to a psych ward, but she escapes. Cut to five years later: The killers’ bodies are already hanging from a Ferris wheel (huh?), and we never even see the lawyer’s fate.

Instead of taking any meaningful vengeance, Riley spends most of her screen time blowing away the kingpin’s anonymous underlings. And rather than making any attempt to give Riley an inner life, or explicating her transition from suburban mom to lethal assassin, Peppermint wastes time with boring scenes of hapless law-enforcement types trying to track her down.

You know that clichéd visual trick where the image double-exposes and skitters around the screen? Morel uses it far too often in Peppermint, in place of bringing any pace or actual style that might have distracted from its implausibility. Even the significance of the title isn’t properly established.

The only thing Peppermint does accomplish, after Proud Mary, Traffik and Breaking In, is to cement 2018 as the year Hollywood proved itself incapable of turning out a decent female-led action film.
Michael Gingold

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