8 fantastic movies to watch in Dubai cinemas this weekend

Tom Hardy becomes an alien symbiote that says a lot of mean things and Kevin Hart can’t seem to pass high school

'You won't be bored by A Simple Favor'

'You won't be bored by A Simple Favor'

Surprisingly, we’re not getting a lot of new releases this week. In fact, we’re only getting the dark Marvel spin-off Venom, starring Tom Hardy as a beastly alien that always seems to be hungry.

While the mention of any type of superhero movie these days has us hyped, we can’t say we were all craving a movie about Spider-Man’s goopy nemesis, especially since his cinematic debut is the weakest flick in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy.

However, if you’re a fan of Tom Hardy, you’ll know he still gives his all, no matter how questionable the movie.

Elsewhere, we have Kevin Hart back again with his onslaught of “Hart humour” in Night School, while Searching continues to be one of the most impressive sleeper hits of the year so far.

Check out our thoughts below and decide what you want to see, or even watch again.

Venom (PG15)
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Cast: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed
Release: Oct 4

Venom, a slick-skinned alien “symbiote” who first plagued Marvel’s Peter Parker back in a 1984 issue, has a Wikipedia entry roughly 8,400 words long.

That’s not to say that the villain deserves his own film — even a silly one like Venom — or to be played by the jittery but sometimes inspired Tom Hardy of Mad Max: Fury Road and The Revenant.

It only suggests that a lot of people take even the marginalia of comics seriously – so seriously that they might not know when they’re getting shortchanged.

It’s these superfans, not casual cineplexers expecting just another monolithic smackdown, who are going to feel the most crushed as Venom slides off the rails.

When exactly does this happen? Is it when you realise that Hardy is going to be using a distracting Squiggy-esque Noo Yawk accent the whole time as Eddie Brock, a hard-charging San Francisco-based investigative journalist? Or when Eddie’s fiancée, Anne (poor Michelle Williams), supposedly a sharp lawyer, dumps him on the street, ring and all, after she gets fired by her Elon Musk-ish billionaire boss Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) after Eddie asks him a few uncomfortable questions about his mysterious labs?

“Have a nice life,” we hear twice in a few minutes, a repetition that just feels like lazy screenwriting.

Nope, the moment when it all slides into accidental comedy comes when the booming voice of the alien (Hardy again, aurally masked as he was with Bane) pipes up in Eddie’s head, dragging him like a puppet through awkward, listlessly mounted action scenes tricked up with CGI black goo.

As you’re enduring the zillionth Frisco car chase since Bullitt and The Rock, it may dawn on you that Venom is supposed to be a bad guy, an antagonist to Spidey (never mentioned here; legally and in terms of solid craft, this isn’t part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe).

Entertainingly, Hardy lets himself get knocked around, Evil Dead-style, but he’s never enough of a jerk – so much for that journo-snoop backstory – and Venom isn’t vicious enough to justify its own existence.

Joshua Rothkopf

Night School (15+)
Director: Malcolm D. Lee
Cast: Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish, Rob Riggle
Released: Sep 27

From Malcolm D. Lee, a director with perhaps one of the most critically diverse filmographies of his generation – responsible for 2016’s breakout hit Girls Night, and the slightly less appreciated Scary Movie 5 – comes Night School, starring Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish.

The film, which centres around a group of 30-something troublemakers having to return to high school to graduate, doesn’t exactly look like the kind of film that took seven writers, including Hart himself to complete.

It features the usual cookie-cutter assortment of slapstick gags and short man jokes that you’d expect from such a Hart-led comedy vehicle, but the trailer looks a lot funnier than his most recent movies.

Still, while he’s not going to win any new fans or Oscar for this film (it’s extremely unlikely, anyway), Night School is sure to keep Hart’s followers happy and the box office dollars rolling in.

Ben Jones

Also Showing

The Wife (15+)
Director: Björn Runge
Cast: Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce, Max Irons, Annie Stark
Released: September 27

Every once in a while, a masterfully crafted film sneakily comes into cinemas to stir up some Oscar buzz – showcasing strong performances, sharp cinematography and presenting hard-hitting modern issues for audiences to ponder. The Wife is that film for 2018.

Starring six-time Oscar nominee Glenn Close (who should definitely win one this year) and her real-life daughter Annie Stark (playing the younger version of Close’s character) The Wife takes the saying “behind every great man is a great woman” and puts it in motion.

It looks at the life of Joan Castleman, who has spent the past 40 years sacrificing her own literary talents to support the career of her husband, Joe. Now, he’s just been chosen to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature, which brings up a host of deep-rooted family issues that make Joan question her life decisions.

The pacing is superbly executed, taking audiences through current events leading up to the prize ceremony and a series of flashbacks showcasing how the 40-year-long issue all began.

It’s a clever way to unravel the story, so viewers can effectively see the cracks in each relationship within the family, and how they formed in the first place.

As for the performances – wow. Each dynamic scene between Close and Jonathan Pryce as Joe is brimming with emotional turmoil; from Joan brushing off the celebrations for the Nobel Prize announcement at the start, to the explosiveness at the end.

Playing their younger versions, Stark and Max Irons equally steal the show, laying the groundwork for the inevitable climactic clash.

After a summer of action flicks, this is the best kind of refresher.

Darragh Murphy

Searching (PG13)
Director: Aneesh Chaganty
Cast: Debra Messing, John Cho, Joseph Lee, Michelle La
Released: Sep 27

What to call this fiercely original movie? A Facebook thriller? A Google noir? Its missing-girl mystery plays out almost entirely on screens, using social media apps and chatrooms.

The footprints being followed here are the digital kind, of course, and they’re all the scarier for that. You’ll walk away with a new awareness of just how exposed we all are to malign forces online.

The missing girl is LA high-schooler Margot Kim (Michelle La), a seemingly well-adjusted teen. But in a touching, Up-like opening montage of family snaps and videos, we discover a sorrow that lingers over the family.

When Margot vanishes, her dad David Kim (John Cho, terrific) turns to her search history for clues. Things, he quickly discovers, are not what they’ve seemed. Not even close.

Strip away the tech trappings, though, and you’ll find the same joys that powered ’90s thrillers like The Fugitive – red herrings, a tireless detective (Debra Messing) and whiplash-inducing twists.

Not all are subtle – David’s sleazy young brother may as well carry a ‘bad egg’ sign – and the rules of the film are, well, fluid, but with this many ideas flying around, you can forgive a dud or two. See it, then go chuck your laptop away.

Phil De Semlyen

Smallfoot (G)
Director: Karey Kirkpatrick, Jason Reisig
Cast: Channing Tatum, James Corden, Zendaya
Released: September 27

Channing Tatum and Zendaya star in this hilarious flick about a yeti that is sure the creatures known as “humans” really do exist.

Clearly he’s in for quite the surprise, but more importantly, it sets up a fantastic premise for what looks like another lovable animated flick to add to the already brilliant collection this year.

From the writers of classics such as Chicken Run and Over the Hedge, Smallfoot tells the story of a yeti named Migo (Tatum) who claims to witness a “Smallfoot” in his home on top of a mountain.

Seeing is believing though, so to prove he’s actually seen one to his fellow yetis, he sets out down the mountain to capture it with the help from the S.E.S - Smallfoot Evidentiary Society. We love it.

From there, audiences will see two worlds meet for the very first time, and a journey full of hilarious gags and heart-warming scenes ensues.
There’s a stellar cast of talent involved other than Tatum and Zendaya, including the voices of Danny DeVito, Common, Gina Rodriguez and James Corden.

Oh, and it looks like LeBron James has somehow made his way into Smallfoot, with this being one of the first times he’s played an actual character in a movie rather than himself. Possibly for a bit of experience before starring in Space Jam 2, so hopefully his voice-acting chops are up to scratch.

Expect eye-popping animation, silly skits, lovable characters and apparently a sweet message at the end, but that’s something you’ll have to see for yourself.

Darragh Murphy

Last chance to see

Johnny English Strikes Again (PG)
Director: David Kerr
Cast: Rowan Atkinson, Emma Thompson, Olga Kurylenko
Released: 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 (PG15)
Director: Shane Black
Cast: Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay
Released: September 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 violence and a generous amount of computerised 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 Favor (15+)
Director: Paul Feig
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding
Released: September 14

Sharper than your everyday mean girl since the beginning of her career, Blake Lively has always been capable of more than her opportunities have allowed her, while Anna Kendrick, a chipper “perfect” thing in movie after movie, has been overrated.

So it’s gratifying to see them both earning their keep in director Paul Feig’s borderline-nutso crime comedy, one that won’t be confused for a new Gone Girl. But even second-rate trashy turnarounds are worth savoring.

A Simple Favor opens in Kendrick’s kitchen: Her Stephanie Smothers (thank you, originating novelist Darcey Bell), a single suburban mom who regularly vlogs to a small audience of likeminded neurotics, has everything under control, yet she’s rattled by the disappearance of her friend, Emily (Lively).

In flashbacks, we see that Emily, an acquaintance made while picking up their children at school, is an entirely different species: a power-suit-wearing toughie who’s married to Sean (Crazy Rich Asians’ Henry Golding), an unfairly handsome and successful writer.

You wait for the two women to connect across the chasm of Emily’s sleekly designed living room; their attraction is what makes the film such an identifiable product of the director of Bridesmaids and the all-female Ghostbusters.

Stephanie becomes an amateur sleuth bent on hunting down her gal pal’s whereabouts.

Once A Simple Favor hits the first of several I-can’t-believe-they-went there moments (there are a few too many), it loses some of its lure, and Feig never quite regains tonal control. But you won’t be bored by this.

Joshua Rothkopf

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