8   +   2   =  

Sleepy September is over and the big names are back. The Christmas run-in starts here as big budget films, starry casts, and a few awards outsiders start to creep back into cinemas.

Given the controversy that’s erupted over several ill-judged (or unfairly manipulated depending on who you ask) comments, Matt Damon probably wishes he were safely stranded on Mars. Instead, he’ll have to settle for Ridley Scott sending him there in The Martian, adapted from Andy Weir’s technically detailed bestseller. Damon’s hardy astronaut, marooned on the red planet, has to turn to some A-Team style ingenuity to keep himself alive while experts back home work out how to retrieve him. It’s about time we had some hard science fiction to enjoy. Hopefully this does the trick.

Adapting Shakespeare is a foolhardy endeavour. You have to tread over piles of previous efforts – some highly regarded – while trying to do justice to writing considered amongst the finest the world has seen. Clearly not afraid of a challenge, Australian director Justin Kurzel has decided to take on Macbeth with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard as the fast unravelling Scottish rulers. The film is too condensed and the oppressive atmosphere a little suffocating, but it’s backed by strong performances and makes excellent use of the forbidding Scottish landscape. While not a complete success, it gets under your skin.

Robert De Niro has certainly been doing his bit to publicise The Intern, drawing notice when he walked out of a recent interview after taking issue with the journalist’s questions and tone. In Nancy Meyers’ latest dose of glossy wish-fulfilment, De Niro plays a retired businessman who returns to work as an intern at an e-commerce company run by Anne Hathaway. There will be life lessons galore as presumptuous youth learns the value of experience. The reviews have not been kind, but they rarely are for Meyers’ films which usually prove pretty popular anyway.

After Macbeth, Shakespeare is given a work out on home release as well with Michael Almereyda’s messy update of Cymbeline. The action is moved from murderous court intrigue in Roman Britain to urban America where warfare is simmering between opposing gangs and dirty cops. It’s confusing and violent, and a waste of talent that includes Ethan Hawke, Ed Harris and Dakota Johnson, but it’s also fun. If you want to see the bard’s work as a 80s action B movie, here’s the chance.

That should keep you occupied for now. See you next week when Emily Blunt will be fighting the war on drugs.