Movies to watch this week at the cinema: The Martian, The Intern, more...

Out on Friday 2 October

Matt Damon is lost in space. Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard do Shakespeare. Robert De Niro is the new (and older) intern. Yes, heres this weeks new releases. Click on for our reviews of The Martian, Macbeth, The Intern, By Our Selves, Letters To Max, 3 Minutes, Ten Bullets, Ghosthunters On Icy Trails, Fidelio, Alices Journey, Convenience, The Death And Resurrection Show, Roger Waters: The Wall, Seven Songs For A Long Life and Made You Look. For the best movie reviews, subscribe to Total Film.

THE MARTIAN

Four-and-a-half billion years, nobody here, muses astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) as he stands on Mars scanning the desolate desertscape. And now? Me. Its a miracle all right, and the magnitude of the achievement is set up by the very first image of The Martian, Ridleys Scotts fourth foray into science fiction: a rotating shot of space, immense, infinite, with the red rim of planet Mars blazing danger even as it acts as a beacon to human endeavour. Only its a miracle that Watney would gladly trade in for a Big Mac or even one more sachet of ketchup when his supply runs out. A botanist gathering soil samples as part of NASAs Ares 3 team, Watney is literally blown away when a sandstorm of Mad Max proportions sweeps in. Reading that his biosuit has been breached, Captain Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain) reports Mark Watney is dead as the Mars Ascent Vehicle climbs above miles of swirling dust, a message that is in turn conveyed to a dismayed public by the Director of NASA (Jeff Daniels, effectively reprising his anchor from The Newsroom). Watneys not dead, of course Damon would hardly sign up for another cameo on a far-flung planet so soon after Interstellar but sewing shut the ragged hole in his stomach is just the start of his problems. How to get a message back to Houston? How to survive for four years with just 300 days worth of rations until the next Ares mission rocks up on Mars? And how not to go insane when the only music at your disposal is Captain Lewis disco playlist? All of which are nothing to the dilemma facing Scott and screenwriter Drew Goddard (World War Z): how to make a movie to tingles spines when its USP is sticking to hard science as one man sets out to grow some potatoes? To a large degree, the answer to all of the above is with good humour. Laughing in the red face of death, Watney, far from undergoing an existential breakdown, knuckles down to science the shit out of his predicament, extracting frozen faeces from the Habitats vacuum-suction toilet and making himself some good ol H20 in order to rustle up 400 potato plants. He logs all of his actions, thoughts and moods into a GoPro camera for future scientists to learn from (it sure beats drawing a face on a volleyball to allow your lonesome protagonist to talk to cinemagoers) and chills like The Fonz to episodes of Happy Days. Scott, meanwhile, cuts purposefully between Mars, the crew of the Ares 3, the Johnson Space Center in Houston and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California to maintain momentum, marshalling crisp turns from a stellar support cast (Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Askel Hennie, Michael Pena, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Sean Bean) as he steers the drama towards Apollo 13-levels of lung-busting excitement. The wily director also knows just when were gonna need a montage to rattle things along in the pause before the big finale, and choreographs it, exquisitely, to David Bowies Starman. Based on Andy Weirs novel, which itself went on an incredible voyage from his website to a Kindle download to a New York Times bestseller published by Crown, The Martian is a savvy blend of the technical and the personal, of outer and inner journeys, and of teamwork and isolated glory. One mans refusal to fold acts as an ode to the unquenchable human spirit, with science and Scott always on hand to quell any cheap sentiment. Here, all is meticulous and measured, as befits a film signed off by NASA, whether piloting fist-pumping set-pieces or nurturing muffled moments of triumph (Hey there, murmurs Watney as he cups the first green shoot to poke from the red soil). Even the timely intervention of the Chinese space program handy for boosting appeal in a crucial box-office territory fits the story of humankind united by a singular plight. Is it this years Gravity? Not quite, but then it never tries to be, despite sharing some of its narrative thrust and themes. More robust in story, less dazzling/ostentatious (delete as applicable) in its effects and camerawork, it does share, however, in being a brainy blockbuster engineered to soar at multiplexes and land with the Academy. There will be tech noms, certainly, but maybe also a third acting nod for Damon in a grounded, hugely likeable role that fits his screen persona as snugly as Janty Yates slim-line spacesuits fit the actors. Heck, he deserves some kind of award just for his dancing to Hot Stuff THE VERDICT: Its not iconic sci-fi to match Alien or Blade Runner but it is a topical, supremely crafted, intelligent, heartfelt spectacle with gallows humour to die for. Strap yourself in. Director: Ridley Scott Starring: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie, Chiwetel Ejiofor Theatrical release: 30 September 2015 Jamie Graham

MACBETH

The Scottish play is often considered Shakespeares most cinematic, because of its horror-show imagery and (relative) leanness of narrative. But its still four hours of people in pretend rooms talking. Chopped down to a brisk 113 minutes, Australian director Justin Kurzels second film (after the harrowing Snowtown) is a little disjointed, but the spare script makes smart moves to alchemise theatre into cinema. When it flies, its riveting. When it doesnt, its still pretty damn good. A wordless scene-setter sees Macbeth (Michael Fassbender) and Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard) burying their son. Its an event only hinted at in the play, but it grounds their tragic trajectory and it sets the tone of ruined innocence that continues throughout. Even before the ferocious opening battle, Macbeth and his right-hand man, Banquo (Paddy Considine), cover their faces in black warpaint, their souls already besmirched. By contrast the witches (Seylan Baxter, Lynn Kennedy and young Amber Rissmann) seem relatively benign. A soldier who speaks like a poet, Macbeth is often portrayed as a gentleman thug, but Fassbender plays him brilliantly as a guilt-ridden killer unhinged by his own hand. When he spits, Oh, full of scorpions is my mind! you can practically hear them scuttling. The supporting cast are just as strong, though all but David Hayman a proper Scotsman whose Lennox is gravitas personified struggle with their accents. Cotillard turns Lady Macbeth into the ultimate (English?) femme fatale, sexual electricity surging between her and Fassbender. Considine and Jack Reynor (Malcolm) make comparatively unrewarding characters rugged and real. But its Sean Harris battle-scarred Macduff who takes the crown, his mouth twisting in grief like a man chewing glass. As in Snowtown, death is everywhere. The ghost of a murdered child brings Macbeth the dagger that ultimately destroys him; Scotlands none-more-blasted heaths are howlingly inhospitable; and the score by Jed Kurzel (Justins brother) is stark with steely menace. Perhaps Kurzels greatest achievement is that, amid all this sound and fury, he creates moments of proper pin-drop cinema: Macduff broken by bad tidings; Macbeth chillingly non-committal at his wifes bedside; the two of them facing off against a backdrop of hellfire and ash. Until this final sequence, perhaps the fullest fusion of text and image, the most powerful scenes are, simply, great actors performing some of the greatest lines ever written. Whod have thought the best thing about Shakespeare was the words? THE VERDICT: Bleak as a morgue, even more brutal than the play, Kurzels stark psycho-drama cant unseat its source, but is still mighty screen Shakespeare. Director: Justin Kurzel Starring: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Sean Harris, Paddy Considine, Jack Reynor Theatrical release: 2 October 2015 Matt Glasby

THE INTERN

Hearing that Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro are in a film called The Intern immediately makes you think that Hathaway is the sparky novice whose very arrival re-ignites passion and belief in De Niros cynical, world-weary tycoon. Happily, Nancy Meyers dramedy pulls off a cunning switcheroo its actually De Niros widowed retiree whos the titular unpaid drone, arriving to pep up Hathaways overworked executive. What is this? Another attempt by Hollywood to appeal to the grey dollar? Maybe, but the 65-year-old Meyers has always scripted well for those in her age bracket in films like Somethings Gotta Give and Its Complicated. Here, The Intern is made by De Niro, who delivers one of his most likeable characters in years. Played with dignity and distinction, Ben Whittaker is a lively New Yorker whos taking steps to move on with life in the wake of his wifes passing. Hence his application to become a senior intern as the online fashion company founded by Hathaways breezy entrepreneur Jules Ostin. Soon, he is assigned to Jules herself, who is rather dismissive of the companys outreach programme. But gradually Ben wins her over from tidying up the junk-strewn desk that annoys her to chauffeuring her around town. The little things then get bigger not like that with Ben becoming a shoulder to cry on as Jules juggles marital/professional issues. Theres fine support from Rene Russo, as a masseuse Ben becomes friendly with, and Girls star Adam DeVine as Jules right-hand man. But this is De Niros film all the way. OK, its not Taxi Driver, but compared with the recent likes of The Family or Grudge Match, it feels like a refreshing choice. As for Hathaway, she does her job, though Jules is fundamentally annoying whether riding her bike through the office or weeping buckets. Youll get used to me, she says. Actually, wed rather not. THE VERDICT: If there can be such a thing as solid fluff, then this is it. Meyers middle-of-the-road sensibilities blended with a watchable De Niro make for an undemanding but pleasant ride. Director: Nancy Meyers Starring: Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway, Rene Russo, Adam DeVine, Nat Wolf Theatrical release: 2 October 2015 James Mottram

BY OUR SELVES

The latest team up between experimental director Andrew Ktting and writer Ian Sinclair may have been inspired by a journey undertaken back in 1841 by British Romantic poet John Clare, but its no conventional historical drama. Absconding from an Epping Forest asylum, the delusional writer (a mute Toby Jones) walks for days towards Northamptonshire, searching for a lost love. While stressing its own artifice, the monochrome By Our Selves seeks to visualise its subjects tormented state of mind, but its Clares poetry itself voiced by Jones own dad Robert thats most memorable Director: Andrew Kotting Starring: Iain Sinclair, Freddie Jones, Toby Jones, David Aylward, Simon Kovesi, Eden Kotting Theatrical release: 2 October 2015 Tom Dawson

LETTERS TO MAX

Despite exploring themes of national identity and international politics, Eric Baudelaires doc about Abkhazia a country recognised by a few governments, merely a region of Georgia to the rest is accessible and wonderfully playful. The narration consists of Abkhazian minister Maxim Gvinjia (the titular Max) reading the many letters sent to him by Baudelaire about the countrys position and then responding in turn. Offering picturesque snapshots of Abkhazia and delightful ambiguity in the central correspondence, this is a winning meditation on a lesser-known land. Director: Eric Baudelaire Theatrical release: 2 October 2015 Matt Looker

3 MINUTES, TEN BULLETS

Racism, gunshots, a dead young black man: the themes of Marc Silvers none-more-timely doc dont need the Gael Garcia Bernal-based gimmick of his earlier Who Is Dayani Cristal? to sting. His direction patient and access thorough, Silver looks at the trial of white American Michael Dunn claiming self-defence for the murder of African-American Jordan Davis. The result hits hard in and out of the courtroom, drawing emotion, impartial insight, and tension from the desire to see justice and the sense that America is on trial: gun control laws, vile prejudices and all. Director: Marc Silver Theatrical release: 2 October 2015 Kevin Harley

GHOSTHUNTERS ON ICY TRAILS

Cant wait for next years Ghostbusters reboot? Get your slime-based thrills from this German/English family movie. Milo Parker stars as Tom, an easily scared 11-year- old boy who discovers an averagely spooky ghost (ASG) named Hugo in his cellar. Enlisting the help of recently fired ghost hunter Hetty Cuminseed (Anke Engelke), he faces his fears only to discover a much more dangerous ghostly threat. With some impressive effects, this imaginative film feels epic in scope, but lazy gags and a particularly disconnected English dub hamper the fun. Director: Tobi Baumann Starring: Milo Parker Theatrical release: 2 October 2015 Matt Looker

FIDELIO, ALICES JOURNEY

A woman swimming naked sets the tone for writer-director Lucie Borleteaus debut feature, an exploration of infidelity with a cool command of both surface and undercurrents. Ariane Labed (Before Midnight) is Alice, the lone female worker on ocean freighter Fidelio, torn between her squeeze on land and saucy temptation at work. Even before a snake infiltrates the ship, Borleteaus metaphors arent subtle, but shes persuasive on the tensions between desire, devotion and duty, and Alices yearnings rise to the surface with frank complexity. Director: Lucie Borleteau Starring: Ariane Lebad, Melvil Poupaud Theatrical release: 2 October 2015 Kevin Harley

CONVENIENCE

Despite its US-sounding name, Keri Collins feature debut Convenience (as in store) is a British indie comedy, and a half-decent one at that. Set over one night, it follows two bumbling amateurs, A.J. (Ray Panthaki) and Shaan (Adeel Akhtar), as they try to rob a petrol station. The twist? The safes on a timer, and they must pretend to do an overnight shift until it opens. Cue a series of trite customer skits (racist dwarf! Sweary old woman!), but also a sharp, gag-heavy script, executed with deadpan deftness by the leads and the always ace Vicky McClure as a disillusioned employee. Director: Keri Collins Starring: Ray Panthaki, Vicky McClure, Adeel Akhtar, Anthony Head, Verne Troyer Theatrical release: 2 October 2015 Stephen Kelly

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