Thursday, 28 January 2010

Speculative Cinema in 2010: Part Three


Release Date: TBD
Anticipation: 7 out of 10

Summary: Jamie Morgan's life has always been blighted by the large, heart-shaped birthmark on his face. He lives in an urban world dominated by a terrifying gang culture, where random violence has convinced him that the world is meaningless and ugly - but then Jamie meets someone who tells him the truth, and the world reveals itself as a thing of great beauty. That's when his real nightmare starts.

Commentary: The writer of British gangster thriller The Krays takes a turn in the director's chair for a quiet, clever festival favourite featuring rising star Jim Sturgess in the lead role that stands to do for demons what Let The Right One In did for vampires. Heartless doesn't look like much from the outside, and there's not a lot of buzz behind it outside of film critics dabbling in art-appreciation, but this is nonetheless one of the more exciting 2010 movies that most people haven't heard of.


Release Date: July 16th
Anticipation: 10 out of 10

Summary: In a world where entering dreams is possible, a single idea from the human mind can be the most dangerous weapon or the most valuable asset.

Commentary: If it weren't for the alphabetical order this extensive article has followed thus far, I'd hold off talking about Inception till the very end to ratchet up the tension, but alas. Despite the rarity of available information, this is without a doubt my most anticipated film of the year ahead. Christopher Nolan has been among my favourite directors since Memento, and he's surpassed his own incredible achievements with each successive feature. The publicity will no doubt make a great song and dance about Inception being the next film from the director of The Dark Knight, but I'd warn fervent Batfans to expect something tonally more similar to The Prestige; a labyrinthine narrative, brilliant cinematography, special effects that stand a chance of exploding your head and a plot that'll have you thinking yourself in circles for weeks afterward. Can't. Effing. Wait.


Release Date: TBD
Anticipation: 5 out of 10

Summary: It is the year 1215 and the rebel barons of England have forced their despised King John to put his royal seal to the Magna Carta, a noble, seminal document that upheld the rights of free-men. Yet within months of pledging himself to the great charter, the King reneged on his word and assembled a mercenary army on the south coast of England with the intention of bringing the barons and the country back under his tyrannical rule.

Commentary: Hottie Kate Mara leads a very strong cast of British thesps under the director of Johnathan English who... I'll confess, I've never heard of. Nonetheless, there are only two reasons the likes of Brian Cox, Richard Attenborough and James Purefoy would sign up for a project such as this. The first is money. Let's cross our fingers and hope the truth lies somewhere closer to the second such explanation: a brilliant script.

Iron Man 2

Release Date: April 30th (UK)
Anticipation: 7 out of 10

Summary: With the world now aware of his dual life as the armored superhero Iron Man, billionaire inventor Tony Stark faces pressure from the government, the press, and the public to share his technology with the military. Unwilling to give up his creations, Stark, along with Pepper Potts and "Rhodey" Rhodes, must forge alliances and confront powerful new enemies.

Commentary: Probably the surest bet of the year in terms of box-office, Iron Man 2 will nevertheless have a hard time topping the first film, which, speaking for myself, won me over mostly by catching me so off-guard. Mickey Rourke and Sam Rockwell are onboard as the villains of the piece, great choices both, and after his brilliant performance in Sherlock Holmes I've finally forgiven Robert Downey Jr. for his turn in Ally McBeal. If the humour's there and director Jon Favreau can capture lighting twice, Iron Man 2 should be a great bit of fun when it hits early this Summer. But they're a big pair of ifs; this is by no means a sure thing.

Jonah Hex

Release Date: June 18th
Anticipation: 3 out of 10

Summary: In the Wild West, a scarred bounty hunter tracks a voodoo practitioner bent on liberating the South by raising an army of the undead.

Commentary: The latest in a long line of comic book adaptations that have missed more often than they've hit, you have to wonder what a dearth of inspiration there must be in Hollywood to keep execs coming back for more. Certainly with Jonah Hex, "the fastest gun in the West", they're scraping the bottom of the barrel. I could have tolerated a script by the fun-loving twits behind Crank and Gamer, but Robots animation director Jimmy Hayward's first turn at the helm of a live-action feature has reportedly proven disasterous, with the man behind I Am Legend called in to save the day. I'd expect Jonah Hex firstly to be delayed, and then, eventually, to drop like a steaming clod from the wrong end of a horse. Then again, it has Megan Fox in it; perhaps I'm being too kind...


Release Date: April 16th
Anticipation: 7 out of 10

Summary: Dave Lizewski is an unnoticed high school student and comic book fan who one day decides to become a super-hero, even though he has no powers, no training nor any meaningful reason to do so.

Commentary: Nicolas Cage and Andy Garcia lookalike Mark Strong star in the next, much ballyhooed-about feature from Stardust director Matthew Vaughn. Given that latter's involvement, I would be anticipating Kick-Ass more highly were it not for Mark Millar, whose comic book series the film is based on. Hopefully his participation has been kept to a minimum, because I'd hate for that gregarious asshat to ruin a perfectly good adult satire of the superhero genre. The points for nevertheless far outweigh the arguments against: the buzz on the script way back when was stellar, Vaughn's track record is exemplary and the director has even sourced his own funding, meaning studio interference will be kept to an absolute minimum. Watch out for this one.

The Last Airbender

Release Date: July 2nd
Anticipation: 4 out of 10

Summary: Aang is the young successor to a long line of Avatars who must put his childhood ways aside and stop the Fire Nation from enslaving the Water, Earth and Air nations.

Commentary: You have to laugh at the notion anyone might have confused James Cameron's stellar Avatar with The Last Airbender, which comes from M. Night Shyamalan, the greatest ego in all the lands. All the same, The Last Airbender dropped the original title of its animated inspiration for precisely that reason. I might watch the Nickelodeon cartoon one of these days, but I'm not at all hopeful for the film - we all loved The Sixth Sense, but how long can one man glide on a single film's success? Bearing in mind the string of duds including Lady in the Water and The Happening that have come and gone since Shyamalan's debut, better to expect the worst and be pleasantly surprised than to have your high hopes shattered and shat on. Also: the multi-ethnic cast of the cartoon seem to have had their faces painted white. How about that for respectful?

The Last Word

Release Date: December 10th
Anticipation: 7 out of 10

Summary: The story of a couple falling in love as the world falls victim to a pandemic that causes people to slowly lose their sensory perception.

Commentary: Score one for the home team - we have a Scottish film! From the director of indie successes such as Young Adam and Hallam Foe comes a story that brings to mind the likes of 28 Days Later and Children of Men. Little is known beyond the involvement of Eva Green and Ewan McGregor, yet the impressive pedigree of the cast and crew means I'm already sold. Predictable, perhaps, but cannot The Speculative Scotsman indulge a little bias regarding one of maybe three films coming from his home country this year? It's even a bit sci-fi... come on. Please?


Release Date: January 22nd
Anticipation: 3 out of 10

Summary: When God loses faith in Mankind, he sends his legion of angels to bring on the Apocalypse. Humanity's only hope lies in a group of strangers trapped in a desert diner, the Archangel Michael, and the unborn child of one of their number.

Commentary: One of two films in 2010 directed by newcomer Scott Stewart and starring Paul Bettany - the other being Priest - I was reasonably interested in this one until I heard word of the first advance reviews. Pretty effects, apparently, cannot save a camp and clunky take on the war in Heaven. Probably best to watch The Prophecy again, all things considered.


Keep your browsers locked on to The Speculative Scotsman for the fourth part of this extensive rundown of the year ahead in genre film on... I should think Sunday, if all goes to plan.

For the moment: enjoy, discuss, and please, feel free to disagree. I am but a humble highlander, and I'd be interested to hear other perspectives on the landscape of speculative cinema stretching out before us.


  1. It's a shame, really. Avatar: The Last Airbender was an exceptional show. I don't mean "for a cartoon," either, it was genuinely very good in terms of story, character and action.

    Shyamalan is a fecal Midas, though; everything he touches turns to shit.

    Also, I hear Legion sucked.

  2. Black_Dog_Diary here : sorry, couldn't post any other way today

    @Sam Sykes - LOL.

    @ The Spec Scot - You've piqued my interest with the first 2 & last 2 movies above. Also, thanks for the review of Hand of God. Not really tempting me to start with, but thanks for helping me save the time. I may visit it again when others have critiqued it but for now, I'll wait.
    You may, or may not, (I'll vote the latter) be interested to know I've finished, finally, the Millenium Trilogy. I'm happy with it overall but was a bit disappointed by the relative abruptness of the ending. Such a long way to go to such a quick conclusion.
    Cheers . . .

  3. @ Black_Dog_Diary - I may! Read the Millennium trilogy while I was on holiday late last year, by the seaside in sweet, sunny Croatia, despite plans to finish some SF&F sags I've been in the middle of for years, now. The first two books were just lying there; I could hardly resist, could I?

    I think I'm okay with how The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest concluded. What with Larsson's sudden death and his plans to write 10 books about Lisbeth Salander, I'd honestly braced myself for much less closure than there was. Apparently there's half of a fourth installment caught in the middle of some legal dispute, too. Do not want, thank you.

    @ Sam Sykes - It's been on my radar for ages. I used to love my anime, not that Avatar was anime in the strictest sense, but I'm mostly apathetic about it now. Maybe The Last Airbender cartoon will bring me back. I've only ever heard good things.