Monday, 25 January 2010

Speculative Cinema in 2010: Part Two

The Crazies

Release Date: February 26th
Anticipation: 4 out of 10

Summary: When a mysterious toxin contaminates their water supply, the inhabitants of a small Iowa town are plagued by insanity and death soon comes to call.

Commentary: I'd love to be looking forward to this remake of zombie mastermind George Romero's underappreciated 1973 feature, but the recent rash of classic horror movies retooled to appeal to a modern audience - the very same viewers who have made the likes of Saw and Hostel such a success - has left me with little hope. I like the cast, Timothy Olyphant and Rahda Mitchell, though with Sahara director Breck Eisner at the helm, well... The trailers, at least, have been promising; there's an outside chance The Crazies could be a pleasant surprise.


Release Date: January 8th
Anticipation: 6 out of 10

Summary: In the year 2019, a plague has transformed most every human into vampires. Faced with a dwindling blood supply, the fractured dominant race plots their survival. Meanwhile, a researcher works with a covert band of bloodsuckers on a plan to save humankind.

Commentary: This one's already out, though speaking for myself, I don't think I'll be seeing it on the big screen; Daybreakers is a surefire rental if ever I saw one. Boasting a surprisingly strong cast, the Spierig brothers' first mainstream feature could breathe new life into the vampire film after its soap-opera sufferance at the hands of the likes of Twilight and True Blood. Here's to a pleasant riff on From Dusk Till Dawn, although I fear an Underworld-esque western is distinctly more likely.

The Descent: Part II

Release Date: TBD
Anticipation: 3 out of 10

Summary: Sarah emerges alone from a cave system following an expedition with her five friends in the Appalachian mountains. Distraught, injured and covered in the blood of her missing companions, Sarah is incoherent and half-wild with fear. Skeptical about her account of events and convinced her psychosis hides far darker secrets, Sheriff Vaines forces her back into the caves to help locate the rest of the group.

Commentary: Here in the UK, The Descent: Part II has already been and gone, and thank the dead. With no greater claim to fame than as editor of the so-so Eden Lake, Jon Harris takes the directorial reins from fellow Scotsman Neil Marshall, whose brilliantly horrific story of spelunking gone wrong certainly did not need a sequel built around the very weakest aspect of the original. I'm sure morbid curiosity will drive me to suffer through The Descent: Part II at some point, but I fully expect to wear my mean face through the entire advantageous affair.

The Eagle of the Ninth

Release Date: TBD
Anticipation: 7 out of 10

Summary: In Roman-ruled Britain, a young Roman soldier endeavors to honor his father's memory by finding his lost legion's golden emblem.

Commentary: As is so often the way with Hollywod, there are two feature films due in 2010 toughing it out over the same intellectual property. Last year's theme seemed to be the notion of surrogate bodies. This year, curiously enough, it's the Ninth Legion. The Eagle of the Ninth takes place some time after the aforementioned Neil Marshall's Centurion, which if you've read part one of this extensive feature you'll know I'm terribly excited for; you might approach this effort, from The Last King of Scotland and Touching the Void director Kevin Macdonald, as an unofficial sequel of sorts to Marshall's more kinetic take on the infamous Roman legion. I'm psyched, and though I suspect I'll enjoy the balls-out Centurion more, The Eagle of the Ninth is likely to be the more authentic experience of the pair.

Enter the Void

Release Date: TBD
Anticipation: 6 out of 10

Summary: A drug-dealing teen is killed in Japan, after which he reappears as a ghost to watch over his sister.

Commentary: Far and away the most avant-garde of all the films included in this look ahead at speculative cinema over the next 12 months, Enter the Void is the long-awaited next release from Irreversible director and arthouse favourite Gaspar Noe. It's been called a "wild, hallucinatory mindfuck" and honestly, I'd expect no less. The premise is certainly far enough removed from the norm that Enter the Void can be considered speculative fiction of a sort, but don't see this film expecting swords or sorcery. A single-take nine minute murder scene is more likely. Nonetheless, compulsive viewing if you're at all interested in European film.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec

Release Date: TBD
Anticipation: 5 out of 10

Summary: Adèle Blanc-Sec is an intrepid young reporter in 1912 who will go to any lengths to achieve her aims, including sailing to Egypt to tackle mummies. Meanwhile, in Paris, a pterodactyl egg in the natural history museum has hatched, and the bird subjects the city to a reign of terror.

Commentary: Though it sounds a little too Night at the Museum for my tastes, the next film from Luc Besson could mark a return to form for a director whose recent efforts have disappointed many. This whimsical alternate-history franchise in the making is as likely to fall flat on its very French arse as it is to recapture the beauty, innocence and adventure of the like of Amelie. An attractive heroine, a serious budget and The Fifth Element director at the helm means... well, either or, really.

The Green Hornet

Release Date: December 22nd
Anticipation: 6 out of 10

Summary: By night, debonair newspaper publisher Britt Reid fights crime as a masked superhero known as The Green Hornet. At his side is martial arts expert Kato who drives a car equipped with advanced technology.

Commentary: I don't usually get all worked up about superhero movies, but Kevin Smith's involvement in the early stages of development and latterly the announcement of Michel Gondry as director of this latest incarnation has rather won me over where The Green Hornet is concerned. Seth Rogen has very nearly worn out his welcome to my mind, but it's difficult to overlook the pedigree behind the scenes. With Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Be Kind Rewind under his belt, Gondry's apparently mind-blowing angle on the age-old vigilante narrative. I'm a clean slate as far as The Green Hornet is concerned, but from the buzz, this could be one to watch.

Guardians of Ga'Hoole

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

Summary: Soren, a young barn owl, is kidnapped by owls of St. Aggie's, ostensibly an orphanage where owlets are brainwashed into becoming soldiers. He and his new friends escape to the island of Ga'Hoole to assist its noble, wise owls who defend against the army the wicked rulers of St. Aggie's are creating.

Commentary: I still haven't seen Watchmen - I know, I know, how late to the party can you get? - but I took great pleasure in the lush 300 and Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead was one of the few retooled horrors I could stand, so I've high hopes for Guardians of Ga'Hoole, despite the baffling involvement of owl armies. My feelings on most family-friendly CG affairs aren't suitable for publication even on TSS, but second only to Toy Story 3 I'm looking forward to this one.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I

Release Date: November 19th
Anticipation: 8 out of 10

Summary: With dark forces everywhere, Harry, Ron and Hermione set off on their mission to locate and destroy the remaining Horcruxes containing pieces of Voldemort's soul and learn along the way of the three mysterious Deathly Hallows which they also require.

Commentary: I'm skeptical as to the reasons behind Warner Bros decision to split Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows down the middle, but this is a franchise I was sold on the long ago, firstly because of the books, of course, and latterly because of Alfonso Cuaron's brilliant take on the third volume of J. K. Rowling's zeitgeist-grabber. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the only book in the series I haven't yet read, for one reason or another, so I'm a little disappointed to see it divided and my hopes for closure drawn out yet another year, but I'll be there at the cinema, make no mistake - if not necessarily on opening night. Director David Yates has proved up to the task thus far, and between the change of setting from the coddling environment of Hogwarts to the wider world and the darker tone I've been told permeates Rowling's last Harry Potter novel, I'm hoping for a fitting finish - or at least the first part of such a thing - to a multi-part narrative that however imperfect has kept me entertained for more than a decade, all told.


Keep your RSS readers tuned to The Speculative Scotsman for the third part of this extensive rundown of the year ahead in genre film on... Thursday, probably.

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. The Eagle of the Ninth is the one doing it for me at the moment - I read the book by Rosemary Sutcliff as a teen and absolutely adored it; I hope they do the book justice in the film!

    And what about Robin Hood with Mr Crowe in the lead role? Any thoughts about that one? Personally I am dreading it, but will probably go to watch it with the morbid fascination of viewing a car crah....

  2. From this list, Eagle of the Ninth, Enter the Void, and Deathly Hallows are the ones I'll be watching for. Didn't even know about the Eagle of the Ninth. Nice!

  3. I can't wait for Robin Hood. Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe are the perfect match just like Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan. Just awesome.