Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Speculative Cinema in 2010: Part Five

Piranha 3-D

Release Date: August 27th
Anticipation: 5 out of 10

Summary: A tremor under the surface of Lake Victoria unleashes scores of prehistoric piranhas, an event which rallies a local sheriff who will risk everything to save her townsfolk.

Commentary: Alexandre Aja has been hit or miss since he exploded into the horror genre with Haute Tension. Making his Hollywood directorial debut with a remake of The Hills Have Eyes won him no favours from me, although it was certainly a better film than his dreary 2008 follow-up, Mirrors starring Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer. Piranha 3-D, however, looks like it might be fun, and its cast, though hardly distinguished, isn't quite the no-name affair you might expect from a retooled creature feature. I doubt the critics will be kind to Piranha 3-D one way or another, but this could be a fun comedown from a Summer release schedule packed full of exhausting high-octane blockbusters.


Release Date: July 7th
Anticipation: 6 out of 10

Summary: A group of elite warriors are hunted by members of a merciless race of aliens known only as Predators.

Commentary: Honestly, I loved Predator when I was a wee beastie; I remember rooting for Dutch despite never having laid eyes on Schwartzenegger before, and the skinless corpses hanging from high in the jungle canopy haunted my dreams for years. To my dismay, however, a recent rewatch of McTiernan's original shot all but my fondest memories of Predator to hell. So, another remake, with Vacancy director Nimrod Antal at the helm. Here's hoping between him, producer Robert Rodriguez and a surprisingly respectable cast including Adrian Brody and Lawrence Fishbourne, Predators is a pleasant surprise. It can hardly be worse than those execrable bloody versus movies, after all. Can it?


Release Date: August 20th
Anticipation: 4 out of 10

Summary: A priest disobeys church law to track down the vampires who kidnapped his niece.

Commentary: After the crushing disappointment of Legion earlier in the year, Scott Stewart and Paul Bettany reteam to do the dead only knows what with a trite premise based on an unknown (to me) South Korean manga - less commonly known as 'manwha'. Maggie Q and Karl Urban in supporting roles do not give me much cause to hope that Priest will turn out any better than the gruesome twosome's previous effort. All signs point to a complete waste of time. Still, even if the film's a mess, at least we've learned something new today, am I right readers?

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Release Date: May 28th
Anticipation: 7 out of 10

Summary: An adventurous Persian prince teams up with a rival princess to stop an angry ruler from unleashing a sandstorm that could destroy the world.

Commentary: Jake Gyllenhaal is... the Prince of Persia? No, he's bloody well not. Nonetheless, ably supported by his chest hair and Alfred Molina - the best Spider-man villain ever - many critics have pegged this as one of the tentpole movies to see this Summer, and I'm sure it'll be a bit of fun. Gyllenhaal can certainly support a story; Mike Newell is a fine, if unremarkable filmmaker; if the stars align, Ben Kingsley might even turn in a decent performance as the villainous vizier of the piece. All the same, I'd really rather play the video game again.

Repo Men

Release Date: April 2nd
Anticipation: 2 out of 10

Summary: In the near future, artificial organs can be bought on credit, and when a struggles to make the payments on a heart he has purchased, he must go on the run before the repo men repossess his buy now, pay later ticker.

Commentary: No thank you. Have so few people seen the burlesque brilliance of Repo: A Genetic Opera that it's somehow acceptable for Hollywood to pilfer its plot and premise wholesale? Jude Law, Forest Whitaker and Liev Schreiber lead this derivative wire-fu drivel under the direction of newcomer Miguel Sapochnik. Maybe it'll be good, maybe it won't. Maybe some aspect of Repo Men will elevante it beyond the level of outright theft, but I certainly don't mean to be anywhere near it in any event.

The Resident

Release Date: TBD
Anticipation: 6 out of 10

Summary: When a young doctor suspects she may not be alone in her new Brooklyn loft, she learns that her landlord has formed a frightening obsession with her.

Commentary: This isn't speculative cinema even by my generous definition of the genre, but as the first film from the recently restarted Hammer Horror label I felt I had to feature it. And don't let its rather tiresome premise put you off; with the screenwriter of the wonderfully twisted Secretary co-writing the script, you can be sure something about The Resident will elevate it above the myriad other Single White Female knock-offs. Finnish MTV star Antii Jokinen directs Hillary Swank and Gray's Anatomy star Jeffrey Dean Morgan - none of which does much for me, but I'll be sure to catch this one on the basis of Erin Cressida William's involvement alone, and besides, wouldn't it be nice to have Hammer Horror back in the picture?

Robin Hood

Release Date: May 14th
Anticipation: 7 out of 10

Summary: The story of an archer in the army of Richard Coeur de Lion who fights against the Norman invaders and becomes the legendary hero known as Robin Hood.

Commentary: I don't know quite what to make of yet another Robin Hood adaptation. The cast is certainly incredible: Mark Strong, William Hurt, Cate Blanchett and Matthew Macfadyen supporting Russell Crowe in the lead role. And yet, with Ridley Scott in the director's chair, what to expect? Certainly the man's made some incredible films in his time, Gladiator among them, though the second time Scott teamed up with Crowe they came up with A Good Year, one of the dreariest, most plodding movies I've ever seen. And let's not forget the likes of GI Jane and Hannibal. Nevertheless, the buzz around Robin Hood seems to be good, and I can't imagine so many Oscar-caliber stars would sign on if there weren't at least a decent script. Here's hoping Scott treats this one as something more substantial than a warm-up for the Alien prequel he's on board to direct next year.


Release Date: October 22nd
Anticipation: 5 out of 10

Summary: The serial killer Jigsaw is long dead, and his apparent successor Detective Hoffman has been undone... but the murderous games go on.
Commentary: You know what? I've seen all the Saw films. Every last bloody one. I don't enjoy them, nor do I admire them - I derive nothing that I can put my finger on from the experiences - but year after year, some perverse part of me is compelled to dive into what has long since become a baffling mess of body parts and mind-boggling plot nonsense that serves no other purpose than to save the bone-driven effects team some cash. No doubt I'll satiate my morbid curiosity again this Halloween with seventh installment of the interminable annual franchise, now featuring three glorious dimensions of dismemberment, but I'll be seeing the sequel to Paranormal Activity first, thank you very much. Not that I can imagine recommending either film. To anyone.

Season of the Witch

Release Date: March 19th
Anticipation: 4 out of 10

Summary: 14th-century knights transport a suspected witch to a monastery, where monks deduce her powers could be the source of the Black Plague.

Commentary: Not to be confused with Halloween III. It's worse even that that! Well, perhaps not, but honestly, when was the last time a movie starring Nic Cage wasn't awful? (Alright, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans was good, hard stuff, but you've Werner Herzog to thank for that, not a baldy action man long past his Face/Off prime.) Not to mention that Season of the Witch director Dominic Sena's last passable attempt at filmmaking was Gone in 60 Seconds. Since then he's showcased Halle Berry's breasts in the otherwise tepid Swordfish and ruined a perfectly good graphic novel for me with his abysmal adaptation of Whiteout last year, featuring Kate Beckinsale in the shower. So can we expect Nic Cage to slip out of his period garb for a quickie with the titular witch at some point? I'd say... yes. Abandon all hope, ye who dare enter.

What a bunch of clunkers, eh?

Ah, but we're nearly there now. The Speculative Scotsman's run-down of the best and worst in genre film to come this year is this close to complete. Five parts down, one more to go. Look for part six to be published on Sunday.

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. Man, none of these look that great :(

    Robin Hood has potential I guess, but I have to say that I thought Gladiator was terrible. Absolutely awful.

  2. What ruined your wee beasite memories of Predator?

    Of all the movies you listed above only Predators and Robin Hood looked worth my hard earned cash.

    Apparently Predators is based on a script that Robert Rodriguez wrote in the mid90s. Although it is being directed by Nimrod Antal, Rodriguez is producing the movie and the film is being realeased under the auspices of his Troublemakers studio. I have hopes that this one will cleanse the horror of the AvP movies in gouts of blood, guns and Arnie-esque one-liners. What more could one want?

    Btw, I just watched the first two episodes of Caprica. Like you, I thought it was very good indeed. Lots of moral dilemmas, questions about the nature of existence etc etc. Plus the Cigarette Smoking Man was in it for all of two minutes! I hope the studio behind it has the nerve to stick with it.

  3. @iain35 - Yep, of all the movies feature in this part of the rundown, Predators has to be one of the highlights, but that's hardly saying much. I do pray that it's good, but we'll see. That it's a sequel rather than another interminable remake or reboot certainly has me hopeful; that it's attracted the talent it has, too.

    As to why my wee beastie memories of Predator have suffered, really, I just don't think it's aged terribly well. The early action - and that's all the first half of Predator is, ultimately - falls so much flatter than I'd remembered; I didn't honestly have the heart to hang around for the last half of the original on my rewatch last year.

    Also, we're probably kidding ourselves, but long live Caprica!

  4. Are they still making parts to SAW. God, when will it end? And yes, Repo: The Genetic Opera is way better and sadly this new one is based on a book, so I can not say that it was ripped off.

  5. I'm just happy we don't have to see that horrible hairdo Nickolas Cage has been sporting in the last dozen or so of his movies.

    I'm excited for Robin Hood. Russell Crowe and Ridly Scott were made for each other.