Sunday, 7 February 2010

Speculative Cinema in 2010: Part Six


Release Date: TBD
Anticipation: 5 out of 10

Summary: A female forensic psychiatrist discovers that all of one of her patient's multiple personalities are murder victims. She will have to find out what's happening before her time is finished.

Commentary: That sounds... familiar. What is it with Hollywood this year, lifting tired concepts from every direction? Shelter, of course, sounds like a shameless riff off the 2003 psychological thriller Identity - and what do you know? The script's from the selfsame writer. Surely, though, there's got to be more to Shelter than that, with Oscar-winner Julianne Moore starring. Then again, that actress has rather fallen in my estimation after her awful recurring role on 30 Rock for the last few months; a show which, though I enjoy from time to time, it's doing itself any favours by returning to Moore's ridiculous Southerner like a loyal pup to its late master's grave. But hey, Frances Conroy from Six Feet Under is in Shelter, too. Great to hear she's still doing the rounds!

Solomon Kane

Release Date: February 5th
Anticipation: 5 out of 10

Summary: 16th Century mercenary Solomon Kane learns that his brutal and cruel actions have damned him. Determined to redeem himself, Kane swears to live a life of peace and goodness but is forced to fight once more when a dark power threatens the land.

Commentary: Now this could have been one to watch, but early reports say Deathwatch director Michael Basset's adaptation of the novels from Conan author Robert E. Howard is at best a so-so piece of cinema. Even the hardcore fantasy fans who've seen Solomon Kane have been reserved with their praise. There goes any hopes of a franchise... The strong British cast appeals to me, but I'd advise against wasting your time and money on this at your local multiplex. I should think it'll be worth a DVD rental, though - which, if things don't start looking up soon for Solomon Kane, is all it's shaping up to get in the States.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Release Date: July 16th
Anticipation: 4 out of 10

Summary: A sorcerer leaves his workshop in the hands of an apprentice who gets into trouble when the broomstick he's tasked to do his chores for him somehow develops a mind of its own.

Commentary: Still more Nicolas Cage? The man's certainly keeping himself busy, I'll give him that. Unsurprisingly, The Sorcerer's Apprentice doesn't look like much to look forward to. With the director of National Treasure at the helm of a live-action reimagining of one of the more memorable Mickey Mouse shorts of Fantasia, this is shaping up to be a harmless bit of fluff which will in all likelihood die a death at the box office given its release squarely in the middle of the Summer cinema rush. One to take your kids to, if they demand it; otherwise, pass.


Release Date: TBD
Anticipation: 9 out of 10

Summary: Elsa and Clive, two young rebellious scientists, defy legal and ethical boundaries and forge ahead with a dangerous experiment: splicing together human and animal DNA to create a new organism. Named "Dren", the creature rapidly develops from a deformed female infant into a beautiful but dangerous winged human-chimera, who forges a bond with both of her creators - only to have that bond turn deadly.

Commentary: Second only to Christopher Nolan's Inception in terms of the films of 2010 I'm most looking forward to seeing film, Splice comes from Cube and Cypher director Vincenzo Natali - both films I've loved unreasonably. Natali's last major effort left me a little cold, but although no wide release dates have yet been set for Splice in either the UK or the States, it's been touring the festival circuit to great acclaim, and I couldn't be happier. With a cast led by Adrian Brody and Sarah Polley, Splice might be a bit slow for some action-happy cinemagoers, though its thoughtful sensibilities look to be right up The Speculative Scotsman's street. Expect a more considered take on the sort of subject matter explored in Stephen Chow's hilarious CJ-7. Here's hoping I have the chance to catch this incredibly promising film on the big screen.

Toy Story 3

Release Date: June 18th
Anticipation: 8 out of 10

Summary: Woody, Buzz, and the rest of their toy-box friends are dumped in a day-care center after their owner, Andy, departs for college.

Commentary: What? Toy Story 3 is too speculative fiction! Riddle me this, readers: did your toys talk? Exactly. I'm a great admirer of Pixar, and though I'd really rather see another original effort as their release this year - The Speculative Scotsman would strenuously disagree with those critics who claim Toy Story 2 remains the studio's best film - better that Pixar themselves took the reigns of this sequel rather than have Disney spoil it for us all, as was the Mouse House's nefarious plan. With a script from the pen of Little Miss Sunshine's Michael Arndt and animation co-director of Finding Nemo and Monsters, Inc. at the helm - though solo this time - there's no doubt in my mind that Toy Story 3 will be a good film; certainly it's the CG piece I'm most looking forward to in 2010. The only question is, could it be great? All indicators to date point towards the positive.

Tron: Legacy

Release Date: December 17th
Anticipation: 7 out of 10

Summary: Sam Flynn, the tech-savvy son of Kevin Flynn, looks into his father's disappearance and finds himself pulled into the same world of fierce programs and gladiatorial games where his father has been living for 25 years. Along with Kevin's loyal confidant, father and son embark on a life-and-death journey across a visually-stunning cyber universe that has become far more advanced and exceedingly dangerous.

Commentary: Disney could go two for two with Tron: Legacy, the long-rumoured sequel to 1982's cult original, but I remain skeptical. The few glimpses we've had at footage thus far have been promising, and there are other reasons to hope for the best, not least returning cast members Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner, latterly of Babylon 5 fame. But it's easy to forget that Tron was deemed a massive flop upon its initial release, and whatever the appetite for a sequel amongst fans who've picked up on the original in the decades since, I don't honestly expect Tron: Legacy will appeal widely enough to the greater public that it will be judged any more of a success. It could be good; it could even be great, although first-time director Joseph Kosinskui remains an unknown quantity, but Disney's misjudgment of this sequel's commercial potential mean that you can expect Tron: Legacy to be the first and last addition to this particular universe - and casting House hottie Olivia Wilde in a supporting role isn't likely to change that fact, although hey, I'm all for a bit of eye-candy.

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

Release Date: June 30th
Anticipation: 1 out of 10

Summary: Bella and Edward have been reunited, but a vengeful vampire threatens to tear their forbidden relationship asunder, and Bella must choose between her true love for Edward or her friendship with Jacob as the struggle between the vampires and the werewolves continues.

Commentary: Nope. Not a chance.

Valhalla Rising

Release Date: TBD
Anticipation: 6 out of 10

Summary: For years, One Eye, a mute warrior of supernatural strength, has been held prisoner by the Norse chieftain Barde. Aided by Are, a boy slave, One Eye slays his captor and together the pair begin a journey into the heart of darkness.

Commentary: From the Danish writer/director of the drug-oriented Pusher franchise, early reports has Valhalla Rising looking every bit the part thanks to location shoots in the dramatic highlands of Scotland - for those of you unfamiliar with the prettiest parts of my historical homeland, think the New Zealand of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy - but falling flat due to an ill-judged script. Valhalla Rising certainly isn't likely to do gangbusters at the box office, but a little patience could well mete out a greater experience than the reviews garnered from its tour on the festival circuit have suggested Nicholas Winding Refn's pet project represents. The buzz might not be great, but I'll be keeping an eye out for this one when it finally secures a distribution deal - if only to see how Scotland looks with a budget behind it.

The Wolfman

Release Date: February 12th
Anticipation: 4 out of 10

Summary: An American experiences an unsettling transformation after returning to his ancestral home in Victorian-era Great Britain and being attacked by a rampaging werewolf.

Commentary: And so we come to the last of The Speculative Scotsman's previews of genre cinema in 2010. I only wish the series could go out with more of a bang than The Wolfman will likely represent, but yet again, the alphabet has damned me. Its release may now be upon us, but any chance of some decent buzz building around this film was shot to hell months ago. Having undergone six full months of reshoots - apparently to have the titular werefellow walk on four legs rather than the original edit's two to up the scary some - The Wolfman has also seen a pivotal director and an acclaimed composer come and go over so-called creative differences in the form of Danny Elfman and One Hour Photo helmer Mark Romanek. None of which is to mention a recent round of apparently drastic recutting. After so much turmoil behind the scenes and too often in public, things, at this point, look truly desperate for The Wolfman despite its initial promise. A truly incredible performance from Oscar-winner Benicio del Toro, who has been involved from the very beginning, is now the only hope this film has of rising above the tide of negative perception.


And... we're done!

It's been a long road, longer even than I'd expected, but it's been worth it, I think. The six parts of Speculative Cinema in 2010 - not including the introduction - have spurred plenty of debate in the comments over a wide range of topics ranging from my anticipation of Inception over every other movie due out this year to the question of whether or not I'm justified in despising the very mention of Sean Bean. I'm sure I'll be referring back to these posts for a long time to come, and come 2011 it'll be fun to look back and see whether The Speculative Scotsman was right to look forward to this over that; whether any of my opinionated commentary and calculated snark pans out.

Before I go, an immense debt of gratitude to Dark Horizons for countless pictures, dates and inspiration. I don't suppose I'm in a position to drive any hits to the IMDB, but that was a help too.

One last time then, dear readers: 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.

It's been fun, hasn't it?


  1. Haha, loving your hate for Eclipse. Afraid to say it's a film I'll probably go to watch, having read the books and watched the other two films (hmm, I just found something there that we *fundamentally* differ on!)

    Out of this little lot, I'm also keen on Toy Story 3, having adored pretty much everything Pixar have produced. They can do no wrong in my eyes.

    Thanks for the heads-up on Splice! Not even heard about that one, but now thoroughly intrigued and will give it a watch :-)

  2. Ewww... I hadn't heard of Splice or Vallhalla Rising, but my interest is piqued. I am especially going to watch for Valhalla Rising. I am very interested in things Viking.

    But I'm afraid you've lost me on the LOTR thing. Did you not like Jackson's LOTR?

  3. @Kris - Forgive my clumsy dashes, mate, I meant no slight on the Lord of the Rings films. Only hoped to suggest that the parts of Scotland used for location shoots for Valhalla Rising will look to many viewers much like the beautiful areas of New Zealand the great Peter Jackson used as a backdrop for his trilogy; and that the early buzz on the script for Refn's latest leave a lot to be desired.

    @Magemanda - Yep, I'm sorry, I really do hate Twilight. It's like me and Sean Bean, another pet peeve. I've given both a fair shot, I have, I know they're each in their own way all the rage and likely to be for who knows how much longer, but the books and Bean just rub me entirely the wrong way. I think of Twilight as a vampire Harry Potter, but I could stomach the poorly edited mess of juvenalia J. K. Rowling likes to pass off as prose because there was a great story buried beneath it. Whereas with Stephanie Meyer's books, I just couldn't care less what happens to Bella. Also it strikes me as more than a little unnerving that there's such an appetite for what is for all intents and purposes an unspeakably disgusting story about an ancient vampire perving out over a teenaged girl.

    Glad I've whipped up a little interest in Splice, though!

    Can't wait. Must... rewatch... Cube... ;)