Sunday 31 January 2010

Speculative Cinema in 2010: Part Four

Let Me In

Release Date: October 1st
Anticipation: 3 out of 10

Summary: A bullied young boy befriends a young female vampire who lives in secrecy with her guardian.

Commentary: From early reports, this is looking to live down to the usual Hollywood rule of bastardising brilliant foreign films with insipid remakes simply to make a buck from Joe "I Hate Subtitles" Bloggs. For my money, Joe can go to hell. Let the Right One In is a poignant, perfect adaptation of John Ajvide Lindqvist's novel; Let Me In, meanwhile, is another opportunity for supposed child prodigy Kodi-Smitt McPhee to look miserable for 90 minutes, as he did as the boy in The Road. I can't really blame the American film industry for following their wallets and cashing in on what has become a global success story, though the least they could have done is hand the directorial reigns over to someone more suited to such a considered story - someone decidedly not Matt Reeves, whose only qualification of note is Cloverfield. Then again, I did like the creepy horses in the American Ringu equivalent. Will you give The Speculative Scotsman more creepy horses, Matt Reeves? No? Off with your head then.


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

Summary: After being betrayed by the organization who hired him, an ex-Federale launches a brutal rampage of revenge against his former boss.

Commentary: The tagline alone is a stroke of genius: "They fucked with the wrong Mexican." Still, though you'll see his name plastered all over the promotional material, co-director Robert Rodriguez has reportedly had little to do with Machete, a film conceived from one of four faux trailers for Quentin Tarantino's Grindhouse, but don't count it out just yet. Machete could be fun - Lindsay Lohan aside, the cast (including Robert DeNiro) is surprisingly strong - though I fear stretching a one-trick pony from a tolerable 2 minutes to the standard length of a feature will only result in a gory mess of dead, stretched pony. With explosions! And knives! How could it possibly go wrong?

Mr Nobody

Release Date: TBD
Anticipation: 7 out of 10

Summary: In the year 2092, Mars is a vacation spot and Nemo Nobody is a 120-year-old man who is the last mortal left standing in a society where scientific advances have made humans last for longer than even Twinkies. When Nemo is on his deathbed, he reviews the three possible existences and marriages he might have experienced.

Commentary: In Mr Nobody, 30 Second to Mars lead vocalist Jared Leto makes his triumphant return to the cinema! Ah, relax; I'm only kidding. This film lensed in 2007 - Leto's still busy making subpar Linkin Park-inspired noise. Though the long delay between shooting and release has me worries, Mr Nobody looks right up my street: arthouse sci-fi from a Belgian director who hasn't made a film in 13 years. The premise is sound, early reviews from the festival circuit have been very positive, Jaco van Dormael hasn't yet made a bad film that I've seen - and I've seen several - and for all I relish berating the likes of Jared Leto, he really wasn't too awful for such an attractive young actor. Watch out for this one.

My Soul To Take

Release Date: TBD
Anticipation: 4 out of 10

Summary: A serial killer returns to his hometown to stalk seven children who share the same birthday as the date he was allegedly put to rest.

Commentary: Wes Craven returns to take a bite out of the movie-going public's reinvigorated appetite for teen horror a la Twilight. On top of the three titles My Soul to Take has gone through since its announcement, its delay from October of 2009 to some unspecified date this year screams of a studio trying to make the best out of a bad lot. Can you believe this man used to make decent films? On the plus side, this is the first film Craven has both written and directed since A New Nightmare, so there's a chance, however slim, that The Speculative Scotsman's negligible expectations might yet be pleasantly thwarted.

Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang

Release Date: March 26th (UK)
Anticipation: 6 out of 10

Summary: Nanny McPhee arrives to help a harried young mother who is trying to run the family farm while her husband is away at war, where she uses her magic to teach the woman's children and their spoiled cousins five new lessons.

Commentary: Breaking news! There will be no Professor Trelawney in either part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. British national treasure Emma Thompson opted out of the last entries in that franchise in favour of a sequel to the little-seen but apparently much-loved 2005 YA fantasy Nanny McPhee. She returns in the title role with a few Harry Potter regulars to wreak more magical havoc, this time on theories of evolution. I can't say this is must-see big screen material for me, but it's perfect fodder for the younguns or the adults whose kids demand a new Harry Potter every other week.

Never Let Me Go

Release Date: TBD
Anticipation: 9 out of 10

Summary: An alternate history story of a woman who, as she reflects on her private school years in the English countryside, reunites with her two friends to face the dark secrets tied to their communal past.

Commentary: Mark Romanek, director of the superlative One Hour Photo, helms this adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's startlingly original Booker-shortlisted novel from a screenplay by 28 Days Later and Sunshine scribe Alex Garland. Starring Keira Knightley, who demonstrated in Atonement that yes, she can act. I see no weak links in the cast and crew of Never Let Me Go. Thus: I am rather excited. The book has a special place in my heart, and it looks for all intents and purposes to be done justice with this version for the silver screen. In fact, given the caliber of the attached talent, I'll go all out and say this could even be a candidate for the Oscars come 2011.

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Release Date: April 30th
Anticipation: 5 out of 10

Summary: A group of teenagers find their dreams haunted by a figure, a badly burned man with razor knives for fingers. His name is Freddy, and if he kills you in the dream then you die in real life.

Commentary: After remakes of Halloween, Friday the 13th and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it was only going to take so long before A Nightmare on Elm Street received the dubious honour of a retooling for contemporary audiences. And here it is. The first mark against this remake has to be Samuel Bayer in the director's chair; a man with no more experience of filmmaking than a few music videos. The next: John Connor from the short-lived Terminator TV series leading a cast of nameless nobodies whose only purpose, I presume, will be to die, very likely in a horrible fashion. Jackie Earle Haley is the only real plus, and from the sounds of a few set-reports, he didn't have a fine time underneath the spaghetti-face prosthetics Robert Englund wore so memorably. Expect an absolute disaster of a film that nevertheless wins the box office for a single weekend before word of mouth spoils its chances of a second.


Release Date: TBD
Anticipation: 8 out of 10

Summary: The story of an Irish fisherman who discovers a woman in his fishing net who he believes to be a mermaid.

Commentary: This exquisite-looking fable for all the family comes to us courtesy of the director of The Crying Game and Company of Wolves, and despite Neil Jordan's patchy track-record since, I'm psyched about Ondine just looking at that picture. (Not Keira Knightley, by the way.) A year ago you'd have had to convince me about Colin Farrell, but as a recent convert - the glorious In Bruges saw to that - there's nothing stopping me from falling for this very promising film now, and its ongoing tour of the festival circuit has only compounded my great expectations for Ondine. Expect something like The Lady in the Water, except good.


Release Date: TBD
Anticipation: 8 out of 10

Summary: Two British comic-book geeks traveling across the U.S. encounter an alien outside Area 51.

Commentary: Written by and starring Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz chums Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, with an impressive supporting cast including Sigourney Weaver, Seth Rogen and Jason Bateman, Paul is nevertheless lacking a single thing: Edgar Wright, who directed the hilarious British duo in the films that made their name. What Paul will be without Wright - who's keeping busy with Scott Pilgrim vs. The World - remains to be seen, but I'm optimistic. With comedy, the words on the page and the delivery are what count, and with Superbad director Greg Mottola on the case, there's really nothing to fear. Here's hoping Pegg and Frost can do for sci-fi what they did for horror with their fantastic British take on the inevitable zombie invasion a few years back. One to watch.

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief

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

Summary: A teenager discovers he's the descendant of a Greek god and sets out on an adventure to resolve an on-going battle between the gods.

Commentary: Hmm. Could that be... Harry... Potter? No? Well, off you go, then. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief can certainly boast about Chris Columbus, director of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, but it's only encouraging what are sure to be unfavourable comparisons. For all J. K. Rowling's failings, her narratives had character, adventure and charm. This has Greek gods; better left to the likes of Clash of the Titans and God of War if you ask me. A derivative cash-in adaptation of a derivative cash-in book, I saw the trailer for Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief attached to Avatar and it certainly looked... derivative.


For fear of film coverage overwhelming all the talk of books, glorious books, I mean to spread the fifth and final parts of The Speculative Scotsman's exhaustive preview of genre film in 2010 throughout the first week of February.

I did warn you this was set to be an crowded year for SF&F at cinema... but rejoice, readers, we're well into the home stretch now!

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. What a shame that Let the Right One In is being remade on this side of the Atlantic. There was nothing wrong with the original, dangit! A large part of the original's success should be laid at the feet of Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson, both of whom turned in amazing and nuanced performances. Kodi Smit-McPhee was decent in The Road, but nothing special. And Matt Reeves? Really?

    I'm very skeptical of this whole project. I can't imagine an American version will capture the stillness and solemn tension of Let the Right One In.

  2. No doubt about it: Let Me In looks set to be another of Hollywood's worst travesties. Must they? Really, must they?

    I should really do the responsible thing and reserve judgement until I see the finished film, but Matt "Cloverfield" Reeves at the helm hardly fills me with confidence.

    Unless he gives me more creepy horses, I'm out.