Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Superman Returns: A short history

Superman Five

A timeline with commentary

Few films have been in development hell longer than Superman Returns. The whole sordid story is far too long and involving to be done justice with anything less than a book, so what we’re just going to do a timeline, showing the starts and stops on a project that was on the boards for almost 20 years before it actually got into theaters. There were at least two or three lawsuits resulting over the film over the years, hence the title.

The journey begins even before Superman IV hit theaters.

Version 5.1

1984Supergirl flops. The the father/son producing team of Alexander and Ilya Salkinds rent the rights to the franchise to Cannon pictures, run by the notorious team of Yoram Globus and Menahem Golan.

DC comics kills off Supergirl as part of it’s famous “Crisis on Infinite Earths” housecleaning project.

1986–Christopher Reeve comes up with a politically correct idea to revive the series, and works on a script with writers Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal, who did “Romancing the Stone” and it’s sequel. Golan and Globus say “why not?” and Sidney J. Furie, who did the “Ipcress File” and the original “Get Carter,” is set to direct.

1987–Test screenings for a 134 minute version Superman IV result in over a half hour of film being cut out. Golan and Glubus decide that this excess footage may be used for Superman V, with cheaper actors playing the main roles.

July 24––Superman IV opens to scathing reviews.

1988–pre preoduction begins on Superman V with Captain America (1988) director Albert Pyun at the helm.

Oct 8––Superboy premiers as a TV series. [the Salkinds still have the TV rights]

1989–Cannon pictures goes bankrupt, and Superman V, version one, is cancelled. The movie rights revert to the Salkinds.

Version 2

1989-92––The Salkinds commission Cary Bates and Mark Jones to write a script for a Superman V, version II based on the Superboy TV series. Gerard Christopher, who played Superboy/Clark Kent, on the series since season 3, is set to star, and is slated for 1994 release.

1992—DC comics kills off Superman, and immediately repents by bringing him and three imposters back.

1993–The Salkinds sell Warner Communications, which also owns DC comics, all rights to Surperman., and Version 2 is cancelled. Christopher auditions for Lois and Clark, the next Supes TV show, and is told he didn’t get the part because he was in the Superboy TV show.

2001—In“ Pueblo Film v. Warner Bros”: the corporate successor to the late Alexander Salkind’s interest in the Superman movies says studio intentionally delayed production of Superman V in order to get out of contract turning profits from Superman VI over to Salkind companies. Pueblo also claims that Warners used the extras without it’s permission.

Versions 3, 4 and 5

1994-96—Warners’ gives the Superman V project to producer Jon Peters, who commissions a script from Jonathan Lemkin.

…Lemkin’s script, which was based on the comic book series “The Death of Superman”
is dumped, and the job is given to Gregory Poirier, who had previously done porn.

…Piorier’s script is dumped, and the job is given to Kevn Smith, who after much wrangling and a couple of drafts comes up with something acceptable to the suits. Nicholas Cage is cast as Superman and Tim Burton is hired to direct.

1997—Burton fires Smith and hires Wesley Strick to “re-invent” the whole deal. Pre-production of Superman V, version III officially begins.

DC comics changes Superman’s costume. Fans howl, and blue suit is returned less than a year later.

1997-8— While the various toy companies with licenses try to design various contraptions, there is problems with the script.

Strick’s script is rejected by the WB. Akiva Goldsman is hired to rewrite it. Goldsman’s rewrite was rejected.
Burton hires Ron Bass to rewrite Goldsman’s rewrite of Strick’s script.
Bass’s rewrite was rejected.
Burton hired Dan Gilroy to rewrite Bass’ rewrite.

1998—Despite the chaos, construction of sets begins.

April —With less than two months to go before shooting starts, Warners’ rejects Gilroy’s version and puts the whole thing on hold. At this point, over $50 million had been spent.

April-Nov—Burton, Gilroy and exec Lorenzo DiBonaventura rewrite yet another script.

Dec/Jan 1999—Burton fired.

1999—Peters tries to get, among others, Michael Bay, Brett Ratner, Steven Norrington, Shekhar Kapur, and Martin Campbell to take over as director, none want the job with the Burton/Gilroy script.

Burton/Gilroy script dumped, William Wisher hired to start over.

2000—Nick Cage takes his $20 million pay or play fee and leave the project. Version III is officially dead, however, Paul Attansio is hired to do yet another treatment.

Wolfgang Petersen and Andrew Kevin Walker begin work on Superman Vs. Batman(version V).

2001—WB in negotiations to bring back Tim Burton, but this comes to nothing.

Peters and DiBonaventura hire music video and Charlie’s Angels director on board, this marks the beginning of what we might call Superman V. IV.

The lawsuit is settled for an unknown sum later on.

2002-3—Attansio’s script is rejected. J.J. Abrams his brought on board to give it another go.

The Abrams script is leaked like most of the others. The reaction is vicious, and is made even moreso when Abrams admits that it’s real

McG is replaced by Brett Ratner.

June 2002Superman Vs. Batman (version V) is announced by Warners’ for summer 2004
Sept 16Superman vs. Batman is officially cancelled.

2003—Everyone from Bryan Frasior to Ashton Kutcher are rumored to be the next Superman. Justin Timberlanke is reported to have been asked to play Jimmy Olsen.

March 15—Michael Bay’s contract expires.
June—Jonathan Frakes in talks to direct.
July—McG back on board.
Dec—Beyance Knowles rumored to play Lois Lane, not true

Early 2004—Constructions on sets begins sometime in Austrailia

April 13—McG gives presentation to Warner’s brass.
June 10—Brandon Routh tests for Superman.
June 17—Warners’ announces that McG may not actually direct.
June 24— Josh Schwartz signs on to script doctor
July 9—Brian Singer in talks for version IV, agrees to take job if script is dumped and he can start from scratch.
July15—McG leaves project for good, and is replaced by Brian Singer, who brings in Michael Dougherty & Dan Harris to write a completely new script. version IV is now dead, although set construction continues.

Version VI

Sept 15—first draft for Superman V, version VI is finished. It is based on the original movies from the 1970s.
Oct. 20—finished script approved.
Oct 2—Routh gets the lead role.
Nov 5Superman V, Version V, or Superman Returns is given the official greenlight for a June 2006 release.

March 16, 2005—Filming starts at last.

At this point, Warner Bros. has already spent over $60 Million. The total costs clealy will make it the most expensive film to date.

My review of version six

Superman Returns

Directed by
Bryan Singer

It’s all about suspension of disbelief. A film like this is a success when you can get really into it and don’t really care about stuff like the villain planning to destroy half the world in order to increase his real estate holdings. Sure, it’s ridiculous, but this is fantasy, and an iconic one at that. This is the result of decades of work and hundreds of millions in development costs. If Bryan Singer and company can’t make you believe a man can fly, then its all a waste.
It’s not a waste at all.

Okay, Clark/Supes(Brandon Routh) has been gone for five years on a pilgrimage to the remains of what was once the planet Krypton, and when we get past the wonderful opening credits, we see his return to Earth, crash landing in his adoptive mother’s(Eva Marie Saint) farm in Kansas. Then we have what, in my opinion is the only major screw-up in the entire film, in a flashback, the teenaged
Clark(Stephan Bender), has glasses. He doesn’t need a disguise yet, why the heck does he need glasses? I mention this because the rest of the film is near perfect.

Clark/Supes then heads back to Metropolis, where he gets his old job back. It’s good that Singer decided to base the film on the Chris Reeve versions because it has a familiar lived-in look. Perry White (Frank Langella) looks like Perry White and Jimmy Olsen(Sam Huntington) looks like Jimmy Olsen, they even brought Jack Larson out of retirement as a bartender for comparison purposes. The acting is indeed dead on. Kate Bosworth is sooo good as Lois Lane that she makes you forget that Margot Kidder ever had the job. The conservatism of the film’s design is one of its strengths. We don’t have to get used to anything really new.

There’s obviously new stuff, of course. Lois is a mother to an illegitimate kid named Jason(Tristan Leabu) and has been engaged to Perry’s nephew Richard White(James Marsden) for years. Rich is actually one of Supe’s greatest rivals for Lois’ affections because he’s actually a wonderful guy, close to being a super-hero himself.

The other not-so-great thing about the film is Parker Posey as Kitty Kowalski, Lex Luthor’s(Kevin Spacey) love interest. It’s not that Posey is BAD in the role, far from it, it’s just that Spacey’s Lex is a genuine villain this time, not a cartoon from the old “Batman” TV show like Gene Hackman was. Lex’s henchmen look like thugs, even the one(David Fabrizio) who does a piano duet with Jason. Luthor’s plot to take over the world doesn’t seem as completely silly as it does when first mentioned in various spoilers. It actually makes some sense in a twisted sort of way.

The special effects are perfect. As Peter O’Toole once said, the power of the computer has finally gotten strong enough to replicate the human imagination. The action sequences are all that one hopes for. Brian Singer has hit one out of the park.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

What is the right temperature?

Okay, if you go here:

you'll see an article about global warming, where it says that temperatures are the warmest in over four hundred years. It also states that there was an unusualally cold period called the little ice age which lasted through most of the late milleniumn.

Hence, so what? what is the proper normal temperature for the earth, the long, extreme winters the world suffered during the 14th-19th centuries, or now and the midevil warmspell?

Do you really want snow in September?

Monday, June 19, 2006

fun with New Mexico politics

J.R. Damron, the Repubican nominee for Governor, withdrew from the race. Exactly why this happened hasn't been made public. There's something very weird about that. I mean he went to all the trouble to win the primary and everything.


Saturday, June 17, 2006

fun with fan mail....

I got this in my inbox this morning:

In criticizing An Inconvenient Truth ( by calling Al Gore a “big fat liar,” Eric Lurio demonstrates how the “skeptics” of global warming make up their own analysis to prove their points. His statement that the film cites “a bogus survey of scientific papers on global warming in order to show that there's no disagreement on the subject” is not supported in any way, which is because it is completely without foundation. His “bogus survey” was published in one of the world’s leading scientific publications (Science magazine, volume 306, p. 1686) by a reputable scientist (N. Oreskes with the Department of History and Science Studies Program at the University of California in San Diego) only after careful peer review. Clearly, Mr. Lurio’s work never passed through such a peer review process, but truth and accuracy does not seem to concern “skeptics” like Mr. Lurio. Andrew Gunther ----- Andrew J. Gunther, Ph.D. Executive Director Center for Ecosystem Management and Restoration 4179 Piedmont Ave, Suite 325 Oakland, CA 94611 voice: (510) 420-1570 fax: (510) 420-1345 email: ----- The author is a member of the Board of Directors of the Union of Concerned Scientists

There were clearly problems with the survey, and these complaints have been quite public. Notice that he doesn't mention the Little Ice Age, which Gore expicitly denied happening despite every single climatologist in the world aknowledges.

This is fun, especially how the personal attacks have nothing to do with anything.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Brooklyn FF: Day 8

This is the penultimate day of the festival, and there may or may not be some free screenings depending on the weather, which at the moment is rather good. Here are two more reviews, and they might be the last of the bunch depending if I decided to go to this evening's screenings:

Little Fugitive

Written and directed
by Joanna Lipper

There will always be a Coney Island. New York’s historic amusment district has seen both better and worse days, but that is neither here nor there. There’s an allure which will never leave, because even during it’s nadir during the 1970s and ‘80s, you could still feel it. But this film isn’t about that. This film is about hopelessness and desolation. To say this film is bleak is an understatement.

Joey’s(David Castro) family is about as dysfunctional as you can get. his father Sam (Peter Dinklage) is in prison and his mother Natalia(Justina Machado) spends all her time working or hanging out with her friends. Joey’s old brother Lenny (Nicolas Salgado) hates Joey, and when we meet them, he’s watching some bullys beat the crap out of his baby brother. Mom is furious when she finds out, but she doesn’t care all that much. She has a day off on Lenny’s birthday, and celebrates by going to Atlantic City with some friends, leaving the two brothers to care for themselves.

Being seven, Joey follows Lenny to target practice [illegal guns and that sort of thing], and the latter decides to pull a nasty practical joke, which leads him to became the title character. Lenny of course is filled with remorse and goes looking for him with their friend Destiny(Raquel Castro). Joey has some innocent adventures and fights off a predator(Brendan Sexton III). Then, just as the happy ending is on the horizon, the system gets them.

Exactly what Joanna Lipper wanted when she decided to do this remake [the 1951 version is considered one of the first modern “indies”] is unclear. This isn’t exactly a slice-of-life type flick, and it’s not all that entertaining. The ending is really a downer. The performances are fine, but not great enough to make up for the horribly depressing script. Don’t waste the bucks.

The OH in Ohio

Directed by
Billy Kent

Marilyn Monroe was wrong. Diamonds aren’t a girls best friend, her vibrator is. That’s to some extent the message of this silly trifle, which is about as lewd as you can get without actually getting just beyond PG-13 territory.

Screenwriter Adam Wierzbianski and first time director Billy Kent have attempted to make a new kind of sex farce, and while they’ve made some stabs in the right direction, they didn’t quite make it. Mores the pity.

Priscilla(Parker Posey) is what you might call…frigid. Her husband Jack(Paul Rudd) has been trying for years, but he’s never actually made her achieve orgasm. Out of frustration, he leaves her and moves into the garage. This may have been the best thing that has happened to them. Each gets to go on the classic “hero’s journey.”

Jack, a biology teacher is saved by Kristen(Mischa Barton), one of his students. Rarely has this sort of thing bee shown in such a positive light. The fact that she’s hot and looks about five years older than the character she portrays, makes the situation palatable. Priscilla’s journey on the other hand, is longer and more complex…

First she goes to a seminar on masturbation, signifying the cinematic comeback of Liza Minnelli in a delightfully over the top performance. Then she gets the abovementioned vibrator from
Heather Graham’s lesbo sex shoppe. Had it not been for the graphic subject matter, this would be something out of a mediocre TV sitcom. Don’t get me wrong, most of the jokes actually work, but this is too clever by half, and a bit too cutesie to boot.

Danny DeVito’s Larry the Pool Guy is not necessary to the movie. While Devito himself is terrific, he’s more of a dues-ex-machina than a real character. The ending isn’t all that well thought out.

This is a cute beginning, and Kent has a future ahead of him.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Brooklyn:In between screenings

It turns out that they are having a reception here in between screenings: selling munchies and red bull for about twice the price you can get the stuff in a supermarket, but that's what sponsers generally do. I just saw The oh in ohio, and it wasn't half bad. Wasn't all that great either. They also have a comptuer here for no real reason.

The shorts weren't that bad either. There was one about an old radical couple having sex. Not all that great, although some people find that humorous.

Now for home....

Brooklyn International film festival day seven

I haven't really been doing all that much when it comes to the festival for most of it, there's too much "normal" stuff to do, but I did go to see some more starting wednesday. The trip from Times Square to the Brooklyn museum isn't nearly that arduous and I managed to get into at least three more films. Here are two of them:

Lower City (Cidade Baixa)

written and directed
by Sérgio Machado

Salvidor, Bahia is in northeastern Brazil, south of the Amazon river. Here, rather than a tropical paradise, we’ve got a kind of tropical hell, where people live an existence of quiet, or in this case, loud desperation. Welcome to Brazil.

Karinna(Alice Braga) is a prostitute flitting from one big city to another, looking for work as a stripper and turning tricks when that’s not exactly available. She’s on her way to Salvidor and has just missed the bus from another city on the river, when she negotiates a deal where for 40 cueseros and a screw for both of them, Deco(Lázaro Ramos) and Naldinho(Wagner Moura) will give her a ride on their trawler.

Love is in the air. So is hate. We’ve got a classical love triangle where everything’s in the shit beforehand. Karinna now works at a strip joint, while her two “boyfriends” haul freight and commit petty crimes for a local hood named Sergipano(José Dumont). Deco, who aspires to be a fighter, and Naldinho, who aspires to nothing, fight and make up, screw Karinna, and fight over her all over again.

Meanwhile, she’s preggers, and we don’t know who the father is. It’s typical for this kind of thing, but then despite the fact that none of these people are the least bit nice, we find ourselves invested in them. That’s what good moviemaking is all about. The local doesn’t seem as exotic as are some films of this type, mainly because it’s urban and to some extent, the slums of most cities seem the same.

This is nothing really special, but it gets the job done.


Written and Directed
by Mohammad Reza Arab

A simple yet powerful film about a young Afghani immigrant who works in a in Iran. As a US-led attack becomes...

When in doubt, blow stuff up. That’s a pretty good rule of thumb. Especially when the filmmaker is completely inept. The reason we have this thing at the Brooklyn film festival is that it’s exotic as hell and taking us into a different world is what film is all about. However bad acting, editing and dialogue doesn’t balance the positive values of seeing the alien out.

It’s somewhere in eastern Iran. Our hero is dreaming of his wife on the Afghan border and wonders what became of her. One of his supervisor confesses to withholding our hero’s letters from home in order that he would stay at the Henna grinding factory.

But the guy is forgiven and our hero sings a song. However, it turns out the date is 9/11/2001, and the World Trade Center has just been taken down. So he has to go.

Arab doesn’t have much of an imagination. Sure the guy gets robbed, but he gets help to find the robbers from some friendly thugs, who get the crap beaten out of them offstage, He crosses the border “illegally” and the Iranian police shoot a straggler. The Taliban arrests him, but one of them is a friend of his….

It’s all typical obsolete melodrama with lots of explosions. Lots of people die even though our hero is pretty much unscathed. The climax is really dumb, too. Fortunately nobody will ever see this again.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Brooklyn International Film festival day one

So with Staten Island out of the way [too much rain!], we head to the Brooklyn Museum, where for the ninth year in a row they've got a film festival. This year, they're actually going to have a bunch of stuff which is actually going to get distributed. The first selection was followed by a party where they served Red Bull and beer.

The Former didn't work, as I went fast asleep as soon as I got home and it wasn't even that late, however it was raining cats and dogs, so to speak...same thing with the entire weekend so far. Here are a a couple of the films...[okay I saw one at've probably forgotten, so I'm putting it up again]

Sangue - La Morte non Esiste

Written and directed
by Libero De Rienzo

Yuri(Elio Germano) and Stella(Emanuela Barilozzi) are half siblings. The former came into the world as the product of rape and is a symbol of original sin. He’s needy and a bit of a moron, but Stella loves him anyway even though she refuses to tell him. She’s headed to New York to study ballet and he’s headed nowhere, but in the meantime, there’s a rave to attend…

The film is set in three acts. The first is all about Stella, who has errands to do and people to see. At first she seems pretty normal, or at least sane. She loves practical jokes, and plays at least one on Yuri. We don’t know where exactly this film is going. Are the two going to break taboos and screw? Will they go to their uncle’s wedding? Do we really care? All we know is that Yuri is an incompetent drug dealer and is paranoid. I’m not sure we feel for him, as he’s such a baby, and we are rather happy that Stella’s getting out of there.

Then they get to the rave, which is a complete waste of time. Yuri breaks down, proclaims he’s gay, and preens, while Stella gets some advice from a hindu guru(Libero De Rienzo) and doesn’t actually get it. It’s kind of a metaphor for the whole film. There’s another chapter, which is about Yuri trying to figure life out in the early morning hours while he and she detoxify themselves. This is actually the boring part. Apparently auteur De Rienzo is bored too, because he sends in the Nazi storm troopers to break everything up. Stella and Yuri escape only to discover that there’s a guy named
Bruno(Luca Lionello) sleeping in the back seat.

I guess it’s the boredom and pointlessness of the first two thirds of the film that inspired De Rienzo the car chase. This is a movie, you have to have a car chase right? Especially with guns blazing. Then there’s the final chapter, entitled “Comic Finale,” which basically changes the film entirely, from a philosophical exercise in cinematic navel gazing to slapstick comedy. This is actually rather funny, but seem a bit tacked on. It doesn’t fit even though it’s the best part of the film. What a waste.

The question is whether or not there’s any entertainment factor here. Until the last section, there really isn’t any, but one can see how Europe has decided to tackle the decline of it’s culture in the first decade of the 21st century. Feh!


Written and Directed
by Bent Hamer

Hank Chinaski (Matt Dillon) fancies himself a writer. That he may be, but for the most part he’s a bum. Going from low-paying job to low-paying job, while he and his girlfriend Jan (Lili Taylor) screw and drink. This cannot last, and they part. Then our hero takes up with Laura (Marisa Tomei), who’s being kept by Pierre (Didier Flamand), who runs a home for wayward floozies.

Welcome to the world of Charles Bukowski, the greatest slacker of the 20th century.

Exactly, why should we care about this loser? Because Hamer has used the exquisite prose of Bukowski to the maximum advantage, making Hank and his useless friends somewhat interesting. Also, we have bravura performances by Dillon and Taylor, which are Oscar quality, but probably won’t get much kudos because the characters and the story are quite pathetic, and I don’t mean that in a good way.

Watching this film is sort of like watching a train wreck, it’s horrible, but you can’t take your eyes off of it. Which means that it’s probably worth the bucks for a bargain matinee. This is one of the best bad movies of the entire year.

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Staten Island Film festival

Does Staten Island even deserve a film festival? With the abuse the distaff boro has given us in Manhatten for the last century or so, probably not, but on the other hand, everyone else in the world his having one, so who's the right to actually complain about it?

The fest began in the beautifully restored St.George theater, just up the hill from the ferry terminal. The people were very nice, and there it ends, for the opening night film is among the worst of the year. If the rest of the flicks are anywhere near as bad, then God help it.

Here's the review:

The Celestine Prophecy

Directed by
Armand Mastroianni

It’s an old technique: “a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down.” Coat your philosophical crapola with a fictional veneer, preferably an adventure story with lots of sex and violence, and you’ll at least get the general public to think about the stuff.

That is what made James Redfield’s silly book a best seller a decade ago, and with “The Da Vinci Code” being adapted into a film, Redfield obviously felt left out, so he financed a movie version himself.

One would think that since the book sold 14 million copies, Hollywood would have bought the film rights waay back then (they might have, I dunno), but they didn’t. After seeing this turd, I can understand why.

John Woodson (Matthew Settle) is a teacher at a parochial school somewhere in the ‘States. He gets “laid off” due to budget cuts, and when he gets home to mope, the phone rings. It’s an old friend(Robyn Cohen), who tells him about some ancient Jewish texts found in of all places, Peru, so with nothing better to do, he gets a flight out the very next day to check it out.

Well the Catholic church and the Peruvian Junta don’t like the idea of a New Age cult taking over the world, so semi-evil Cardinal Sebastian (Hector Elizondo) and very evil Mr. Jenson(Jurgen Prochnow) have decided to wipe everyone involved with the texts out. John is saved by Wil (Thomas Kretschmann), and the two of them flee to the rain forest, where they meet the rest of the cult in a luxurious mansion…

What follows is philosophical discussion punctuated with gunfire, and believe me when I tell you, there’s nowhere nearly enough of the latter. There is nothing in this movie that is anywhere near interesting, the acting is wooden, even though much of the cast can actually act, the plot far too contrived [actually, the contrivance is part of “insight #2,” or something like that], and writing is horrid.

There is no sugar coating here, and this may actually qualify for the Razzie awards, yeeesh!