Somebody kill Justice League, please.

George Miller’s Justice League movie has reportedly been re-named Justice League Mortal. We should be so lucky. Recent reports in Variety and the Sydney Morning Herald indicated that the film would not be able to shoot in Miller’s native Australia as planned, because the government wouldn’t give the film a tax break — but instead of leaving this misbegotten film to die, Miller has reportedly begun scouting locations here in British Columbia. And now, Cinema Blend says it got a tip from a reader who spoke to Adam Brody in a B.C. bar and was told that Hayden Christensen — you know, Anakin Skywalker, the guy from Jumper — is playing Superman. Good grief, it was bad enough when the filmmakers were casting virtual unknowns who gave the impression that the film was going to dumb down a bunch of popular superheroes and turn them into whiny, adolescent rip-offs of their actual selves, but if this really is the biggest known actor that they’re turning to, then that just seals the deal. Kill this movie now, people. Maybe Jerry Siegel’s heirs can do something about this.

Newsbites: Superman! Fagles! Ranger! Tintin!

A few more items have come up since last night.

1. The New York Times reports that the heirs of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel were recently granted co-ownership of the character, along with the Time Warner corporation, which owns both DC Comics and the Warner Brothers studio that has been making movies based on the legendary superhero:

The ruling left intact Time Warner’s international rights to the character, which it has long owned through its DC Comics unit.

And it reserved for trial questions over how much the company may owe the Siegel heirs for use of the character since 1999, when their ownership is deemed to have been restored. Also to be resolved is whether the heirs are entitled to payments directly from Time Warner’s film unit, Warner Brothers, which took in $200 million at the domestic box office with “Superman Returns” in 2006, or only from the DC unit’s Superman profits.

Still, the ruling threatened to complicate Warner’s plans to make more films featuring Superman, including another sequel and a planned movie based on the DC Comics’ “Justice League of America,” in which he joins Batman, Wonder Woman and other superheroes to battle evildoers.

Nikki Finke at Deadline Hollywood Daily gives her two bits, too. And both sources note that the heirs of Superman‘s other co-creator, Joe Shuster, may be claiming a similar piece of the super-pie in the near future.

MAR 30 UPDATE: Variety has an article on this too, now.

2. The Associated Press reports that Robert Fagles, poet and translator of classic Greco-Roman literature, died this week at the age of 74. I discovered his translation of The Iliad over 15 years ago, when I was thinking of possibly writing a story that combined elements of biblical history and pagan myth; and I read it again a few years later, when I was doing research for a paper on changes in military technique toward the end of the Bronze Age. I enjoyed Fagles’ style very much, and I always meant to get around to reading his translation of The Odyssey, but I never did (though I have read the translations by Robert Fitzgerald and T.E. Lawrence). Anyway, here’s to Fagles. (Hat tip to John Mark Reynolds at The Scriptorium.)

3. The Hollywood Reporter says Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer are teaming up to produce a new version of The Lone Ranger. Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio — whose credits include the modern Zorro movies (1998-2005) and the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy (2003-2007), both of which similarly revived “musty” old genres — are the writers assigned to this project. I remember hearing about this almost a year ago when Jim Hill posted something on this subject, but I don’t seem to have noted it here at the time.

4. The Guardian confirms that Thomas Sangster is playing Tintin in the trilogy being developed by Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, while Andy Serkis is still on board to play Captain Haddock:

Both actors spent a week in Los Angeles before Easter running through scenes for Spielberg and Jackson; work begins in earnest in September, with a view to releasing the first film in 2010.

5. Youyoung Lee at Entertainment Weekly asks if this week’s new gambling movie, 21, is “racist”. Why? Because it’s based on a true story about Asian MIT students who used their “non-white profile” as well as their card-counting skills to get rich in Vegas — but the movie turns the main characters into white people while relegating a couple of token Asian characters to the margins. Personally, I don’t think the movie is particularly “racist” — but it is very “conventional”, and even “conservatively” so. 21 is just the latest in a long, long, long line of movies that take an interesting true-life story and then change it so that the resulting film is just like every other movie that’s already out there.

Look at what George Lucas is posing with.

The question now, of course, is whether Lucas posed with a prop from Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) just for old times’ sake, or whether, as rumour has long had it, the Ark of the Covenant really will be featured in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull — and, if so, in what capacity. See the Empire website for more photos, as well as a few videos of the photo shoots.

One of the first CGI movies — now in cardboard!

Michel Gondry did not make the video below, but no one makes better use of cardboard in film than he does, so it is a delight to see that someone was inspired by Gondry’s latest film, Be Kind Rewind, to make this “sweded” version of the light-cycle chase in Tron (1982; my review):

Click here if the video file above doesn’t play properly.

(Hat tip to Jerry Beck at Cartoon Brew.)

Newsbites: Legion! Hereafter! W! Lean! Trek! My Kid! Guru! Stop-Loss! Anakin!

Time for some more brief news and review bits, I think.

1. Legion, the supernatural thriller starring Paul Bettany as the archangel Michael, just got a little weirder. In the middle of a story on all the actors who have joined the cast, Variety gives a little more detail about the plot:

Scripted by Stewart and Peter Schink, the thriller casts Bettany as the archangel Michael, the only one standing between mankind and an apocalypse, after God loses faith in humanity. Man’s lone hope rests with a group of strangers who must deliver a baby they realize is Christ in his second coming.

Good grief. From Omen III: The Final Conflict (1981; my comments) to Bless the Child (2000; my review), many films have been based on the premise that the Second Coming will be just like the first coming, with Jesus being born as a baby and all that. But that is not what the Bible describes at all. It’s not going to be a mere reincarnation.

And hey, why is the God of this film losing faith in humanity so soon after sending his Son back into the womb of another human being? Or, hmmm, maybe the film is working from the premise that Jesus isn’t being “sent” at all, but is coming in spite of his Father’s loss of faith in humanity.

Whatever. The newly-announced actors who have joined this film include Dennis Quaid — who discussed his own Christian faith with me a couple years ago and has another Apocalypse-themed film, The Horsemen, in the works — as well as Tyrese Gibson, Jon Tenney, Charles S. Dutton, Lucas Black, Kate Walsh, Adrianne Palicki, Kevin Durand and Willa Holland.

2. One of the more spiritually interesting films I have seen in the last few months is Longford (2006), starring Samantha Morton as one of England’s more notorious criminals and Jim Broadbent as the Catholic member of the House of Lords who befriends her, perhaps more naively than he ought to have done. (See the brief review by my friend Steven D. Greydanus.) It was written by Peter Morgan, who won an Oscar for The Queen (2006) — so I am intrigued to hear, via Variety, that Morgan has just sold a script called Hereafter, which is described as being “in the vein of ‘The Sixth Sense.'” I would love to know more about this film, but alas, no more details have been made public … yet.

3. Variety says Oliver Stone has cast James Cromwell as former President George H.W. Bush, Ellen Burstyn as former First Lady Barbara Bush, and Elizabeth Banks as current First Lady Laura Bush in W, the biopic — formerly titled Bush — that stars Josh Brolin as current President George W. Bush. Banks, who has starred mostly in comedies so far, tells Entertainment Weekly she is a registered Democrat and is “still trying” to figure out how to play her character, though she also says, “I hope to do right by her. I have nothing but admiration and respect for the First Lady.”

4. The Screengrab notes that last Tuesday would have marked the 100th birthday of David Lean, if he had not died in 1991. Lean directed my favorite film of all time, Lawrence of Arabia (1962), as well as Great Expectations (1946), Oliver Twist (1948), Summertime (1955), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Ryan’s Daughter (1970) and a handful of other films, some of them classics, that I have never really written about, such as Brief Encounter (1945), Hobson’s Choice (1954), Doctor Zhivago (1965) and A Passage to India (1984). Prior to all that, he was also an editor on films like Pygmalion (1938) and 49th Parallel (1941).

5. reports that principal photography on Star Trek XI has wrapped … and now the filmmakers have over a year to do the post-production and to get the movie ready for its premiere in May 2009. The website also notes that this movie had the second-longest production schedule of any of the Star Trek films produced so far, lasting 20 weeks; only Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), at 24 weeks, was longer.

6. Personally, I loved the unresolved ambiguities in Amir Bar-Lev’s documentary My Kid Could Paint That, but I had to burst out laughing when I came across this paragraph in Jeffrey Wells’s review the other day:

And perhaps “maybe” is all one can say about this situation. Maybe a definitive bust or exoneration is out of the question. But I don’t want fucking maybes when I go to see a movie. The only way I’ll accept them is when the filmmaker somehow conveys what he/she really thinks, and persuades me to come to the same gut conclusions. If there’s no clarity or closure or at least some kind of ending that has a discernible undercurrent, then whadaya whadaya?

There, I just burst out laughing again while copying-and-pasting that paragraph. Ah, joy. God bless Jeffrey Wells. Really.

7. The Associated Press looks at whether the new Mike Myers comedy The Love Guru might be insensitive to Hinduism:

Still, weeks before the movie is even ready for screening, some in the Hindu community feel that “The Love Guru” has the potential to ridicule important elements of their religion.

Rajan Zed, a self-described Hindu leader from Nevada, demanded that Paramount Pictures screen the film for members of the Hindu community before it is released in June. Based on the movie’s trailer and MySpace page, Zed says “The Love Guru” “appears to be lampooning Hinduism and Hindus” and uses sacred terms frivolously.

“People are not very well-versed in Hinduism, so this might be their only exposure,” he told The Associated Press. “They will have an image in their minds of stereotypes. They will think most of us are like that.”

Paramount, which has screened sensitive films for select audiences in the past, said early screenings would be held for the Hindu community.

“`Love Guru,’ which is not yet complete, is a satire created in the same spirit as Austin Powers,” Paramount said in a statement, noting that the film features spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra and Hindu actor Manu Narayan. “It is our full intention to screen the film for Rajan Zed and other Hindu leaders once it is ready.” . . .

But religious communities rarely take well to faith-themed comedies, said Diane Winston, a professor of media and religion at the University of Southern California.

“To be funny, you have to get in people’s faces and disturb their complacent perspectives,” she said. “Religious groups have tended to be very concerned about their portrayal in the media, especially the entertainment media. Often … in comedies, it’s a very broad representation which they perceive as offensive. It’s the nature of stereotype.”

Her take on “The Love Guru” trailer and Web site? Rather than a spoof of Eastern religion, it seems more of a satire of American culture’s tendency toward materialism, promiscuity and quick spiritual fixes told through a pseudo religious figure.

“The character didn’t have to be a guru. He could just as well have been a rabbi, minister, priest or imam,” she said. “These are problems within the culture at large.

“Hindus were a fresh target,” she continued. “Jews and Christians have been parodied before so perhaps Myers thought this was a different take on a familiar comedy routine.” . . .

8. Libertas says some people are planning to stage a protest outside a Los Angeles theatre showing the Iraq War drama Stop-Loss tomorrow night. Dudes, why give it that extra bit of publicity? If recent trends are anything to go by, the film will die a lonely death at the box office without all the attention.

9. In related news, Stop-Loss star Ryan Philippe tells MTV News he came very close to playing Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars prequels. Interesting. And given the direction George Lucas went in the end, I don’t have a hard time imagining that at all.

Yet another movie not screened for critics.

Kyle Smith reports that The Ruins, a horror film that opens April 4, will not be screened for critics, at least not in advance. A publicist tells me there will be a screening at 10pm the night before the movie opens, at least here in Vancouver, but as we all know, late-the-night-before screenings “don’t count”.