Tsotsi director to helm Wolverine spin-off

X-Men (2000) and X2: X-Men United (2003) were directed by Bryan Singer — who, at the time, was best known for directing the Oscar-winning cult classic The Usual Suspects (1995).

For X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), the producers took a step down the quality ladder and turned to Brett Ratner — a hack best known for directing the Rush Hour movies (1998-2007).

And now, the upcoming spin-off Wolverine seems poised to take a step back up the quality ladder — at least where the talent behind the camera is concerned. Variety says the producers have tapped Gavin Hood, the South African director of Tsotsi (2005), which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film early last year:

Using several resources that include the Marvel Comics lore, along with the more recent Weapon X graphic novels by Frank Miller, “Wolverine” mixes action with an origin story about how Logan emerged from a barbaric experiment as an indestructible mutant with retractable razor-sharp claws.

I have no idea what to expect from this film on a story level. In the meantime, though, I wonder if Brian Cox will reprise his role as Colonel William Stryker, who seemed to have some knowledge of Wolverine’s origins when we met him in X2: X-Men United.

Terminator 4 bogged down in lawsuits?

Two months ago, I noted that the Halcyon Co. had bought the rights to the Terminator movie franchise and announced its intention to make a whole new trilogy of sequels — but I also said it was unclear whether MGM was still involved in the series. Looks like it’s still unclear — Halcyon is suing MGM and accusing the studio of interfering with its distribution plans. Variety and Nikki Finke at Deadline Hollywood Daily have the details.

Harry Potter movie just a “trailer” for the book?

Janet Batchler at Quoth the Maven says Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is “a disappointment” as a movie with a story to tell but “a complete triumph” as a trailer for the book.

Among her observations:

If one were to translate the 850 page book into screenplay form without any but the most obvious of cuts, my guess is the screenplay would run about 1200 pages. That’s a 20 hour movie. So if you want, think of Order of the Phoenix-The Movie as a trailer for that 20 hour movie we’ll never see.

FWIW, I have always said that the Harry Potter books ought to be adapted as a TV series — or as a series of mini-series. Each book spans a full school year, and that’s about the same as a regular season on television, right? And a regular season of American television typically lasts about 20 episodes, right?

British seasons — or “series” as they call them — tend to be shorter, as few as six episodes each. But even if each Harry Potter story was compressed to that length, it would probably still allow more time to savour the character moments that are consistently cut from the film versions of these increasingly complex tales.

True, adapting Harry Potter for television would probably be less lucrative and less spectacular — no IMAX screenings — and each installment would be less of an “event”, but letting the stories unfold this way would be truer to the spirit of the books, I think.

Chicago film critics vs. 20th Century Fox

The Chicago Film Critics Association is fed up with 20th Century Fox, the studio that has of late been refusing to show movies to critics until the last possible minute — assuming it bothers to let critics see those movies at all. Now the critics are boycotting the studio’s films — to a point, at least. Radar Online reports:

According to the Chicago Film Critics Association, 20th Century Fox has instituted a policy of favoritism in the Windy City, providing special treatment to select film reviewers. Others, it is charged, are not given adequate time to craft stories between seeing a movie and its release—or are shut out of screenings entirely. . . .

In response CFCA has instituted a boycott against Fox releases, vowing to write nothing but reviews for its movies, withholding the more coveted coverage in features, profiles, and interviews. And they’re calling on their film critic brethren to join in. “We’ve hit a common nerve among all critics’ organizations who are suffering under the same kind of tyrannical rule,” [CFCA president Dann] Gire told Radar. “We have had amazing support from all over the country.”

Fox, you may recall, is also the studio that threatened to withhold its movies from Canada because of alleged piracy concerns.

UPDATE: Jeffrey Wells at Hollywood Elsewhere gives his two bits.

JUL 18 UPDATE: Fox isn’t exactly happy with Jeffrey Wells.

JUL 19 UPDATE: Now David Poland at The Hot Blog offers his take.

UPPERDATE: Jeffrey Wells responds to David Poland’s piece, and he notes that Fox has suddenly and mysteriously cancelled its promotional appearances at Comic-Con next week.

In the words of one of Wells’s anonymous colleagues:

“Fox has declared war. We’ve been on the receiving end of this for a few years, and no one gave a shit because it was just us. Now that Fox is widening their attitude to everyone, people are now paying attention. Fox hates critics. Fox hates the press. Fox hates their audience. That is the truth.”

He forgot to mention that Fox hates Canada, too.

UPPESTDATE: Chris at Movie Marketing Madness chimes in.

JUL 20 UPDATE: The Los Angeles Times and The Reeler cover the ongoing saga, and Jeffrey Wells has a few more thoughts.

It’s sad that Fox Searchlight is getting caught up in this and that its PR efforts on behalf of Sunshine etc. are being boycotted, since they have actually been very, very, very good about letting critics like me into screenings. Their publicists are completely separate from the publicists who work for “Big Fox” — the term Jeffrey Wells has used for the larger, more mainstream branch of the studio.

UPPERDATE: David Poland posts the Chicago film critics’ e-mail to Fox in its entirety, and criticizes the “antics” of Dann Gire.

UPPESTDATE: Jeffrey Wells reports that the “war” is now “over”.

JUL 25 UPDATE: Nikki Finke at Deadline Hollywood Daily posts a letter from Gire to his fellow critics, alleging inaccuracies in the Los Angeles Times story. Jeffrey Wells also has an update.

UPPERDATE: David Poland also posts the letter, with comments.

JUL 27 UPDATE: The Los Angeles Times prints a correction — but take it from me, there is nothing “alleged” about 20th Century Fox’s discrimination against online critics. I say this as one who was actually uninvited to a screening this week after I was invited — and all because the publicists discovered that I have a blog.

Canadian box-office stats — July 15

Here are the figures for the past weekend, arranged from those that owe the highest percentage of their take to the Canadian box office to those that owe the lowest.

Sicko — CDN $1,640,000 — N.AM $15,830,046 — 10.4%
Knocked Up — CDN $12,810,000 — N.AM $138,217,270 — 9.3%
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix — CDN $12,170,000 — N.AM $139,715,157 — 8.7%

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End — CDN $26,410,000 — N.AM $304,454,423 — 8.7%
Live Free or Die Hard — CDN $8,570,000 — N.AM $103,322,580 — 8.3%
Transformers — CDN $18,460,000 — N.AM $224,009,583 — 8.2%
1408 — CDN $4,390,000 — N.AM $62,127,222 — 7.1%
Ratatouille — CDN $8,940,000 — N.AM $142,997,082 — 6.3%
License to Wed — CDN $1,730,000 — N.AM $30,379,749 — 5.7%
Evan Almighty — CDN $4,980,000 — N.AM $87,790,505 — 5.7%

A couple of discrepancies: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End was #7 on the Canadian chart (it was #13 in North America as a whole), while Ocean’s Thirteen was #10 on the North American chart.

Pregnancy at the movies redux

Brett McCracken has written an excellent commentary for CT Movies on the recent trend in pro-life themes at the movies — focusing not only on Waitress and Knocked Up, the hot topics du jour, but looking back at Children of Men and looking ahead to Bella, and even comparing and contrasting the rise in these themes with the recent box-office failure of ultraviolent films like Hostel Part II and Captivity, the latter of which couldn’t even crack the top ten when it opened in North America last week.