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Superman Returns, Superman II The Richard Donner Cut

13 December 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Release date: Nov. 28

Along with the good, everything that was bad about the first two Christopher Reeve "Superman" films is repeated in the 2006 franchise resurrection, "Superman Returns", starring Brandon Routh.

Kevin Spacey, for example, is in the same league as Gene Hackman and delivers the same sort of appealing one-liners and amusing emotional explosions as the central villain, but, like Hackman, he is also overly clownish, emphasizing the 'comic' part of comic book.

Like its predecessors, the 132-minute film is too long, and there are too many strings playing in the musical score when the hero flies, instilling the viewer not so much with a sense of awe as with an attack of yawns.

In the story's deliberately vague premise, the hero has been away from the Earth for a somewhat unspecified length of time, returning to find that his girlfriend has an unspecified relationship with another man and a child of an unspecified age (he certainly looks older than what the dialog claims he is).

These dynamics play out as the villain hatches a monumentally evil plot to create a new continent and eliminate several of the old ones in the process. That's the other problem with Superman. He's really not suited, as it were, for modern film special effects.

The best utilizations of the character have been in confined circumstance -- animated cartoons, or the TV shows, where resources are limited. Since there are almost no limits to his powers, there is almost no tension to his dilemmas, and so the big budget canvas, which has been ideal for the depiction of other, less powerful and more psychologically conflicted super heroes, is reduced with the indestructible Superman to depicting simplistic stories and mindless fights.

Directed by Bryan Singer, the film has some viable special effect sequences, but no real demo-quality action scenes comparable to the helicopter rescue in the first Christopher Reeve Superman feature. The spiritual metaphors that were suggested in the film's trailer are nowhere to be seen. As hard as he tries, there is only so much psychological ore Singer can strip mine from such a shallow premise.

The Warner Home Video Widescreen release (retail $29) has a few thrills, a few laughs and a great surround soundtrack, but it is not the uber-entertainment it seems to want to become, and the more often one goes back to watch it again, the more one is going to hit the Scan button to hurry it up.

The letterboxing has an aspect ratio of about 2.35:1 and an accommodation for enhanced 16:9 playback. The 5.1-channel Dolby Digital track has strong and distinctive rear channel effects and lots of power coming from every direction. There is an alternate Spanish track in 5.1 Dolby and optional English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Warner has also released a Two-Disc Special Edition (retail $34.98) with worthwhile supplementary features. The first platter is identical to the standard release. Along with two of the film's trailers and a 4-minute promo sequence about resurrecting Marlon Brando's image for the film, there are 15 minutes of deleted scenes and 173 minutes of behind-the-scenes materials.

Both contain hints of what the movie should have been.

There is a deleted scene that explains the film's premise much more clearly than what made it into the film and would have had a great resonance to today -- basically, that Superman has abandoned America. There are also story conferences in the behind-the-scenes materials that go over the same point. But the deleted scene is way too slow to have been included in the already sluggish opening act, and Singer was too rushed with his tight development deadlines to really work out what he was trying to accomplish. The behind-the-scenes material is excellent, showing how every major sequence was staged and giving you a feel for the personalities of the cast and crew, as well as capturing raw moments of creative brainstorming that normally don't make it into a DVD.

To promote the theatrical release of "Superman Returns", Warner commissioned a documentary about Superman by Kevin Burns, which is featured in the two-platter set, "Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman" (retail $14.99). Yes, it promotes all of Warner's Superman products, and yes, the final section has an extended segment on 'Superman Returns" disproportionate to the coverage of the other movies, TV shows and so on, but it is still a terrific effort that will offer up revelations and insights to even the most knowledgeable of fans.

The history of the development of the character is told in great detail, footage from discarded pilots and other rarities is shared, screen tests are included (Stockard Channing as Lois Lane, anyone?), and a steady tracking of the changes made to the character as a reflection of shifts in the American psyche is provided. It is an engrossing presentation.

The picture is in letterboxed format only, with an aspect ratio of about 1.78:1 and an accommodation for enhanced 16:9 playback. The 5.1-channel Dolby Digital sound applies John Williams' musical score effectively. There are optional French subtitles (contrary to a jacket notation, there is no Spanish subtitling) and there is English captioning. The second platter contains 29 more minutes of esoteric behind-the-scenes footage from "Superman Returns" that was not included on the Special Edition DVD, the most interesting segment being a look at how you fake a baseball super-toss.

As is explained in the documentary, director Richard Donner was removed from the 1980 "Superman II" after having directed the first "Superman", and was replaced by Richard Lester. Thanks entirely to the popularity of the DVD format, Warner has made the admirable effort of allowing Donner to reconstruct the film as he originally envisioned it, which has been released as "Superman II The Richard Donner Cut" (retail $24.98).

Don't expect miracles. The basic story is the same, with the hero squaring off against three super-villains from his home planet. But at 116 minutes, compared to the standard version's 127 minutes, the film is tighter and less tedious. The opening act is much stronger and more to the point, and sequences later in the film, such as the hero's humiliation after he loses his powers, are less of a strain because it hasn't taken quite so long to get there.

Marlon Brando's footage, which had been excised by the film's producers in a cost-cutting move, is restored, and is good fun (he reads from Joyce Kilmer's "Trees", which may or may not be intended for ironic effect).

Nevertheless, the ending leaves something to be desired -- the hero reverses the earth's spin as he did in "Superman" to erase everyone's memories, which is just as ridiculous as him kissing the heroine and sucking out her memories in the standard version of "II" (it seems more clear now, however, in the standard version, that she is pregnant, something that would be impossible with the revised version). Essentially, what made the second film the most satisfying in the series has been slightly better honed and sculpted, but its imperfections remain.

The picture is in letterboxed format only, with an aspect ratio of about 2.35:1 and an accommodation for enhanced 16:9 playback. The image is smooth and sharp, and although there is an opening card that claims some of the footage came from screen tests, you would be hard pressed to identify it.

The 5.1-channel Dolby Digital sound is on par with the standard version, and the great sub woofer workout during the final battle remains. There are optional English, French and Spanish subtitles, a 13-minute featurette about the revisions, and 9 minutes of deleted scenes with a few scattered gags

Donner and screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz supply a commentary track. Donner reminisces about shooting both films and the various people he worked with, but a lot of the talk is an attempted justification for their version of the movie. "Richard Lester ... kind of reverted back to, in my eyes, the face value of the comic book rather than the heart, and reality was lost. Therefore, as much as possible, [I] tried to remove as much of his footage, without making a major hole in the storytelling."

It is rare to come across controversy on a DVD commentary track because most filmmakers know they are speaking for the ages and try to put themselves in as best a light as possible, but an entertaining cat fight kind of develops between the commentary on the "Richard Donner Cut", and the commentary by producers Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler (who speak separately) on the Two-Disc Special Edition of "Superman II" (retail $26.98). Donner claims that he has no real idea why the producers replaced him on the second film, but both Salkind and Spengler say specifically that Donner refused to work with Spengler again after the first film was completed. They also disagree on whether it would have been a worthy investment to bring Brando back for "II," and on the value of various scenes that are in one film but not the other.

When not defending their turf, the two producers talk in general terms about the film, the stars, the logistics of the shoot, Lester's contributions to the movie, and what constitutes the Superman character.

"The circulation of the Superman comic book was somewhere in the region of 200,000-250,000, so it's not that huge, but what the comic books have done, they have created a common subconscious. I think you ask anybody who Superman is, not only after the film, but even before, people knew who Superman was and knew one or two idiosyncrasies, and then the rest they imagined what it could be.

"The comic book fans will know a lot of details and will be very precise. The other people will know a few details and then what you have to do when you re-create a thing like a movie, you have to basically satisfy what they imagine it is, so long as it is in keeping with what the general, common subconscious. I'm sounding like Freud here, but there is some truth. I think the comic book base was very happy. DC Comics was very happy with what we did with the film and what we did with the character."

The picture is presented in letterboxed format only, with an aspect ratio of about 2.35:1 and an accommodation for enhanced 16:9 playback. The picture transfer differs from Warner's first release of the title, but the earlier transfer wasn't bad, so there isn't much to improve upon. The framing is slightly different, to no effect.

The source material varies between scenes that are very crisp and glossy, and scenes that are soft and a little grainy, and that is how the film comes off on both DVDs. The 5.1-channel Dolby Digital sound, on the other hand, has a much nicer and better-detailed separation mix, and plenty of punch. There is an alternate French track in mono, optional English, French and Spanish subtitles, a trailer, and a minute-long deleted scene in which the hero uses his heat ray vision to cook a souffle for the heroine.

The second platter has a very good 52-minute TV special from 1980 with lots of behind-the-scenes footage that shows how several elaborate action scenes were staged.

There is also a jokey-but-fun 48-minute TV special from 1988, with a number of guest stars, which shows clips from all of the various Superman iterations -- cartoons, serials, TV shows, movies and so on -- but pretends that it is a documentary about the 'real' Superman. "Superman's powers come in very handy in Metropolis, the city which annually leads the nation in accidents and natural disasters."

A nice 13-minute featurette about the Max and Dave Fleischer cartoons is accompanied by the latter eight of those cartoons from the early '40s, "Japoteurs", "Showdown", "Eleventh Hour", "Destruction Inc.", "The Mummy Strikes", "Jungle Drums", "The Underground World" and "Secret Agent". Although they are the weaker of the series as a whole, that is a relative term since all of them are highly engaging, with fantastic artwork and reasonably enjoyable stories. The transfers look super, too, with bright, crisp colors and minimal wear.

The complete database of Doug Pratt's DVD-video reviews is available at http://www.dvdlaser.com. A sample copy of the DVD-Laser Disc Newsletter can be obtained by calling (516) 594-9304.

»

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'House' finds local homes for fall 2008

5 October 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution has sold the drama series House to local broadcast stations in more than 80% of the country for weekend double-runs starting in fall 2008. The hit medical drama, starring Hugh Laurie, has been sold to stations from such groups as Fox, CBS, Tribune, Sinclair and Clear Channel. Stations clearing the show include WNYW New York, KTTV Los Angeles, WFLD Chicago, KPIX San Francisco and WXIN Indianapolis. The deals include double-runs in all markets. House, in its third season on Fox, is from Heel and Toe Films and Bad Hat Harry Prods. in association with NBC Universal Television Studio. The executive producers are Paul Attanasio, Katie Jacobs, David Shore and Bryan Singer. »

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'Superman' tops $30 mil on Imax

27 September 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

TORONTO -- Giant-screen exhibitor Imax Corp. on Wednesday said that its blown-up version of Bryan Singer's Superman Returns has surpassed $30 million in gross receipts after 13 weeks in its international network. Toronto-based Imax said the digitally-remastered 3D version of the Warner Bros. Pictures blockbuster has thus far earned $22.7 million on 92 Imax screens in North America and another $7.5 million on 36 dates internationally. "We are very pleased with the longevity of the film's performance in Imax theaters. The immersive Imax Experience has helped this terrific film continue to draw crowds thirteen weeks into its run," Warner Bros. Pictures president of domestic distribution Dan Fellman said in a statement. »

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'Superman' tops $30 mil on Imax

27 September 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

TORONTO -- Giant-screen exhibitor Imax Corp. on Wednesday said that its blown-up version of Bryan Singer's Superman Returns has surpassed $30 million in gross receipts after 13 weeks in its international network. Toronto-based Imax said the digitally-remastered 3D version of the Warner Bros. Pictures blockbuster has thus far earned $22.7 million on 92 Imax screens in North America and another $7.5 million on 36 dates internationally. "We are very pleased with the longevity of the film's performance in Imax theaters. The immersive Imax Experience has helped this terrific film continue to draw crowds thirteen weeks into its run," Warner Bros. Pictures president of domestic distribution Dan Fellman said in a statement. »

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'Trick 'r Treat' in Dougherty's directing bag

18 September 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Writer Mike Dougherty will make his feature directorial on Trick 'r Treat, a horror movie he wrote that will be produced by Bryan Singer. Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures are teaming to co-finance, with Legendary's Thomas Tull and John Jashni on board as producers. Warners will distribute. Trick 'r Treat is four interwoven stories that take place on Halloween with such characters as a staid high school principal who is a Halloween serial killer, a college-age virgin seeking that special guy, a woman who hates dressing up for Halloween and whose husband is obsession with the holiday and a group of young teens who pull a cruel prank. While filmmaker deals are still being finalized and no cast is in place, the movie has a tentative release date of Oct. 5, 2007. A fall shoot in Vancouver is being eyed. »

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Newell pacts for 3 scripts at T'stone, ABC

12 September 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Feature director Mike Newell has inked a three-for-one deal with ABC and Touchstone Television. Under the pact, Newell will develop three drama scripts through Touchstone TV, one of which is guaranteed to be picked up to pilot by ABC. Newell is set to executive produce and direct the pilot. The deal with Newell marks ABC's second three-for-one agreement with a big-name feature director this development season, following the July deal with Bryan Singer. The pact with Singer is not affiliated with a studio (HR 7/31). »

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Newell pacts for 3 scripts at Touchstone, ABC

12 September 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Feature director Mike Newell has inked a three-for-one deal with ABC and Touchstone Television. Under the pact, Newell will develop three drama scripts through Touchstone TV, one of which is guaranteed to be picked up to pilot by ABC. Newell is set to executive produce and direct the pilot. The deal with Newell marks ABC's second three-for-one agreement with a big-name feature director this development season, following the July deal with Bryan Singer. The pact with Singer is not affiliated with a studio (HR 7/31). »

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Newell pacts for 3 scripts at T'stone, ABC

11 September 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Feature director Mike Newell has inked a three-for-one deal with ABC and Touchstone Television. Under the pact, Newell will develop three drama scripts through Touchstone TV, one of which is guaranteed to be picked up to pilot by ABC. Newell is set to executive produce and direct the pilot. The deal with Newell marks ABC's second three-for-one agreement with a big-name feature director this development season, following the July deal with Bryan Singer. The pact with Singer is not affiliated with a studio (HR 7/31). »

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H'wood mainstreams with Comic-Con

24 July 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

SAN DIEGO -- The 2006 San Diego Comic-Con International, the nation's largest comic book convention, again proved to Hollywood that there is no better place to appeal to pop culture's smart set -- and even do a little damage control. With an estimated attendance of more than 100,000, the event at the San Diego Convention Center, which ran Thursday-Sunday, overflowed with zealous media consumers who provided instantaneous feedback both positive and negative. Even as some studios have excelled at wooing the crowd while others try to catch up, the Con, as it is known, continues to evolve into a broader cultural event, filled with exclusive movie sneak peeks, panels with popular filmmakers, industry parties and an exhibit floor brimming with the latest movie marketing gimmicks. One of the biggest news announcements out of the Con was Bryan Singer's confirmation of his talks with Warner Bros. Pictures about a 2009 sequel to Superman Returns. Despite a perceived shortfall at the boxoffice, particularly when compared with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, and criticisms from the superhero fan base, the Superman director was given a hero's welcome Friday. Singer elicited even more cheers when he announced that he is in negotiations to direct the sequel. »

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H'wood mainstreams with Comic-Con

24 July 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

SAN DIEGO -- The 2006 San Diego Comic-Con International, the nation's largest comic book convention, again proved to Hollywood that there is no better place to appeal to pop culture's smart set -- and even do a little damage control. With an estimated attendance of more than 100,000, the event at the San Diego Convention Center, which ran Thursday-Sunday, overflowed with zealous media consumers who provided instantaneous feedback both positive and negative. Even as some studios have excelled at wooing the crowd while others try to catch up, the Con, as it is known, continues to evolve into a broader cultural event, filled with exclusive movie sneak peeks, panels with popular filmmakers, industry parties and an exhibit floor brimming with the latest movie marketing gimmicks. One of the biggest news announcements out of the Con was Bryan Singer's confirmation of his talks with Warner Bros. Pictures about a 2009 sequel to Superman Returns. Despite a perceived shortfall at the boxoffice, particularly when compared with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, and criticisms from the superhero fan base, the Superman director was given a hero's welcome Friday. Singer elicited even more cheers when he announced that he is in negotiations to direct the sequel. »

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'Superman' site packages mobile content

26 June 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Director Bryan Singer kept a production journal that he shared with fans in a video podcast series throughout the filming of Warner Bros. Pictures' Superman Returns. The shorts are now available for free at the movie's official Web site (supermanreturns.warnerbros.com) as part of the first time Warner Bros. Digital Distribution has packaged its mobile offerings together on its own branded site rather than distribute through carriers and other aggregators. Bill Godwin, director of Americas wireless at Warner Bros. Digital Distribution, said mobile is the natural extension of a "timeless" brand and that basing the site on WAP allowed WBDD to manage its relationship with its audience. "This is a new technology that the carriers are allowing customers to access content through," he said. "It allows us to put together a environment in which we can control the Superman experience." »

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'Superman' Gets Stamp of Approval From Critics

21 June 2006 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

The first Superman film in nearly 20 years, Superman Returns, has received rave reviews from America's leading movie critics. Superman Returns stars Brandon Routh as the Man Of Steel, Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane, and Kevin Spacey as villain Lex Luthor. Trade paper Variety praised director Bryan Singer's film as "grandly conceived, sensitively drawn and never self-consciously hip. It is sincere, with an artistic elegance and a genuine emotional investment in the material." Writing in Newsweek, critic David Ansen writes: "From the start of this gorgeously crafted epic, you can feel that Singer has real love and respect for the most foursquare comics superhero of them all." The Hollywood Reporter says Superman Returns is "a heartfelt Superman movie that plays to a broad audience." Writing on influential website Ain't It Cool News, Harry Knowles writes: "Just as Batman Begins relaunched an ailing Batman, it sends Superman into the stratosphere." Superman Returns, the first Man Of Steel movie since 1987's Superman IV: The Quest For Peace, opens in the US on June 28. »

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Superman Returns

19 June 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

The Superman who returns in "Superman Returns" is a different Man of Steel than we are used to seeing. In "Superman: The Movie", the film by director Richard Donner in 1978, the late Christopher Reeve rescued the iconic superhero from high camp with the sincerity and warmth of his acting. His Superman was a romantic charmer. Director Bryan Singer positions this new film as a sequel to Donner's film, and his Superman -- played with winning fortitude by newcomer Brandon Routh -- is less a Man of Steel than a Man of Heart.

While Routh is the same age as Reeve when he played the role, Routh's Superman is older in spirit. His Superman has known heartbreak and loss. He thinks about his late father and must consider the possibility that he might have a son. He even faces his own mortality. In other words, Singer wants to put human emotions into his alien superhero, and for the most part, he succeeds.

Not that the other kind of Superman movie turns up missing. The hero's rescues are spectacular thanks to the marvels of digital effects. And its villain, Lex Luthor, and Luthor's female companion, Kitty Kowalski -- deliciously played by Kevin Spacey and Parker Posey -- spice the film with extravagant comedy. So old fans can rejoice even as this "Superman" wins new fans from among those who normally don't care about superheroes.

Singer and writers Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris imagine that the superhero has vanished for five years. During that time, he has searched the far reaches of space for his home planet of Krypton and has determined that, yes, it is a destroyed planet. Now, returning to Earth, he discovers that absence has not made the heart grow fonder.

His mom Eva Marie Saint) is overjoyed to see him, of course. But Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) has won a Pulitzer by penning a story, "Why the World Doesn't Need Superman," and the world has more or less forgotten its savior.

Superman in his Clark Kent guise gets his old job back at the Daily Planet from editor Perry White (Frank Langella). Day 1 on the job, Lois is in deadly peril when a space shuttle launched from the back of a jet fails to disengage and rockets into space with the jet still attached and Lois onboard. Fighting through fire and molten debris, Superman brings the disintegrating plane in for a soft landing in a crowded baseball stadium before he and Lois can lock eyes for the first time in five years. Well, he certainly knows how to get the girl's attention.

But Superman can't overcome the obstacles he faces in the new realities in Lois' life: Not only is she still angry at him for disappearing without a word, but she has a son, Jason (Tristan Leabu), and a fiance, Richard White (James Marsden), the editor's nephew.

Meanwhile, Lex, newly sprung from prison, plots to use Superman's own "crystal technology," married to Superman's Achilles' heel, kryptonite, in an ingenious scheme to ignite a new land mass in the Atlantic that will swamp North America while creating a gigantic real estate venture for him. These evil machinations barely leave Superman and Lois much time to reflect on their relationship. But clearly, Superman must wonder who Jason's father is even as he adjusts to a role reversal that sees Lois and her fiance coming to his rescue! Times have indeed changed.

To underscore the link to Donner's film, designer Guy Hendrix Dyas borrows here and there from John Barry's original design elements, composer John Williams' "Superman" theme is woven through the film, and Singer incorporates footage of Marlon Brando as Jor-El, Superman's long-dead father, into the early segments. However, this Superman does represent a new generation of flying. Superman doesn't so much fly as float. He can levitate a few feet or thousands of feet in the air. He's a Michael Jordan who never comes down. His nighttime excursion with Lois in the skies above Metropolis is reminiscent of the romantic moonlit ride Reeve gave Margot Kidder, his Lois, a ride that thrilled female viewers a generation ago.

This high-wire act would have gone for naught if Routh had not so capably filled the Man of Steel's costume. Like Reeve, he is just right physically, looking at times like the old comic book drawings of Superman. There is honesty in his acting where the emotions that play across Superman/Clark Kent's face and body come from deep within. Bosworth's Lois is a torn woman, highly ambivalent over the return of a man she has tried to hard to forget. And young Leabu does a nice job in conveying the innocence and curiosity of a boy with a new hero/authority figure in his life.

The oh-wow technical wizardry behind "Superman Returns" accomplishes two things: It makes you appreciate the huge advances in visual effects since 1978 but also appreciate the considerable accomplishments of Donner's team back in the day.

SUPERMAN RETURNS

Warner Bros. Pictures Warner Bros. Pictures presents in association with Original Pictures a Jon Peters production in association with Bad Hat Harry Prods.

Credits:

Director: Bryan Singer

Screenwriters: Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris

Story: Bryan Singer, Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris

Based on characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster and published by DC Comics

Producers: Jon Peters, Bryan Singer, Gilbert Adler

Executive producers: Chris Lee, Thomas Tull, Scott Mednick, William Fay

Director of photography: Newton Thomas Sigel

Production designer: Guy Hendrix Dyas

Music: John Ottman

"Superman" theme: John Williams

Costumes: Louise Mingenbach

Editors: Elliot Graham, John Ottman

Cast:

Superman/Clark Kent: Brandon Routh

Lois Lane: Kate Bosworth

Lex Luthor: Kevin Spacey

Richard White: James Marsden

Kitty: Parker Posey

Perry White: Frank Langella

Jimmy Olsen: Sam Huntington

Martha Kent: Eva Marie Saint

MPAA rating PG-13

Running time -- 154 minutes »

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WIF fetes trio, raises $1 mil

7 June 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Women in Film celebrated its biggest gala ever Tuesday night, throwing a shindig at the Century Plaza that saw Lauren Shuler Donner, Jennifer Lopez and Diane Warren honored with Crystal Awards and Geena Davis with a Lucy Award. The evening, hosted by Edie Falco, also saw Maria Bello accept the inaugural MaxMara Award and cinematographer Maryse Alberti the Kodak Vision Award. Producer Shuler Donner had accepted her Crystal Award from director Bryan Singer when she lost her grip on the crystal object, causing it to drop on the floor and break. Shock turned to laughs and claps, and while the incident became a running gag among the honorees, Shuler Donner recovered her composure to deliver a speech about trying to maintain a sense of optimism in an industry where it's all too easy to compromise your way into bitterness and resentment. Looking at the award, Shuler Donner said, "I will carry it around with me on unpleasant days in the business." »

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X-Men: The Last Stand

22 May 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Not exactly going out with a whimper, "X-Men: The Last Stand", the closing installment of the commercially and critically successful Marvel movie franchise, still fails to generate the satisfying bang created by the first and, particularly, the second edition.

With creative force Bryan Singer having vacated the X-Men universe for the highly anticipated "Superman Returns", Brett Ratner has taken the reins, and though the picture is not without its wow-inducing, SFX-driven moments, that potent X-factor is considerably diminished in Singer's absence.

Arriving Friday on the heels of tonight's splashy Cannes premiere, the film should still enjoy an X-cellent opening weekend, but less assured is its ability to scale the $214.8 million-grossing heights of 2003's "X2: X-Men United".

The gang's pretty much all here for the purported final go-round, which sees the makings of a virtual mutant civil war ignited by the introduction of a pharmaceutical cure for their afflictions/attributes.

That promise of conformity offered by the crusading Warren Worthington Sr. (Michael Murphy) further alienates the mutant society with its double-edged ramifications.

Unsurprisingly, the "cure" triggers a sociological showdown between the ever-tolerant Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and the mercurial Magneto (Ian McKellen), who vows to obliterate both the remedy and its adherents, human and mutant alike.

Meanwhile, on a more local level, Logan, aka Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), is thrown for an emotional loop when the extremely telepathic Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) emerges from what was believed to have been her watery grave with her powers notably undiluted.

But while the setup, with its underlying themes of sexual identity and alienation more pronounced than ever, is intriguing enough, "Last Stand" is more concerned about getting to the next special effects sequence than it is about tapping into those relevant undercurrents.

Sticking mainly to the surface, Ratner, who came on board after the hasty departure of "Layer Cake" director Matthew Vaughn, keeps things moving swiftly enough, but his writing team (Singer took previous "X-Men" scribes Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris to the "Superman" movie) -- including Simon Kinberg ("Mr. & Mrs. Smith") and Zak Penn -- fails to nail the requisite tone.

So while Jackman, Janssen, McKellen, Stewart, Halle Berry's Storm, Rebecca Romijn's Mystique, as well as newcomer Kelsey Grammer's hairy, blue-tinged Dr. Henry McCoy/Beast are all in fine fighting form, their superpowers ultimately are rendered useless in the face of some ultradumb dialogue that truly misses the "X-Men" mark.

Visual effects supervisor John Bruno, meanwhile, doesn't disappoint with some franchise-worthy set pieces -- among them a dramatic repositioning of the Golden Gate Bridge and a rather extreme makeover of Grey's suburban home -- that are worthy of the Marvel moniker.

X-Men: The Last Stand

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox presents in association with Marvel Entertainment a Donners Co. production of a Brett Ratner film

Credits:

Director: Brett Ratner

Screenwriters: Simon Kinberg & Zak Penn

Producers: Lauren Shuler Donner, Ralph Winter, Avi Arad

Executive producers: Stan Lee, Kevin Feige, John Palermo

Director of photography: Dante Spinotti

Production designer: Edward Verreaux

Editors: Mark Helfrich, Mark Goldblatt, Julia Wong

Costume designer: Judianna Makovsky

Music: John Powell

Visual effects supervisor: John Bruno

Cast:

Logan/Wolverine: Hugh Jackman

Storm: Halle Berry

Professor Charles Xavier: Patrick Stewart

Magneto: Ian McKellen

Jean Grey: Famke Janssen

Rogue: Anna Paquin

Dr. Henry McCoy/Beast: Kelsey Grammer

Cyclops: James Marsden

Mystique: Rebecca Romijn

Bobby Drake/Iceman: Shawn Ashmore

Pyro: Aaron Stanford

Juggernaut: Vinnie Jones

Warren Worthington III/Angel: Ben Foster

Kitty Pryde: Ellen Page

Callisto: Dania Ramirez

MPAA rating PG-13

Running time -- 104 minutes »

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Top 20 Must See films of the Summer!

24 April 2006 | ioncinema | See recent ioncinema news »

- Ahhhhh lazy days ahead. Picnics, BBQ’s and fun days at the beach (see pic above). Summer is also the time when Hollywood campaigns for folks to make there way to air-conditioned multiplexes. I champion such activity but I also say don’t forget the other films – the arty sort. Using our regular voting system – I asked the cream of crop folks at ioncinema to name me their most anticipated picks to beat the heat….you’ll find a bit of everything in the choices of Marcello Paolillo, Justin Ambrosino, Samuel Hilton, Jameson Kowalczyk and me. Scroll down to see what we feel are 20 reasons to go to the theatres this summer, and stay tuned tomorrow as we unveil the remaining top choices. 20.Lady in the Water Release date: July 21st Wide ReleaseDistributor: Warner Bros. Pictures Ioncinema Preview : View here The Gist: Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti »

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'Superman' in a fortress of 3-D

31 March 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Director Bryan Singer's Superman Returns will leap onto Imax screens in 3-D in the summer. The Warner Bros. Pictures release is the first live-action film to have sequences remastered in 3-D using the proprietary Imax DMR process developed by the large-format exhibition firm. Although Imax executives declined to detail any of the scenes for fear of giving away the Superman story, they did confirm that much of the 3-D material is live-action footage enhanced by computer-generated 3-D visual effects shots that will be further amplified with stereographic dimension in Imax's DMR procedure. »

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Fox makes 'House' call for Season 3

10 March 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Fox has prescribed a third season for its red-hot medical drama House. The network has given a full-season pickup to the NBC Universal TV Studio-produced series for the 2006-07 season. A breakout hit in its debut in fall 2004, the show starring Hugh Laurie as a brilliant doctor with a poor bedside manner has excelled this season. Airing behind American Idol, House hit a series high of 22.2 million viewers and an 8.7 rating/22 share among adults 18-49 a last month. Returning after a two-week hiatus this week, House (20.6 million, 8.4/20) scored its second-highest ratings ever in all key measured and its highest retention of its Idol lead-in this season. House was created by David Shore, who executive produces the series with Paul Attanasio, Katie Jacobs and Bryan Singer. »

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Routh to get star treatment from ShoWest

2 March 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Brandon Routh, star of the upcoming Superman Returns, will be honored as ShoWest's Male Star of Tomorrow at the annual exhibitors convention, which begins March 13 in Las Vegas. He will receive the recognition March 16 at the closing-night ceremony at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel. Warner Bros. Pictures will release Returns, directed by Bryan Singer, on June 30. ShoWest is managed by the VNU Expositions Film Group, a division of VNU Business Media, the parent company of The Hollywood Reporter. »

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Headline for Daily Planet: Routh to UTA

23 January 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Superman now has an agent. Brandon Routh, who portrays Clark Kent/Superman in Bryan Singer's upcoming Superman Returns, has signed with UTA for theatrical representation. He continues to be repped by management firm Main Title Entertainment and attorney Alan Hergott. Routh had been without an agent since leaving KSA in the fall. He met with all the major agencies before the holidays. »

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