that Gavin Hood is almost free and clear of his Rendition duties (unlikely Oscar push notwithstanding), it’s time for the South African filmmaker to get serious about his next project, X-Men Origins: Wolverine. (Yes, they’re going with that dreadfully cumbersome subtitle, which is just Fox’s way of reaffirming their contempt for the intelligence of the average moviegoer.) Scheduled to commence principal photography this November 7th, the production just acquired a couple of key elements: a release date and a villain.

As this will be Hood’s initial foray into the fantastical, I’m sure he’ll appreciate having a full year-and-a-half to pull the production together. But that called-shot May 1st, 2009 release date does bring with it certain expectations; let’s just hope X-Men Origins: Wolverine… (nope) will be a tad more satisfying than the last four movies tasked with kicking off the summer movie season (i.e. Spider-Man 3, Mission: Impossible III, the truncated theatrical cut of Kingdom of Heaven and Van Helsing). Shit, let’s just hope it’s better than X-Men: The Last Stand.

And while the very presence of Liev Schreiber does not guarantee quality (he was soundly defeated by John Moore’s 2006 The Omen redo), I think he’ll make a terrific, seventeen-years-younger William Stryker – even though he’s a got a good eight inches on Brian Cox (who played Stryker in X2: X-Men United). Stryker, as you’ll recall, hates him some mutants because his son, Jason, was born one, thus prompting him to send the afflicted boy to the Xavier School for curin’. It’s a shame that Hood, who recently reworked David Benioff’s screenplay*, is beholden to the established X-Men film narrative and the Weapon X storyline; I’d love to see him inject a bit of "God Loves, Man Kills" into the narrative.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (and I’m going to use the full title every time I write about this movie) will have some competition on May 1st in Disney’s G-Force. That’s a family skewing flick, but the Mouse House might blink anyway; going up against an established franchise picture, even if it is a spinoff, is a tall order.

*The Variety article leaves out Skip Woods’s contributions. He was a recent addition, so perhaps he hasn’t finished with his "more than a polish".