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Birth of Diana.

“Worth1000 hosts a variety of photo-editing and illustrative contests. One of their contest series, Superhero ModRen, challenges users to incorporate superheroes into fine art pieces. It’s fun to see the contrast of modern characters we know and love placed in classic painting styles and poses.”

Superheroes added to classic art — click through for many more.

Flying, Spidering, Roaring, Zerging.

As a follow-up to the ambitious and underrated Cloud Atlas, the siblings Wachowski return to their manga-centric sci-fi roots in this first trailer for Jupiter Ascending, with Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, and James D’Arcy. Hrm…looks a bit like The Fifth Element, art direction wise, and Kunis sure does seem to fall off things a lot. Anyway, I’m in.

Also in the trailer bin of late, Spiderman (Andrew Garfield) makes at least three more enemies — we’ll get to a Sinister Six soon, no doubt — in Rhino (Paul Giamatti), Electro (Jamie Foxx) and the Green Goblin (Dane De Haan) in the first teaser for Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spiderman 2, also with Emma Stone, Sally Field, and Campbell Scott. After Chronicle, The Place Beyond the Pines, and Kill Your Darlings, I’m a mite tired of DeHaan, to be honest, but I’ll grant that his schtick does work well for Harry Osborne.

Update: And another I missed on the first sweep: David Strathairn gamely rallies the paratroopers in the atmospheric trailer for Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla reboot, also with Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins and Ken Watanabe. I prefer the leaked one with the Oppenheimer voiceover (“I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds,” bringing the thunder lizard back to its Hiroshima roots), but I can see how that might’ve been too edgy for a summer blockbuster.

Update 2: Tom Cruise cosplays Starcraft, and gets some mechanized infantry pro-tips from Emily Blunt, in the first trailer for Doug Liman’s The Edge of Tomorrow, a badly-named adaptation of Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s All You Need is Kill. Eh, maybe.

Update 3: Matthew McConaughey and Christopher Nolan celebrate the dream of flight in a brief and relatively vague teaser for Interstellar, also with Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin, Ellen Burstyn, Michael Caine, Matt Damon, Casey Affleck, Topher Grace, John Lithgow, David Gyasi, Wes Bentley, and David Oyelowo. As it says, one year from now.

Update 4: Speaking of gamely rallying folks, Gary Oldman tries to get San Francisco’s few remaining humans to chin up against those damn dirty apes in the first teaser for Matt Reeves’ Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, also with Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, Judy Greer, and, of course, Andy Serkis. The first one was surprisingly ok, and this can’t be worse than Oldman’s last dystopian epic, The Book of Eli, so I’ll likely matinee it.

Update 5: A few more come down the pike for the holiday film season: First up, computer genius Johnny Depp goes the way of the The Lawnmower Man in this short teaser for Wally Pfister’s Transcendence, also with Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Morgan Freeman, Kate Mara, Cillian Murphy, Clifton Collins Jr., and Cole Hauser. The Matrix-style binary is a bit of a cliché at this point, but Pfister has done memorable work as Nolan’s cinematographer, so I’m optimistic.

And, following up on the first trailer of a few months ago, Wes Anderson introduces us to the cast of characters of The Grand Budapest Hotel, among them Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Almaric, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Saiorse Ronan, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Owen Wilson, and Tony Revolori.

The Axes of Evil.

“This series is an experiment where a dictator, a psycho, a murderer (sometimes they are the whole package) or even a suspicious figure from real life is mashed with a comics bad guy – strangely related some way or the other with his counterpart.” Brazilian artist Butcher Billy’s Legion of Doom, by way of Normative.

Spider’s Edge.

Along with the recent pics in Entertainment Weekly, above, also out just before Comic-Con is our first look at Marc Webb’s reboot of The Amazing Spiderman, with Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Denis Leary, and Campbell Scott (as Pa Parker? That’s a new twist.) The jumping around at the end is very Mirror’s Edge, and the tone feels a bit too dark and Nolan-y to me for our friendly neighborhood webhead. Still, I’ll see it.

20th Century Marvels.

On the Marvel front, recent weeks has seen an impressive Super Bowl spot for Joe Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger and a decent trailer for Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: Mad Men…err, X-Men: First Class. (Screenshots are here and here respectively — Note Hugo Weaving’s Red Skull unmasked.)

In case you were wondering, that’s skinny Steve Rogers (Chris Evans + CGI) above, and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) apparently enjoying some downtime below.

Also not to be forgotten, we have another official pic of Marc Webb’s Amazing Spiderman. Looks good in a dark room, at least.

The Warriors Three (and a Team of X.)

Lots of action on the Marvel movie front this past week. The powers-that-be have granted us our first looks at Chris Evans as Captain America, and Andrew Garfield as the new Peter Parker, along with another shot of Chris Hemsworth as the Mighty Thor. Hmm…three-for-three, I’d say, although I still have a bad, straight-to-video-y feeling about the god of thunder.

Update: Just as I finished posting this, a promo image leaks from Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men First Class. From left to right: “Michael Fassbinder as Magneto, Rose Byrne as Moira MacTaggert, January Jones as Emma Frost, Jason Flemyng as Azazel, Nicholas Hoult as Beast, Lucas Till as Havoc, Zoe Kravitz as Angel Salvadore, Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, and James MacAvoy as Charles Xavier.” Looks…crowded.

Shirefolk and Parkers.

James’s charm, warmth and wit are legendary as is his range as an actor in both comedic and dramatic roles. We feel very lucky to be able to welcome him as one of our cast.” Peter Jackson fills out his Dwarf Company with James Nesbitt and Adam Brown as Bofur and Ori respectively. “Adam is a wonderfully expressive actor and has a unique screen presence. I look forward to seeing him bring Ori to life.

And, elsewhere in fanboy casting news, Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker (and Marc Webb’s Spiderman) may soon have some caretakers in Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben and Sally Field as Aunt Mary. Compared to Rhys Ifans as The Lizard, that casting seems pretty by-the-book. Still not bad…but do we really have to sit through the origin story again?

Tales of the Big Three.

While work has been kicking my ass like Doomsday on a tear through Metropolis, some big doings for the Big Three on the comic-to-film front. To wit:

Garfield the Spider.

On selecting Garfield, director Marc Webb said, ‘Though his name may be new to many, those who know this young actor’s work understand his extraordinary talents. He has a rare combination of intelligence, wit, and humanity. Mark my words, you will love Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker.‘”

I’m inclined to agree — this is really great casting. Better than Tobey Maguire, in fact. Sony’s Spiderman reboot finds its friendly neighborhood webslinger in Andrew Garfield of The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus and Red Riding ’74 (and soon of Never Let Me Go and The Social Network.) And given the Peter Parkerish sensiblity at work in Webb’s (500) Days of Summer, this project actually seems to be coming together quite nicely.

(500) Days of Gwen.

“Webb said, ‘This is a dream come true and I couldn’t be more aware of the challenge, responsibility, or opportunity. Sam Raimi’s virtuoso rendering of Spider-Man is a humbling precedent to follow and build upon. The first three films are beloved for good reason.'” Well, actually, not many care much for Spidey 3. In any event, the post-Raimi reboot of Spiderman at Sony has found its director in Marc Webb, previously of (500) Days of Summer.

A solid choice, although two things give me pause: 1) It’s hard to escape the sense that Webb was picked mainly because the studio suits think that, unlike Raimi, he’ll be more malleable than a lot of the A-list names floating around (Fincher, Cameron). 2) The ramifications of the following sentence might just end up being terrible: “The touchstone for the new movie will not be the 1960s comics…but rather this past decade’s ‘Ultimate Spider-Man’ comics by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley where the villain-fighting took a back seat to the high school angst.”

Squashed (and Hammered).

A decade ago we set out on this journey with Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire and together we made three ‘Spider-Man’ films that set a new bar for the genre. When we began, no one ever imagined that we would make history at the box-office and now we have a rare opportunity to make history once again with this franchise.

Um, ok. Apparently as a result of continuing tensions between Sam Raimi (still gunshy after being forced to include Venom in Spiderman 3) and the studio suits (who wanted him to move ahead anyway), Sony puts the kibosh on Spiderman 4 and sends Raimi, Maguire, et al on their way. Next up is a reboot, scripted by Zodiac‘s James Vanderbilt and slated for 2012. (Here’s a tip — Don’t give the Green Goblin a cruddy mask this time.)

Also, in much less interesting Marvel firing news, Stuart Townsend is out as Fandral in Kenneth Branagh’s Thor, and has been replaced by Joshua Dallas of the forthcoming Red Tails and The Descent 2. Hmm…Perhaps he was still bitter about the whole Aragorn thing.

Avengers, Defenders, Mousketeers.

“‘We believe that adding Marvel to Disney’s unique portfolio of brands provides significant opportunities for long-term growth and value creation,’ said Disney President and Chief Executive Robert A. Iger.” Spidey, meet the Mouse: Disney buys Marvel for $4 billion.

And, in very related news, Fox announces another Fantastic Four reboot, with — true to Fox form — the hackmeisterly Akiva Goldsman at the helm. “Though Marvel Entertainment owns and finances properties like ‘Iron Man’ and ‘Thor,’ Fox controls ‘Fantastic Four’ in perpetuity — as long as it continues making the films. Fox has the same arrangement on Marvel Comics properties ‘X-Men,’ ‘Daredevil’ and “Silver Surfer.

Barack Obama, Fanboy?

Contemplate this on the Tree of Woe, Republicans. Listed #1 among the “50 Facts You Might Not Know about Barack Obama (courtesy of the Daily Telegraph): “He collects Spiderman and Conan the Barbarian comics.

Say whaaat? We already know for sure he’s a Wire fan, but can we get some evidentiary back-up on this most recent claim? Are we talking Amazing, Peter Parker, Ultimate or what? Is President-Elect Obama a Ditko guy or a McFarlane guy? And, while the stark raving Right got lost in their “shadow muslim” idiocies, did they all miss the real story? Is our new president really a follower of Crom?

Woodward, Helen Thomas, Mike Isikoff: get on this stat. (And extra points if y’all can extract from our new prez the Riddle of Steel.)

Tangled Up in Black.

Sam Raimi’s Spiderman 3, which I saw a week ago, before this recent illness descended in earnest, is — as you likely already know — a disappointment. Both undercooked and overstuffed, it oftens feels like a Sequel-By-Numbers, the creation of a boardroom of comic-book-ignorant Sony suits who sat down and watched the splendid Spiderman 2, brainstormed for two hours about what its main selling points were, and tried to add 20% more of each to Spidey 3. The end result, as Joseph II might say, has too many notes. There occasionally seems to be a decent, heartfelt Sam Raimi Spidey foray struggling to get out in here somewhere, but it’s mostly wrapped up and powerless against the black suit of the corporate bottom line. I highly doubt this film will be the end of Spiderman, after that outrageous opening weekend take, but it does sadly suggest that it may be time for Raimi & co. to escape Spidey’s web and take a break from the franchise.

In true comic-book fashion, Spiderman 3 begins basically where the last installment left off, with Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson (Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, both of whom seem bored) in love, his secret identity out to her. But, just as our friendly neighborhood webslinger begins to contemplate wedding bells in his future, a slew of supervillains rise up to disturb Spidey’s domestic peace: The Green Goblin II (James Franco, putting in his best work of the series), who’s also aware of Spidey’s identity and is out to avenge his father’s death; The Sandman (Thomas Haden Church, good with what he’s given), who’s out to find his daughter some quality affordable health care (good luck! Even fantasy has limits); and, most troubling, Venom (ultimately, Topher Grace, a likable actor that sadly doesn’t work here), an oozing alien symbiote that first draws out Spiderman’s dark side before congealing with his biggest rival at the Daily Bugle, photoshop expert Eddie Brock. Eventually, Spidey must find a way not only to beat back this rogues’ gallery before doom befalls Ms. Watson high above Manhattan, but also come to terms with his darkest impulses, grapple with his deepfelt desire to cut a rug in a jazz club, and make Mary Jane feel important and special despite her withholding secrets from Peter most of the movie for unexplainable reasons. Can he pull it off, Spider-fans?

Maybe so, but the movie sure can’t. If that litany of villains put you in mind of the later installments of the Batman franchise, Batman Forever or Batman and Robin, you’re in the right ballpark. Basically, Raimi has too many balls in the air this time around (I haven’t even mentioned Gwen Stacey, who’s also in here for some reason), and the film just can’t do justice to all of them. The Sandman in particular is given short shrift — much time is devoted to giving him a backstory, but it gets dropped halfway through and never amounts to much. Meanwhile, other important plot points, such as how Spidey’s enemies decide to gang up on him, are handled perfunctorily, apparently to make room for more wet blanket Mary Janeisms or badly-conceived comedy involving J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons). By the end of the film, when Harry Osborne’s butler becomes Basil Exposition and Spiderman runs around without a mask in front of hundreds of cameras, the carelessness taken with this installment of the franchise becomes manifest. Raimi would likely have done better to leave Venom out of this episode and saved him for the next one (and, indeed, circumstantial evidence suggests that Venom was foisted on him by Sony — Raimi wanted the Vulture.) As it is, though, Spiderman 3 is a swing-and-a-miss — not as bad as X3, mind you, but definitely the worst outing thus far in the Spidey franchise. ‘Nuff said.

Bruce and Brock.

Trailers I’ve missed lately: John McClane goes up against Seth Bullock, with Kevin Smith and Mac Guy along for pained comic relief, in the new trailer for Live Free or Die Hard (which I caught with Grindhouse last Friday — review forthcoming), and Topher Grace prays for vengeance in the impressive final trailer for Spiderman 3.

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