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Into the Spider-Verse,’ ‘Cold War,’ ‘The House That Jack Built,’ and More

“Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover” is a proverb whose simple existence proves the fact impressionable souls will do so without fail. This monthly column focuses on the film industry’s willingness to capitalize on this truth, releasing one-sheets to serve as not representations of what audiences are to expect, but as propaganda to fill seats. Oftentimes they fail miserably.


DC, Marvel, and Transformers? It must be … December. The studios are going big this Christmas on the counterprogramming for Oscar-bait titles and you can’t really blame them. While your cinephile family member brings the tissues, you can bring the fun.

It’s kind of nice too because that means more films to skip as you catch-up on end-of-year list must-sees. The comic book and toy franchises will still be out come January, so you can take your time and give your money to the independents this holiday season instead. They deserve it.


Contractually obligated collage

The poster for Capernaum (limited December 14) isn’t the kind of collage you’d expect—nor is it like the three I’ll be talking about next. Rather than position heads of differing sizes in the center of the page, Sony Pictures Classics goes heavy on critic quotes. And it’s not just brief buzz phrases either since a Pete Hammond centerpiece spans thirty-eight words and four lines. Add the slew of accolades at the bottom and its obvious the studio is banking on praise to sell tickets before unsuspecting theatergoers have a moment to realize there will be subtitles.

It’s too bad because the festival sheet with the same imagery (although clearer, more colorful, and attractive) is stunning by comparison. The painted Arabic is a welcome touch and the single laurel for a Cannes Jury Prize says all you need.

Next is Aquaman (December 21) and its Comic-Con sheet of kitchen sink aesthetic. Jason Momoa might be in the foreground, but Patrick Wilson and Black Mantha take center stage with giant heads stealing our gaze from the chaotic mess below. You can’t necessarily blame Little Giant Studios, though, considering this work is more about exposing paying fans to an early character tease than anything else. This isn’t selling the movie as much as fueling blind excitement from sycophants frothing at the mouth.

And let’s face it: this result succeeds in that goal where B O N D and photographer Michael Muller’s Finding Arthur Curry does not. Is this thing exemplifying his marine biology skills? His shark whispering skills? The designer’s Photoshop skills? All I know is that it’s difficult not to laugh at the grid-like collection of animals with a tagline that says “Home Is Calling” as though they’ve been invited to dinner.

The duo’s gold-plated serious face isn’t any better, but at least it’s positioning this hero as someone who commands respect while still offering some levity thanks to the juxtaposition of “He’s not around here.” You don’t say? The trident tease by Concept Arts is probably my favorite of the bunch, though, since it leaves things to the imagination.

BLT Communications, LLC doesn’t fare much better with their floating heads on Bumblebee (December 21). I will give them credit for letting the Transformer have top billing size-wise, however. Because let’s face it. This property has run its course and the only reason anyone is interested in continuing the ride is the titular character’s penchant for humor. Sorry Hailee and John, but your airbrushed faces framed by a videogame-esque neon logo ain’t the draw.

I’m merely disappointed the studio went in this direction when the kid-friendly, Iron Giant retread imagery was executed with skill. You should lean into the whole kid befriending robot angle because that type of fantasy dynamic will get younger attendees excited. If Paramount were smart they would have gone full PG too with Laika boss Travis Knight at the helm. Transformers are toys after all. The nostalgia my generation had when the first film bowed is gone now. Target the product’s actual demographic.

At least BLT was allowed to do exactly that on Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (December 14). It helps when the medium is animation, though, since it brings a built-in preconception of fun. And when the whole point of the film is to showcase a crazy amount of different web-slingers from alternate dimensions, go crazy. Put Miles Morales, Peter Parker, Gwen Stacy, and those other two in frame with a sense of kinetic motion. Create a faux idea of three-dimensionality so the children walking by can stare mouth agape in awe.

And if you want to go a bit more serious, shift the color palette. I’d argue the cooler blues and greens of the teaser complement Spidey’s darker suit with bright red best. The 180-degree spin to have his falling down appear as though he’s flying up adds an invigorating sensation of vertigo too. You can feel the rush of adrenaline watching this thing in 3D will most certainly provide.


Dynamic duos

A film I was intrigued by until watching the trailer, Holmes and Watson (December 21) gets a teaser from WORKS ADV as funny as it is tragic. “Holmies?” “H” and “W” hand gestures as gang signs? It’s cultural appropriation at its worst with humor ten-plus years stale. Just give us Step Brothers 2 already.

Thankfully Creative Partnership knows how to do a good two-hander with Mary Queen of Scots (limited December 7). Here we have authentic gazes that can pierce through your soul with an eye for the beauty and drama of period aesthetic rather than its potential for laughs. I love the hand-scrawled title font and the dark coloring to let those two pale faces in chiaroscuro pop and look our way with determination.

B O N D it equal to the task with their gold text on gold wardrobe on gold background piece of art, pulling the camera out to get a look at the full regalia. But it’s the character sheets that outshine them all. These two look like paintings on canvas made all the more stunning with their deep blue on blue and red on red of actors bleeding into backdrop. Stick a gaudy frame on these and ready for war.

Welcome to Marwen (December 21) goes the opposite direction with bright light, plastic surfaces, and odd couple juxtaposition courtesy of Steve Carell and sixth-scale action figure Steve Carell. I’m very leery of the direction this film’s marketing has taken considering the heavy subject matter it’s based upon, but I’d like to give director Robert Zemeckis the benefit of the doubt. Making the intentional choice to pick Forrest Gump out of his filmography, however, doesn’t bode well as far as handling things with a deft touch.

At least LA’s tease gives Carell’s doll a stoic expression as soulful as it is resilient. This is the face Mark Hogancamp’s story deserves and hopefully will be provided. The rest is just clean sans serif text atop more of the same, each letter blending into the next so the artistry and emotion of the portrait shines through.

Kudos then to Empire Design for delivering the month’s best-designed duo with Stan & Ollie (limited December 28). They knew that the most iconic visual motif this comedy partnership has is its hats and they create a funny scene to prove it. Rather than lose that simplicity upon deciding to remove the newspaper, the firm keeps things light and jovial with the white space above the actors reserved for Laurel’s cap in flight.

And don’t discount the font thickness increasing from thin Stan to heavy Ollie. It’s subtle enough to not be a “fat joke” and effective enough to supply a visual metaphor without sacrificing legibility.

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See More: Aquaman, ARSONAL, Ben is Back, Bird Box, BLT COMMUNICATIONS LLC, BOND, Bumblebee, Capernaum, Cold War, Concept Arts, Creative Partnership, Destroyer, Empire Design, Holmes and Watson, InSync Plus, LA, Little Giant Studios, Mary Poppins Returns, Mary Queen of Scots, Michael Muller, Mortal Engines, Once Upon a Deadpool, Posterized Propaganda, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, Stan & Ollie, The Einstein Couple, The House That Jack Built, The Refinery, This Time Tomorrow, Welcome to Marwen, WORKS ADV

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