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Posterized February 2016: ‘The Witch,’ ‘Hail, Caesar!,’ ‘Triple 9,’ and More

Written by on February 4, 2016 

“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.

What’s up with so few movies opening in theaters this February? I’m not complaining since it means a lot less posters to go through as well as perhaps a sign that less crap is being made. Remember when there was an event type atmosphere surrounding every new release because so much money and creativity went into it? Oh the days when there was more good cinema popping up on the marquee than clunkers.

This month sadly doesn’t look to go back to that trend. Along with some highly anticipated fare come a few January dump holdovers too. I guess we’ll just chalk the light schedule up to a lack of new independent releases and a desire on behalf of theaters to keep those Oscar contenders chugging along before the awards show bows on the 28th.

Gods, superheroes, and idiots—oh my!

February has so many characters hitting the big screen that the studios wanted to ensure we knew each one personally. If that means introducing us to cartoonish Gods Horus, Set, and Hathor; superheroes Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead; or idiots Derek and Hansel, well, we will meet them in all their various forms of glory.

While the Gods from Gods of Egypt (opens February 26) and idiots from Zoolander 2 (opens February 12) seem to fold out as a way to detract from their films’ shortcomings, the superheroes know what’s up. The first positive for them is that the aforementioned two supes are merely tiny pieces of just one poster in Deadpool‘s (opens February 12) campaign. The second positive is how perfectly suited to the content Ten30 Studios has made their extensive library of advertising.

LA‘s work for Gods isn’t all obnoxious color, fire, and brood, though. While those are the ones we’ll probably be seeing at our local multiplex, the teases are much more effective. I love the gold and silver sheets with their computer-generated Gods in armor floating above a blocked title. They still looks cartoonish—a fact that worries me despite Alex Proyas‘ talent at the helm—but the metallic sheen adds something the brightness of the characters doesn’t.

I’m also a fan of the weird liquid metal splashes these two beasts in flight create with the third tease. I mean, I don’t love it on its own, but by comparison it delivers intrigue. There’s action and menace involved rather than pretty people posing for the camera with serious faces pretending their film isn’t going to be campy as hell.

Ryan Reynolds and Fox know and embrace their camp. That’s why you get sex jokes, parodies, and juvenile humor coming out Deadpool’s white eyeballs. The “Wait ‘Til You Get a Load of Me” sheet speaks for itself with its position of the gun; the “Ass” sheet recalls a steady stream of over the shoulder coy pin-up gaffs (the most recent to my mind being Baby Brent from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs); and “Face” pretty much has animated eyelash bats with that pose.

The IMAX entry may embrace its comic aesthetic, but it’s probably the weakest of the bunch as its mocking of Drew Struzan-esque illustrations has it becoming one itself. The rest sprawl out and attempt to hit whatever funny bones the others didn’t. We get a heart for its Valentine’s weekend release and high school sweater for 40-Year Old Virgin fans. And if you want even more just do a Google search to find rom-com banners and testicular cancer PSAs. Move over Star Wars, Deadpool is literally everywhere right now.

As for Zoolander 2, let’s give credit to BLT Communications, LLC for doing character sheets right. They aren’t just taking the same portraits from the full one-sheet and isolating them against the exact same background (or barely changed) like the next section will show. Instead they give these weirdoes a venue to be as weird as possible. Let Owen Wilson wear his clueless stare with a naked lady. Give Ben Stiller a fur coat and Huskie so his empty face can portray his complete lack of irony in the juxtaposition. And definitely let Will Ferrell grimace in disgust like he is wont to do.

These things are hilarious—Kristen Wiig‘s collagen-filled lips channeling the Real Housewives of the fashion world can’t be ignored either. Even more, BLT also delivers a few one-offs with more humor than that initial static group shot above. Using the “No. 2” perfume gimmick is pure genius and it’s in full effect with Derek’s black and white pursed lips. The cell phone selfie duo is boring by comparison, but the moped garners a giggle. Penélope Cruz looks stiffer than a mannequin and it’s great.

Romans, single ladies, zombies, and thieves—OH MY!

What was I saying about character sheets done wrong? Oh, these ones. All four of the following—Hail, Caesar! (opens February 5), How to Be Single (opens February 12), Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (opens February 5), and Triple 9 (opens February 26)—are atrociously lazy: isolated actors copied into identical template frames.

It’s too bad about The Posterhouse‘s Hail, Caesar! because I do like the main sheet. It’s nothing special with its boxes of celebrities, but I like the border motif and eccentric title block. The font is somewhat different with its angled vertical edges and even though the comma is floating outside the main letters, it works. To just double down and use the same format with larger portraits is completely uninspired.

Not as uninspired as WORKS ADV‘s characters from How to Be Single, though. You’re just putting airbrushed actresses against bright gradients of color? Yawn. I can’t even give cold open credit for the final sheet either since it’s as boring. Not only that, but the firm pretty much recycled the same layout they used on Drinking Buddies. Add the fact that Dakota Johnson already acted in a film that also ripped this design off (Date and Switch) and the whole endeavor is badly cannibalistic.

While Posterhouse redeems itself with their exacting send-up of Zombies‘ book cover (I guess we should applaud the designer of it rather than them), they fall back into lame practices of ho-hum templates with their characters. The backgrounds change marginally as far as what building sits behind their respective hoard of flesh-eating monsters, but the sky is the same. I do like the off-center positioning of the actors, though. Not all is lost.

It’s Ignition who does the material justice with their melted painting and atmospheric mound of dead bodies. That second one recalls Mark W. Carroll‘s Far From the Madding Crowd, but warped by its own horror elements.

On the whole, though, I dislike the title block in all as it makes me think about Harry Potter. There’s a strangely off-putting humorous lilt to it that doesn’t quite mesh with the subject matter. And the red silhouette collage? It just doesn’t do it for me much like Macbeth didn’t last year.

Unfortunately it’s AllCity‘s Triple 9 that loses me most. Talk about the kitchen sink: these character sheets are overflowing with visual stimuli. We’ve got the high contrast portrait, the inverted title against grungy paint spray, and faceless criminals with automatic weapons that we have no idea whether the person highlighted above is for or against.

They’re like two posters in one. The studio liked the mood from Art Machine, A Trailer Park Company‘s main design so much that they wanted it retained. So AllCity is forced to bisect the page in a way that makes the actor an afterthought. Why do them at all?

I will say this: Art Machine’s sheet does prove effective. The red tint is a nice touch to complement the smoke and the redacted lines are intriguing despite being nothing more than stylistic flourish. They don’t actually cover anything, instead serving as elongated bullet points. I dig it.

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