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Posterized September 2016: ‘American Honey,’ ‘Blair Witch,’ ‘Queen of Katwe,’ and More

Written by on September 2, 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.


It feels like the window between Toronto International Film Festival screenings to our local multiplexes has compressed to non-existence. I’m not saying there aren’t a few gems with no intention of being released this side of the New Year (I’m looking at you Free Fire), but there are at least six September releases that will have been shown at TIFF mere weeks or even days beforehand. Either the cinematic quality of blockbusters has gone through the roof or festival programmers have fallen a tad too commercial.

There are more than just these prestige (and wannabe prestige) films wearing their festival backing on their sleeves, though. The return of Bridget Jones (September 16th), JCVD (Kickboxer: Vengeance, limited September 2nd), and Tim Burton (see below) are only but three. You’ll need some name recognition like that too since marketing on the whole is ultimately proving flashy if still a bit bland.


Miscellany

In all honesty, Concept Arts‘ poster for When the Bough Breaks (September 9) isn’t that bad. The red on black pops, the melting wax candle drips add intrigue by doubling as potential blood, and there’s great motion from top to bottom. It’s not great, but it does its job effectively while still providing the sex appeal the studio more than likely demanded.

I’m highlighting it this month for a different reason, though. Rather than rip it apart or laud it with praise, I simply want to ask a question. Does Morris Chestnut have a stipulation in his contract that he’ll only do a movie if the poster showcases his co-star as a plunging V-neck of breasts? Between this and The Perfect Guy, blatant objectification has moved to coincidence bordering on obsession. His IMDB page is blank after this one so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if the pattern continues.

LA‘s The 9th Life of Louis Drax (limited September 2nd) follows a more is more logic by giving us all the principle players in quasi collage. I really like the use of negative space as the foreground shifts from Sarah Gadon amongst trees to Aiden Longworth falling into an expanse of white. It’s a cool transition that is sadly overpowered by the translucent men looming large above. I wonder what would have been if they were removed.

It is a more mature advertisement than what BOND did with their cave mouth silhouette, a cartoony effort trying to embrace its inherent darkness much like the film itself. The effort is nice, the execution a bit half-baked. If the imagery is alluding to Drax being in a coma with a storm of nightmares brewing, maybe the person standing there should be someone else? Or perhaps a subtle glimpse of the monster guiding him through this adventure by his side?

As for the Spanish version, we can all agree the shortening of the title to The Mystery of Louis Drax definitely allows for a less clunky block of text. The rest, though, is more subjective. The idea of a woman’s face with a reflection in her sunglasses is hardly new, but the high-contrast/saturation of the coloring lends it a fascinating clarity. It reminds me of a trashy novel cover, one that causes head turns at the very least.

The Disappointments Room (September 9) by Switch has earned my attention despite its issues—namely the plain title that looks like a defaulted font with multiple alignments and inconsistent kerning fading away. I enjoy the scale of the keyhole and the fact that it’s not a clichéd eyeball looking back. The focus is acute, the object a Samara-like contemporary Cousin It to create quiet dread. I think about The Orphanage, a superior sheet with its meticulous coloring, but a similar symmetry of light to dark. And it’s the opposite of Baskin‘s great in-your-face keyhole menace, but effective nonetheless in its own disparate way.

Where The Refinery‘s Sully (September 9) is concerned, I’m a fan of the layering. There’s a definite foreground (the plane’s window frame), mid-ground (Tom Hanks), and background (the water and clouds in the distance) with a shallow depth of field making it so the titular pilot is all that’s crisp. His demeanor is had to pinpoint, the darkness of the weather creating a ominous sense of drama. If only Hanks’ name didn’t fill an eighth of the entire page this could be great.

It’s still a lot better than its counterpart with plane and inflatable ramps forming a silly mustached face just like its stars. Hanks’ name is still way too big and the large area of water isn’t doing anything but providing the bottom text a darkened field to be visible on. It isn’t balancing the scales—my focus simply can’t leave that plane. It’s as if it’s egging us on. Stop staring at me!


For the kids

Let’s get the unpleasantness out first: I hate the Frankensteined title font for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (September 30). I hated it when the trailer released and still hate it now. Surprisingly I actually like the fancy capitals in faux-brushed metal and the flourishes framing the lines, though. What makes me cringe is the scrawl of the final two words. They may look okay on their own, but it’s distractingly out-of-place when juxtaposed with the clean polish of the rest. And I do get that this is the point. These kids are peculiar and don’t fit in. I just have to believe there was a better way to depict this.

I’ve otherwise taken a shine to the visuals LA utilizes and really can’t wait to see a Burton flick that harkens back to his early days of imagination much like his beautiful aberration Big Fish. Eva Green was born to act under his watch—but we can forget Dark Shadows—and the oddities behind her are delightfully strange. Yes it’s just a mishmash of the character posters, but it works.

The second is far superior, though, because it trusts that one example of peculiarity is enough to get the point across. We have the star—Asa Butterfield—and one of the titular children floating in the air like a kite while her shoes remain on the ground. The setting is gorgeous, the distance from sand to sky awe-inspiring, and the tone playful with just a hint of danger in the clouds rolling in.

After all, this thing is going to get creepy. Right? Invisible boys and mask-covered twins are hardly the stuff of blissful dreams, but Samuel L. Jackson’s demonic villain takes the cake. I’m all for a bit of horror in my children fare.

You won’t see any of that in Storks (September 23), however. But then you wouldn’t have expected it. This is a cutesy tale of stylized animation with glassy eyes and smooth gradient skin. BULLDOG embraces this aesthetic and lets the characters speak for themselves with broadly expressive faces and brightly colored hues. Despite this, I am definitely a bit concerned that we see so many teeth in the synchronized flying sheet—those two at the bottom definitely did something they weren’t supposed to do.

Art Machine was responsible for the character sheets, each one showcasing the exaggerated features of the film’s stars against a monochrome background still tinted bright. These are mainly built to introduce names to children walking by at the theater, but that doesn’t mean you can’t also create some depth with the simple inclusion of a white border for the subjects to spill over into three dimensions. It’s an underappreciated detail that catches eyes without them knowing why.

But the one that really works for me is BULLDOG’s Spanish variation. It may resemble The Muppets and The Peanuts Movie before it with a filled-to-the-brim hoard of characters, but this one has purpose beyond getting around the stale collage trope. The majority of figures are babies—on the loose and wreaking havoc. Their freedom gives meaning to those nervous grins (and that one bird’s anger at mid-right) and provides the latitude to have fun with depth. That one baby in the foreground coming to say, “Hello” makes this an interactive success alone.

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