Quick Takes: 12/23/04

Bewitched
Just to make sure no marketing opportunity is left unexplored, Sony appears ready to release the first two seasons of Bewitched just in time to tie in to the movie.

Cinderella Man
The official site now has a trailer (or at least the link to a trailer). I’m sure there is some sort of financial arrangement behind the video being on AOL Moviefone’s site and not the actual sites.

Miss Congeniality 2
Watch the trailer and try to decide for yourself whether:
1) This is a sign of the end-times
2) William Shatner has his own gravitational pull
3) Deidrich Bader is pining for a Drew Carey Show reunion special
4) All of the above

Constantine
JoBlo provides the link to a new international trailer.

Elektra
Various sites provide links to the new trailer and posters, both of which seem much cooler than the teaser versions. Note how all the promotional materials tie this to the team that brought us X-Men and don’t mention Daredevil.

Longest Yard
Adam Sandler destroys whatever goodwill he built up with Punch-Drunk Love and Spanglish in another dopey comedy. This doesn’t look quite as bad as Happy Gilmore, but not by much.

Pink Panther
MTV has the trailer, which doesn’t look as bad as I had feared.

Sahara
First trailer is up at Yahoo! On the down side, it doesn’t look like another Indiana Jones, but on the upside it also doesn’t look another National Treasure. This is due mostly to the presence of Steve Zahn and William H. Macy.

The New World
The official site has launched, complete with a trailer that is wonderfully stirring. Looks like Terrence Mallick has created another moving tone-poem of a movie.

Sin City
Moviefone has a new trailer and some posters up for viewing. This may move up on my “too-see” list as more material comes out.

Misc. Items

JoBlo has an excellent catch-all of new posters and trailers.

Rumors are running around about Joss Whedon taking on writing and directing duties for Wonder Woman.

Jeff Wells posted this the other day:

Notice to marketing guys and trailer editors: if you cut together 50 or 60 snips
from a film and shoot them out machine-gun style, like 90% of the trailers do
these days, you can make a film seem interesting or sexy or whatever. Except
this trick has used so often it’s not interesting any more. To me, rapid-fire
machine-gun cuts in trailers are a coded message that says, “Watch out, this
film may have something to hide.

See you all in January!

Movie Marketing Madness: 2004 Wrap-Up

I began writing Movie Marketing Madness for Film Threat in May, 2004. Since then I have applied my spectacular lack of writing ability, misguided sense of what will be enjoyable to the general public and a sense of humor that consists mostly of referencing the movies of my childhood to over 25 new releases. For that, I am paid handsomely.As we approach the end of the year, I thought I would jump on the bandwagon of those doing year end pieces. It’s a lazy writer’s tool, but at heart I too am a lazy writer. So I picked eight of my columns and decided to see how what I predicted compared to what the critical and box office receptions were.

Shrek 2WHAT I WROTE: “Not bad, but there’s absolutely nothing original in there.”

WHAT THE CRITICS THOUGHT: Reviews were generally positive (except for our own Pete Vondar Haar’s review). Most said it improved upon the original. (but really: wouldn’t it have to?)

BOX OFFICE: $436M

THE LESSON: I’m a bitter man who just doesn’t like Mike Myers.

The Day After Tomorrow

WHAT I WROTE: “…Memorial Day escapism. Anyone remotely interested in movies won’t and shouldn’t expect more”

WHAT THE CRITICS THOUGHT: Overwhelmingly negative, most compared it to the 70’s Irwin Allen disaster movies, only without half the fun those had.

BOX OFFICE: $186M

THE LESSON: When a campaign gives away half the movie, run like hell.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

WHAT I WROTE: “2003 could prove to be the bathroom break for the Harry Potter film franchise.”

WHAT THE CRITICS THOUGHT: A stronger movie than the first two, with better performances and production.

BOX OFFICE: $249M

THE LESSON: In my defense I did think the campaign was truthful in showing a darker movie and it did gross less then either of the first two movies.

BONUS LESSON: If a metaphor takes more than half a paragraph to setup I should just abandon it by the roadside.

Spider-Man 2

WHAT I WROTE: “There are few such things as a slam-dunk but this I have to believe is one of them.”

WHAT THE CRITICS THOUGHT: Tons of fun melded with emotionally deep and real characters.

BOX OFFICE: $373M

THE LESSON: I am an omniscient being and you really all should be bowing down to me right now.

Catwoman

WHAT I WROTE: “Guys may want to see the hottie in the nine-square inches of torn leather but they have almost an allergic reaction to the female empowerment genre.”

WHAT THE CRITICS THOUGHT: Worst. Superhero movie. Ever.

BOX OFFICE: $40M

THE LESSON: Really? $40 million?

Alien Vs. Predator

WHAT I WROTE: “Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the end of creativity as we know it.”

WHAT THE CRITICS THOUGHT: Reviews label this one as almost unwatchable. The few exceptions remind us that this is not something to be taken seriously.

BOX OFFICE: $80M

THE LESSON: At an average ticket price of, let’s say $8, that’s 10 million people who couldn’t find some other way to amuse themselves. Think about that.

Sky Captain & the World of Tomorrow

WHAT I WROTE: “..this movie will tank in a spectacular fashion, ala “Wild Wild West”

WHAT THE CRITICS THOUGHT: Let’s not worry about the shortcomings in writing, directing and acting, the movie looks really friggin’ cool.

BOX OFFICE: $37M

THE LESSON: When a campaign does little but look really cool, it’s usually trying to hide something.

Sideways

WHAT I WROTE: “The campaign as a whole is geared toward adults who actually enjoy film and aren’t just looking for the most generic form of entertainment available.”

WHAT THE CRITICS THOUGHT: One of the year’s best movies. It’s also garnered a number of Golden Globe nominations and critic’s awards.

BOX OFFICE: $14M (still in theaters)

THE LESSON: Pay attention when someone who usually tackles large-scale releases sets his sights on something off the beaten path.

Overall, I think 2004 was the first year studios put much effort into the websites. Warner Bros. consistently assembles great interactive sites (and they only seem to be getting better at it) whereas 20th Century Fox seems to think that as long as they make the site accessible in two dozen languages they have put more than enough effort into it. Trailers as a whole seem to be fairly effective if not well assembled and the best posters out there are legitimate works of art.

There have been some terrific movies that I haven’t reviewed because they are so small almost no effort has been put into their marketing campaigns. There have been some big releases that I passed over because there were easier targets out there. There have been some awful looking movies that had great campaigns behind them and some great movies that barely had coherent trailers. Whatever 2005 has in store I’ll be here cracking wise about it.

Quick Takes: 12/17/04

Elektra
Various outlets have posted a new super-sized version of the new poster.

XXX: State of the Union
An incredibly lame trailer is now online at the official site.

Hostage
FilmForce has a teaser trailer available for this new Bruce Willis flick.

Weatherman
The site for this new Nicholas Cage/Michael Caine comedy (?) is now active but doesn’t contain much.

The Ring Two
More good stuff from IGN’s FimForce as they have the new teaser poster for Ring Two.

War of the Worlds
Here’s a look at the second teaser poster for the Spielberg-helmed sci-fi remake. Does this remind anyone else of Monty Python’s Life of Brian’s poster?

TV networks and movie marketing

MediaDailyNews 12-17-04

I wanted to make special notice of this article by Joe Mandese at MediaPost.com.

Mr. Mandese researches how much “A” network time is given to movie marketing and what, if any, correlation exists between a movie studio and TV network who share corporate parents. It’s a wonderful read and I hope you all check it out.

Movie Marketing Madness: Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

lemonymmm01story“Jim Carrey should avoid wearing outlandish makeup.”

This was my second thought after coming out of watching Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (my first was kind of hazy seeing as how I was vomiting blood at the time). I felt the makeup diminished the one quality – his elastic face – Carrey had that made him moderately entertaining.

Carrey is arguably one of the biggest stars in the current age of cinema so the campaign for “Lemony Snicket” would be wise to put him upfront in any and all materials. To not do so would leave the strength of the books to fall back on. Considering the informal poll I took in my office showed people were aware of the books, but had no idea what they were about showed just how weak this approach would be and I don’t expect Carrey’s face to be off-screen for more than a couple seconds at a time.

The Poster

Yeah, the theatrical version has Jim Carrey there, but overall I don’t think this is a very strong poster. There is no madcap-glee to it. No sense of a skewed sense of humor or wacky sensibility to it. Instead it looks like Jim Carrey’s neck and limbs are oddly out of whack and need to be re-set.

The teaser versions are much stronger as they actually keep Carrey off camera or at least present him in profile. They hint at the oddball nature of the movie more than Carrey with a weird beard does.

The Trailer

The teaser and theatrical versions share about 50% of their material and each give Carrey three credits, each in a different one of his disguises in the film. Sorry, Jim, but you’re no Peter Sellers. They are obviously going for a feel reminiscent of pre-Planet of the Apes Tim Burton or “Addams Family” era Barry Sonnenfeld (who is a producer on this film). The cartoonish trees, overly dramatic characters and such pulled me right back into my favorite parts of Edward Scissorhands or “Beetlejuice”. Even the score by Thomas Newman feels like he cribbed Danny Elfman’s songbook.

The Website

In case you have tried to do some writing lately and found that you couldn’t find any adjectives to use, it’s because they are all here. Everything on the site, from the section titles to the text in various areas is “extraordinary”, “unfortunate”, “unlucky”, “shady”, so on and so forth. Cute idea at first, but if you spend more than 20 minutes here it gets old rather fast. Navigation of the site is pretty easy but there are still plenty of rabbit-trails to get lost down. Unlike the site for Harry Potter, though, you never quite get lost or need to cut off your own hand after getting stuck under a rock.

The site opens with a cool intro that plays like the beginning of a movie and sets up the main characters. The rest of the site is divided into three main parts, the first of which is “Villainous Film Details”. There’s a surprising plethora of information here, including a Synopsis, Behind the Scenes and Production Notes.

Also here are Catastrophic Clips (a trailer), Shadowy Stills (still photo gallery of about two dozen images), Dubious Cast and Crew, Disastrous Downloads (including wallpaper and icons), The Snicket Report (registration for an email update newsletter), Unsound Soundtrack (track listing with clips of about five available to listen to) and finally Partners (listing of promotional partners).

I want to talk about this for a minute since, according to press reports, the duck from the AFLAC commercials will be appearing in the movie. Product placement is nothing new (watch “Back to the Future II” and take a drink every time you see a corporate name/logo), but to put a spokesperson in a film takes that a step further. Imagine Joe Isuzu in “Days of Thunder”? The tie-in makes sense (insurance company in a movie about accidents and such), but to actually have the duck in the movie risks the credibility of not only this movie but the entire industry.

The “Desk of Lemony Snicket” (who is voiced by Jude Law, who went a whole week without a new movie opening, a record for 2004) contains brief character descriptions. More detailed character sketches can be found in “Shady Characters”.

There is a whole section, indeed a whole different site, dedicated to Count Olaf. Going there you will find more wallpapers, icons, IPIX, a game and even Olaf’s blog which is painfully forced and drastically unfunny. (Dammit! Even I’m using too many adjectives!) The separate site is setup as an Olaf for President campaign site, which is a good idea but is now a bit dated since we’re on the other side of the Tribulati… I mean the election.

Olaf’s blog has been promoted as “Blog of Note” on Blogger’s hompage quite a bit recently. Interestingly, though, they don’t identify it as a paid placement and Blogger isn’t listed in the promotional partners roll call. Full disclosure, folks, that’s all I’m asking for.

Overall

As I stated, anyone not familiar with the resoundingly popular books will need to parasitically latch onto Jim Carrey’s easily recognizable face in order to be drawn to this enticing movie. The quirky trailers play him up and the theatrical poster accomplishes this none-too-difficult task. The website is fun and amusingly whimsical. I can’t say that as a Lemony Snicket neophyte I’m completely sold. Now if I can only knock off with the damn adjectives.

View from the Rental Counter: 12/11/04

Pick of the Week
Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Extended Edition)
Market: Folks, this is as close as we’re going to get to a full-scale epic in the digital age. There’s a reason for all the CGI in these movies: The story couldn’t be told any other way. Peter Jackson has strewn these movies with not only a wonderful and emotionally fulfilling plot (coming to a finish here) but with so many tiny grace notes that the movies bear up to as many repeated viewings as you can put them through. Everyone should enjoy this one and I’m looking forward to the 50 minutes of additional footage.

Mainstream
Collateral
MPAA: R (language and situations)
Budget: $65M
Gross: $100M
Market: Film lovers. Those people who pine not for the fjords but for more movies like Heat and Last of the Mohicans (both by Collateral director Michael Mann) and their stylized violence. Mann never accidentally points his camera anywhere. Each shot is always purposeful and meaningful.

I Robot
MPAA: PG-13 (violence and partial nudity)
Budget: $105M
Gross: $144M
Market: This is this week’s popcorn flick. Based on the marketing and reviews of this movie it’s not very heavy on the brain and is almost completely illogical. A good choice if you want to have movie on while you’re writing Christmas cards.

Mary Poppins
Market: Those of you who (like me) long for the days when Disney made sugary sweet movies but at least wasn’t actively pandering to the entire population like they are now. This 40th Anniversary release isn’t so much to present the movie in a new way but to look nice next to…

Princess Diaries 2 – Royal Engagement
MPAA: G
Budget: $40M
Gross: $95M
Market: Teenage girls and their parents who are looking to placate them. This rides the same wave the original started and which then spawned the Freaky Friday remake and such.

Meet the Parents: Special Edition
Market: Is anyone (aside from his accountant) really enjoying this phase of Robert DeNiro’s career? I can see the occasional dabble in comedy but when he said “yes” to Rocky and Bullwinkle then it was time for Scorsese to give him a call. Then again they both were in Shark Tale, so that may not have been the right person to talk DeNiro off the ledge. Anyway, this “Special Edition” is timed to tie into the theatrical release of Meet the Fockers.

Off the Beaten Path
Door in the Floor
MPAA: R (sexuality and language)
Budget: N/A
Gross: $3.8M
Market: Jeff Bridges hasn’t achieved nearly the kind of success or stardom that his acting ability warrants. If you enjoy Bridges, LA Confidential-era Kim Basinger or just emotional dramas as a genre then this may be worth a rent. I know I will be.

We Don’t Live Here Anymore
MPAA: R (language and sexual content)
Budget: $3M
Gross: $2M
Market: I haven’t been able to catch Six Feet Under but enormously enjoyed Peter Krause on Sports Night. This movie seems like it would appeal to anyone who also enjoys Neil LaBute’s or David Mamet’s movies.

Television & Box Sets
Ben Stiller Collection
Just a boxing of four of Stiller’s movies by Universal.

Family Guy – Freakin’ Sweet Collection
This collection contains the unedited versions of some episodes which wound up being cut on the full-season sets. Also is billed as creator Seth McFarlane’s “favorites”. Basically it’s a new package to put out now that the seasons are done.

Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica – Complete 1st Season
Take one blonde who realized she could make a lot of money playing brain-dead. Add one guy who is going to ride that train as long as he can until someone more famous comes along. Mix together in front of MTV’s cameras. Result is an inexplicable cultural phenomenon.

Quantum Leap: Complete 2nd Season
Great show while it was still great, before there started to be weird supernatural overtones to the whole leaping thing.

Rocky Anthology
The second attempt by MGM to package the Rocky series. This one, I believe does include anamorphic transfers on all five movies, unlike the previous release.

Quick Takes: 12/10/04

Batman Begins
The title of this post refers to the teaser poster now available for viewing at the above-linked official site. I shorted out three keyboards drooling over this one. I then went through two more over this international version.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith
JoBlo has two new posters for this Angelina Jolie/Brad Pitt caper.

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events
The product tie-ins continue as Papa John’s Pizza announces it will deliver a demo CD-ROM with movie content with order of a special pizza.

Constantine
MTV has an exclusive trailer which runs slightly longer than the official one on their site. Both look, well, lame.

Assault on Precinct 13
JoBlo obtained the perfectly awful poster for this remake.

War of the Worlds
The official site has a teaser trailer on it now. I can’t comment since I don’t have QuickTime installed on this PC. Why only one version?

Son of the Mask
This one is just now flying onto my radar. If you want to see what might be the worst film idea of the year, surf on over as the website is filling up with content.

Be Cool
Yahoo! has a teaser trailer for the Get Shorty sequel. It’s not bad, but what’s obviously lacking is Barry Sonnenfeld’s sense of humor. How come no one is making more of the fact that this reunites Travolta, Thurman and Keitel from Pulp Fiction?

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Yahoo! also has the first teaser for this one. It looks like Tim Burton has his fastball back after the almost career-destroying Planet of the Apes and then the minor-league rehab-stint that was Big Fish.

Fantastic Four
There’s a great group shot of the team on SuperHeroHype!. Also, word is Disney has moved its Chicken Little release away from FF’s.

Elektra
The official site of the movie’s soundtrack has opened up.

Movie Marketing Madness: Ocean’s Twelve

oceanstwelvemmm01storyIn a recent interview, “Ocean’s Twelve” co-star Brad Pitt was quoted as saying, “”I think the biggest joke was on Catherine because she actually thought we were making a movie”. To my mind this perfectly sums up the existence of both this movie and its predecessor, Ocean’s Eleven.

I just recently watched the first installment, having never seen it before but figuring I should before diving into the campaign for its sequel. “Eleven” is a fast-paced quick witted movie with a loose, jazzy feel that, quite frankly, felt like a breath of fresh air to me. The second picks up the story of Danny Ocean and his band of merry men and reunites them after Andy Garcia’s Teri Benedict (who was the casino head they robbed) finds out who it was that got his money.

The Posters

Some of the coolest poster art around is right here. It eschews the trap of putting the faces of all the pretty boys on the movie on it and instead has some very frame-ready art of feet or silhouettes of the actors. They sound very basic, but with the simple color design and layout they are tremendously effective.

The Trailers

The first movie is primarily, I think, remembered as being fast and funny. So what’s the best way to present the second movie? As being fast and funny. The teaser trailer has no shots of movie but just animation that mirrors the poster design in color and theme. It plays heavily on the line “They’re all back!” and then proceeds to list the entire cast.

The theatrical version of the trailer does contain footage from the movie, hinting at a larger role in this one for Matt Damon’s character. In the first movie he was just hired help but he is given an amount of screen time in the trailer comparable with Clooney or Pitt. The old-school text (“Catherine Zeta-Jones…is Captivating!”) fits in perfectly with the whole attitude. The only complaint I have is we barely see Carl Reiner or Elliot Gould, but I understand they’re not the ones people are going to line up to see.

The Website

The “Ocean’s Twelve” website isn’t very substantial, but considering the movie isn’t likely to be that’s not much of a surprise. Much like their website for Alexander, Warner Bros. has put up a “site-lite” with access to trailers, posters and an abridged photo gallery for those who don’t or can’t access the full Flash-based site.

Once you’re in the site proper, there is a cool (albeit brief) intro that plays very much in the same vein as the trailers with the same color theme and some quick pictures of the top six cast members. It’s very slick but very short and repeats ad infinitum so don’t, say, pull it up and then go get a cup of coffee because your coworkers will be honked off (trust me on this).

Copious Production Notes, a good sized Synopsis and Filmmaker bios can be found in “The Movie”. Warner Bros. really seems to have latched onto the understanding that people actually are coming to their movies’ websites for information because they continue to expand the amount of detail they include. Production Notes runs for several pages worth of text, spread out over a few sections and really goes into as much detail as a casual fan could ask for.

“Downloads” contains both Posters to download (poster version #2 is currently my PC desktop image, that’s how cool I think these are), Desktops and AIM icons. The number of messenger icons and desktop themes is huge (about 18 each) and feature each individual cast member as well as some more opportunities to grab the poster art and one or two behind-the-scenes images. These really go a long way to play up the ensemble nature of the movie.

There is a very cool scrolling option in the “Photos” section (you really need to go there and try it as I can’t think of a good way to describe it) but only a handful of actual photos, which is slightly disappointing. “Video” contains just the trailers and the TV spots, which as of this writing were still “Coming Soon”. Again, slightly disappointing, as a movies’ site should be fully stocked at least a week before opening day. There is also a deleted scene available to view of Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones vigorously making out. Some of that may be slightly made up.

“Cast” contains bios for the entire gang and is a fun read. Not only are there complete career overviews but are written, much like the rest of the text on the site, in a loose, tongue-in-cheek manner that is engaging and entertaining. It’s great that they didn’t focus all their energy on the headliners (Pitt, Jones, Clooney, etc.) but give full treatment to the old-guard members of the cast like Reiner and Gould. These guys have had full and eclectic careers and deserve nothing less.

Overall

Liked the first one? You’ll probably like the second one. What Ocean’s Eleven and, at least based on the marketing materials, Ocean’s Twelve offer is light, breezy entertainment that doesn’t insult the intelligence of someone who seriously enjoys movies. A movie like this is probably going to skew a little older in terms of demographics based not so much on the cast, all of whom are aging, but also by virtue of the script not pandering to teens and such.

A co-worker of mine may have put his finger on the popularity of the first movie when he said that, yes, the cast included some “heartthrob types” but that these were also actors guys could enjoy. Clooney, Pitt and Damon have all built a reputation as regular guys, allowing regular guys in the general public to feel it’s OK to enjoy their movies. My prediction is this will do well but be gone fairly quickly, enjoying most of its success on video and DVD.

Quick Takes: 12/03/04

Fantastic Four
The official site has launched (click link above) but to date contains no actual FF material. According to IGN, the first teaser trailer should be attached to Elektra, another Fox/Marvel collaboration.

Bewitched
The site now contains a brief teaser trailer.

War of the Worlds
The second collaboration between Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise now has a teaser site with a great image.

King Kong
The Peter Jackson helmed remake provided Newsweek a production sketch of the big monkey.

The Aviator
CNN has sold itself out by teaming with Miramax to provide historical (read: promotional) information on the real Howard Hughes. Can’t tell you how many notches down this takes my respect for CNN.

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events
A cameo by the AFLEC duck? What the…?

Million Dollar Baby
Surf over to JoBlo.com for the trailer for the movie Jeffrey Wells calls a “knockout punch” to all other Oscar contenders.