Movie Marketing Madness: Must Love Dogs

John Cusack needs to get out of whatever artistic funk he’s been in since about High Fidelity. There was a brief moment of hope after I watched Max but other than that it’s been a steady stream of studio flicks that have done nothing to stretch him creatively or live up to the promise of his earlier films.

To that steady stream of hogwash we now add Must Love Dogs, a romantic comedy starring Cusack and Diane Lane, who’s enjoying the career rejuvination she began with Unfaithful. Not that she was suffering in the doldrums to that point but it really reminded people she was an actor to be reckoned with.

The Poster

Not much here to comment on other than that the one-sheet is remarkably boring. Showing just Cusack and Lane sitting on a park bench it sets up the romantic comedy angle only by showing slightly amused looks on their faces. There is the requisite dog but that’s about it. It’s a brightly colored poster and easy to look at but other than that it’s not very visually interesting.

The Trailer

It’s not so much a trailer for the movie as it is a commercial for PerfectMatch.com, an online dating site. See that’s how Cusack and Lane meet. There’s the requisite meet-cute sequence and some fluff about a love triangle with Dermot Mulroney but not much else. Cusack looks like he’s doing the best with the material given to him but since we all know he can do so much better there’s no reason for him to be taking this in the first place.

The Website

Like most major studio sites the one Warner Bros. has assembled for Must Love Dogs doesn’t really push any boundries or do much that’s original. I wasn’t able to access the Flash site but WB is very good about duplicating most of the content on the HTML site so I don’t think I’m missing much content.

There’s the usual Trailer, Photo Gallery and Downloads. Most of the Downloads are dog-related with just a few showing the stars. There are also some goofy Games & Activities, a list of Partners and a Sweepstakes. Both of the last two heavily emphasize PerfectMatch.com The Book provides an excerpt of the source book and it’s nice to see some love being given to the original material for a movie. Finally there’s Email Updates, allowing you to register for updates and showing they still don’t get RSS and the concept of ceding some control to the end user. Oh well.

Overall

Cusack is really the only reason I am even remotely interested in this movie. The campaign hits all the usual romantic comedy notes. One final question: Is the only reason Jeremy Piven does not appear in this movie because he was filming Entourage?

Movie Journal Quick Takes

I don’t really have a lot of time and none of these movies really deserves a full write-up so here are my consise thoughts on some movies I watched recently.

Birth: Not very good and almost completely lacking a third act. I don’t mean it simply could have been stronger, I mean it wasn’t there. Nicole Kidman’s performance would have been more convincing if we were being led to believe she had severe psychosis. Instead her character is just wildly inconsistent and obsessive to the point of not being able to lead a normal life of any sort.

Maria Full of Grace
: This one was alright but didn’t really deliver on the expectations set for it by all the praise I had seen. The story of a young pregnant woman who takes to smuggling drugs in order to make money seems like it would have been a very cool half-hour short but really wasn’t sustainable for a full hour-forty five. Also, considering the name and the DVD cover art, I was expecting more Catholic overtones.

Super Troopers: Interestingly the best of this lot. I get the sense the members of Broken Lizard plotted out an actual movie and then figured out how to be funny within that structure instead of simply barely stringing together gags (cough/Team America/cough).

Blacklisting PR pros

There’s an ongoing meme about creating a blacklist of irresponsible PR folks, the gist of which is nicely summarized here by Shel Holtz. Basically some bloggers are beginning to complain that PR practitioners are sending out these horrendous blast emails that contain gushing prose, overembelashed copy and most importantly a lack of understanding as to what the blogger writes about.

It’s a legitimate complaint. There’s nothing worse than a useless email. I’m not exactly a household name in the PR or movie industry and yet I’ve gotten a few unsolicited pitches that have made me shake my head in wonder. Just what these people hope to accomplish with this kind of tactic is beyond me. Not only is the blog community too savvy for this kind of tactic the general audience is as well.

So here’s a little tip for pitching bloggers, take directly from the “Introduction to Blogs” white paper I wrote for Bacon’s Information:

1. Expose all potential conflicts of interest or corporate ties right off the bat. If these relationships are not admitted initially, the blogger will find them. By being upfront, you have inoculated yourself to some extent against a potential backlash that could cause negative publicity for your company.

2. Be familiar not only with the blog you are pitching but also with other blogs linked from that site that cover the same topic. Remember that blogs thrive on a sense of community. Bloggers want information to be shared and are not as concerned with exclusives as traditional media outlets.

3. Personalize your pitch. Don’t just include their email in a blast mailing of a press release. Bloggers like to feel special and a generic email is likely to fall on deaf ears.

4. Remember that blog writers, in order to stay relevant in the eyes of their readers, need to be honest above all else. They will publish their unvarnished opinion of a product – warts and all. Keep in mind that the risks associated with blogs need to be accepted along with their potential benefits.

5. Like traditional media outlets, the more popular blogs are the often the most
difficult to break into. Find a mid-tier blog for that first impression and let the story work its way out from there. Because there is a good deal of cross-linking among blogs within a niche, if one picks it up there is a good chance others will report on the story or do their own investigation. By incorporating some form of blog monitoring, you will be able to see how effectively this works and react
appropriately.

To that I’d now add your company or agency should make RSS feeds available for releases and other announcement. If a blog writer covers your industry they’ll subscribe to the feed and get the important information that way.

Movie Marketing Madness: The Island

Oh my God, Michael Bay is back. We tried exiling him to the island of Elba after Armageddon. We tried spinning three times, throwing a shaker of salt over our shoulder and hoping he’d go away after Pearl Harbor. Unfortunately, like Michael Myers (or, for that matter, Mike Myers) he keeps coming back to prove just what a big pain in the ass he actually is.
“The Island” looks like some sort of mash-up of “Soylent Green,” THX-1138 and “Parts: The Clonus Horror.” Ewan MacGregor and Scarlett Johannson play drone-types living in a utilitarian society whose residents long to be chosen to live on The Island, billed as Earth’s last remaining pristine environment. These two, though, are destined to find out the truth and, in true Michael Bay fashion, dodge lots of shit that’s blowing up.

The Posters

Initially there were two teaser posters released. Why they were treated as teasers is beyond me since they didn’t really tease anything. One featured McGregor running away from something and a picture of an island, the other was the same background only it had Johannson fleeing. My point is that by showing the stars, including taglines that hinted at the ominous nature of the island and showing the thing there really wasn’t a whole lot left to the imagination.

The theatrical one reinforces that this is going to be a very glossy movie with two beautiful people running for their lives. Johannson gets more of a full facial shot while McGregor is relegated to profile. It’s better than the teasers but not by much.

The Trailers

There are three trailers and a teaser which, like the poster, doesn’t really tease. They contain about 75% similar footage so we see the same big CGI sign fall off a building, we keep seeing Michael Clarke Duncan be hauled off against his will and we keep seeing Boromir act shady. It occurred to me that Scarlett Johannson looks more objectively hot in this than she has in her previous movies, where she’s played the pretty girl who doesn’t think she’s pretty. Here she’s got the straighter hair and raccoon eyes thing going meaning her agent now thinks it’s time she got more adult roles.

The Website

What I found interesting on the site is that, right after it loads, you’re greeted by the option to read some glowing reviews of the movie. Prominent display of gushing qulurbs (quote blurbs) brings to mind images of Lady Macbeth and someone protesting too much. “Really! Look at how great these people think our movie is! Has Harry Knowles ever been wrong?” The audience is savvier than that, folks.

While the site is very pretty to look at there’s not a whole helluva lot there. Also on the main page are links to enter two contests. First is the chance to win a private screening of the movie, which immediately brings to mind scenes from “A Clockwork Orange.” Next is the chance to win a PC painted by members of the cast. I think it would be cool to surf the internet for pictures of Scarlett Johannson naked on a computer painted by Johannson herself. Anyone else?

“Media” contains all four iterations of the trailer as well as an international version that wasn’t any more inspired than the others. There’s also an Exclusive Clip from the movie, begging the question of what constitutes an “exclusive”? I mean this is an official site so it’s not like providing an exclusive represents any sort of journalistic coup on their part. Maybe I’m being nit-picky but I’ve about had it with breathless hype over nothing at all.

You can learn all about the film (or at least those parts the publicists want you to know) in “About the Film”. There you’ll find a Story synopsis which gives away most of the movie, an Image Gallery consisting of about 12 pics and something called Perspectives. That last one is actually kind of interesting in that it provides some character background in the form of intercepted email communication or magazine coverage from the world the characters inhabit. It’s an interesting concept but not executed fully, like they had a good idea but couldn’t quite make it work. And a 12 picture photo gallery for a visual-intensive movie is just sad and shows a lack of commitment.

“Behind the Scenes” contains a lot of footage showing Michael Bay giving blowjobs to studio executives as they hang his future career over his head. I mean a lot.

Finally there’s a commercial for Merrick Biotech, the company behind the sinister goings-on in the movie that seems pretty cool.

Overall

Look, we all know Michael Bay movies aren’t good for us. Occasionally something like “The Rock” is alright but that was made before Bay really hit his stride as a talentless hack. Even that has more to do with Nicholas Cage’s performance than anything Bay might have done.

“The Island” is marketed as thinking-man’s summer escapism, but probably won’t live up to those expectations. Instead of being a philosophical exploration of genetics tampering, it is a showcase for visual effects artists to show off the latest in CGI fireballs and for Ewan McGregor to afford going back to making non-studio movies.

Movie Marketing Madness: The Edukators

the-edukators-posterThree friends, two guys and a girl, run rampant through Germany terrorizing (in a playful, anarchistic type of way) the rich and society.

The Poster

Pretty cool. Yeah, it’s just the three leads, including Daniel Bruhl from Goodbye, Lenin, but it works. Kind of reminds me of an album cover more than a movie poster. There’s not much plot setup but that’s alright by me in this case.

The Trailer

It’s pretty short – only about 1: 45 or so – but does a nice job of laying out the plot and the relationships. We get they gist of what these characters are up to with their reign of merry mischief that goes off-track when they wind up kidnapping a businessman. We also are shown the love triangle that will no doubt play a key role in how these people get themselves into and out of various jams.

The Website

This is very much an interactive website and I mean that in terms different than what mainstream studios mean. They think interactivity means playing a game or entering an email address in order to get to exclusive content. IFCFilms’ site for The Edukators, though, really seems to want to get viewers involved.

“Become an Edukator” gives people the opportunity to write to IFC to see how they can help promote the movie, an intriguing move toward creating a grassroots marketing network. “Read our Press” is just what it sounds like, containing qulurbs from a few reviews of the movie.

Director Hans Weitgartner provides some real-life context for the movie and explains his reasons for making it in the “Get Edukated” section. It’s pretty extensive background from the director and seems to show an understanding that giving people fodder for discussion is directly proportional to how much they want to discuss it. “Meet the Edukators” contains bios on the three lead actors.

Finally, “About the Film” is a brief synopsis and “Tickets and Showtimes” is a quick guide to where around the country the movie is playing. Hint: Mainly at art houses in big cities.

Overall

Pretty good effort on the part of IFC to create a solid campaign. The trailer is strong and the website is robust with plenty of opportunities for people to dig into the movie a bit. I like this one.