Picking Up the Spare: Zack and Miri, Cloverfield, Quantum of Solace

Zack and Miri Make a Porno

Cinematical has the full alternate poster for Zack and Miri Make a Porno that I’ve only seen in peices before. I never came across the full size one-sheet among any of the official marketing communiques but did see a small part of it used as medium rectangle ad on Yahoo Movies a couple times. I think it’s a lot less interesting than the stick figure campaign, which is at least memorable.

Cloverfield

Via Rex via Waxy comes this Google Maps overlay tour of the Cloverfield monster’s path through New York City, as well as approximations of where and how the human characters attempted to flee through the city.

Quantum of Solace

Rick reports that an Australian promotion for Quantum of Solace that utilized mobile QR codes received over 10,000 entries despite, he says, any sort of mainstream media supporting the effort. The success has Sony looking at new and innovative ways to utilize these QR codes in future promotions.

DVD Review: Star Wars – The Clone Wars

star-wars-clone-wars-dvdBack around 1991 Star Wars fans were introduced to the “Expanded Universe” with the publication of the novel Heir to the Empire. Where there had been a scattering of novels and a couple of animated series that had told a handful of Star Wars stories, this seemed to be different…bigger. This was a story involving all the major characters which picked up well after the end of Return of the Jedi, the first such story to be told. After that a swell of novels, comics and other media were released which told various stories in, for the most part, the post-RoTJ timeline.

But there was a sense that these stories would be confined to anything but movie theater screens. That was emphasized with the release of the Prequel Trilogy. Anything that was on the big screen was canon, anything that wasn’t wasn’t.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars changes that equation to some extent. While the movie wasn’t really meant from the outset to be a movie but instead was spliced together from the first three episodes of a new TV series, it did appear in theaters and so, rightly or wrongly, has to be judged against the six existing cinematic entries in the saga.

Against that measure it does not hold up particularly well. The Clone Wars is an interesting enough story (the Jedi have to rescue Jabba the Hutt’s son in order to maintain access to travel lanes that are important to the war effort), it’s unfortunately weighed down by too many things that seem out of place in the Star Wars universe.

Chief among them is Ahsoka, a teenage girl who is assigned by Yoda to be Anakin Skywalker’s Padawan learner. Right there we have a couple of problems. Not only is Ahsoka never mentioned in Revenge of the Sith (she therefore logically bites it at some point in between) but Anakin is not a Jedi Master and everything up to this point says only Masters can have Padawans. Anakin is only made a full-fledged Knight just before RoTS (in the “Clone Wars” animated series from a couple years ago, which adds even more confusion to the situation – where does *that* story fit into this timeline now?) and giving him a Padawan seems like a cheap excuse to wedge in a sassy teen character.

And it’s that character that is the other chief problem. There’s NO WAY someone with this sort of attitude gets past Master Yoda. She’s disrespectful, reckless and just plain annoying. Almost immediately she begins referring to Anakin as “Sky Guy” and throwing around all sorts of attitude that seems pulled straight from a Tiger Beat demographic survey. It’s best just to ignore her when she’s on screen.

It’s a shame that she’s around for so long because aside from her the story is actually alright. It’s certainly not on the scale of the other six Star Wars movies but does work if you view it as a TV show. The action is fast-paced (the Clone Troopers actually wind up being the most interesting characters) and the animation certainly is top-notch.

Overall The Clone Wars is a good lead in to the series and is probably best for an audience that doesn’t obsess over where events happen in the Star Wars timeline and other issues like that. If you can get beyond those problems it’s a pretty enjoyable part of the Star Wars saga.

Movie Marketing Madness: Quantum of Solace

We are now fully and officially into the Daniel Craig era of the James Bond franchise. Begun in 2006 with Casino Royale, it’s been primarily marked by an attempt to bring Bond back to a modicum of reality and begin anew, taking the character back to his beginnings in the British Secret Service and giving him a more raw, violent focus. The move has been compared (seemingly endlessly) to the Matt Damon-starring Bourne series, which featured a super-spy/operative who met every situation with a combination of gile and violence.

Craig’s introductory film also brought with it a handful of other changes. Gone was Q and many of the beyond-belief gadgets. Gone was Moneypenny. In their place was an emotionally scarred Bond who had no one to rely on in the field but himself.

Oh, and he was blond, which for some reason was a big deal for a lot of people.

But now we have Craig’s second outing as Bond, Quantum of Solace. The title, which is pulled from one of Bond-creator Ian Fleming’s short stories, apparently carries little relation to the movie’s plot. Instead the movie more or less picks up where Casino Royale leaves off, with Bond continuing to try and bring down the terror network that was responsible for the death of his lady love in the previous movie.

The problem for the marketing team this time out, though, is that they have to sell this one to the public on its own merits. There’s no more reboot-mania to tap into. The audience knows more or less what to expect from Craig now and so they actually have to present a movie that’s going to be attractive from more traditional points of view. Let’s take a look at how they did.

The Posters

The teaser poster sets out what the audience can expect very plainly. It shows Bond with a huge honking rifle strolling over a ridge, looking like he’s ready for anyone to give him an excuse to pull the trigger on that bad boy. Anyone who saw Casino Royale will recognize this as where we left Bond at the end of that movie. So it presents in a single image the notion that this movie continues both the shoot-first and let someone else figure out the implications Bond that was introduced in the first movie but also that this is a sequel to that first movie and not just another stand-alone entry in the franchise as just about every other film has been.

The theatrical poster, then, presents a more traditional Bond movie. In this one Bond, gun in hand, strolls across some sort of desert-esque area with this movie’s beauty. It’s very much an attempt to show that the filmmakers have not abandoned the idea of Bond as a ladies man and that people shouldn’t be scared off by the idea that they might have to remember what happened in the first movie. It’s alright, but doesn’t strike as strong a chord as the teaser does.

The Trailers

The teaser trailer, which debuted in front of Sony’s summer tentpole Hancock, brings the audience right back in where we left off in Casino Royale. Bond and M are interogating someone, who is taunting Bond with the memory of the death of Vespa, his love interest in the earlier movie. That clearly sets up this entry as a continuation of that story, which is meant to increase the audience’s dexsire to see it by making it essential to know how the characters continue on.

After that brief bit of scene setting exposition, we’re thrown right into the middle of the action, ad Bond does his usual jumping from speedboats and racing in his Aston Martin and the other action staples of the Bond series. In between all that is M barking orders to shut down his activities and bring him in, seemingly because he’s once again gone rogue while pursuing more of a personal vendetta than a professional mission.

The teaser does a good job of bringing everyone up to speed on where the characters are and what the really broad strokes of the plot will be (Bond seeking revenge) but it’s primary goal is to sell the audience on what it knows about Bond and his movies, which is that they’re filled with wild stunts and beautiful women. For me what it also accomplishes is to cement Craig as the actor to bring the most interesting portrayal of Bond to the screen. While the stunts and the women are great, the places that Craig is taking the Bond character psychologically are really interesting to watch and present the most enticing thing about the movie.

The theatrical trailer is more or less simply an expansion of the teaser. That Bond is seeking revenge for the death of someone he cared about (presumably a woman, though I don’t think that’s ever stated outright) is the dominant theme of the footage and expository dialogue. Between that and some talk of “unfinished business” it’s made pretty clear this is an expansion and continuation of the first movie’s story.

Once again, like in the trailers for Casino Royale, there’s also a strong note of Bond being a renegade who ultimately does the right thing but is simply so emotionally stunted in his thinking that he’s a danger to himself and potentially to others.

What this trailer does in spades, though, is sell a very traditional Bond movie. 75 percent of the shots are of motorcycles flying from boat to boat, Bond falling through glass ceilings and lots and lots of explosions. “Come back in,” the campaign seems to be telling the audience. “Don’t worry about all that press about this being a more cerebral Bond, there’s still plenty of action and adventure for all of you who are looking for that and little else.” That’s fine up to a point, but it leaves those who saw Casino Royale as a breath of fresh air for the franchise feeling a bit put out, like we were lured back in and that the guiding forces that feel things need to be bigger, bigger, bigger each time are back to exercising their will and that the “reboot” was a one-off experiment.

Online
I have to admit that this is one of the best designed official websites I’ve come across. All the content is presented in a widget-esque way that makes it fairly easy to navigate. For the sake of simplicity, though, I’ll stick to the organization as it exists along the top navigation bar on the page.

“News” is how the producers have communicated developments on the film’s production, mostly in the form of video interviews with the crew. All of it is actually distributed and presented on a blog from the official site that comes, naturally, complete with its own RSS feed.

“About the Film” is next and contains sections detailing the movie’s Story as well as information on the Cast and Filmmakers. Everything here is pretty well written and interesting, even if it doesn’t deviate too far from most of what you’ve seen on other movie sites.

You’ll find all the Trailers as well as the video for the movie’s theme song, commercials for the tie-in video game and other behind-the-scenes footage under “Videos.” After that comes “Gallery,” which contains a whopping 40+ stills from both the movie and its shooting.

“Downloads” has the usual IM Icons and Wallpapers to offer, as well as a Widget to grab. There’s also a Fan Kit to download that contains a handful of promotional graphics you can add to your own site if you so choose. I love that more movie sites are adding stuff like this that helps people spread the word themselves.

There are some games under, of course, “Games” that are actually quite fun to play. They’re pretty simple for the most part but worth spending a few minutes avoiding work to check out.

“Partners” links to all those companies that have helped Sony promote the movie and “Promotions” takes you to the sites that have run contests or other things along those lines in a similar vein.

Finally there’s “Mobile,” which is where you’ll find games you can add to your mobile device, an iPhone application that delivers behind-the-scenes video and other content and a couple of downloadable mobile wallpapers. You can read more about the mobile strategy around the movie over at Rick Mathieson’s site.

There was also a YouTube channel that distributed all the behind-the-scenes interviews and some other video content. There are, of course, MySpace and Facebook pages to compliment the effort as well.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

One of the first of many cross-promotions to be announced was one with Avon. Well before the movie’s release – indeed at a point when all we’d seen was a teaser poster and a few set photos – the skin care and beauty company announced Quantum of Solace star Gemma Arterton as the face of the campaign for its new Bond Girl 007 fragrance. The perfume was scheduled to hit shelves around the same time as the movie, with a cross-media campaign featuring Arterton being run in support of that launch.

Sony Ericsson, a corporate cousin of the studio behind the movie, released a limited edition, movie-themed edition of its C902 mobile device, a bit of hardware that is used by the super-spy himself in the film. Sony also created a Missions for Millions contest that involved an online game and a host of co-branded promotions both on and offline.

Heinekin also returned as a product placement and promotional partner for the fifth consecutive Bond movie. Also on the drink front is Smirnoff Vodka and Coca-Cola, which is using its partnership with the movie as the launching pad for a new Coke Zero campaign. The drink is even being temporarily renamed Zero Zero 7 and getting some movie-themed limited edition bottling as part of the tie-in.

The first co-branded TV commercial produced by Coke for their tie-in ran a minute long and was long on glitz and glamour, resembling nothing so much as one of the iconic openings of a Bond film. Consistently using the red and black colors of the Coke Zero brand it also integrated in fast cars, a tough guy walking along dispatching those who would stop him with ease and the constant twisting and turning images that are associated with each film’s title sequence.

Travel site Orbitz wanted people to embrace their inner-Bond with a “Travel Like Bond” giveaway.

The spot also served as the public debut of the theme song written by Jack Black and Alicia Keys. Black, it turns out, was not thrilled with that decision, issuing a statement that his work was intended solely for use in the film and not as part of an advertising campaign for an outside product. The statement was actually meant to make it clear to Black’s fan-base that he had not meant to get into the commercial jingle business, or, more to the point, that he wasn’t selling out to a big company like Coke. It’s all about maintaining his artistic integrity.

There were also a ton of television commercials created for the movie, as well as a hefty amount of online and outdoor advertising done. Not surprising since this is more or less the franchise that Sony is counting on to keep going time and time again in the same way MGM was doing beforehand.

NCM.com redesign sponsorship.

Media and Publicity

Of course one of the biggest media components surrounding any Bond film is the question of who will perform that film’s title theme song. After tons of speculation that it would be perpetual mess Amy Winehouse it was finally announced that Jack White, one half of the White Stripes, and R&B star Alicia Keys would get the honor of appearing on the soundtrack.

Sony got some decent online coverage out of their tactic of holding a blogger event, featuring correspondents from a number of top movie sites, that they labeled The Ultimate Bond Experience. That day featured interviews with Craig and other members of the cast and crew as well as opportunities to ride in Aston Martins and do other very Bond-like activities.

Every Bond movie has come complete with a ton of promotional opportunities for the studio and every media outlet in the world recognizes it as an easy hook on which to hang a bunch of lists of other

Overall

As I mentioned at the outset, the major change between this campaign and the one Sony put together for Casino Royale is that there isn’t as much new about Quantum of Solace as there was with the previous film.

That primarily means there isn’t as much of an opportunity to generate substantial buzz around the release as there was with Casino. But it does allow the marketers to build on the positive reception that movie got (for the most part) and see if they can take it to the next logical level.

Judged on its own merits this is a pretty good campaign but it doesn’t seem like it ever really makes it over the hump. There’s lots of good stuff within it but there’s a sense of “oomph” missing that it seems like it needs.

Fortunately the movie’s release is set for a good time. The U.S. Presidential election is now well behind us and is no longer taking up the media’s and the public’s attention. (Sidenote: Someone please explain this to Sarah Palin and her media enablers.) And the only things opening against it are a handful of foreign and independent movies that aren’t going to get nearly the attention or the distribution (even if they might deserve it). So Solace has this weekend all to itself at a time when the public is in need of a light distraction.

That means a campaign that might at times appear a bit lackluster will probably be good enough.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

  • 11/19/08: Rick reports that an Australian promotion for Quantum of Solace that utilized mobile QR codes received over 10,000 entries despite, he says, any sort of mainstream media supporting the effort. The success has Sony looking at new and innovative ways to utilize these QR codes in future promotions.
  • 5/15/09: The “hypertrailer” for Quantum of Solace that appeared on National CineMedia’s NCM.com was singled out as a finalist for a DOOHA Award for its ability to engage the audience.

DVD Review: Kung Fu Panda

kung-fu-panda-dvdI’ve never been a huge fan of Dreamworks Animation’s features. While the first Shrek was, at the time, kind of funny the subsequent films have just been loose excuses to hang a bunch of too-cool for the room pop-culture references and off-color humor that just stops shy of being inappropriate for young audiences.

That’s why Kung Fu Panda is such a refreshing change and, honestly, might be one of the most enjoyable movies I’ve seen this year.

KFP is the story of Po, a panda who works with his father (a goose, a disconnect that’s hinted at just enough to be funny without being beaten into the ground) in a noodle shop in a small village. But in between slinging noodles Po dreams of being a kung fu master, idolizing the Furious Five, a group of kung fu prodigies who protect the village. Through a variety of circumstances, Po comes to be chosen as the warrior who will ultimately defeat a former student of master Shifu who turned to evil ways when he felt he was being overlooked.

The great thing about Kung Fu Panda is that it’s free of all the things that have cluttered the computer-animated features from just about everyone but Pixar. No characters break into Godfather lines, no one all of a starts laughing at a Star Wars joke. And, most surprisingly, there aren’t 78 crotch or poop jokes. Instead Po is good natured and well meaning and, while he’s not the most talented cat on the block, he never ridicules those who are more skilled than he is. He just keeps trying.

That’s why I’m so anxious to watch the movie with my kids. It’s completely appropriate for them, without any content that I would find objectionable or which I would worry about them emulating, resulting in my telling them to stop it. If there is it’s so miniscule I didn’t even notice it. That sort of situation has been in rare supply outside of overtly moralistic properties like Veggie Tales (which we love, just for the record). Everything is either completely, almost condescendingly pure or all about the fart jokes and telling people to shut up.

The DVD, available now, comes packed with extras that are geared toward kids, including activities and fun little featurettes that go behind the scenes of the movie and its characters. Some editions also come packaged with a bonus disc titled “Secrets of the Furious Five.” That short feature (about 22 minutes) goes behind the stories of the others that Po is training with. It’s animated in a more traditional style, one that’s very reminiscent of Japanese paintings and art. It’s quite enjoyable in and of itself, though obviously more so if you’ve seen the main movie. That disc has its own batch of bonus features that further expand on things.

I enjoyed Kung Fu Panda to a great extent. As I said, it ranks right up there with Iron Man as one of my favorite movies of the year and it’s highly recommended.

DVD Review: Mystery Science Theater – 20th Anniversary Edition

mst3k1If you’re a fan of Mystery Science Theater you’re going to absolutely love this 20th Anniversary Edition box set. The set features four episodes of MST3K: First Spaceship on Venus, Laserblast, Werewolf and Future War. While these might not be the best of the best of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 vault they are definitely solid entries and perfectly representative of what the show was all about in its tenure on television.

It’s always good to go back through the old episodes of MST3K. Since I made the decision to ditch the vault of VHS tapes full of episodes taped off of Comedy Central and then Sci-Fi, my collection has (until now) been limited to Mitchell, Manos the Hands of Fate and MST3K: The Movie. And honestly it had been too long since I had pulled any of them out. So watching these four episodes was, not to sound too corny, pretty sweet and very much needed.

There are two things about this set, aside from the episodes themselves, that make it completely worth owning. First is the cover art for the individual discs. Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot get illustrated in a pulp comic style along with some characters from the movie. The images are absolutely fantastic, much better and much more unique than just the movie’s poster or something like that.

The second is the main extra that’s spread across the first three discs, titled “The History of MST3K.” It’s a series of interviews with just about everyone who had something to do with the creation of or glory of Mystery Science Theater, from Joel Hodgson to Mike Nelson to Mary Jo Pehl and everyone else you can think of. Some of the stories you’ll hear in those segments are repeated in the main bonus feature on the fourth disc, a video of the cast and crew’s 20th Anniversary Reunion Panel at this year’s Comic-Con. But even so some of that might be familiar, the banter between them and moderator Patton Oswalt makes it enjoyable in and of itself.

If you’ve got a Mistie (fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000) on your list of people needing Christmas presents, this set will make their day.

DVD Review: Hellboy II – The Golden Army

hellboy-ii-dvdI wrote a full review of Hellboy II – The Golden Army over at SpoutBlog. It’s sort of half a review of the movie and half an examination of how Hellboy fits into the pantheon of stoic, emotionally stunted male action heroes.

The three-disc special edition I received to review contains a digital copy of the movie you can transfer to iTunes, possibly my favorite feature that’s being added to DVDs right now.

In Hellboy’s case, his laconic “Oh crap” is a massive sarcastic understatement when he’s faced with, as in one scene in The Golden Army, a massive flower god that’s spreading itself all over Manhattan. But while he works to betray little in the way of uncertainty in situations like that, the thing that’s causing him the most pain – his relationship with the human fire-starter Liz Sherman played by Selma Blair –  is always at the tip of his tongue. The fact that he can’t figure out her wants and needs continue to be the one problem in his life he can’t punch away, and that’s incredibly frustrating to him.

At the end of the first movie the narration intoned that embracing his love of Blair’s Sherman had fully made Hellboy a man. But he continues to act out in a decidedly immature way throughout the second movie. That changes, though, when he finds out that Sherman is pregnant with his child. That knowledge is, quite literally in the story, what gives him the will to live. Even though at that point he still acts first and thinks things through later, he does step up in the final showdown and embrace, if not his role as destroyer of worlds, certainly his role as the leader of the societal subset he and his cohorts inhabit.

DVD Review: Tropic Thunder

1There’s little that’s not completely and utterly offensive about Tropic Thunder, aside even from That Issue, the one that got a lot of headlines and attention, but which is such a small actual thing in actuality.

The movie, of course, carries the title of the movie that we’re watching being made. And the movie we’re watching being made is going horribly, horribly wrong.

A bunch of stars – a cocky action star whose stock is falling, a flatulent comic looking to break out a from his rut and a method actor willing to fully immerse himself in a character – set out to make a Vietnam war movie with a first-time director at the helm. But when egos get in the way and the movie is being threatened with shut-down, the director decides to take those pampered stars out into the real jungles and shoot the movie in what he hopes will be a more realistic fashion.

Things, of course, go badly.

What works the most about the movie is that every one involved seems fully committed to the roles they’re playing. Stiller is completely believable as a Tom Cruise-ish actor with a huge ego and little talent. Downey, as the method actor who undergoes skin-pigmentation surgery in order to play an African-American, never winks at the audience about the absurdity his role. Even Black, famous for his inability to not mug to the camera, makes his role as the broad comic work on a level it really shouldn’t.

Adding to that are small roles by Tom Cruise (oh shut it – it’s not a spoiler at this point) as the profanity-heavy studio boss and Matthew McConaughey as Stiller’s character’s agent, obsessed with making sure his client has his on-location TiVo.

The funny thing is that I actually don’t think Tropic Thunder works very well as Hollywood satire. That’s largely because there’s simply too much of it in the movie for most of the jokes to actually have time to land. Instead it’s the performances that shine through. So it’s a good thing those performances are so strong.