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Poster Lab (#110 of 74)

Poster Lab: Fifty Shades of Grey and the Year-Long Movie-Marketing Tease

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Poster Lab: <em>Fifty Shades of Grey</em> and the Year-Long Movie-Marketing Tease
Poster Lab: <em>Fifty Shades of Grey</em> and the Year-Long Movie-Marketing Tease

Just as E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey books began as Twilight fan fiction, the posters for the film adaptation have long been confined to the world of fan-made art, where eager, horny designers could get their Anastasia Steele on and realize their fantasies. Many such posters featured rumored leading man Matt Bomer as Christian Grey, while others, like this entertaining gem, cast Amanda Seyfried and Arrow’s Stephen Amell as James’s BDSM-loving couple. But on Jan. 25, roughly three months after Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan were announced as the film’s leads, the first official one-sheet was released, depicting Dornan with his back to the viewer, gazing out across the Seattle skyline. The poster has reportedly been accompanied by five exclusive billboards, which can be seen at five specific locations in New York, L.A., Chicago, San Francisco, and, of course, Seattle. It’s also joined by the launch of the film’s website, where visitors can “apply for an internship program” with Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc. (or, in other words, sign up to be on the mailing list for the Universal Pictures release). It’s all part of the kick-off of the ultimate movie-marketing tease, which is touting a film that isn’t due in theaters for a full calendar year.

The 20 Best Movie Posters of 2013

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The 20 Best Movie Posters of 2013
The 20 Best Movie Posters of 2013

What were the common threads among the finest film posters of 2013? Mustaches. Sunglasses. Font that boldly monopolizes the center of the design. And plenty of pink. A great movie poster can do a great many things, but it’s most important attribute is always the reminder that there are more ways to enticingly sell a film than with famous faces. Virtually every genre (and budget level) is covered in this roster of 2013’s best, proving that great marketing in this industry is by no means exclusive to one type or size of film. And though an ethical issue had a pivotal effect on the final results, it couldn’t tarnish a collection of vastly diverse aesthetic triumphs, which helped to richly enhance the cinema-going year.

The Worst Movie Posters of 2013

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The Worst Movie Posters of 2013
The Worst Movie Posters of 2013

Movie poster design probably isn’t as lost an art as many claim it to be, but every year, countless audience-insulting ads arrive to support the theories of the doomsday crowd. Granted, there are plenty of tossed-together one-sheets out there that are easy targets for criticism, but none ticked off this poster lover like the doozies included here. From glaring dependence on star power to the dreaded sliver formula, these design snafus are the ones that made you want to pull a Banksy at the multiplex, whipping out your Krylon can and doing a little defacing, if only to counteract the woes of daft commercialism.

Poster Lab: White Reindeer, Another Cheeky Desecration of Hallowed Holiday Symbols

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Poster Lab: <em>White Reindeer</em>, Another Cheeky Desecration of Hallowed Holiday Symbols
Poster Lab: <em>White Reindeer</em>, Another Cheeky Desecration of Hallowed Holiday Symbols

The trailer for writer/director Zach Clark’s White Reindeer doesn’t seem to feature any cocaine use, but it might as well. Depicting the grievous unraveling of formerly sunny Suzanne (Anna Margaret Hollyman), who suffers the death of her husband before finding out he was having an affair with an exotic dancer (Laura Lemar-Goldsborough), this offbeat holiday comedy and SXSW favorite seems primed to throw in the kitchen sink when it comes to Suzanne’s self-medication. If the clip shows us Suzanne dancing, drinking, and buddying up with the other woman, then the poster reveals what else the widow is imbibing, forming the silhouette of a Christmas tree from lines of cocaine. It may well be that the titular term is a euphemism for blow that I’m not aware of, and it may well be that that white powder isn’t cocaine at all. (Who’s to say Suzanne isn’t breaking bad with a little meth?) Either way, this notably naughty poster serves to place White Reindeer among the ranks of other transgressive yuletide flicks. Almost immediately, it calls to mind the Criterion cover art for Arnaud Desplechin’s A Christmas Tale, which is also given the Tannenbaum-by-substance treatment, shaping a tree from the dark dramedy’s ever-present cigarette smoke.

Poster Lab: Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Which Apparently Won’t Be Up for a Makeup Oscar

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Poster Lab: <em>Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom</em>, Which Apparently Won’t Be Up for a Makeup Oscar
Poster Lab: <em>Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom</em>, Which Apparently Won’t Be Up for a Makeup Oscar

So far, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom looks as though it could be the best film yet about Nelson Mandela, not least because Clint Eastwood’s Invictus was such a bland misfire, and the just-released Winnie Mandela is merely a lukewarm, movie-of-the-week affair. Backed by the Weinstein Company and starring an awards-baity Idris Elba, Long Walk to Freedom might be seen as an Invictus prequel, as it charts all of the events prior to Mandela’s release from prison, rather than vice-versa. Such is part of the appeal: This is a revolutionary film, giving you a glimpse of the man when he was more volatile freedom fighter than soft-spoken politico. Until now, the marketing campaign has taken advantage of this angle, releasing posters like this one, which aptly looks like a propaganda piece you’d see pasted on a building, or this one, which scrawls the words “trouble maker” across Mandela’s portrait. The latest poster, however, released in the U.K. (home to to Elba, co-star Naomie Harris, and director Justin Chadwick), looks like it’s touting a terribly unfortunate Invictus wannabe, with Elba in an old-age makeup that certainly shouldn’t be front and center.

Poster Lab: Diana, with Naomi Watts Set Adrift Yet Again

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Poster Lab: <em>Diana</em>, with Naomi Watts Set Adrift Yet Again
Poster Lab: <em>Diana</em>, with Naomi Watts Set Adrift Yet Again

Poor Naomi Watts just can’t escape the big blue. Everywhere we see the Aussie actress these days, it seems she’s accompanied by a literal ocean, its waters deep and vast, and ripe for the application of metaphor. First, Watts fought against a tsunami in The Impossible, an act many would say paid off since it landed her an Oscar nod. Then, Watts cheated on bestie Nicole Kidman with Robin Wright, her Adore co-star with whom she did a son-as-sex-partner swap, and floated on an anchored dock just off the Australian coast. Now, Watts is gazing off into the ripply horizon again on this one-sheet for Diana, a once-baity biopic that casts the actress as the ill-fated “people’s princess.”

Bearing the tagline, “The only thing more incredible than the life she led was the secret she kept,” the poster, in all its open space, points to the missed opportunities of a life cut short, and calls to mind one of the worst lines in Titanic: “A woman’s heart is a deep ocean of secrets.” Presumably, this scene shows Watt’s Diana on the luxury yacht of Dodi Fayed (Cas Anvar), where a few of the film’s key scenes reportedly take place. Where it positions Watts herself is where she’s unfortunately been for too long now: caught drifting in limbo between her considerable talent and the quality of work to which she’s attached.

Poster Lab: Nebraska, Alexander Payne’s Eraserhead?

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Poster Lab: <em>Nebraska</em>, Alexander Payne’s <em>Eraserhead</em>?
Poster Lab: <em>Nebraska</em>, Alexander Payne’s <em>Eraserhead</em>?

There’s homage, and then there’s the new poster for Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, which couldn’t be more evocative of David Lynch’s Eraserhead if it featured a lizard-baby’s scissor-stabbed organs. It’s supremely interesting that the folks behind Nebraska turned to the world of Lynch for inspiration, since few would think to connect the surrealist auteur to Payne’s deadpan Americana. But maybe there is something here, beyond these one-sheets’ high-contrast black-and-white, and beyond the shocks of hair that respectively define Jack Nance and Bruce Dern’s characters, that link the filmmakers’ works. Though more darkly and elliptically inclined, Lynch is as much a surveyor of Anytown, USA as Payne will ever be, and the latter has offered his share of bluntly ironic, borderline-Lynchian character quirks. What’s most interesting here is the implication that Nebraska, like Eraserhead, is, on some level, a nightmare.

Poster Lab: X-Men: Days of Future Past

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Poster Lab: <em>X-Men: Days of Future Past</em>
Poster Lab: <em>X-Men: Days of Future Past</em>

If you wait until halfway through the credits of new Marvel actioner The Wolverine, you’ll get—surprise!—an Easter-egg-y teaser of X-Men: Days of Future Past, the latest leg of this comic-book-maker turned film studio’s incestuous universe. In the clip [spoiler alert], Logan (Hugh Jackman) catches up with Magneto (Ian McKellen) and a resurrected Professor X (Patrick Stewart), who, now evidently on the same team, warn their furry friend of an incoming menace that’s a threat to all mutants. Thanks to this early teaser poster, and, to a lesser degree, this one, fanboys know said threat is the infamous army of towering robotic “Sentinels,” which, in the end-credits scene, are further foreshadowed by a flash of the Trask Industries logo (for the non-geeks to whom this means nothing, just roll with me).

Poster Lab: You’re Next

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Poster Lab: <em>You’re Next</em>
Poster Lab: <em>You’re Next</em>

Lionsgate sure has been having its fun with the poster campaign for You’re Next, the latest horror thriller from Adam Wingard, who most recently took part in the anthology sequel V/H/S/2, Rex Reed’s favorite film of the summer. The studio first released a trio of your typical, grainy, bathroom-wall-scratchiti one-sheets, with the film’s animal-mask-wearing killers glaring at the viewer, accompanied by blood stains and an overall aesthetic that’s been rampant in this genre since Se7en’s opening credits. But then, Lionsgate unleashed what I first thought was a coincidence of bus-stop-ad overlap: The superimposition of those masked killers on posters for the studio’s other films.

Therefore, it was no accident that the chipper group shot of the stars of The Big Wedding had a machete-wielding wolf crashing the party. Or that the nice quadrant poster of the Tyler Perry-produced Peeples was graced with the presence of an ax-toting sheep. I’ve heard of subliminal advertising, but this is just…bloody hilarious.

Poster Lab: Spike Lee’s Oldboy

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Poster Lab: Spike Lee’s <em>Oldboy</em>
Poster Lab: Spike Lee’s <em>Oldboy</em>

I hate to take the easy road and say that the designers of the latest Oldboy poster thought outside of the box, but, hey, if the metaphor fits. This beauty of a one-sheet, which heralds Spike Lee’s remake of Park Chan-Wook’s decade-old modern classic, has antihero Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin) emerging from a trunk, whose seemingly bottomless nature makes Joe look like the Mary Poppins of vengeance-seekers. As most already know, Brolin is playing the role made famous by South Korean actor Choi Min-sik. Based on early reports, Brolin won’t be emulating Min-sik by eating a live octopus on camera, but he will be similarly playing a businessman inexplicably imprisoned for 20 years, then suddenly released and bent on finding his captor(s).

Compositionally, the poster is a dream, from the way the trunk’s lid aligns perfectly with the horizon to the way its corner meets a tuft of grass that also serves as the billing block’s nest. With a runner’s stance and a clump of dead grass in his fingers, Brolin looks at once like a ready-to-pounce cat and a madman who’s clawed his way out of a hellish pit. You can feel the movement in a pose that implies instinct, focus, and primal rage.