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2014 Spring Season Preview Wrap-Up: April

April 4, 2014

Captain America: Winter Soldier

Oscar Prospects: What I said: "Uncertain. The two Marvel franchises that have gotten Oscar attention are Thor and Iron Man. Captain America, in spite of its period designs and strong visual effects was never nominated for the Oscars. That makes it less likely this film will, but it being the year's only Marvel entry might help."
Oscar Results: I made a couple of misstatements in my original post. Thor may have gotten Oscar attention, but it was never nominated. Marvel has two releases in 2014 and the other, Guardians of the Galaxy, while in the same general universe, was not directly tied to the Avengers phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so it slipped my mind. That being said, a lot of visual effects pieces have emerged this year and all of them have tended to eclipse what goes on in Winter Soldier, so I'm guessing the Academy ultimately ignores the modern-set film.
Box Office Prediction: $250 M
Box Office Expectations: What I Said: "Strong. Captain America is one of the weaker performing subsets of the Avengers universe, but that may have more to do with a lack of familiarity. It came close to the first Thor and this time, I think it should pass the second Thor without much trouble."
Box Office Results: $259.8 M
Thoughts: [Success] It certainly met expectations and slightly exceeded them to become the first non-Iron Man-featured Marvel film to pass $250 million. While the film currently sits behind the three Iron Man films and The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy is poised to pass it within the next week or two. Still, you can't say this film's performance wasn't good.

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Film Preview: This Is Where I Leave You (2014)

Poster


Poster #1

Additional posters can be found below.

Trailer Link

Release Date:

September 19, 2014

Synopsis:

From IMDb: "When their father passes away, four grown siblings are forced to return to their childhood home and live under the same roof together for a week, along with their over-sharing mother and an assortment of spouses, exes and might-have-beens."

Poster: C+ / C+ (9) / C- / C+

Review: (#1) A type of family portrait that displays all the post-funeral attendants plus significant others. It's not the most elegant design, but it does establish a darkly comic tonality. (#2-#10) These designs, ostensibly character posters, are individually distinctive, spread unique taglines that riff off the film's title and highlight various actors in the film (though clearly not enough or with enough regularity). (#11) You wouldn't typically expect a foreign market to get a more dismal, uninventive design than the U.S., but here you have it. (#12) This one is just an extension of the 9 "character" posters, so not much more to say about it.

Trailer: B-

Review: There's some comedy in the trailer that works, but after multiple viewings, it doesn't seem as funny. That doesn't give the film much replay value, but there are enough strong, familiar presences that even weak humor could propel this into sleeper hit territory.

Oscar Prospects:

None.

Revisions:

(September 7, 2014) Original
(September 14, 2014) New Poster (#12) / Updated Release Date (changed from 9/12/14)

Additional Posters



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Film Preview: Mr. Turner (2014)

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Trailer Link

Release Date:

September 12, 2014

Synopsis:

From IMDb: "An exploration of the last quarter century of the great, if eccentric, British painter J.M.W. Turner's life."

Poster: C+

Review: It's painterly, but not otherwise interesting. It reminds me a touch of 12 Years a Slave, which isn't the most apt comparison. Even so, I didn't find the design for 12 Years that great either, but plenty did.

Trailer: B-

Review: This lugubrious trailer might well lull an unsuspecting audience into unconsciousness while those who don't mind stuffy English dramas might find it quite fascinating. There's potential, but I'm not sure how much based on this trailer.

Oscar Prospects:

Mike Leigh is one of the most consistent Oscar nominees in modern history. From Secrets & Lies forward, more than 50% of his films have been nominated for some award at the Oscars. This one seems like it could earn him another screenwriting nomination and possibly a nod for star Timothy Spall (a more tenuous prospect). Other than those, the top categories don't look like they have a lot of promise, though a surprise Best Picture nomination could still occur. The film is much more likely to place in the creative categories, specifically Production Design and Costume Design.

Revisions:

(September 7, 2014) Original

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Weekend Preview: Sep. 12-14, 2014

Below are ten previews for films opening next weekend.
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Film Preview: Take Me to the River (2014)

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Trailer Link

Release Date:

September 12, 2014

Synopsis:

From IMDb: "A documentary about the soul of American music. The film follows the recording of a new album featuring legends from Stax records and Memphis mentoring and passing on their musical magic to stars and artists of today."

Poster: A

Review: Finally, a poster design that has some spirit and creativity to it. It's even thematically relevant, which makes it better than 95% of the posters produced in the last few years.

Trailer: B

Review: From a beautiful, energetic poster design to a balefully generic trailer design. While there's some joyousness in the trailer, it's so like every other documentary trailer that it's almost easily forgotten.

Oscar Prospects:

You can't always take every invocation of a previous Oscar winner as a reason to set a film aside as a contender. The trailer references 20 Feet to Stardom in an effort to make it sound like a natural successor. That film was about the long underappreciated role of backup singers. This film is more just a celebration of the Memphis music scene, which might appeal to Oscar voters; however, the past suggests music documentaries have a much tougher time making their way through.

Revisions:

(September 7, 2014) Original

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Film Preview: The Skeleton Twins (2014)

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Trailer Link

Release Date:

September 12, 2014

Synopsis:

From IMDb: "Having both coincidentally cheated death on the same day, estranged twins reunite with the possibility of mending their relationship."

Poster: C-

Review: It's so boring it's depressing and that's not even an intended plot-based side-effect.

Trailer: C+

Review: Some rather offensive stereotypes are on display in this trailer portraying the limp-wristed, depressed homosexual as being into cross-dressing and loving pop songs. That alone makes me question it's potential as a competent seriocomedy.

Oscar Prospects:

None.

Revisions:

(September 7, 2014) Original

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Film Preview: My Old Lady (2014)

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Trailer Link

Release Date:

September 10, 2014

Synopsis:

From IMDb: "An American inherits an apartment in Paris that comes with an unexpected resident."

Poster: C+

Review: I'm not certain why posters designed for films targeting older audiences insist on using bright, vibrant colors, particularly yellow. This reminds me a bit of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which isn't necessarily a compliment.

Trailer: C

Review: We know that Kevin Kline and Maggie Smith can both be quite funny, but there's little funny about this trailer, which isn't going to bring it broad appeal.

Oscar Prospects:

The annual "tribute" Oscar campaign might center around Oscar winner Maggie Smith whose role looks undercooked, but affecting. If the ladies from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel can't score with Oscar voters, I doubt Dame Maggie will be able to either.

Revisions:

(September 7, 2014) Original

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Film Preview: I Am Eleven (2014)

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Trailer Link

Release Date:

September 12, 2014

Synopsis:

From IMDb: "The lives and thoughts of children from all around the world. It weaves together deeply personal and at times hilarious portraits of what it means to stand on the cusp between childhood and adolescence."

Poster: C

Review: For a documentary poster, this isn't at all bad. However, the style has been used so frequently that it almost has no definition of its own.

Trailer: C

Review: Apart from the global nature of the film, this looks entirely like the documentary 7 Up and the ensuing series of films. I wonder if they'll follow these kids every eleven years. Regardless, the documentary doesn't seem as interesting as it possibly is or possibly could be.

Oscar Prospects:

None.

Revisions:

(September 7, 2014) Original

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Film Preview: Honeymoon (2014)

Poster


Poster #1

Additional posters can be found below.

Trailer Link

Release Date:

September 12, 2014

Synopsis:

From IMDb: "A newlywed couple finds their lake-country honeymoon descend into chaos after Paul finds Bea wandering and disoriented in the middle of their first night."

Poster: C+ / B- / C-

Review: (#1) A dying bouquet is an effective symbol for a film like this, but having nothing but that doesn't have quite as much impact as the producers might have thought. (#2) This design is a lot more compelling and establishes an aspect of the narrative that the trailer doesn't hint at and the other poster designs fail to see. If it's accurate, it would be more fitting, but there's just not enough evidence to assure that. (#3) The images aren't bad, but coating it with a layer of specks only serves to distract from it and doesn't add the level of mystery that the designer likely intended.

Trailer: C

Review: A trailer for a horror-thriller that doesn't seem that scary or thrilling. There are no stakes. There are no consequences. There's nothing to make the audience flock to the theater as a result.

Oscar Prospects:

None.

Revisions:

(September 7, 2014) Original

Additional Posters



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Film Preview: The Green Prince (2014)

Poster


Trailer Link

Release Date:

September 12, 2014

Synopsis:

From IMDb: "The son of a founding leader in the Palestinian organization, Hamas, becomes a spy for the Israelis."

Poster: B-

Review: When you reference a color in your title, it's not uncommon or unwarranted to use that color in your poster design. This is the type of design that, while generic at heart, uses a title color with great effect. Were the rest of the design a little more exciting, it might have been better.

Trailer: B-

Review: A documentary about a single mole in one of the most familiar terror/rebellion groups in the world. That might seem exciting, but the trailer doesn't do very much trying to suggest that it's that intense.

Oscar Prospects:

One type of documentary the Academy loves to recognize is the political one and while this isn't about the American political system, it's about the relationship between Israel and Palestine, which might give it enough weight to make it through to the second-round and a nomination is entirely possible.

Revisions:

(September 7, 2014) Original

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Film Preview: The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (2014)

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Trailer Link

Release Date:

September 12, 2014

Synopsis:

From IMDb: "One couple's story as they try to reclaim the life and love they once knew and pick up the pieces of a past that may be too far gone."

Poster: B- / C

Review: (#1) I give it credit for trying something different. Highlighting the red hair of the protagonist, referenced in the trailer, the designers are trying to make this film all about her and since she's the title character, that seems appropriate. (#2) The second design does a better job setting this up as a partly romantic film, though the trailers suggest something a bit more complex than this simplistic image.

Trailer: B-

Review: There are a couple of moments where a shift in perspective points to the original films' "Him" and "Her" components. It's not clear from the trailer that this is even an aspect of the film. That confusion won't give the audience a unique reason to see a film that doesn't seem that original otherwise.

Oscar Prospects:

The film earned praise off the festival circuit, but that was based on a two-film set. For American audiences, the films have been merged into one, which may mute the impact of the narrative, told from both his and her perspectives. Still, Jessica Chastain has done well with Academy voters and could make her presence known with this film. More unlikely is James McAvoy who hasn't had much luck with the Academy. It could also be a Film Editing nominee, but that depends on how well the prior to films were merged.

Revisions:

(September 7, 2014) Original

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Film Preview: No Good Deed (2014)

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Trailer Link

Release Date:

September 12, 2014

Synopsis:

From IMDb: "Terri (Taraji P. Henson) is a devoted wife and mother of two, living an ideal suburban life in Atlanta when Colin (Idris Elba), a charming but dangerous escaped convict, shows up at her door claiming car trouble. Terri offers her phone to help him but soon learns that no good deed goes unpunished as she finds herself fighting for survival when he invades her home and terrorizes her family."

Poster: C-

Review: Originality in design is an antiquated concept these days. Drawing on years of inspiration to create something so uninspired makes it hard to believe anything new can be made these days.

Trailer: C+

Review: A generic, house-invasion thriller that has as its only selling point that it's taking over a typically white genre and giving black audiences a chance to thrill in the frights and terrors long denied them.

Oscar Prospects:

None.

Revisions:

(September 7, 2014) Original

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Film Preview: Dolphin Tale 2 (2014)

Poster


Poster #1

Additional posters can be found below.

Trailer Link

Release Date:

September 12, 2014

Synopsis:

From IMDb: "The team of people who saved Winter's life reassemble in the wake of her surrogate mother's passing in order to find her a companion so she can remain at the Clearwater Marine Hospital."

Poster: C / C- / C / C

Review: (#1) Adapting a prior design may breed brand familiarity, but if the original wasn't that interesting to begin with, the new design won't be either. (#2) Even worse is when that adaptation is modified to include a bland array of cast images. (#3 & #4) The remaining two are clearly designed to engage the audience with cuteness and humor. They work a little, but the background is so generic that it doesn't seem that fun.

Trailer: C / C+

Review: (#1) Pulling apart all the cheesiest possible elements and over-emphasizing the tie to the original, the first trailer is singularly unremarkable and a bit tedious. (#2) The second trailer sets up the premise better, but refuses to make much of an improvement over its predecessor, resulting in a hackenedy, boring spectacle that might still appeal to fans of the original.

Oscar Prospects:

None.

Revisions:

(September 7, 2014) Original

Additional Posters



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Film Preview: The Possession of Michael King (2014)

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Trailer Link

Release Date:

August 22, 2014

Synopsis:

From IMDb: "Michael King (Shane Johnson), who doesn't believe in God or the Devil. Following the sudden death of his wife, Michael decides to make his next film about the search for the existence of the supernatural, making himself the center of the experiment - allowing demonologists, necromancers, and various practitioners of the occult to try the deepest and darkest spells and rituals they can find on him - in the hopes that when they fail, he'll once and for all have proof that religion, spiritualism, and the paranormal are nothing more than myth. But something does happen. An evil and horrifying force has taken over Michael King. And it will not let him go. o Summary provided - Michael King (Shane Johnson) doesn't believe in God or The Devil. Following the sudden death of his wife, the documentary filmmaker decides to make his next film about the search for the existence of the supernatural. Michael decides to make himself the center of the experiment - allowing demonologists, necromancers, and various practitioners of the occult to try the deepest and darkest spells and rituals they can find on him - in the hopes that when they fail, he'll once and for all have proof that religion, spiritualism, and the paranormal are nothing more than myth. But something does happen. An evil and horrifying force has taken over Michael King. And it will not let him go."

Poster: C+

Review: Sure, having someone inside you and poking out would be traumatic, but employing that on a poster design only highlights how frequently the motif has been employed, if not in posters, but in films. That makes this seem like a film that lacks a lick of originality.

Trailer: C

Review: It's nice to see a film about demonic possession tackle a male host for the villainy that is too often forced upon nubile young women, but everything else about the film seems quite old hat. This is the kind of movie that looks so much like others in the genre that no one wanting something different will give it much consideration.

Oscar Prospects:

None.

Revisions:

(August 31, 2014) Original

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Film Preview: The Maze Runner (2014)

Poster


Poster #1

Additional posters can be found below.

Trailer Link

Release Date:

September 19, 2014

Synopsis:

From IMDb: "Thomas is deposited in a community of boys after his memory is erased, soon learning they're all trapped in a maze that will require him to join forces with fellow "runners" for a shot at escape."

Poster: B- / B- / C / C / C+ / B- / C+ / B- / C- (3) / C+ / C

Review: (#1-#2) The two primary designs for the film feature the maze in context. While I like the general tone of the second design better, the first features more compelling overhead visuals of the maze and better sets its young protagonists against the backdrop of the film's premise. (#3) A character poster without matching designs. There may be others out there, but I haven't seen them. The background is present, but largely devoid of perceptible (not visual) depth

(#4-#7) The next four designs take the maze concept and employ it as a motif that ranges from thoroughly and disappointingly simplistic (#4) to fitting, but bland (#5). One is too difficult to read (#7) and the other does some nice conjuring of Hitchcock (#6). (#8) The perilous nature of the maze and the ability of runners to step outside of the maze with success is embodied with the eighth design, which is one of the better ones.

(#9-#11) Here are three character posters with distinctive taglines, but largely indistinct backdrops, making them blend effortlessly together, which in this case isn't a good thing. (#12) Another solid effort sets the maze to towering control over the film's young stars, though it feel too posed and perfected to be of visual value. (#13) The last design takes the running motif and digs into a fit of boredom with it.

Trailer: C

Review: The trailer establishes a palpable mystery tension for the film, but doesn't give adequate emotional connectiveness to the characters. These are almost interchangeable young actors who can't even trade on their physical differences to feel separate. In addition, there are some semi-thrilling moments that ultimately add up to very little.

Oscar Prospects:

None.

Revisions:

(August 31, 2014) Original

Additional Posters



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