When I reviewed the marketing campaign for The LEGO Ninjago Movie I thought the whole effort was relatively harmless, a decent, if half-hearted, attempt to both cash in on the popularity of the toy line that inspired it and sell more of those playsets. There was nothing particularly interesting or motivational about the campaign, it was just…alright.

The movie is focused on Lloyd (voiced by Dave Franco), a member of an elite squad of ninjas who protect Ninjago City from Lord Garmadon (voiced by Justin Theroux), the warlord bent on conquering the city for reasons that don’t extend far beyond “because.” Complicating matters is the fact that Lloyd is Garmadon’s son, something that’s widely known, but because Lloyd’s identity as the Green Ninja is a secret, no one draws the connection between attacker and defender. Things happen and eventually everyone learns a valuable life lesson.

Most of the main story beats were laid out in the marketing, which emphasized the humor that audiences had come to expect from the previous two LEGO feature films. We got the relationship between Lloyd and his father as well as the general personalities of the other members of the ninja team. In fact all those characters formed a big chunk of the marketing, with several series of posters released that featured almost all the characters in the movie.

There are a few things that were in the campaign that aren’t in the final movie, including a major story beat involving Lloyd and his dad. And the framing device of the story isn’t hinted it at all, with the focus firmly kept on the LEGO action and not the way the story is being told, which continues the blending of the real-world and the animated adventures.

The biggest aspect of the movie that was true to the campaign which sold it is that it’s just not necessary. There’s nothing new being told here, nothing unique. Perhaps that’s why this movie hasn’t lived up to the box-office standards set by The LEGO Movie or The LEGO Batman Movie. It’s funny and certainly entertains, particularly if you’re with a younger person who’s more in the target demographic. But it’s just…there. It passes right through within 10 minutes, leaving nothing behind.

The LEGO Ninjago Movie isn’t bad. It’s well made and relatively entertaining. But if you haven’t already seen it, go in with low expectations. There are some decent laughs but by the time you get to the car you’ll have forgotten much of it due to a lackluster story that forgets what message it’s trying to send three or four times over the course of script.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Director Todd Haynes brings us this week’s new release Wonderstruck. Based on the book of the same name by Brian Selznick, the story is split into two parts that share a common core.

In 1977 Ben (Oakes Fegley) has been in an accident and is now deaf, all this coming shortly after his mother Elaine died. He’s set out to New York City to find the father he never knew. Meanwhile in 1927 Rose (newcomer Millicent Simmonds), who was born deaf, has run away from the father who keeps her hidden away in shame. She’s also going to New York, in this case to find the actress Lillian Mayhew (Julianne Moore), who she idolizes. Both stories are connected in unexpected ways that appear as the story continues.

The Posters

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see” is the copy at the top of the first one-sheet. The rest of it is a photo from the inside of the natural history museum where much of the action and story seemingly take place, with a dinosaur skeleton on one side, a stuffed giraffe on the other rand a massive walk-in area filled with smaller items in the center. I know it’s bad, but I can’t help thinking this looks like a more serious-minded version of Night at the Museum.

A poster was given out at San Diego Comic-Con (with the same image made available online later on) that presents the story in coloring page form. So the main characters are seen walking down a New York City street, with animals from the museum arranged all around them.

Elements of that version were used in the theatrical poster, which had the two children walking down opposite sides of the street, showing the time period their story takes place in. Meanwhile, the animals and creatures hover in the background.

The Trailers

The teaser trailer starts off by showing us the scenes of the two children from the two eras we’re following and what sort of adventures they get up to in the museum where the story takes place. There’s some sort of connection that’s very mysterious and which is hinted at as we get various small character moments. It’s a good teaser that certainly sets up lots more to come.

We finally find out more about Ben in the first full trailer. It opens as he’s asking his mom about the father he never knew. He has an accident and can’t hear and that seems to send him down the path that winds up intersecting with Rose across the decades. Both are, in their own way, trying to solve mysteries that eventually lead them to the same museum.

There’s a great sense of childlike innocence that’s on display here. The kids never seem to be, at least not based on what’s seen here, in any real danger. It’s just about being where adults think you shouldn’t and having to make your way on your own. Looks great.

What was notable was that a captioned version of the trailer featuring an introduction by Simmonds was released at the same time, a nice touch that acknowledges the hearing impaired audience and recognition of the fact that Simmonds herself is deaf.

Online and Social

On the main page of the official website you’re greeted with full-screen video that;s pulled from the trailer. There’s a prompt to get tickets, a critic quote praising the movie and release dates all on that page.

If you open the menu in the upper left you can visit “Novel,” which has more information on the source book as well as “Videos,” which has both the trailers and a clip. That’s also where you’ll find links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.

Back to the home page, there’s the option to switch between 1977 and 1927. Each one changes the footage that’s shown on the splash page as well as the information and photos that are available as you scroll down the page. That’s a nice way of continuing the split nature of the story to the web and set audience expectations.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

It doesn’t appear Amazon/Roadside did any TV advertising, but there was plenty online. Key art and clips were used in online ads and the trailer was used in promoted Twitter posts to drive interest and ticket sales.

Media and Publicity

The movie was one of a handful that had its premiere at this year’s Cannes International Film Festival. Just before that a first-look photo was released featuring Moore.

The first official marketing effort came just before the movie debuted at Cannes and took the form of an extended clip showing Ben and another boy chasing each other around a museum intercut with black-and-white scenes from the same museum, this time from years in the past and featuring Rose examining the exhibits. While at Cannes, Haynes and the rest of the cast spoke frequently about making the movie, the unique story structure and, Amazon’s support of cinema and filmmakers more. That screening resulted in plenty of positive buzz for the film.

Haynes also talked about how he intends this as a “Kids’ movie” and how he worked with the child actors that make up a good chunk of the film. Moore also talked about Simmonds in particular, praising her performance.

The movie’s profile was raised when it was announced as the “Centerpiece” selection of the New York Film Festival. EW shared a profile of Simmonds in its fall movie preview issue where Haynes also commented about the magnetic presence of the young actor and more.

While Moore was interviewed occasionally, including this joint piece with Simmonds where they talked about learning new languages and how that impacted filming, the majority of the press was actually done by Haynes. He talked about how he wanted to make an intelligent kids movie, not one that played to the lowest common denominator, how this fits in with his other work, what it was like to work with child actors so prominently and how critical the film’s score is to the story.

Overall

The campaign works hard to create and maintain that sense of childhood wonder we feel when we’re exploring and on our own, that magical sensation that feels the awe of being in the presence of something greater than ourselves but also the curiosity to explore it and learn more about it. Emotionally, that’s what the studios are going for and that’s reflected in the way the teaser trailer, in particular, is framed as well as how the movie is sold on the posters. We’re looking up at the world from a child’s point of view, which sometimes is too sure of itself to be more careful.

More concretely, the focus on both Simmonds as the breakout star and on Haynes shows where the studios have identified the strongest appeals to be. These tactics speak more to film fans than the general audience, who are meant to be pulled in with the emotional approach above. Film fans are going to be drawn in by the promise of a truly unique performance by a young actor and by the promise that this is another in a long line of outstanding films from the director, particularly in the wake of Carol a couple years ago.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Rebecca Keegan has a smart piece up at Vanity Fair where she walks through some of the ways Hollywood is still dealing with the #OscarsSoWhite controversy that erupted a few years ago. She covers how a slate of films could lead to a much more diverse list of nominees this year and how changing demographics are forcing studios to make adjustments in their campaign tactics.

I can’t help but view that in light of the recent news AMPAS was meeting in part to decide what constituted a “real” movie that qualified for awards consideration. With Amazon winning more accolades for its original or acquired films and Netflix becoming a distribution powerhouse, attracting major talent, AMPAS wants to make sure not just any film can compete on the Oscars level with those from a major studio. The issue is one of distribution playing a key role in the definition, which is a mindset that’s soon (if it isn’t already) going to horribly outdated.

Providing a new focus are comments made by Mudbound director Dee Rees, who said those major studios seemed skeptical, if not afraid, of the movie, which deals with racial issues in the Jim Crow-dominated world of post-WWII Mississippi. It’s not the first time Rees has talked about how tentative studios were to tackle the material for a number of reasons, including the current political climate, the recent box-office failure of The Birth of A Nation and more.

Put that all together and you arrive at the following conclusion:

Distribution will play a key role in on-screen representation

It’s not just that Netflix, Amazon and others are playing the same role the wave of indie studios in the early 1990s did by opening up opportunities to filmmakers who would have otherwise been cut off. It’s that by doing so they’re also opening up more opportunities to a more inclusive and diverse group of voices. Because these distributors aren’t reliant on selling tickets at locations that are only available to a select group (often well-off white people), they can offer a platform to more non-white, non-male stars, writers and directors who can find an audience not dependent on location.

While AMPAS works to decide if movies financed or acquired by streaming platforms are “legitimate” enough or if such status is only for those films released primarily to theaters, its members need to consider how new distribution platforms play a role in defining diversity both onscreen and behind the scenes.

Not every Netflix or Amazon original film deserves an Academy Award. But neither does every film released in theaters. By using distribution as a criteria, though, it would go too far. Innovations in distribution are not only creating the technological future but they have the potential to create a social future as well, with bigger audiences exposed to stories involving and made people who look and think like them. On the other hand, it brings movies that would have slipped past people because they’re *not* meant to speak to them to their attention, allowing them to enjoy a new point of view. That’s sorely needed on many fronts.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

After winning widespread acclaim for The Lobster two years ago, writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos is back with The Killing of a Sacred Deer. The movie reteams him with star Colin Farrell, who here plays Dr. Steven Murphy, a successful surgeon who leads a comfortable, respectable and luxurious life with his wife Anna (Nicole Kidman) and their two teenage children.

Steven has, unbeknownst to most everyone, taken a teenage boy named Martin (Barry Keoghan) under his wing. That turns out to be a poor decision as Martin’s behavior becomes increasingly erratic and dangerous. Not only does he threaten to expose a secret of Steven’s from long in the past but he also makes it clear he’s a danger to the whole family.

The Posters

Farrell stands alone in an absurdly tall hospital room on the first poster, facing two empty beds as if pondering the people who are no longer in them. There’s no other copy aside from the title and credits and nothing to provide additional story context, so it’s just about selling a unique look and feel here.

The second poster features an upside down image of Martin, a photo of Steven and Anna appearing inside the outline of Martin’s picture. That’s meant to convey how the two parties have become intertwined, the fact that Martin’s photo is upside down adding to the sense of disorientation in the audience.

The Trailers

There’s no clear story in the first trailer, instead it’s more focused on setting up some sort of medical mystery and family drama. Somehow a young girl winds up not able to move and that has an impact on the rest of her family as well as the surgeon who has handled her case. What else is happening isn’t apparent, other than that there will be both psychological and physical torture going on.

A second short trailer has Martin coming to the house of Anna and the rest of the family. Martin makes cryptic, threatening comments to Steven about his family and how they’re all going to get sick and die. There’s a connection between the two that’s not great and which is going to have an impact on everyone around Steven and Anna.

Online and Social

There isn’t a whole lot going on at A24’s official website for the movie. There’s a prompt to play the trailer and one to get tickets. Toward the bottom are links to the movie’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter profiles.

The primary feature is “Doctor What’s Wrong With Me?” That takes you to a stand-alone website that lets you diagnose what might be wrong with you by pointing and clicking on different parts of an anatomy. All the answers, of course, are more emotional and mental than physical. There’s also a test you can take that seems designed to test your empathy and attitude toward the harsh realities of life.

It’s very similar to the site launched in conjunction with The Lobster, which was designed to see what animal you should be when you fail to find a mate.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing on this front that I’ve been exposed to. There may have been some ads in the real world and online that were targeted at the movie’s initial release markets, but I’m not aware of them.

Media and Publicity

The movie was one of the handful that had its premiere at this year’s Cannes International Film Festival. It was later also added to the Fantastic Fest schedule.

The movie was one of a few Kidman appeared in at the festival, leading to a narrative in the press about the actress’s resurgence and her work ethic. Later on Silverstone talked about how she got involved with the film and what it was like shooting with Farrell.

This marking their second collaboration, there was a joint interview with Farrell and Lanthimos where they talked about how they began working together, what they enjoy about the process and lots more.

Overall

Anyone who wasn’t already a fan of Lanthimos’ previous work, including those who first discovered him through 2015’s The Lobster, isn’t going to find a lot to latch onto with this campaign. There’s no, or little, sense of the story or character offered anywhere in the marketing that A24 has offered for this new movie. Anyone who saw the trailer in front of something more mainstream likely came away confused and uninterested. It’s inaccessible, providing no easy jumping on point for the uninitiated.

For those a bit savvier and already in tune with what the filmmaker is doing, though, it offers a wealth of good stuff. The efforts shows the visual richness of Lanthimos’ style and the complex moral territory his stories frequently tread into. The publicity push hasn’t been all that substantial, but that’s a small criticism for an overall campaign that’s consistent from one element to the next and knows just what will bring in the kind of audience it’s hoping to find.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

I have a special affinity for the department store concept. Or at least I did, before I embraced the idea of not buying unnecessary items (either out of choice or lack of financial resources) and the big-box stores removed all the personality out of the idea of multiple categories of goods under one roof.

That’s largely because I was raised in a Montgomery Ward family. That’s not the exclusive place we shopped, but it is where a significant portion of my family worked. My maternal grandmother worked at the national parts center in Berkeley, IL for a long while, with her daughter, my mother, following her there. Separately, my father worked in the same building (it’s where the two met) and would bounce between that location and the corporate headquarters in Chicago, just across the street from the original warehouse, for 30+ years, right up to the point the company went out of business.

So it’s in that spirit that we turn our attention today to National Department Store Day. The day is meant to recognize the innovations the department store idea has spawned and the conveniences it has brought to consumers. Between Wards, Sears and J.C. Penney, Chicago is responsible for much of that innovation as the three stores took the products that sold well in their catalogs and began making them available in a single location for shoppers to browse through.

To help celebrate, let’s look at the trailers for five movies that are set in department stores or, in a few cases, the shopping malls traditionally anchored by those larger stores.

The Big Store

The story involves the planned sale of The Phelps Department Store and the crooked manager who fears the sale will expose his financial irregularities. Fearing for the life of her nephew, the co-owner (Margaret Dumont) hires Wolf J. Flywheel (Groucho Marx) as a bodyguard, with the other two Marx Brothers joining the festivities as plot moves forward.

This was the last movie the Marx Brothers would make for MGM and the trailer starts out with the announcement that they are retiring from the feature film business. Finally the story starts and we see Miss Phelps hiring Flywheel, followed by some of the madcap hijinks he and the others get into. Then it’s the romance that comes to the forefront as Tommy (Tony Martin) woes Joan (Virginia Grey) with a lovely piano number. There are some shots of the counters and departments that make up the store but it doesn’t get at the real scope of the location or include some of the best gags that take advantage of the breadth of products available, most all of which are put to comedic use.

Mallrats

Writer/director Kevin Smith’s 1995 sophomore film expanded the scope of his storytelling from a single store to a whole collection of stores under one roof. TS (Jeremy London) is depressed after Brandi (Claire Forlani) dumps him. Likewise TS’s best friend Brodie (Jason Lee) is angry after being dropped by Rene (Shannon Doherty). So the two decide to waste their day at the local mall, where they try to woo back their respective girls, sometimes with the aid of Jay and Silent Bob, who take a much more comedic turn here than they did in Clerks.

The trailer starts off with the romantic troubles being faced by the guys, particularly Brodie. After that it’s off to the mall, where we see the two getting into all kinds of trouble and engaging in all kinds of pranks that show their total lack of maturity and respect for authority. The locations available in the mall are used to decent effect, but mostly it’s focused on selling the characters. Unfortunately there’s no real arc that’s on display here, it’s just a super-cut of randomness from throughout the movie pulled together for the purpose of selling laughs.

Who’s Minding the Store?

The late Jerry Lewis stars as Norman Whiffer, who worked works in Tuttle Department Store despite being not the brightest bulb in the box. Norman is engaged to Barbara (Jill St. John), the daughter or the owner of the store (Agnes Moorehead), who feels Norman is beneath Barbara. To try and break them up she has Quimby (Ray Watlston), the manager, give Norman a series of difficult jobs in the hopes he’ll fail and Barbara will come to her senses.

As the trailer starts we meet the various characters, including the outrageous physical comedy of Lewis. We see him plowing through the different departments, doing different jobs and getting himself into – and out of – one difficult situation after another. There’s a bit about the romance between Norman and Barbara but not much. Instead it’s focused on using as much of the store as possible, including the items available in it, as a backdrop and props for Lewis to engage in his antics around and with.

Mannequin

Jonathan (Andrew McCarthy) is a frustrated artist who takes a job designing mannequins. One night as he passes a local department store he sees one of his projects and realizes it’s just about perfect. Through a series of circumstances he winds up working in that store, where one night the mannequin comes to life (played by Kim Cattrall), eventually revealing she’s the spirt of an Egyptian princess who went missing millennia ago. The two begin a very unusual romance that’s complicated by various plot contrivances until the final happily-ever-after ending.

Jonathan’s rough career path is shown as the trailer opens but we quickly get to the point that Emmy has come to life, though she reverts back to mannequin form if anyone else shows up. The main point here is to sell a fluffy romantic comedy with lots of opportunity for awkwardness and misunderstanding. Jonathan and Emmy take full advantage of being locked in a department store to try on all the clothing, use the furniture available and more.

Career Opportunities

Worlds collide as Jim (Frank Whaley) takes a job as the overnight janitor at a local Target, the same place where Josie (Jennifer Connelly), the daughter of one of the town’s most respected families, hides out to avoid her parents. Stuck together in the store for the entire night, the two start off avoiding each other but eventually a romance is established.

CAREER OPPORTUNITIES, Jennifer Connelly, Frank Whaley, 1991, (c)Universal Pictures

We see Jim’s penchant for overstatement as the trailer opens, but the main initial point is to present it as the latest movie from John Hughes. He eventually takes the job at Target, where he meets Josie while stuck in the store overnight. The two have a bit of fun while they’re there but the fun is interrupted when a pair of burglars break in to rob the place. In addition to Hughes’ involvement, the main point of the trailer is to show off Connelly as the ideal woman, something which wasn’t hard.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

mother!

  • There’s finally a feature profile of Michelle Pfieffer that includes this movie as one of a few recent or upcoming projects marking a return to regular work for one of the great actors of her generation.

The Florida Project

  • Now that it’s in theaters I’m seeing a lot more online advertising for the movie that uses the key art to drive ticket sales.

War For The Planet Of The Apes

  • TV spots like this one have highlighted the drama and tension in the story as the movie comes to home video.

Baby Driver

  • Kevin Spacey’s inspirational speech about being brazen and bold with a bank robbery scheme is used in a TV spot promoting the digital home video release of the movie, which is nice because it basically describes the movie as well.

The Emoji Movie

  • A commercial promoting the movie’s home video release has a Halloween theme, framing it as a “spook-tacular” good time. A bit of a stretch, but what are you going to do?

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

  • Disney World and Disneyland were both announced as the home for Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire, a “hyper-reality” experience set during the time of the early Rebellion, allowing park visitors to strap on gear and work with K-2SO to complete a mission. You can view the trailer here.

Annapurna Pictures is hoping to capitalize on a hot cultural moment with this week’s release of Professor Marston and the Wonder Women. The movie follows William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans), a psychologist in the early 1940s, as he takes the ideas he’s researched and championed around women’s sexual strength and freedom, as well as his earlier invention of the lie detector, to create the superhero known as Wonder Woman.

Those ideas are not only expressed in comic form, albeit under a pseudonym, but put into practice. While he’s married to Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall) the relationship is an open one. He introduces a fascinating young student named Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote) into the mix, the three of them forming a tight supportive unit that allows for the pushing of all sorts of boundaries.

The Posters

Three character posters featured all three of the main cast against a bright background, the two women holding a very familiar looking lasso, with Olive also sporting a Wonder Woman-esque costume. “Ever wonder?” is the question posed on all three posters. There doesn’t appear to have been a final “theatrical” poster released, with the version showing Olive in costume used as the primary one-sheet.

The Trailers

The first thing was a brief teaser that had voiceovers talking about secret identities and the reasons someone is writing something. All that as a woman steps out from the light and we see she’s dressed in a fancy getup that closely resembles some aspects of Wonder Woman’s costume.

Immediately as the trailer opens we meet Marston and find out he’s writing Wonder Woman under an assumed name, though a board of some sort is questioning his motivations for doing so. Marston becomes fascinated with a female student of his and they begin a relationship of some sort, one that eventually extends to include his wife. That review board takes issue with the content of the comics he’s writing and we find out he’s trying to understand the women in his life.

It’s not bad, showing the twisted and unexpected relationships that form between Marston, his wife and the student. And we certainly get that this is happening as he’s writing and setting out the early years of Wonder Woman. There’s talk of bondage and sadomasochism, all of which have been well-discussed topics integral to the character’s development.

A later trailer wasn’t all that much different, just with some new shading around the edges. The basic premise is that same, that Marston’s ideas for bringing his ideas about women’s empowerment aren’t making him any friends and are even viewed with skepticism by his wife. There are a few new scenes but the basic message is the same and it’s presented much more dramatically.

One final trailer offered much of the same footage but framed it like a cross between a comic book and Pop Up Video, with various secrets and facts about the characters and story being shared along the bottom of the screen. There was also a spot that took some of the footage and presented it in art form, coming off like a motion comic.

Online and Social

There’s not much happening on the movie’s official website. The official trailer appears in the middle of the front page, surrounded by the smoldering flames of comic books being burned, seemingly in protest. There are links along the side of the video player to buy tickets as well as to the movie’s Twitter, Instagram and Facebook profiles. Finally, if you click the flame icon, the video player disappears and you see that yes, indeed, someone is burning Wonder Woman comics.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Promoted posts were published on Twitter and Facebook that used short clips pulled from the trailers, selling the basic outline of the story and promising audiences “The year of Wonder Woman continues.” That’s a more overt attempt to ride the coattails of the earlier movie than had been made to date.

Online ads used the key art, particularly the shot of Heathcote wearing the very Wonder Woman-esque costume and holding a lasso, as well as shots of all three leads to drive ticket sales.

Media and Publicity

While the movie didn’t have a big push at San Diego Comic-Con, it was there that director Angela Robinson talked about how she discovered the story of the Marstons and what it was that attracted her to it. The movie was announced as one of those that would screen at the Toronto International Film Festival, a screening that resulted in pretty positive word-of-mouth and initial reviews.

Robinson spoke in an interview in EW’s fall movie preview about how this was really a love story the movie was sharing, albeit an unconventional one.

Writer/director Robinson talked about her own history as a Wonder Woman fan and the surprises that accompanied her research into the real lives of Marston and the women who helped define the character he created. She also addressed, while at Toronto, the advantageous timing of release, coming so soon after the very-successful Wonder Woman. That timing, she said, was purely coincidental because of the long time this project has been gestating and waiting to be approved.

All three main cast members did the press rounds, showing up on late night and early morning talk shows sometimes on their own and sometimes as a trio.

Hall and Evans were interviewed along with Robinson about the delicacy with which they had to film a particularly racy sex scene with Heathcote. A profile of Heathcote allowed her to offer her own thoughts on the “courageous” nature of the sex-positive story being shared in the movie. And Robinson kept talking about how surprising the untold story of Marston was and what motivated her to share it with the world.

Overall

As everyone, including myself, has pointed out, the studio here wants to make hay while the sun shines, hoping to capitalize off the tremendous popularity and goodwill of Wonder Woman earlier this year. Some aspects of the campaign do so explicitly while others are more implicit and subtle. Whatever the actual execution the audience is asked to apply a halo effect to this new release on account of the character’s resurgence into the spotlight of popular culture.

While that’s been the aim of the marketing campaign, the publicity efforts have been more focused on the constant reminders that Marston’s background and the events leading to the creation of Wonder Woman aren’t widely known. There’s also been a strong emphasis on the sex-positive nature of that backstory, with those condemning Marston’s relationships and worldviews clearly positioned as impediments to his progressive cause.

All that adds up to a campaign that’s trying to sell a relationship drama, though one with superhero trappings. It succeeds on that front, particularly when taken as a whole. If you’ve just been exposed to part of the effort your perspective may be different.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

One of several biopics recounting the lives of famous authors, this week sees the release of Goodbye Christopher Robin. As you might guess from the title, the story focuses on A.A. Milne and his creation of Winnie The Pooh and the rest of the inhabitants of the 100-Acre Wood and the adventures they take part in.

Domhnall Gleeson plays Milne, who’s recently returned from serving his country in the military during World War I. No longer content to be entertaining in his work, he strives to inspire peace and love. Escaping London with his wife Daphne (Margot Robbie) and son Christopher Robin (Will Tilston), Milne is inspired by Christopher’s affection for a stuffed bear and the imagination he displays. Eventually the success of Winnie the Pooh turns the whole family into celebrities, willingly or not.

The Posters

The first poster is made to look like a storybook as it shows A.A. and his son Christopher walking hand-in-hand through the woods, Christopher’s other hand clutching his beloved teddy bear. The woods are illustrated just as they are in the stories Milne would write. No additional copy here, surprisingly.

The Trailers

Christopher is saying his prayers alongside Olive as the first trailer opens. The focus then shifts to A.A., who’s being introduced as a bright upcoming writer before the stage lights give him flashbacks to the horrors he experienced in WWI. He’s in need of a change to figure out what he wants to do that could really impact the world. So he moves his family to a small village and, thanks to Christopher’s innocent inspiration, begins to get the ideas that would eventually become his best-known work. Through all of this A.A. tries to balance his work and family duties.

It’s a nicely touching trailer that shows us we’re going to get the story behind the story we all know. It uses the juxtaposition of walks in the woods with his son and his experiences in the war to decent dramatic effect. In the end it might come off a bit schmaltzy, but it seems its heart is in the right place.

Online and Social

The domestic U.S. trailer plays when you load Fox Searchlight’s official website for the movie. Close that and you get a version of the key art showing all three members of the Milne family alongside some four-star reviews from various publications. At the bottom is a prompt to watch the trailer and to the social profiles for Fox Searchlight, while the Twitter and Facebook feeds set up for this specific movie don’t appear to be listed anywhere on the site.

“Cast” gets things started at the top of the page, allowing you to select each person’s name and taking you to a page with a picture of them and a quote about how they reacted to the script and story. “Filmmakers” does the same thing for director Simon Curtis.

There’s a short synopsis in the “Story” section. “Photos” has about 10 production stills and “Videos” just has the one trailer.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The first TV spot gets into the motivations that drove Milne, particularly his desire to write something uplifting for both the world and his son, but strips away the elements seen in the trailer that shows the family dealing with sudden and unexpected fame.

Media and Publicity

Gleeson was interviewed for Entertainment Weekly’s fall movie preview issue about how he got the part, how he prepared for it and other related topics. Gleeson was, according to this interview, apprehensive about the part due to the sensitive nature of the story and the real-life character he plays. This interview with Gleeson also nodded to how he’s basically in half the movies hitting theaters this fall.

The star also appeared on TV to talk about the movie and share jokes with the hosts, but the conversation also included plenty of diversions into talk of Star Wars. Robbie joined him in some appearances as well. Kelly Macdonald, who plays the nanny who cares for Christopher while his parents are busy, also did the rounds with various interviews.

There was also a feature interview that focused on both actors who play Christopher Robin – Tilston and Alex Lawther, who plays him as a teenager – and allowed them to talk about their different approaches to the character.

Overall

As I mentioned in the opening, this is one more entry in this fall’s “Behind the Story: True Author Stories” movie trend. By focusing on the inspiration Christopher Robin provided, the campaign hopes to move beyond selling it as a straight biopic, something that has decidedly mixed results. Instead, the goal is to present it as a kind of childhood fantasy, albeit one that also involves the trauma of a former soldier and frustrated writer.

In all, the campaign presents a consistent brand identity, with repeated use of the soft pastels and muted browns that are shown on the poster, the website and elsewhere. It’s all meant to be very serene and peaceful, attitudes that are in keeping with the book Milne wound up writing. It’s also slightly evocative of the editions of Winnie The Pooh that have graced bookstore shelves for years.

It’s not clear how much of the movie’s running time will be devoted to flashbacks to Milne’s experiences in the war, but their inclusion makes me wonder who the target audience here is. Adults are more likely to find interest in the story of how PTSD inspires someone to create something pure and good, but those scenes may be a bit intense for kids who are more interested in the fantasy world on display. At least the campaign doesn’t emphasize one or the other, setting at least one potential audience pool up for disappointment.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Dustin Hoffman is the family patriarch Harold Meyerowitz in The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), the new movie from writer/director Noah Baumbach. Harold is a well-known New York City artist whose career is being celebrated at an upcoming event.

That brings together Harold’s grown children Jean (Elizabeth Marvel), Danny (Adam Sandler) and Matthew (Ben Stiller). Each has their own issues, some of which they trace back to being rooted in their father’s upbringing and the imposing shadow he cast over their lives. As usual, such gatherings are mixed with emotion and chaos as everyone deals with whatever baggage they’re carrying.

The Posters

The primary poster Netflix created shows Harold in two separate pictures, each accompanied by just one of his boys. He’s walking with Danny in the one at the top and with Matthew in the one below the title. That conveys at least a little about the story we’ll be watching, but the overall vibe is similar to that of an indie drama from Miramax circa 1994.

Three more posters were released, each showing Harold with a different character. In one he’s sitting at dinner with Maureen while the other two are just expanded versions of the photos shown on the primary one-sheet.

The Trailers

The first trailer establishes this as an ensemble dramatic comedy, focused on Danny playing piano and having a laugh with his dad. Around that are short other clips from the film showing the rest of the family and including a number of quotes from critics who saw early screenings. It’s clear this is a loving but dysfunctional family we’re watching, though.

The second trailer is much more focused on the story. Matthew is trying (unsuccessfully) to impress his dad while the two are out for a meal. Then we hear Danny talking about how he never really spent time with his dad when he was a kid. Those two scenes establish the family dynamic, along with someone’s surprise that Harold has two sons. Other hijinks, hilarity and family pathos follow as we find out more about how all these characters relate to each other.

The idea here is to sell the movie as family comedy/drama, that much is clear. But it never actually digs into what it is that has everyone coming together or what the motivating plot elements are. So we see characters and get a sense of their actions, but we don’t know why they’re doing what they’re doing. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just obviously the approach Netflix is taking in selling the movie.

Online and Social

No web presence here, as usual for Netflix. Some support was offered on brand social media channels but no distinct profiles were created for the movie.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

There were a few paid social posts around the time the trailer premiered but that’s about it unless there are loads of banner ads across the web I haven’t seen.

Media and Publicity

The first real news about the movie came when it was announced it had been picked up by Netflix. The movie was one of the handful that had its premiere at this year’s Cannes International Film Festival. Prior to that Hoffman and Baumbach interviewed each other at the Tribeca Film Festival about the genesis of the project, how they worked together and more.

A short time later some first-look stills were released. While at Cannes Baumbach talked about how he made the movie for the big screen but also loved working with Netflix to help get the movie out there. And Sandler, whose performance was praised by many as his best in a long, long time, talked about the pressure of working on a picture like this and his desire to not let anyone down. Later on it was announced as one of the films that would screen at the New York Film Festival.

The part Stiller plays was, according to this story, written by Baumbach specifically for him after working with the actor on two previous films. The actor and director talked there about their senses of humor and more as well. Baumbach kept talking about the inspiration behind the story, the family dynamic he was hoping to capture and more.

Shortly before release Netflix announced it would give the movie a limited, awards-qualifying theatrical run in select cities.

Hoffman and Baumbach talked jointly about how the director, through Sandler and Stiller, persuaded the actor to finally join the production, the comedy found in the relationships portrayed in the story and more.

Overall

We’re no stranger to stories of the privileged but angsty lives of New York creatives. That’s been the basis for countless movies, a trend I’ve called out as problematic a few times in the past. So the movie being sold here doesn’t appear to be breaking any new ground on that front and is easy to dismiss by anyone who’d like to see a bit more racial and socioeconomic representation on screen.

So how does the campaign try to work around that sizable roadblock?

First, it focuses much of its attention on Sandler, who is turning in a much more dramatic performance than he usually does here. Sandler often appears to be sleepwalking through the comedies he makes, putting the minimum viable effort into the work and sometimes even appearing to be annoyed he has to be there in the first place.

Second, it keeps reinforcing the connection all the characters have to Hoffman’s Harold. Everything is centered there, both the backstory and the current story. While I still feel some motivation would have been nice to offer in the campaign, the fact that we’re constantly reminded of how everyone is relating to their father and his influence is a smart move.

Add in appeals to fans of Baumbach’s previous work and you have a decent campaign that’s surprisingly full-throated for a Netflix original release.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Jackie Chan stars in this week’s new release The Foreigner from director Martin Campbell. In the movie, he plays Quan, a London businessman whose daughter is killed in an act of random political terrorism. He begins to believe one official in particular, Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), may have answers because of his former ties to terrorist organizations.

Hennessy is less than helpful, though, frustrating Quan’s efforts further. Convinced he’s right, Quan begins following Hennessy and his assistants. When those bodyguards and others turn violent in their efforts to dissuade Quan from further action, they find that he’s far from the aging, grieving father he appears to be and is more than capable of bringing the fight to them.

The Posters

The poster declares at the top that it comes “From the director of Casino Royale” as a way to solidify its action bonafides. Other than that it’s just Chan standing on a city street looking dispassionately at the aftermath of some sort of mayhem, including a sidewalk that’s on fire and rubble that’s strewn about. “Never push a good man too far” is the very vague and generic copy that’s shared.

The Trailers

You can tell from how much the dad loves his daughter as the trailer opens that we’re in for a bit of violence and emotional manipulation. Soon Quan is at the desk of Mr. Hennessy asking for the names of the bombers, mostly because he believes Hennessy at least knows who they might be and at worst thinks he was involved. So begins a quest for revenge that involves going after those suspected of involvement on his own, taking out henchmen left and right with his fists or his improvised gadgets, meant to show how dangerous he really is.

This looks pretty by the numbers, almost like a remake of that Arnold Schwarzenegger movie that had a similar “man seeking revenge for the death of his family” movie that came out last year. The biggest draw for what otherwise seems like staid material is that it comes from director Martin Campbell.

The next trailer again opens with Quan’s little girl dying in a bomb explosion and being frustrated in his attempts to get answers. So he takes matters into his own hands and goes after those he believes responsible. It’s pretty similar to the first one, just with a few tweaks here and there, so the value proposition to the audience remains unchanged.

Online and Social

Full-screen video of clips pulled from the trailer greet you as you load the official site. Not only is it featured on the front page, along with a “Get Tickets” button, a prompt to watch the trailer and links to the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds, but it will be persistent throughout the rest of the site as well.

“Videos” has both trailers, a couple of the TV commercials and a few clips and featurettes that focus on the stunt work, which isn’t surprising. There are about a half-dozen stills in the “Photos” gallery. Finally, “About” has a short Story synopsis and a Cast & Crew list.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots like this one cut to the chase quickly, showing the bombing that sets the revenge-minded events in action and the threat he poses to those he’s deemed responsible. A lot more TV advertising was done, particularly in the month prior to release, with spots that varied from selling the emotion to selling the all-out action. They were all variations on a theme, though, most hitting the same general beats and story points.

Media and Publicity

Chan did some press for the movie, including appearances on late night talk shows, as did Brosnan. There was also a major feature profile of Chan that focused on his inability to rest, the fact that he’s still doing his own stunts at age 63 and more. That’s about it, with most of the rest of the press coverage coming from the release of clips or other marketing materials.

Overall

I’ll be honest, when I saw the first trailer I was inclined to pass on including a recap of this campaign here. It seemed light and inconsequential, the kind of unironic action movie that would have turned heads in 1987 but which now seems out of touch. I wasn’t that interested in watching Chan try to hold on a bit longer to this action credentials while involved in a story we’ve seen a number of times from other aging former action stars.

But then it just kept going and I kept checking it out, more interested in it than I was the last time. Eventually I came around to thinking that yes, this may be a slightly tired plot and no, I don’t really need to see what’s being sold here, but it’s being sold well. I’m sure there’s an audience out there who is going to want to revisit Chan’s stunt abilities, and his performance has scored pretty good reviews for its depth and emotion. So while it may seem like the kind of movie that in eight months we’ll all legitimately forget ever happened, it’s been presented with a workable campaign that has taken a good approach to reaching a target audience.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.