Mortal Kombat – Marketing Recap

How Warner Bros. is selling Mortal Kombat.

Outworld. Earthrealm. Netherrealm. Ancient prophecies.

If any of the above ring any sort of bells for you, you’re likely part of the target audience for Mortal Kombat, this week’s adaptation of the popular arcade video game of the same name and a reboot of the film series that ran briefly in the mid-1990s.

Any distillation of the plot will only end in abject confusion and likely more than a few tears, so let me simply share the brief synopsis shared on IMDb: MMA fighter Cole Young seeks out Earth’s greatest champions in order to stand against the enemies of Outworld in a high stakes battle for the universe.

So you get the gist. What Warner Bros. is really selling in the campaign below, though, is an uber-violent fantasy story with fan-favorite characters and the promise of at least one spinal column being removed from a fighter. The lukewarm critical reception to date has earned the movie a 68% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so let’s dive into the marketing and see what’s what.

The Posters

The first teaser image came out in December of last year, showing no characters or anything else, just the recognizable logo and the promise of a release in both theaters and on HBO Max.

Scorpio and Sub-Zero, two of the most popular characters from the games, are featured on the next poster (by marketing agency Concept Arts), released in February. Their two faces are split by a knife in an image that likely became the mobile device lock screen for a great many individuals.

A similar division is made on an IMAX poster that puts the two biggest characters as the most prominent faces on their respective teams. It’s a familiar design, used by many of the biggest recent franchises and is meant to tell audiences that no matter who their preferred fighter is, they’re featured in the film.

The Trailers

A long-running history and cover-up are hinted at in the restricted trailer (3.3 million views on YouTube), released in mid-February and teased ahead of time by a series of short character previews. We learn this because a paramilitary unit has learned of a secret organization – and their tournament – whose members have enhanced abilities and oh who cares what the actual story is. Sub-Zero, Scorpion and other popular characters are all on-screen here, and someone says “Finish him!” so it’s all good albeit very violent.

Shortly thereafter reporting came out it had become the most-viewed red-band trailer in the first 24 hours ever.

A “fan reaction” video showing people enthusiastically freaking out over the first trailer came out about a week after the trailer did.

Online and Social

The movie’s official website has the barest volume of information, with a “Synopsis” and the various trailers along with links to the official social network profiles.

A mobile site allowed people to put an AR-powered version of their favorite character’s mask on their own face.

Advertising, Press and Publicity

A first look at the movie came via EW’s 2021 Movie Preview in January, including comments from the filmmakers and cast along with a handful of photos. Just ahead of the trailer in February an advance look at Sanada as Scorpion was released, with more character photos coming out shortly after that.

Like the rest of WB’s 2021 slate, the movie was among those shifted to a hybrid theatrical/streaming (via HBO Max) release when that announcement was made in November of last year. A January promo showed off a bit of initial footage.

Artwork like this, released in March, shows more of the cast, splitting the characters into teams led by Sub-Zero and Scorpion. That and similar art was used for online ads and likely for outdoor billboards and other units as well.

JoBlo got an exclusive clip at the end of March.

The first TV spot came out about the same time, showing the military unit’s efforts to stop the conflict before it destroys the world. Additional spots hit different aspects of the story and focused on different characters, but all carried the same violent pitch to audiences.

Costar Lewis Tan, who plays Cole Young, an MMA fighter at the center of the story, was interviewed about the evolution of his career from behind-the-scenes to leading man and how he’s working to undo stereotypes of Asian-American actors. The training Tan underwent in preparation for the role was shown in a video from advocacy group GoldHouse.

In early April a “Meet the Kast” featurette was released that had the actors talking about the story, the action and living up to fan expectations with the characters. Another video focused on the combat training the cast underwent to get ready for the film.

The first clip of music from the movie showed off a new techno-remix version of the game’s theme song.

One commercial created for and by Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim programming block featured a “felt-band” trailer mixing movie footage with homemade figures of the characters inflicting one “felt-ality” after another on each other.

Warner Bros. sponsored maker YouTube channel Hacksmith Industries to create a real-life version of Scorpion’s chain attack.

Additional promos included comments from the select critics who were invited to a screening of the movie’s first 13 minutes.

There were additional interviews with costars Ludi Lin (playing Liu Kang) about his career to date and with Joe Taslim (playing Sub-Zero) about his blazingly fast fighting skills.

A premiere event with the stars in attendance was held in Sydney Australia earlier this week.

In the last few days a handful of clips, most of them showing some of the movie’s key fights or action sequences, have been released.

One more featurette from IMAX had the cast and crew sharing how excited they were to see the movie on the biggest possible screen. And Warner Bros. took one more chance to get people excited by releasing the first seven minutes of the film to show more of what people could expect.

Overall

Whatever you think about the individual elements of the campaign, we can likely agree this is the overall message Warner Bros. is sending to the audience and sufficiently summarizes the marketing efforts the studio has put forth.

Come Here Warner Bros GIF by Mortal Kombat Movie - Find & Share on GIPHY

Sponsored Post Learn from the experts: Create a successful blog with our brand new courseThe WordPress.com Blog

Are you new to blogging, and do you want step-by-step guidance on how to publish and grow your blog? Learn more about our new Blogging for Beginners course and get 50% off through December 10th.

WordPress.com is excited to announce our newest offering: a course just for beginning bloggers where you’ll learn everything you need to know about blogging from the most trusted experts in the industry. We have helped millions of blogs get up and running, we know what works, and we want you to to know everything we know. This course provides all the fundamental skills and inspiration you need to get your blog started, an interactive community forum, and content updated annually.

Stowaway – Marketing Recap

How Netflix is selling a movie about a space mission gone unexpectedly wrong.

Stowaway, out this week on Netflix, tells a different type of story about a potential way a mission to Mars can go sideways quickly. Shamier Anderson plays Michael Adams, an engineer that’s part of the team preparing to launch three astronauts (played by Anna Kendrick, Daniel Dae Kim and Toni Collette) on a trip to Mars. After an accident, Adams goes missing from his crew, eventually turning up on the spacecraft after it’s already irrevocably hurtling toward its destination. That creates a major problem in that the ship is only stocked for a three-person crew, meaning they have to decide whether to adjust for the stowaway or make a dark and terrible decision to survive.

Directed by Joe Penna, who also cowrote it with Ryan Morrison, Netflix has given the movie a short campaign that emphasizes the drama of the situation the astronauts find themselves in.

The Posters

It’s important that the poster, released in March, shows Levenson (Kendrick) talking with Adams is important, in that she’s the only member of the crew who feels they shouldn’t kill their unexpected passenger in the name of saving the mission as a whole. The two are seen having a conversation in front of a window showing how far away they are from the world while the tagline explains the story, saying “Millions of miles from home, survival comes with sacrifice.”

A set of posters, each featuring one of the four main characters, came out just days before the film was released.

The Trailers

The first trailer (1.8 million views on YouTube), released toward the end of March, opens by showing how the crew of the ship initially reacts to the discovery Adams is on board and work to assess the situation. They do their best to make him part of the mission to help ease his (understandable) anxiety and fear, but an unexpected problem puts everyone in danger, leading them to take big risks just to survive.

Online and Social

Advertising and Promotions

Netflix announced it had acquired the film in early December.

An exclusive clip was shared with Yahoo showing the moment Adams’ presence on the ship is discovered.

Scott Manley, a physicist and astronomer who consulted on the film, released a video explaining the design of the ship in the movie and more.

Media and Press

A batch of stills that came with comments from most of the primary cast as well as Penna were released last month.

Kendrick and Kim were interviewed about the logistics of filming while wearing bulky spacesuits in confined quarters.

Overall

Movies that ask interesting moral questions of its characters – and by extension its audience – are inherently more interesting to me than ones that just present a dramatic story of some sort. So this campaign has my attention on that front.

But as with many recent Netflix marketing pushes, there’s just not a lot going on here. It would have been great to see another featurette or two in advance of release or more of a presence by the actors on the publicity circuit. But those are missing, so here we are.

Life Lessons From: National Lampoon’s European Vacation

We’ll be pigs!

It’s not likely many people would call National Lampoon’s European Vacation the best of the Vacation series. Despite solid directing by Amy Heckerling and an all-time great recurring cameo from Eric Idle, the movie was too high concept, trying to horn in a subplot involving international money laundering or something on the story of the Griswalds taking a family vacation around Europe.

Despite this, the movie does have some important life lessons to impart. So, inspired by an HBO Max compilation of travel tips from the film, here are a few of those lessons.

Hey look kids, there’s Big Ben, and there’s Parliament… again.

IFC GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

For when you keep asking your coworker for clarification but keep getting the same extremely unhelpful response.

Those bells haven’t rung in years.

Chevy Chase Dancing GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

For when there’s no way you can explain what’s about to happen but know it’s going to be bad.

Rusty, you don’t want to look like a rooster do you?

For when you are just incredibly confident in how you present yourself to the world and want others to feel likewise.

Clark, why don’t we just forget the “Pig-in-a-Poke” itinerary, and just play it by ear, like normal people?

For when you can no longer manage to operate within the confines of so-called “society” and must break free from all the constraints imposed on you at all costs.

Release Date Shuffle Shows Streaming Confidence

It’s all about what cards you’re holding.

The state of the theatrical feature film release seems rosier than it has in a good long while following two of the strongest weekends of the pandemic era thanks to Godzilla Vs. Kong. The gross domestic box-office for that movie is now $69.5 million, an impressive total, especially given the film is also available on HBO Max. Adding to that success is that downloads of the HBO Max app hit an all-time high in advance of its release.

It’s a validation, at least for the time being, of WarnerMedia’s 2021 strategy of day-and-date distribution to both theaters and streaming. Things will go back to relative normal in 2022, when big releases will head to theaters exclusively for at least 45 days before becoming available to streaming subscribers.

WarnerMedia’s strategy was uber-controversial several months ago but now seems common, so much so that it wasn’t surprising when Disney announced Black Widow would do likewise on Disney+ but via its Premier Access payment tier.

Some studios aren’t feeling quite as sure about things, though. Just recently Paramount announced a handful of release date changes, notably moving Top Gun: Maverick out to November from July. That has been seen as a sign the studio can’t afford to have a Tom Cruise blockbuster be anything but just that. (Though the shifting of Snake Eyes from October back to July then would say the opposite, right?)

Tom Cruise GIF by Top Gun - Find & Share on GIPHY

The difference in approaches – continuing to play the release date shuffle versus coming up with a streaming/theatrical hybrid model – indicates how good the respective studios are feeling about their streaming positioning.

Reading the tea leaves above, it would seem that:

  • Paramount doesn’t yet think the newly-rebranded and relaunched Paramount+ is a suitable outlet for new releases. That’s understandable given it doesn’t have the market penetration of some of the other players. Still, the studio announced in February that a number of upcoming films will be available there 45 days after theatrical release, so it’s getting there.
  • NBCUniversal doesn’t have a dog in this fight. Peacock is an entirely adequate streaming service, but if there’s a strategy it’s unclear what it might be. And it certainly doesn’t seem to be factoring into conversations about new releases or anything else.
  • Sony knows it hasn’t even anted up. That’s why it just signed a deal that replaced Starz with Netflix as the studio’s first post-theatrical streaming outlet.

Warner and Disney are out in front of this pack, pushing new models and doing what makes the most sense given all the craziness of the last year while also working to build something sustainable for the future. That confidence is borne, to likely a great extent, by the strength of their brand, something the other studios are still struggling with.

Thunder Force – Marketing Recap

How Netflix has sold a new super-powered comedy.

The world of Thunder Force, out this week on Netflix, is one that is already filled with super-powered bad guys the police force is unqualified to fight. That’s why Emily Stanton (Octavia Spencer) uses the resources of the biotech company she owns to develop a serum that gives people powers to take on the villains. When her estranged best friend Lydia (Melissa McCarthy) accidentally takes that serum, the pair decide to team up to fight crime, becoming Thunder Force.

Netflix has been selling the movie in exactly the way you’d expect, highlighting the comedic pairing of Spencer and McCarthy and the outrageous super-powered situations they find themselves in.

The Posters

Lydia and Emily strike heroic poses on the poster (by marketing agency The Refinery), which came out in early March. But the two are seen to have slightly different attitudes, exemplified by how Lydia’s wearing a few sponsor buttons on her uniform. The “New super. Nearly heroes.” copy makes it clear that while they might have powers they still have some work to do on using them.

The Trailers

Lydia and Emily are, we see in the first trailer (2.6 million views on YouTube) from early March, friends that have drifted apart, with Emily becoming super-successful and Lydia less so. When Lydia takes the super power-granting formula Emily’s been working on she gets powers, only to find Emily has already done so. The two decide to go become a pair of crime fighters, but the bad guys up their game as well, with hilarity ensuing.

Online and Social

No website and only a little bit of support, it seems, from Netflix on its brand social media channels.

Advertising and Promotions

The first footage came in January, part of Netflix’s announcement of its ambitious 2021 feature film slate. A pair of first look stills came out in early March, just ahead of the first trailer.

Thunder Force GIF by NETFLIX - Find & Share on GIPHY

Two clips came out late last month, one showing Lydia foiling a robbery and the other showing her throwing a bus, both extended looks at scenes glimpsed in the trailer.

Media and Press

Most of the press included interviews with both Spencer and McCarthy together, including an appearance on “Kimmel” where they talked about being super heroes and how the genesis of the movie is wanting to mess with costar Jason Bateman.

Writer/director Ben Falcone also made the rounds a bit, talking about using the tropes of super hero movies to comedic effect and working with McCarthy and Spencer on the film.

Overall

This is the same campaign that’s been run for a number of McCarthy’s other movies, but that’s alright since it seems to work just about every time. That is to say, each works on an equal level and makes roughly the same pitch to the audience and has about the same result. McCarthy is a known quantity and this campaign, like those before it, reinforces that message.

The major difference here is the addition of Spencer, who’s a great partner for the comedy. Whether or not all of that makes this a funny sendup of the ubiquitous super hero movie remains to be seen, but if you enjoy McCarthy and her frequent collaborations with husband Falcone, this should be in your interest area.

Thunder Force GIF by NETFLIX - Find & Share on GIPHY

Concrete Cowboy – Marketing Recap

How Netflix has sold Idris Elba on a horse.

Based on the novel “Ghetto Cowboy,” the new movie Concrete Cowboy stars Idris Elba as Harp, one of a number of individuals in Philadelphia who patrol the streets of the neighborhood on horseback. They do so in an attempt to maintain a connection to a simpler time and culture, knowing full well they are out of step with other parts of society. Harp’s estranged teenage son Cole (Caleb McLaughlin) comes to live with him, opening up tensions both old and new as the father tries to teach his son a few things while the son holds on to old problems and baggage.

Directed by Ricky Staub, the movie arrives on Netflix this week after a small-scale campaign from the streamer. It currently has a decent 78% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, so let’s see how it’s been sold to the public.

The Posters

Just one poster, released in early March, but it’s a pretty good one. Harp looms in the background of the collage-esque design, with other elements conveying Cole’s role in the story as well as the urban setting and more. It’s not the flashiest design, but it communicates a solid sense of what audiences can expect.

The Trailers

The first trailer (638k views on YouTube) finally came out in mid-March, opening with Cole clearly not on the same page as Harp. We see Cole exposed to the world Harp lives in and the rules and legends that go with it, a process that isn’t always easy or comfortable. The two eventually come to an understanding, but only just as the way of life Harp and others have long embraced becomes threatened with extinction.

Online and Social

Nothing here, but the movie did get some support from Netflix on its brand social channels.

Advertising and Promotions

A short clip was released around the time the movie was debuting at the Toronto International Film Festival. It was also slated for screening at the Telluride Film Festival. Netflix acquired the film in October.

In early March Netflix finally gave it an April release date.

Media and Press

Staub and Elba were both interviewed during TIFF about the road the project has taken to date and what they hope for in the future. Another conversation with the cast and crew included comments on the story, working together and more.

Overall

The movie came out of Toronto early last year with some very strong word of mouth, especially for Elba’s performance. But that was a year ago, and a lot has happened since then.

So it’s a little surprising to see that while the trailer and poster are both pretty strong, they add up to the majority of the film’s campaign. Very little seems to have been done to build on that festival buzz, and Elba’s press activity has been minimal. It would have been nice to see some more promo spots or other elements that allow Elba to be his charming self as well as allow McLaughlin to come to the spotlight.

Godzilla vs. Kong – Marketing Recap

How Warner Bros. has sold a showdown that has nothing to do with justice dawning.

Hollywood is, if nothing else, certainly an interesting place. Take, for example, this week’s Godzilla vs. Kong, which has a couple things going on.

First, this is the fourth and latest film in Warner Bros.’ MonsterVerse franchise, which started in 2014 with Godzilla, continued in 2017 with Kong: Skull Island and most recently was seen in 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters. It’s notable, though, that GvK was greenlit all the way back in 2015 and moved into production, before Skull Island was released, with the assumption the series would be enormously successful and each installment highly anticipated.

In reality each installment has experienced diminishing returns from the one prior, at least domestically in the U.S. Godzilla’s $200.7m box office has fallen to a mere $110.5 for King of the Monsters. But a ship of this size isn’t easy to stop (though it might get stuck), so we’re just going to keep going because the international box office is still fairly strong.

Angry Mad As Hell GIF by HBO Max - Find & Share on GIPHY

Second, the movie is being viewed as the latest test of whether the U.S. audience is ready to return to theaters. Originally scheduled for November 2020, it comes this week to both HBO Max and over 90% of U.S. screens, the highest number available since many closed a year ago. While estimates for opening weekend are relatively paltry at less than $30 million, that would still be the most of any film since the Covid-19 pandemic shut most everything down.

So we find ourselves with the two monsters – known in-universe as “Titans” – finally coming face to face. The reasons why aren’t necessarily important, as the title does double duty as a synopsis of the story, such as it is. Kyle Chandler and Millie Bobby Brown return from King of the Monsters, joined this time by Alexander Skarsgård, Rebecca Hall, Kaylee Hottle, Bryan Tyree Henry and others, who will be offering exposition and acting as scale references so we know just how massive the two Titans are.

Warner Bros.’ campaign for the movie, helmed by mumblehorror director and noted fetish porn blogger Adam Wingard, is…well…it’s exactly what you might assume it is given the premise.

The Posters

The first poster (by marketing agency BOND), came out in January, immediately establishing the campaign’s red and blue color palette while showing Kong standing among the skyscrapers while Kong’s dorsal plates can be seen poking above the ocean surface as he advances toward that same skyline.

Godzilla has made landfall on the second poster (by marketing agency Concept Arts), released toward the end of February, as we see him walking through the city toward Kong.

Another poster from early March has the two Titans facing off like boxers, with a design seemingly inspired by Vegas promotional art, their faces close together and seen within the transparent letters of “Vs.”

We get different perspectives on two posters (by agency Little Giant Studios) that came out just a short while later. One shows Kong from Godzilla’s point of view and the other shows Godzilla from Kong’s, each one again emphasizing their massive size as compared to the buildings they’re walking between and through.

One more theatrical poster hit the red/blue Kong/Godzilla clash one more time, with the two shown to be so tall their heads poke above the clouds.

Exhibitor-specific artwork included one-sheets for IMAX, which has the two monsters falling into one another like this is a 90’s erotic thriller from Paul Verhoven, RealD 3D, which offers a variation on the previous imagery of the Titans lunging at each other, and Dolby, which is a bit more original in showing Kong climbing a skyscraper above the cartoonishly round world below.

The Trailers

A series of teasers were released on social media in advance of the first trailer, which was finally released at the end of January. As it begins, someone is talking about how much humanity needs Kong, who is being transported across the ocean. The threat, it turns out, is Godzilla, but no one knows why he’s attacking. Amid all the subsequent fighting it’s revealed this may not be the first time the two – and others like them – have faced off.

A second, shorter trailer came out in mid-February. Whatever story there was in the first spot, it’s excised in this one as it cuts straight to the action as Kong and Godzilla punch each other and rampage through cities, destroying countless buildings as they do so.

Online and Social

There’s not much on the movie’s official website, but you will find a few trailers as well as details on how to watch the film in the way of your choosing, assuming you either subscribe to HBO Max or live near one of the theaters it’s playing at.

AR lenses for Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook allowed people to put themselves in the middle of the showdown between the two titans.

I have to hand it to the WB team on Twitter, which seemingly had the latitude to share fan memes and other fun content via the official account. That’s made scrolling through the account’s updates a lot more interesting as it is less about amplifying only adoration and praise and more about reflecting how the internet really reacts to things. A similar attitude can be found the movie’s official Giphy channel, which has not only straight GIFs but also a bunch of goofier, meme versions.

Youre Too Cute King Kong GIF by Godzilla vs. Kong - Find & Share on GIPHY

They even shared an image from a *very* current meme and got onto the NFT bandwagon with exclusive artwork available there.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

While the movie was initially scheduled to open in early 2020, less than a year after King of the Monsters, that title’s lackluster performance at the box office had Warner Bros. pushing this one back to later in the year to tighten things up and perhaps even do some more drastic reworking. Despite that delay, the movie was among those included in the studio’s CineEurope presentation to exhibitors in June of 2109. Another delay moved it from March to November 2020 before the Covid-19 pandemic pushed it even farther out to May, 2021.

Rumors last December that Legendary was shopping the film to Netflix or other streaming services came and went but were followed by WB’s official announcement that it like the rest of their 2021 slate would be released to both theaters and HBO Max. Legendary was none too thrilled, threatening some sort of action.

One of the first, albeit very brief, looks at the movie came via an HBO Max promo touting the same day theatrical/streaming availability of WB’s 2021 lineup.

The release date was later moved up to March, 2021.

Short promo spots were released online in the build up to the movie’s debut.

Warner Bros. signed a deal with exhibition company CineWorld that would make this movie the first to play in CineWorld’s reopening Regal Cinemas.

Featurettes released in the lead-up to release included one that had the cast and crew introducing the idea of #TeamKong vs. #TeamGodzilla and talking about the scale of the action. That match-up was extended to social media, where people were asked to choose sides. Later on a map of the U.S. was shared showing how the majority of people in each state had voted.

More TV spots started coming out just in the last couple weeks and, like this one, largely played like cut-down versions of the trailers, working to set up the conflict. Longer spots went a bit more in-depth, but still focused on the big action of the story.

An IMAX-specific spot was pretty short but got the point across that people should see this huge movie on a huge screen. RealD 3D got a similar promo. For its part, Dolby shared a handful of interviews with the cast talking about the story and their characters.

Promotional partners for the movie included:

  • Snickers, which released a spot tying into the Kong vs. Godzilla fan voting.
  • Roblox, which hosted a movie-themed event in the popular virtual world where players could unlock exclusive rewards.

Legendary also announced a handful of publishing tie-ins just a bit before the movie came out.

Warner Bros. sponsored a TikTok challenge that involved a number of influencers on that platform.

A handful of longer featurettes, originally released on home video editions of the previous movies, were published by WB to YouTube over the last several weeks as a way of making sure the audience was familiar with what had come before. Those included:

Landscape artwork acted as both online ads and likely were used for outdoor ads also.

Media and Publicity

Bichir was interviewed about the movie, saying he enjoys the freedom to take different kinds of parts in movies of various sizes.

An interview with Wingard had the director talking about creating the massive monster battles and more of the action that everyone hopes fans are looking for. Another had him sharing the kinds of showdowns he envisioned and how he wanted to pattern the action after some of his favorite ‘80s action movies.

Overall

There’s a great deal that’s very good about the campaign, even when you overlook how it’s supporting a movie that, based on the shrinking box-office returns for the previous films, may not have a huge audience pool to pull from. It has a very nice visual brand that’s consistent from start to finish and it sells a simple message over and over again, counting on repetition being key to both engagement and interest.

When it comes down to it, that simple message is best summed up in a single GIF that, despite the lack of hyperbole or any other pitch, shows exactly what Warner Bros. hopes the audience will either come out to theaters for or use their parents’ HBO Max login to watch.

Fight Punch GIF by Godzilla vs. Kong - Find & Share on GIPHY

French Exit – Marketing Recap

How Sony Pictures Classics has sold a movie about falling from the 1 percent.

“Schitt’s Creek” became a TV sensation for a number of reasons, including its heartwarming story of a family that finds itself suddenly losing its fortune and having to do without in new surroundings. French Exit, now out nationwide after a limited release in mid-February, covers similar ground but in a slightly different setting.

Michelle Pfieffer stars as Frances Price, a Manhattan socialite who has led a comfortable lifestyle thanks to the sizable inheritance from her late husband Franklin (Tracy Letts). When she finds that the money she’s counted on has been almost completely exhausted, she decides to move from New York to Paris with her son Malcolm (Lucas Hedges). The two try to make a new life there in an apartment borrowed from a friend, with new acquaintances, experiences and more coming along the way.

The studio’s campaign has focused on Pfeiffer (never a bad idea) and sold a family drama about finding a new way after what’s familiar disappears.

The Posters

Frances and Malcolm – as well as their cat that may or may not be the reincarnation of the late Franklin – are shown on the one and only poster, released in December. The two/three are sitting in the back of a town car, but what they’re doing there is unclear as there’s no other context given, including a lack of copy or tagline. Instead most of the poster’s real estate is devoted to pull quotes from positive reviews, largely coming out of festivals and other screenings, to help make the case to the audience.

The Trailers

Frances is being informed, as the first trailer (861k views on YouTube) from early December opens, that the money she inherited and has been living on has run out. When a friend offers her an empty apartment in Paris she takes her grown adult son with her and moves across the ocean. That offers Frances plenty of new opportunities to create uncomfortable situations, be rude (either intentionally or unintentionally) to new acquaintances and otherwise continue on with her odd and unusual life.

Online and Social

The movie’s official website has the basic marketing materials, including trailers and a synopsis, but it’s mostly about selling tickets. Sony Classics’ page for the film has that as well as a gallery of stills.

Advertising and Promotions

Sony Pictures Classics acquired the film in September of 2019. About a year later, in August 2020, it was announced the movie would close the New York Film Festival, which was going to be structured differently because of the Covid-19 pandemic. That NYFF screening was followed by a number of positive reviews, especially for Pfeiffer’s performance.

The first official clip, released in early February, shows the moment Frances finds out she’s broke.

Commercials like this were used online as well as presumably as TV spots.

Media and Press

An interview with Pfieffer and Hess had them talking about getting involved with the film, how they worked with Jacobs and more during NYFF. Pfieffer again talked about being given the opportunity to get weird in her performance.

A later interview with Pfieffer had her talking about how she approached playing her character and working with Hedges. Similar ground was covered in another conversation that also reflected on her place among Hollywood royalty.

Pfieffer talked about shooting the film in France when she appeared on “Kimmel” in January and about her trepidation in taking on the role when she appeared on “Late Night.” Hedges later appeared on “Kimmel” as well.

She and Hedges were interviewed jointly about working together and shooting in Paris and Pfieffer spoke about her career in general and how this film fits into that here.

Overall

Two important points come to me when reviewing the campaign from top to bottom.

First, It’s surprising in some regards that the marketing effectively ended (save for a few additional social media updates from SPC) in mid-February, when the movie’s limited release began. That leaves a long time for people to think about other movies, but given how the press has been dominated by bigger releases, the studio may have been banking on all the oxygen in the room being taken up. And it doesn’t seem it’s making a big awards push, or there would have been more.

Second, this feels like another step in the revitalization of Pfeiffer, a process that began a few years ago with mother!. And I for one am here for it.

Michelle Pfeiffer Mother Movie GIF by mother! - Find & Share on GIPHY

Random Thoughts on Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Let the airing of grievances commence.

Well, it’s here, and it’s been long enough that most people who wanted to have likely already watched Zack Snyder’s Justice League, the official title for The Film Previously Known As The Snyder Cut.

As such, it’s time to finally share my random thoughts after watching the…film?…just to put it out there for discussion. So, in no particular order:

About the Movie Itself

This is exactly what I would have expected from a movie fans demanded. It plays like a collection of scenes the members of a message board wrote, with no cohesive material making them into a whole.

It’s easy to see most of what’s new compared to the theatrical version, but at no point is there an answer as to “why” things are different.

The one improvement over the theatrical version is Cyborg’s story actually has some sort of point, but even that is sketchy. Still, it’s better than it was.

It once more needs to be noted, especially since we just watched Wonder Woman 1984, how different the Amazons are clothed in this movie compared to Patty Jenkins’ films. The latter look like warriors, the former like the worst stereotype of female video game characters.

While Henry Cavill’s face in the theatrical cut was certainly disturbing, at least it gave us a Superman that occasionally smiled, something completely missing from Snyder’s previous movies.

The Martian Manhunter bits make zero sense.

The Martian Manhunter ending makes less than zero sense.

The Martian Manhunter bits mean Henry Lennix’s previous appearances as General Swanwick make zero sense. Zero.

Mera: “Your mother would have been responsible for following Steppenwolf to the surface, Arthur, but also let’s sit here and have a leisurely conversation about the burden of parental legacy while you stick your hand in the water like a four year old at a shopping mall fountain.”

Can anyone explain to me what the point of all those random supporting character introductions was? I mean, great, that’s Iris West, but it doesn’t go any further. Same with Mera. And Lois Lane. Oh, hey, I think I’m figuring out a connection.

At one point someone is asking Dr. Stone about an item that has gone missing from a high-security lab with multiple government contracts dealing with items of alien origin. Stone says “Oh yeah, we just kind of lost track of that.” and the investigator shrugs and moves on like this wouldn’t bring the entire operation to an immediate halt.

Steppenwolf and Darkseid are idiots. The former came to Earth, lost the Mother Boxes to a bunch of Atlanteans and Amazons in the Battle of Helm’s Deep and retreated. Then he comes back looking for the Mother Boxes and fights a bunch of Atlanteans and Amazons. When he calls Darkseid he’s like “Hey, I think this is the same place we lost that big battle eons ago…”

On a related note, Darkseid’s inclusion in this cut was a major selling point in the campaign and something folks were super-anxious about. But he’s barely in it, and the one moment that seems as if it might turn into a confrontation with the heroes instead becomes a staring contest.

Does every scene actually require a six-minute establishing shot?

Sure, taking out the Russian family that needs to escape from the battleground is an improvement, it also means there’s no context to the fight, but that’s par for the course.

I’m actually a bit surprised some of the jokes remained, assuming they had been Whedon’s contributions.

How much more objectivist nihilism could you fit into a single movie? None. None more.

The chapter titles are insulting and ludicrous, mostly because they imply the existence of an actual story, which is inaccurate.

Oh, you fridged Lois in the Knightmare epilogue in order to make Superman even more of an angry worldwide terror who apparently is hunting down his former friends and teammates? How original.

Four hours, $70 million dollars and not only are there

  • Scenes in the trailer that didn’t make the final version, including one that seemed to be the main point of one spot in particular, but also
  • Snyder’s already out there complaining about the rules WB put in place regarding what could or couldn’t be included and what additional scenes he shot despite those rules knowing they would be cut. So now there’s even more gristle for conspiracy-minded individuals to chew on.

About the Movement That Birthed It

Of course it took less than a week for “fans” to demand that Snyder now be restored as the captain of the DCEU. Even Neville Chamberlain would have known this appeasement wouldn’t work.

Along those same lines, I’m completely unsurprised by the renewal of the #RestoreTheAyerCut movement, seeking to restore some version of Suicide Squad that might be better than what hit theaters.

A black and white version? Who was asking for that?

If you’re wondering what this means for the future of film, it’s simple: Anything less than exactly what has dominated the fever dreams of angry trolls will not be tolerated. We’ve already seen that in various ways.

“Just let people enjoy things” only seems to be said regarding massive international IP releases and not about movies like Small Axe, Promising Young Woman or others.

It’s remarkable we got through the movie’s entire hype cycle without revisiting Ezra Miller’s filmed assault of a fan from 2020.

It’s Not Crime, It’s a Hustle

Gotta get paid, son, no matter who gets hurt.

John Mahoney gives an unmistakably great performance in Say Anything… even if the character he plays is someone the audience is ultimately asked to condemn. He may still evoke some amount of sympathy or empathy, but he pleads guilty to what in 1989 seemed like a horrible crime: Stealing from the elderly individuals he claimed to be caring for. While his motivations may have been something approaching honorable – wanting to provide the best for his daughter – they didn’t justify the actions he took in their service.

It’s hard, at least for many people like myself, to not think about that movie while watching Netflix’s recent I Care A Lot. Rosamund Pike plays Marla Grayson, a woman who has made a career of being appointed by family court judges as guardian to senior citizens she and a network of healthcare associates target in order to raid their estates. Grayson is running roughly the same scam James Court was 30+ years ago, but with more overt accomplices and in a way that’s almost impossible to revoke should a relative of one of her marks challenge the court order.

Stick The Landing Or GTFO

Aside from Pike’s blonde bob haircut, the thing that’s been noted most frequently about the film is that the story casts little to no judgement on Grayson’s actions. She’s not held accountable by the legal system she’s manipulated, there’s no justice as we would expect if her character were being investigated on an episode of “Law & Order”. Whether or not she falls victim to a more raw form of justice is vague thanks to some creative editing, but it seems as if she makes it away unscathed.

Criticism that Grayson didn’t face legal consequences for her immorality seemed to be based on the belief that stories need to be wrapped up nicely at the end and offer the audience a sense of ethical and moral closure. We want to make sure that societal norms are being upheld and communicated.

The lack of such consequences didn’t bother me much, but then again I’m the guy who feels the best ending to a modern movie can be found in No Country For Old Men, so it’s possible I’m a sociopath on this front. Others are currently debating whether or not the ending of “WandaVision” was both satisfying and legitimate, as if art can only be judged to be worthy if the final half hour lived up to expectations.

No Country For Old Men Film GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Why this movie in particular struck such a chord was perplexing to me until I read one of the essays in Jia Tolentino’s 2019 book Trick Mirror. In it she talks (and I’m paraphrasing *very* loosely here) about how over the last 20-odd years people have come to believe that everything is legitimate if it’s done in the pursuit of that all-alluring bling. All of life is a scam, the only way to make a living is to engage in some sort of hustle 24 hours a day etc.

They Believe In Nothing…

Such a worldview is disconcertingly nihilist, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t representative of reality to some extent. In an era where getting a full-time job with healthcare and a 401(k) is a pipe dream for many while becoming a TikTok influencer seems much more realistic and attainable, if it makes you a buck it’s condoned.

Moving Pictures Sleeping GIF by Tech Noir - Find & Share on GIPHY

Why should Grayson be held responsible for stealing from senior citizens, then? In fact, why should her doing so be viewed as a crime – or even something to disapprove of – at all? She’s found an angle and is working it, so let’s not judge her. Life is a zero-sum game, so anything I don’t actively work to take is something I don’t have and you might, so you’ll excuse me if I throw under this oncoming bus before you do the same to me.

That same attitude can be found in the real estate office location of Glengarry Glen Ross, where the salesmen engage in tactics they know to be unethical if not illegal because “only one thing matters; get them to sign on the line that is dotted.”

Even then, the story at least made an effort to present the actions of those men as wrong. They are somewhat conflicted about what they’re doing, even if they choose to put their moral compass in the drawer in order to keep the job they need.

Whether or not I Care A Lot writer/director J Blakeson wanted to portray an “anything goes in pursuit of a buck” ethos or simply wasn’t interested in showing how Grayson might get some form of comeuppance is unclear. That choice, whichever way it went, certainly shows how our artistic conscience has adapted over the last 30 years, from one where bad people by necessity must pay for their crimes to one where bad people are simply making different choices for their own reasons and it’s not our place to judge.