Picking Up The Spare: Last Flag Flying, Detroit, Lady Bird

Last Flag Flying

Another interview with director Richard Linklater about his career, the pivot to a story that’s outside of what he usually tells and more.


The movie is returning to theaters in select markets around the time it hits home video and there’s a new trailer for that release that hits some very different emotional and narrative beats than were seen in the original campaign.

Lady Bird

More conversations with writer/director Greta Gerwig about the path she took to making this movie as well as with the costume and production designers about creating the look of the movie.

Costar Beanie Feldstein, who plays the title character’s friend in the film, is getting more and more attention now that it’s in theaters, including this profile and interview. And Tracy Letts, who plays the out-of-work father, talks here about how quickly he was attracted to the script and to working with Gerwig.

Thor: Ragnarok

Director Taika Waititi talks here about how he got the rights to Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” and thank goodness he did considering how well it plays in the trailer.

Jeff Goldblum explains how he got involved in such a grandiose film and how he worked with Waititi to create a colorful and memorable character.

I don’t think I included this late-breaking trailer in my recap but it’s lots of fun, in no small part because of some cool Valkyrie sequences.

Daddy’s Home 2

Will Ferrell made appearances on late night TV, though as usual those were centered more around his antics than the movie itself.

A great piece here on the fact that Mel Gibson has apparently been totally forgiven by Hollywood (and likely audiences) without really doing anything.


Melissa Leo talks more here about how she took on the role of the Reverend Mother with additional comments from writer/director Maggie Betts on the actress and the character she plays.

Murder on the Orient Express

Not that surprisingly, the costume design for the highly-stylized film has finally received some press attention along with the production design.

Kenneth Branagh talks here about how he updated the story a bit to make it a bit more relevant and accessible for the audience.


Lionsgate worked with Jigsaw, part of the Alphabet network of companies, to create a Chrome extension that finds offensive or inflammatory comments and replaces them with messages of kindness. I’m not quite sure I get how that doesn’t cross over into “creepy censorship,” but whatever.

Julia Roberts spoke here about walking the line of sentimentality in the story.

That Facebook Messenger bot I was unsure of a few days ago was what I expected it to be, a platform for people to message the page and receive an inspirational message in return. You can see a video promoting the chatbot, created by imperson, here.

Justice League

Finally, here’s the kind of profile of Gal Gadot that I was hoping to see earlier in the campaign.

Jeremy Irons did a bit of late-night TV to talk about playing Alfred in such a massive production.

Get Out

Jordan Peele has not only responded in his own way to the movie’s categorization as a comedy by the HFPA but also crashed a college course that was discussing the film.

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

Daddy’s Home 2 – Marketing Recap

The first Daddy’s Home a couple years ago was all about two competing views of masculinity. On the one hand, Brad (Will Ferrell) represented a comedically-exaggerated version of the man who was in touch with his feelings. That’s part of what attracted Sara (Linda Cardellini) to him after she divorced the rugged but irresponsible Dusty (Mark Wahlberg). While Dusty and Brad clashed at first, eventually they figured out how to be part of the same family.

With Daddy’s Home 2, they’re doing alright. But the tenuous peace that exists in the extended unit is tested during the holidays with the arrival of Brad’s father (John Lithgow) and Dusty’s (Mel Gibson) as well as the presence of Roger (John Cena), the ex-husband of the woman Dusty has now married. Those new influences are going to reignite old conflicts but probably a lot of learning along the way.

The Posters

The first poster and Dusty and Brad sitting on the couch with their respective dads behind them, Dustry and his dad looking all macho and somewhat amused and dismayed at the obvious display of affection being engaged in by Brad and his father. “More daddies. More problems.” is the copy at the top that’s kind of terrible.

The second poster has both sets of fathers and sons wrapped up together in a string of Christmas lights, the small kids running around them like they’ve done it.

The final theatrical poster uses the same picture of Brad, Dusty and their fathers on and around the couch but pulls the camera back a bit to show the kids arrayed around them as well as Roger and Sara in the background.

The Trailers

We immediately see in the first trailer that Dusty and Brad have worked out their own relationship to keep the kids happy. They’re planning Christmas and it winds up both of their families are coming to visit. We meet Dusty’s dad and see the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. That’s true of Brad’s dad as well. The two grandfathers introduce a new dynamic into the family, but we also see that Brad and Dusty still have issues they’re working through.

OK. Sure. Fine. Whatever.

The second trailer is a bit longer and adds a few additional jokes that hint at continued tension between Brad and Rusty but doesn’t make the movie look any funnier and still shows a tragic underuse of Cardellini.

We skip the pickups at the airport and get straight to the awkwardness of the whole family being together in the final official trailer. While everyone is initially playing nice the tensions quickly rise as Brad and Dusty keep trying to make this co-dad thing work amidst so much chaos, the expectations of their own fathers and other problems.

Oh dear.

Online and Social

When the official website loads you get the theatrical poster on one-third of the page while the other two-thirds are dominated by both a list of local theaters where you can buy tickets and a map to those theaters.

In the content menu at the top the next section is “Videos,” which has both trailers as well as one of the TV spots. “Synopsis” is where you’ll find a brief plot overview as well as the cast and crew lists.

Three production stills don’t make much of a “Gallery,” but that’s next. Finally there’s the “Partners” section with links to the companies that signed on for promotional support.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots like this one started running about a month and a half out from release. That one focuses on the tenuous co-dad relationship Dusty and Brad have worked out, a delicate balance that’s upset when their respective fathers show up for Christmas and bring along their own personalities and issues.

There were also a few promotional partners, including:

  • Alaska Airlines, which ran a sweeps awarding trips to the Paramount Movie Lot for a tour.
  • American Express, though details on what that company did aren’t clear and not easily found.
  • Auntie Anne’s, which ran a sweeps giving away a grand prize of a screening for 50 people at a local theater.
  • Carl’s Jr., which offered movie-branded drink cups in stores. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some major product placement in the movie as well.
  • TipsyElves, which created a few movie-themed ugly Christmas sweaters.

Online ads used the key art and video clips. Videos like the trailers and TV commercials were also used on social media in promoted posts.

Media and Publicity

There were various small conversations with members of the cast, but this feature interview of Ferrell seems to be the core component. In it he talks about working with Wahlberg and more, including the addition of Gibson to the cast. Notably, the secondary stories resulting from that interview in the entertainment press focused on his remarks regarding an unmade sequel to Step Brothers, not this movie itself.

Ferrell’s comments about Gibson try to play up how good he is in comedies and how surprised the audience will be. But Gibson’s inclusion in the cast of a generic family comedy was held up by many as problematic given the actor’s anti-semitic rant a decade ago. His being “rehabilitated” by Hollywood is a sign of white male privilege, that going away for a while allows all to be forgiven in the name of star power. That was problematic back when he was first announced as part of the film but is only more so now, in the wake of the sexual harassment, rape and pedophilia scandals sweeping through the entertainment, media and other industries.


The campaign for the 2015 original wasn’t all that interesting, simply selling 90 minutes of watching Ferrell fall down. Even that, in execution, was hugely disappointing and uninspired. The message for the sequel isn’t all that different or more compelling, showing that the audience can expect a lot of pissing contests as the five men who are core to the story seek to one-up each other in “comedic” ways.

There’s not a whole lot here that’s different than that campaign from a couple years ago. It’s clear that the story is essentially the same, just with a couple elements scribbled in the margins to make it seem fresh, like spices added to fish that’s off but still just barely good enough to serve. If you enjoyed the first movie, you’re promised more of the same. It’s as generic and offensive as possible, all hiding under the label of “comedy.”

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

Grandparents, Holidays and Gender Roles In Two Recent Comedies

You don’t have to be paying super-close attention to notice that two current comedy sequels, one in theaters now and one coming this week, have presented the same basic value proposition to the audience:

Variation on original premise + grandparents + Christmas = hilarity

What occurred to me as I watched the most recent trailer for one of them is that while the overall message is very similar between the two, there’s a big difference in how that formula plays out based on the genders of the leads.

For Women, Family Is Embarrassing But Friends Accepting

In the marketing of A Bad Moms Christmas, we see how Amy (Mila Kunis), Kiki (Kristen Bell) and Carla (Kathryn Hahn) deal with the arrival of their mothers by retreating as a unit. Amy’s mom doesn’t understand why she wouldn’t want to go all out at the holidays, even if it means being miserable herself. Kiki’s mom is clingy and thinks she and her daughter are more peers than anything, smothering her with attention. Carla’s mom is just a wild and irresponsible spirit who she tires of quickly.

So the trailers show how the three friends take off as a group, checking out from the mayhem of the season and avoiding the judgment and passive-aggressive commentary of their mothers. They go drinking and shopping and indulge in a bit of selfish fun. They bond and find strength in a group of supportive friends.

For Men, Family Only Brings Out the Competitive Nature

By the time the first movie ended, Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) and Brad (Will Ferrell) had learned to accept each other in their unusual family situation. That seems to be where Daddy’s Home 2 picks up as they prepare for Christmas as an extended group. Joining them and complicating the situation are both men’s fathers. Brad’s is just as goofy and overly-emotional as he is while Dusty’s dad is another alpha male with chiseled good looks, flawless style and an aura of pure testosterone.

The presence of these two fathers has the effect of rekindling the rivalry between Brad and Dusty. Brad can’t help who he is while Dusty wants to impress his father, dismissing Brad’s more humanistic approach in favor of confrontational solutions to the problem, dismissal of emotions and so on. It’s all dead butch.

Gender Stereotypes Help Sell Movies?

For as much as society has shifted toward a perspective where gender roles are largely unfortunate holdovers from less enlightened times, it seems they’re still welcome and active in the selling of mainstream comedies.

Not only does the arrival of parental figures bring out behavior that’s stereotypical of each gender, but any behavior that runs counter to that is played for laughs. In Moms, Carla’s overt sexualization of the stripper she’s crushing on is meant to be funny because women acting like that is just not normal. In Home, Brad’s more feminine approach to problem-solving and teaching life skills are meant to be mocked because it’s so…girly…not nearly the masculine ideal displayed by Dusty and his father.

All that was considered not only fine but desirable when it came time to put together the pitch to the audience to see both movies. Even if the movies themselves offer slightly different or more nuanced takes (not likely based on all available evidence), that was deemed the strongest marketing approach.

Maybe we haven’t evolved as much as we like to think we have in our thinking. At the very least, there’s a percentage of the audience that’s seen as significant enough that taking these approaches gives the movies a chance at success. The next time you or someone on TV is railing against the liberal elites in Hollywood who are indoctrinating your children, keep these two examples of very conservative, old-fashioned mindsets in mind.

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