Picking Up the Spare: A Wrinkle In Time, Thoroughbreads, and More

A Wrinkle In Time

Great stuff here about how Ava DuVernay immediately sought to make the lead of the story someone who looked different than the usual fantasy film lead, found star Storm Reid and was trying to be more optimistic and hopeful with the story.

Reid gets her own profile based on her breakout performance.

Some of the movie’s posters out in the real, physical world have been part of a test by Facebook of a new augmented reality experience based on trackers. In this case those add effects like those seen in the movie to the poster.


The fake movie campaign is apparently being seen as a big boost for Australia’s tourism industry over the next few years, which was exactly the point.


Considering how large a role the house where the action takes place seems to have played in the story it’s only nature that it get a high-end profile of its own.

There’s also a new interview with writer/director Cory Finley.


Writer/director Darren Aronofsky made the subtext of the divisive film the text in a keynote address at SXSW, laying out exactly what he was going for, apparently hoping it will get people to revisit or rethink their initial opinions.

The Death of Stalin

How do you create satire in an era where satire is being outpaced by reality three times a day? Armando Iannucci covers that and other issues in this interview about the movie.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Interesting perspective here on whether or not the film holds up a decade later, including how it seems to fit in surprisingly well (in most regards) with today’s cultural climate of female empowerment and men needing to embrace and express their emotions.

Black Panther

One analyst thinks that, as massive a hit as the movie currently is, Disney could have actually done better if it had made it available day-and-date on a proprietary streaming service. Interesting idea, not sure if I completely agree.

Tomb Raider

I totally missed this CNET interview with Alicia Vikander that’s actually much more substantive than most of the other press she did, allowing her to talk about the roots of the character, how the actress was happy there were no guns involved in the action and more.

Oh look, the internet is still a terrible place as “fans” of the game series criticize Vikander for not having an artificially-sexualized body type. What jackweeds.

The source code on the movie’s website may have revealed the release date of a new video game, which it totally was.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

A new profile of breakout star Kelly Marie Tran talks not only about her role in that movie but also what’s next for the actress and how she views the industry as a whole.

I Can Only Imagine

While I didn’t cover the marketing for the movie (it just fell by the wayside), there are a couple stories at IndieWire and The L.A. Times that are worth reading in how Roadside Attractions engaged in some new tactics to try and reach a faith-based audience that’s become more selective about what movies it supports.

Love, Simon

A nice profile here of co-star Natasha Rothwell, who plays one of Simon’s teachers in the movie. And another with director Greg Berlanti where he once more talked about the central themes of the movie’s story plus one more where he discussed his requests regarding the marketing of the movie.Also, new interviews with author Becky Albertalli and costar Keiynan Lonsdale,


A new interview with star Zoey Deutch has her talking about how she took the role in part because it offered the kind of nuanced, morally ambiguous character women are offered too infrequently.

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

Picking Up the Spare: Marshall, Suburbicon, Thor


The movie continues to win praise from those who know Thurgood Marshall for how accurate it is to the man and the events it depicts.


George Clooney continues to talk about how he took a languishing Coen Brothers script and tried to make it a bit more relevant.

Thor: Ragnarok

Another profile here of Tessa Thompson, who’s continuing to enjoy a breakout into the mainstream even though that moment really should have happened last year with her performance in Creed.


The resurgence of Michelle Pfieffer continues to be a focus of the press both in the wake of her performance in this movie and her upcoming appearances.

Lady Bird

More from Greta Gerwig here about how early her directorial aspirations began.

Laurie Metcalf and Tracy Letts, who play the parents of the title character, talk about their history in the theater and working together on this film here.

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

Picking Up The Spare: mother!, War For The Planet of the Apes, Rogue One


  • 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.

My Core Problem With the Marketing of mother!

There was a problem with the marketing campaign for mother! that never really coalesced in my mind until I saw a new poster. The one-sheet uses a half-disfigured photo of star Jennifer Lawrence surrounded by, on one half, quotes praising the movie and on the other quotes calling it “insane,” “grotesque” and more.

The new poster elicited strong criticism, both for its use of an apparently abused woman as a selling point and for the approach of hiding the face of one of Hollywood’s most beautiful and bankable actresses.

That last point is what finally brought a concern to the forefront of my thoughts, specifically, the disconnect between the marketing and publicity portions of the movie’s campaign.

The official marketing of the movie – the trailers and posters – borrowed elements from the horror genre to sell it as a psychological thriller with mysterious characters, no sense of story and lots of jump-scares. If you are going by the marketing alone, you would come away with the sense that this is an unconventional and terrifying drama from a director known for disturbing imagery and a penchant for making the audience uncomfortable.

The publicity, though, featured Lawrence being her usual self-effacing and charming self. She was funny and dressed to the nines, joking with Fallon and the like. If you were going by this public effort alone, you’d get the sense that yeah, it’s a bit more serious than The Hunger Games, but it’s J-Law and so we know generally what to expect.

Those contradictory tones seem, now, predisposed to create confusion, disappointment, and anger in the audience. Anyone who hadn’t been following film festival coverage and who went to opening weekend likely came out of the theater and warned all of their friends away from it, telling them this confusing, disturbing and not worth their time.

The problem faced by studios like Paramount, which made the questionable decision to open mother! wide from the start, is that release patterns like that are dependent on reaching the general population who aren’t tracking buzz and reviews from festivals and elsewhere. That necessitates mainstream exposure like an interview on Fallon and other shows where the star was likely instructed to keep it light and tell funny anecdotes about the set, not getting bogged down in discussions of religious symbolism and other weighty topics.

Those tactics inherently create expectations which, in cases like this, are out of sync with the actual movie being sold. It’s a no-win situation: You need the audience to justify the release plan, so you go broad in the sales pitch, even if the product has at best niche appeal.

Don’t get bogged down in discussions of whether or not mother! was sold as a horror movie or not and what effect that might have had. Instead, focus on the conflict in approach between the owned and earned media efforts as a key component of audience confusion and dissatisfaction.

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

Picking Up the Spare: The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Brad’s Status, mother!

The LEGO Ninjago Movie

  • More elements were added to the set of posters that looked like they were based on ancient Japanese artwork and made into a single banner showing off the characters and action.

Brad’s Status

  • While I didn’t see any paid efforts from Amazon Studios in advance of release I’ve now come across a couple paid Facebook ads that praise Stiller’s performance and encourage people to buy tickets.


  • As I pointed out the other day, Paramount is running at least one new TV ad that embraces the reputation the movie has built up as “difficult” and is trying to turn that into a strong reason to see the film, encouraging people to see for themselves what everyone else is up in arms over.
  • Another postmortem includes insights on how Aronofsky dictated the marketing, how it was mis-sold as a horror movie and more.

Paramount’s Allowed to Innovate, but Expectations Should Be Checked

Paramount’s marketing head wags his finger at audiences, saying if they keep claiming to be so eager for new and innovative filmmaking they would have turned out for this movie.

I don’t think that’s quite the point that was made by mother!’s disappointing $7.5 million box-office last weekend. Megan Colligan, the Paramount exec quoted in that story particularly calls out those who said the movie was too difficult and off-putting for audiences. Some even took Paramount to task for distributing the movie. Netflix is praised, she says, so why is Paramount held to a different standard?

That’s legitimate point, but it needs to be answered in context.

Netflix releases difficult films to be sure. There’s nothing “standard” or easily-accessible about movies like Okja and others. But the marketing is subsequently scaled around the understanding by all involved that this isn’t going to be for everyone. There’s rarely a substantial press push, there often isn’t a poster and there’s almost never a website or other online effort. The company understands the audience will be niche at best and so runs appropriately-sized campaigns.

Compare that to Paramount’s push for mother!, which had Jennifer Lawrence out on her usual charm offensive, extensive commenting from director Darren Aronofsky, a slew of posters, substantial online and other advertising and more. The expectations were set that this would be a movie that certainly connected with audiences, even if that was smaller in size.

The interesting thing is that Paramount is seeming to embrace the extreme reactions to the movie, running new TV ads like this one that play up the divisive nature of the film and make that a selling point. It’s trying to draw in more people by using the movie’s inaccessiblety as a selling point, not a wedge to drive audiences away.

It’s good to point out the occasional double standard in what’s deemed “appropriate” for one distributor over another. Let’s have that conversation. But the scale of the movies being discussed, particularly the apparent expectations of the marketing to support those movies, needs to be scaled appropriately.

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

Picking Up The Spare: IT, Home Again, mother!


  • My latest post at Adweek dives a bit more deeply into some aspects of the IT marketing campaign I didn’t focus on last week to see what it was that helped make the movie a success.

Home Again

  • More here on how director Hallie Meyers-Shyer leaned on her famous mother for support during the writing and filming of the movie.


  • Some new details on the movie’s mystery-shrouded campaign, including details on how Paramount used trailers as a call-to-action and didn’t bother with testing some of the ads and other promotional materials.

mother! – Marketing Recap

The official synopsis for mother! reads thusly:

A couple’s relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.

I’m not sure anything I could write could expand on that considering, as we’ll see, the marketing of the movie has kept the story under wraps. So let’s just note it comes from writer/director Darren Aronofsky and stars Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem as the couple and Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer as the uninvited guests. Let’s dig in.

The Posters

The first poster, which was revealed on Mother’s Day, is messed up. It’s not a photo but a painting that shows Lawrence wearing a white dress and standing in a magical, overgrown garden and sporting a serene look on her face. That all is in stark contrast to the fact that she’s holding her own heart in her hand after clearly pulling it out of the still-open wound in her chest. That’s…just not right, but what do you expect from Aronofsky? A second poster is a similarly artistic image showing Bardem sitting on a chair while being engulfed in flames.

What seems to be the theatrical poster just showed Lawrence in extreme close-up. That seems normal enough until you notice her skin is cracked and chipped like a glass vase. The names of the leads as well as the director are prominently displayed, with Aronofsky’s role as the director of The Black Swan also mentioned here.

The next poster is focused on the remote, odd-looking house that the couple in the story move to. A lone figure is seen in the doorway to the faraway house but more noticeable is Lawrence’s face, which looms behind the house like a setting sun.

A new mirror-image poster was revealed by Aronofsky during a reddit AMA session that underscored the mind-bending nature of the movie’s story.

The Trailers

The first trailer starts off with scenes of domestic bliss between the main couple, despite their age difference. They’ve moved into a new house and she’s making it their own. Things begin to get strange when a couple they don’t know comes to stay with them, which leads to more and more mysteries that go deeper and deeper. There’s sex and violence and tunnels being dug and a general sense of looming terror.

Ummm…yeah. This is a full-on horror movie Aronofsky appears to have made, though it’s not as if his other movies aren’t disturbing in their own ways. There’s a lot going on here but it’s great to see Lawrence being given room to stretch a little. Also, the promise of her and Bardem acting against Ed Harris and Michelle Pfieffer is too great.

Another short trailer came out a bit later that doesn’t show a whole lot, at least not until the end, but still features plenty of dialogue that’s creepy enough when contrast with Lawrence walking around the house coldly.

Online and Social

The movie’s official website is focused on selling tickets and even has “tickets” in the URL. If you try to take that out you’re redirected to the Facebook page for the film.

There are only a few other bits of content on the site outside of the message to buy tickets. “Message Me” encourages you to sign up for text alerts when new marketing materials are released. “Videos” has the official trailer. Finally, “Synopsis” gives you the same short, vague recap of the story I included above. At the bottom of the page are links to the movie’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter profiles.

When Aronofsky revealed the poster during the reddit AMA mentioned above it didn’t take long for people to realize there was a hidden website address on the image. That website, YoullNeverAnswerTheDoorAgain.com, kept the twisted nature of the poster going with a series of images that when clicked and highlighted revealed clips and other clues as to the story that hadn’t been hinted at in the campaign to that point.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV advertising kicked off with a series of sequential commercials during the recent “MTV Video Music Awards that definitely sold the movie as a twisted domestic drama, one that will mess with people’s minds.

That clip that was mentioned above was used for ads that ran as pre-roll on YouTube.

Promoted posts were run on Twitter as well. With at least one of them, this one, there was a call-to-action to Fav the Tweet, promising something in return if you did. As soon as someone liked that post there were sent a response with an exclusive new clip.

Media and Publicity

The movie was announced as one of those that would screen at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it picked up very good buzz that focused around the madness of Aronofsky’s story and the performances of Lawrence and Bardem.

Right after the first trailer popped up a huge feature interview with Lawrence in Vogue, which was accompanied by four variant covers, hit where the actress talked about this movie, albeit in vague terms so as not to give away too much. It also obviously covered a lot more of her career and was generally part of the continued to position her as the most relatable actress of her generation.

That was followed by an interview with Aronofsky in Entertainment Weekly’s fall movie preview issue where he talked about how even he was still trying to figure out what the movie was all about. A few new stills came along with that story. Another interview had the director trying to prepare audiences for the craziness of what the movie was going to present to them and how intense Lawrence’s performance is.

Domhnall Gleeson talked about his still-unknown role here and how he met with Aronofsky before taking on the part. At the same time, at the Venice Film Festival, Aronofsky and the rest of the cast talked about the movie and the divisive reactions it created in the audience who saw it.

Another promo video offered more fast-cut visuals for fans to dissect and try to find meaning in.

Lawrence did plenty of press in the last few weeks, including an interview where she talked about the feminist message of the story and appearances on late night talk shows where she continued to sell her image as America’s most awkward actor.


Well I certainly don’t think Aronofsky or his stars have spilled many, if any, of the secrets and twists of the movie. There’s been plenty of discussion about those secrets, but it’s always in the context of why they exist and what the director was trying to accomplish with them. Other than that the focus was on creating a sense of mystery and tension in the audience with tight spaces, fast cuts, building music, dramatic visuals and other tactics.

All of that means it has what would appear to be little chance at anything approximating mainstream success. Unless word of mouth from this weekend is extraordinarily positive and it becomes a must-see status-symbol type of phenomenon, it will go on to become fodder for film geeks to discuss as they weigh Aronofsky’s career of off-putting and difficult-to-process movies. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but considering the festival reviews seem to tag it as an incredibly divisive film, it doesn’t seem likely to break out of the niche audience.


Writer/director Darren Aronofsky made the subtext of the divisive film the text in a keynote address at SXSW, laying out exactly what he was going for, apparently hoping it will get people to revisit or rethink their initial opinions.

This Week’s New Trailers: mother!, Our Souls At Night and More

Director Darren Aronofsky is going full-on horror with mother! if the first trailer is any indication and with Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, as well as Michelle Pfieffer and Ed Harris, on board so am I.

The concept of awkward family gatherings around second weddings isn’t new, but the trailer for Wilde Wedding has Patrick Stewart, Glenn Close and John Malkovich so you have my attention.

There’s not much in the first teaser for Our Souls At Night, just the promise of Jane Fonda and Robert Redford working together for the first time in decades.

New Trailers This Week: mother!, Death Wish and More

  • There’s a full trailer coming early next week, but for the time being here’s a teaser for mother!
  • The trailer for What Happened To Monday sells a high-concept, action-packed sci-fi story.
  • Religious division and sectarianism are at the heart of this trailer for Viceroy’s House, set at the outset of Indian independence from the British Empire.
  • One more trailer for The Hitman’s Bodyguard, which is just as lighthearted and focused on curse words and over-the-top as the others.
  • More religious turmoil, this time in the setting of a convent during Vatican II, in the trailer for Novitiate.
  • The trailer for Death Wish is goofy enough but gets docked several points for including Mancow.