How Netflix has sold another movie about an assassin with nothing left to lose.
There have been a number of movies in the last several years that have, essentially, taken different approaches to the John Wick model, that being a story about an assassin or hired killer who goes off the reservation for one reason or another. This week’s new Netflix release Kate, directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, follows in that sub-genre.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Kate, a highly proficient hitwoman working for the yakuza. When an assignment goes wrong, her employers decide to end their arrangement, poisoning Kate with an agent that will slowly kill her over 24 hours. With that much time to live, she decides to make the most of it by seeking out and killing those who have doomed her.
announcements and casting
After acquiring the project in script form in 2017, Winstead was cast in 2019, as was Harrelson.
Netflix announced in May that the movie would be coming to the streaming service later in the year. A September date was then set in mid-June.
the marketing campaign proper
Kate already suspects she’s been setup as the trailer (1.2m views onYouTube), released in early August, opens. She tells Varrick (Harrelson) as much, including that she believes she was poisoned before the botched hit, which was on the head of the yakuza. With her new friend Ani (Miku Martineau) in tow, and as her body slowly fails, she sets out to find the person responsible for setting her up, working through Tokyo’s underbelly one henchman and mid-level lackey at a time.
The brightly-colored poster came out at the same time. It shows Kate (looking very much the worse for wear as she holds her gun at the ready), Ani and Varrick in a neon frame that, along with the signs seen in the background, establishes the Tokyo setting. Above the title is the copy “There’s no time for mercy” that hints at the ticking clock nature of the story.
A more distilled version of the story was included in short promo spots like this that were published and run at the end of August and into early September.
An interview with Winstead had her talking about the refreshing lack of overtly gendered costumes and other elements along with how her stunt training for this film was able to build on what she was already doing for Birds of Prey.
There were a couple other interviews with the star, but most of them only briefly touched on this movie, instead focusing on her thoughts around returning as Huntress in another BoP entry.
Reviews haven’t been overly positive, as the movie only has a 34% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. And yes, there have been at least two or three other movies about a female assassin out for revenge on the employers who have turned on her recently. But the same can be said for movies about men seeking revenge on those who killed their family, so I’m not sure that’s a valid criticism in and of itself.
The campaign Netflix ran has a lot of nice elements, but what comes across most to me is that it shows how versatile and yet tragically underused Mary Elizabeth Winstead is. That alone should generate some level of interest, with others vaguely aware of the movie until it turns up as a recommendation on Netflix and it’s deemed “good enough” on a Thursday afternoon.
There’s not a whole lot going on over at the movie’s official website, just the standard marketing materials along with lots of calls to action to buy tickets.
Sony created the usual social profiles for the movie, but took notably different approaches to them. The Facebook page has all the expected updates about promotional activities and new marketing assets being released. The Twitter profile has more updates and a more casual vibe, which isn’t unusual. What is worth calling out is that the Facebook uses “the Royal We” in framing how those updates are shared while on Twitter the updates come from an unnamed “I,” giving the profile a much more personal touch. That tactic is designed to create a stronger connection with followers by making it clear there’s a real person behind the posts, one that is just as excited about this new movie as they hope others are. So
Media and Press
It was over two years before any further update was offered. That’s when co-writer Paul Wernick made comments about how the movie was actually pretty close at hand, aiming toward a 2019 release.
Harrelson commented on the fun he had during production while promoting The Highwaymen earlier this year.
After the trailer debuted, Fleischer talked about why the sequel took so long to come together while also sharing comments from Stone that she wants to do one of these every decade to check in on the characters.
The cast made the late night and morning talk show rounds, with Deutsch and Zuckerberg appearing on “The Tonight Show” while the whole cast appeared on “The Tonight Show” to engage in a bit. Harrelson hosted “Saturday Night Live” a couple weeks ago.
AMC Theaters offered an exclusive featurette and interview with three of the leads. They commented on the same array of topics as before at the movie’s premiere.
Fleischer talked about how he revived old instincts to return to the decade-old stories and characters. He and others were interviewed again about the potential for another sequel in a decade.
Picking Up the Spare
More from the movie’s screenwriters here about their ideas for a third installment. The return of a certain celebrity in a cameo role was also covered, as was the unease felt by Stone and others in the cast. Deutch also talked about her addition to the story.
A blooper reel came out just after the movie was in theaters.
The story of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow’s criminal exploits has captured the attention of the media and the public for almost a century, helped by the combination of outlaw living, sex and sensationalism. Such stories have almost always focused on how the pair eluded law enforcement for years while committing brazen crimes.
This week’s Netflix original The Highwaymen flips the story to focus instead on the how Texas Ranger Frank Hamer (Kevin Costner) and his partner Maney Gault (Woody Harrelson) took over the hunt for Bonnie and Clyde in what would be the final years of their spree. With governors and others embarrassed that things have gone on for so long, Hamer and Gault are the final hope to end things for once and for all.
The movie is “Based on the untold true story” according to the poster, which shows the two law enforcement agents against the Texas landscape, well-dressed and with guns at the ready for trouble. The pair are billed as “The legends who took down Bonnie and Clyde” to make sure audiences know this is about a subject they’ve likely at least heard of.
The gruff working relationship between Hamer and Gault is what we first see in the trailer before we move into how the two Texas Rangers are on the trail of Bonnie and Clyde. The crimes perpetrated by that pair are on display as the governor is pressured to catch them, a job she assigns to her two top agents. They’re always one step behind the criminals, though, much to everyone’s frustration. As they stalk the murderers, the lawmen not only jibe at each other but have to face an underworld that sees the outlaws as heroes, not villains, and are unwilling to aid those seeking to bring them to justice.
Online and Social
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Netflix usually does more paid media after the release, but I haven’t seen anything in advance.
Media and Publicity
Netflix released a first still from the movie back in December at the first time it announced a premiere date. About a month later the film was named among those screening at SXSW, an appearance that included an experiential marketing execution that allowed visitors to the venue to interact with actors, have their picture taken and buy swag.
In a nice touch, it was announced Netflix would host Arthur Penn’s groundbreaking Bonnie & Clyde beginning the first of next month, allowing subscribers to view both sides of the story.
Director John Lee Hancock was interviewed about how the project, which has been floating around for over a decade, was originally envisioned as a reunion of Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Costner and Harrelson also did a few interviews here there but nothing that seemed to amount to a significant press push, so the hope appears to have been to let that SXSW stunt do most of the earned media work.
It likely says something about society as a whole that only now, after decades of celebrating Bonnie and Clyde as #squadgoals for living an outlaw lifestyle that hearkened back to the days of the Old West, we’re only now getting the cinematic version of the other side of the story. There may be a desire to no longer celebrate this kind of behavior and instead focus on the serious law enforcement officers who want to restore order to society and reign in the media from its rampant glorification of those who rob and kill for a living.
That word “serious” sums up the campaign and how the movie seems to be positioned. This is a serious story about serious people who have had it up to here with the hijinks. Costner scowls through the entire thing while Harrelson smirks, still seriously. It’s not going to appeal to everyone but for those who miss this kind of mid-level drama being available in theaters it should hit a chord.
Picking Up the Spare
The story of the movie as well as its production was covered in a featurette released by Netflix, including how the filmmakers worked hard to create period authenticity. Another focused on how this movie differs from other portrayals of the criminals’ spree.
Hancock was the subject of additional interviews where he talked about the long development of the project. Costner also shared his thoughts on Bonnie and Clyde. There were also stories about how filming at the site of the criminal’s final stand impacted the stars and more.
Strong performances anchor the campaign for a story of a mother’s grief.
Director Martin McDonagh steps outside of the world of comic violence he’s well known for to bring us this week’s new release Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. This time around Frances McDormand stars in a story that involves a mother’s righteous anger, allegations of police indifference and the lengths that mother will go to in order to solve a problem the authorities won’t.
McDormand plays Mildred, whose daughter was killed months ago but whose murder has remained unsolved. Frustrated by inaction, Mildred decides to call out the police in a very public way, by broadcasting their inability to arrest the killer on a serious of billboards on the edge of town. That, along with her other brash behavior, brings her into conflict with the police force, including Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) and Dixon (Sam Rockwell), who don’t take kindly to being called lazy or worse.
We see the backs of the three titular billboards at the very bottom of the first poster, a police cruiser driving past on the rural highway they’re placed along. The rest of the image, though, is of the beautiful big skyline of Missouri at dusk, the dark clouds dominating the sky as the sun sets in the distance. Aside from the cast list and title, the other element on the poster is the name-dropping of a couple of McDonagh’s other well-loved movies.
The theatrical poster featured the same dark, barren landscape photo as the first, but with photos of the three primary cast members included on the side each appearing in a cut out of the state of Missouri.
As the first trailer starts we meet Mildred Hayes as she’s fixing to buy some billboard ads. The reason, we find out, is that she wants to keep the pressure on the local sheriff who has yet to find the person who killed her daughter. Mildred has little patience for anyone who gets in her way which, combined with no discernible social skills, means she cuts a swath through the town’s populace, most of whom have turned against her in some manner. The sheriff isn’t thrilled at someone besmirching his name in this manner. Her actions become increasingly outrageous, though, including an attack on a dentist and setting a building on fire.
It’s all played with a slightly comic tone, helped largely by McDormand’s performance. She’s such a foul-mouthed delight in this trailer that it immediately shot to the top of the list of movies I want to see. While the subject matter is rough – anytime you’re dealing with dead kids it’s not shallow waters we’re in – the take looks darkly funny.
Another short trailer was focused more on the struggle Mildred is going through in the wake of her daughter’s death than on the actions she takes as the result of justice not being served. There’s some of that here, but it’s mostly about the quieter aspects of the story and the torment she still feels.
Online and Social
You can watch the trailer again when the official website loads and you should absolutely do so.
After that end, the site is exactly what you’d expect from Fox Searchlight. The “Cast” section has comments by or about each of the leads, including the three mentioned earlier as well as John Hawkes and Peter Dinklage. Same with “Filmmakers” for McDonagh. “Story” has a brief synopsis and “Videos” has the two trailers.
Persistent on the site in the lower left are prompts to get tickets or watch the trailer again along with links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
TV commercials like this one recapped the basic points of the plot, showing how Mildred is taking matters into her own hands to express her displeasure at the failure of the police to find her daughter’s killer. They play up the dark comedy of the story and show off the performances, which are two major selling points. Some were more overtly violent than others, but they all made the same overall appeal.
Media and Publicity
The movie was announced as one of those that would screen at the Toronto International Film Festival. It also was slated for the Venice Film Festival and Fantastic Fest.
Around the time of Venice and Telluride McDormand was interviewed about her tendency to take on quirky characters, her love of the character and her propensity for colorful dialogue.
While McDormand was hailed as wonderful as usual, Rockwell’s performance became a constant theme of the buzz that came out of the festival screenings, hailed as a highlight in a career full of notable performances. It was such a hit it won the Audience Award there.
Rockwell talked here about how he got involved, how he viewed the character and more. Another piece shortly after that continued calling out the actor’s performance, pegging it as worthy of awards consideration. McDormand also got the same level of ongoing attention for her turn as the wronged mother.
While the movie hasn’t gotten nearly the level of advertising or publicity as some other releases, it seems more vital as a cultural statement than much of what’s hit theaters recently. With a story that, based on what’s shown on the campaign, deals with a woman breaking the expectations of society while drawing attention to police indifference toward the poor, it’s very much in the “pulled from the headlines” mold. Watch the trailers or read some of the press coverage and you’ll see it’s extremely current in what’s being said and the message it’s presented to the audience.
That’s all very important, but on the other hand this is simply being sold as a darkly comic drama featuring outstanding performances from always reliable and supremely talented actors. Putting McDormand and Rockwell together in a film doesn’t seem fair, though neither was pairing her with William H. Macy 20+ years ago. The cultural message is being sent to some while the simple appeal of the actors and a compelling story is being sent to others.
The movie’s conceit of using three billboards to convey a message has been adopted by various social issues and coincided with an overall growth in the out-of-home ad market. A trade group gave the filmmakers a shoutout for all that with a billboard of its own.
Co-star Sam Rockwell, who continues to win both awards and praise for his performance, is hosting “Saturday Night Live” this weekend. It’s not exactly about the movie but Nancy Fletcher at The Drum uses the titular outdoor ad units and how they’re portrayed in the film to talk about the out-of-home advertising industry as a whole.
Because of his early and violent death as well as the social changes he shepherded, if not championed, John F. Kennedy’s story has been told countless times and in various ways. This week’s new release LBJ seeks to turn the spotlight to the man who reluctantly joined him in the White House and who was thrust to the front office suddenly and unexpectedly upon Kennedy’s death.
Directed by Rob Reiner, Woody Harrelson stars as the title character. The story follows him from the time of his own presidential aspirations to his decision to join Kennedy’s ticket in 1960, deciding he can do more within the system than railing against it. After Kennedy is killed, Johnson balances the reality of finally having his own hands on the wheel and the obligation he feels to finish the work Kennedy had begun, work he doesn’t always agree completely with.
There’s not much going on with the first poster, which just shows Johnson in the backseat of a car that’s driving past various Washington landmarks. So we get the character and the setting, but there’s not much of a sense of style here. Reiner’s name appears above the title to help everyone’s awareness of his involvement.
The trailer opens as the 1960 Democratic National Convention is gearing up for a showdown between Jack Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson for the party’s presidential nomination. Kennedy of course secures that nomination but then moves to bring Johnson on as VP, understanding the need to have a Southerner in the White House at this point in history. At first Johnson is conflicted and reluctant to advocate for Kennedy’s civil rights agenda, but as he says to someone else, if he’s involved then maybe he can slow things down a bit or lessen that impact. We see Kennedy’s eventual assassination and Johnson’s assumption of the presidency. It ends by making it clear Johnson will continue Kennedy’s work to preserve his legacy and the agenda the American people elected him to execute.
There’s some solid drama happening here under the prosthetics worn by Harrelson. Reiner’s credentials as the director of similar stories The American President and A Few Good Men are of course offered here as an additional incentive for the audience. It looks like a standard biopic more or less, though I dig the focus on the civil rights agenda and how both men addressed that.
Online and Social
This can’t be the only official website for the movie, right? It’s a single static image, the title superimposed over a photo of the president’s desk. There aren’t even links to the movie’s Facebook or Twitter profiles, which have been sharing marketing and publicity updates.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Nothing I’m aware of, but it’s likely some online or social advertising has been done at the very least.
The movie debuted at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival. Around that time Reiner was the subject of a multi-part feature in The Hollywood Reporter, including this interview where he talked about the movie, his politics, his relationship with his father and much more. Shortly after that a long interview with Harrelson was published where he was supposed to be talking about playing the title role, which he did, but also opined at length about his opinions on government and presidents in general, neither of which are terribly positive.
The movie screened at The New Yorker Festival, including a Q&A with Reiner where he not only talked about this project but also, as he had done on plenty of other occasions, about the current White House administration and more.
Reiner did the radio and TV rounds to talk about how his opinions and perceptions of Johnson have changed after initial dislike, why he cast Harrelson in the title role, what it was like to return to political stories and more.
It’s a shame to see a new Rob Reiner movie not getting the buzz it would have 20-odd years ago. But that’s where we are. The director has done everything in his power through all of his interviews and other press activities to tie Johnson’s story to modern day, showing he may have gone kicking-and-screaming into advocating for civil rights but that he got there. Harrelson has done likewise, with both of them sharing their thoughts on the current political climate and pointing out its parallels to the Johnson era.
That hasn’t been enough to overcome what’s otherwise been a lackluster campaign. The trailer isn’t bad, but it’s also not fiery or distinctive enough to really make an impression. It seems more like a Baby Boomer trying to exorcise his own demons and relive a relatively unexplored moment of their own youth on film. There’s just too much other competition out there for this to break out, a problem not helped by the relatively lackluster efforts on display here.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.
Based on Jeanette Walls’ memoir of the same name, The Glass Castle hits theaters this weekend. The movie follows Walls beginning in early childhood as she and her sisters are constantly being moved around from one unusual environment to the next by their unconventional parents Rex (Woody Harrelson) and Rose Mary (Naomi Watts). The two believe they are giving their children something unique, teaching them to be self-reliant and not lead conventional lives.
Adult Jeanette (Brie Larson) doesn’t remember those years quite as fondly. Now settled into a successful career and comfortable life in New York, she once more has to deal with the emotional baggage heaped on her by her parents and the scars they’ve left behind. It’s not all negative, though, as she also realizes they did what they could and if nothing else gave her and her sisters a passion for life.
The conflict that’s been building over the course of two previous movies comes to a head in this week’s War For The Planet Of The Apes. Up to now the story has followed the rise of the apes thanks to a virus that made them more intelligent but which killed vast swaths of the human population. Humans have fought for their survival before but now the final battle for possession of the planet is coming.
Caesar (motion-captured by Andy Serkis) is still leading the ape population, wanting peace with the human survivors but also ready for the war many, both ape and human, seem to want. The humans for their part have rallied an army around the charismatic Colonel (Woody Harrelson), a ruthless leader who will accept nothing less than the complete elimination of the apes. Will peace prevail or will it all end in bloodshed? That’s the core question that drives the story.
The first poster shows just how far the series and its characters have come over the years. It shows Caesar, a deadly serious expression on his face and a rifle slung across his back, riding a horse through the snow. “WAR” is the only copy on the one-sheet outside of the release date.
A second poster shows Caesar staring at the camera in a pose we know from a recent trailer is him riding horseback. Just behind him, looking out over his shoulder, is the young girl we saw in that trailer. The copy tells us this is “For freedom. For family. For the planet.” which tells us exactly what the stakes are in this final chapter of the trilogy. Another just shows Nova, the girl, in a colorful field, an ape’s hand putting a small flower in her hair. That’s designed to show that humans and apes can live together, a contrast to the attitude shown through much of the rest of the campaign.
The next poster is solely about the conflict between the two armies. We see the backs of the heads of the human soldiers, many of whom are touting their ape killing attitude or experience on the helmets that are visible here, a few ape collaborators mixed in as well. The ape army is approaching them on foot and climbing over the ramparts, a few emissaries out in front to, it’s assumed, try to broker peace.
A final poster used the same image of Caesar on horseback from the first “WAR” poster, but adds Nova peeking out from in back of him. The copy on this one makes it clear the story is wrapping up in dramatic fashion by prompting the audience to “Witness the end.”
The first trailer starts off with two apes riding along the beach, a human girl on one of their backs. Caesar narrates that he didn’t want, nor did he start, the war with the humans. Various scenes of fighting are followed by a shot of The Colonel overusing his troops and it’s clear he’s the primary adversary for the apes in this story. The two armies go up against each other in a number of ways as he takes over the narration, intoning that if the humans don’t win this fight, it will be a planet of apes.
Not bad. The stakes of the story are laid out pretty clearly here, primarily the conflict between the apes and the last of humanity, now heavily militarized. There’s surely lots more story in the movie itself but this gets the general premise – that it’s time for the final showdown – pretty clear.
A second trailer starts with new footage but narration from the first movies to show how far things have come. Caesar confronts a group of captured soldier before we see some of the other gorillas and then the human army that’s going to make one last attack to save their world. It’s clear a confrontation for survival is in the offing and the action ramps up from there that has both broad and personal stakes.
The final trailer starts with apes breaking into a human home, guns drawn. They take a child they find there, more out of mercy than to take a hostage. We quickly see that the conflict between men and apes is reaching its conclusion, with collaborators and sympathizers for the enemy on both sides. Apes don’t want to fight but the men do and won’t stop until everyone else is dead.
While there are some elements of a philosophical story here about the right and wrong use of violence it’s very clearly being sold as a straightforward action movie in this trailer. It’s all about the explosions and the gunplay and the big, macho speeches being given.
One more trailer acts as a “Previously on…” recap of the previous two movies and the events that have lead to all-out war.
Online and Social
The official website gets the standard Fox template, with a banner at the top that uses a cropped version of the key art of Caesar and Nova. There are prompts just below that banner to watch the trailer, connect with the movie on Facebook or Twitter and to get tickets.
Scroll down and you’re greeted with “Videos” which is where you can watch all the trailers, some featurettes and other clips. The “About” section has a synopsis that sets up the mounting conflict and lists the cast and primary crew.
The “Featured Content” section has a few interesting links. First, there’s a prompt to buy tickets to a special triple feature select theaters hosted this past Wednesday that included all three of the current Apes movies. Next is a link to buy the new Funko POP! figures based on characters from this movie. Finally, there’s a link to the Planet of the Apes hub that will tell you everything you need to know about the franchise, be it on film, in comics or elsewhere.
There are a half-dozen stills in the “Gallery” you can download. “Partners” lists the few companies that have signed on as promotional partners.
The site finishes up with a call to action to sign up for email updates about Fox movies and a gallery of embedded updates from the movie’s social media accounts, including Instagram.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
TV spots like this took on the same tone as the final trailer, with a little bit of hot take-esque philosophy and ethics wrapped up in an action movie that pits apes against humans. More commercials would follow that took varying approaches, selling it as a very small-scale story of compassion or a very large-scale story of all-out warfare.
Promotional partner companies for the movie included:
The Jane Goodall Institute, with which Fox partnered to help in that organization’s chimpanzee rescue and refuge programs. A TV spot accompanied that effort.
Chase Pay, which offered a buy-one-get-one deal when you purchased tickets through Atom Tickets, the service that encourages group movie outings.
T-Mobile, which also worked with Atom Tickets to give its customers $4 tickets for opening weekend.
Red Robin, which offered a free movie ticket when you purchased a $25 movie-branded gift card.
FYE, though details aren’t readily available. Presumably, the retailer had movie merchandise it was promoting.
Online ads, as well as outdoor billboards and other signage, used the key art of Caesar’s face in close-up while social advertising helped promote the trailers as they were released.
Media and Publicity
One of the first bits of publicity came when the studio launched a contest to give a lucky winner a walk-on role, with the caveat being that they would become an ape and therefore not have their face seen on-screen. Quite a while later the first story details came out at the same time the studio announced the movie would have a significant presence at the upcoming New York Comic-Con, with a “digital billboard” appearing just before that to set the stage for further announcements. That presence also included a panel where the cast and crew talked about the movie, what they have in mind for the future and more.
Further stills and other information trickled out over time, including the fact that the young girl seen in the trailer shares a name with a character from the classic series. Later on, Reeves would talk about what films and styles he was trying to ape (sorry) to create the look, feel and tone of this entry.
As with many recent major releases from this and other studios, Fox announced a virtual reality experience tied to the movie.
Once more Serkis’ motion-capture work for Caesar spurred conversation about what exactly constitutes an awards-worthy performance, and rightfully so. That feature also talked about his career as a whole and the work he does for the motion-capture field as a whole, which is substantive.
Members of the cast also made the talk show rounds in the weeks leading up to release. Harrelson did his share of that, though too often the conversation wound up being less about this movie than his role in the upcoming Han Solo movie that’s had some notable upset recently.
The primary message of the campaign here is that all-out war has finally come to the conflict between man and ape. The disease has taken its toll, the vaccine has made apes incredibly intelligent and the two alpha races are going to play one final game for control of the world. That’s hammered home time and again in the trailers and TV spots as well as through much of the poster component.
There’s also a strong element of compassion, though. Much of that revolves around the girl Nova and the way she’s found and eventually protected by some of the apes. While it’s a small part of the campaign it seems like the kind of thing that could play an outsized role in the movie itself.
Mostly, though, Fox wants audiences to turn out to see the final chapter, and that’s very much how it’s being sold. It all ends here, we’re told in various ways and in various components of the campaign, so if you’ve enjoyed the lead up to this you won’t want to miss the conclusion. Let’s see if that’s enough to catapult it over Spider-Man: Homecoming’s second week.