This Week In Movie Posters: Jack Reacher, Madea, And The Dreaded Diagonals

This week in movie posters begins with Complete Unknown, from Joshua Marston (Maria Full of Grace), starring Michael Shannon. In posters, heads up looking towards the sun or horizon is generally code for “uplifting drama” or comedy, whereas looking at the ground usually means pensive psychological drama. It’s almost like he’s looking down at a puddle asking “Who am I?”

Anyway, I like the potted plant motif. Also, the fact that Michael Shannon’s natural resting face is a mask of barely contained inner turmoil makes designing his posters a lot easier.

So Michael Shannon is a plant and Rachel Weisz is… a collage? An origami? I’m not exactly sure what’s going on here. Also, whereas he looks pensive, she seems to be plotting revenge.

I’ve never watched one of these Madea movies. Based on the posters, I can’t imagine how they squeeze more than five minutes of content. It’s just Tyler Perry wearing different outfits, right? I imagine he looks at the camera every five minutes or so and it zooms in and he says “Hallelujer!” and the studio audience goes nuts. Are Madea movies filmed in front of a live studio audience? I assume so.

Oh hey, I almost forgot War On Everyone hadn’t come out yet. I saw it at SXSW, and its’ a nice companion piece to The Nice Guys. And yes, Skarsgard does that weird monkey walk for the entire movie. I didn’t realize it at the time, but now I have to wonder if he was practicing for Tarzan.

Here’s an interesting-ish design that tells me nothing. Couldn’t the shape in the middle at least be the silhouette of the scary thing? Throw me a bone here.

As I’ve said, 98% of all horror movies are either about a haunted house or a creepy little kid. I like that this one is using the actual house part of the haunted house as the scary thing. OH GOD, HERE COMES AN EVIL MOLDING!

This looks like Rob Zombie threw in every scary slasher movie trope — Clowns! Zombies! Nazis! Chainsaws! Knives! My question, where does the foppish dandy down there fit in? Also, a lady with “death” written on her sweatshirt seems like a particularly lazy attempt at scary. Does she also have a trucker hat that says “HORROR MOVIE?” I bet Judah Friedlander has one she could borrow.

I like that this one tells us the names of the scary clowns (important) while doubling down on the halter-top lady with a bat. Is she going to bat clowns in that halter top? Time will tell.

Here we have the Spanish poster for Skiptrace, which combines two poster tropes. The first is the old “particles of crap flying everywhere as shorthand for action,” and the second is, of course, the old diagonal horizon line. I guess I don’t mind the diagonal so much if it’s caused by an explosion. That at least makes sense. Also, Johnny Knoxville looks weirdly crosseyed here.

Pensive. Trees. McConaughey. The new Asian-inspired fragrance from Gus Van Sant.

I’m looking at this series of character posters for Sausage Party, and it looks like they had a list of taglines that they just mixed with the posters at random. I mean, I get that he’s a bagel, and “O Face” is sort of a bagel pun, but also that ain’t an O face.

And then there’s this one. Barry is a stunted hot dog. Who looks dejected. Who says… “mazel tov,” apparently? Do you get it? What am I missing here? Is “mazel tov” something a sad, stunted hot dog would say? Were they even kosher franks? I don’t remember that from the movie, but… nope. That doesn’t excuse it. This tagline/poster combo makes no sense.

This one’s even worse than the last one. Like, it may not have anything to do with the poster, but “mazel tov” is at least a phrase people use. “Wrap that ass?” Has anyone heard this phrase before? Also, lavash doesn’t typically come wrapped, at least not where I come from. DO SOME GOD DAMNED RESEARCH! You expect people to see your movie based on these bush league non-puns?

Thank God, at least one of these is a serviceable pun. I mean this isn’t amazing, but compared to “wrap that ass” it’s Jonathan Swift.

No one broke a sweat going for this pun, but, you know, at least it’s a pun.

It’s weird that the anthropomorphic butt/vagina pun still needed breast lumps. Why don’t the hot dog guys have testicles? I’m fine with extraneous breasts, just show a little consistency, you know?

I can’t decide if this bisexual taco pun is subtle or deliciously overt, but it’s far and away the best tagline of the bunch. I don’t even mind her Dreamworks face.

Skulls. Her guns have skulls on them.

“Every night I say a silent prayer and shoot at God.”

How much you want to bet they come out with Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, Part 2 in a few years? They should’ve had to sign something promising that this is actually the final chapter.

Inspired by true stories… of sleepy women? What am I looking at here? Also, “Joel Smallbone” is my new favorite name. I don’t like to include synopses for every poster, but only because I was so intrigued by this one…

PRICELESS is a powerful story of James Stevens who was, at one time, a good man with a great life — but that was then and this is now. After the tragic death of his wife and losing custody of his little girl, James is at the darkest crossroad of his life. Angry, desperate, and unable to hold down a steady job, he agrees to drive a box truck on a shady, one-time trip cross country for cash — no questions asked. But when he discovers what he is delivering is actually who, he is compelled to save two beautiful and frightened sisters who are unaware of the danger that awaits them. Can love, strength, and faith redefine his past and change the course of his future? This unlikely hero risks it all to save these women, confront the forces that oppose him and ultimately discover the life he was meant to live. [IMDb]

Well, that was thorough. Also, according to the IMDb, it was directed by Ben Smallbone. Apparently there’s an entire quasi-famous Smallbone clan. And my cursory research has now led me to the news that Joel Smallbone is an Australian Christian pop singer, from the band For King And Country. Sorry, folks, if I have to know this, you better believe you have to know this.

When I read “The 9th Life of Louis Drax” I was hoping the poster would have some kind of kitty cat motif, because of the nine lives thing, but I suppose this is cool too. Or at least, the lady falling off the bottom is cool. That said, I’m not sure the “giant floating head of not-especially-recognizable-actor part” at the top is pulling its weight. I doubt people are walking by thinking “Oh damn, someone staring morosely into the distance? I have to see this! I want to be there when he finds catharsis!”

Strong, simple poster for Moonlight, which looks like an inner-city take on Boyhood.

Same poster, in portrait form! I like the other one better, but this version ain’t bad.

A three-part narrative spanning the childhood, adolescence, and adulthood of an African-American man who survives Miami’s drug-plagued inner city, finding love in unexpected places and the possibility of change within himself. [IMDb]

Damn, look at that satisfied face. I bet this old man is about to drop one hell of a kernel of wisdom. I bet he’s full of them. Probably smuggling pearls in his New Balances. I also like to imagine “Milton’s Secret” is a fashion magazine for retired men. You can buy New Balances, Tommy Bahama shirts, pants that go up real high, black socks and matching slippers…

Masterminds comes from Napoleon Dynamite director Jared Hess, and since his movies have become mostly a collection of goofy outfits, this kind of poster suits it. Look at the outfits! Aren’t they goofy? This movie has them!

Remember what I said about debris flying everywhere as a shorthand for exciting action? And pointless diagonals? At some point, doesn’t a poster designer need to ask him/herself, “Does this poster need to be diagonal?”

And if the answer is no, maybe don’t make it diagonal? At least in the Jackie Chan one they were diving away from an explosion. Here they’re just… uh… mimicking The Avengers, I’m guessing. The Korean guy is the Black Widow and there’s even a Hawkeye. I guess that makes Fat Vincent D’Onofrio the Hulk.

And here we have the poster for Jack Reacher: Never Stop Never Reaching. Much like the “Does this need to be diagonal” rule, all poster designers considering an American flag in their poster should probably ask themselves “Does this American flag actually contribute anything?”

This looks like Tom Cruise is feelin’ bad about all those dudes he punched to death with his furious lil’ Smurf fists. Ain’t that America, land of the free…

PIERCE BROSNAN IS BIG BROTHER! I love Pierce Brosnan, but I much prefer “not givin’ a sh*t” Pierce Brosnan, walking through hotel lobbies in his underpants like in The Matador, to the old “handsome watch model” Pierce Brosnan. Here he just looks like he’s a bit fed up with all this internet business.

Oh jeez, this must be the most exciting Da Vinci Code movie of them all. I mean just look at them walking at a brisk pace. You know something important is about to go down when the movie characters begin noticeably quickening their pace. Look out, everyone! Tom Hanks is late to cash a paycheck!

This poster doesn’t exactly tell me what The Greasy Strangler is actually about, but it certainly has me intrigued. I would hang that portrait in my house. Mainly because those are my parents.

I don’t know what they did to James Caan’s face, but he looks scary as hell. As I’ve said, 98% of horror movies are about a creepy little kid or a haunted house, so I really appreciate the 2% that are about a pervy old weirdo.

Don’t Breathe went simple with this one, and it works. The tagline that’s just straightforward hyperbole works much better than if it had been descriptive for some reason. I don’t truly believe it, but even if it’s only a quarter true, that’s pretty good, right? Advertising is all about telling the biggest lie no one can catch you in.

Vince Mancini is a writer, comedian, and podcaster. A graduate of Columbia’s non-fiction MFA program, his work has appeared on FilmDrunk, the UPROXX network, the Portland Mercury, the East Bay Express, and all over his mom’s refrigerator. Fan FilmDrunk on Facebook, find the latest movie reviews here.