Monday, December 7, 2009

Cameron's Posters

Titanic: Let's start with the behemoth. The ship is portrayed in an interesting way where someone unfamilar with the movie (I'm sure they'll exist in fifty years or so) would have to really examine the imagery to get what they're looking at. For being the world's biggest romance film, the poster isn't as melodramatic than one might think (hope). No bare-chested stowaways, crashing waves, lusty embraces. Overall, the poster works and doesn't make me gag upon sight. That being said, I don't love the floating heads. The title font's pretty cool though.
Poster Rating: B

The Abyss: This movie didn't get much love from the art department. Apart from the awesome SE DVD cover art, every piece of marketing material makes The Abyss look seemingly eerie without the faintest insinuation of excitement. The glowing orb at the bottom is pretty cool and the tagline "When you get there, you will understand" is one of my favorites. Overall, there were a lot of way to take this poster, but three random stills at the top and an orb at the bottom was not the way to go.
Poster Rating: C

The Abyss: You thought that first one was bad. This is one of the worst posters I've ever witnessed. You keep trying to focus on the negative space but it doesn't amount to anything. And that tagline... "There's everything you ever knew about adventure...and then there's The Abyss." Yeah, I'll bet. Looks more like "Take everything you ever knew about adventure and be disappointed when this movie doesn't deliever any of it."
Poster Rating: F

True Lies: I'm going to argue that Arnie's movies both preceding and following True Lies had better posters. But I get it, Arnie's face and a gun, what else do you really need to sell True Lies? As much as I love his supporting cast (Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Arnold, Bill Paxton, Tia Carrere, etc.) they aren't all exactly poster material. Their floating heads wouldn't really help sell this action thriller. But maybe they could have covered up that tagline.
Poster Rating: C-

The Terminator: Now THERE'S a poster with Arnie's face and a gun that works! Plus, you've got the fingerless gloves, the open leather jacket, those glasses, and of course the sunglasses. Add those up with hair that's just had a balloon rubbed on it and random laser lines and you've got a hit poster. One thing I can't figure out, and maybe this is my Terminator ignorance speaking here but is that a big scope on top of his gun or a reflection of the gun itself?

Poster Rating: B+

Terminator 2: Judgment Day: This iconic poster would still fit on any dorm room wall right next to the Fight Club, Pulp Fiction, and Scarface posters. The special effects weren't the only thing dramatically improved from the first to the second. The lighting and coloring scream cool. The gun propped up on the motorcycle. The shirt underneath the jacket. All marked improvements. This one will still hold up twenty years from now.

Poster Rating: A+

Piranha II: The Spawning: I was lucky enough to see this on the big screen as part of Midnites for Maniacs' "Animals Attacking Humans" Five-Film Marathon. It was the last movie of the night and even after seven straight hours, we were excited to start another flick. Part of that excitement came from this poster. Tell me this doesn't have everything you'd want from a movie called "Pirhana II: The Spawning." First, it's a painting, which I always love. Second, bikini babe. Third, those grimmacing fish-faces. I would have shadowed the "Spawning" text and changed the tagline color, but other than that, it's just great.
Poster Rating: A-

Avatar: Can anyone say "Young Adult Fantasy Novel?" When this was revealed, the entire Cameron fanboy community gasped (and not in a good way). Same thing happened when the trailer was screened. Without having seen the film, it's difficult to determine how the artwork captures its essence. Separating my initial disappointment of the trailer from the actual quality of the poster, I'm still going to have to give this one a pretty low marks.
Poster Rating: B-

Aliens: Dynamic image that captures the suspense of the film. Whether or not you know what those opening pods hold, Weaver lets you know that danger is all around. Her face also says that while she's surrounded by danger, there's something even bigger to worry about right in front of her. She's worried even with that gigantic firepower. Another interesting element, while she's definitely at the forefront of the poster, she's not the biggest image on screen. Something's towering over her that makes her look as small as the child she's holding. Great composition, eye-catching font, and overall, a great poster.
Poster Rating: A

Aliens: It's simple. Excellent font. The glowing "I" completely works. The only thing I don't love is the double taglines. The top one isn't needed at all. Other than that, it's a great teaser trailer.

Poster Rating: B+

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Couple of Bad Lieutenants

Known for his on-set feuds with Klaus Kinski, some of which involved gun brandishing, Werner Herzog has plenty of experience capturing craziness on-screen. Herzog and insanity go hand-in-hand with one another, have for years. When news broke that there was to be a Bad Lieutenant remake, rumors swirled around the interwebs, speculating on whether or not a project like this could hope to hold any sort of quality. When Herzog came on as the director, those rumors slowed down considerably. What resulted from those rumors, over a year later, was a recommendable film with a great style and impressive performances from everyone on-screen. Just so everyone knows, I really enjoyed the remake/revisioning/whatever that Herzog produced but the original, in my opinion, is the heftier of the two.

Numerous reviewers have claimed that Abel Ferrera's Bad Lieutenant and Herzog's share little in common other than their title and I find myself wondering if they saw the same two films as myself. Both films follow a cocaine-addicted police officer who owes a lot of money to his bookie and throws his authority around to get what he wants (sex, drugs, and money) while investigating a gruesome, violent crime. The original had a nun being raped. The newer one had a family murdered by a gunman. Aside from the location and the ending (depending on how you choose to read these endings), very little differs between the two narratives. Stylistically, that's definitely not true, but narratively, they're very similar.

There are difference, however, between the performances. Harvey Keitel's performance is gut-punchingly dark while Nicholas Cage's is over the top and borderline comedic. Don't get me wrong, Cage knocks it out of the park (especially considering Cage performances as of late) but for a film called Bad Lieutenant, his character isn't much worse than other crooked cops in other crooked cop movies. Keitel's character...he's the worst. In fact, let's play the "Baddest Lieutenant" game, shall we?

Each film contains a scene so similar to one another that they trump those "nothing but the title" reviews. In these scenes, the main characters use the power of their badges to force women into performing sexual acts. Each scene is pretty vile but the first film's is much worse. Cage has public sex with a willing woman while Keitel forces one girl to expose herself and the other girl to simulate oral sex while he has a fun time on their car door. One scene is relatively short while the other seems to go on for days. One scene features an overtly sexually agressive female while the other features two women on the brink of tears as the molestation takes place. Now, I ask you, who's the worst lieutenant?

And while it shouldn't be a competition between these two films and each film should be judged by its own merit, I'm just trying to make the point that Herzog's film, while entertaining and captivating, didn't carry the weight of Ferrera's film. The similarities are obvious and abundant but the original holds more weight. Herzog claims not to have seen the original and to have no idea who Abel Ferrera is. Well, first of all, I'm calling bullshit on that. But even if he really had never seen the first Bad Lieutenant, his screenwriter, producers, actors, and key grips had. If Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, had been released as just Port of Call New Orleans, the critic world would have exploded from all of the simultaneously written "what a rip-off!" reviews.