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The First Poster's Message: ''We know the last one was terrible. This one will be awesome.''
The Second Poster's Message: ''Blade Runner meets Gargoyles meets a sword.''
The Third Poster's Message: ''Something something Wolverine something something Samurai.''
The Assessment: When your movie stars one of the world's most recognizable actors as one of the world's most beloved superheroes, you're allowed to take some chances. And the Wolverine campaign has done just that. First came the eye-catching ink painting. Then came the moody, melancholic tower-sitting poster. Even the slightly-more-straightforward Japanese poster feels impressionistic, with the words for ''Death'' and ''Life'' on either side of Hugh Jackman's head. Taken all together, these posters a great example of how to rescue a franchise from a substandard film using a few cool images.
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The Message: ''It's the 1970s, and sex will be had.''
The Assessment: As the titular porn star, Amanda Seyfried flashes bedroom eyes that are simultaneously seductive and just the right amount of over-the-top. There's an implied wink to this whole poster, which doesn't make it any less enticing.
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The Message: ''You liked them separately. You'll probably like them together. Just FYI, there are guns and helicopters in this movie. And money that's on fire, I guess? Again, look at the names of the people involved.''
The Assessment: Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg have done steady business with straightforward actioners lately — the former in Unstoppable and Safe House, the latter in Contraband and Pain & Gain. The actors are their own best advertisements, and the poster just puts them together onstage with a sepia tinge and the hint of a gunfight. The most eccentric thing about this poster is that hat, which is coincidentally the worst thing about this poster.
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The Message: ''Animal masks: Yet another relic from your childhood that horror movies are about to ruin.''
The Assessment: The campaign for this summer's buzziest horror treat definitely captures a tone of blood-terror. However, the film is a genuinely surprising horror gem; the posters seem to be selling the latest Hostel retread.
Grade: B+, with a slight grade bump for that awesome Big Wedding tie-in campaign.
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The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
The Message: ''We swear this isn't a craven Twilight knockoff. We swear.''
The Assessment: Who can blame Hollywood for trying to grab a piece of that sweet, sweet YA-novel-adaptation pie? But give the Mortal Instruments poster some credit for opting for a big distinctive visual. The tagline is a bit boilerplate-fantasy, but you'll definitely turn upside-down at least once to get a look at that bizarre city.
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The Message: ''It's Cars, but with...other stuff. Y'know? Whatever.''
The Assessment: It's bright. It's colorful. The planes have eyes. Your kids will probably love it. Compare this to the Monsters University poster to learn the difference between advertising that tries and advertising that shrugs.
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The Message: ''[Top to Bottom] Ohh, I know the back of that head. I'm excited. Wait, is that a camera? Is this an ad for a digital camera? Oh, no, it's an ad for a back brace. Elysium? Wasn't that in Gladiator? Oh, it's the District 9 guy. Guess it'll be weird.''
The Assessment: Neil Blomkamp's gritty sci-fi film sounds cool, but this poster's strange decision to focus on Matt Damon's exoskeleton is a bit too obtuse. Still, at least we know it's not Smurfs 2.
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Smurfs 2/Despicable Me
The First Poster's Message: ''They're coming back, and nothing is going to stop them. Sadly.''
The Second Poster's Message: ''They're coming back, and nothing is going to stop them. Hee.''
The Assessment: Two animated sequels, two cute expressions of the number 2, two posters with images so iconic they don't even need the title on the page. The first earns points for straightforward presentation. Unwisely, however, they kept just a little bit of the Smurf's head onscreen — specifically, that cold dead digital Smurf eye which seems to stare into your soul. Far better is the Despicable Me 2 poster. It's very difficult to see the wide-eyed minions and not giggle just a little bit.
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The Message: ''Terror. Pure terror.''
The Assessment: A great and immediately scary image — you're already counting the seconds until that match goes out.
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Only God Forgives
The Message: ''Do you like Ryan Gosling? F--- you. We're turning his face into a piñata.''
The Assessment: The boldest line-in-the-sand poster of the summer. If you don't like violence, this ain't for you. But by taking one of the most handsome actors of the moment and just wrecking his face, Only God Forgives is also one of the most undeniably unique posters in recent years. And the red title on monochrome is eye-catching.
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Grown Ups 2
The Message: ''You liked the first one, right? No? Shut up.''
The Assessment: The first Grown Ups had a couple of great posters — the celebrity yearbook photo and the waterslide image — which got across the nifty (and intrinsically nostalgic) idea of seeing all these guys together in one movie. The sequel's indifferently Photoshopped mishmash unwisely lets the 2 dominate the poster. It reads like a threat.
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The Message: ''This will be extremely intense. You should definitely see it.''
The Assessment: The film — originally titled Fruitvale — tells a disturbing true-life story of a young man wrongfully shot to death in Oakland, Calif. The poster features nary a hint about that, but it manages to capture a fascinating sense of oncoming dread — a credit to emerging star Michael B. Jordan, a familiar face to different constituencies (fans of The Wire, Friday Night Lights, or Chronicle).
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The First Poster's Message: ''Big. Really big.''
The Second Poster's Message: ''Big. Really Big. And retro. Really retro.''
The Assessment: No subtlety here. Guillermo del Toro's new movie is about giant robots fighting giant robots, and the main poster doesn't mince words. There are lots of cool little details — the tiny people in front of the robot's eye, the graffiti, the battle scars along the armor. But the tagline is at once straightforward and kind of funny: ''To Fight Monsters We Created Monsters.'' A tie-in campaign reimagines the monsters in a '40s propaganda style. If you're a nerd, the latter is desktop wallpaper waiting to happen.
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The Lone Ranger
The Message: ''Dear God, I hope that white stuff is paint.''
The Assessment: The new Superman and Star Trek movies can get away with subtlety, because everyone knows Superman and Star Trek. The Lone Ranger doesn't have the same brand recognition — the selling point here should be Johnny Depp reuniting with Gore Verbinski, his collaborator on the ridiculously popular Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. But Depp is buried behind a vague image — it's meant to resemble Tonto's war paint, according to your great-grandfather who vaguely remembers who Tonto is. The tagline doesn't help. Points for trying, but demerits for failing.
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Man of Steel
The Message: ''Superman Into Dark Knight.''
The Assessment: A smart, subtle take on the last son of Krypton. You immediately notice the red S — one of the most familiar brands in pop culture history. Then you notice everything around that S: The soldiers, the handcuffs, the stern look on New Superman's face. If anything, this poster might be too subtle — the grainy photograph makes it look a little like a fan-made Photoshop image. Still, it's a cool fan-made Photoshop image.
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The Message: ''Did you love Wedding Crashers? You don't remember Wedding Crashers? It was only, like...oh, eight years ago. Well, um, Google!''
The Assessment: Prominently featuring the re-pairing of Vaughn and Wilson was smart. The weirdly Photoshopped image: Less smart. The prominent use of white space could have been a bold move, but it feels like there's a little bit too much white space — this poster seems to disappear the more you look at it.
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The Message: ''Are you a kid? Look at all these toys your parents are gonna get you for Christmas! Oh, you're a parent? Well, better start saving up for Christmas, pal.''
The Assessment: Pixar's prequel has the advantage of familiar characters, but it wisely puts Sulley and Mike front and center and surrounds them with a whole new assortment of characters. Most follow-ups promise ''more,'' and this definitely gets that across, but by throwing you right into the collegiate environment, it also seems to promise you a whole new addictive universe of lovable-and-yet-kinda-terrifying characters. (Once you see this poster, Epic looks like even more of a mishmash.)
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The Bling Ring
The Message: ''It's like Ocean's 11, but with women.''
The Assessment: A classic case of addition by subtraction. The poster features no one from the cast — who, besides Emma Watson, are mostly unknowns — but instead plays with the film's decadent consumerist iconography. It's a great tease, simultaneously funny and a little unsettling.
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Much Ado About Nothing
The Message: ''Don't worry, this isn't typical Shakespeare. This is quirky Shakespeare.''
The Assessment: There's a lot right with this poster: The monochrome color scheme with carefully spaced blasts of eye-catching red; the weird dichotomy between the Shakespearean title and the decidedly non-Shakespearean imagery; the tagline, ''Shakespeare Knew How To Throw A Party,'' which sounds like something the ''cool'' high school English teacher would say. However, there's a helpless twee factor to the snorkel-martini-blank stare: As with The World's End, there's a sense that, if you're not already in the club, then you're not invited.
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World War Z
The First Poster's Message: ''Sure, The Walking Dead is cool. But does it have a helicopter? Oh, it did? Well, our helicopter is cooler.''
The Second Poster's Message: ''Cargo pants, eh? Looks like Brad Pitt is really owning his dad phase. Oh look, burning buildings.''
The Assessment: Typically, big summer blockbusters have two separate poster campaigns. The first is more artistic, experimental, teasing; the second, as release looms, is more straightforward, star-focused, and boring. So it is with World War Z. The first poster is a legitimately fascinating image — was the homage to the Fall of Saigon purposeful? The second poster is just boilerplate apocalypse — it almost looks like Pitt is watching a different blockbuster movie.
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This Is The End/The World's End
The First Poster's Message: ''Best-case scenario, this is the Avengers of people you think are funny. Worst-case scenario, this is Entourage with people who are annoying on purpose.''
The Second Poster's Message: ''If you haven't been reading about this on Twitter since last year, you'll probably never know about it anyway.''
The Assessment: In a bizarre case of coincidental timing, both the Apatow clique and the dynamic Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg duo are releasing comedies about the apocalypse this summer. The former buries the subject matter in favor of a shot of the cast. The latter buries the cast in favor of the subject matter. The blunt-force marketing of the first poster is more effective — World's End might've been better served at least mentioning that it comes from the makers of Shaun of the Dead. Still, World's End earns points for just looking cooler. It'll win on dorm walls, if not at the box office.
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The First Poster's Message: ''This will absolutely bring you closer to your emotionally distant father and/or son.''
The Second Poster's Message: ''You liked Avatar, right? How about Oblivion? Well, this is a lot like Avatar, but, if you liked Oblivion, you'll definitely like this even more.''
The Assessment: The second poster has a cool visual, but unfortunately, the whole ''mystical landscape'' image has been done to death recently. The first one is actually much more effective — there's an undeniable immediate emotional pull to the idea of a real-life father and son sharing the screen. (Demerit: How do you have two generations of charming Smith men in the same image, and neither of them is smirking even a little bit?)
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White House Down
The Message: ''This is a movie for people who love Die Hard, Channing Tatum, and America. You love America, don't you?''
The Assessment: This spring's other DC-attack thriller already swooped director Roland Emmerich's iconic White-House-Afire shot from Independence Day, so this poster goes the opposite route with newsprint shots of burning D.C. in the background. One qualm: People love Channing Tatum, but so far, they've mostly loved Fun Goofy Dancing Channing Tatum. Do they want to see Broody Tatum?
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The Message: ''Looks cool, huh? Look closer. Yep, it's her. You love her! Now look who she's with. Yep. It's her. You really love her. Oh, and by the way, it's rated R.''
The Assessment: In the modern sequel-reboot-remake climate, selling something new can be difficult. You have two options, in marketing speak: Blunt-force trauma that forcibly stamps your film's title on people's brains, or a subtle come-on that incepts a need to see your movie. This poster does both: You won't forget the title anytime soon, but hiding Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy's faces makes their presence feel like a happy surprise.
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Fast & Furious 6
The Message: ''He's a bald guy wearing a white T-shirt. It's a car that won't turn into a robot. You know the drill.''
The Assessment: This might be the single subtlest thing ever produced by the Fast & Furious franchise. It's also a disappointingly low-key image, considering that the movie features a tank, a plane, and the human tank-plane known as Dwayne Johnson. Still, it gets the message across.
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The Message: ''It's a light comedy of manners for everyone who has ever felt left behind. Please don't look at the title.''
The Assessment: One of the most quietly cool and intriguing images of the poster season, this Peeples one-sheet gestures at the film's class-conscious comedy in a visual that's both gentle and firm. The tagline is unforgivable, but at least it's buried in the white space.
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The Hangover Part III
The Message: ''We know you didn't like the last one. This one will be insane. And it's back in Vegas. Also, we promise this is the last one ever. Come on, you've come this far, haven't you?''
The Assessment: A funny direct homage to the poster for the final Harry Potter movie, the Hangover III image manages to raise the stakes on the franchise by feeling genuinely apocalyptic.
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Now You See Me
The Message: ''You're guaranteed to like somebody in this movie?unless you get lost in our WORD LABYRINTH bwahahaha.''
The Assessment: Listen, that's a hell of a cast. But putting them all in nice clothes and hiding them inside of a title-cage does the movie no favors. (It also barely hints at the film's bizarro-glitzy magician-heist plot.)
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The Message: ''Green stuff!''
The Assessment: Points for prominently featuring an archer right above the title. Archery: So hot right now, if ''right now'' was exactly one year ago. Demerits for making Fake Reid Scott do the DreamWorks Face. On a general level, this confusing mishmash of images actively makes the already-vague title even more confusing. Also, as we learned a couple years ago, nobody likes green.
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Star Trek Into Darkness
The Message: ''You liked The Dark Knight, right? Well, imagine that, but in in the future.''
The Assessment: A bold choice for a sequel poster. No stars. No spaceships. The franchise name is quite literally buried in the rubble. The only person on screen is the new bad guy — and you can't even see his face. After a few seconds, your eyes notice the subtle Star Trek logo carved into the debris — but by then, you're already on board.
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The Great Gatsby
The First Poster's Message: ''Seductive. Tasteful. Leonardo DiCaprio's Ear.''
The Second Poster's Message: ''This movie was filmed entirely on the cover of Watch the Throne.''
The Assessment: The first poster is beautiful but too restrained: It looks like the cover of a book. The second poster is glitzier but weirdly not quite trashy enough — it only hints at the movie's phantasmagoric color scheme.
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Iron Man 3
The Message: ''Hey, remember how much you loved Iron Man? And remember how much you loved Iron Man in The Avengers? And you forgot about Iron Man 2, right? Well, there's a new Iron Man movie, and it's got lots of Iron Men, and also some bruises!''
The Assessment: Sequel posters are tricky. You want to convince people they're getting something new, but also reassure them they're getting something familiar. Despite the assorted Iron People, this poster falls too much in the ''familiar'' category.