ScreenFonts: Killers, The A-Team, The Karate Kid, I Am Love, The Killer Inside Me, Knight And Day

I just made an executive decision. Hold on, what did I just say? Me, an executive decision? Moo-whahahahaaah, I am drunk with POWER! Bow to me, puny humans! OK, chill, calm down, breathe normally … So, what I’ve decided is that I will start looking at the European movie releases again. Well, the Dutch and Belgian ones that is – the amount of posters has to stay manageable. Those were covered in the original ScreenFonts series on Unzipped, but when the whole shebang relocated to The FontFeed I started basing my reviews on the monthly lists on IMDB, the Internet Movie Database. As a result this series has become very US-centric, and we’re missing out on some good posters from movies that don’t get released in the US and A. Hey, adding the first European posters this month is the only reason why we’re having such a titillating and voluptuous header image for this episode. I am not excluding the possibility that ScreenFonts will eventually get a European spin-off if I decide to reintroduce the original series on Unzipped after the summer. I am still considering the options.

Another decision, but one that was kind of imposed on me. At the polite request of FontFeed reader “laidlow” I will do my best to work less, get out more, and “get a life”. Maybe I could try playing in a band or two, occasionally invite friends over and cook for them, go dancing once in a while, read comic books, and have sex with my wife from time to time. All this for the greater good of humankind, to avoid turning into “Charles Manson” and “slash [your] asses for using the wrong font”. I sincerely hope this will turn me into a kinder, gentler blogger, and help me turn a blind eye to talentless hacks churning out poorly designed and appallingly typeset, disgusting eyesores as if they were suffering from graphic designarrhoea!

The movie poster on the Internet Movie Poster Awards website

So this “new me” would better not get upset over formulaic movie posters for equally formulaic rom coms, and refrain from calling the poster for Killers insipid and particularly uninspired. So let’s gloss over the white-background-with-lead-actors-doing-hapless-attempts-at-looking-funny type designs that are a dime a dozen. I am also going to ignore that the movie title is set in – once again – tired old Futura. Furthermore I won’t mention the similarities between this poster and Katherine Heigl’s previous outing The Ugly Truth, for which she pulls an almost identical ho-hum funny face. No, let’s have none of this and cover this utter waste of the stock it’s printed on with the cloak of charity. Ahhh, I feel all warm and fluffy inside. What an improvement; thank you so much for the excellent advice, laidlow. ; )

The movie poster on the Internet Movie Poster Awards website

There’s nothing like a stencil typeface to establish a military theme, and the distressed stencil sans Capture It by Magique – similar to Arston Stencil and Cargo – seems to be quite popular with movie poster designers. It shows up a first time on the poster for The Shock Doctrine. The combination with stencil graffiti-style graphics remind of Banksy‘s trademark wall-painted social commentaries, making the design fit the film’s subject matter to a T.

The movie poster on the Internet Movie Poster Awards website

Capture It appears a second time on the movie poster for The A-Team, the movie based on the popular television series from the eighties. It shares screen time with the unavoidable Stencil, the grand-daddy of all stencil faces which was used for the original television show’s logo as well.

The poster image is a perfect candidate for Photoshop Disasters. Now this is a very bizarre assembly of studio pictures composited on top of an unrelated background. The actors have light sources coming from different directions, the shadows on the ground look weird, and can somebody please explain how Face and B.A. can occupy the same space, and even share the bottom half of a leg?

The movie poster on the Internet Movie Poster Awards website

Personally I think the movie poster for The Karate Kid is unjustly accused of plagiarism. Ever since Apple launched its iconic iPod advertising centring around black silhouettes of people rocking out against brightly coloured plain backgrounds, it has effectively appropriated this style of images. The countless parodies only increased its pervasiveness, and now every single black silhouette against brightly coloured background is doomed to be compared with the iPod ads – see also the teaser posters for last year’s remake of Fame, discussed in the September 2009 episode of ScreenFonts. So, yes it looks a lot like an iPod advertisement. And no, the texture added to the background and the type – Helvetica Extra Condensed for the movie title, and Helvetica for the credits – is not sufficient to move this design away from iPod territory. But is this outright plagiarism? I doubt it.

The movie poster on the Internet Movie Poster Awards website

Kellerhouse, Inc. does it again, delivering yet another great poster, this time for the documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work. The vintage-looking design references illustrative movie posters from the 1950s/1960s. The almost monochrome design in different tints of pink puts an interesting twist on horror vacui. All the type – beautifully hand lettered in a delicate, slighty naive style – snugly fills the remaining area not occupied by the actress’ profile. I think it is a lovely solution that evokes the heydays of movie stars like Audrey Hepburn and Peter Sellers.

The movie poster on the Cinémotions website

We go even further back in time for another illustrated movie poster, for L’Illusioniste (The Illusionist), the new animated feature by Sylvain Chomet, the director of Les triplettes de Belleville (The Triplets of Belleville). Although the illustration itself looks contemporary, the movie logo has a distinct Art Deco quality to it. Unfortunately, instead of properly customising the inline sans to achieve the perspective effect, its letters were digitally stretched, resulting in undesirable distortions – compare both “S”s for example.

The movie poster on the Cinémotions website

On the movie poster for Tournée – Mathieu Amalric’s tribute to the art of American burlesque – on the other hand the letters in the movie logo are properly proportioned. The irregularities in the character shapes really bring their hand drawn quality home. I am not bothered at all by these little “mistakes”, because they harmonise nicely with the gorgeous drawing of a burlesque performer. The tasteful yet naughty depiction of the curvaceous dancer oozes sensuality. It establishes her as a woman totally at ease with her body, and in control of her sexuality, using it to affirm herself. Her imposing presence makes the cartoonish little producer look frail and insecure, effectively reversing the balance of power.

The simplicity of the composition and the primary colour scheme really work in favour of this splendid design. It looks like a modern re-imagining of the classic Art Nouveau posters by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and his contemporaries. I am pretty sure nobody would pick it out as a contemporary design if it was inserted in the Vintage Ad Browser or a similar gallery. For the fans – Luiz Da Lomba designed a suite of digital fonts, creating entire alphabets from just a few sample letters of Toulouse-Lautrec’s most famous posters.

The movie poster on the Internet Movie Poster Awards website

Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky is another movie poster with Art Deco references, this time for the simple reason that the film is set in 1913 and 1920, during the ascension of the eclectic artistic and design style. However there is something not entirely right. For starters the frame around the movie title is designed in an indiscriminate style, certainly not Art Deco. Then, the typeface used on the poster is Eccentric, the digitisation of a 1881 design by Gustav F. Schroeder. It may look the correct period style to the uninitiated, but it is a typical Art Nouveau design, thus creating a minor discrepancy between historical setting and typographic representation – Art Nouveau peaked in popularity at the turn of the 20th century, and was over by the first World War when the movie’s story starts. Does all this truly matter? Not really, yet as a (typo)graphic designer I think it’s important one should at least pick-up on and research this type of information.

Oh, and I have no clue why they replaced the Eccentric ampersand with Trajan. There is nothing wrong with the original design, plus this solution disrupts the typographic integrity.

The movie poster on the Internet Movie Poster Awards website

The movie poster for I Am Love is an unusually sophisticated design for The Refinery. Their work usually is very mainstream and often even crass commercial. This poster however is typographically refined and well thought out. The knocked out copperplate script beautifully matches the warm glow and luxury of the interior. By placing the swirling text as big as possible on the image the typography becomes a surprising and striking motif. It is interesting to note how the white letters obfuscate the faces of all the actors on the poster but Tilda Swinton. As her head sticks through the loop of the capital “L”, she could be considered literally “in” Love. One minor qualm – the exaggerated kerning between the “o” and “v” results in a faulty connection of the characters. The outgoing stroke on the “o” should connect, not overlap.

The movie poster on the Internet Movie Poster Awards website

Although it is typographically speaking not in the least interesting, the movie poster for 8: The Mormon Proposition is perfect for this documentary, translating the insidious and revolting manipulations which led to Proposition 8 and the abolishment of same-sex marriage in California into a simple but effective image. I would have preferred a more interesting graphic treatment though. And come on, give me a break – Helvetica Condensed Bold? Put a little more heart into your type selection, please …

By the by, I wonder if the people in the Mormon community responsible for the gay-marriage ban would prefer homosexual men to marry their daughters, or lesbian women to marry their sons then? Just a thought. Watch this documentary at your peril – it will leave you heartbroken, outraged at the inconceivable injustice, and you’ll want to punch your fist through the screen.

The movie poster on the Internet Movie Poster Awards website

Whoa, what a treat – two Kellerhouse, Inc. designs in a single month. The movie poster for The Killer Inside Me effectively conveys the noir atmosphere of the film. Instead of falling back on genre clichés and relying on period typography, expressive hand lettering in feverish white brush strokes evoke the psychosis of the main protagonist. At first sight it may look a little haphazard, yet the composition is anything but, striking a delicate balance between spontaneity and structural integrity. The colour palette is wondrous, with undefined hues of blue and olive and sickly flesh tones enhancing the overall atmosphere of unsanitary insanity. Yeah, that’s probably not proper English, but I like the sound of it. Sue me. ; )

If you’re looking for something similar in digital type, maybe take a look at Tim Sale Brush, or some of the offerings in our FontList of child-like scripts.

The movie poster on the Internet Movie Poster Awards website

I was surprised to discover rather non-mainstream posters for Knight And Day, the Tom Cruise–Cameron Diaz blockbuster. Personally I prefer the teaser poster with its heavy emphasis on typography – Standard Extended – and the dynamic white silhouettes against a black backdrop with coloured paint splatters. But even adding the actual photographs of the movie stars doesn’t ruin the movie poster. Thankfully the interaction between the two looks real this time, not Photoshopped.

The movie poster on the Internet Movie Poster Awards website

You know I like to occasionally check out localised versions, and this time I’m glad I found the Korean poster. Before you start, yes, I realise there’s something bizarre with Cameron Diaz’s face. Nevertheless you have to admit this stylised black-and-white design looks way cool. I don’t know where Asian cinema’s fascination with guns pointing at opposite directions comes from, but it makes for striking images. The tilted photo creates a very nice diagonal axis, with the ideograms Korean Hangul syllabic blocks creating intriguing – to me at least – patterns on the white background at the top and in the bottom half of the poster.

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  1. Hey Yves, I always quite enjoy these posts. Just one nitpicky correction: The last poster is actually in Korean Hangul, which aren’t ideograms but syllabic blocks.

    Posted by Noah Burney on Jul. 16, 2010
  2. Argh, can you believe I originally had “Korean poster”, but then I chickened out? I replaced “Korean” with “Asian” because I doubted myself. I always feel I don’t know enough about Asian scripts. And now I goofed up with the word I didn’t replace. Just my luck; I’ll correct that. Thanks for pointing out that mistake.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Jul. 16, 2010
  3. I think ‘Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work’, ‘I Am Love’ and ‘The Killer Inside Me’ are the best from the current selection. You’re right about the charmingly hand-drawn quality of ‘Tournée’, but the figure of the man in the middle makes it for me too cartoonish which diminishes the poster’s stylistic integrity.

    The lettering on ‘Joan Rivers’ reminded me of Gray318‘s covers for Jonathan Safran Foer‘s novels and the subtlety of the colour palette makes it truly remarkable.

    I have one tiny quarrel with ‘I Am Love’: you’re quite right in praising the delicate execution of putting Tilda Swinton’s head through the loop of the ‘L’; however, from a photographic point of view I would have preferred to have her right shoulder included in the loop as well. Including the head but not the shoulder to my eyes makes her look unbalanced: as if she had to support the weight of the giant letter. You’re quite right about the kerning by the way: I can’t see why they chose to mess up the ‘ov’ pair instead of merging the ‘v’ with the ‘e’.

    The poster for ‘The Killer Inside Me’ seems almost flawless. The only thing I’m not entirely happy about is the placement (and perhaps the size) of the cast list. The photographic treatment is perfect though, and it only adds to the stylistic fidelity how Casey Affleck resembles Elisha Cook Jr. from both ‘Maltese Falcon’ and ‘The Big Sleep’ which might well be the two most famous film noirs.

    Thanks for ScreenFonts, and do keep them coming.

    Posted by Akos Polgardi on Jul. 17, 2010
  4. Great post, nice in depth critiques of each poster covered in the article. I’ve never read ur posts before so this was a great introduction for me. I do look forward to more.

    Posted by Rondell Paul on Jul. 17, 2010
  5. What a fun and interesting read.

    In the middle of a busy morning, your observations managed to slow me down and focus on the details of design and type; something that is easily overlooked in the rapid-fire visual world of ours.

    Thanks for the inspiration,

    Posted by Cat Johnson on Jul. 17, 2010
  6. Thanks for ScreenFonts, and do keep them coming.

    I do look forward to more.

    Thanks for the inspiration,

    Thank you all for the kind words, and very well observed, Akos. This is a monthly series, so you can expect more halfway August. If you’re interested you can find previous episodes with the tag movie posters. And somewhat related – I also do album cover reviews at the beginning of each month. As I leave for holidays with my family on Tuesday July 27 I hope to have them done by then, or the next episode will be two weeks late.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Jul. 17, 2010
  7. Hi Yves,

    As usual, all of your typographical critiques are spot-on. I love reading ScreenFonts each time it appears on FontFeed! I would just like to make one comment.

    I have not seen “8,” but from your comments, the film clearly depicts the Mormon church as “insidious”–and I hope you’ll reconsider this judgment. I am a faithful Mormon, a Californian, a typography lover–and I happen to support Prop 8. I’m not saying that a mutual love of fonts will bring world peace, but I hope that we can focus on our commonalities and avoid the human tendency to demonize those who hold different beliefs. I would encourage you to read this article for a clear explanation of the beliefs of the Mormon church in respect to same-sex marriage:

    Thank you, and keep up the great work.

    Posted by Holly on Jul. 18, 2010
  8. I am certainly not implying that the entire Mormon community is “evil”. I have a number of friends who are Mormon or have a Mormon background, and they are also appalled at the involvement of the group within the Mormon community in passing Prop 8. I don’t want to demonise a complete religion just because a section within that religion did something so utterly unjust.

    I will certainly read this article and let you know what I think of it. The fact that you support Prop 8 makes me suspect we will disagree.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Jul. 18, 2010
  9. I disagree. You can’t possibly begin to imagine how – literally – painful it was for me to struggle through what I think is a sanctimonious, self-righteous pile of nonsense. This defies comprehension, really. I’d rather not get into this any more.

    Believe what you want, but don’t impose your beliefs on others, and don’t stand in the way of the happiness and self-fulfilment every single human being deserves. By the way I’d like to thank you profusely for bringing up this matter in such a civil way; this could’ve turned really ugly.

    I will try to stay away from socio-political issues in the future, but I am only human.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Jul. 18, 2010
  10. can somebody please explain how Face and B.A. can occupy the same space, and even share the bottom half of a leg?

    maybe they fall in love in the movie?! :) Love this “details”. keep up!

    Posted by Nuno on Jul. 19, 2010
  11. Yves,

    Although I agree with your kerning issue on “I Am Love”, it’s not nearly as bothersome to me as the problem I have with “Tournée”, which to me reads as “To-ur-née”.

    Anyone else have a problem with this? I was immediately disturbed by the location and weight of the “o” as well as the location of the “r”. The rest of the poster is beautiful. It’s like a great paint job on a classic car, but they never bothered to restore the engine.

    Posted by Erik on Jul. 19, 2010
  12. Hello everybody!

    Just to signal that the American I Am Love movie poster is the “translation” of the Italian one. It has been designed (with no exaggerated kerning…) by Marco Cendron (of POMO, graphic design studio in Milan), with the calligraphic lettering by Luca Barcellona.

    Marco Cendron designed the opening titles sequence too.

    Alice Rawsthorn of The New York Times wrote recently about Io sono l’amore titles:

    Thank you for the post and many compliments for the work!

    Posted by POMO on Jul. 20, 2010
  13. Nothing to say about the article or the specific reviews. They are great, you know your trade.

    I do want to say: good on you re the art nouveau v art deco. I really don’t understand how people could ever confuse the two, especially since they come from such distinct and incomparable eras and cultures.

    To me, you can even tell their backgrounds by the emotion the type conveys — but that doesn’t seem to apply to everyone. Good of you to point it out (once again).

    Posted by Nils Geylen on Jul. 23, 2010
  14. Does anyone else automatically think of Star Wars upon looking at the Knight & Day poster with the actors? I can’t get past their names.

    Posted by Bru on Jul. 28, 2010
  15. I love these posts and find myself reading them top to bottom, including the comments. Keep it up.

    Posted by moni on Jul. 30, 2010
  16. Has anyone seen the film “I am Love?” I am looking for the name of the font that is used IN the film… it’s at the beginning of a few sections, for instance at the beginning where it says, “MILANO.”

    If anyone knows, please post or email me… I love that font and need to know the name of it! Thanks!

    Posted by Kelly D. on Aug. 5, 2010
  17. Hi Kelly, maybe get in touch with the guys from POMO; they are probably responsible for those titles as well (see the comment above).

    Posted by Yves Peters on Aug. 9, 2010
  18. I had the same question, I love that font and ‘whatthefont’ isn’t helping either.

    Posted by Jeroen on Oct. 28, 2010
  19. Great article!

    Posted by Uddhav on Jun. 1, 2012

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