ScreenFonts: Gamer, Love Happens, Bright Star, The Informant, Fame

  • Fonts in Use
Fonts in Use, ScreenFonts | Yves Peters | October 13, 2009

I have to warn you this is a somewhat lean episode. There’s not much I can show, and what I do show isn’t always very good. I certainly don’t mind having the odd misfire in the list. Pointing out what I don’t like can be interesting too (at least for myself) in order to define a frame of reference for how I review these posters. The problem is that this time even the poor designs are not very inspiring, at least not enough for me to let it rip, so I’m afraid this instalment of ScreenFonts may be a rather tepid one. Let’s try and make the most of it.

We start off pretty well though, because Gamer has a nice movie poster. Revealing the face of the player controlling the “played” inside the latter’s face nicely translates the theme of the movie into an strong image. The image relies on the juxtaposition of rich grey tones for the main portrait, and full colour for the face emerging from the cracks. Instead of going for a fake digital image effect with static, luminescence and whatnot, those blocky cracks have a random geometry that remind me of a digital video signal breaking up. It’s a more subtle solution that still fits the concept.

Blockbuster action movies often rely on square sans serifs like Bank Gothic or Agency for their logos and marketing materials. In this instance Font Bureau‘s Agency Bold was slightly customised. Not exactly revolutionary, but it works.

The thing I like about the movie poster for Extract is that the logo emulates the label on a bottle of extract. The typefaces look the part – the compact sans serif used for the logo is Plak with a shadow line; however I didn’t manage to identify the casual brush sans spelling out the actors’ first names. The squarish sans caps at the bottom of the label are Aldo Novarese‘s ubiquitous Eurostile.


Thank you for Smoking opening titles sequence by Shadowplay Studio on Vimeo.

This poster reminded me of the fantastic opening titles sequence for Thank You For Smoking by Shadowplay Studio, where the titles were made to look like close-ups of cigarette packs. Stephen Coles once had a go at identifying all the typefaces on Typographica. The trailer for Extract features a similar typographic treatment.

Inexplicably the movie logo is set in a different typeface on the official movie site. Plak was replaced with Alternate Gothic No. 2 which lacks the bite of the original and also looks less believable. Here Nick Cooke‘s Houschka comes into the mix as well – in this light weight I can’t tell if it’s the original or Houschka Rounded.

As for the teaser poster… yeah yeah, I got the double-entendre in the tagline, and noticed the two nuts and the erect bottle, bunch of silly juvenile delinquents.

And lo and behold, here is the poster for another Tyler Perry movie. Yup, I’m still not over my embarrassing confusion when last I was confronted with his brand of graphic design irony. And indeed he does it again for I Can Do Bad All By Myself. The main poster kind of reflects what the movie is about: Taraji P. Henson who is depicted on the image plays a heavy-drinking nightclub singer. I like the image treatment which suggests both the coloured stage lights and the hazy vision of an inebriated person. Yet it does seem too sophisticated and slick, and would’ve fit a movie like Dream Girls better. As for the type set in Futura caps – really, I can’t be bothered to start another rant.

Now I don’t mind going along with irony and satire, but frankly I’m a bit at a loss here. The first “ironic” poster seems to refer to the Lindsay Lohan vehicle I Know Who Killed Me, while the second one almost literally mirrors the poster for the classic (and controversial) Straw Dogs. Now I don’t know about you but I fail to see any added value to justify the plagiarism. Does a connection exist between the movies whose posters were copied and I Can Do Bad All By Myself? To me it all seems pretty gratuitous and devoid of any real reference nor commentary. Or am I missing something incredibly clever here? The title on both Tyler Perry spoof posters is Neue Helvetica Extended.

In case you felt I was exaggerating in my rant about posters for romantic comedies last episode, here’s another example. The movie poster for Love Happens safely sticks to the formula – a horizontal band with the portrait of the main actors on an otherwise pristine white background, and some tasteful light typography. Agreed, this time around it’s Avenir, not Didot, also by Adrian Frutiger, but I think you have to agree it perfectly fits in with the other posters I previously mentioned. Linotype recently released the improved and expanded Avenir Next.

Honestly, when it comes to romantic posters I largely prefer the movie poster for Jane Campion’s Bright Star. The emotion conveyed by the actors feels far more genuine, and the tenderness of the moment captured in the image is almost palpable. The delicate, trembling line quality and faint luminescence of the movie title makes the overall design even more endearing. This is not a font but hand calligraphy as the minute differences in the two “t”s and “r”s tell us (although with feature-rich OpenType fonts it is harder to tell these days). Yet there are typefaces that quite successfully emulate vintage cursive handwritten scripts from the 18th to the early 20th centuries, when even the general public learned how to write beautifully with a fountain pen.

This movie poster is a surefire candidate for the category “I like this so much but I don’t exactly know why I like it”. The image for The Informant is slightly strange, with Matt Damon’s doting smile partly tinted with a toxic orange hue, as if he’s on another planet. The white type is beautifully integrated in the image, and very well set. Hyphenation is quite unusual on movie posters, but here it works beautifully – the three parts of “unbelievable” create a superb word image, with the ascenders hitting the bottom of the characters right above them in just the right spots. Furthermore the play with capitalisation – the big “unbelievable” and Matt Damon’s name all in lowercase next to the properly capitalised movie title – creates an appealing tension. This is a solid composition and a great poster design. Hey, it even makes me forget to start another rant, this time about Helvetica.

The alternate poster is just as good. It sports a design that oozes humour and sixties sensibility, with a rough hand cut silhouette and ditto type. Here too Matt Damon’s expression is priceless – self-confident, even defiant, but ultimately clueless. A great comedic poster that is genuinely funny and thankfully doesn’t resort to big red text.

Somebody please explain how the people responsible for the main poster for the new Fame managed to turn in what is possibly the most static poster for a dance movie I have ever seen. I understand their choice to capitalise on the iconic logo of the original movie by Alan Parker, but the tiny figures on the stage look more like immobile mannequins in a shop window than ambitious and dynamic dance and music students. This does not work. At all.

The energy on the teaser posters is infinitely better, but unfortunately I have the impression I’m looking at an advertising mash-up of iPod and Coca Cola. Very weird. To achieve a similar effect to the Fame logo, there exist a number of scripts that include this type of underline swashes: Bello, Casey, P22 Brass Script, and recent addition Metroscript.

Well, this concludes a rather unsatisfying episode of ScreenFonts. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. I’m terribly sorry about this; let’s hope next month’s offerings are more inspiring.

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8 Comments:

  1. What!? You think The Gamer has a nice poster? Pass the jay cause I’m not there yet.

    Posted by Jeff on Oct. 13, 2009
  2. Hi Yves – the casual brush sans in the Extract poster looks to be House Industries’ Tiki Holiday I think.

    Posted by Matthew Buchanan on Oct. 14, 2009
  3. The casual brush on “Extract” could be House Industries Tiki Holiday.

    Posted by Ivan Philipov on Oct. 14, 2009
  4. What!? You think The Gamer has a nice poster? Pass the jay cause I’m not there yet.

    It’s not a stellar achievement, but as far as posters for action blockbusters go I like it indeed. De gustibus et coloribus, you know. On the other hand, maybe it looked good to me in comparison to the other designs in the list. We have a saying here that goes: “In the land of the blind, one-eye is king”. ;)

    Posted by Yves Peters on Oct. 14, 2009
  5. “Thank You For Smoking” is indeed a really good movie. Thank you for sharing the Typographica link.

    Posted by mk2 on Oct. 14, 2009
  6. Bright Star is certainly has an exquisite image -
    however the title, whether hand lettered or a font, is so very weak by any lettering standards – there is no grasp on the style they were attempting to emulate (which was reflective of the tool used). I never hope to see an open connection on the top of a “t” ever again!

    Posted by tkd on Oct. 27, 2009
  7. Well, I agree with your assessment of the lettering, yet I can’t help but find the hopeless inadequacy and naivety actually reinforces the atmosphere. It’s poor calligraphy used in a beautiful way.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Oct. 27, 2009
  8. With the Tyler Perry posters, I feel that he is trying to emulate the effects that Spike Lee had on a few of his movie posters. Some of Spike Lee’s were clearly a ripoff of other movie posters [his most famous poster rip off of Saul Bass' poster]. Unfortunately, a younger or less design-history inclined demographic would be none the wiser. In short, I would say that his designers are ripping off good work because, like many aspects in Hollywood, they cannot come up with something original.

    Posted by Dora on Mar. 19, 2010

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