Although many would disagree, I feel strongly that you can tell a lot about a movie from its poster. I find it a much more reliable method of picking good films when compared with reading movie reviews, watching trailers or just tagging along with friends. I don't know if the reason this works (for me at least) is similar to the family dog picking winning teams for the office pool, so I won't offer any sort of scientific explanation, just my take.

The poster is part of a larger advertising campaign, and is usually created by the marketing department. This is probably a room down the hall from where they create those horrendous movie trailers that give away the entire movie using their patented movie miniaturization technology that is so refined that no plot-twist or mysterious figure is left uncovered. But I digress. I was talking about posters, wasn't I?

When you consider the poster, you are allowed to read it, to identify who is acting in it, who directed it, or even who produced it, things which might help you get a feel for the experience you might have should you find yourself in a theatre with that particular movie on the screen. For example, if you have a strong distaste for a particular actress, such as Sandra Bullock, you might choose to avoid a movie like "Miss Congeniality" for that reason alone.

Next, you might consider composition, as if you were viewing a piece of art. Does it inspire you to see the movie? Does it look like it was thrown together with a few badly applied Photoshop filters and some stock photographs? You can usually by the way it makes you feel. If you feel dizzy, like the 3D poster for "The Frighteners" might have done, and you consider that a good thing, you may be on the right track. If you feel apalled, slighted, maligned, or violently ill, you may have seen a poster for something like "The Skulls" which you could then carefully avoid.

Is the poster original? If the poster takes chances and is successful with the execution, it follows that the movie has potential. Is it derivative? Some posters borrow from others more famous, but is it a horrible rip-off or one artist paying tribute to another? If there is no inspiration apparent in the poster whatsoever, like "Vertical Limit" which can only be paying tribute to the worst movie posters of the early 1990's, then finding something original in the film is doubtful. One of the most popular, and least inspired forms of poster is the "cast line-up" with some low lights aimed high for that theoretically scary campfire ghost-story look. This is "The Faculty", "I Know What You Did Last Summer" and so many more movies of that exceptionally dull genre, also known as known as crap.

Some movies are so bad that they clone the appearance of other movies in order to masquerade as them, purely in the hopes that while you are at the video store you will pick up their product by mistake instead of the one you were really looking for. This is perhaps the worst breed, the movies that were so bad that they went direct to video, poster and all.

Movie posters that were curiously motivational include: "Run, Lola, Run" because of her unusual red hair, "The Matrix" because of the interesting style, "Pi"

Movies posters that I knew indicated danger, but went anyway: "The Whole Nine Yards", and "Breakfast of Champions" (strangely similar, too), "Double Jeopardy" (the lower the lows, the higher the highs, right?), "Deep Impact" (almost as bad as "Volcano"). Oh well.

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