For detail-oriented cinemagoers, perusing the posters at the local multiplex is a sacred ritual. Where else are a whole season's worth of movies crammed into just a few feet of space? That's why studios always try to recapture the indelible images of years past (remember Gone With the Wind and Alien?) with varying results. Here's a tip sheet on the holiday one-sheets.
Between wall-crawlers, wizards, and Jedis, 2002 has been a good year for geeks. There are two fan faves to go, but which saga's poster deserves a space next to that velour Jango Fett tapestry? Certainly not this blah promo for Star Trek: Nemesis, which slaps two bald guys and an android on a lurid green that's so Batman Forever. Thankfully, The Two Towers' striking cast roundup hints at the flick's moonlit intrigue -- and features a new face or two. Granted, after Fellowship, New Line could have shown Peter Jackson in a bathrobe and flip-flops and we still would have shown up. NEMESIS C - TWO TOWERS A
True to their metropolitan monikers, both Maid in Manhattan and Gangs of New York boast Big Apple backdrops. Gangs' ripped-flag format is more eye-grabbing (it also features the stronger tag line -- though we first saw it a year ago). Maid's glamorama visuals are fairly straightforward, until you notice that toned-down diva Jennifer Lopez is packing a roll of toilet paper. (See? She is real!) Chicago's Renee Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones, meanwhile, pack pistols in a playful look at all that snazz. Bonus effect: The doll-faced duo's vampiness distracts us from Richard Gere, whose smug mug is disturbingly similar to Ralph Fiennes'. GANGS OF NEW YORK A- - MAID IN MANHATTAN B- - CHICAGO B+
Sometimes, getting ahead in the holiday movie season means, well, getting a head -- especially if it belongs to a big movie star. Consider Jack Nicholson's About Schmidt, in which a rain cloud hovers like an anti-halo -- a fitting image for his character's self-defeating frustration. Rob Schneider's look in The Hot Chick may be more Maude than maudlin, but the nippy visual will likely appeal to his teen-tilting audience. As for the cream-covered comic's shocked expression, it could be a reaction to Nicolas Cage's fractured mug for Adaptation, with the Oscar winner down and dirty as a busted flowerpot. Of course, after Windtalkers, keeping Cage's grimace to a minimum might not be a bad idea. ABOUT SCHMIDT A- - HOT CHICK B- - ADAPTATION B+
As if December's release schedule weren't overstuffed enough, studios are decking the walls with teasers for next year's towering titles. Hence the cheeky poster for Charlie's Angels 2: Full Throttle, in which the tightly clad trio makes us really glad Bill Murray isn't back. But whoa is we: The stars of Matrix: Reloaded get a few inches trimmed off the top, obscuring the characters' trademark shades. The biggest disappearing act, though, is for the X-Men sequel; the promo doesn't even offer a sneak peek of next summer's mutant menagerie. Its suitably mysterious logo is intriguing, but anyone out of the loop may mistake it for another X-Files installment -- or worse, the follow-up to XXX. CHARLIE'S ANGELS 2 B - MATRIX:RELOADED A- - X2 C+
IT'S ALL A BLUR
After taking a couple years off, Leonardo DiCaprio is barely recognizable these days -- at least in the case of the fuzzy Catch Me if You Can poster. Leo and costar Tom Hanks are reduced to Looney Tunes levels of loco motion for Steven Spielberg's on-the-run caper. The shadowy face in They is a bit more mysterious. Just who are we looking at anyway? The promo never says -- though the image kinda resembles Tilda Swinton (who's not even in the movie). At least the smooshed-together teens in Final Destination 2 look suitably freaked out by some unseen forces, even though nothing in the sequel's ad screams out ''See me!'' CATCH ME IF YOU CAN A- - THEY C - FINAL DESTINATION C-