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Adventures in Barrywood: Fall movie season ends with lessons learned

By Barry Koltnow, The Orange County Register –

This Friday has a nickname. It’s known as “Black Friday,” and it marks the start of the holiday shopping season.

Wednesday doesn’t have a nickname, but it is a significant day in Hollywood nonetheless. It is the official start of the holiday movie season.

That’s right; you blinked and missed another movie season. Pay attention now: the summer movie season gives way to the fall movie season which gives way to the holiday movie season which gives way to Oscar season. Nobody cares about March and April. Those months are a season-free zone.

Before we move on to the holiday movie season, we should look back at the fall movie season to see what can be learned. It’s important to learn lessons from each movie season because mistakes made during the fall season can return as Adam Sandler movies in the summer.

1. IT’S TIME FOR THE WACHOWSKIS TO TALK AGAIN: I believe I had the last known interview with the Wachowski brothers. It was a few days before the opening of their groundbreaking film “The Matrix,” and I suggested that the notoriously media-shy brothers would have to sit for more interviews if their new movie was as big as everybody assumed. They laughed, and said that if it was successful, they’d never give another interview. Well, they pretty much kept their word, but it was a mistake for Andy and Lana (she used to be Larry) Wachowski not to speak up to defend and explain their movie “Cloud Atlas.” Audiences stayed away in droves, and I think it’s time for the filmmakers to promote their movies.

2. IT’S NOT QUENTIN’S WORLD ANYMORE — Somebody probably thought that rapper RZA’s directorial debut “The Man With the Iron Fists” needed some star power to attract audiences so we’re guessing that Quentin Tarantino stepped in and said, “Hey, put my name above the title, like in ‘Quentin Tarantino Presents,’ and every cool person on the planet will show up.” Frankly, nobody cared that he presented the movie. And nobody cared that Russell Crowe, an Oscar winner, was one of the stars of this martial arts misadventure. Jeez, what happened to his career?

3. OLD DUDE RULES AGAIN — When 60-year-old actor Liam Neeson stunned Hollywood with his action hit “Taken,” everybody assumed it was a fluke. Well, “Taken 2” hit theaters with a trunk-full of bad reviews, and people still lined up to see it. Fluke this.

4. “GIGLI” HAS BEEN FORGOTTEN AND FORGIVEN — The people who were shocked at how much they enjoyed “Argo” obviously never saw Ben Affleck’s first two directorial efforts — “Gone Baby Gone” and “The Town.” Both showed great promise, and “Argo” delivered on that promise. Look for Affleck and “Argo” to do well during Oscar season, which as you might remember, follows the holiday movie season.

5. PUT THAT DRESS BACK ON — Tyler Perry, best-known for his broad “Madea” comedies, tried to stretch his acting muscles as a brilliant detective in the little-seen “Alex Cross.” He took over a role (based on a character created by crime novelist James Patterson) previously played on the big screen by Morgan Freeman in “Kiss the Girls” and “Along Came a Spider.” Those shoes might have been a bit too big for Perry to fill. Perhaps, he should stick with a nice pair of oxfords?

6. WE’LL WAIT FOR JAMES — One of the worst-kept secrets in Hollywood was that the bankruptcy of MGM stalled production of “Skyfall,” the 23rd James Bond adventure. It took four years to bring the latest 007 film to theaters, but the wait was worth it, if we are to believe mostly rave reviews and box office numbers usually reserved for geeky wizards and blood-thirsty vampires.

7. DID WE MENTION IT WAS TIM BURTON? — One of the biggest shocks of the fall movie season was the lackluster showing of Burton’s animated film “Frankenweenie.” Disney went all out promoting the film, but it practically disappeared as soon as it appeared. Some people might point to Burton’s decision to make the film in black and white, which family audiences usually don’t like, while others might point to the director’s choice of killing the dog Sparky in the film, although he was quickly brought back to life through the magic of the Frankenstein legacy. However, I think it had more to do with the release just a week before of “Hotel Transylvania.” I think audiences felt they had already seen and done that by the time “Frankenweenie” came out. And they had seen and done that in color.

8. THEY DON’T CALL HIM DENZEL FOR NOTHING — Here’s an idea: hire a director who has been immersed in animated projects for more than a decade (Robert Zemeckis) to make an adult-themed, live-action film about an alcoholic pilot. Sounds like an airborne disaster, doesn’t it? Well, with Denzel Washington as the pilot, “Flight” took off at the box office.

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