Looking Ahead

December 22, 2006
A thought by James Berardinelli

The expected pattern goes like this: after the euphoria created by the great movies of November and December, the critic must gird his/her loins for the dreary months of January through March. That's the way it usually works. 2006, however, has been an exception. November/December has not been a great time for movies. Only a few of the titles on my soon-to-be unveiled Top 10 were released after October 31. In fact, if you look at my latest roster of reviews, you'll notice a surprising lack of stars. I don't know whether the movers and shakers in Hollywood made a conscious decision to get the best stuff out early or whether they misjudged the quality of their late-year releases. Either way, the last two months of 2006 have been underwhelming. Now, it's time to get really depressed by looking to 2007.

I'll admit the summer doesn't look to bad. May proffers three big-time titles: third helpings of Spider-Man, Shrek, and Pirates of the Caribbean. The dollars will be rolling in. Later in the summer, we get a fourth Die Hard and a fifth Harry Potter. But those warm days seem so far off. Winter hasn't even officially started. May seems like a dream; January, on the other hand, is a cold, hard reality.

I wish I could say I'm bullish about the early 2007 prospects, but that would be lying. Aside from Black Moan Snake, which sounds... intriguing... movie-going looks like it's going to become a chore in the short-term. Of course, there could be a few pleasant surprises (and probably will be). I didn't have high hopes for 2006's early-year Tristan and Isolde but ended up liking it enough to give it 3 stars and buy a copy when it arrived on DVD. It's those kind of things that keep me trudging through the January and February snow to reach screenings.

The purpose of a trailer is to get a viewer excited about seeing a movie. It is designed to tantalize. The trailers for the first quarter 2007 fare, however, have had the opposite effect. For nearly every one of them, my reaction has been: this is something I'd like to skip. (Okay, N'Ever After doesn't look bad.) In many cases, I don't remember the names, but how is it possible to get excited about a January/February/March movie when the trailer is terrible? Consider the trailer for the new Adam Sandler movie (Reign over Me, not a comedy)... it makes me cringe in a way that only the trailer for a Roberto Benigni movie should be able to make me cringe. The trailer for some animated movie about a kid who travels into the future makes me wonder if animation is going to continue its slide in 2007.

One could make an argument that the absence of a trailer is better than a bad one. If people aren't interested in a movie, they won't go. A bad trailer isn't going to change that, but it may cause those who were on the fence to wait for the DVD. While there's no direct correlation between trailer quality and movie quality, a poor trailer will lead to less enthusiasm among potential audience members. It's a difficult thing to fill multiplexes during the winter. The function of the trailer maker is to facilitate that goal by generating anticipation about mediocre fare. Judging by what I have seen so far, they're not doing their jobs.

However, before looking too far ahead, it's time to close the books on 2006. Next week, I'll round out the year in three parts: Memorable Performances (December 26), the Bottom Ten (December 28), and the Top Ten (December 30). Until then, Happy Holidays!