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With the release of the traditional Nobody Cares Because It's Labor Day Dud to theaters, the 2013 Summer Movie season comes to a close. We now enter Fall, wherein an initial stream of whatever low-end genre crud that the studios assumed couldn't survive in the Summer (next week brings us that third "Riddick" movie nobody asked for... except Vin Diesel who allegedly "forced" Universal to make it in order to keep coming back for "Fast" sequels) will gradually transition into a cluster of Prestige Pictures making their obligatory Oscar qualifying runs.
I find myself in the unusual (for me) position of actually being glad to be rid of Silly Season. I've been fortunate to have spent most of my relatively short career as a professional critic in an era wherein the "blockbuster scene" transitioned from being the exclusive home of interchangeable steroid-freaks cracking catchphrases while outrunning fireballs and not playing by the rules to a place where filmmakers like Guillermo Del Toro, Peter Jackson and Joss Whedon could command millions to bring 8 year-old Bob's wildest dreams to life; so the experience of having had enough rides on the merry go-round is an odd one for me. Either this year's crop of obligatory biggies were particularly lukewarm, or I'm getting old. You'll understand if I prefer to blame the movies.
That's not to say that it was a bad year, but compared to others in recent memory it felt a lot more like work than I prefer work to feel. There were plenty of good movies, to be sure, but you needed to look in the margins or between the cracks; and since it's the big attention-getters that pay the bills, focusing on the positive wasn't exactly an option. Still, if it wasn't a particularly enjoyable crop, at least it was an interesting one where even the failures had something to teach us. For example...
Audiences may finally be sick of Johnny Depp.
Okay, that's not really fair. The mass-rejection of "Dark Shadows," followed by the spectacular crash and burn of The Lone Ranger - made all the more spectacular in that everyone seemed to see it coming yet was powerless to stop it - were the breaking-point for a sense that's been building since a few weeks after the third Pirates movie that Depp's moment as the mass-market action/comedy figurehead of choice was soon to pass. His boxoffice will likely bounce back with Alice in Wonderland II and Pirates 5, but he's tarnished the hell out of his brand with the film-press tastemakers and cinephiles who used to be his biggest champions.
That's not good news for when his blockbuster clout really does dry up and serious projects are wary of casting him for fear of residual Tonto jokes tainting their prospects. Remember: It wasn't that long ago that Nicholas Cage was a critical-darling and an Academy Award winner; and the "boyishly-handsome brooder" parts that used to be his bread and butter have found new standard-bearers in guys like Ryan Gosling, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Paul Dano.