Well, we are halfway through the summer movie season and the news is not good. Critics and insiders are calling this the summer of the flop, and despite the obvious (Oblivion, After Earth, White House Down, The Lone Ranger) I wonder why that is. I mean, come on, crappy action movies have been as much a part of the summer fabric as baseball games and BBQs. Why suddenly are movie-goers voting with their wallets?

Of course, there’s word of mouth--2013 word of mouth. My 14-year-old, Whiny, has 2,000 Facebook friends. When he says White House Down stinks, he’s not just commenting at the lunch table, he’s broadcasting. Early movie-goers are like cinematic first-responders--tweeting, posting and texting words of warning.

Then there’s the obvious alternative: There are a jillion movie options for the so inclined. Why risk $10-plus on a questionable movie when there’s a sure thing available for almost nothing on cable, On Demand, Netflix and DVDs? It’s hard to shell out for After Earth when Argo is right there.

Then, of course, there are the signs. It’s taken us a while, but movie-goers are starting to wise up. There are certain, shall we say, indications that a movie may not be all that is promised. With some help from the website, The Wrap, I’ve boiled it down. The glaring red flags are:

The release date has moved: If a studio knows its movie is less than expected, it wants as little competition at the box office as possible and will move the opening to ensure that. Either that, or the film has gone back for a re-edit, causing a delay. Either way, it is not good.

There is very little advanced press: If the studio doesn’t screen the movie for critics or permit reviews to be published before the release, there’s trouble. Also, if the quote on the movie poster is from an obscure reviewer (A cinematic masterpiece--Ralph Scrimshaw, The Greenberry Guardian), there’s trouble.

The studio relies heavily on past successes: When there are references to other movies on the poster, consider yourself warned. From the studio that brought you Avatar, comes Hugh Jackman, star of The X-Men and Academy Award-winner Russell Crowe in the zaniest comedy about summer camp you’ll ever see. You get the idea.

Corollary: The studio will throw in a heavy-hitter who really had nothing to do with the film just to get his or her name tacked on. From the mind of James Cameron…

The movie stars Adam Sandler or Katherine Heigl: OK, that was mean, but I paid to see Jack and Jill. If these two ever pair up for a film, look out.

So there you have it. Hopefully, as the summer moseys along, things will get better. Maybe another Die Hard or Iron Man will appear late in the game. If not, well, there’s always Die Hard and Iron Man.

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