Possible reasons: the movies aren’t that good or that interesting; too many remakes of previous winners or losers; audiences are ruder (cell phone chatter, talking aloud, e.g.); ticket prices are too high; concession prices are too high; the feature doesn’t start on time due to 20 minutes of product commercials and previews of coming attractions; or the appeal of home DVD-watching on big screens with powerful sound systems is negating the old-fashioned thrill of sitting in the dark with a crowd and enjoying a night out.

There certainly are other reasons, but the bottom line is this: we may be entering an era when going out to the movies is akin to taking part in a ritual I’ll call toxic cinema. Anyway, here is Uncle Michael’s take on nine new offerings:

Happy Endings: A quirky, off-beat ensemble comedy-drama in which myriad straight, gay, confused, greedy, and conniving people search for self-expression (filmmaking, music), adoptive children, adopting parents, and unrequited love. A little too long at 128 minutes, it’s still a clever, attention-holding, beautifully acted, nicely written and directed (by Don Roos) effort to keep an audience thinking about life’s little mysteries. With Lisa Kudrow, David Sutcliffe, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Tom Arnold, Bobby Cannavale, Jason Ritter, Jesse Bradford, Steve Coogan, and Laura Dern.

The Aristocrats: A hilarious documentary in which a hundred familiar comics (Whoopi Goldberg, George Carlin, Carrot Top, Robin Williams, The Smothers Brothers, Rip Taylor, Pat Cooper, Mario Cantone, Phyllis Diller, Gilbert Gottfried, et. al.) each tell the exact same classic vaudeville joke that is considered the dirtiest joke ever created. Amazingly, the movie works both as entertainment and as comedy education.

The Island: Cloned humans are ripe for body part plucking in director Michael Bay’s failed look at a future dystopia. Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson are two clonees who escape their protective bubble and end up in a movie that goes from interesting science fiction to an utterly absurd and dreadfully familiar movie world of car chases and explosions. Half a good movie – the first half.

March Of The Penguins: A beautifully photographed, mostly fascinating documentary that follows a year in the life of penguins in Antarctica as they march, mate, and get eaten by seals.

Apres Vous: A very pleasing French romantic comedy in which a good Samaritan (a head waiter) finds his life more complicated after he rescues a sad sack from suicide and the guy instills himself in the waiter’s life. The great Daniel Auteuil stars.

Charlie And The Chocolate Factory: A relatively faithful adaptation of Roald Dahl’s delightful tale of a poor young boy who finds riches he didn’t expect when he visits Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Johnny Depp blends Michael Jackson, Carol Channing, and Boy George in a very creepy interpretation of Wonka’s persona. The movie has few songs, but great visuals. There’s a distance to the film that never lets it properly play out, but it’s worth a look nonetheless.

The Wedding Crashers: Too many vomit jokes, too much reliance on gay (as in homosexual) punchlines, and a very bland ending ruin what begins as a giddy buddy comedy about two divorce mediators (Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn) who crash weddings to meet women. Wilson and Vaughn make a good comic team, but the steam runs out of the movie because it’s basically a one-joke idea.

The Fantastic Four: More comic book silliness as four space explorers get zapped by microwaves and find that each have separate, albeit, wild new powers (invisibility, can create fire, built like a mountain, elasticity). Back on Earth they don’t know what to do with their powers and the movie goes downhill from there. Virtually no story-line and definitely no surprises.

Dark Water: A single mom rents a haunted apartment in Manhattan and, the price of lodging in NYC being what it is, she doesn’t move out when the spreading stain on her ceiling turns out to be a hallmark of somebody’s craziness. This one even has the curious kid who makes friends with the mysterious stain upstairs. Pointless and laughable. By Michael Calleri ALT Movie Editor

Kids have it easy. They can review a movie in a phrase. “It was awesome” is one example. Or “it sucks” is another. My nephews Anthony and Matthew (12 and 13 respectively) love mixing it up with me about their favorite films.

Since we’re in mid-summer and I’ve got a slew of movies with which to catch up, review-wise, I thought I’d give an uncle kind of spin to kidspeak. I should note that the box office this season hasn’t been kind to the major Hollywood studios. Ticket sales are flat. Come up with a reason on your own or pick one from the next sentence, but for some reason, movie-going has lessened in appeal.