Let’s Go to the Movies

Brian picMost people watch movies. They are a fiction staple, while being able to engage us and entertain us simultaneously. Describing a movie is another matter entirely. Someone asks, “How was the movie?” and answers might be more general, than detailed or categorical. Answers like awesome, action-packed, funny, scary, or gruesome might come forth. The person probing might have to dig for more specifics.

No one wants to be the plot spoiler, so short answers are safer. Movie trailers try to entice without giving away much. It would seem then that reading reviews before watching a movie would disclose more than the prospective viewer would want to know. However, there is a safe and effective way to read reviews ahead of time in order to make a decision about whether it is worth the time and money to see a movie.People Watching Movie in Movie Theater

Professional film critics certainly tell a lot in a review, and their reviews hit the street on the front end of a movie’s opening. However, reading selective parts of the review can help you decide whether to go to the theater, or, whether down the road to sit back at home and give the movie a try.

For one thing, the professional reviewers rate movies from half a star up to four stars. Some use a five star system. Even though the critics might vary a half star to a full star in their assessment, one gets a pretty good idea of just how good, bad, or lackluster a film is.

Critics also comment on a range of topics from acting, to cinematography, to musical score, to script, to directing, to costuming, and even more categories. A movie might be stellar in one or more categories but not so in others. The pacing of the film might be slow, or spotty. So many variables enter in.

siskelandebertThis is where the massive web site MRQE comes in handy. It stands for Movie Review Query Engine. The site is a huge database of reviews on tens of thousands of movies going back to the early era of film. Older movies will not have as many reviews; movies from the 1950s on might have dozens or even over a hundred, and some films have way more than that.

Type in your film name, and the list of reviews will pop up, with the syndicated reviews being at the top for the most part. Looking through reviews can be a tip off if the subject matter is uninteresting to you, if the film is too long, if the acting is disappointing, if the special effects try to make up for lack of plot, or if the characters and themes are just not as riveting as hoped for.

Naturally people like to form their own opinions on things without excessive prompting from the outside, but for efficiency’s sake, a selective reading of reviews and parts of those reviews can give a general picture of whether a film is likely to hold your interest.

After watching a movie, it is fun to read some reviews in depth and compare my own thoughts with the reviews. It is especially fun to disagree with a critic and discuss with my wife why. Other times, a critic brings up a whole vein of thought we had not considered.mrqe

MRQE posts many very well written reviews. Some of the critics are terrific writers and stimulating thinkers. It’s fun to pick their brains a little on the front end, and then a lot more after watching a movie. It’s also great to use them to survey movies showing at a multiple screen theater in order to decide which movie to attend. Hopefully, you will give MRQE a try!

Editor’s note: Think you know a lot about movies? Then try one of these little tests from Sporcle.com. The folks at mental_floss featured “Name the Movie with Only One Clue” this week.

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