Q: I don’t want to waste my time or money seeing a bad flick, but I don’t like the movie critic in my local paper. Who are the best movie critics on the Internet?
A: Well, “best” is a relative term. The movies I consider to be this year’s “best” may not match your list. The same goes for whom I consider the “best” Internet film critic.
A movie review serves two purposes. The first is helping me to decide which movie to go see. A night at the multiplex is not the most expensive way to spend the evening, but it still hurts to throw away the price of admission and waste a $40 bottomless tub of I don’t want to waste my time or money seeing a bad flick, but I don’t like the movie critic in my local paper. Who are the best movie critics on the Internet?popcorn on a lousy movie.
The second is providing additional insight into a film I am planning to see or have already seen. The insights could include background information on the subject of the film, inside jokes that I might miss, or subtle symbolism on the part of the director (“In this scene, the rutabaga represents the hope of mankind and the paring knife the cruel intrusion of fatalism.”)
For the first purpose, it is important that you find a critic whose judgment meshes with your own. Film criticism is an art, not a science, and subjective elements are going to influence the opinion of a critic. So start by reading reviews of a few movies you particularly liked, as well as a few you disliked. You’re looking for someone who shares your taste in movies.
The second purpose, additional insight, is a bit easier. Most critics provide some additional information about a film even if it’s just the material supplied by the studio. However, some critics are more concerned with sounding witty than with being informative. You will see this tendency most often in negative reviews. Although it can be amusing to share in the ridicule of a cinematic stinker, I consider such critics frustrated stand-up comedians and generally avoid them.
With those two purposes in mind, the following are my recommendations for Internet Movie Critics.
My favorite is James Berardinelli (www.reelviews.net). Berardinelli’s taste in cinema is so eerily similar to mine that I wonder if I have a twin brother my mother never told me about. His commentary is always intelligent and thoughtful, and he uses a simple star rating system to rank the films he reviews.
While Roger Ebert passed away in 2013, his site (rogerebert.com) is alive and well with the help of talented collaborators. The site also archives many of Ebert’s classic reviews, useful if you are browsing Netflix or Amazon Prime for a good Saturday afternoon of movie watching.
Every major paper employs a film critic and you can sample most of them at Rotten Tomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com). This website ranks movies by the consensus of foremost movie critics and the public. If you want to know if nine out of ten critics recommend a movie, this may be the site for you. Another great movie review site that leverages group think is metacritic.com where you will find reviews for movies, games, TV, and music.
Want to settle a bet about which star played an un-credited cameo in a certain film? Visit the International Movie Database (www.imdb.com). The site is chock-full of interesting information about movies and the links provide a good jumping-off place to other sites.
These sites use different scales to rank their movies. But in a short time, you will learn how the rankings correlate to your movie watching experiences.
Of course, Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.com) is now offering articles about specific movies. These are typically written by fans, so keep that in mind. But Wikipedia is one of the best places to find a quick synopsis of a film.
There are many special-interest review sites available. Are you a science-fiction or horror movie fan? Go to Moria. Not the underground city of the dwarves, but the Moria web site (www.moria.co.nz). Wondering if a movie is suitable for your 12-year-old daughter? Get guidance at Parent Previews (www.parentpreviews.com). Feeling the testosterone?
Now shhhhhh: the movie is starting. Turn off your cell and quit hogging the popcorn!