From the Kenosha News on 7-1-07

Use your computer to research movies

      We watch a considerable number of movies on DVD at our house, and one of our favorite pastimes is trying to remember “where else we saw that guy” in another movie.  If this phenomenon happens to you, use IMDB.com (international movie database.)  Here’s how it works:  Let’s say you’re watching the new movie “Ghost Rider” and you think that the character that plays the devil looks pretty familiar, but you just can’t place him.  Go to www.imdb.com.  In the search box at the top of the page, type “ghost rider” (without the quotes) and click Search.  It will list all the movies with that title, with the most recent listed first.  Click the 2007 Ghost Rider.  First is an Overview section, followed by a cast list.  Looking down the list, you’ll see that Mephistopheles (you need to know the devil’s name for this) is played by Peter Fonda.  If that doesn’t satisfy your curiosity, click the Peter Fonda link to display a few pictures and a list of movies, TV programs, etc., that he’s been in.  Way down on the list (#63), you’ll find that he was Wyatt is Easy Rider.  Mystery solved!  Similarly, you can cross-reference authors, directors, producers, and so on.

      IMDB.com also allows you to watch movie trailers, read reviews, and much more.  It does so with a clean interface that’s pretty easy to navigate.  Of special interest is the “Top Movies” link below the blue navigation bar; it gives links to lists of the best movies in various categories.

      Another web site to help you evaluate movies to watch is www.rottentomatoes.com.  I find their interface pretty cluttered, and it took me a while to figure out how to find what I was looking for.  First, when you see a reviewed movie, the red tomato symbol means it’s a generally good movie or better; the green “splat” symbol denotes a not-so-good film.  Of course, your tastes may not agree with the reviewers – mostly professional critics; mine often do not.    In general, the films are rated on a 10 point scale with 10 being amazingly great – near perfect.  You can then bring up lists of films with specific ratings or better.

      Recently, our family enrolled in the Blockbuster Total Access program, where you select movies on-line to be mailed to you.  We had tried Netflix (a different movies-by-mail program) a few years ago but didn’t keep it for long.  The Blockbuster program is more interesting in that once you are done watching a movie that you received in the mail, you can return it to your local Blockbuster and exchange it for an in-store rental.   Blockbuster’s web site also includes reviews by real people, and if you submit reviews of movies you’ve watched, the site will recommend movies it thinks you will like.  While reviews are not the primary function of the site, submitting them is very easy, and it’s interesting to read reviews by “normal people” rather than professional movie critics.

by Carol Sabbar from the Kenosha News on 7-1-07