Good New Movies

Tuesday, February 24, 2009 at 4:57 am
By Shane Rivers

Finding information on good new movies can sometimes be a bewildering experience. It often seems like there are a million movies news and movie review sites out there, each promising the latest and hippest info on good new films. And that’s not even taking DVD releases and upcoming movies into account.

So where do you turn? Well, we obviously hope your first stop will be, as we’re committed to bringing you the latest movies reviews, plus reviews of films currently gathering dust at your local video store. We also offer feature articles on cinema, plus a few surprises along the way.

If, however, you’re looking for a second opinion on what you should see, I’ve compiled a list of trusted resources from both the Internet and national periodicals. Whether you’re searching for movie reviews which get right to the point or something a bit more humorous, the following sites and critics will have you covered.

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Rotten Tomatoes – Online Movie Reviews

Good New MoviesThe site known as Rotten Tomatoes specializes in taking professional movie reviews from magazines, newspapers and the Internet and organizing them into a consensus. Each month, over 7 million readers visit Rotten Tomatoes for information on good new movies. The site offers over 850,000 review links, plus more than 250,000 titles.

Their defining feature is the Tomatometer, which designates a film as either “fresh” (good) or “rotten” (bad) based on the average score from critics. To achieve a fresh rating, at least 60 percent of a movie’s reviews must be positive.

Rotten Tomatoes has received a large amount of positive coverage in the media. In addition, various movie critics have spoken out if favor of it. Roger Ebert has called it the “best movie-reaction site,” and Richard C. Walls of Metrotimes has dubbed it “revolutionary.”

On the Rotten Tomatoes home page, look for a tab labeled “Movies” and click on it. Once you reach the movies page, you’ll have access to the following features:

And that’s just all on one page! Here are other features offered by Rotten Tomatoes:

Movie Review Query Engine

Another great source for finding reviews of good new films is the Movie Review Query Engine (also known as the MRQE). While reviews aren’t compiled to achieve an overall grade, the site does include numerous reviews for each movie (sometimes 100 or more).

Recent releases are prominently displayed on the home page, but reviews of older films can be found by doing a simple search. Recent movie headlines are also included on the home page, including items from and Variety.

If you want to purchase tickets or find showtimes in your area, MRQE has you covered. A number of forums are also available, ranging from celebrities and horror to new releases.

When a visitor to the site clicks on a movie’s title, they’ll be taken to a page with the reviews for that film. They’ll be able to see who wrote the review, where the review was published and the rating given to the movie. Blog and news items are included on this page, and readers can also comment and write their own reviews.

While it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of a site like Rotten Tomatoes, the Movie Review Query Engine is a good no-frills way to quickly browse a large amount of movie reviews. It’s very user-friendly, and a minimal number of images means it loads quickly.

The final movie review site I wanted to recommend is Like Rotten Tomatoes, they take a wide range of reviews and put them together to achieve an average rating (known as a Metascore). They also do the same for music, books, television and video games, making Metacritic exceptionally handy for lovers of pop culture. And did I mention that there aren’t any pesky pop-up ads on the site?

The idea for Metacritic was conceived in 1999, and the website was purchased in 2001 by three former attorneys. It underwent redesigns in 2003 and 2004, and it was eventually purchased by CNT Networks in 2005.

On an average film page, viewers will see the overall Metascore displayed at the top of the screen. The score of each critic will be listed next to their quotes on the page.

In case you want to know how they arrive at these Metascores, here’s a brief explanation. Metascores range from 0 to 100, with a higher number indicating a better quality film. Scores are also color-coded to allow readers to quickly get an idea of the film’s quality. A movie with a green score is considered good, while yellow scores are somewhat mixed. Red scores are reserved for films with below average reviews.

When it comes to movie Metascores on the site, some critical opinions are given more weight than others. This is all based on the stature of the critic within the community. Roger Ebert’s reviews, for example, would be given more weight than a 14-year-old who just started reviewing films.

When you visit Metacritic, click on “Film” for reviews of good new movies. This will take you to a page where you’ll see the major releases for the week, the average rating for the films and weekend box office rankings.

Other movie features at Metacritic include:

If you’re always on the go, you can also access Metacritic via Vindigo or AvantGo on your mobile handheld device. This will allow you to read Metacritic reviews even when you’re away from your computer. With Vindigo, you’ll get listings for music venues, bars, clubs, banks and stores. Plus, many other features are available.

To use the Vindigo service, you’ll first need to download it onto your Pocket PC computer or Palm Powered handheld. An annual subscription will cost you $24.95, but you’ll get the first month for free. Once you start using the service, remember to sync your device at least once a week to get the latest news and listing from Metacritic (the site recommends Friday afternoon as the best time to do this).

Online Movie Critics

While the above sites compile hundreds of movie reviews together, sometimes I would rather just go to a single source I trust. In those cases, I consult the following film critics when looking for information on new good movies.

Roger Ebert

The most well-known movie critic in America, Roger Ebert became famous while sparring with Gene Siskel for 23 years on television’s Siskel & Ebert at the Movies. Even though Siskel passed away in 1999, Ebert continues to review movies for the Chicago Sun-Times (which he’s been doing since 1967). His reviews can also be viewed online.

No living critic can even come close to Ebert’s level of fame within the critical community. His reviews are syndicated to more than 200 newspapers around the globe, and he has written more than 15 books on the subject of film. In 1975, he also became the first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, and his star was added to the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2005 (the first movie critic to achieve this honor).

I like Ebert’s reviews because he provides criticism of a film based on its prospective audience. For example, if he’s reviewing Daredevil, he doesn’t judge it by the same standards as a film like Citizen Kane. As he once said, “When you ask a friend if Hellboy is any good, you’re not asking if it’s any good compared to Mystic River, you’re asking if it’s any good compared to The Punisher. And my answer would be, on a scale of one to four, if Superman is four, then Hellboy is three and The Punisher is two. In the same way, if American Beauty gets four stars, then (The United States of) Leland clocks in at about two.”

While he isn’t always right, Ebert is never afraid to give his opinion. He gave a bad review to the classic action film Die Hard, but he gave the awful Speed 2 a positive review. Whether he’s right or wrong, his reviews are always witty and, most importantly, well-written.

If you want to pick up one of his books on film – which I would highly recommend – the following are available:

Peter Travers

With his easy-to-read writing style, Peter Travers is an excellent choice for reviews of all the good new movies. He served as the movie critic for People magazine from 1984 until 1988, and then moved over to Rolling Stone magazine (a position which he still holds).

The most blurbed film critic around, Travers won’t dazzle you with fancy prose or drawn-out rants. He gets right to the point, and his average movie review can be read very quickly. This makes Travers an excellent choice for people who need their movie reviews in a hurry.

James Berardinelli

My personal favorite, James Berardinelli worked in fields such as computers and fiber optics before turning his considerable talents towards movie reviews. His career is an amazing one, especially when you consider that he saw very few movies prior to becoming a critic.

His ReelViews site now contains over 3,300 full reviews, and it gets anywhere from 70,000 to 80,000 hits per day. You can also view his work at Rotten Tomatoes, and Berardinelli writes an average of 300 reviews per year. And don’t forget to check out his blog over at ReelThoughts, where he muses on a variety of topics.

He’s even impressed Roger Ebert with his skills. Ebert has written the foreword for his books and once referred to Berardinelli as “the best of the Web-based critics.”

Like many of my other favorite movie critics, Berardinelli favors solid writing over needlessly-complex words and self-serving commentary. When Ebert finally hangs up his spurs, Berardinelli is my pick to be the next major American film critic.

Mr. Cranky

When I’m in the mood for a satirical look at good new movies, I always like to read a few reviews by Mr. Cranky. The brainchild of Hans Bjordahl and Jason Katzman, Mr. Cranky hates all movies to one degree or another. The better a movie is, the less he hates it, but they’re all going to get a thoroughly scathing review.

The best (or least worst) movies will receive a “one bomb” rating. This goes all the way to four bombs, with really bad films getting a “dynamite” rating. For the absolute worst offenders – who prove, in Mr. Cranky’s words, that “Jesus died in vain” – a “kaboom” rating is given (represented by an atomic explosion picture).

There’s also a special guest critic names Mr. Smiley. He’s just the opposite of Mr. Cranky, as he loves all movies to a seemingly unhealthy degree. But these reviews aren’t any less vitriolic; they’re just presented in a happier light. The best rating which good new movies can receive from Mr. Smiley is the “Prozacerrific” Happy Pill.

You can find all the Mr. Cranky (and Mr. Smiley) reviews over at Shadowculture’s Mr. Cranky Rates the Movies. Reviews are also available on the Chicago Tribune website and in the book entitled Shadowculture’s Mr. Cranky Presents: The 100 Crankiest Movie Reviews Ever.

Andrea Chase

Another trusted source for reviews on good new movies, Andrea Chase writes for Killer Movie Reviews, and her work can also be viewed at Rotten Tomatoes. A resident of San Francisco, Chase has been hooked on good new films (and old ones) since her father took her to see a W.C. Fields double feature when she was 11.

Her interviews and reviews are also broadcast on Movie Magazine International, which is currently syndicated to over 100 North American radio stations. While she didn’t go to film school, Chase honed her critical skills by watching plenty of good new movies in the darkness of her local theatre.

I like Andrea Chase movie reviews because, like those of James Berardinelli, they’re straightforward and to the point. While many reviewers are obviously in love with their skills at prose, Chase cuts through all the nonsense and gets right down to business. Plus, I don’t need to keep a thesaurus by my side when reading her work.