Do movie reviews matter a lot to you? Are you scared off by bad movie reviews?

I am. If the reviews suck or are even luke warm I won’t spend the time or money to see the movie. Do reviews matter a lot to you?

I generally only see movies if:

1: They’re a big deal that the kids want to see like Harry Potter (most powerful incentive)

2: It got killer reviews (middle level incentive)

3: It really needs to be seen on the big screen (least powerful incentive)

Otherwise I’ll wait for the DVD.

Somewhat. I have to be interested in a movie to even care what the reviews say, and the movies I like tend to get good reviews. Once in a while, a review will change my mind, but usually I won’t read the reviews unless I want to see it and need to make sure it’s worthwhile.

I very seldom go to movies, because I hate the whole “theater experience” - sticky floors, rude people, overpriced goodies, crying babies… . I did once go to a movie, many years ago on a date. When my date told me the movie he wanted to take me to, I said “why that one? It got lousy reviews.” He said “trust me - it’s funny. You’ll like it.” I did.

The movie? Back to the Future

Movie reviews are OK but I don’t pay much attention for one reason and that is that most reviewers are looking at movies with a much more critical eye than I ever would. They are trained from years of study where they learn to deconstruct plots and narratives. Maybe they went to film school or are english majors, bottom line I don’t think that most reviewers represent the average theatre goer.

I’ve heard the average movie goer is 13 -24 years old if that’s true then most reviewers are probably much older than the target audience for most movies.
That’s like me trying to review the latest “Sesame Street” movie that’s targeted at 5 year olds.

Back to the Future did not get lousy reviews. Here, for instance is the original AP review:

I hardly think “continuously entertaining” is a bad review.

I do see myths like this all the time (you still hear that Star Wars was roundly hated by critics, for instance – completely false). It’s due to a misguided belief that critics are only interested in “serious” and “heavy” films.

That’s just plain wrong. Critics will like a piece of light entertainment for what it is. Their year-end lists tend to underrepresent these, since they are adults who look for more in a movie than just a good time, but, most of the time, their daily reviews of films will always give credit to an unambitious but entertaining movie.

As for me, of course I read reviews and use them to form my opinion. There is no actor who can’t appear in a stinker (or, conversely, no bad actor who might be just right in a particular role*). There is no director who can’t make a bad film, nor no bad director who might not hit the jackpot at once point.

The only way to know if a movie is good or bad is to have someone review it. Most reviews also reveal the basis of the reviewer’s opinion, so you can tell if his or her assumptions are valid or not. If you don’t agree with the assumptions, then you take the review with a grain of salt.

Remember, a reviewer has seen more movies than you or any of your friends have. That experience allows them to spot things that are cliched and derivative even if you don’t realize it. There are instances when reviewers get things wrong (like Ishtar or Red, for example), but when reviewers find a film bad, I’ve usually agreed.

*I detest Adam Sandler with a passion, but he was just fine in Spanglish. If it hadn’t gotten good reviews, I would have avoided it for him alone).

Perhaps, but generally not. Two reaons:

  1. If you have the time and money to go see a movie in theater, it’s usually worth it anyway. I think watching a bad movie at cinema is still more entertaining than watching a mediocre one at home.

  2. You’ll almost always know when a movie is bad. Likewise, you’ll also often have a good hunch if a movie is good, or at least worth the ticket. It’s the movies in the grey zone that are difficult - the movies that are either good or bad depending on your taste (like Lost in translation), where the reviews are so subjective that have to go find out for yourself anyway.

Yes. I usually find out about movies from the trailers, which are commercials and mislead as much as they can. They just need a good premise and a good (trailer) editor to seem good. Often the actual movies aren’t executed very well at all, and without the reviews I would have wasted my money.

I do try to watch (on DVD) all movies that get excellent reviews, even movies that I wouldn’t usually be interested in. For example, I would never have watched The Shawshank Redemption without the glowing reviews. I don’t like sports movies, but I finally watched Million Dollar Baby because of the good press. The description of The 40-Year-Old Virgin sounds terrible, but it’s on my Netflix list because it has good reviews.

If a movie gets bad reviews I usually won’t bother to watch it unless it happens to be a genre I really like or has an actor I really want to see. I sat through The Island, which I knew was going to be terrible, because I have a weakness for sci-fi and because I really like Sean Bean and Ewan McGregor.

I usually trust my feelings about things and see what I think I will like, sometimes depite the critics. If I am half-hearted about something and just looking for a few hours amusement I generally check out because I can find out at a glance how many people liked it and what sort of criticisms it is subjected to. If reviewers are criticising the latest teen comedy or action thriller for not being Shakespeare I will see it anyway if it fits my mood and 40% of reviewers think it’ws OK.

Yeah, I’ll check out rottentomatoes too as a guidepost. If a movie has a 7% rating (like Cheaper by the Dozen), it’s a pretty good bet that the movie sucks. Conversely, if a movie has a 100% rating (like Alien, or close, it probably doesn’t suck. Of course, I see movies for a lot of reasons other than reviews, but, hell, if I’m going to spend $30 bucks, I want to research my investment.

Other ways I use reviews:
[li]Any rave by Rex Reed or Joel Siegal: Stay away.[/li][li]“If you liked [X movie], you’ll *love *[Y movie]!”: Stay away.[/li][li]“It’s the feel-good movie of the year!”: Stay away.[/li][/ul]

The trick with reviews – whether of movies, music, books, whatever – is to find someone whose taste is in sync with yours, and follow that critic. For movies, I love the reviews in Entertainment Weekly, which are generally fair and relevant – and which don’t give away plot points! Those are generally the reviews I use to decide whether I want to see a movie or not (and I see a hell of a lot of movies in theaters these days, because I have three or four friends who are real regular moviegoers – it seems to be a habit, for me, there are periods when I do and periods when I don’t, and right now I do).

After I’ve seen the movie, then I check out Ebert (who’s terrible about revealing spoilers), who I don’t always agree with, but who I often find interesting.

Other than that, I don’t really read them.

I usually just read the IMDB movie reviews. Not the member reviews since they are usually very bad about spoilers, but the ones on their news page that takes a round up of critics from around the country.

As a movie lover and a parent with 2 small kids, my ability to get to a theater and see a movie not directed at kids is severly limited. Thus I am forced to rank the movies that I might be able to see. Like astro I have a system that takes into account whether I should try to catch it at a theater or wait for DVD. For instance sweeping visuals and larger than life movies (King Kong, Narnia, LOTR, Star Wars) I watched at the theater because of their flashy visuals and good reviews. Movies like Wedding Crashers and most comedies, I save for DVD since the impact isn’t really diminished. However, Aeon Flux is right out after it got almost universally bad reviews. Maybe I’ll watch it on DVD if I’ve seen everything else that is on my list.

I also go by friends’ reivews. That’s why I rented the 40 Year Old Virgin and loved it.

So, in short, I do base what movies I see on critics’ reviews. But I have yet to find one single critic that I always agree with.

I actually walked out of Spanglish; it might have been that I was just tired and impatient rather than that the movie was that dreadful, but good reviews or no, I found the movie to be hatefully manipulative and buttonpushing; had it not been for the presence of the lovely Paz Vega (the housemaid) I wouldn’t have made it as far as I did. To be fair, Adam Sandler deserves credit for doing something other than playing an underdeveloped, irresponsible nitwit, but I never found him believable as a cook or a father. Tea Leoni is what made that film almost completely unwatchable, along with the McKee’s Story-defined plotline and calculated conflict.

That aside, I find that the consistently best source of reviews is (don’t laugh) The Onion A.V. Club–the reviews are typically short but very pithy, and the usual reviewers (Tasha Robinson, Nathan Rabin, Noel Murray) are either very perceptive or just suit my taste in films. They’re not afraid to praise the positive parts of a film while deeply criticizing others, and they don’t reduce their opinions to x number of starts or a few quotable-but-extremely-banal catchphrases. I used to read a few others–in particular, James Berardinelli’s Reel Views–but I’ve come to find him pretty shallow in his perception even though he does seem to follow plot details and character develepment closely.

I only read Ebert if I’m in a mood to slash-and-burn; his rampant misapprehensions, his gross misstatements about any area of interest (science, history, law), his erroneous take on plot developments, his obtuseness to critical story elements, and his bombastic, pompus blathering about his own greatness (he never seems to pass up a chance about how he reviewed Citizen Kane frame by frame at the University of Colorado-Boulder in 19__ and so forth) make him nearly worthless except as a counter-reference. Even on the occasions that I agree with his general opinion on a film–like Adaptation–I find outstanding errors that anyone who remained awake during the the entire running time of the film would be able to spot.

I don’t even bother with the city paper reviews. I’ll check out sometimes, but I pay close attention to the byline; some reviewers are good and thruough, and some are sloppy or overopinionated, or I just don’t share their taste.


I too was surprised by the idea that Back to the Future would get bad reviews. The only contemporary review I could find online was Ebert’s, and he gave it 3 1/2 stars. Now, maybe someone can fill me in on the legends that 2001: A Space Odyssey and Bonnie and Clyde were hated by the critics on initial release.

Exactly. I like Ebert, but the man gives away so much information about the plot that I can only look at his star review and maybe the last paragraph before I see a movie.

I too read reviews in making my decisions about what to watch – or read, or listen to. It’s worked pretty well for me so far. Occassionally when I’m inspired to see a movie even if it was panned, I’ll be reminded why I read critics in the first place: they’re usually right. But, as someone else pointed out, the trick is to read around and find the critics whose tastes you agree with.

I’m often surprised by how many people adamantly refuse to read critics, see terrible movies, are disappointed, and still refuse to read reviews. “Aw,” they’ll say, “it’s got Tim Allen in it, SURELY it’s got to be funny.” Nope, not always.