Is there an equivelent of Cliff's notes for movies?

I was just wondering if there is anywhere that gives movie summaries with some meat to them. I already know about IMDB, that is a great site, but not what I’m asking for - I want a nice detailed summary of various movies.

For instance, I am tempted to watch The Maltese Falcon, but I would prefer to get a good summary before I do.

Is there somewhere I could go for something like this?

I’d like to suggest that you NOT read plot summaries before you go.

Good movies rely on a number of audience reactions, and knowing the plot in advance sort of ruins the movie’s ability to cause reactions. Plus, movies often depend on atmosphere, on lighting, or cutting, or various aspects that have little to do with “plot.” Example: “there’s a car chase” would describe the plots of lots of movies, but some car chases are very exciting and some are quite humdrum.

How would a plot summary of a Marx Brothers’ movie be helpful? What would it say that was even remotely relevant?

If you want to get a one or two sentence idea of what a movie is about, IMDB is just fine, it seems to me. For the MALTESE FALCON, if you really want more details, you could get a fairly good plot summary by reading, um, lessee, oh, I dunno, try a book by Dashiell Hammett, that could be pretty helpful.

A great site for this is

  1. Some of the best movies have terrible plot summaries. I kept trying to get Mrs. FtG to watch “Pieces of April” but everything I told her about the movie sounded pointless/depressing to her. So I finally just told her that we were watching it one night, she politely sat thru it, and loved it.

  2. Many plot summaries are misleading. I have seen way too many plot summaries of “Lost in Translation” where it is clear the writer didn’t understand the movie in the least. So a lot of people have watched that movie expecting one thing and missing the whole point. (Hence the large number of "Ugh"s from average Joe movie-goer for a movie with a lot of awards and a fantastic “Fresh” rating.)

  3. Some movies don’t have plots. Some of these are bad. E.g., a lot of action movies. Some of them are quite good. What is the plot summary going to tell you about “My Dinner With Andre”?

  4. You usually can’t do significant plot summaries without spoilers. I hate spoilers for a movie I haven’t seen.

I’m with Dex and ftg on this one - leave out the spoilers! I’d even construe ‘spoilers’ pretty broadly, too. I just saw a trailer for The Manchurian Candidate* (the real one, not the remake) that included a giveaway bit of the hydrangea scene and a couple of revealing speeches by the real villain. That wasn’t good. What I’d prefer to see is just a line or two about the basic situation and the main characters involved, e.g. “Frank Sinatra is a member of a Korean-war platoon whose leader got a medal for heroism in an action that Frank can’t quite remember, and he’s having nightmares about it. Something is wrong!” (That’s a pretty clumsy example, but you get the idea. Should the nomination be in there?)

  • It will be on KCTS 9, the PBS station in Seattle, on July 30, IIRC. I’ll be there, but if it’s full of pledge breaks somebody’s going to get assassinated. :dubious: