7 tips to avoid watching a crappy movie.
How many of you do your research before you rent a movie or go to the cinema? I usually read a bunch of reviews and ask friends. Sometimes I’ll see a movie without reading any reviews, but those ones are usually adorned with independent film awards. Which makes me wonder…why did I just waste my time on one of the worst movies ever made?
It’s something that happens to me once in a blue moon. I’ll go to my local RedBox armed with the two or three movies that I want. If my first choice is not available, my second usually is. But this time, all three of my choices were unavailable.
That left me staring at the screen like a dog being shown a card trick, leaving my movie-viewing choice in the hands of the marketers. Trained professionals, like myself, who only show something in its best possible light. They produce the movie trailers that make the most rancid film seem like a genuinely good romp. They include stellar reviews on the front cover, but upon closer examination you see that the review came from the Podunk Weekly Gazette.
With this in mind, I decided to forget the fake reviews and phony trailers I had seen and go for actors I really liked. That’s how I arrived at my choice – Strange Wilderness. And after 10 minutes of exhausting, mind-numbingly bad ‘comedy’ I decided to stop the film and check out the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s arguably the best place to check, as it combines all reviews and gives an average score.
The average score for Strange Wilderness – 0% .
I ejected the movie and threw it back into the DVD case with disdain. I then drove to my local library and decided to rent a movie that I already knew had excellent reviews; City Of God – average score 92% (94% from the top critics). I wasn’t disappointed, it’s a fantastic movie and one I’ll see again.
So, what does this all mean? Here’s my check-list to avoid renting a big bad dud.
1) Do your homework. Rotten Tomatoes is a great resource, anything that gets over 60% is considered worth your time and money. If it gets below that, check out the top critics rating. If they give it a much higher score, it's probably still worth a look.
2) Don’t trust the trailers. If you’ve seen a great trailer and think ‘that looks great’ then you may be seeing all the best parts of the movie condensed into 2 minutes. Comedies are notorious for this.
3) Read reviews carefully. If a known entity, like a well-known newspaper or reviewer (Ebert) says something like “Best Movie Of The Year” then it’s probably a safe bet it’s a good flick. If you see words like “Outstanding” or “A Must See” then look a little closer to see where that quote came from. If you haven’t heard of the person, publication or website, forget it. And if there are multiple quotes that all come from the same place, that’s also a warning sign.
4) Star power and box office numbers don’t mean anything. City Of God did around $8 million total, and has no stars – but it’s an amazing movie. Legally Blonde 2 took in $90 million and stars Reece Witherspoon – Average score 38%.
5) Known entities don’t mean a guaranteed hit. In my case, Strange Wilderness was a mix of stars I liked and a production company I knew well (Happy Madison). I figured it would contain a laugh or two. I was wrong.
6) Ask your mates. They’re your friends because (usually) you have lots in common. Chances are, if they liked the movie you will too.
7) Don’t be afraid to walk away empty handed. If the movies you want aren’t in, and nothing looks good, there’s no need to settle. Dig out one of your favorite movies from home, that’s a sure thing.
Hopefully, this advice will help you avoid those movie landmines. And remember, RedBox offers free rentals (see my article here ) and the library is a great resource.