Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Film ratings and selections

The Washington Times did an article about how meaningless PG-13 can be. We've obviously noticed it as well. Some movies with that rating really should be "R," while others could just as well have been PG. We refer to "hard" and "soft" examples.

When I'm trying to make a decision, I'll look to Screenit. It is the most comprehensive, detailed and explicit, going as far as actually counting and detailing cusswords and problematic imagery. The drawback is that you have to pay to see reviews of brand-new movies when they come out; otherwise, you have to wait around three days after they hit the theaters.

I also use Christian Spotlight, but with a grain of salt. Their reviewers are just people who get into the movies then write. They aren't given reviewer passes, so reviews won't be out until the movies have been in the theaters. Also, reviewers are of widely varying quality. I've thought some reviewers absolutely clueless. Yet they always give the movies artistic rating and moral ratings, and usually comment on the movie's suitability for kids. Plus, they print positive, negative, and neutral comments from folks who have gone, giving their ages. Sometimes those are more useful than the reviews.

Besides reading major reviews such as Ebert (good writer, usually fun to read even if I don't agree — but morally largely unconcerned) and trying to hear or see if Michael Medved reviews a movie, those are my main resources.

What do you use?

34 comments:

NoLongerBlind said...

We don't go to the movies that often, being turned off to the usual Hollywood "pushing the moral envelope" especially in PG-13 movies.
An "R" rating is flat-out a no-go in our household.

HSAT, I usually use Pluggedin Online, which usually provides enough info for me.....

Tom

Gary said...

www.imdb.com has a section on "Parental Content Guide". It is user generated also, so no guide until the day of the movie. But, most of the time they get updated quickly. It is also usually very thorough. People often include double-entendres that aren't "explicit" or implied violence that takes place off screen. It's generally easy to get a feel for the pervasiveness of the violence/sex/language/scariness.

As a bonus, since IMDB is a database of movies, many users have filled out reviews of older movies (not all, but most of the more common ones) so you can check your rentals also. Plus, it's free!

DJP said...

Yeah, I love IMDB for a lot of reasons. People whack it mercilessly for being inaccurate, but I've yet to see anything approaching "...and a MUCH BETTER site is —." There's nothing like it.

Especially when you just can't remember that actor/actress' name.

missyjreed said...

I also used Plugged In Online, which NoLongerBlind has been kind enough to link. It tends to be very helpful as to content, and warns of spoilers.

reformationfaith said...

I also use screenit sometimes. Another good one is Commonsensemedia.org. Gives plenty enough detail to make an informed decision on movies, as well as other forms of media.

Rabbit said...

Pluggedinonline.com and Screenit.com are my two resources, too.

Tangent: I found this site in a search recently, and use it to find titles to put on our Netflix queue. www.familytv.com is the site, and their mission statement says "We produce and distribute uplifting and entertaining motion pictures that are suitable for all ages and strengthen positive values while containing no profanity, vulgarity, sexual content or graphic violence. "

Rileysowner said...

I don't use anything. I gave up on reviews a long time ago because I found them so unhelpful. Since I don't take my 4 year old to the movies, if the content is bad, I simply walk out and seek a refund at the ticket desk.

James Kubecki said...

I tend to use Kids-In-Mind.

Fred Butler said...

My wife and I rarely go to movies. Simple reason is we have 4 kids and finding a sitter who will watch them free has to be arranged in advance at least 2 weeks or more and there is some work to sync personal schedules.

Though I use some of the resources already mentioned to determine if whether or not we are going to see a movie, or get it on Netflix, the primary source for our movie watching now, it appears to me that only serious parents even avail themselves of such resources. I have to tell you how appalling it is to be in a movie that is certainly intended for adults and see children under 11 present EVEN WITH THEIR PARENTS!

I remember seeing Saving Private Ryan and there were little kids freaking out over the war violence and the parents wouldn't take them out or leave. It was "close your eyes" or "put your head in my lap." I have teacher friends who have 3rd graders coming to class all sleepy, with no homework done, and the excuse they give is "My mom wanted to go see the new "Halloween" movie last night and she took me and my little brother to the 9:10 showing. Good Grief!

So while I commend the use of these resources, it only seems as though respectable people (in this case, Christians for the most part) are using them with any sort of discernment.

The Squirrel said...

When PG-13 first came out, I thought it was one of the best things to happen to movie ratings. A film could have all the action and mature plot themes, but without the nudity or language. But, sadly, Hollywood always has to push the envelope.

We just don't go see many movies at the theater. We do make lists of movies we'd like to see, and then either rent of buy them when they come out on DVD.

By that time, we've heard enough about the film to know if we really want to see it. Even them, more then once, I've had Mrs Squirrel turn to me and ask, "Now, why did we rent this again?"

~Squirrel

GrammaMack said...

I use screenit.com as well. I appreciate the detail they give in the various categories. They've saved us from many a nasty movie masquerading in trailers as acceptable fare. I'll have to check out the others mentioned...

Andy Dollahite said...

I use this backwater blog by some guy near Sacramento or something... ;)

Thanks for these resources. Very helpful.

DJP said...

Sacramento?

Can anything good come out of Sacramento??

Al said...

My major concern with movies is sexual immorality and plugged in online provides a synopsis of sexuality in a movie I find helpful.

One thing I have noticed though is that when using these reviewing sites, I tend to start grading on a curve. Implied sex between an unmarried couple is better than full frontal, so I accommodate that little failing in light of the larger.

Speaking of movies... saw Doubt this week.

al sends

ulfbiggorilla said...

plgged in and screenit are great for getting an idea of objectionable content in a movie...they are also great for inspiring "what?! there aren't that cuss words in that movie!! Are there? really?" type comments, as well as.."I'm sure all that innuendo isn't all that noticeable when you are actually watching the movie...its so much worse looking when its written down like that."

Tim said...

I noticed that nobody has plugged "Christianity" Today's movie reviews.

I'm glad -- CT's reviews are absolutely worthless as a worldview/moral evaluation tool. They often give good ratings to movies that are morally reprehensible, and to make matters worse, they offer discussion questions for your next Sunday school class that -- again -- evade the moral/worldview issues that should concern the Christian moviegoer.

NewManNoggs said...

We use www.kids-in-mind.com.
Although, we rarely go to the movies, we do rent. They have new release reviews and older movie reviews. It breaks down reviews of content in terms of violence/gore, sex, etc. And it gets very, very specific about each item.

BTW, we saw "Up" on your recommendation and were not at all disappointed. We didn't do our homework before seeing Madagascar 2 and were horrified when parts of it verged on outright pornography. So, we will try some of the sources your readers recommended as well. I'd be interested to see what people think of kidsinmind.
Tim

Paula said...

I liked Plugged-In, but thanks for pointing me to Screenit - never heard of that one! I've found that Christianity Today's Movie Reviews are generally in line with the overall downgrade at CT. They seem to have fallen into the trendy "cultural mandate" mentality (i.e. if it's good art, Christians should embrace it, regardless of the message).

From their review of "Twilight":

Meyer, a Mormon, interjected her book with moral themes with which Christians resonate... (While the use of vampires and other "evil" creatures can be offsetting to some Christians, they are not symbolic of demons here. They are merely a story device to create a forbidden and mysterious love interest. In fact—save for about 10 minutes of vampire action at the end—the Cullens could just be a lightly-pigmented family with superpowers.)

The reviewer's biggest complaint is that the story doesn't translate well from the book and the story is too sappy - typical teen girl fare. This is no Harry Potter.

As a Christian parent, I find that completely unhelpful. And dumb.

Paula said...

Oh, and CT panned Night at the Museum: Battle for the Smithsonian, which was the best movies of the YEAR according to our family. We saw it at the drive-in with two other families - $16/car, bring your own food & chairs - best deal in town!

Matt Gumm said...

Fred: if you ever get out our way, I'll volunteer with Frank to watch your kids while you and your wife go out to a movie.

Dan: we pretty much screen everything before we let our kids watch. We've finally started bifurcating the viewing, since they range in age from 10 to 3.

For our own viewing, I haven't found any site regularly helpful except yours. Like Fred, we don't get a babysitter often (and we always pay her), so our movie-going tends to be something we really think we're going to like (ala Star Trek). Everything else we get comes from Netflix.

Speaking of Netflix, I would estimate that we watch probably 70-80% TV shows, with the remainder movies. Having been disappointed so many times with the movie-going experience, we would rather watch stuff that we know and like than things which are disappointing. There's a lot of stuff we don't get to see because we don't have cable, so it's new to us. Recently we've been watching a lot of BBC mysteries and drama, such as MI-5, Midsommer Murders (which we have been a fan of for a long time), and Inspector Lynley. My wife isn't into the new Dr. Who, sadly, so we've steered away from that.

P.S. I agree with your comment about IMDB. Nothing else like it. It rocks.

Warren said...

We've used http://christiananswers.net/spotlight

The website is usually painfully slow but the reviews are sometimes helpful. They give a "quality" and "moral" rating but I find them to be pretty lenient on the "moral" rating for my tastes. Thanks for the other recommendations.

Sir Aaron said...

I stopped going to the movies as well, not because of moral reasons though. I do watch many when they hit blu-ray or DVD, but by then many reviews have appeared. PluggedIn online is resource I use to decipher if the movie is totally repugnant. I use Medved to determine if the movie is any good as far as acting, plot, etc.

Sir Aaron said...

P.S. Do we really need reviews of every film? I'm pretty sure the previews are enough to persuade me not to see Halloween or Gay mountain (or whatever that movie was called).

The Squirrel said...

"Fred: if you ever get out our way, I'll volunteer with Frank to watch your kids while you and your wife go out to a movie."

Cent and Gummby have your kids? Be afraid, be very afraid!

:o)

Oh, they'd be safe, no doubt... but would they ever be normal again?

~Squirrel

Herding Grasshoppers said...

I like Pluggedin Online for its consistent format. Of course, there's no substitute for parental supervision! We go to very few movies in the theater... have to be pretty darn sure it's okay, which means vetted by someone I trust.

One "advantage" to having a HoH kid is that it's actually fairly difficult to hear in the theater, so we use that as an excuse. "Oh, we'll just rent it when it comes out on DVD..." and by then we pretty well know what it is. (At home, we can pause the movie and clarify the dialog when needed.)

And we can utilize our TV Guardian - sweet :0)

And, BTW, I don't know how widespread Regal Cinemas are, but they run free kid movies all summer, in our area. Of course, a good many of them I wouldn't go see, even for free, but it's worth checking out.

http://www.regmovies.com/nowshowing/familyfilmfestivalschedule.aspx

Jon said...

Being somebody who used to watch an absolute TON of movies I usually don't even bother with "content" reviews. The trailers in combination with the film ratings usually give me all the info I need.

Dark Knight was rated PG-13 and quite dark, but I'd have to say I've seen PG movies far worse in content.

Also being a comic buff the movie Watchmen looked interesting at first, but then seeing the film rating I basically knew that I couldn't, in good conscience, watch that movie. Director Zack Synder seems to take glee in being as provocative and vile as possible.

I still struggle with what I watch on TV and movies, but I've at least come to realize there's a line of content that I cannot cross.

Jon said...

Oh man, you got me going. Must share a couple of (safe) trailers...

The Last Airbender

&

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

I'm thinking Phil would like the second trailer if there was weird and exotic food...

Jon said...

And Hollywood's (probably enviromentaly skewed) look at the end of the world. For some reason they keep missing the fact that there's a better source for how the world will end... fire anyone?

2012

And you knew it was coming. The life and times of... Charles Darwin! Yah! Oh wait... booooooo! The title is hilarious though:

Creation


Alrighty, I'm done taking over this meta.

NoLongerBlind said...

Wow - I guess I don't get out much.....

I never knew anything about the upcoming demise of the world on 12/21/2012.....predicted by so many different cultures, especially one as authoritative as the ancient Mayans.

In addition to the above-linked upcoming doomsday film 2012, there's also a similar flick in the works, with a slightly different perspective - and, I might add, a HUGE open door for sharing the Truth with any who see it:

2012: Seeking Closure

DJP said...

Jon, right with you on Watchmen. The trailers said to me, "Must see!" Then I read about what was in the movie, and it became, "Rats! Must not see!"

The Squirrel said...

Does anybody know if there's a puppy or kitty edition of the Mayan Calendar? Mine just looks like a rock...

~Squirrel

Joshua Cookingham said...

Plugged in......occasionaly I'll use Christianity Today, but lately they've just been irritating with their reviews(why they hate both Terminator Salvation and Wolverine is beyond me...)

There's also that one that Doug Wilson has on his links...I forget the name....

Tristan724 said...

For good secular reviews of movies I like the site rottentomatoes.com. I've found that I can never really trust one critic (i.e. Ebert) on a consistent basis, but RT draws from a large group of critics and gives it an overall score. We've found some pretty good movies through there (most recently Ghost Town starring Ricky Gervais - can't remember content issues, but remember REALLY laughing). Once I find a highly rated movie I try to check for content through some of the Christian sites previously mentioned, but some of the movies are too obscure to make their reviewed list (which is surprisingly common for movies critics love). I haven't used IMDB's parental section. That sounds like a good option.n But I would suggest Rotten Tomatoes for pretty comprehensive reviews.

Libbie said...

Nothing sensible to add to the post, but I felt compelled to add this avatar to the artwork :)