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Hot on the Web

Learning about flicks online

This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on April 8, 2005
(Issue 2314, Bobbing for Apples)

While Hollywood's lawyers seems to view the Internet as the Enemy of All That is Good and Decent, suing people at the drop of a file-sharing network ping, there are some in Tinseltown who recognize that the Internet may be the best marketing forum ever devised for movies.

In the past, we've touted the many strengths of the site. For U.S. releases, AllMovie is seemingly comprehensive – I've yet to go look up a film and not find an entry for it.

This sister site of isn't as good as it could be, though. While it's strong in providing a plot synopsis and credit list, its entries for actors and actresses don't include photos – kind of defeats the point of trying to see if a name you sort of know matches up with a face you saw on the late night movies the night before.

Nor are there stills or, better yet, trailers to be found on

But if is the premier source for online music information (even leasing its entries to the Ultimate Band List and other competitors), has some serious competition.

In fact, once we started looking around, it turns out that isn't even in the top tier of movie databases.

The of movie sites

As mentioned, for looking up info on any band or musician (or album or style) you could want, is king of the heap.

Serving the same role for flicks, though, is the Internet Movie Database. It's easy to get lost and spend a couple hours here without realizing it.

Unlike AllMovie (or AllMusic), the reviews on IMDB are not generated by professional critics, but by anyone who cares to sign up (it's free) and submit reviews (much like

You can view the most popular current release and video rental films, or search by title or actor. If it's a current release, you can type in your ZIP code and buy tickets to seemingly most theaters via the Fandango service (which I've used with no problems in the past). If it's an older movie, you can click on VHS or DVD and be taken directly to to purchase the film. Pretty darn handy.

IMDB does have some compatibility problems. Viewing the clips of films in Netscape or Mozilla is problematic – I never figured it out. Seems to work fine in IE, but who wants to deal with those security holes?

And while the filmographies for the actors are excellent, and most actors have quite a few photos, there don't seem to be biographies included – AllMovie has biographies, but no pictures.

For those who like British flicks, there is the UK IMDB. However, be careful buying DVDs meant for Britain – likely, your U.S. DVD player will be unable to play them (although I've had good luck playing them in my PC). hosts many (if not all) of the film clips for IMD, and is a movie database of its own. Far less comprehensive than IMD or AllMovie, VideoDetective doesn't have much in the way of background information on the movies in its database – just clips. Still, even some older films, like "Rio Bravo" from 1959, have trailers for viewing.

If it's martial arts flicks you're into, you might want to try the Asian DB. It's in English, and while you can purchase DVDs of recent Hong Kong releases, they're unlikely to be playable in your US-bought deck.

Just the trailers

For seeing the latest movie trailers, Apple's QuickTime movie site may be king. Apple's site features the movies in streaming QuickTime format, of course – and what I found in visiting the IMDB (which uses Microsoft's Windows Media format) and Apple is that the QuickTime clips were of much higher quality, and seemed to download just as quickly.

MSN also features trailers from the latest movies for viewing at its movies page, and they are, of course, also in Windows Media format. All the same movies that are on Apple's site seem to be here, with the bonus that if you type in your ZIP code, you can get listing times for area theaters. Some of the theater chains allow you to purchase tickets online from the MSN site using the service.