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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Sam's Introductory Comments

There is, and will always be, a gaping rift between "critics" and "viewers" of films. Critically-acclaimed movies sometimes bomb at the box office, while critically-panned movies are often box office smashes. On still other occasions, the two groups concur. As for me, I am in the position of being both a critic and a casual viewer -- I appreciate both the artistry and the "fun" of movies and require both. With my ratings, I try to balance the critical value of a film with its entertainment value. Generally, I try to give critically, commercially, or cult-acclaimed films the benefit of any doubts I might have, but if I conclude a film is overrated by the masses, I'm not afraid to knock it.

A second point I should make concerns my rating scale. I use a one to five star system, but the distribution is skewed a little differently than other critics who use a four or five star system. Many critics rate "good" movies within one star from the top, and any movie with a lower rating is not so good. I do not do this. What is the point, I ask, of lumping all the worthwhile films into a couple different rating categories, reserving the rest to define with minute precision how bad a "bad" film is? My rating scale tends to be skewed more the other way. This is partly because the movie fan part of me enjoys watching movies. At the same time, I try to remain critical of their effectiveness as films. Wrapping back to the previous paragraph, these considerations are balanced together when determining a rating. How you, the reader, should derive meaning from the ratings should depend on your own interests. If you adore romantic comedies, you may consider any romantic comedy I rate, say, two stars minimum a thumbs up. On the other hand, if you hate most horror films, you wouldn't want to consider a horror film rated less than, say, four and a half stars to be a recommendation. Generally, the minimum acceptable rating will fall somewhere in between.

-- Samuel Stoddard