As a budding movie reviewer, I always like to understand the opinions of others, both before and after I’ve seen something. So if any publication reviews and rates movies, it is guaranteed to have gotten my interest. Consequently, patterns start to appear over the course of time, and I have become concerned about the reviews of my local paper, which drops onto my doormat six days a week. To protect the anonymity of said publication to save embarrassment, I have made an anagram of the name of said publication, which I will refer to as the Cmabridge New S.
There’s an entertainment section in the Cmabridge New S every Thursday, and it’s always a highlight of my thinking room reading for the week. (The rest of the paper is generally well written, so of course I don’t read those bits very much.) I’ve noticed over the last few weeks, though, that the reviews seem to be settling into a certain groove. To make sure I wasn’t going mad I retrieved the last four from the thinking room recycling pile and reviewed the scores from the last four weeks. The scores were as follows.
5 stars: The Girl Who Played With Fire
4 stars: Inception
3.5 stars: The Karate Kid
3 stars: The Rebound, Splice, Step Up 3D, Salt, The Expendables, Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, The Last Airbender, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Piranha 3D
2.5 stars: The A-Team, Knight and Day, Cats and Dogs, Marmaduke
There’s a few things here that bug me. I’ll not dwell on the meagre score for Scott Pilgrim, because everyone is entitled to their opinion, especially movie reviewers. I do actually have more of an issue for the fact that The Girl Who Played With Fire is apparently the best movie of the last month, mainly because I’d rather see the version reviewed than the one I saw. And I am disappointed that apparently Tinker Bell gets a review, but The Secret In Their Eyes had a two week run and gets nary a mention.
But my main ire is reserved for the actual spread of the reviews themselves. Out of 17 reviewed movies, ten are apparently average three star efforts, and only two manage to be good (or bad) enough to get more than half a star away from the middle. To demonstrate how unlikely this is, I have prepared a short series of graphs for your elucidation.
The first graph shows a summary of the average user rating of all movies released in the last 10 years, as rated by all users of the IMDb. For those that remember their school statistics, there’s a normal distribution here; for those that don’t do stats, just be reassured that we’re seeing what we’d expect to see here, which is a peak in the middle, so there are more average movies than anything else, with a tapering off towards less good and less bad.
The second graph is the movies I’ve seen in the last four years. Unfortunately I’ve only been keeping track for that long (Mrs Movie Evangelist was already picking holes in my statistical analysis and sample sizes at this point, so don’t feel the need to do that, stat fans), but I was always of the belief that I was restricting myself to a better class of movie by my own selection process. While my normal curve does have a slightly higher peak, pitching up around 7.5 rather than 6, the overall distribution looks pretty similar – apparently I see as much dross as the average moviegoer. Must try harder.
Finally, the spread of the movies from my local rag. If you squint your eyes, you can kind of see a normal distribution. Ish. I suppose. But apparently nothing (not Cats and Dogs, not Marmaduke) is worth less than 2.5 stars, and very little is anything but average. So please, Cmabridge New S, start to develop some strong opinions! I’d like to know what you love and hate, not what’s a tiny bit better or worse than the average! You have five stars, don’t be afraid to use as many or as few as you want. And remember that your reviews are only a guide – you can help people avoid cinematic travesties, but if they genuinely wanted to see The Love Guru, they would have gone anyway! (As did I – God help me.)
The worst part of it is that there are two panels in the paper – one which gives the two latest new reviews, the other a mix of new reviews and summaries of movies still on release. Somehow, the half stars are getting rounded up in the second panel, thus pushing The Karate Kid up to 3 stars, but also bringing Marmaduke up to – you guessed it – three stars. I live in fear and trepidation of what awaits this Thursday. Will Jason Bateman / Jennifer Aniston “comedy” The Switch be completely average? Stay tuned to find out.