Will I "Really Like" this Movie?

Navigating Movie Website Ratings to Select More Enjoyable Movies

Archive for the month “July, 2016”

Going to August Movies This Year May Be Suicide, but Some “Really Like” Prospects Come in Small Packages

As I mentioned in my last post, August is a below average month for ticket sales at the box office. Accordingly, August is one of the months that movie distributors use to dump movies that they don’t expect to do well. The historical exception to this is promising small movies with modest budgets. It is possible that there is a second exception.Two years ago we saw the successful launch of Guardians of the Galaxy on the first weekend in August. The gamble was that the first weekend in August was more like July, the blockbuster mecca, than the rest of August.

In selecting my August “really like” prospects, the trick is to separate the wheat from the chaff. I need to find the movies that fit the exceptions noted above and avoid the dumps. With that in mind, consider the following five movies:

Suicide Squad  Release Date: August 5, 2016  “Really Like Probability” 45%

One of the classic movies released in the 1960’s was The Dirty Dozen, in which twelve criminals with special skills were recruited for a black-ops mission during World War II. The success of The Dirty Dozen hinged on humanizing these “bad men” so that the audience would root for them. The movie succeeded in doing this by infusing a liberal dose of humor. Suicide Squad is a comic book version of the same story. Coming out of last week’s Comic-Con in San Diego, the movie is riding a positive buzz. I’m betting on the buzz being because the movie is good and not just hype. Because nobody has seen this movie so far, the probability reflects a little better than average probability for an August movie. As we get closer to opening weekend we’ll gain a better handle on whether this movie earns the buzz.

Hell or High Water  Release Date: August 12, 2016   “Really Like” Probability: 45%

This western, which premiered at Cannes this year, is very promising. Director David MacKenzie was nominated at Cannes for his work on the film. The screenplay was written by Taylor Sheridan, who made an impressive screenwriting debut last year for the hit Sicario. And, Chris Pine and Ben Foster play brothers who rob banks to save their farm while trying to avoid the dogged pursuit of a Texas Ranger, played by Jeff Bridges. Based on 15 reviews, Hell or High Water is already 100% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. With 200 votes on IMDB, it has an early average rating of 7.6.

Florence Foster Jenkins  Release Date: August 12, 2016  “Really Like” Probability: 40%

Meryl Streep is renowned for her ability to assume the accents of the many characters she has played in her distinguished career. In Florence Foster Jenkins, Streep, an accomplished singer, has to assume the singing voice of a woman who can’t sing a lick. This movie has already been released internationally and so we already have more feedback on it than is typical before a U.S. release. With 49 reviews in, it is 92% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s average rating on IMDB is a 7.1, but is 7.4 for voters over 45. Even without the positive feedback, though, any movie with Meryl Streep qualifies as a prospect. You can throw in Hugh Grant as the husband of Florence Foster Jenkins if you need more convincing.

Southside with You  Release Date: August 26, 2016  “Really Like” Probability: 35%

I’m a big fan of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise trilogy. The dialogue driven movies have an authenticity that are unusual in the Romance genre. Director and screenwriter Richard Tanne modeled his approach to the romance portrayed in Southside with You on Linklater’s work. That has me intrigued. The fact that the movie portrays the first date of Barack and Michelle Obama is an added dimension. Because this movie has taken the movie festival route including an opening at Sundance, there has been some feedback from critics, receiving an 88% fresh so far from 24 critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Given that we are in the middle of a heated political season, don’t be surprised if some political passions seep into the IMDB voting.

Little Men  Release Date: August 5, 2016     “Really Like” Probability” 30%

This is not  an adaptation of the Luisa May Alcott novel, but it is similar in its coming of age themes. Two young men, growing up in Brooklyn, develop a friendship while their parents feud. I’m kind of a sucker for good coming of age flix. This one opened in January at Sundance and has been shown domestically and internationally at a number of additional festivals since then. It has been favorably reviewed so far. Rotten Tomatoes is at 94% fresh based on 16 reviews. It is the kind of small movie that can do well in August.

For a month that isn’t favorable for good movies, there seems to be enough “really like” movies to look forward to if you stick mainly to small packages.




After the First Weekend, Think Small For August “Really Like” Movies

Easily the most anticipated movie release this August is the DC Comics movie Suicide Squad. Tracking numbers suggest that this could be the first August release to ever do $100,000,000+ at the box office in its opening weekend. The key piece of information in the last sentence isn’t that this high budget blockbuster movie is expected to do well. The key piece of information is that it could be the “first” August release to be a $100 million movie on opening weekend. August hasn’t historically been a good movie box office month. From 2011 to 2015, monthly box office sales averaged about $890 million a month. Over the same time frame, the August average box office was around $767 million, a below average month. It hasn’t typically been a month that is kind to blockbusters. In 2014, Disney struck gold with the August 1 release of the Marvel product, Guardians of the Galaxy  with a total gross sales of over $333 million against a $170 million budget. The following year Twentieth Century Fox tried to copy Guardians’ success by releasing the reboot of the Marvel comic creation Fantastic Four. It bombed, taking in a little over $56 million in total box office against a $120 million budget. Suicide Squad may very well determine the future of the first weekend in August as a launching pad for blockbusters.

You can find “really like” movies in every month. August is no different. Here are my top “really like” movies released in August:

Rear Window  $           1,000,000
In the Heat of the Night  $           2,000,000
Fugitive, The  $         44,000,000
Searching for Bobby Fischer  Not available
Sixth Sense, The  $         40,000,000

While all of these movies are excellent movies, August hasn’t been a particularly good month for “really like” movies. There is only a 41.9% probability that a movie released in August will be a “really like” movie for me.

Of the top 100 movies on IMDB’s Top Rated Movies list, only 4 were released in August, and all 4 were released over 35 years ago. Since the year 2000, there have been 106 Best Picture nominees. Only 4 were released in August:

The Help  $         25,000,000
District 9  $         30,000,000
Inglorious Basterds  $         75,000,000
Boyhood  $           4,000,000

The movies of quality released in August, prior to Guardians of the Galaxy, were typically low to modestly high budget movies. This makes sense when the month averages a below average box office.

Last year’s top August movies in terms of box office were:

Gross (000000) Budget (000000)
Straight Outta Compton $161.20  $                     28.00
War Room $67.80  $                       3.00
Fantastic Four $56.10  $                   120.00
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. $45.40  $                     75.00
The Gift $43.80  $                       5.00

The high budget movies bombed. The low budget movies succeeded.

You’ll need to come back on Thursday to see whether I think the Suicide Squad gamble will produce a “really like” movie. Beyond that I’ll be looking for modestly budgeted movies for my potential “really like” gems.

IMDB Can Be a Trivial Pursuit

Recently I watched Lethal Weapon 2 for the second time. After rating a movie, I like to read a critic’s review, a Roger Ebert review if available, and click on the trivia link on the IMDB sidebar. The trivia link is a good way to gather some behind the scenes information about the movie. From the Lethal Weapon 2 trivia link, I learned that Shane Black’s original screenplay was darker and resulted in Martin Riggs’ (Mel Gibson) death at the end of the movie. Both Warner Bros. and Richard Donner, the Director, refused to kill off Riggs which would have meant the end of the profitable franchise. Shane Black, however, refused to change the script and left the project. He went on to screen write Iron Man 3 and is working on the remake of The Predator scheduled to be released in 2018. The Lethal Weapon franchise went on to produce Lethal Weapon 3 & 4, which took in a combined worldwide box office of close to $600,000,000. It isn’t the first time, or the last time, that the art of making movies lost out to the business of making movies.

Here is some additional trivia from some of your movie favorites:

  • The Shawshank Redemption, which is the number one movie on IMDB’s Top 250 Movies list, took in only a very modest theater box office of $28,ooo,ooo before becoming one of the all time leaders in the video rental market.
  • Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro are the only actors ever to win Academy Awards playing the same character (Vito Corleone) in two different movies (The Godfather, The Godfather Part II)
  • Christopher Lee, who played Saruman in the Lord of the Rings trilogy read the Lord of the Rings books every year from the year they were published in 1954 until the year he died in 2015.
  • In the Star Wars movies, Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) had to stand on a box for many of her scenes with Harrison Ford (Han Solo) because he was 6’1” tall and she was only 5’1″.
  • For the movie Forrest Gump, Tom Hanks agreed to not take a salary to help control the production costs of the movie. Instead he agreed to percentage points which netted him $40,000,000.
  • When the Wachowskis were pitching The Matrix to Warner, they proposed a budget of $80,000,000. Warner would only agree to a budget of $10,000,000. The Wachowskis spent all $10,000,000 on the 10 minute opening scene with Carrie-Anne Moss and went back to Warner and showed them the first ten minutes. Based on those 10 minutes, Warner approved the entire $80,000,000 budget.
  • In the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, the script required George Bailey’s future wife, Mary Hatch played by Donna Reed, to break a window by throwing a rock through the window. Director Frank Capra hired a marksman to shoot out the window on cue. To everyone’s surprise, Donna Reed threw the rock through the window on the first take. Capra didn’t realize that Donna Reed was an accomplished baseball player in high school with a strong arm.
  • For Saving Private Ryan, Steven Spielberg cast Matt Damon as Private Ryan because of his All-American looks and more importantly because he was a relatively unknown actor. A few months before the movie opened in July 1998, Spielberg’s unknown actor won an Academy Award for Good Will Hunting and became an overnight A-List actor.
  • The iconic scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, where the flamboyant swordsmen starts whipping around his sword and Indiana Jones pulls out his gun and shoots him, wasn’t in the script. Harrison Ford was supposed to knock the sword out of the swordsmen’s hand with his whip. Because a virus had infected Ford and much of the crew, they were having trouble executing the stunt. Finally Harrison Ford suggested “shooting the sucker”. The result was a scene that is ingrained in the memories of film fans ever since.

If you’ve had some fun with these trivial movie facts, visit IMDB and try out the trivia link for your favorite movies. Or, you can just wait for the next time that we play Trivial Pursuit with IMDB on this site.

Stop the Madness! The Male IMDB War Against Ghostbusters.

After devoting my last two posts to Rotten Tomatoes and male bias in their ratings, I was looking forward to writing about something a little lighter. But, to quote Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part III, “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.” It seems like the topic of male bias and movie ratings isn’t done with me.

Ghostbusters, with its all female leads, opened this weekend with strong box office sales that met Sony’s expectations. Given the bizarre stories leading up to the release of the movie, that kind of box office performance was by no means a given. Apparently, there was a male backlash to the idea of an all female Ghostbusters team. In an apparent effort to hurt the movie at the box office,  there was an attempt to tank the IMDB ratings of the movie before its release. It was a big enough story to catch the attention of the folks over at Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight website. Their article covers the IMDB tanking story as well as sharing the author’s thoughts on the weaknesses of IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes. These thoughts are very much in concert with the studies I’ve shared with you on these pages. I thought it was particularly interesting that, according to a prior FiveThityEight study, Ghostbusters isn’t the first instance of males tanking IMDB ratings for entertainment aimed at women.

As of this morning, there is still a significant male-female split on IMDB. Based on 17,940 male votes, the male average rating for Ghostbusters is 4.5. Based on 5,518 female votes, the average female IMDB rating is 8.1. For females the rating is 80% higher than the male rating. Yet, because there are 3.25 males voting for every 1 female, the overall average IMDB rating is 4.8. This effort by males to sabotage Ghostbusters appears to be a worldwide phenomenon. 31.0% of U.S. voters scored the movie a 1 out of 10, the lowest score you can enter on IMDB. 35.8% of non-U.S. voters have scored the movie a 1 out of 10 so far.

Now, there is a legitimate difference in opinion about the movie between men and women who’ve actually seen the movie. The critics on Rotten Tomatoes, whose male critics presumably didn’t participate in the efforts to tank the ratings, generate a significant male-female split. Consistent with findings of my study from the previous post, the 3.35 male reviews for every female review falls into the high range of female critic participation. It’s in this high range where the widest male-female splits occur. For Ghostbusters, male Rotten Tomatoes critics gave it a 69.5% Fresh while female critics gave it an 86.4% Fresh rating, a 21.7% higher rating by female critics.

Bottom line, this is another mark against using IMDB ratings as a major influence in deciding what movies we should watch. And, Guys, stop the madness!! It’s only a movie! Rating movies that you haven’t seen only hurts those of us who actually want to discover movies that we will “really like”.

Rotten Tomatoes Is Male Critic Dominated and It Really Does Matter

In this past Monday’s post I left you with an unresolved question. Does it really matter that Rotten Tomatoes is male critic dominated if the ratings produced by female critics are similar to male critics? Now that I’ve completed my study of all 100 of Rotten Tomatoes Top Romance Movies, I can dismiss that question because there are clear differences between male and female critic ratings, at least when it comes to movies that are actually about romance.

A mistake I made in my last post was not recognizing that I was using a biased sample. Because only 15% of the reviews were by female critics, the movies at the top of the list were the Romance movies that the male critics liked the most and rated highly. In many of these movies romance was not front and center. Female critics were also likely to rate these same movies highly. It is not surprising that for the top 50 movies the average male critic rating was 95.4% Fresh and female critics ratings were a similar 95.7% Fresh. With high ratings there isn’t much room for differentiation between the male and female critics. Theoretically, the greatest opportunity for differences in ratings would be on lower rated movies where real opposing reviews of movies would be more likely.

The next 50 movies do show greater separation between male and female critic ratings, with the average male critic rating for movies 51 to 100 at 91.0% Fresh and female critic average ratings at 94.5% Fresh. Female critics like the second 50 movies almost as much as the first 50 while male critics are a little less enthused with the second 50. If the next 100 movies on the list were available and the rate of decline in the ratings for each gender maintained the same pace, the gap would be even greater for those movies..

If we take another perspective and look at results based on female critic participation rates, we get some interesting results.


# of Male Reviews to Female Reviews # of Movies  Male Avg. % Fresh  Female Avg. % Fresh Female Rating % Difference  Avg. # of Male Reviews per Movie  Avg. # of Female Reviews per Movie Female % of Reviews per Movie
3 to 1 and lower             9 90.3% 96.6% 7.0%                  69               26 27.5%
4 to 1           15 93.8% 95.9% 2.2%                101               24 19.4%
5 to 1 and higher           76 93.2% 94.4% 1.2%                  80               13 14.1%

Movies that generate the greatest percentage of female reviews have the greatest difference in the average Rotten Tomatoes rating. It is noteworthy that the nine movies that have the most female critics per movie have the fewest male critics per movie. You might be interested in what these nine movies are:

Ever After: A Cinderella Story
I’ll See you in My Dreams
Big Night
Obvious Child
Singin’ In the Rain
Sense and Sensibility

With the exception of Big Night, all of these movies have a strong female orientation. The fact that there are only nine of them on this list reinforces my comments about sample bias.

See, Rotten Tomatoes’ gender bias really does matter.


Rotten Tomatoes is Male Critic Dominated. Does it Really Matter?

There are approximately four times as many male critics as there are female critics reviewing movies on Rotten Tomatoes. The rating generated from these Rotten Tomatoes reviews for a particular movie impacts its box office performance, and ultimately impacts what movies get made. Does it really matter that Rotten Tomatoes is male dominated? Of course it does. Most ticket buyers are women and they should at least have a consensus of the critics that reflects somewhat the diversity of the buying public. But, if we rephrase the question to “Is a male dominated Rotten Tomatoes leading buyers to make movie choices that are male biased?”, it isn’t entirely clear. Might the professionalism of critics mitigate gender bias to some degree?

I’ve begun a study of male and female critics’ Rotten Tomatoes ratings. I began with Rotten Tomatoes’ Top 100 Romance Movies. It is a genre that is generally considered female-oriented. For this post I was only able to analyze the first 50 movies. These top 50 movies have 4,893 reviews attached to them and only 727, a mere 15.6%, are by female critics. Male critics rated these 50 movies 95.4% Fresh and female critics rated them 95.7% Fresh, a slightly higher rating by women but virtually identical.

When you review Rotten Tomatoes’ list, you’ll probably note that there are a number of movies that, while there is romance in the plot,  wouldn’t be considered Romance movies, On the Waterfront and The Town for instance. I took a shot below at separating out Romance Comedy and Romance Drama as separate genres.

Rotten Tomatoes
Male Female
# of Movies # Fresh # Rotten % Fresh # Fresh # Rotten % Fresh
Comedy Romance 10 466 17 96.5% 85 0 100.0%
Drama Romance 21 1896 106 94.7% 352 21 94.4%
All Other 19 1407 60 95.9% 259 10 96.3%

At first glance, Comedy Romance seems to break the possible conclusion that gender doesn’t matter, and that may be the case. If there were a male female split within the genre, the common perception might be that romantic comedies would be where you’re most apt to see it. We need to be careful with the conclusion that the Comedy Romance data proves the hypothesis that male and female critics review these movies differently. If just 3 female critics changed their ratings to Rotten, the result would be 96.5% Fresh, identical to the male critics.

For my next post I plan on adding movies 51 to 100 to the study. I’m not comfortable that there is enough data, so far, for the female critic results in the study to be credible enough to reach conclusions. I also think it would be interesting to take a look at a male-oriented genre, like Westerns, to see if the results hold the other way.

There is one conclusion that can’t be denied. If there is any difference between male and female critics, making up only 15% of the reviews stifles any real impact on the final Rotten Tomatoes rating.

In Pursuit of “Really Like” Movies, Playing Tag with Movielens Can Be Helpful

You may wonder where my list of Top Ten Movies Available To Watch This Week comes from. Or, you may be curious how far Mad Movie Man madness extends. Or, maybe you neither wonder nor are curious, but are instead just happy to have another place to go to for movie recommendations. Whether you have questions unanswered or questions unasked, today is your lucky day. This is the day that you discover how obsessive I can be in pursuit of movies that I will “really like”.

Before I plumb the depths of this madness, a few words about a Movielens tool that helps me organize the mania, would be appropriate. Movielens has a tagging system. There are Community Tags that are available for everyone to use. For example, here are the Community Tags for There’s Something About Mary.


You can use these tags as an additional screen when searching for a movie to watch. The number next to the tag tells you how often the tag has been used for this movie. By looking at these tags you could conclude that this movie isn’t for everyone and it probably wouldn’t meet the cringeworthy test. There is a plus sign next to the tag that allows you to agree or disagree with the tag. Also, if you thought the movie was “hilarious”, you can click on the tag and all of the movies will come up that have been tagged “hilarious” Try it on the list above.

If you want to keep track of all of the movies that you thought were “hilarious” there is a box where you can make “hilarious” one of your own personal tags for this movie. If you want to add a tag that isn’t listed for this movie, you can do that too. It is a very dynamic system for gaining additional insights into a movie and for helping you to organize your movies if you are so inclined.

Which brings me back to my manic inclinations. I keep a list of approximately 450 movies for which I’ve calculated “really like” probabilities. Each of these movies I assign the Movielens tag “reviewed” to. This allows me to keep track of movies that I’ve already put on my list of 450. These movies stay on the list as long as they qualify as a recommended movie on one of the five movie websites I use. The data for each movie is refreshed every 90 days.

Movies that I come across that aren’t on the list of 450 that I’m intrigued by are tagged “prospect” in Movielens. Whenever I watch a movie from the list of 450, or it is removed from the list because one of the websites no longer recommends it, I replace it with a movie from the “prospect” list. Movielens allows you to go to Your Tags and sort the movies you’ve tagged. For example, I take the movies that I’ve tagged “prospect” and Movielens sorts them by Movielens Recommended movie, from the highest to the lowest. The highest recommended “prospect” movie moves to the list of 450 to replace the movie removed from the list.

Each Wednesday, after reviewing which movies from the list of 450 are available to watch on the various movie outlets available to me, I rank them by their “really like” probabilities, with the top ten making my list.

Now you understand why I’m the “Mad” Movie Man and how playing tag with Movielens enables my madness.




Until That Next Special Movie Comes Along

Happy 4th of July to all of my visitors from the States and, to my friends to the North, Happy Canada Day which was celebrated on this past Saturday. It is a good day to watch Yankee Doodle Dandy, one of those special movie experiences I’m fond of.

This past weekend I watched another patriotic movie,  Courage Under Fire with Denzel Washington, Meg Ryan, and a young Matt Damon among others in a terrific cast. It was one of those special movies that I yearned for in my last post on July movie prospects. It was a July 1996 release that wasn’t nominated for an Academy Award (how it didn’t get an acting nomination among several powerful performances astounds me). It earned a 94 out of 100 score from me. I loved this movie. The feeling I get after watching a movie this good is why I watch so many movies. It is the promise that there are more movies out there to see that I will love that feeds my passion for movies.

As I was thinking about special movies the last few days, a question occurred to me. Can I use my rating system to find movies I’ll “love” rather than just “really like”? Of course I can. Any movie that earns a rating of 85 out of 100 or higher meets my definition of a movie I will “love”. An 85 also converts to a five star movie on Netflix. I can rank each of the movie rating websites that I use in my algorithm from highest rating to lowest. I then can take the top 10% of the rankings and calculate the probability that a movie in that top 10% would earn a score of 85 or higher. Regular readers of this blog shouldn’t be surprised by the results.

Top 10% Threshold Actual % of My Database Probability for “Love” Movie
Netflix >  4.5 9.5% 81.4%
Movielens >  4.2 10.7% 76.9%
Criticker >  90 10.3% 55.4%
IMDB >  8.1 10.8% 45.8%
Rotten Tomatoes >  Cert. Fresh 95% 10.4% 41.7%

High Netflix and Movielens scores are the most reliable indicators of “love” movies. Here’s my problem. There are no movies that I haven’t seen in the last fifteen years that have a Netflix Best Guess of 4.5 or higher. There are fewer than 10 movies that I haven’t seen in the last fifteen years with a Movielens predicted score of greater than 4.2. Here’s the kicker, the probability that I will “love” a movie with a Movielens predicted score of 4.2 or better that doesn’t also have a Netflix Best Guess greater than 4.5 is only 62%. It seems the chances to find movies to “love” are significantly diminished without the strong support of Netflix.

On the 1st of each month Netflix Streaming and Amazon Prime shake up the movies that are available in their inventory. The July 1 shakeup has resulted in a couple of new movies being added to my list of the Top Ten “Really Like” Movies Available on Netflix or Amazon Prime. This list is actually mistitled. It should be the Top Ten “Love” Movies Available. Take a look at the list. Perhaps you haven’t seen one of these movies, or haven’t seen it in a while. It is your good fortune to be able to watch one of these movies the next time you are in the mood for a special movie experience.

As for me, I’m still hoping that one of the movies released this year rises to the top of my watch list and is able to captivate me. If it were easy to find movies that I will “love”, I would have named this blog Will I “Love” This Movie?. For now, I will continue to watch movies that I will “really like” until that next special movie comes along.

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