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Opinions are like assholes -- everybody has one, and these days everyone seems to have Internet access, too. Combine opinions, assholes, and Internet access and you have the Internet Movie Database Users Comments.

Like everything else on the web, the IMDb Users Comments began as a good idea -- a levelling of the playing field, a forum for the average viewer to spout off about the latest movies. Unfortunately, for a while now, Internet reviews (and the reliability thereof) have been marred by two things: the fact that most average viewers are easily-impressed pinheads who can't string two words together coherently, and the increasing suspicion that a lot of the great Internet word-of-mouth comes out of the mouths of anonymous studio shills trying to counteract negative buzz or build good buzz.

Let's take the pinhead charge first. Who liked THE HAUNTING? I didn't. You probably didn't either, if indeed you actually sat through it. But what can we make of inanities like this:

This was a TRULY amazing movie. I highly recommend it! Its got great acting (especially from Lili Taylor), awesome effects and stunning production design. But all the kudos should go to director Jan De Bont for combining all these elements and more into a thrill ride that doesn't stop. It has funny moments without being corny, it is scary with about being gory and it is dramatic without being boring!! All horror films should aim for this high level of filmmaking craftsmanship.

Most horror films do aim for that level; that's why most horror films these days blow.

Or how about PHANTOM MENACE? Now, if you liked it, that's one thing, but is it really the best movie you've ever seen? Apparently some people think so:

This movie is just GREAT! I've never been a Star Wars fan but thanks to this movie I now am. This is my all time favorite movie. George Lucas sure knows how to write great scripts.

Yes, he sure does.

Or how about this:

I really don't know what's up with all this negative vibe about this movie. People don't appreciate a MASTERPIECE anymore. This movie was the BEST movie I have ever seen! I don't understand how anyone can say anything negative about this movie.

Maybe because it sucked?

Or try this one on for size:

I was quite privilaged to see this film at 9:15 a.m. May 19, and it RULED! I have seen this film 5 times since then, and i'm telling you, the critics are NUTS! This is the holy grail of sci-fi!

FYI, the holy grail of sci-fi, as of this writing, occupies the #162 spot on the IMdB's Top 250 list (voted on by average viewers and, one suspects, Lucasfilm shills). Yet despite this place of honor, it boasts only a 7.9 user rating -- out of a possible 10. Which means that the holy grail of sci-fi, the best movie these pinheads have ever seen, earns a grade slightly below a B minus once you average all the user ratings.

My favorite defense of PHANTOM MENACE -- hell, if these user reviews aren't good for laughs, what are they good for? -- goes a little something like this:

I think that The Phantom Menace is the best movie ever. The visual effects on the movie were AWSOME! They cast did a VERY good job on acting. The light saber sceens were very stressful, you never knew what was going to happen. The soundtrack is awsome too. All of the cast were very well dressed, it fits their personality.

Yes, I will say that much for the movie. The costumes did fit the actors' personalities. The actors were dull and so were their outfits.

Surely, you may think, nobody could have enjoyed WILD WILD WEST. And you would be wrong:

This movie is a must see for anyone with any taste at all. If you don't like this movie you have to be the most boring, unimaginable, unintelligent person there is on Earth. Wild, Wild, West was 100 times better than Star Wars and is the movie of the year!

(Incidentally, that one was quoted in Entertainment Weekly as an example of suspicious-sounding raves that might be studio-generated.)

Or this:

If you look at the film in the right frame of mind, it's an absolute masterpiece.

Right frame of mind? I guess if you're wasted on acid and crack at the same time ...

Okay, and finally, THE MOD SQUAD. I think it's an unsung masterpiece, I have the poster hanging up in my room, and if you believe that, I have an authentic BLAIR WITCH tree I can sell you real cheap. Here was a movie so cosmically shitty that even Ken Souza, who tries to sit through even the worst movies if only to say he's seen them and they suck, couldn't get past the first 20 minutes. In fact, the movie so appalled Ken that he actually died in his chair and only a steady round-the-clock infusion of TOUCH OF EVIL and STRANGERS ON A TRAIN could bring him back to life. Yet even this cinematic ass-wiping has its IMDb fans:

I was lucky to catch a sneak preview (by accident) and I really liked this film.

This is a little like saying "I was lucky to have my dick torn off (by accident) and I really liked it."

I loved the Mod Squad because even though the actors didn't have a very good story, they still managed to make it enjoyable and humorous.

How nice of them to make a shitty story enjoyable and humorous.

While the movie wasn't all that original (in its defense, it wasn't supposed to be) the subtlety of the story and the 'real' performances made for an overwhelmingly positive experience.

I like the quotes around "real." And for the record, isn't that a little overkill? Getting laid after winning the lottery is an "overwhelmingly positive experience." Seeing a shitty movie is just seeing a shitty movie.

with the help of subtle but necessary acting interpretations, it is a great directoral piece. the screenplay is above par, and the actors are as well. it is a trend setting sort of film. the fashion and lifestyles will be mimicked by those who see the cutting edge hipness. go and see it, don't expect anything like you are expecting, and you will leave with a fulfilled two hour investment.

I can tell you that Ken and I saw the cutting-edge hipness and are already mimicking the fashion and lifestyles. Ken looks just like Giovanni Ribisi, and I'm going more for the Claire Danes look.

The Mod Squad had no point whatsoever, and if there was meaning, I missed it. But I loved this movie! Everything about this film is cool. The actors were awesome, wearing their emotions on their sleeves and carrying themselves in a manner that defined hip. The clothes are phat, the director deserves props for his work, I loved the views and shades of light he chose.

That's what I look for in a movie: no point, and phat clothes.

Scott Silver does a great job directing this fun action picture. With great performances from Danes, Epps, and especially Rabisi, The Mod Squad rises above the typical teen movie.

Doesn't that last one sound uncannily like a press release? Speaking of which, how about this user comment on a good recent film, Albert Brooks' THE MUSE:

Sharon Stone is wonderful in this new Albert Brooks screenplay!! Albert Brooks plays a down-on-his-luck Hollywood screenwriter who finds a real life muse in the character played by Sharon Stone. As he looks to her for inspiration, his family life is turned upside down. Featured players include Jeff Bridges as the writer who puts Brooks on to the muse and Andie MacDowell as his wife. Also on hand playing themselves are directors Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, Rob Reiner and restaurateur Wolfgang Puck. This insider's comedy was directed and written by Brooks, marking his first production since completing MOTHER in 1996. A must see Stone is wonderful as the muse. See it opening weekend. If you can get in.

Now, I don't know about you, but to these eyes, that doesn't read at all like an average person's genuine reaction to this (or any) movie. It reads a whole lot like the fluff on the back of a video box. All it's missing is a cheesy capper like "With an original soundtrack by Grammy® winner Elton John, THE MUSE is sure to inspire a good time!" This was posted by someone calling himself "Steven Hollywood," and maybe he makes a living writing blurbs for Blockbuster Video, like the hero of Craig Mitchell's "She Hates My Futon" as seen on (go check it out! a must read!). Or maybe, just maybe, he's a shill for USA Films.

A comforting way to look at all this is that a good percentage of the easily-impressed-pinhead reviews are really from studio shills. That would mean there are far fewer MOD SQUAD fans walking among us than the IMDb would have us believe, and that's always good to know. But it also means you increasingly can't trust anything you read about a film. The Internet ravers are like those anonymous drones who get paid to write dipshit blurbs for TV and newspaper ads -- the ones with no real credentials. If the IMDb Users Comments forum was designed to be a grassroots soapbox for Joe and Mary Public, it's been hopelessly corrupted and compromised by corporate interests, just like everything else.

Whatever the source, though, these mindless "reviews" cheapen movies and those who are actually serious about watching them and writing about them. In brief, anyone can write about movies, but not everyone can actually write well. That's the difference between your standard high-school-level "This movie RULEZ!" and a review written by someone mature enough to write incisively and insightfully about what's on the screen. Internet reviews seem to satisfy the average person's desire to say "I saw this movie and I liked it, and I want a lot of people to know that!" It's a forum for people who don't write well enough to have a real forum.

The IMDb user reviews aren't all bad, though. In fact, the IMDb consensus on MOD SQUAD, WILD WILD WEST, THE HAUNTING, and even the holy grail of sci-fi is largely negative. Two reviews of PHANTOM MENACE somewhat restored my faith in the IMDb as a public soapbox. My favorite line was this laconic observation from a viewer in Peru:

Really, TPM was more an exhibition of new products than a motion picture.

And my favorite PHANTOM MENACE rant -- drum roll, please ...

After sitting through three Star Wars movies already, I guess it shouldn't surprise me that this one also put me to sleep. It is unbelievable that so many people actually think that these movies are interesting. Anyone who studies film or even cares to try can tell that all 4 of these films are poorly acted, poorly written, and mainstream. Also, there is nothing special about the special effects. I've seen better at a fireworks show. I've never seen a worse screenplay in my life. Unfortunately, too many people have been sucked into 'the force' and therefore have forgotten that there are other movies. For all of you out there reading this that don't like Star Wars, I commend you for not getting sucked in. For all of you out there that do, please GET A LIFE.

And no, I didn't write that one. Kinda wish I had.

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