7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on June 9, 2013
This historic reference book is sadly losing its relevance in today's world of IMDB, Wikipedia, Rotten Tomatoes, and many other movie sites. When Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide was first published in 1969, its thousands of capsule movie reviews were an indispensable reference source when such a comprehensive collection of movie info was rare. The book had its biggest success during the 80s and 90s, when home video sales exploded and movie fans couldn't get enough of renting and buying movies and learning more about them. Many copycat movie guides were also published, but Maltin's book had always remained the benchmark. When multimedia PCs gained popularity in the 90s, Maltin again capitalized on it by teaming up with Microsoft to create an electronic version of his book, Cinemania CD-ROM, which also included Roger Ebert's movie guide and several other movie books, all with fully-searchable text and cross-reference links. It seemed Maltin's Book was poised to transition successfully to the new electronic age. But sadly, that was not to be. In the early days of IMDB and Wikipedia, if you were to tell me that a site that gets info primarily from volunteer online users would one day be more useful than Maltin's book, I would laugh at you. But that's exactly what has happened. As IMDB and Wikipedia grew bigger and bigger, it became apparent that the team of experts who edit Maltin's book would never be able to contribute as much as the millions and millions of volunteers (from movie professionals to regular viewers) who contributed for IMDB and Wiki. Even though errors can occur on IMDB and Wiki, but if an entry has been edited millions of times, the errors are bound to be corrected eventually.
I guess Maltin's book would still be relevant to those who don't have access to the Internet or computers. But it pains me to point out the shortcomings of the book. While IMDB has millions of titles, Maltin's book only has about 20,000, and has been that way for years due to the lack of space of the print edition. Made-for-TV movies, which were once present in the book, are all gone. You won't find Dustin Hoffman's telefilm version of "Death of a Salesman", the great suspense films by Levinson and Link such as "Rehearsal for Murder" and "Murder by Natural Causes", the classic 1983 nuclear holocaust telefilm "The Day After", or even the many great HBO telefilms such as Emma Thompson's 2001 "Wit". You won't find any short films, since Maltin has never included them. Classic shorts like "The Red Balloon", "Un Chien Andalou", all the classic Disney shorts, and modern masterpieces like 1993 Cannes winner "The Debt", Oscar winners "Tin Toy" (1988), "Harvie Krumpet" (2003), "Visas of Virtue", and on and on, are absent in the book, even though many of them are available for home video and/or online viewing nowadays. Maltin continues to slight indie films. His latest 2013 edition doesn't even have last year's Best Picture Oscar nominee "Beasts of the Southern Wild".
Regarding foreign films, this book has always been hit or miss. As expected, it has the established classics such as those by Kurosawa, Fellini, etc. But a lot of previously-obscure films have been rediscovered by the public in the past few decades and should be given more attention. And this book fails to do that. You won't find the 1921 classic Swedish silent "The Phantom Carriage". You won't find the great French comedy films by Pierre Etaix, whose films have been rediscovered and shown on prime-time on TCM, and were recently released on Blu-ray and DVD. You won't find any of the groundbreaking films by Chantal Akerman, whose films have also been rediscovered and released on home video. You won't find any Hong Kong Shaw Brothers' martial arts films, many of which have become widely known in the west since the 70s and are also available on home video. A lot of films from South Korea have gained international fame the last decade, but you won't find "A Tale of Two Sisters" or "My Sassy Girl" in this book. More and more so as time goes on, this book seems to be stuck in 1969 mode and is unable to reflect the diversity of tastes and demands of 21st century viewers.
Maltin may not necessarily want to exclude all these films. But lack of space of the print edition plus the lack of manpower (compared to the Internet community of IMDB) are just never going to enable him to include as many titles as he wants. Ideally, the coverage of the book should at least keep up with what is available on home video, since most people mainly use the book for rental/purchase suggestions. But as the years go on, as the selections of DVDs and Blu-rays continue to grow, we are sadly aware that this book will probably never catch up to that level of coverage.
Even for the movies that are included, the information provided is fairly lacking. Maltin's pithy, often witty capsule reviews are the heart and soul of the book. But in this day and age of DVD commentaries and bonus material, when viewers can't seem to get enough of movie information, a mere few sentences of summary are just not going to be very satisfying compared to the much more detailed info available on the Internet. A cast list is provided for each review, but only for major roles, and minor roles played by notable actors. The director's name is the only crew listed, and there is no mention of writers, editors, producers, and other crews, unless Maltin mentions them specifically in his review. Silent films are often not indicated as such. While it does show a movie's country or countries of origin, it doesn't mention a movie's language. While reading this book, you get the feeling that due to the lack of space, it is unable to include some of the most basic information.
An electronic medium doesn't have the space limitation that the print edition does, but sadly, the ten-dollar Kindle edition of Maltin's book is an exact duplicate of the print edition. Only the "Modern Era" edition of Maltin's book is available on Kindle currently. The Kindle edition doesn't make it user-friendly to browse or search for movies either. There is no title search. You can only do a full-search on all the text to find a title, which, on my quad-core Windows PC, takes several minutes per search (!). This is not the book's fault really, since the Kindle reader itself doesn't have a good search engine. To browse the book, you can only advance one page at a time, which is not efficient for a 1600-page book. There are no hyperlinks of titles and people within reviews, making quick navigation impossible. The ability to change font size is probably the only positive of the Kindle edition.
Currently, the best electronic version of Maltin's book comes in the form of a two-dollar iOS app for iPhone and iPod Touch. iPad users can use it too, but the app is made for the small screen of iPhone and iPod Touch only. The app actually has more movies than the current print edition. But disappointingly, it still has fewer movies than some of the past print editions. My 1997 print edition has "Rehearsal for Murder" (1982), "Special Bulletin" (1983), Guilty Conscience (1985), Death of a Salesman (1985, Dustin Hoffman), and many others that are not in this app. Hopefully the developer will later add the old ones that are still missing. But again, this isn't IMDB and this app, just like the print edition, surely doesn't have millions of volunteer editors. The app is updated only about once a year. You can read reviews while offline. You can search for titles quickly, which is a needed improvement over the Kindle edition. But you can only search for words that begin a title. E.g. Searching "lambs" would not give you "Silence of the Lambs"; only searching "silence" would. You also cannot search full text of reviews, and can only search title, cast, and director. Searching cast returns a list of movie titles, not cast names. E.g. searching for "John" gives you all movies with an actor who has the word "John" in his or her name, which is not very useful. Other shortcomings of the app include the lack of landscape view, the inability to change font size, and the lack of home video availability info as in the print edition. I would rate the print and Kindle editions 2 stars, and the iOS app 3 stars.
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
For the last 25 years, I have routinely purchased each new iteration of Leonard Maltin's movie guide. Maltin tends to be a rather conservative critic, and I often disagree with his ratings; however, his book remains a must have for its succinct reviews. Of course, in recent years, his guide has lost a bit of luster given all of the information available online instantly about any movie. Nowadays, I purchase the book more out of habit than a true need. In particular, I was disappointed when he started a few years ago deleting more and more older titles (which now appear in a separate "Classic Movie Guide" edition); hence the addition of "Modern Era"" to the title of this volume. Fortunately, the Classic edition will not be updated yearly, so once you purchase that you're set for a few years, but it's still a bit of a hassle.
I was extremely excited, therefore, to see that the 2013 version was finally available for the Kindle! Even though I already had the new 2013 print edition, I purchased the Kindle version. Unfortunately, the guide is extremely difficult to use in this format (I used it on the Kindle Fire). The key to a reference work is being able to quickly find entries, and there is no way to do that with this book. There is a "Table of Contents" which links to each letter of the alphabet. However, if you're searching for a movie starting with "B" and hit the "B," you go to the beginning of the section with no way to sort further, and you have to scroll the rest of the way (or use the location function and estimate where to go next).
The only other option to finding movies is to use the Kindle search function, which can be very slow if the movie is toward the end of the book. It took me four minutes to find the entry for "The Skin I Live In." That is just not acceptable.
Complicating matters further, if the movie's title has any unusual punctuation, it makes it that much harder to find. I was unable to find a movie, for example, that has a hyphen in its title ("Marriage - Italian Style") without scrolling page by page. This book simply does not work in this Kindle version. I hope that they change it before next year's version or else I will reluctantly go back to the print version.