popular Cinemania multimedia movie database takes an already strong product
and makes it even more of a delight for movie buffs.
95 CD-ROM), includes some 20,000 movie titles (so you know there'll be
some real stinkers on the list, too!), cross referenced via hotlinks so
you can explore all sorts of trivia. We had trouble doing a linear tour
of the disc, going from title to title, because we kept getting sidetracked
following links to interesting related items. For instance, a look at
the James Cameron film "The Abyss," got us interested in the "Super 35"
film format used in the movie. Clicking on "Super 35" brought up a tool
tip with its own hotlink to a glossary of wide screen terms.
While the widescreen
glossary was fascinating, we were a touch disappointed in its superficial
treatment of Super 35, which is becoming quite a popular format because
it allows filmmakers to frame their shots for both widescreen and TV at
the same time (and since home video makes the studios as much money as
theatrical releases do, it's nice to see some filmmakers taking their
small screen audiences into consideration). But we digress...
You can follow
these hotlinks all over the disk, until you've actually forgotten what
you were originally looking for!
opening screen has a menu that takes you directly to the various classifications
of movie (action/adventure, romance, etc.), as well as a few side trips
to the "featured artist" (a profile of a big name personality), the "Cinemania
Team Pick" (a favorite film of one of the Cinemania reviewing team - including
a quick paragraph on why that person chose that movie) and even
a trivia question of the day.
To help you
make your movie-watching choice, there's an abundance of reviews from
famed movie pundits Leonard Maltin, Pauline Kael, and Roger Ebert. There's
also a "suggestions" section that gives you a list of potential titles
to watch from a pulldown menu of categories (including "acting teams,"
"African Americans" "Banned Movies," "Yuletide Cheer" "Zombie mania" and
more). It's pretty neat. The "suggestions box" will also list movies for
you based on your mood (from "a good laugh" to "stirring and uplifting")
and if you can't make up your mind what mood you're in, you can pull the
one-armed bandit's handle and have Cinemania choose a movie randomly.
But don't blame Microsoft if it picks a real dog!
is particularly easy if you know the one you want: you can search for
a title merely by typing it in - just like a database should be.
is also a number of stills (1000+), audio clips (150+), and movie clips
(30+). And one of the things we video snobs found most welcome about the
new version of Cinemania is that the clips from widescreen movies are
now letterboxed! Hooray! The last version of Cinemania we saw ('94) had
pan-and-scan clips, something that always makes our flesh crawl. More
about why, later...
As one might
expect, there's a lot of other interesting stuff in Cinemania 97. In fact,
Microsoft says you get filmographies (lists of all the films on which
they worked) for some 10,000 personalities, and more than 4500 profiles
of behind the scenes professionals.
You can even
start your own list of favourite movies and store them on your hard drive
for later retrieval, though we wonder why you'd bother using up hard drive
space when any movie is only a couple of seconds away.
There are also
celebrity tours of Cinemania, by the resident pundits and other celebrities.
Due to our aversion to reformatting movies to fit a TV screen, we were
particularly impressed with Roger Ebert, who started off one of his lectures
by warning the audience that, by watching the typical home video release,
they were missing up to half of what was actually in the film - thanks
to the square TV picture that cuts the sides off widescreen movies. He
then goes on to give a history of movie "aspect ratios" and the many widescreen
monikers (from Panavision to Cinerama), and if you're a movie buff, you'll
probably find it fascinating. Ebert also describes "pan and scan," which
is how most widescreen movies are transferred onto videocassette and for
TV release (they jerkily pan across the widescreen image in a vain attempt
to capture the action - thereby giving a whole different feel to the director's
vision of the film), ending with a description of the much more satisfying
"letterbox" process that transfers the entire width of the picture onto
the TV screen, leaving blank spaces above and below it. Bravo!
has an online component that homes onto the Microsoft Network's Cinemania
area and offers even more stuff, including movie news and current events
. You can even download updates, including more of the celebrity tours
If you're a
movie buff, or a student of the cinema, Microsoft Cinemania 97 can be
an invaluable information resource. It's also a hoot.
Tell us at TechnoFile what YOU think