A welcome addition to the film CD-ROM reference market, The Motion Picture Guide will serve as a valuable tool for film buffs, students and industry people. The opening gambit is a text-only database including 34,000 titles from the first talkies onward, offering production details on ratings, running times, Oscar nom information, production companies and studios and star ratings awarded by in-house CineBooks critics.
Full cast credits follow, with key creative technical nods to director, screenplay, DP, composer, etc., often with a detailed synopsis and critique of the film. These last two items are among the CD-ROM’s strengths, although the quality of the material tends to reflect the critics’ tastes. If they love a film, they really go to town with a blow-by-blow account of the plot followed by production anecdotes and gossip and notes on budget and location. However, every film also is constructively appraised in relation to others of similar themeand genre, and commentary is included as to how a given film affected the filmmaker’s career.
The special search features can rapidly speed up research and are highly valuable for their ability to call up a production company’s entire credits or those of a secondary player. Like the Cinemania CD-ROM, films also can be researched by genre and release dates. For example, all Westerns shot in the ’60 s instantly can be found.
Inevitable comparisons can be made between MPG and Cinemania, but each has its strengths and weaknesses. There are none of the audio-visual frills on MPG like Cinemania’s stills, animated clips and scores but MPG does include in-depth reviews of 10,000 more films. Notably, there is a wider breadth of foreign titles, B movies and straight-to-video pictures.
However, because of the mammoth task of compiling such databases, the MPG still should be considered a work in progress until the filmographies of foreign and more obscure directors are rendered more complete. Director Werner Herzog has 32 directing credits on Cinemania — and even this is incomplete — but according to MPG, Herzog has only six movies to his name. Yet the coverage on those six outweighs Cinemania on its detail and information. Cinemania gives second unit directing, editing and other sundry credits on a helmer’s filmography, which MPG omits. A combination of the two styles of reference would be ideal.
CineBooks promises the holes in its database will be plugged for the upgrade due out in May. This also will contain expanded production credits for executive , associate and co-producers plus casting and sound credits. Film grosses also may be a new addition.