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LandWare's Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide 2007

Wed Apr 11, 2007 - 9:22 AM EDT - By Harv Laser

If you love movies, here's THE program for you

Are you a movie junkie? Do you have a huge collection of movies on DVDs or tapes? Maybe you have cable or dish TV (and these days, who doesn't?).. and a DVR, or perhaps you picked up the terrific little Neuros MPEG recorder to digitize and save broadcast or cable films to your computer as MPEG-4 files and watch on your computer or your Treo.

Perhaps you even picked up a Slingbox and one of the new Mobile Sling players for PalmOS or Windows Mobile and now you can watch your home cable box's feed anywhere. Or maybe you just love the whole theatre movie-going experience anywhere.

If you nodded in agreement with any of the above, then LandWare's Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide, 2007 Edition ("LMMG") is the hand-held equivalent of movie nirvana. This stupendous program is a portable version of Maltin's latest movie guide book, but with features and abilities that no printed book could possibly duplicate.

Available for PalmOS, as well as Windows Mobile, both PocketPC and Smartphone Editions, I, being a PalmOS guy, tested out that version. In fact, since the program is updated yearly, I was jazzed to get this latest version which, while similar to earlier incarnations, so I was familiar with the interface, includes some cool improvements.

Here's LandWare's "spec sheet" on the program, including the features new to this latest version. If you've owned and used an older version of the program, you should be pleased with this latest incarnation:

  • NEW: Significantly revised user interface with full support for one-handed D-pad navigation
  • NEW: Import / Export movie lists to and from your computer
  • NEW: "Back" button allows backtracking through recent searches
  • NEW: Includes complete listings of BOTH the Leonard Maltin 2007 Movie Guide and the Leonard Maltin Classic Movie Guide
  • Includes over 460 new films
  • Complete details and capsule reviews for almost 24,000 films
  • Free updates during the year that encapsulate new film releases
  • More than 9,100 DVD, 7,100 Laserdisc and 15,400 Videocassette entries
  • The latest ranked lists of popular films as voted by 100,000 regular moviegoers
  • Easy-to-read symbols detailing MPAA rating, widescreen formats, awards, etc.
  • Filmographies for over 39,000 actors, actresses and directors
  • Complete film library, rental and buying list management
  • Online event calendar keeps you in touch with DVD releases, film premieres and festivals
  • Movie reviews/details can now be updated wirelessly*
  • Full support for removable expansion card media
  • Sophisticated compression uses a third of the memory required by other guides
  • No need to purchase additional "modules". One prices gives you access to all films and details available.

    LandWare, publishers of high quality software for PDAs for nearly 14 years (they started out as a Newton software company), delivers another winner with the 2007 Edition of LMMG. This is one of those rare programs for which there is basically no equal on the market – after you've installed it and played with it for a while, it just might make you say "wow!" For twenty bucks, and with a generous free trial period, I think after you give it a test drive, you'll want to pony up the cash and register it.

    This program is super-fast, intuitive, feature-packed, and easy-to-use. And perhaps above all else, it's FUN to use.

    LMMG is close to the perfect hand-held program for movie lovers, whether you’re just a casual viewer, a movie addict, a trivia freak, or an industry insider. It doesn't contain as much data as The Internet Movie Database which is probably THE premiere movie resource on the Internet. But then LMMG's purpose is not to duplicate the IMDB, so you'll have to fire up a Web browser if you want to know minutiae about movies, such as who did the matte paintings in a Star Wars film, or the names of the stunt drivers in "The French Connection" and so on.

    LMMG is basically the electronic equivalent of one of Maltin's book-format movie guides, but with some innovative extras that would be impossible to duplicate on the printed page.


    Who's Leonard Maltin?

    Leonard Maltin has been around for decades as a movie reviewer, book author, and film historian. You'll know him not only from his TV appearances, but he's also the historian / host on all of Disney's wonderful (and highly collectible).. "tin can" Treasures DVD sets. If you own any of those, then you know Leonard Maltin.

    You can find out more about him on his site. In his field, he's ranked amongst the world's top handful of film experts, along with Turner Classic Movie's Robert Osborne and the Chicago Sun-Time's Roger Ebert – he's one of those instantly recognizable film experts who possess an absolutely encyclopedic knowledge of their chosen field of expertise.

    But let's get back to the software..

    Available as a free, fully-functional 14 day trial (with a nag screen beseeching you to buy and register it each time you start it up), for PalmOS, LMMG downloads as four parts – the main .prc program file plus three .pdb database files. Combined, these pieces eat up about four mb of storage space, but fear not, you can install ALL of them on your Treo's (or any other Palm running OS V3.5 or higher) card and the program will launch and function perfectly from there. As you use it, it does eat up a tiny smidgen of internal memory where it saves some preferences.

    Just get those four files onto your Treo and you're in business. Optionally, you can install a Windows component on your computer which hooks into Palm Desktop, providing a new conduit to perform program data updates each time you HotSync, but on a Treo, this really isn't necessary at all, since the Treo can fetch the same update data right over the air with the tap of a couple buttons in the program itself.


    Usability

    I tested LMMG on my 700p and in every aspect, no matter what I asked it to do, thanks to LandWare's innovative compression coding, it was lightning fast, dare I say astonishingly fast when searching its enormous databases.

    Fire up LMMG and you're presented with an insanely long, scrolling, alphabetized list of every movie in the software's database. Well who wants to scroll through that, so just tap in the "film finder" field and as you type each letter of a film's title, the list dynamically scrolls until your target film appears.

    For example, let's say we want to get all the program's info about the classic John Huston film, "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre." Just start entering its title in the film finder field and voila, there it is on the list.

    Use your five-way pad, stylus, or finger, and highlight / tap the movie's title when it appears

    And up pops its particulars. At screen top you'll see the film's title, year of release, and the Director's name.


    Below that is a row of icons, all tap-able and in order, each will tell you the movie's MPAA rating, the film format in which it was shot (aspect ratio, film process such as Cinemascope, VistaVision, Ultra Panavision and many others, color or black and white, and so on), if it's available on DVD, what Academy Awards it won, and Maltin's personal rating, from "Bomb" (a real stinker) to four stars.

    The LMMG covers both theatrical releases and made for TV films. It does NOT list TV series.

    The bottom half of the screen is Maltin's "capsule" review of the film, scrollable if it's more than a paragraph. These reviews are fairly short, so don't expect an entire history of the making of the film as you would get on a DVD with "extras" but he has the innate talent to capture the essence of any given film in an economical way which justifies his rating system. You may agree with Maltin's review and ratings or completely disagree, as you sail through the database looking up your favorites – that's the nature of the beast with film reviewers.

    As an aside, I used to subscribe to The New Yorker magazine for whom Pauline Kael was their film reviewer. The late Ms. Kael could go on for literally twenty pages when she reviewed a film. I've read thousands of movie reviews and no one I read ever went into the kind of depth and detail she did. I respect Maltin's expertise, although I have to admit I tend to prefer Roger Ebert's reviews, but I know of no PalmOS programs that do with his reviews what LMMG does with Maltin's.

    Across the bottom of the screen are three more buttons – "Done" takes you back to the film guide's list. "Starring" brings up a listing of the key cast members.



    And this is where the power of this program starts to reveal itself. When looking at the cast list, each actor's name is tap-able. So let's get back to our example and tap Bogart's name in "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" cast list, and we zoom right to a screen with his entire filmography

    Tap any of those film titles to go to its particulars. But let's try something a little more remarkable. The LMMG lets you "play" its own interpretation of "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" where you can, in this case, select Bogart and his wife, actress Lauren Bacall, and get a list of all the films in which they appeared together. That's just one example.. you can do this with any combination of actors in the program's database.


    So using the program's features, we select both Bogart and Bacall, either by scrolling through an enormous list of actors, or just finding them alphabetically with the buttons across the top of the screen, or, again, using the "Lookup" field.

    You can do this with any combination of as few or as many actors as you want. And voila, the results.

    Try doing that with a movie guide in book format. I found it fascinating to be able to see what actors appeared in which movies together, and the possibilities are virtually endless, given the huge number of films and actors LMMG contains.


    Lists and more lists

    LMMG doesn't stop there. It has lists of the most popular films, categorized by decade and by genre (Drama, Mysteries, Sci-Fi, Westerns, etc.) and if, at any time, you get lost, just use a pull down or on-screen button to go back to the "All Movies" beginning.

    Not only does LMMG present you with an enormous amount of movie specifics you can view, cross-reference, and do interesting match-ups as described above, but it has another compelling feature with which you can mark and keep track of your own personal library of films

    Any movie review you’re looking at can be added to your personal favorites’ “My Movies” section, with half a dozen different ways to sort them.

    Tap the middle icon in this screen:


    Which looks like a little row of books. This is where you build and store your personal library of films – those you like, those you own, have recorded, have out for rental, (including the date you have to return them), or plan to buy, and you can plop them into many different categories, or see them all in yet another scrolling list. You can even edit any movie's details and add and store your own notes.

    Premieres, new releases, film festivals and more

    LMMG sports the built-in capability to update its databases on the fly – again, this is something you simply can't do with a printed movie guide without buying a new edition.

    The Events screen makes a net connection to download weekly updates of new DVD releases, upcoming film premiers, and film festival dates and locations. On a Treo, just smack the update button to load in this info. On a non-phone Palm, set your HotSync parameters to grab it through its conduit (if you've installed that part of the program) and it’ll automatically load into LMMG on your next sync.

    The URLs for fetching this information are linked to Apple’s site, and pre-loaded in the program, so no tedious URL typing, but you can change them if you want the data from a different source. This event data is free, and so are program updates as new movies are added by Maltin. As long as LandWare maintains this support, LMMG will always stay fresh and up to date.

    That third icon on the bottom right that looks like a tiny calendar and it's your portal to fetch new movie release theatre premiere dates, pending DVD releases, and upcoming Film Festival locations and dates, and the beauty of running LMMG on a Treo is that all it takes is a simple tap of the "Update" button do to this over the air on your phone's data connection.


    With its controls, YOU choose WHEN you want it to fetch upcoming dates for those particulars, and you can also "trim" out or purge older stored dates from these lists to keep them to a manageable length, or save it forever, your choice. Future dates for movie premieres, DVD releases, and Film Festivals appear in a different color than dates in the past.

    More screens let you select and display the most popular movies not just by decades but also by genres, going back to the 1930s: Ranked top lists of popular movies as voted by over 100,000 regular movie-goers. If you like Westerns or Sci-Fi or Horror or whatever your faves are, and you can even combine genres, you’re only a couple taps away from a list that matches your criteria.

    The totality of this software's search possibilities is almost endless, but you can use the program on a very basic level to just find one particular film you’re interested in. Scroll through the huge list, or use your Treo's keyboard (or Graffiti on those Palm PDAs without keyboards) to find whatever you're searching for.

    The operation of the entire program is logical, intuitive, and brilliant. LandWare really nailed it, as far as the GUI is concerned.



    What? No movie posters?

    Except for a few graphical icons, LMMG is all text. You won't find movie trailers, one-sheet movie posters, or productions stills here. For those kinds of graphics, you'll have to resort to other programs or a Web browser. Not only would trailers and movie images bloat this program beyond reason , but that's not its purpose anyway.

    And no one’s going to agree with Maltin’s opinion of every film. His "Bomb" might be your four star darling, and he does show a bias away from edgy cult favorites. But the man does have a way with words, (trust me – writing short is a LOT more difficult than writing long).. and he’s seen them all, and that’s what makes discussing movies so much fun. The program is a real kick for settling movie trivia arguments too.



    Next Page: Conclusion >>



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