Banner Blue Movie Guide. (data base) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by David Sears
Picture your last trip to the video store. You thought you knew what you wanted--action, let's say. You agonized over the teeming racks of movies (most of which you felt certain you'd seen before) and read the blurbs on scores of boxes, only to select the very worst movie of Mel Gibson's career. How can this happen to an otherwise intelligent shopper? Banner Blue wants to play surrogate usher for your next video store outing and offers its Banner Blue Movie Guide, indispensable software for the true movie buff.
Thanks to data compression, more than 9000 movie profiles fit comfortably on your hard drive--that's more titles than most mom-and-pop stores carry. Floppy users can optionally install Movie Guide on two high-density disks; access time increases but remains tolerable. Within each profile you'll find the movie's director and stars, a rating, and a brief plot summary. Details available from a submenu include critics' opinions, the level of box-office success, country of origin, length, awards won, and video availability. Periodic updates will add the latest movies.
To find any movie, you need know only the title. You may choose other approaches, however, and track down only megahits, courtesy of the predefined Search menu. Or maybe you want something for the kids: no nudity, no violence, no sexual situations. Movie Guide puts together a list in seconds, ready for you to print. You might also use hot links to jump from movie profile to profile. Click on any item displayed--director, for instance. Movie Guide proceeds to display a list of all the films directed by the director you chose.
As with any reference tool, search success often depends on your determination. Some stormy Tuesday may seem perfect for a horror flick, and you're in the mood for vampires. A search by subject unearths more than a few, but wait--Dracula isn't in the lineup. Search specifically for Dracula and the classic materializes, as well as Dracula's Dog. But where's Dracula vs. Frankenstein? This film's in the database, but requires a little more digging to discover. You might miss a few gems if you do only a quick search. On the other hand, the search options provide such easy access to data that anyone who loves movies will spend hours just browsing through.
The movie-trivia game built into Movie Guide can engage up to four players, but cinema historians won't miss many questions, even on the most difficult settings. You'll have just as much fun discovering what truly awful movies Kevin Costner had to make early in his career.
Obviously intended as a middle-of-the-road guide, this product seems a bit on the generic side. The plot summaries don't reveal enough for truly informed decision making, and the ratings for each film come from undisclosed critics. Some people disagree with Roger Ebert's every word, and he might've been a source for Movie Guide, for all we know. Of course, you should take most critics with a grain of salt anyway; Movie Guide gives Kenneth Branagh's Dead Again 4 stars, while granting his Henry V only 3 1/2. IBM PC or compatible, 512K RAM, two floppy drives or one floppy drive and one hard drive--$44.99 BANNER BLUE SOFTWARE 39500 Stevenson PI., Ste. 204 Fremont, CA 94539 (510) 794-6850 Circle Reader Service Number 363