In many CSUSM courses, movies are used as teaching tools and texts. You may be asked to locate a review of a particular movie in support of your studies. Not every movie review will be of equal value to your research needs as your instructor will expect you to find more than simple opinion. Here are some tips on locating reviews and determining which will be the best for your needs. If you are still not sure about what you are finding, check with your professor or a librarian for more help.
The following assumes you are working with a film title (e.g., The Godfather, Brokeback Mountain) but you might also be looking for either a film genre (e.g., horror, documentary) or topic (e.g., World War II, gender issues.)
Searching the library catalog for is a good place to find if we own a copy of the movie, but won't lead you directly to a review. Think of a review as an article in a magazine or journal. Our catalog does not go to that detail, but the research databases do. Films produced prior to 1990 will generally be reviewed in print resources, while newer reviews (generally 1990-on) will be found in the online research databases.
Where to look for a print-based review
Reviews will be held in larger collections and anthologies, here are some titles to start with:
Film Review Annual REF PN1995 .F465 (covers the years 1991-2002)
American Film Criticism, From the Beginnings to Citizen Kane: Reviews of Significant Films... STACKS PN1995 .K293 (up to 1970)
The New York Times Film Reviews: A One-Volume Selection, 1913-1970 STACKS PN1995 .A43
Index to Critical Film Reviews in British and American Film Periodicals... STACKS Z5784.M9 B64
More sources can be found in our library catalog using these subject headings as search strategies, especially when looking for a film genre, rather than specific title:
- Motion Pictures -- Reviews
- Motion Pictures -- Reviews -- Periodicals (will have to examine each issue for your title)
- Film Noir -- United States -- Reviews (note the film genre is the main heading)
- Motion Pictures For Children -- Reviews -- Periodicals
- Silent Films -- Reviews
- Capra, Frank, 1897- , Criticism And Interpretation (when you are looking for reviews of a work or a person's body of work, you can use the person's name as a search strategy)
Where to look for a review article in the research databases
The research databases provide access to individual articles published in journals. A large number of journals include movie reviews. Listed here are the more scholarly databases to look at first with search tips specific to that database. Is the article NOT available in full text? Use the Check SFX for Availability button to see if another database or print resource has the full text you need.
Academic Search Premier
Not all reviews will be scholarly in this collection, so assess the results carefully. In the Advanced Search screen, type the movie title in double quotes. Look down the screen to Document Type and select "Entertainment Review".
Communication & Mass Media Complete
A limited number of results. Not all reviews will be scholarly in this collection, so assess the results carefully. In the Basic Search screen, type the movie title in double quotes followed by the words AND REVIEW.
The reviews are not scholarly in this collection, so assess the results carefully. In the Basic Search screen, type the movie title in double quotes followed by the words AND REVIEW.
MAS Ultra - School Edition
Not all reviews will be scholarly in this collection, so assess the results carefully. In the Basic Search screen, type the movie title in double quotes followed by the words AND REVIEW.
(Modern Language Association) Primarily scholarly materials in this collection. In the Basic Search screen, type the movie title in double quotes in the KEYWORD box followed by the words AND REVIEW.
Not all reviews will be scholarly in this collection, so assess the results carefully. In the Basic Search screen, type the movie title in double quotes followed by the words AND REVIEW. Most materials will be from newspapers, so check the box next to "Scholarly journals, including peer-reviewed" to narrow the results.
Lexis Nexis Academic
Not all reviews will be scholarly in this collection, so assess the results carefully. Use the Guided Search option to search General News (news category) and choose either Major Papers or Magazines and Journals in the news source category. Type your movie title in the first search term box and REVIEW in the second. You may need to broaden the date range as the default is for the latest 6 months. They do offer some 'direct link' searches for CSUSM users:
Additional search strategies
If your search by movie title is not returning results, you might try searching for the director's name. The index-only databases may not have the film title in the abstract, but if you find an article critiquing a director's body of work, the full text (available elsewhere via the GET IT button) could still have sufficient material on the movie you are looking for.
Reviews on the internet
There are a number of internet movie review sites, but you need to be cautious about who wrote the review (it could be the director's cousin or a fan who sees no weaknesses in any work done by their favorite director or star.)
Movie Review Query Engine provides links to both popular and scholarly online reviews.
Internet Movie Database (IMDB) a wide range of quality.
CineFiles (hosted at UC Berkeley, best results seem to be in the FILMOGRAPHIC SEARCH.)
MetaCritic.com offers a collection of reviews of theatrical release films, generally non-scholarly.
Evaluating the review in hand
To determine the review's value to your research needs means that you go beyond information found in the review's content.
How old is the review? Reviews published at the time of release will reflect immediate opinion rather than careful scholarly analysis. What is it that your instructor asked for?
Where was the review published? An open-web resource will not have gone through the editorial review process that a review from a scholarly journal will have. Anyone can say anything on the internet without much serious thought, but thoughtful analysis, albeit critical or positive, is the rule in scholarly print and research databases.
Who is the author? The review should be written by a scholar who is considered an expert in the topic/genre of the film. Open-web authors may know their stuff, but could also be the director's mother with a personal bias that is not suited for scholarly research papers.
- Wording of the review. A scholarly review is meant for serious researchers and uses the language of the discipline, rather than slang or casual terms. Compare the titles of these two reviews of the same work (Boys Don't Cry, 1999)
- Actually, that WAS a banana in her pocket... is a opinion-based work found on the internet through movies.yahoo.com.
- Boys Don't Cry by Rachel Swan in Film Quarterly Vol. 54, No. 3 (Spring, 2001), pp. 47-52 is a scholarly work found in the JSTOR research database.
At this point, you should be able to determine the scholarly and research value of the work and continue with your research process.
Citing your sources
APA (from Academic Search Premier Database)
Griffin, A. (2006, June). River deep, mountain high [Review of the motion picture Brokeback Mountain, 2006]. Sound & Vision, 71(5), 87. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier.
MLA (From print journal)
Olsen, Mark. "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." Rev. of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, dir. Michel Gondry. Sight and Sound May 2004: 57. Print.
Chicago (From newspaper in Proquest Direct Database where review title is different than the film being reviewed.)
Meyer, Carla. 2007. "Out to launch 'The Astronaut Farmer' warmly goes where no film has gone before." Review of The Astronaut Farmer (Warner Brothers movie). Sacramento Bee, Feb. 23, TK 15, http://proquest.umi.com.
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