App Review: Roger Ebert’s Great Movies

“I’ve downloaded a new app!” I exclaimed on Saturday morning.

“Oh, daddy, can I play it?” My seven-year-old daughter asked.

My wife shot me a funny look. She knows I don’t play games.

“It’s probably another news app, dear,” my wife never missed a beat.

“Actually, it’s a movie app from none other than Roger Ebert himself!” I announce proudly.

Unimpressed, my daughter shrunk back to a corner of our L-shaped sofa, and I could feel my wife roll her eyes. Even the dog retreated to comfort of a rawhide bone.

Movie reviews have come to my iPhone. And according to Roger Ebert, they’re the great ones. Sure, I’ve got the very fast and helpful IMDB app, and the Flixster one with Rottentomatoes built in, which is nice, but what Ebert’s done actually made me revisit Fellini’s “8 ½” on Netflix—all via the app.

The speedy iPhone version I bought for all of $0.99 allows me to skip through more 300 of Ebert’s best reviews described as the “cream of the crop” and featuring everything from “Alien” to “Yojimbo,” “Casablanca” to “Crumb.” Many of the reviews have been updated since first they were written and include references to web-based film criticism.

As an experiment, I used the app to add “8 ½” to my Netflix queue, however, it added the film, that was also available for instant streaming, to my DVD queue. I would prefer that the app that is linked to your Netflix account give you the choice of adding it to your instant queue or to your DVD queue. We’ve all accidentally added something to our DVD queue only to get a surprise in the mail of something that was already available for instant play. I can see this “problem” being remedied in the next app update. After all, some people, I suspect, only have the streaming version of Netflix, which might limit the usefulness of Ebert’s app connection with your Netflix account.

Also, the Ebert Great Movie app gives you only some movie details including release date, runtime, MPAA rating, director, and basic cast information. Missing is language and country of origin. These facts can be found on IMDB, but I’ll bet that another app update will find them on Ebert’s app as well.

The fact that the content is available offline is nice–it’s all in the app itself. Of course, it links to for additional material for all those not so great or kinda great films he’s reviewed over his also great career. When I was in college in the late 1980s and 1990s, I devoured Ebert’s yearly Video Companion, and, here’s an admission, the books stacked up in the bathroom of the many apartments I shared over the years. Now, the pages have been digitally replaced, but the words are still as impactful, perfect for your on the go movie review fix.

Here’s a list of features:

* All reviews available off-line.
* Illustrated with stills from the films.
* Searchable by title, cast, director, or full text.
* Keep your own lists of movies you’ve seen and want to see.
* Browse by title or date.
* Instantly add to your Netflix queue.
* Instantly buy (new or used) from Amazon.
* Share reviews via Twitter, Facebook or e-mail.
* Connect to the full website at
* Read later with Instapaper.

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