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Feedback on the "Reviews" portion of the site?

Old 08-20-03, 05:25 PM
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Feedback on the "Reviews" portion of the site?

It's been a while since we had a thread dedicated to the DVD Reviews portion of the site, and quite a bit has changed since then. I'm curious to hear what all of you thinking about DVD Talk's reviews, particularly anything that can be done to make the reviews and the presentation of the reviews more useful. This portion of the site is, after all, intended to benefit its readers, and I want to do whatever I can to ensure that the reviews are indeed beneficial to its audience.

Any comments or suggestions you could offer would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 08-20-03, 07:03 PM
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Do you want honest feedback or polite feedback? If the former, are you sure you want me to post it, or would you rather receive emails?

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Old 08-20-03, 07:47 PM
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Originally posted by das Monkey
If the former, are you sure you want me to post it, or would you rather receive emails?
I've already gotten a couple of e-mails about general concerns, which is why I'd really like to move this to the forums...to get some discussion going between the folks who write the reviews and the users who read them. I'd like to get feedback on both the content of the reviews as well as their presentation (including the way information is arranged, how reviews are accessed, etc.).
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Old 08-20-03, 08:24 PM
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My main complaint is that there are anime reviewers who will only see, say, vol. 3 of a series, and then go on to review the series based on that. In these cases it's not unusual to read something along the lines of, "I don't really know what's going on, but..." These reviews are essentially worthless.

Anime is different from a sitcom or some other type of program. With season box sets like Friends or even the more serialized Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you can quickly get an idea of what's going on without having the backstory. Anime discs are often 3-5 episodes of one season. If you see the last disc of Buffy's third season, how can you review that? You have no idea what's going on.

I'm not sure how to correct that. Watching the previous discs might help, but that's a lot of "research" for one review. However, any anime reviewer needs to be able to say, "If you like series X, Y, or Z, there's a good chance you'll like this," since so many anime buyers buy sight-unseen based on reviews or word-of-mouth alone.

Also, reviewers need to have a good command of basic grammar and spelling. Although the quality of reviewers has improved somewhat over time, there are still problems with that.
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Old 08-20-03, 09:02 PM
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Originally posted by Breakfast with Girls
My main complaint is that there are anime reviewers who will only see, say, vol. 3 of a series, and then go on to review the series based on that. In these cases it's not unusual to read something along the lines of, "I don't really know what's going on, but..." These reviews are essentially worthless.
We've actually started to address this. One of our reviewers (Don Houston) has been taking on a great deal of the Anime Series starting right off from Vol 1. This should give further volume reviews the background that you are looking for.
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Old 08-20-03, 09:20 PM
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OK. I mean no disrespect, nor do I intend to call anyone out, but if we're to have open discusison and honest feedback:

http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/read.php?ID=6696
http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/read.php?ID=6683

I have seen neither of these films, which I assume makes me a pretty decent target audience for a review, since I really have no opinion on either of them. I find the imbalance too large to take seriously. This level of dichotomy tells me as a reader that I'm getting more ranting and raving designed to enforce an opinion than actual <i>reviewing</i>.

Reading the actual content, the first isn't even a review. It's just a few paragraphs strung together restating the theme that it's a bad movie, but aside from picking different generic aspects of filmmaking (acting, direction) and saying it's bad, there's no actual content, no reason <i>why</i> or <i>how</i> it's bad.

Moving to the other end of the spectrum, I read these comments:

As for the movie itself, since Iíve never read the Daredevil comics, I canít really comment on how accurate the movie is Ė only to say that I found the film to be an exciting ride
...
This is a DVD that is made for both fans of the movie and fans of the comic book.
...
Daredevil is a must-own for comic book and comic book movie fans everywhere!
Perhaps I'm misreading or misinterpreting these comments, but I don't feel like I'm getting a particuarly honest assessment here. On one hand, the author notes how he's not qualified to review it as a comic book adaptation, and yet he raves about how it's made for fans of the comic book and is a must own for them. Again, I just don't feel like I'm getting a review.

I honestly mean no disrespect, and after recently putting together my own reviewage of sorts, I fully appreciate how much hard work goes into this stuff, but the problem is that I cannot take future reviews from the author seriously. Other reviews may be wonderful, and maybe I've just picked the wrong ones to read, but having read these, I don't feel like I'm getting any level of honest balance, so future reviews have little value.

Also, I don't like the format of The Aisle View. It tries to be a "column" but it's really just a review and a review preview. I don't have any real problem with it; I guess I just don't understand the point. The other columns on the site have a theme or a point to them.

The two of these things combined make the theatrical area of the forum reviews pretty weak. Since this is a DVD site, though, I guess it doesn't matter that much.

<hr>

Contrary to popular belief, I don't enjoy harping on the negatives, so enough of that ...

Whatever you're paying Aaron Beierle, triple it. I realize that's probably thrice nothing, but it's the principle. His reviews are the backbone that keeps me coming back, and I'd read a review of my dog's latest poop if he wrote it. I don't always agree (which is the way it should be), but the effort for quality of content is clearly there in addition to what appears to be some outside research on the subject matter.

Adam, I love the comedy in your reviews. Keep it up. I love the balance between giving a thoughtful review of the actual content while mixing in some good humor along the way.

I love the columns, especially DVD Savant. Reviewing all the random new release crap that comes across the DVD Talk desks is certainly very important, but there's also a need for combing through the masses and pulling out some great (and often overlooked) material and giving it some exposure. I find a lot of value with this column. I also find that while I rarely agree with his comments in TV Talk, I thoroughly enjoy CineSchlock. It entertains as it informs, and I simply enjoy reading it.

Alright, I'm tired of typing now. For the most part, I gain a lot from the review section and appreciate the hard work of everyone involved. My obsession with TV in combination with my job leaves me very little time to see everything that peaks my interest, so I have to depend on the help of others in deciding where to spend the few free hours I have for theatrical or DVD watching. As such, the review section is important to me. On the whole, I think the layout works well, and I really appreciate the mouseover tooltips with the title and author.

Speaking of TV, I am very happy that the TV on DVD reivewage has increased significantly over the last year. Please keep that up. I'd like to see even more, but I can understand why it's not the case. Reviewing a 24 episode box set is pretty daunting compared to a 2 hour film. I'm not sure if this logic holds, but I guess I should ask if you're going to have a theatrical review section, why not also have a currently on TV review section? Just a thought. Each seems similarly tangential to the focus of the site.

OK, I'm done now. Sorry if I offended anyone.

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Old 08-20-03, 09:23 PM
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Oh yeah, I love the variety. While I may not be interested in all of B horror or anime or hot, hot, HOT pr0n, there's a decent coverage of each. I think that's a big plus.

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Old 08-20-03, 10:29 PM
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das,

as always your feedback is appreciated
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Old 08-21-03, 01:07 AM
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Originally posted by Breakfast with Girls
My main complaint is that there are anime reviewers who will only see, say, vol. 3 of a series, and then go on to review the series based on that. In these cases it's not unusual to read something along the lines of, "I don't really know what's going on, but..." These reviews are essentially worthless.

Anime is different from a sitcom or some other type of program. With season box sets like Friends or even the more serialized Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you can quickly get an idea of what's going on without having the backstory. Anime discs are often 3-5 episodes of one season. If you see the last disc of Buffy's third season, how can you review that? You have no idea what's going on.

I'm not sure how to correct that. Watching the previous discs might help, but that's a lot of "research" for one review. However, any anime reviewer needs to be able to say, "If you like series X, Y, or Z, there's a good chance you'll like this," since so many anime buyers buy sight-unseen based on reviews or word-of-mouth alone.
Like G! said, he's working on that. It's easy with the one shot titles but the series are much tougher. I disagree that such reviews are worthless, but if given the chance to follow a series through it's development, from volume one, episode 1, I greatly prefer to do that. The problem is that the studios don't send everything and that makes it tough to review (ie: something you don't have). If studio A sends volume 2, and later on, volume 5, the context between the volumes is lost.

I've promised to revisit any such reviews if I find the titles on sale (and liked them enough to drop the cash) or if G! convinces studios that continuity is a "good" thing. Oh, and I make my share of grammar and spelling mistakes-I've been out of school for many years- but I've been working on that (ask Holly).

In any case, feel free to email me with any more detailed problems you have with my anime reviews and I promise I'll see if I can't improve on my style, content, or other aspects you've found lacking. I've had mixed results with recommending titles (I tried this in a few reviews and several people fussed at my choices).
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Old 08-21-03, 10:27 AM
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One suggestion I would have would be to give the Anime reviews their own section, like the Adult DVDs have. It would be easier for those of us who aren't interested in anime to scan through the mainstream reviews.

Food for thought.
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Old 08-21-03, 05:15 PM
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Originally posted by scott27
One suggestion I would have would be to give the Anime reviews their own section.
I think that's a terrific suggestion.
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Old 08-21-03, 05:57 PM
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Personally, I would like to see screen shots in reviews. Also, after the review, have the reviewers equipment listed. It doesn't have to be extremely detailed. Just the receiver they use and the TV or what-have-you it was watched on.
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Old 08-21-03, 06:02 PM
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Originally posted by Bill Geiger
After the review, have the reviewers equipment listed.
You can access equipment lists in most of our bios, which you can see if you click the reviewer's name beneath the review title.
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Old 08-21-03, 07:48 PM
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There are a few reviewers that I automatically skip, either because of a combination of poor reviews in the past where they may have bashed a movie but not given a reason of why they didn't like it (or praised a movie without saying what was good about it), or simply because their reviews may have been written in poor English. Most movie junkies would give their eyeteeth to become a movie reviewer, but not all have the skills to present a well thought out review.
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Old 08-21-03, 09:57 PM
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Originally posted by Jason Bovberg
You can access equipment lists in most of our bios, which you can see if you click the reviewer's name beneath the review title.
Well, to be honest, why be forced to search for something that may or may not be there. That is why I stated it would be nice to see this located after the review... almost like a signature stamp if you will.
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Old 08-21-03, 11:44 PM
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Originally posted by Bill Geiger
Well, to be honest, why be forced to search for something that may or may not be there. That is why I stated it would be nice to see this located after the review... almost like a signature stamp if you will.
We've put it in the bio, because honestly many of our reviews aren't 'Deep Technical Reviews'. Picture and sound are an important part of reviews, but in the end it's more about the DVD experience in total.

There's a reviewer who has joined our team who does really solid reviews but doesn't have the absolute state of the art system. on HTF he got flambasted for this, on DVD Talk we welcome him as we're much more interested in well written and well thought out reviews than what the LFE levels are on a DVD.
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Old 08-22-03, 03:15 PM
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das, as always you bring up great points. Your examples in and of themselves are something I had a problem with and even talked about in this very forum right alongside you...heh. Those two really hurt me because I worked so hard on my Spider-Man (Theatrical) review and will always have a soft spot for comic book movies. Both the Hulk and Daredevil were poorly reviewed in my opinion (except for Aaron with Daredevil) and I think there needs to be some sort of editor in-between the reviewer and the final posting that could weed out some of the poor reviews. Of course, my idea creates problems because in the case of DVDs there might be only one person that gets a review copy and then the movie would have no review at all if the editor stops it. However, in the case of the Hulk there should not be 3 reviews absolutely lambasting it, there should be some semblance of objectivity in at least one of them in my opinion.

As a former reviewer here who did a wide range of genres I can say it is quite difficult to watch it, give a technical review and do enough of a review where it doesn't go overboard or underboard. That last part is the hardest. Reviews I made of Return of the Joker - Uncut (DVD), Lord of the Rings: Fellowship (Theatrical) and Spider-Man (Theatrical) were probably the longest ones I ever made. They also happen to be the most read out of all my reviews (coincidence...who knows)

Toward the end it was hard for me to juggle DVD reviews and my game reviews for the site in my signature. I chose the latter because watching DVDs/theatrical movies was getting stressful for me and I found myself becoming very analytical to the point I was already putting notes into my head about what to say in my review instead of just enjoying the DVD/movie and thinking about it afterward.

Since I left DVDTalk as a reviewer I've felt so much better just sitting down and watching movies again. Sometimes I still do short reviews in my little page on the gmae site though. Luckily this hasn't happened with game reviews yet. I still enjoy them and don't find myself thinking analytically about them until after the game is shut off.

I think the Aisle View is a great idea and it would have been awesome if I could have been part of that, but I have a feeling I would have gotten burned out on that too. And I think it should look more like the previous writer's efforts where it was not a straight review but much more of a column (the writer's name is escaping me).

As someone who was a reviewer here once, it isn't the easiest job in the world. I have no idea how the people here (like Don and Aaron who do TONS of reviews) have time to watch DVDs and review them along with having a life. I commend you for that because I know how tough it was.

Other than that...I'd have to think of things that could make the reviews better. Screen captures are good, except I have a feeling most of the reviewers do not have the hardware needed to take such captures. As Geoff said, this is not a "Deep Technical Review" site like HTF (which arguably isn't anymore either), so screen captures are far less likely here IMO.
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Old 08-22-03, 03:52 PM
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I would like to see "our week in Dvds" make a return. It would also be nice if the reviews linked to a dvdpricesearch of the movie, and not just the amazon buy now link.

Another change I've noticed over the last year and a half, is that once, about 95% of the dvds rated "colletors series" were DVDs I wanted myself, even of genres I generally dislike. Now, I find I can't rely on it as much, maybe 75% of my blind buys from the list are worthy of their rating.
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Old 08-22-03, 04:00 PM
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I really rely on the reviews to prevent me from making poor judgments on my blind-buys. Perhaps you could incorporate the blind-buy factor into your rating system. I also use them to help me add selections to my Netflix queue, which is the main reason I read the reviews. The rating system is usually right on target. I agree with some of the other suggestions, but I would also like to reiterate the importance of using proper grammar and spelling. The reviewer loses a great deal of credibility with me when they do not have good command of the language. I think the problem is usually due to proofreading errors, but it is distracting nonetheless.

Please keep up the good work, and thanks for valuing our feedback!
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Old 08-22-03, 09:58 PM
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Think you could set it up so we can search by director? Right now, I want to see all the Woody Allen reviews, and I can search by title for all his movies on DVD. It would be a lot easier if I can just search for "Woody Allen" and see all his DVDs. Maybe just do this for some of the more popular directors at first. Kubrick, Spielberg, Cameron, Kevin Smith, ect.
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Old 08-24-03, 10:21 AM
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I recall in the past that when you look at the "Review" section, i can see if the movie was Highly Recommended or Recommended or Rent of Skip it by looking down the list. Can we have that back pleazeeeee!!!!
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Old 08-24-03, 12:14 PM
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I'd like the official DVD TALK reviews to be posted in the regular DVD Talk section (a la Home Theater Forum).
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Old 08-24-03, 06:16 PM
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Originally posted by AdamComic2
I'd like the official DVD TALK reviews to be posted in the regular DVD Talk section (a la Home Theater Forum).
Bad idea. They stand out more in their own section.
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Old 08-24-03, 06:58 PM
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Eighteen quadraseptazillion replies condensed into one:

Originally posted by scott27
Bad idea. They stand out more in their own section.
They might get more eyeballs if posted directly on the forum, but I agree...I don't like the idea of having reviews as threads. It clutters up the forum (especially in DVD Talk's case, given the number of reviews posted daily), and the replies at the HTF are always along the lines of "great review!" and little else. If there's not going to be any sort of substantial discussion, there's really no point in having them on the forum. Keeping them in a separate database gives us a lot more flexibility anyway. I understand why the HTF is doing things the way they do and I certainly don't mean any disrespect towards them, but I don't think that's the way we should go.

Originally posted by vhgong
I recall in the past that when you look at the "Review" section, i can see if the movie was Highly Recommended or Recommended or Rent of Skip it by looking down the list. Can we have that back pleazeeeee!!!!
You can see that sort of information if you click on one of the 'Browse' links, such as:
http://dvdtalk.com/reviews/list.php

I took the summaries off the front page because I thought they made the index look too 'busy'. I'm all for putting the data back on, but if I do that, I'd like to reorganize the page pretty much from top to bottom. My background is in programming, not design, so I'm not sure how to best approach that. If anyone has any suggestions, I'm definitely open to them.

Originally posted by KTIK
Think you could set it up so we can search by director?
For a few directors -- or maybe certain notable cast members or some similar type of theme -- it would be possible. With 7,000 reviews in the database, unfortunately, any sweeping changes in content would be difficult to implement.

Originally posted by tboogie
I really rely on the reviews to prevent me from making poor judgments on my blind-buys.
Is this something you'd like to see reflected as a sort of numeric rating <small>(similar to the "Replay Value" currently listed)</small>, something you'd like reviewers to mention specifically in the text of their reviews, or both? I think a "Blind Buy" rating might be more meaningful than "Replay Value" just in that many reviewers are watching these movies for the first time, but they almost certainly only watch it once <small>(commentaries aside)</small> before posting reviews. It's tough to really say how much replay value a movie has without watching it a second time, and even then, there's a pretty huge difference between a second viewing six months down the road and a second viewing a day or two later. I'm kind of rambling incoherently at this point, but hopefully anyone reading this post knows what I'm stumbling towards. I think it's a good idea -- just a matter of figuring out how to integrate it into the system.

Originally posted by RoQuEr
I would like to see "our week in Dvds" make a return. It would also be nice if the reviews linked to a dvdpricesearch of the movie, and not just the amazon buy now link.
If we did lean towards a price search system, it wouldn't be DVD Price Search. Nothing against them, of course, but if readers are going to pass through referral links, I'd imagine Geoff would prefer the links to benefit DVD Talk, not a third party.

This is a complete and total tangent, but just to be clear, referral links don't influence the content of reviews, and the individual reviewers themselves don't touch referral links and have nothing to do with any of that whatsoever.

Originally posted by RoQuEr
Another change I've noticed over the last year and a half, is that once, about 95% of the dvds rated "colletors series" were DVDs I wanted myself, even of genres I generally dislike. Now, I find I can't rely on it as much, maybe 75% of my blind buys from the list are worthy of their rating.
Could you elaborate? I'm not disagreeing with you, and I've seen similar points made in the main forum, but this has been a recent topic of discussion among some of the reviewers, and I think some of them would like more clarification about these sorts of concerns.

Originally posted by AgtFox
As Geoff said, this is not a "Deep Technical Review" site like HTF (which arguably isn't anymore either), so screen captures are far less likely here IMO.
Screen caps can be nice to dress up a review or, in some cases, to point out particular flaws, but I wouldn't suggest relying on a quick cap from PowerDVD as any sort of reliable representation as to how a DVD looks.

Originally posted by movieking
There are a few reviewers that I automatically skip, either because of a combination of poor reviews in the past where they may have bashed a movie but not given a reason of why they didn't like it (or praised a movie without saying what was good about it), or simply because their reviews may have been written in poor English.
I can understand why you might be uncomfortable mentioning individual reviewers or their reviews here, but if there are specific reviewers who you think aren't doing a particularly good job, please let Geoff know.

Originally posted by Bill Geiger
Also, after the review, have the reviewers equipment listed. It doesn't have to be extremely detailed. Just the receiver they use and the TV or what-have-you it was watched on.
Perhaps we can make the 'equipment' field required for all reviewers. Even if the comments from some reviewers aren't coming from an intensely technical background, it may be good idea to make that clear up-front. I'd prefer to keep that information separate as it is now, though.

Originally posted by scott27
One suggestion I would have would be to give the Anime reviews their own section, like the Adult DVDs have.
It's possible. If there's more interest in this <small>(or if DVD Talk launches an anime column or section of some sort)</small>, I'd be more than happy to try to put something together.

Originally posted by das Monkey
Adam, I love the comedy in your reviews. Keep it up. I love the balance between giving a thoughtful review of the actual content while mixing in some good humor along the way.
I appreciate the kind words, das. Not sure if they're deserved, but they're appreciated anyway.

Your feedback, as well as the comments from others made in this thread, has definitely been taken into consideration, it's being mulled over by many of the reviewers, and some changes may be lurking in the wings.

Please continue posting your comments. The DVD reviews are meant to be a resource for all of you, and accordingly, we want to make them as useful as we can...
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Old 08-24-03, 08:10 PM
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you think you could get G. Noel Gross to do another 24 24 hour marathon for season2? I always liked Aarons reviews since he seems to give each movie a fair review, even if the movie completly sucks, he can find something that he likes in it, keep up the work
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