"I am big! It's the pictures that got small."
-- Norma Desmond in "Sunset Blvd."
A waning star rails against a new technology that she accuses of ruining the film industry; if the mere addition of sound made her so bitter, what might she have thought of us watching movies on smartphones, where the pictures are literally small? Probably nothing good, although her opinion might have softened somewhat if she knew that some apps make her out-of-print silent films easier to find, read about, discuss and watch. Then again, the app that enables people to find her mansion on Google maps might not go over so well. Norma never had good luck with uninvited guests.
In the following pages, we'll look at these apps and other must-haves for the film fanatic's phone. What these programs lack in screen size, they make up for in features and portability. You can use them, not just in a moldering mansion, wrapped in a turban and fading glamour, but out in the world, wherever you take your mobile device.
All right, Mr. DeMille, these apps are ready for their close-ups.
Cost: free (Note: Price information for all the apps that made our list is current as of August 2011.)
Devices: available for iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone and WAP
This popular app gives you phone-friendly access to its namesake Web page, a social networking site that enables you to compare movie ratings and tastes with film buffs around the net. In addition to user ratings, Flixster grants you instant access to a flick's freshness rating at aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, which it owns. You can also use it to find movie information, showtimes, maps and ticket prices, or to watch trailers.
A somewhat clunky interface allows you to buy movie tickets through MovieTickets.com, making Flixster well suited either as a one-stop shop for planning a night out or as a habitual hangout for sociable seat-fillers scouting for other affable aficionados.
Devices: available for iPhone and Android
Whether you're a movie nut who doesn't mind breaking the fourth wall, or an aspiring filmmaker who wants to get better at location scouting, then we have the app for you. Fed by the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), Location Scout maps out the actual spots where your favorite films were shot -- or, if you prefer, shows you locations nearest you where filming has taken place. You're likely to find some surprises even if you don't live anywhere near Tinseltown, and the novelty alone will keep you coming back for more.
You can search nearby (using GPS) by location name or by movie title. If nothing else, you can impress your out-of-town guests when you take them to where Alfred Hitchcock filmed his 1960 thriller "Psycho" (the Jefferson Hotel in Phoenix, Ariz.).
Devices: available for Android, iPhone, iPad and Windows 7 Mobile; also accessible via mobile browser at m.RunPee.com
To poorly paraphrase a Kenny Rogers hit, you've got to know when to hold 'em, when to walk away and when to run. Except we're not talking about cards; we're dancing around a more delicate subject: the inevitable result of going "all-in" on a bucket of soda (since when is 32 ounces considered a small?). Let's face it: You're never going to make it through that "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, and denial won't keep you from running out of "Cleopatra" long before its 320 minutes are up.
Never fear: RunPee has you covered. Not only does this handy app list the slow times in each film best suited for taking care of business, it also tells you how long you can be away (usually four minutes) and what you'll miss. You can even have it buzz you as pee windows approach, although good film-watching etiquette demands keeping such annoyances to a minimum. The app also lists what happens in the first five minutes of the film, and whether there's a teaser clip waiting for you after the credits roll.
Devices: available for iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows Phone 7
Since it quietly came onto the movie scene as a USENET group on Oct. 17, 1990, IMDb has become the go-to resource for anyone wanting to know anything about movies. How could self-respecting film buffs not carry the app version of this venerable Web site in their pockets and purses?
The database grants you access to more than 1.5 million searchable movie and TV titles and more than 3.2 million celebrities, actors, directors and crew members, along with trivia, soundtracks, locations and other interesting tidbits. More than a pocket-sized Web site distillation, this app includes functions for rating movies, setting up watch lists, watching trailers, reading news, finding theaters and showtimes, and buying tickets through movietickets.com.
Cost: $1.99 for Scene It? Movies 2 for iPhone; $4.99 for Scene It? Movies 2 for iPad; free for Scene it? Daily for Android
Devices: available for iPhone, iPad and Android
If there's one thing the folks at Screenlife know, it's how to occupy a market space. What started out as a DVD- and card-based party game for film buffs has evolved and spread to consoles from Xbox 360 to PlayStation and Wii, social media sites such as Facebook, and now to the mobile platforms of iPhone and iPad.
Like the original game, the app serves up trivia, images and video, now optimized for mobile devices. It's designed for party play, and the iPad high-def version will get the joint jumping. Available genre packs include comedy, romance and horror, as well as the Twilight series, the Harry Potter series and the TV show "30 Rock."
To help bring Android users in from the cold, Screenlife has also released Scene It? Daily, which offers daily updated quizzes covering movies, TV, music and celebrities.
Cost: free (requires Netflix subscription)
Devices: available for iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, Android and Windows Phone 7
Here's your ticket to instantly streaming movies and TV shows to your mobile device without the juggernaut of movie rental. Search by name and sort by genre, just like on the Netflix Web site, then watch videos from your instant queue on your phone. If you're running Android, be sure to check and see if the app supports your device and operating system (OS) version.
The main complaint with the Netflix app is that it only allows you to sort your instant queue -- and that only poorly according to some. If you want to sort your disc queue, you'll need another app, such as iPhlix (Apple) and NetQ (Android) (see next section).
Cost: $2.99 for iPhlix and $0.99 for NetQ
Devices: The iPhlix app is designed for the iPhone and iPad. NetQ works on Android.
Sure, Netflix has penetrated every market and device imaginable -- from Blu-ray players to TV sets to consoles and content boxes like Apple TV -- with its Watch Instantly service. Wait until you try sorting your queues using their app though, if you haven't already. The disc queue is nowhere to be seen, and dealing with the instant queue sorting requires a knack for nonlinear thinking and more than a little patience.
This looks like a job for apps.
We didn't feel that any single app could claim top honors for both Apple and Android, so we split our pick: iPhlix for iPhone and NetQ for Android. iPhlix lets you add, delete and reorder items in your instant and disc queues. It also includes functions for searching, sharing movie recommendations with friends and filtering by Blu-ray, DVD or instant. NetQ offers similar features, but adds Rotten Tomatoes scores to the mix, as well as reviews and YouTube searches for related movie trailers.
Devices:available for iPhone and Android
If you count yourself among the ranks of the cult of Redbox, the ubiquitous vending machines for renting movies on the cheap, then we have the app for you.
Like the Redbox Web site, the related app enables you to locate the nearest movie machine and view a map and directions on how to get to it. You can then peruse that Redbox's DVD and Blu-ray library and reserve your evening's entertainment. Alternatively, you can pick a movie you want to view and use the app to locate the magenta monolith nearest you that has it in stock. All hail Redbox!
Cost: A free version allows you to track 50 titles; a pay version available for around $5 gives you unlimited slots.
Devices: available for iPhones, iPads and Android phones
When you stockpile films like canned goods in a fallout shelter, it's easy to lose track of what you have -- which is a shame, since half the fun of having a collection is being able to peruse it. You need something that will let you get organized, a gadget that makes data entry easy and automatically backfills relevant information.
My Movies is the app for you. Simply add your movies manually or scan their bar codes using your phone's camera, and you're off and running. You can browse details about your flicks, watch trailers for movies in your collection and search and filter by type (DVD, Blu-ray, HD DVD), genre, group (owned, wished ...), watched, parental rating levels, production years, personal categories and online status. It's also a handy way to keep track of which movies you've loaned out -- and it might prevent you from accidentally buying a movie you already own on VHS, Beta, DVD, special edition and Blu-ray.
Use it as a standalone app or in conjunction with the My Movies software for Windows.
Devices: Android, iPhone and iPad
Anyone can stream familiar and widely published movies to their mobile device, but true film fanatics revel in the frisson of unearthing buried treasure -- films mentioned in passing in the dusty almanacs of filmdom, or buried in databases and catalogs, but that never grace the inventory of video stores and services. Now there's an app that lets you view these footnote films, a conduit to the rarae aves of flicks.
The interface is charming: Wooden shelves, lined with authentic box art provided by IMDb, invite you to stream classics (and not-so-classics) starring John Wayne, Lon Chaney, Vincent Price, Laurel & Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, Spencer Tracy, Cary Grant, James Cagney, Elizabeth Taylor and Judy Garland. Alfred Hitchcock, Buster Keaton, Orson Welles, Roger Corman and George Romero number among the available directors. You can browse movies by genre or search by actor, director, keyword or title.
Like any good app, Movie Vault works on your schedule. You can set movies aside in a queue for later viewing or pause the one you're watching as needed. Best of all, the entire library occupies the public domain, meaning you'll pay no additional charges for the content itself.
Keep passing the popcorn around as you browse the related links next.
Are you glued to your phone chasing down a MewTwo? HowStuffWorks Now investigates how Niantic is selecting all those in-game locations.
More Great Links
- McCormack, Liam. "10 Best Apps for Movie Lovers." May 10, 2011. (Aug. 8, 2011) http://iphoneappcafe.com/10-best-apps-for-movie-lovers/
- Plummer, Libby. "Best Android Apps for Movie Buffs." April 14, 2011. (Aug. 10, 2011) http://www.pocket-lint.com/news/39573/best-android-apps-for-movie-buffs
- Sacco, Al. "10 Free BlackBerry Apps You Must Have." PC World. Feb. 9. 2010. (Aug. 9. 2011) http://www.pcworld.com/article/188877/10_free_blackberry_apps_you_must_have.html
- Warren, Christina. "10 Mobile Apps for Movie Addicts." Oct. 18, 2010. (Aug. 8, 2011) http://mashable.com/2010/10/18/mobile-apps-movie-addicts/