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MovieZine (SE)

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Movie Zine is the answer to the question, “what would happen if Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb had a Swedish lovechild?” One part movie review site; one part movie rating site; one part movie and actor database; one part entertainment news site; and part social network for movie lovers, Movie Zine is everything that I look for when I think of the best movie review sites on the web.

This movie review site has come a long way since its launch in 2003. By the time 2014 rolled around, the site had half a million unique monthly visitors. The site fancies itself not just one of the best movie review sites, but an online magazine. And in 2012, Movie Zine began publishing free paper magazine to compliment the site. New issues were released every 3 months.

So, as you can see, Movie Zine is not easily put in a box. It is many things all at once. Offering user ratings and reviews alongside professional, official ones, this is a movie review site for the most causal moviegoer and the pickiest film student alike. Whether you want to read reviews, rate movies yourself, or follow your favorite films, filmmakers, and actors, this Swedish site has the potential to be your new go-to resource for film criticism, community, and news.

There is so much to cover regarding this vast movie review site, though, and I don’t want to waste any of your time. So, let’s get straight to it, shall we? Let’s see whether Movie Zine has what it takes to be the best movie review site for you!

Design

I am a huge fan of Movie Zine’s sleek, intuitive, well organized, and user-friendly design. This site has just about everything that I want to see from one of the best movie review sites on the web. It functions well as a movie and actor database, archive of reviews and actors, and entertainment news site, all in one. It is very easy to screw up the design on such a multifaceted site – trust me, I have seen more than my fair share of movie review sites that are overly cluttered, chaotic, and just downright messes – but Movie Zine’s interface and layout is about as close to perfection as you can get.

I know it isn’t the most technical thing in the world, but I feel it warrants mention: Movie Zine just plain looks good. On the outset of discussing Movie Zine’s site design and user experience in more depth, I can’t stress enough how sharp and, on a very basic level, how aesthetically pleasing this site is. It may not seem like a site’s superficial appearance affects user experience as directly as, say, layout or functionality, but it does make a huge difference. The site’s white background, smart use of negative space, and black and teal theme give it both a sense of distinct branding and a professional, attractive appearance.

Now that we have gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about the more practical elements of Movie Zine’s site design that make it one of the best movie review sites on the web. The best place to begin, perhaps, would be the site menu bar located, of course, at the very top of every page. Not only does this make for an extremely convenient and handy way to quickly browse the whole of the site, but this, too, offers a dynamic experiential element.

As you scroll down the page, the entire site menu bar smoothly pivots slightly to the right, replacing the banner that sits above it when you are at the top of the page. The Movie Zine logo, too, seamlessly moves from this banner to the menu bar. Again, this may seem like a minute detail, but when it comes to great site design, in my opinion, it’s often the little things that make a world of difference. Instantly jump around this vast site by clicking on news, reviews, calendar, “the biotope,” trailers, streaming tips, shop, and more.

The rest of the homepage is comprised of squares of varying sizes and boxes containing meticulously organized and clearly labeled content. The way in which this array of thumbnails, lists, captions, and links is staggered provides a wonderful sense of pacing and intrigue to the site that many movie reviews sites, in my opinion, tend to lack. Movie Zine does a great job of offering up a lot of content in a way that doesn’t feel cluttered or as if anything is competing too much for your attention.

The movie info pages themselves, too, are equally well done. Atop these pages, you will find a banner that doubles as a link to the film’s trailer. This is a clever idea, but, if I can be just a little bit picky for a moment, I do think this is a missed opportunity. When I first noted the “play” button in the middle of the banner, I assumed that the banner would simply start playing the trailer; or, at the very least, that it would provide a popup media player. Instead, though, you are brought to a separate page specifically for the trailer. Again, this isn’t a huge deal, but, with so little to complain about on this movie review site, I had to find something, right?

The rest of the movie info pages, though, present that trademark Movie Zine layout I was talking about … great pacing, clear labels, and easy to navigate. Browse the cast list, image gallery, movie news, official Movie Zine review, user reviews, ratings, and even the IMDb score for the film. This site, from homepage to backend, is excellently designed and integrated. Okay, I’ll stop gushing now, I promise.

Content and Features

Movie Zine has all the features that you would expect from the best movie review site. Users can rate movies, follow movies, follow actors, “like” actors, review movies, and partake in discussions (both on movies and cast/crewmembers alike). If you have been using one of the so-called best movie review and ratings sites like Rotten Tomatoes or IMDb up until now, it is seriously time to reconsider. Movie Zine is like a combination of the best parts of both top movie ratings sites, and then some.

What I mean by this is that Movie Zine is, like IMDb, an enormous movie and actor database. But it also, like Rotten Tomatoes, offers 2 types of movie ratings: a professional (official) Movie Zine score, as well as a user rating. This is useful, I think, because it provides 2 essential perspectives on every movie. What the “professional” movie critics have to say versus what casual moviegoers and enthusiasts think of it. I like how this democratizes and decentralizes movie criticism – yet another reason Movie Zine is quickly becoming one of the best movie review sites in my mind.

As I have already touched upon, Movie Zine also offers some light social media features, such as “liking” and following actors, movies, etc. The Movie Zine community, however, isn’t quite as active or widespread as other similar movie review sites out there. However, it isn’t a ghost town either. There are perks to a smaller community, of course. On Movie Zine, discussions are not overblown or overcrowded. Everybody has a voice to be heard.

Furthermore, Movie Zine is a great resource for entertainment news, figuring out what streaming services feature certain movies (thanks to the “streaming tips” section of the site), and partaking in convos with likeminded movie lovers thanks to the site’s forum. There is even a shop where you can buy movie related clothing and memorabilia.

My only real complain concerns the content of the official Movie Zine reviews. It goes without saying that the best movie review site will have, well, the best movie reviews. Although they are somewhat insightful and usually critical, I wish that they were more in-depth.

They are often quite short (like 6 or 7 paragraphs). Although this may be a strength to some (I understand that not everybody is as longwinded as I am, nor does everybody want to read huge, sprawling movie reviews to get an idea as to whether a film is right for them), I prefer my movie reviews to skew more literary, more interrogative, more substantive, for lack of a better word. I also think that this movie review site could benefit by expanding their staff of writers (and, yes, I am available, Movie Zine); there are only a handful of voices critiquing all of the movies.

Mobile and Desktop Experience

Unsurprisingly, Movie Zine does not offer a mobile app. It is fairly rare for even the best movie review site to offer a mobile app. That being said, the mobile site experience is perfectly optimized and retrofitted for smaller screens. Movie Zine is every bit as enjoyable to use on your mobile device as it is on your desktop or laptop computer. There will be a few ads here and there, but this is to be expected.

Likes & Hates:
Beautiful and user-friendly site design
Huge movie and actor database
Professional and user reviews and ratings
Official reviews could be more in-depth
Community could be larger