It's awards season. From People's Choice to the Screen Actors Guild to the Academy Awards and the other hundred worthless statues given out this time of year, people are talking about movies, and squeezing every last drop of richness from the moviegoing experience can be daunting. Reviews, trailers, showtimes, theater locations, ticket purchases, rental locations and film credits can be part of the serious movie watcher's domain.
Fortunately, like most activities today, there's an app for that. In the case of movies, there are a bunch of wide-ranging and extremely usable apps available for smart phones. We've sifted through them and come up with a half dozen essential apps to help you make better choices about what films to watch. The best part: All of these apps are free!
App: Flixster Platforms: iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Web site: Flixter.com Cost: Free
Start with Flixster. This app brings ratings and reviews from the popular Rotten Tomatoes Web site as well as extensive comments from members of the popular Flixster Web site to the smart phone and can help you decide if a movie is really worth going to the theater to see. Read what others have said, including links to all the country's major film critics, and watch trailers. Sign up with Flixster via the app or their Web site, contribute reviews and see what other members of the "world's largest online movie community" are watching. Other apps have reviews too, but none are as comprehensive as Flixster's.
App: WiggleHop Platforms: iPhone Web site: PlasticTrophy.com/wigglehop Cost: Free
Once the task of deciding what to see is done, it's time to figure out where and when a movie will be playing. Several apps display searchable showtimes (Flixster included), but none do it as elegantly as WiggleHop. Choose from a list of theaters and WiggleHop provides a list of all the movies playing at them. Add a movie to a list of favorites and the app displays showtimes, locations and even a countdown clock to the next screening. Share the showtimes and films with friends via a number of methods including e-mail, SMS, Facebook and Twitter. It's a clean, simple interface that makes finding a movie as easy as watching it, unless it's Black Swan.
App: Fandango Platforms: iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Windows, Palm Web site: Fandango.com Cost: Free
One of the handiest ways to avoid lines at the theater is to buy tickets in advance. No one handles that better than Fandango and their app is essential for beating the crowds. Like other apps, there are searchable showtimes and theaters as well as reviews and trailers, but what sets Fandango apart is the ability to buy movie tickets and pick them up at a kiosk in the lobby of the theater. The interface is simple and Fandango can securely store credit card information for future trips to the movies. If only they'd find a way to include concessions and have them waiting at your reserved seats. Maybe in the next update.
App: Phone Flicks from Netflix Platforms: iPhone, Windows Web site: Netflix.com Cost: Free
Once a movie has left the theater, rentals become the next likely option. Hell, with surround sound and flat screens, who needs the theater? With so many Netflix subscribers, it seems logical they should have an app for managing your list of rentals (or "queue" as they call it) and they do. The Phone Flicks (no idea why they went with "cks" instead of "x" in the app name) app gives Netflix customers access to virtually every feature of their service save actually watch movies. Edit the queue. Manage an account. The simple, if occasionally buggy, interface is simple and well organized. We keep the app open during the credits of current rentals in case we want to add those to the queue. Handy.
App: RedBox Platforms: iPhone, Android Web site: Redbox.com Cost: Free
For non-Netflix members, people who don't want to wait for the mail or users who still have movies sitting around from eight months ago (you know who you are), the most convenient option is RedBox. The ubiquitous DVD vending machines provide a quick fix on the cheap. Their companion app makes the experience even easier by searching for the closest location (always helpful if you aren't in familiar territory) and determining if a box near you actually has the film you want. If you are willing to sign up with them, a helpful option that comes with a lot of junk e-mail, you can even set aside a copy at a particular location to make sure your trip in the pouring rain to rent Eat Pray Love for your girlfriend wasn't a total waste of time.
App: IMDB Platform: iPhone, Android Web site: IMDB.com Cost: Free
Finally, when the movie is over, film nerds need a way to look up film score composers and key grips (we call them nerds for a reason). Women might want to peruse other films Julia Roberts has made recently, while men can find the name of that hot actress and check the b-movies she did early in her career in case she was desperate enough to go topless. Fortunately, with the IMDb app, everyone gets what they want! The mega-popular Internet Movie Database has been delivering film credits to the masses for years online and the app delivers that wealth of information to your smart phone. There is even a way to purchase movies via Amazon through the app. It's the ultimate movie lover's tool.