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Who We Are. What We Do.

  • We review movies based strictly on their entertainment value and the price you pay to get that value. Sometimes hit flicks look great but make no sense on a simple viewing. If you've got to see it twice, regardless of the fun, that's a mandatory rental level. We speak with the "real people" who get into the sneak peeks, or critic's screenings, as well. If we know we missed something, and that's a real gut reaction but easy to recognize, we ask the people. If they don't "get" it, well, that's why The Matrix bombed here. And, folks, if Cranky isn't the demographic target, we lug them in whenever possible. Chicks, Gays, little kids, whoever.

  • Film students can tell you what is good for you. Cranky tells how painful or painless a movie is to sit through. If a movie is demographically targeted way out of our personal experience, we make every effort to bring guests of the demographic target. You'll also learn enough about Cranky that you'll be able to tell if your taste and his are compatible. The more you read, the more you'll know.

  • We do not compare to Source Material. A film based on a teevee show will not be compared to the original (and I've broken that vow only once). A movie will not be compared to an earlier rendition. We don't feel that you should have to read the book, see the previous flick (if a sequel) or have to spend hours digging background out of a website that should have been included, or at least hinted at, in the film. That's one of the reasons why The Blair Witch Project failed here.

  • Nor do we compare one film with another similar film. So don't scream at me for rating Movie A at $7 and Movie B at $1. It's like comparing apples and oranges. The only exceptions are films in the middle of a franchise. James Bond flicks. Star Wars flicks and so on.

  • We'll tell you if the advertising lies. Best diss so far was from a female reader castigating me for wanting hotter lesbian sex in High Art. A) I never said that and B) the hot lesbian sex angle was the way the movie was sold. Either way, the film, as far as entertaining or moving stories go, was strictly zzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Cranky stands by the $1 rating. Ditto the "rental" rating on The Matrix. See the above paragraph before you scream bloody murder about the review.

  • We will (almost) never give away the entire story in the review. I hated it standing on line for Empire Strikes Back and some punk kid spilled the beans about Darth Vader. I hate it when other reviewers spill the beans. That's why I don't. (And if I come close, I warn you well in advance).

  • The dollar ratings "worth" is based on what we pay to get our hands on movies here in New York, though we do average down the top ticket price. Some movies should be seen on a big screen, even if they're crap. Some would work better on a small screen; here you can get pay-per-view for $4 which is less than half of a first run ticket. The numbers are not percentages, like a "star" system, and are detailed at the bottom of this page. We answer all the mail. You write. I respond. Use the message boards. Keep it Clean. Thank you.

The History of The Cranky Critic®

cranky criticOnce upon a time Cranky was plain old Chuck Schwartz, an arrogant and angry radio guy who was a speed demon with a razor blade (we used it to cut audiotape in those days). As an engineer or producer/director of rock 'n' roll radio shows like The King Biscuit Flower Hour, the Robert Klein Radio Show and a myriad of shows on a once upon a time NBC Radio Network called The Source, I got to work with Paul McCartney, John Cougar Mellencamp, Tina Turner, Duran Duran, Max Weinberg (of Springsteen's E Street Band) -- all the lightweights of the 80s <g>. I also wrote for broadcasts of the No Nukes, Live Aid, Farm Aid and SunCity concert extravaganzas for various radio networks.

I left NBC 'cuz a) they paid me a lot of money to give up my union contract and b) I wanted to take a whack at acting. Three years later, fat and angrier and dumber than a newt for dropping my girlfriend, I decided that I preferred to make money. I made plans to move to California where I had family working in film PR. Since everyone in California needs a car I detoured off my usual route to my day job -- acting wasn't paying the bills so I was temping at a law firm -- to check out a car showroom across the street. This showroom offered Mercedes and Bentley's and the like - I thought big. While waiting for the red light at the corner I realized I was going to be late for work and got very angry at myself. Things calmed down when a saner small voice inside my head said "Hey! You're moving to California in two weeks! Being five minutes late isn't going to kill you."

But of course, the small voice was wrong.

Three blocks behind me, a flatbed truck came speeding off the 59th street bridge. It lost its brakes. It trashed five cars, jumped the curb and smashed into a street lamp. The lamp came down square on my head and busted my neck in two places. A traffic cop and a passerby did CPR and gave mouth to mouth on the body, which remained lifeless three to four minutes. Yes, it's true what they say about the white light. Ten days later, I awoke in the hospital, unable to move from the waist down but too wrecked in the head to understand what was wrong.

prot crankyThe hospital staff called me "miracle boy" when I walked out of the hospital a month later. Six months later, an infection in the surgery caused the neck to collapse and I had to go back under to have the old work ripped out and redone. Thirteen hours after that second surgery, blood clots attacked my spinal cord and I was paralyzed from the neck down.

But I got better.

Then something else went wrong, and the surgeons had to do it all over again. And again. And again.

Two plus years in and out of hospital (four major surgeries) left me penniless, but still in possession of a Directors Guild Card, which meant free movies. After sitting through one incredibly awful "film," which shall remain nameless, I limped out of the theater thinking "I paid seven bucks to see this thing? It wasn't even worth three bucks for the rental!"

Thus was born the Movie Rating Scale of one to seven, $7 being what it cost at the time to buy a ticket to a first run movie. Back then, rentals were about three bucks, pay per view was $5, which set nice benchmarks for the scale (which we leveled off at a simple $10 top rating). In July 1995 I took a drive with a company called Entertainment Drive and, taking the name Cranky Critic®, I've been writing reviews and publishing on the Internet ever since. eDrive went belly up in three years. We're still going strong.

Cranky attended film school at Northwestern and NYU, but he tries to put a lot of that out of his mind. You go to the movies to be entertained, or enthralled, or scared out of your gourds, and you don't want to be misled by "critic" and publicity machines that promise what isn't there. There is no applause for intellectual musings over entertainment value in Cranky's world, 'cuz Cranky doesn't live in the stratified world of private screenings and lavish PR parties. 95% of the movies I see, I see with a real audience. I watch the screen. I watch the audience. I talk with the audience after the film is done. The opinions of the "crankified" hold great weight and are cited in the reviews.

The rating scale basically works out to:

$10.00 - I'd see it twice
$9.00 - Various degrees close to but not equal to the above...
$8.00 - an absolutely see it film
$7.00 - highly recommended
$6.00 - the average "better" movie (and a better dateflick).
$5.00 - an average move and passable date flick. Popcorn flicks average this mark
$4.00 - (NYC PPV cost)
$3.00 - (NYC weekend rental) --
If you've got to see a flick twice to "get" it, this rating is mandatory
$2.00 - (NYC midweek rental)
$1.00 - barely tolerable
$0.00 - wretched

Do the math for wherever you are.

Things have got to be really bad to get the coveted <g> zero.


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The Cranky Critic® is a Registered Trademark of, and his website is Copyright © 1995  -  2015   by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.