The Net's stealth movie critics | EW.com

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The Net's stealth movie critics

Websites like Harry Knowles' ''Ain't It Cool News'' sneak viewers into test screenings to provide early buzz on movies

Their work is secret, risky, and without reward. Their mission: to sneak into the test screenings studios use to fine-tune unreleased movies. These amateur spies are film buffs and industry insiders — from studio execs to stagehands — who post their candid reviews on Ain’t It Cool News (www.aint-it-cool-news.com), the Austin, Tex.-based gladfly website run by one Harry Knowles, a scoop-hunting gossip and, according to Hollywood publicity types, one-man film-wrecking crew.

Knowles has been cited for negative buzz on Batman & Robin and Speed 2 and for glowing reviews of Titanic. The studios would love to cool Harry. So far, they’ve had no luck. When Sony hit him with a cease and desist order for publishing Starship Troopers pictures prematurely, he ran the lawyer’s letter. Fox tried to fool him with four good ”reviews” of Alien Resurrection — a movie his spies happened to love. He ran one — plus a story on the episode. ”Studios like to blame people for negative things,” he says. ”And when the film does well, they like to say, ‘Look what we did!”’