Must-see websites | EW.com

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Must-see websites

Must-see websites -- We review entertainment websites, from the unofficial ''School House Rock'' page to the music fusion at ''Eminenya''

Must-see websites

Movies

Movieflix.com (www.movieflix.com)
You can monitor the cinematic universe — literally — at this expansive, well-stocked archive of streaming-video movies. Founded by L.A. entrepreneurs Opher Mizrahi and Robert Moskovits, the two-year-old site offers more than 1,200 film and TV titles, including such four-star fare as His Girl Friday and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. (Don’t worry, schlock fans: You can also catch Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.) Viewing is free to users who register, and both ”narrowband” and ”broadband” versions are offered — which means that even with a 56k Web connection, you’ll get a decent picture of a decent picture. A-

Little Golden Guy (www.littlegoldenguy.com)
There’s nothing here about that Eddie Murphy-in-Tibet movie. Instead, senior editor Brian Barney has packaged this site as an unofficial tribute to Oscar, showcasing a searchable database filled with 73 years’ worth of Academy Award facts, all indexed by year and by category. Best of all, the ”Find Any Record Holder” interactive feature coughs up winners and losers in any given category over any specified era. For example, with 12 Academy nods, William Wyler is the most-nominated director — as well as the director who lost most often (nine times). Golden indeed. A-

The Movie Times (www.the-movie-times.com)
Enter charted territory at this data depository, where infomaniac Al Rincon, a software engineer from Austin, Tex., offers movie fanatics scads of stats. Coolest: the claimed rankings of actors and actresses according to various criteria, such as the average gross of movies they starred in (tops: Natalie Portman and Will Smith) and the average gross of their last 10 movies (winners: Kathy Bates and Tom Hanks). Dozens of A-listers get individual pages, too, with a few photos, some biographical facts, and box office charts — natch. B+

Reeldirt.com (www.reeldirt.com)
”Jobs. Scripts. Resources. Dirt,” the opening screen reads enticingly. But the scoop at this two-year-old film-industry site, founded by San Diego newscast director Pepe Sevedra, is little more than slightly soiled. Despite the libel-repelling disclaimer, the behind-the-scenes gossip is pretty sparse and respectful (including several tales of death on the set), and what amusingly saucy goodies there are (e.g., an audio clip titled ”Dan Rather frets about his hair in Soweto” in the Contraband section) come from other sites. With luck and spite, this site may someday be as nasty as it wants to be. B
Caren Weiner Campbell

MOVIES BEST OF BREED
Haiku Movie Reviews (http://www.igs.net/~mtr/haiku-reviews.html)
It’s poetry in motion pictures: The Ottawa-based duo of writer/painter Nikolaus Maack and software developer Michael T. Richter hosts this archive of 17-syllable movie commentaries — some of which are more artful than the films they critique. More often, however, the poet-critics take a more acerbic tone, as in Maack’s pan of Wild Wild West: ”No matter how huge/a robot spider cannot/save an entire film.” Even cinematic masters get their share of deft abuse, as in Matt Carson’s exasperated dismissal of Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut: ”Please speak more quickly./I’m sick of waiting for the/Full frontal action.” Feeling inspired? Use your muse to express boos or woo-hoos — and then submit your haikus (via e-mail to Maack) for page views. A-

Really Useful

BubbleEconomy.com (www.bubbleeconomy.com)
No, it’s not stock advice from Lawrence Welk. Instead, this straight-ahead collection of financial tidbits is maintained by longtime business journalist Thomas Goetz, who reports on the reportage while assessing the biases of various publications (bullish: The Wall Street Journal; bearish: Barron’s). Funniest feature: the Worthless Press Release of the Day, featuring announcements of new companies that seem utterly doomed (e.g., eSpirituality.com). Refreshingly, Goetz is far from didactic: He brings you the whole spectrum of opinions and lets you decide, providing anything but a stock answer. B+

Marilyn Is Wrong! (www.wiskit.com/marilyn.html)
Even the ”World’s Smartest Woman” — Parade columnist and Mensa member Marilyn vos Savant — sometimes goofs. Enter know-it-all Herb Weiner, a software engineer in Portland, Ore., who has collected (and, with the help of his readers, corrected) the erroneous information in vos Savant’s columns. Marilyn, for example, says that the least number of Ping-Pong balls you’d need to create a four-sided equilateral pyramid is 4,900; two readers wrote in to Weiner to point out that the correct answer is — oops — five. Prove your own smarts: Read this archive before you make any bar bets. A-

REALLY USEFUL BEST OF BREED
Japanime.com (www.japanime.com)
Looking for the Land of the Rising Fun? Start with this online dealer in Nipponese pop-culture playthings past (five-inch-tall Ultraman figurines) and present (Sailor Moon mini-dolls). Run by a Tokyo toy-export company, Japanime.com proffers manga (comic books), a potpourri of Pokemon, and even such oddities as the Pocket Hello Kitty electronic pet/pedometer: ”The more you ‘walk’ Kitty, the more Kitty rewards you by doing little tricks on the LCD screen.” A-

TV

The Tonight Show With Jay Leno Official Homepage (www.nbc.com/tonightshow)
The official NBC site aims to highlight the funnier parts of the show but sometimes falls prey to aged, tepid jokes. Still, you get insight into how the host spends his extra time and money: In ”Jay’s Garage,” view proud photos of Jay’s chosen ”car of the day” and ask him auto-related questions. Giggle at the flawed headlines and ads of the week (e.g., ”Super Bowel Party, Complimentary Buffet”). If it’s hands-on you want, dish Jay your personal horror stories on subjects like nightmare dates — then sit back and pray that he picks you to appear on the show. B+

The Dick Van Dyke Show (www.open4ever.com)
Laura Petrie would wince at the bland, cheaper-than-Spam design on the fan page dedicated to the ’60s CBS sitcom — but she’d applaud the site’s quality content. There are fuzzy black-and-white stills galore, video clips of your favorite Rob and Laura foibles, trivia, and an episode guide. The news is well updated (though it revolves mostly around Van Dyke’s latest TV offering, Diagnosis: Murder), and there are plenty of sort-of-interesting tidbits about the show: Johnny Carson, for example, was originally considered for the lead role. Now, there’s a guy who wouldn’t have tripped over an ottoman. B
Ann Limpert

TV BEST OF BREED
Strangers With Candy (www.comedycentral.com/swc)
Amy Sedaris’ whacked-out Comedy Central show about Jerri Blank, a severely overbitten ex-junkie/runaway/hooker who’s giving high school another shot, gets the Web attention it deserves. Laid out as Flatpoint High’s newspaper, The Donkey Trouser, the site fills you in on the tawdry details both of the show and of Sedaris’ real life (she has a rabbit named Tattletail and enjoys selling cupcakes in her neighborhood). A-

Weird

Rent-A-Relative (www.rent-a-relative.com)
Every time I visit home, Mom bugs me about having kids. So, for my next visit, I’m going to use Rent-A-Relative, a service that supplies stand-ins for all family events — they even offer toddlers. Can’t make that wedding? Send a look-alike. Can’t bear your niece’s violin concerts? Send in the clone. And if you’re looking to make a bit of extra cash, apply to be a relative for someone else (they’re looking for biker types in Boston). If you’ve seen the TV ads for this pseudo-company, you know it’s the alter business ego of Webmiles, an outfit that lets you earn frequent-flier miles for shopping online — and the site would be a lot funnier if it didn’t remind you of that quite so often. C

Fielding’s DangerFinder (www.fieldingtravel.com/df)
Summer vacation: the perfect chance to visit beautiful Uraba — ”the murder capital of Colombia,” where, this site claims, more than 700 people were killed in 1996. If that’s your idea of adventure, then let Fielding’s DangerFinder be your guide to the worst spots in 35 different countries — including the U.S. (1,000 people have jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge since 1937). Despite the gory descriptions and a two-fisted writing tone, this guide probably is useful should you happen to be traipsing around war-torn Afghanistan, where, according to Fielding, between 2,000 and 4,000 people die each year from land mines. B

Sodaconstructor (www.sodaplay.com)
This virtual Erector set is sure to replace hours of work with play. A simple-looking Java program created by a London-based Web development company, it lets you change the characteristics of a two-dimensional line drawing made of joints and springs. Start with one of the preset models, like the Dirkjiggler or Wigglyworm, and use your mouse to drag it around the screen. Then go to the control panel and futz with the wave speed and amplitude to get your Wigglyworm jiggling out of control. Adjust the friction bar to slow it down, or throw on some more gravity — or turn gravity off entirely, using the pull-down menu across the top of the screen. Once you’ve delighted in the resulting spider-dance variations, make your own model from scratch. Giving your creation sprightly muscles and joints is harder than it looks, but you’ll get the hang of it by the end of the day. Hey, it’s not like you have anything better to do. A

WEIRD BEST OF BREED
Click Here! (www.hi-res.net/sb/clickhere.html)
Those pesky banner ads that run across the top of Web pages are hard to ignore, but here’s a collection that you won’t want to miss: Some of the Web’s finest artists and designers have created an exhibit of ”antibanners.” After you’ve figured out the opening page (click on the sentence), choose one of the floors in the five-level virtual gallery and click on each of the four walls to see the displays. One antibanner seems blank until the mouse passes over it and shards of glass fly in every direction. Another one screams ”Make $550K from home” but reveals a more honest pitch after you’ve turned the truth meter up: ”You are worthless.” You’ll never ignore real banner ads in quite the same way. A

Music

Man From Atlantis (www.manfromatlantis.com)
It’s not often you run across a site so smooth and simple that it doesn’t even need to explain what it is. The Netherlands-based band spins six samples here — you can purchase the tunes via CD or MP3 — then treats you to a ”funtime game” (choose a beat, then wave your mouse over the pictures to make ”magic sounds”) and some ”objects” (there’s no other way to describe them). Zen-cool and totally inscrutable, this spare, colorful page soothes like electronic melatonin. A-

NSync.com (www.nsync.com)
Justin, JC, and the rest of the gang are introduced (very, very slowly) in the opening animation as the intro to their hit single ”Bye Bye Bye” pounds in the background (a little ironic, considering this is the ”welcome” page). Once inside, the infrastructure is about what you’d expect: color-coordinated and slickly animated, with few surprises content-wise: audio and video versions of the aforementioned single, a rather anemic collection of photos, and menus inviting you to get ”N’volved” and ”N’touch.” Fans will be N’grossed; the unN’itiated will be N’different. B+

Planet of Music (www.planetofmusic.com)
If astronomers were forced to classify the well-trafficked Planet of Music, the designation would be ”gas giant”: enormous, far-flung, and diffuse, with no defined core. A victim of the annoying ”make us your homepage — and your only page!” trend, this California-based clearinghouse offers not only downloads and streaming music but also news, blackjack games (using Planet’s currency, ”SpeedyBucks”), parenting advice, kids’ pages, and more, more, more. Do we really need a map of Africa to accompany our Britney Spears? Too much information! C+
Scott Brown

MUSIC BEST OF BREED
Eminenya (www.megnut.com/misc/eminenya.mp3)
Chocolate and peanut butter weren’t an obvious combo, but someone thought of it anyway. A similar breakthrough can be observed at Meg Hourihan’s quirksome home page, where you’ll find ”The Real Slim Shady” blended with Enya’s ”Orinoco Flow” to produce a surprisingly euphonious QuickTime download. One even wonders — briefly — if this might be the best way to experience Eminem. Just don’t tell Mr. Mathers — lest we earn a mention in one of his scouring rants. A

Family

American Table Manners (www.cuisinenet.com/digest/custom/etiquette/manners_intro.shtml)
If your little darling’s idea of dining etiquette consists of flinging foie gras across the table with a mussel fork at Chez Louis, plunk the culinary barbarian in front of this helpful primer to table-side decorum produced by foodie website cuisinenet.com. Your child will learn everything from how to demystify finger bowls and place settings (”note the thicker tine at the end of the [salad] fork”), to the correct way to eat (not slurp) soup, to which foods can be eaten with his/her fingers (cookies, bacon, and sauce-free asparagus) — not to mention what to do if one simply must spit out something ”terrifically ugly.” A

Dealing With Feelings (www.kidshealth.org/kid/feeling)
Bully turning your kid’s schoolyard into the junior high equivalent of Kosovo? New baby brother mangling your daughter’s Barbie dolls with gleeful abandon? Britney and Christina making her worry that she’s too fat? Then this site (created by children’s health advocate the Nemours Foundation) is for you. Featuring kid-friendly advisory articles, edited by psychological and medical experts, on everything from ”A Kids’ Guide to Divorce” to ”Dealing With Anger and Keeping Your Cool” to ”How to Handle Abuse,” the site also contains advice on physical ailments and an ”Icky Q&A” section (sample queries: ”What is puke?” and ”What’s a booger?”). Think of how much you’ll save on therapy. B+

Official Nancy Drew Site (www.nancydrew.com)
She may have debuted 70 years ago, but that doesn’t mean the original girl sleuth can’t translate into cyberspace. At this site (administered by San Francisco-based Newfront Productions, Inc.), fans can go beyond the traditional paperbacks and read up-to-date, interactive mysteries (”Help Nancy! What should she do next?”) where they can decide whether to put together a suspect list or investigate the scene of the crime. It’s also a tribute to all things Nancy, filled with trivia (her ”favorite color is blue — the traditional color for boys”) and loving essays assessing how the heroine has evolved through the decades. ”Nancy Drew on Campus: Love Online,” anyone? A-

FAMILY BEST OF BREED
Unofficial Schoolhouse Rock Website (hometown.aol.com/MRandino/SHRockWWW.html)
”I’m just a bill/Yes, I’m only a bill/And I’m sitting here on Capitol Hill…” We all know the can’t-get-it-out-of-your-head-with-an-ice-pick melody — but did you know that the ditty was written in the ’70s by jazz pianist Dave Frishberg and voiced by singer Jack Sheldon? You’ll learn that and more in this unofficial, graphics-heavy tribute (created by Randy Muske) to the didactic animated shorts that began airing on ABC in 1973. Containing the lyrics to classics like ”Conjunction Junction” and ”Interplanet Janet,” as well as video and audio clips, this site is a Gen-X latchkey kid’s dream. A