The latest sites for entertainment and reference -- Check out ''Dr. Film,'' ''Wild Feed TV,'' and ''Discovery Channel Online''
Advertisement

Movies
Alfred Hitchcock — The Master of Suspence
Want to know what makes the maker of the original Psycho a master? Shoot for Patricio Lopez-Guzman’s site. You’ll find thoughtful reprinted essays; bios of collaborators and stars; cast lists and trivia; and still-trenchant quotes like ”The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.” A-

Film Festivals on the W.W.W.
From the Tortured Artists Film Festival in Tacoma, Wash., to the Arctic Light Film Festival in Kiruna, Sweden, Los Angeles attorney Mark Litwak’s extensive site covers cinema celebrations by month (along with each fete’s e-mail address and URL) or location. Now, if he’d only teach you how to avoid cell-phone-wielding studio suits. A-

Dr. Film
So you want Owen Gleiberman’s job? Using University of Leeds communications lecturer David Gauntlett’s automated Mad Libs knockoff, you can create prefab masterpieces of critical insight such as ”Whilst the influence of alcoholism is all too evident, the director manages to evoke a feeling of joy, which we would not normally expect to see in this kind of revolting garbage.” Just don’t expect to be blurbed in the movie posters. B

5-Minute Film School
Tinseltown film producers Lynda Johnson and Murray Cohen fast-forward you through lessons on how to research property rights, how to write a synopsis, and more. They want your story ideas, too, but be careful: Johnson and Cohen themselves point out that ”if you’re an outsider, Hollywood can be a dangerous place.” B-

Movies Best of Breed
Film Ink
They know the business of show business at this intelligent, extensive cinema site. Each week, San Francisco-based editor Eric Dauster compiles studio info, stills, bios and filmographies, notes on box office competition, critical links, and estimates of individual films’ prospects. Dauster archives the reports from the last six months, so you can check his accuracy. But don’t waste your time trying to figure out the meanings of those small images of movie cameras, spotlights, and theater seats next to the entries. They have no meanings (they’re just decoration) — but hey, Eric, they should. A-

TV
Love Boat Unofficial Home Page
Fans of history’s second-most-famous cruise ship will delight in this splashy site devoted to the original version of the kitsch classic. You’ll find up-to-date cast bios (remember Teri Hatcher, Love Boat mermaid?), episode synopses, and little-known quirks of the show. The hilarious list of guest stars (Andy Warhol, the Harlem Globetrotters) chronicles where many Boat celebrities started out or ended up. Explore deck plans of the Pacific Princess, buy the club mix of the theme song — even find out how to rent chronic cruiser Charo’s house in Hawaii. B+

Wild Feed TV: Verite Television
The concept behind this site (inspired by a 1996 cable TV series) is that behind every newscast, there’s a separate drama. These outtake ”feeds” show television talking heads prepping for airtime in a gallery of QuickTime videos. Watch Arnold Schwarzenegger practice a maniacal laugh and George Stephanopoulos powder his facial sheen. You won’t find any NBC bigwigs here, though — the network threatened to sue Feed before its planned (and later canceled) airing of a clip showing Tom Brokaw getting catty about Dan Rather. B

Court TV online
For all you scandal hounds left tantalized but still hungry by The Starr Report, the cable channel’s site has compiled a massive archive of case summaries and legal documents relating to pending trials, and a huge (but easily navigable) chronicle of ground-breaking verdicts. For those scanning for, uh, juicier stuff, peruse the transcripts under ”Famous Cases” (many are unedited) for everything your mom wouldn’t want you to know about, say, Marv Albert. A-

Discovery Channel Online
Discovery’s elephantine site has been recently revamped to make navigation less complicated. Skip over the games and the ”Animal Cams” (think The Truman Show for beasts); the real adventure is found in the ”Expeditions,” where you’ll find sparkling journal entries of such real-life discoverers as outback biker Jim Malusa. The feature stories are educational without being stuffy, too. A-

TV Best of Breed
The X-Files Alphabet Book
Australian fan Simon Wright has created the online equivalent of The ‘X-Files’ for Dummies. The dictionary format is as accessible as the show’s truths are elusive, additional questions get answered in ”Ask the Alph,” and gossip can be found on the X-clusive news wire. Book‘s bonus is its creator’s wit: According to Wright, bile, not Pottery Barn, is the ”must-have decoration of the ’90s.” A

Good Causes
National Charities Information Bureau
This clearinghouse for information about charities is designed to promote informed giving and steer well intentioned-but-naive folks away from questionable charities. The NCIB rates more than 400 charitable organizations according to a series of strict standards (e.g., what percentage of each contribution goes for overhead) and offers one free report — subsequent ones are $3.50 each — on individual groups. There’s also a handy checklist of dos and don’ts that will help you make sure your money ends up where you want it to. Consult this site before making donations elsewhere. B+

ABC Quilts Project
This site might not win any design awards, but it’s a straightforward presentation on how you can donate quilts and security blankets to destitute, abandoned, or seriously ill children (especially HIV-positive infants and those affected by drugs or alcohol). This New Hampshire-based group has delivered more than 400,000 of these packages nationally in the past decade and is still going strong. Here you’ll find step-by-step guidelines on where to acquire supplies, how to put a quilt together, and how to get it into the hands of a child who needs it. B+

CelebrityAuctions
Bidding online for the ”Junk of the Stars” can raise money for causes you believe in. The Irvine, Calif.-based CelebrityAuctions site sells memorabilia and personal items from stars like Katie Couric (a painted birdhouse), Garth Brooks (an autographed guitar), and Kevin Costner (a signed Tin Cup towel) to benefit hospitals, educational initiatives, and aid to the homeless. It’s way to indulge your craving for quirky pop-culture fun while also doing good. With luck, you might even snag one of Buffy‘s slaying stakes. B

Working Assets Credit Card
Here’s how you can reconcile your ravenous holiday spending with nobler impulses: Once you apply and are accepted for a Working Assets Visa or Mastercard at this site, every time you use the card, 10 cents from the amount will be diverted to worthy causes that you and other cardholders help select (groups such as Friends of the Earth, the Family Violence Prevention Fund and Human Rights Watch). It doesn’t translate into any extra cost for you; instead, donations come out of the issuing bank’s profits. And small amounts add up: Working Assets managed to raise $3 million in 1997 and hopes to do better this year. A-

Good Deeds?
Benefice
Looking for the real spirit of the holidays? Here you can choose from more than 2,400 not-for-profit organizations, then make an on-the-spot pledge. But the real beauty of the site is its Personal Giving Plan, where you select an amount to donate by year’s end and determine allocations to various charities. The PGP area updates you with news — and nudges you with a gentle ”reminder” when it’s time to fork over more simoleons. A+

Family
Apple Corps
Mr. Potato Head meets Colorforms at this creative site where budding young artists can make their own vegetable people by clicking body parts onto eggplants, apples, carrots, cabbages, and pumpkins. No more losing those little pieces or worrying about your toddler ingesting an ear, but you may have to explain why our President’s face is included in their choice of vegetables — and why his face isn’t beet red. B+

The Official Rock-Paper-Scissors Strategy Guide
Novices may think of Rock Paper Scissors as merely a game of chance, but this in-depth site reveals interpretations that take each move to a deeper level. Opening with a rock is a sign of aggression, while throwing out paper is the least obvious, but not necessarily ineffective, first move. The uncluttered site, with its bold black-and-white graphics, is designed for one simple purpose: to give you the upper hand in this surprisingly strategic game. B

Paper Airplanes and More
Ken Blackburn, the best-selling coauthor of Kids’ Paper Airplane Book, offers everything about paper airplanes from history to aerodynamics. Kids can print out their own basic plane or replicate the one that led Blackburn to a 1994 Guinness World Record for time aloft (18.8 seconds). Packed with rainy-day ideas and enthusiasm, this is a site guaranteed to make imaginations soar. A

Explore Science
Hands-on science experiments — without any chance of actually blowing up the kitchen! Using Shockwave, future scientists get to test why like charges repel, how to determine what floats or sinks, and other impressive scientific facts. Hosted by physicist Raman Pfaff, the most shocking thing about this site is how much your children will actually absorb. A

Family Best of Breed
Ben &amp Jerry’s Ice Cream
We don’t usually go in for product-related sites, but who can resist when that product comes in Mint Chocolate Cookie and New York Super Fudge Chunk? Kids can download the pattern for a paper Holstein and use Shockwave to make Ben &amp Jerry hairy á la Wooly Willy. Head to the holiday section for crafts, games, and recipes, or visit the Flavor Graveyard for a taste of the past (Rainforest Crunch may be gone but it is not forgotten). A

Music
The Source
Greeting visitors with a Jay-Z sound clip and an illustration of a hip-hop Mount Rushmore, this recently launched site from the country’s leading rap mag is a full interactive experience, featuring innovative touches like a virtual turntable that lets you scratch along with a sound clip. The slickly designed site also features video interviews, live webcasts, and chat rooms. There’s even a whole section devoted to underground up-and-comers (complete with sound clips) so you can be the first to find out about hip-hop stars of the future. A-

Perfect Sound Forever
An eclectic, wonderfully thoughtful monthly webzine written by and for serious music fans of all stripes. Manhattan-based PSF lovingly covers deserving artists as varied as dub great King Tubby and Texas songwriter Townes Van Zandt. The November issue is devoted entirely to ’60s rock radicals the MC5, featuring in-depth interviews and lots of historical info and insight. Upcoming issues boast coverage of unsung favorites like Captain Beefheart and the Flamin’ Groovies. Groovy indeed. A

Memphis Music Jukebox
Looking for a room-by-room tour of Graceland? Better go somewhere else. This Memphis music site concentrates on the city’s more serious contributions to music history, from Stax (the great ’60s soul label) to Sun (early home of Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and, yes, Elvis) to blues greats like W.C. Handy and B.B. King. Part of a larger Memphis tour guide maintained by Tennessean Chris Robinson, the site offers lots of artist bios, sound clips, and a jukebox with some of Memphis’ greatest hits. Too bad there’s no mention of post-’60s rock acts like Big Star or the Grifters. B

CDuctive
Tired of shelling out $18 for a CD that turns out to have one good song? This site lets you create your own compilation CDs online. Simply select your songs (you get charged by the track) and the company will press and ship a personalized CD. It’s a good idea, but the song selection is way too limited, with track after track of unknown electronic acts (ever heard of Buckfunk 3000 or Wave Captain?) and not a single major-label artist. Still, CDuctive has steadily built up its catalog, which now includes good stuff like English electronic imprint Wall of Sound and alt-country label Bloodshot. B

Music Best of Breed
The Dust Brothers
This elaborate site from Beastie Boys/Beck/Hanson producers the Dust Brothers (a.k.a. Mike Simpson and John King) offers flashy visual effects, funky sound loops, and funny images of the Brothers in assorted goofy poses. Add a complete Dustography (sure they produced Paul’s Boutique and Odelay, but did you know that once upon a time they worked with Young ”Bust a Move” MC?) and quotes from the Brothers themselves (on Hanson: ”…definitely not edgy alternative music”) and you get a visually and contextually silly site that’s about as nutritious — and almost as much fun — as ”MMMBop.” A-

Really Useful
Medical References
Paging Woody Allen: Hypochondriacs can whip themselves into a neurotic frenzy (is that a headache or an undiagnosed brain tumor?) with the help of this comprehensive disease archive. For the rest of us, Medical References’ stock of informative links will simply help us treat the ills that flesh is heir to, from chronic pain to bad breath to immunizations. There’s a thought-provoking section on death itself, but — fortunately for Patch Adams fans who believe that laughter is the best medicine — there’s some sawbones humor as well (two actual headlines: LUNG CANCER IN WOMEN MUSHROOMS; EYE DROPS OFF SHELF). A

Nolo Home Page
”Kill my landlord, kill my landlord,” chanted Eddie Murphy on an old Saturday Night Live episode. Tempting as that might seem, Berkeley-based self-help legal publisher Nolo Press suggests more sensible tactics for rent disputes, as well as guidance in other everyday legal matters such as writing a will, negotiating child custody, or incorporating a small business. And with the glossary and search function, you can even learn to sling the legal lingo — not that you would necessarily want to be mistaken for a lawyer. A

The Public Eye
How can you be sure an e-merchant won’t maul you? Take a look through this Valencia, Calif.-based consumer-protection organization, which rates shopping sites’ security and reliability. A platinum rating means the site allows round-the-clock monitoring and displays customer feedback; gold means the Public Eye’s ”undercover shoppers” approve the site. Some of the most highly rated e-commerce sites may surprise you (LOT Polish Airlines?), and some that don’t make the list at all may surprise you even more. Check here before you put your money where your mouse is. B+

FolksOnline
If the Waltons had a website, it might look like this one. An Internet intro for the techno-timid, Folks lacks all that off-putting cutting-edge Net-itude; instead, it offers rainbow colors, horoscopes, and gentle, nonthreatening versions of e-mail, bulletin boards, and online chats. A ”Treasure Chest” of links takes newcomers to such friendly entities as 1-800-FLOWERS and Welcome Wagon; pages brim with uplifting true stories of lovers who met on the Net, kindergarteners who send e-mail, and a 13-year-old website designer. It’s all calculated to make entering cyberspace seem like a warm homecoming. Good site, John-Boy. B

Really Useful Best of Breed
Consumer Information Center
Want to negotiate a better price on your next car? Track down a deadbeat dad? Build a birdhouse? The CIC’s site offers full-text versions of federal publications on these and hundreds of other topics. Nostalgia buffs can watch videos of the office’s old TV ads (remember that guru on the mountaintop?). With extensive links, this site is a truly worthwhile example of your tax dollars at work. Good thing the Pentagon isn’t running it, though: That birdhouse might have ended up costing $100,000. A

Reporting by Caren Weiner Campbell, Ann Limpert, Matthew McCann Fenton, Lois Alter Mark, and Rob Brunner

Comments