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"One of the 50 Coolest Websites...they simply tell it like it is" - TIME

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Our Mission

The purpose of kids-in-mind.com is to provide parents and other adults with objective and complete information about a film's content so that they can decide, based on their own value system, whether they should watch a movie with or without their kids.

It's like a food labeling system which tells you what a food item contains. That's it. We make no judgments about what is good or bad or anything else. Indeed, we do not "condemn," "critique" or "criticize" movies. And we don't "praise" or "recommend" movies either. We advance no "beliefs" and we do not "preach" anything. We are not affiliated with any political party, any cultural or religious group, or any ideology. The only thing we advocate is responsible, engaged parenting.

If one reads our reviews one will often find many instances where our descriptions are so detailed they seem absurd. But we'd rather err on the side of comprehensiveness. It's up to parents to decide which details are useful to them and their family, and which ones they consider fatuous.

Parents should seek out sites like ours and make decisions based on objective information about content. Our position is that no organization should be involved in arbitrating who should or shouldn't see a film (especially one as closely involved with Hollywood as the MPAA). What we'd like to see is many independent organizations like ours distributing ratings to media outlets and theater chains. And allow the marketplace work. Consumers will choose the ratings system that serves them best in making a decision, according to their own values and priorities -- we freely admit that we think our ratings are hard to improve upon, but the consumer should be allowed the final decision.

The fact is, however, that while the current system does not serve consumers well, it works perfectly for the filmmakers, the studios and the theater chains. It is based on a cozy relationship between the MPAA, the film industry, and the theater chains. It is a malleable system that can be altered at will to accommodate changes in the market. For instance, the rating of choice right now is PG-13. A movie with a PG-13 rating is just easier to market: parents like it better than the more adult R-rating, and kids like it better than the more juvenile PG rating; plus, a PG-13 rating is merely a "cautionary" rating, as opposed to the more restrictive R rating (although, of course, anybody, of any age, can watch any R-rated movie as long as he's accompanied by an "adult guardian"; in some locales any 17-year-old will do).

So, in order to accommodate the marketing demands of studios and theaters, the MPAA has been slowly but surely changing its criteria so that a PG-13 movie today contains far more violence, sexual content and profanity than a few years ago (for example, it used to be that one F-word would garner a film an R rating; now it takes 3 or more F-words).


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Methodology

Unlike the MPAA, we do not assign a single, age-specific rating and we do not make recommendations. Instead we assign each film three distinct, category-specific ratings: one for SEX & NUDITY, one for VIOLENCE & GORE and one for LANGUAGE. Each rating is on a scale of zero to ten, depending on quantity (more F-words, for instance, will mean a higher Language rating, and so on) as well as context (especially when it comes to the categories of sex, nudity, violence and gore, since they are not as easily quantifiable as profanity).

In addition to assigning three ratings, we also explain in detail why a film rates high or low in a specific category, and we include instances of SUBSTANCE USE, a list of DISCUSSION TOPICS (topics that may elicit questions from kids) and MESSAGES (what values the film conveys).

Please note that two movies which have received the same rating -- let's say a 9 in VIOLENCE & GORE -- will not necessarily contain an equal amount of violence; they are only similar in the level of violence they contain. Plus, like most numerical rating systems, the numbers are inherently approximations (think of them as plus-or-minus-one). Only the detailed descriptions we provide with each review will give you the proper context.

Unlike with the MPAA ratings, we do not make age-specific or critical recommendations. Since our system is based on objective standards, not the viewer's age or the artistic merits of a film, we enable concerned adults to determine whether a movie is appropriate for them or their children according to their own criteria.

As we never tire pointing out, we make no judgments about what is good or bad or anything else. We do not "condemn," "critique" or "criticize" movies. And we don't "praise" or "recommend" movies either. We advance no "beliefs" and we do not "preach" anything. We are not affiliated with any political party, any cultural or religious group, or any ideology. The only thing we advocate is responsible, engaged parenting. If one reads our reviews one will often find many instances where our descriptions are so detailed they seem absurd. But we'd rather err on the side of comprehensiveness. It's up to parents to decide which details are useful to them and their family, and which ones they consider fatuous.

The MPAA rating system is not accurate because of several reasons: the MPAA itself is not an independent body but is financed and controlled by the film industry, its standards are constantly shifting to accommodate marketing decisions by the film industry, the ratings are negotiable (and in effect promote censorship for independent films while powerful directors can get the rating they want), and the ratings are age-specific, not content-specific and thus essentially approximations.

In reality, any rating above G may imply sexual content, violent content, profanity, or any combination of the three in varying degrees. At the same time, an R-rated movie may not be as objectionable to many thoughtful parents as one would think. A movie that gets an R rating, for instance, because of several F-words is not the same as another movie that gets an R rating because it contains violence, gore, sexual situations, etc. (we venture to guess that even parents who vociferously object to profane language would agree). For instance, the G-rated Babe: Pig in the City was assigned a kids-in-mind.com violence rating of 5 principally because of one excruciating scene of a dog being slowly strangled. At the same time, Erin Brockovich as an example of an R-rated film that got a kids-in-mind violence rating of 1 and a sex rating of 3. Yet it was branded with an R rating by the MPAA just for language. And there are others: Waking Life, Good Will Hunting and The King's Speech, getting an R for just language, and there are many other R-rated films with low violence and sex ratings. And, of course, we haven't even gotten started on the ostensibly more innocuous PG and PG-13 ratings.

But we trust you get our point: If a parent is primarily interested in not having their children exposed to violent content, then he may decide that many an R-rated film is more appropriate for his kids than many G and PG and PG-13 rated films. Furthermore, since the MPAA makes age-based ratings their recommendations cannot be relevant for all parents since not all children are equally mature.

On Censorship

Censorship is when one suppresses -- or advocates or supports suppressing -- anything one considers objectionable.

We're totally and unequivocally against any form of censorship.

What we do is to provide information about what films contain; objective, comprehensive and accurate information. We're neither suppressing filmmakers' rights to make any film they want, nor do we advocate any film being suppressed, banned or not made. We're merely providing information about film content, after a film is made and released to the public.

Yet from time to time we do get an e-mail suggesting that the information we provide should be suppressed because it is censorship. The logic escapes us. How can the dissemination of any information be censorship? On the other hand, asking that the information we provide be suppressed because someone doesn't like it...well, that's really an attempt at censorship, ain't it?

Furthermore, it seems to us that the current "official" MPAA ratings system and the movie theater industry that are really routinely practicing censorship: many directors and independent studios are forced to edit movies to get a specific rating, one that will allow a film to get a popular MPAA rating like a PG-13. So, back and forth a film will go to the secretive and mysterious MPAA board that ultimately decides that rating a film is to be assigned. They haggle with the director, arguing about a snip here and an edit there. This is what censorship is, plain and simple, and it's a form of extortion too.

Conversely, our ratings and reviews are not meant to penalize or punish any movie. And they are not negotiable. By providing extremely detailed information on what a movie contains we allow filmgoers to decide for themselves whether to watch a movie or not. We make sure filmgoers are in charge of deciding what's good for them, not a powerful lobbying group with almost extra-governmental powers like the MPAA. Censorship thrives on undisclosed information, ignorance and pressure.

Happily, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees both our right to publish and any filmmakers' right to make any movie they like. And, again happily, under our free enterprise system, information and ideas, whether they are contained within a website or in a movies are free to find their natural market and their natural constituency.

Our History

We came up with the idea for Kids-In-Mind after we went into a video store and watched as a customer was trying to get one of the clerks to explain exactly why a film was rated PG-13. Of course the clerk couldn't. She realized that the MPAA ratings were simply too vague, and that most parents would not agree on what they'd consider offensive material. Some are upset by profanity and nudity, but seem indifferent to violent scenes, while others think that kids will hear all sorts of obscenity at the playground in any case, and so don't mind them listening to actors spewing expletives. We never doubted that Kids-In-Mind would be a hit with parents and other concerned adults. We were surprised, however, to receive support from an unexpected quarter -- the MPAA itself. Apparently, filmmakers will sometimes screen one version of their film for the MPAA's ratings board and then release a slightly different version in theaters. So, the MPAA got into the habit of comparing our Kids-In-Mind with their own notes. Since we were the first to come up with this concept (we started publishing Kids-In-Mind on AOL in 1992, as part of our Critics Inc. site) we have the largest database of parents' reviews available anywhere, enabling parents to check out the content of innumerable videos. Several newspapers, magazines and web sites have tried to emulate our reviews, with varying degrees of success, but none has generated the same amount of trust and loyalty our Kids-In-Mind reviews have.

Our websites have been featured and praised by many American and international press and other media outlets. A partial list includes TIME, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, Detroit News, Fresno Bee, San Francisco Chronicle, Cincinnati Enquirer, Philadelphia Inquirer, Boston Globe, MSNBC, CNN, CNBC, BBC World Service, and several local radio and TV stations, websites, magazines and newspapers (please see below).

Press Praise

"For parents who would like to monitor their child's intake of violence in movies, there are several Internet sites that review the content of feature-length films for material that may not be suitable for children. For example, the Web site 'Kids-In-Mind' provides a concise summary of a film's content and a rating, on a scale from 0 to 10, for 3 categories including violence/gore."

Journal of the American Medical Association

"Parents concerned about the movies their children see will want to turn to Kids-In-Mind, an extensive collection of movie and video reviews, which accurately describe on-screen material that may be objectionable or inappropriate for kids. Kids-In-Mind goes the MPAA rating system several steps better by counting and describing in detail the incidence of sex and nudity, violence and profanity in current theatrical and video releases. You will not find a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" at the site. Kids-In-Mind's goal, at which it succeeds admirably, is to objectively provide data without making judgments on a film's moral or artistic merit."

Apple iReview

"Most parents know the feeling: You see the MPAA rating of PG or PG-13 on a movie, but you don't know if the film's really offensive, borderline or OK for kids until you watch it. By then, it's too late - which is just what the movie industry hoped . . . help is available online from Kids-In-Mind: The Parents' Guide to Movies & Video (www.premium.kids-in-mind.com). The independent service has been praised by many U.S. publications, and has even received the morality-conscious Singapore government's blessing on its official website... This is an excellent resource for families. Kids-In-Mind merits two thumbs up."

Cincinnati Enquirer Editorial

"[A]n excellent Web site. It rates movies on a scale of one to 10 for sex, violence and profanity. "Gladiator" scored a 10 in violence - one of only 17 movies to receive that rating since the service began in 1992. Kids-in-mind critics give detailed, but neutral, summaries of the content of movies. I found its ratings much more useful than the industry's ludicrous system."

Philadelphia Inquirer

"Another excellent tool for conscientious parents is Kids-In-Mind, which also reviews movies and new video releases. It covers sex/nudity, violence/gore and profanity. It also enumerates adult themes (for example, greed, curiosity, lust) and sums up the movie's or video's message."

NetGuide

"A very helpful resource for parents is Kids-in-Mind. This website uses a numbered rating guide to measure how much sex, violence and profanity you will see in any given movie . . . The ratings do not just include the sex, violence and profanity factor. The adult issues and message are also clearly defined. This is really convenient when talking to your child about what the movie meant to them. Most of us don't need every single questionable item in the movie explained to us. When our children are approaching the PG-13 age though, you may really appreciate the excruciating details this website provides. Bookmark this site and check it before visiting the video store."

Stretcher.com

"The site offers a database of 1,300 movies dating to 1992, reviews of new movies and provides the details on how much sex, nudity, violence, gore, and profanity is contained in each of those movies . . . [A]nother example of the evolution of the Internet and how it can be put to use to better our society. We congratulate [this] effort."

The Times-Reporter - New Philadelphia, Ohio

"As children mature and want exposure to a wider range of movies, the Motion Picture Association of America's ratings system doesn't always tell parents what they really want to know. This site attempts to describe the nature of a movie's content in three areas – sex/nudity; violence/gore and profanity – rating each on a scale of 0 to 10. It also describes potentially problematic scenes in some detail, so that parents can make up their own minds about what's suitable for children of varying ages. The site's not in the business of condoning or condemning movies – just describing the content. Thus, a new "R" movie such as "Girl, Interrupted," gets a 7.6.10, which means it is heavy in profanity, while the new "R" video release "Lake Placid" gets a 1.8.6, which means it's heavier in gore. If you want to find out why, then look up the movies on the site for detailed descriptions."

The Detroit News

"Frustrated that movie ratings don't give you the real picture when it comes to flicks your kids want to see? A great new Web site will tell you tons about a movie's content. Kids-In-Mind (www.premium.kids-in-mind.com) rates movies on a 0 to 10 scale in three categories: sex and nudity; violence and gore; and profanity. Then it gives you details - lots of them. (For example, the stomach-churning description of the gore in the R-rated teen horror flick "Idle Hands" contained such juicy tidbits as, "His head is eventually reattached with a barbecue fork.") Such specifics will help you determine whether a movie is suitable for your kids."

Chicago Tribune

"These days, kids want to see just about anything on the big screen. And while parents have ratings to rely on, some say they're too vague. Now parents can check out the content of movies, like "The Haunting," through this website. It's called www.premium.kids-in-mind.com. The site ranks the level of sex, violence and profanity in thousands of movies – new and old. Parents get a description of each category including specific scenes that may cause concern . . . Last month President Clinton cracked down on movies by seeking mandatory I-d checks on R-rated films. But for some parents this website helps them go a step further, and even save money."

KVII-ABC Amarillo Texas

"For parents who are looking for some help in choosing non-offensive movies for their children: Kids-in-mind assigns ratings for levels of sex, violence and profanity. http://www.premium.kids-in-mind.com"

USA Today "Hot Site"

"The reviews are objective, non-critical assessments of the potentially objectionable material contained in movies and are primarily addressed to parents. http://www.premium.kids-in-mind.com"

GO Network - Highest Rating

"Picking which films to let young kids see is not easy. A film that might be rated PG may have material that you wouldn't want your 8-year-old to see, but some PG-13 films may be just fine. Kids-in-Mind at http://www.premium.kids-in-mind.com rates films solely by the type of content – those things to which some parents might object. The site does not try to review movies based on artistry or political value – it's strictly whether there's sex, violence or profanity in them. Each film gets a three-number rating – the first number for sex, the second for violence and the third for language. For example, the film At First Sight, with Val Kilmer and Mira Sorvino, gets a 5.1.3. It's got some sex and nudity, a tiny amount of violence and a little rough language. (The motion picture ratings board rates it PG-13.) The site, which began on America Online in 1992, features ratings of both new movies and videos, making it an excellent resource."

Houston Chronicle

"Forget about TRUSTING movie ratings – who the heck can even UNDERSTAND them? Next time you want to make sure a movie is safe for your kids (or for your refined sensibilities), turn to Kids-in-Mind, at http://www.premium.kids-in-mind.com. Here, instead of a secret code, you get a detailed description of each incidence of sex, violence, and profanity in every currently playing film, in every new or recent video release, and in many not so recently released videos. And as a bonus, you get to read the mordant, one-line "message" of each film (said summary of Mel Gibson's Payback: "Revenge can be sweet"). One of the most useful movie Web sites we've seen in a while."

Dummies Online

"There are many Web sites devoted to movies and several good ones that provide details on the type and amount of violence, sex and profanity in a movie. The easiest and one of the more comprehensive sites I found was www.premium.kids-in-mind.com, a parent's guide to movies and videos. You can read a plot summary, which is followed by a breakdown of sex/nudity; violence/gore; profanity; adult issues; and the movie's message. The first three categories are rated on a scale of 1-10. The higher the number, the stronger the sex, violence and profanity. For example, Never Been Kissed, starring Drew Barrymore, received a rating of 4 for sex/nudity; 2 for violence; and 3 for profanity. The numerical ratings were followed by details. Under the sex category, "lots of sexual innuendo. Kissing, often passionately." Other details included a note that students put condoms on bananas and a woman simulated fellatio. Under violence, the review noted that a boy throws eggs at a girl, a woman is knocked out when she runs through a door and a girl is heard throwing up. The movie's profanity included anatomical and scatological references, name calling and mild obscenities."

The Louisville Courier-Journal

"This site reviews movies that are currently playing in theaters and what is out on video. It rates them on sex and nudity, violence and gore, and profanity. It also tells you what adult issues are in it and the message of the movie. This is a fantastic parenting resource!"

About.com

"Going to the movies is often a family affair. Because each family has different standards as far as what is suitable for children, the Web can come in handy. Here's an example of what you might find at this site. For the film As Good As It Gets, here are edited selections from the site's review: Sex/Nudity: A woman is shown from behind wearing only a towel around her waist. Violence: There is an intense scene in which a gay man is brutally beaten by three thugs. Profanity: Several scatological references, several anatomical references, several racial and sexual slurs, several mild obscenities. The actual review goes into much more detail...A web hot spot."

The Fresno Bee

"In Analyze This, there are 85 uses of the word for which movies get rated PG-13. (Mix in a little sex or violence, and you get an R.) In Good Will Hunting, that word is used 150 times. We could only find one recent film at the movies or on video that tops that: American History X has more than 200 uses of the word. We admit, though, that we didn't sit in the theater marking down each swear word. The staff of the Web site "kids-in-mind" is the best source for such statistics. It also offers objective, non-critical assessments of material parents or sensitive moviegoers might find objectionable. If you want to check it out, you can find it at www.premium.kids-in-mind.com. It's a Web site parents will want to bookmark."

Rant & Rave - H.C. Preview

How is your rating system different from the MPAA's?

Apart from assigning three ratings, there are two major differences between our systems: First, we explain in detail why a film rates high or low on a specific category, and we include instances of SUBSTANCE USE, a list of DISCUSSION TOPICS (topics which may elicit questions from kids) and MESSAGES (what values the film is conveying). Second, we do not make age-specific recommendations. Since our system is based on objective standards, not the viewer's age, we allow you, as a concerned adult, to determine whether a movie is appropriate for yourself or your children according to your own criteria. For instance, our assessment of a film like Glengarry Glen Ross is very different when compared to our assessment of Pulp Fiction despite the fact that the MPAA awarded both an R. Glengarry Glen Ross got its MPAA R rating for very heavy profanity while Pulp Fictionn got its R rating for extreme violence, sexual situations as well as heavy profanity. If you don't mind profanity then Glengarry Glen Ross would be OK to watch since it contains no sex, nudity or violence. So, while both films were awarded the same rating by the MPAA, their content is totally different. Again it's up to you.

Are your ratings and the MPAA's comparable?

Usually there is a high degree of correlation between our ratings and the MPAA's rating. As we mentioned above, the big difference is that our ratings are more meaningful since they analyze content without making recommendations.

How do you assign the numerical ratings?

Our ratings reflect objective categories of potentially objectionable material. Unlike the MPAA, we do not assign a single, age-specific rating. Instead we assign each film three distinct, category-specific ratings: one for SEX & NUDITY, one for VIOLENCE & GORE and one for LANGUAGE. Each rating is on a scale of zero to ten, depending on quantity (more F-words, for instance, will mean a higher LANGUAGE rating, and so on) as well as context (especially when it comes to the categories of sex, nudity, violence and gore, since they are not as easily quantifiable as profanity). Hence, two movies which have received the same rating -- let's say a 9 in VIOLENCE & GORE -- will not necessarily contain an equal amount of violence; they are only similar in the level of violence they contain. Plus, like most numerical rating systems, the numbers are inherently approximations (think of them as plus-or-minus-one). Only the detailed descriptions we provide with each review will give you the proper context.

Who determines what's "potentially objectionable"?

Any set of standards is of course relative -- some would argue even arbitrary -- but we do need standards nevertheless. Hence in order to determine what constitutes "potentially objectionable material" we depend on what most people in the United States and Western Europe consider erotic, violent and profane. To put it in rather pompous sociological terms, we follow the general standards of contemporary western civilization.

Are your assessments objective, as you state?

If by "objective" you mean impartial, then yes. We do not have any affiliation with Hollywood or any film studio and thus we're excruciatingly unbiased. While the MPAA is doing a good job most of the time, we have found that its close relationship with the filmmaking industry has produced some questionable ratings, especially when it comes to films by powerful directors or producers (for instance, we thought that Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park and its sequel The Lost World: Jurassic Park were too violent for a PG-13 rating). Now, if you mean "objective" as in detached, we're not. We can't be. While we strive to be scrupulously fair, and we list all objectionable scenes in exhaustive detail, we do have to make subjective assessments for every film. For instance, a scene of innocent frontal nudity (as in Waking Ned Devine) is not the same as a scene of erotic frontal nudity (as in Showgirls or Color of Night or other sexually explicit thrillers). Our well-trained reviewers know how to put a scene in its proper context.

Do you condemn films with high ratings?

Absolutely not. Unlike other services that attempt to rate films for parents and other concerned adults, we're not connected to any religious or political group. And we are absolutely not in the business of condemning films. In fact, as regular filmgoers we're perfectly aware that there are a lot of films which may not be suitable for children but which are more enjoyable and edifying than many G and PG films. Our agenda is simple: We consider ourselves consumer reporters, reporting on the most consumed entertainment product on the planet. Our reviews are basically a list of ingredients, similar to what you find on food item labels. To carry the analogy to its ludicrous conclusion, we let you know how much fat a film contains, but we're not going to tell you not to consume it. We offer no nutritional advice; besides, many people like fat. We simply enable you to make an informed decision.

Has your rating method been the same since 1992?

For the most part the ratings have been consistent, and our format is the same. However, our approach has not been as consistent as we would have liked it to be. The problem is that we've been around for a very long time (Kids-In-Mind started publishing in 1992). We've been constantly fiddling around trying to improve our approach since our inception -- and we have no intention of ever stopping. The result is that several of our older reviews follow a different style. For instance, we did not list scenes in as much detail as we do now. Also, until recently our plot descriptions were cursory at best and often we did not include the names of actors. We are in the process of re-editing older reviews to comply with our current approach -- until we make another change and we have to start all over again.

What does "scatological" mean? "Religious profanities"?

Ah, we actually get this question a lot, so don't be perturbed if you've been perplexed. We fully appreciate your predicament. But we have to be careful not to spell out each word since that would mean spelling out profanities ourselves. So we do try to write as clinically as possible and we try to avoid spelling out words that are considered obscene or profane by using euphemisms: Briefly, scatological terms are words that have to do with feces and urine, like "sh*t," "bullsh*t" and "p*ss"; mild obscenities are exclamations like "damn" and "hell"; anatomical terms are words like "*ss," "*sshole," "d*ck" and "d*ckhead"; religious profanities are things like "God d*mn"; and religious exclamations are "God!" and "Jesus!"

DEFINITION OF TERMS

F-word derivatives: Words based on, or incorporating, the F-word. Examples include f***er and motherf***er.

Scatological terms: Words that have to do with feces, urine and defecation. Examples include "sh*t," "bullsh*t," "sh*thead," and p*ss.

Religious profanities: Words and expressions that religious people, especially Christians, find profane and blasphemous. Examples include "God d*mn" and "God d*mn you."

Religious exclamations: Words and expressions that mention God or other religious figures to add emphasis or express strong emotion. Examples include "God!" "My God!" "Jesus!" and "Jesus Christ!"

Anatomical terms: Words referring to parts of the human anatomy, mostly the private parts, and are considered crude. Examples include "*ss," "*sshole," "d*ck," "d*ckhead," and "t*ts."

Mild obscenities: Words used in everyday language, but that may be offensive to some. Examples include "damn," "hell," "friggin," as well as milder forms of anatomical terms like "boobs."

Obscene hand gesture: Holding up the middle finger, or using the index and middle finger in an upward motion, thus signifying sexual coitus.

Sexual references: Characters refer to sex, having sex, and using other specific sexual terms like "screw."

Derogatory terms: Words or expressions that are used to denigrate and insult one's racial or ethnic background, gender or sexual orientation: Examples include the N-word, various anti-Semitic terms, and anti-homosexual terms like fa**ot.

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CAVEATS

Be aware that while we do our best to avoid spoilers it is impossible to disguise all details and some may reveal crucial plot elements.

We've gone through several editorial changes since we started covering films in 1992 and older reviews are not as complete & accurate as recent ones; we plan to revisit and correct older reviews as resources and time permits.

Our ratings and reviews are based on the theatrically-released versions of films; on video there are often Unrated, Special, Director's Cut or Extended versions, (usually accurately labelled but sometimes mislabeled) released that contain additional content, which we did not review.


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