With the autumn film season about to hit its stride now through the holidays, a time when Hollywood has the Oscars in mind, the smart phone might be a moviegoer's best friend.
With a phone and an array of apps, showtimes, and reviews are never far away.
One of the best showtime apps is from the Internet Movie Database, owned by Amazon. Among its various other entertaining functions, like listing an actor's filmography and movie trivia, IMDB has a very good showtime section. The app is free on both iOS and Android.
On the iPhone version, showtimes are listed prominently upon opening the app. This section is ready with default data, including the movies showing that day at local theaters. The user interface couldn't be simpler. The films are split into new releases and "also playing" films, and the showtimes are sortable by movie or by theater. As I write this, for example, the app is saying that if I want to see Skyfall I have limited options nearby, but in another neighborhood, there's a midnight showing. But if I want to see Asterix and Obelix: God Save Britannia, I can walk to the theater a mile away and choose one of three showings tonight.
Since this app is from the Internet Movie Database, a lot of extra data is available, drawn from the site's millions of movie facts. Each movie in the showtime list has a trailer, an age rating, the time it is playing and how many stars it has been awarded. The app will also tell you a theater's phone number, and use the Maps app to give directions.
On Android, the app's interface is slightly different, and slightly more graphics-based. But it shows the same comprehensive showtime data along with all movie details and extra features like previews. I actually prefer the dark theme of the app on a Nexus 7 to the stark whiteness of the iOS version.
Unlike some of the many similar apps, and thanks to the global nature of IMDB itself, this app works outside the United States — especially useful for travelers.
The Fandango app, free on iOS and Android, is also highly popular. Alongside all the usual showtimes and theater information, Fandango offers a handy "next hour" feature. For people who want to see a movie on the spur of the moment, Fandango can help. Users can buy tickets via the app, although only for participating theaters. The newest edition of Fandango on iPhones running iOS 6 can store digital ticket information inside Apple's Passbook.
The app is designed to be easy to use, but it's a little clunky and ugly compared to some of its peers — especially the IMDB app. The ticket-buying feature, however, holds great appeal, since it means skipping some lines in the theater. But be aware, it's an extra $1.25 for the convenience.
Some users may prefer a scaled-down approach, one that doesn't chew up data for images or video and loads in seconds. The free iOS app Showtimes is good for this. It's a no-nonsense app that lists showtimes by theater, with the available movies in a scrollable list. It has an option to show trailers, and to see what movies are considered popular.
Now, remember to turn off your phone before the show starts.
Perfectly timed for the seasonal change, Weather Puppy (free on iOS) has had a big upgrade. It's possibly the cutest weather app you've ever seen: It shows a photo of a puppy that suits the local forecast. Extra photos are now included, or users can include photos of their own dog (or, we suppose, cat).
If your Android phone is running Android 4.0 or newer and you're envious of iPhone's Siri, check out Nuance's Dragon Mobile Assistant (free in the United States). It's a test version right now, but it has all the right voice command tricks like composing text or Twitter messages and making calendar appointments.