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LIANE HANSEN, host:

If you're thinking about a book to read or a CD to listen to after the show today, Victor Godinez has a suggestion. He's the technology reporter for the Dallas Morning News and recommends a Web site called Metacritic - that's M-E-T-A-C-R-I-T-I-C dot-com. There you'll find reviews for almost every major new book, movie, game and CD.

Mr. VICTOR GODINEZ (Technology Reporter, Dallas Morning News): Think your local film reviewer is a studio suck-up who loves to see himself quoted on movie posters? Go to Metacritic.com to see how his comments compare to what his peers had to say. Are you tired of reading the same elitist claptrap about how "Transformers" doesn't hold a candle to that low-budget Indie flick about the plight of Bulgarian cucumber farmers?

Hello, Metacritic. The site compiles the reviews and the review scores, be it a letter grade, percentage or simple thumbs up or down from around the country for almost every major book, movie, game and CD that gets released every week. The grades are then averaged into a single metascore, giving you a great sense of the general verdict from reviewers around the country.

But along with the single metascore, you can also see the individual scores from every reviewer along with the first sentence or two of their review and a link to it.

The site, which was launched in 2001 by three former attorneys, doesn't compile reviews from every single reviewer. Instead Metacritic staffers pick reviews from the 30 or 40 critics they consider the best and most thoughtful in the country. That's usually enough samples to provide a wide range of opinions, although the best and worst games, movies and so forth do tend to attract fairly uniform praise or scorn.

Quirky, less well-known titles tend to garner the broadest commentary. They are also an interesting case study in how a cult film, for example, tends to be dismissed or overlooked on its original release.

Take the Coen Brothers movie, "The Big Lebowski," a goofy, musical comedy about a lazy unemployed bowler in Los Angeles and his quest to deliver a ransom payment for a kidnapped trophy wife to a band of angry nihilists. The Metacritic score for this oddball masterpiece is a pedestrian 69 out of 100 from the professional reviewers.

Many were baffled by the strange style and meandering plot. But glance over the reader reviews and the movie has an average score of 96 out of 100, reflecting its gradual migration into the cult hall of fame.

Metacritic.com, now owned by CNET Networks, which runs a variety of technology-related Web sites, does have some drawbacks. The biggest is that most of the reviews only date back to the late 90s so you can't really mine for forgotten gems from decades past.

Still, Metacritic is both a great resource for anyone looking to get the biggest bang for their entertainment buck and a superb way to waste an afternoon.

HANSEN: Victor Godinez is a technology reporter for the Dallas Morning News.

This is NPR News.

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