Curious what our ratings mean, or how we arrive at them? Do you want to know why I’m using plural pronouns when only one guy really runs this site? So do we.

It only makes sense. Everyone wants to be able to quantify their subjective experiences with culture in a way that can be easily remembered and understood by others. The result has been a staggering array of ranking systems. 4 stars. 5 stars. 10 point scale. 100 point scale. Thumbs up or down. Red, yellow or green. Like, love and hate. See it, rent it, skip it, etc. It goes on and on and people have different reasons for their preferences, which is fine; however, it can become difficult to compare opinions stated in such diverse ways. Is a two star review from one critic the same as a 3 star review from another? How can you tell?

In the end many critics have railed against being shoehorned into numerical or yes/no systems which attempt the impossible – reducing complex film analysis to a mere number or graphic. Yet they still find themselves in want of a simple, intuitive expression of their taste. Raptor Reviews is no exception. We like shiny pictures and feel they are worth, if not a thousand words, then at least the word count of this page. So what do you get here? We’re glad you asked.

Our movie evaluations are distilled into a nifty two-part representation we like to call The Raptor Meter. You’ll see it at the top of our reviews, and it looks like this:

It may be self-explanatory, but it probably isn’t, so here’s the rundown.

The Raptor keeps track of two separate measures. The first is clearly labeled “Movie Quality.” It takes into consideration various criteria including acting, writing, special effects, quality of cinematography, emotional resonance, delivering on the premise and more; as well as (and we freely admit to this) things like personal bias and nostalgia that inevitably color any critic’s final score. In the end, it’s how much we enjoyed the film – if we liked or didn’t, would recommend it or wouldn’t. If you want to know why, the (literally) thousand or so words under the picture will tell you. I went with the ubiquitous 4 stars because I like how they look and they were fun to draw in Photoshop.

Of course, the above is a full meter which you will not often see. It takes that special movie to make The Raptor squeal with delight behind his deadly, vicious grin. Yet for those just skimming through who want to get a good idea of what the stars mean, it’s roughly as follows.

= 1 star means the movie ranges from weak to terrible. The rare travesty will receive only half a star. A one star movie usually has some kind of redeeming value but not enough that’s it’s worth 2 hours and definitely not $9 for an evening theater ticket. You’d be better off staying home to file the 6-inch, retractable, razor-sharp killing claw on your middle toe into a weapon that will terrify entire biomes. Actually that may be the best possible use of your time either way. The Raptor doesn’t like these movies.

= 2 stars means that the movie is roughly average. It may even be decent. Two star movies fill the multiplexes on any given week. These movies are usually passable entertainment and have quite a few good qualities. However those may be balanced out by equally bad qualities or maybe the whole thing is just dull and doesn’t stand out. This, likewise, doesn’t usually constitute a recommendation. The Raptor is typically indifferent to these movies.

= 3 stars denotes a good movie that will usually come recommended. Mostly they aren’t quite great, though some are. 3 star movies are solid entertainments. They are of above average quality, or if not, then they are unusually rewatchable, funny, thrilling, or smart. The Raptor likes these movies. He may even take some time out from his cattle speed-eating drills and bunker-infiltration exercises to catch one.

= 4 stars means that the movie ranges from great to excellent. These movies are a cut above – they represent the best of their genres and release years. A 4 star movie is one that we thoroughly enjoyed. It does not mean that the movie is perfect. There are only a handful of films in the world that could approach that kind of pedigree and reserving an entire tier of our rating system just for them seemed unnecessary. The Raptor loves these movies and they come highly recommended.

That brings us to the second part of the Raptor Meter: “Creature Quotient.” The fact that I themed my blog around dinosaurs should tell you something about me. I grew up watching old Godzilla movies on VHS on Saturday afternoons. When Jurassic Park hit theaters it was a defining moment in my young life. I have a soft spot for campy B monster shows, and I absolutely adore a high-quality, suspenseful creature feature like Alien or Jaws. Supernatural horrors are fine, and serial killers are okay I guess, and government conspiracies have their place… but the descendants of King Kong are what really get me into the theater. Killer fish, mutant sharks, acid blobs, 50-foot-dinosaurs and creeping, howling, hulking monstrosities are the call of the day.

So for those of you out there who are like me, I’ve included a handy (and very, very generalized) key to tell you whether there are any otherworldly reptiles in your movie. A high CQ means the film is crawling with creatures – either there are a lot of them, or just one or two that figure very prominently in the story. One raptor symbol is few to none – maybe just a house cat or chimp. The star rating is more important to me since there are at least a couple of good movies out there that don’t feature dinosaurs; but for my money, the higher both meters are, the better.

I hope you enjoy your stay in the jungle.