From: Dan Stiffler <email@example.com>, 15 Apr 2003
Make the reviews matter. Recently, PLAYBOY released its music reviewers, four of them, and hired a new batch. What does it matter? Are these new kids on the block supposed to be more hip? A reader could never tell because the most any review runs is three or four sentences. Some are shorter. The film reviews are equally superficial, although I do appreciate Maltin's short essays on film-related topics—but even those are sidebars. How much better to focus on one or two films that would be of particular interest to the PLAYBOY reader, rather than trying to cover more bases with less? Book reviews are even less substantial, if that is possible. This is exactly the place for PLAYBOY to once again establish a stable of writers. And then let them write.
From: Peggy Wilkins <firstname.lastname@example.org>, 26 May 2003
Subject: Challenge to PLAYBOY's editors
The magazine is too short; add more pages, make PLAYBOY more substantial. Dan mentioned he would like to see expanded reviews because the current ones are too short. I fully agree with this, and I think it is significant that someone I gave a PLAYBOY gift subscription to independently told me that the reviews (like in many other magazines) are so short as to be mostly useless. Putting more real substance in reviews would be a great service to readers.
From: Dan Stiffler <email@example.com>, 28 May 2003
Subject: Challenge to PLAYBOY's editors
This is an area where I would like to see the "radical change" that Peggy calls for. Even in its early incarnation, After Hours did not have "expanded reviews," although compared to what we have seen in recent years they were veritable dissertations (they were also trenchant). I suppose one thing about June's changes that can be seen as a positive is the introduction of a Movie or CD or Game or DVD or even a Book of the Month (the latter seems a little derivative, doesn't it?). In each case, the reader actually has a little more to read about the subject under review. However, to use films as an example, the "now showing" and "score card" have all the weight of those fifteen-second reviews for which Leonard Maltin is infamous. I get just as much information from the so-called reviews that come across the PA system at the Kroger.
June's "Movie of the Month" (X2) is not, as others have noted, reviewed as much as a previewed in the form of a brief conversation with actress Kelly Hu. The callout pretty much sums it up: "They wanted the fighting to look quick and vicious." Gee.
Under the new format, we seem to have two rating systems: the rabbit heads and a new thermometer-like "buzz," which is connected to "Our Call." The movie review pages, at least, look like the report of a committee—not a good thing.
What I would like to see are reviews that are substantial discussions of a work or product that would have some relevance to the interests of a Man Who Reads Playboy. Again, using films as an example, why not an examination of Secretary, a wonderful "little film" that presents a sadomasochistic relationship in a way similar (to borrow an analogy from the director) to My Beautiful Laundromat's presentation of homosexual love? A willingness to discuss sexual relations has been one of the defining features of PLAYBOY's content over the years. I would like to see full-page reviews of films that say something interesting—and in relation to the Playboy Philosophy—on that subject. Another film for a full review might have been Auto Focus, which makes dangerous implications about the addictive nature of pornography. In the DVD section PLAYBOY could have full discussions of classic films, ones that dealt with sex in provocative ways during their era (I just watched Candy the other day).
If PLAYBOY were to follow such a model, then the reviews would be distinctive, not to mention worth reading. As it stands, the review pages have improved marginally, in both content and design...but real change? Nah.
From: Brad Hodges <firstname.lastname@example.org>, 16 Mar 2004
Subject: The woeful movie review section
The film review sections haven't been the same since Bruce Williamson died. Now I find them a waste of pages. The DVD section is puzzling—why waste space on a review of The Cat in the Hat? Is that relevant to the readers of Playboy? I wish they would list DVDs that devoted readers would WANT to watch—don't give us two-and-a-half star reviews. I kind of liked when they had a "film school" sidebar—it led me to renting quite a few French New Wave films, for example, but they seemed to have dropped that idea.