jinni Review

A few of you may seen my "HTPC – Start page" blog a little while ago. In that post I was trying to decribe a move away from the traditional menu based system for your "start page" and move towards a system of recommendations, social aspects and interacting with newly added media such as music, movies and TV. Boxee has made some moves in that direction which I certainly appreciate and I will be following development closely. However, my primary HTPC platform will remain Windows Media Center, at least until a replacement for OEM-only CableCards come out.

In the mean time, I am on the look out for different recommendation engines to help me get the most out of my Netflix subscription :). I just haven’t had the time to follow the movie scene as closely as I would have liked and so I am not really in tune with what movie is a stinker or not these past few years. Enter jinni, a website that aims to take what has been perfected from the music world and apply it to movie and TV recommendations. 

I can forgive their obvious borrowing from Pandora’s Genome project if they can apply the basic building blocks of a movie to the same level of success Pandora, Zune, and other music recommendation services have had. As with most preference services, you have to apply a bit of training before the service will begin to act like a mind reader.

<Insert movie>

I was discussing Mel Brook’s films the other day with coworkers and decided I would make that the first test of jinni. There are a few movies I really like but I can’t really remember them all. If all goes good, I should end up with a solid recommendation of Mel Brook’s movies plus quite a few other movies in the same humor style.

An easy approach to finding out more movies that are like "Spaceballs" would be to type in Spaceballs and see what other movies are similar in nature. In this case, jinni focused in on space as the the theme for movies it returned. Not to say this is a bad thing but Star Trek and Star Wars are not the movies I had in mind. What wasn’t immediate apparent was the ability to choose movies by a director. In this case, you must click on the cast and crew to see the director and by clicking on the director you can get a list of movies he or she has directed.

Going back to the movie screen, you can see the building blocks of the movie. Genre, mood, plot, audience, praise, and attitudes are all available. I decided to start at a top level search and use the parody genre as a starting point :). I should be able to drill may way down to a manageable list of movies I may want to rent. A great start! Classics like Naked Gun and Blazing Saddles were found plus more modern movies like Austin Powers. After a few minutes, I ended up with the Three Amigos & Get Smart added to my Netflix rental list. Not bad for less than 5 minutes of browsing.

Next up, I wanted to add a modern WW2 flick I have yet to see. This is a pretty tough chore as I have watched most of the WW2 epics that have came out in the last 10 years or so. A good place to start is Time/Period and choose WW2. It really doesn’t get any easier in this case. I ended up with Downfall, made in 2004, out of this search. So far so good :). 

After playing withit for a awhile now, I have come to appreciate the visual cloud UI. The larger thumbnails are more relvant to your search based on the movies you like and the building blocks you choose. What I wouldn’t mind is an option to turn the relative size off or mute the effect a tad. The smaller thumbnails are sometimes harder to see. Sometimes you find a movie you want to watch when you least expect it.