Waterloo High School sophomores David Tillinghast and Jonathan “JP” Perchitti have never heard of Siskel and Ebert, but these 16-year-olds have much in common with the Chicago journalists-turned-movie reviewers.
Like Siskel and Ebert — who started their show in the mid-1970s and eventually gained a national following on PBS – these two teens love movies. And just as much, they love sharing their impressions of the flicks they watch as a duo.
Last fall, Tillinghast and Perchitti — who have been friends for about three years — launched their blog The Cinemasters (https://thecinemasters.com/). They post movie reviews twice a week — both new releases and older classics. Although some of their peers know what they are up to, these flick-loving teens are seeking a wider audience for their reviews.
“We’re both pretty passionate about movies,” said Tillinghast, who is the more tech-savvy of the two and in charge of uploading the reviews to the site. “We try to do newer movies but if we can’t make it to one we do older ones.”
Sometimes the pair will view the movies together, other times if they are too busy they will watch them alone at home and text each other their impressions. Their work is divided up into reviews, rankings and head to head categories — where the two review different movies in the same franchise (i.e. “A Nightmare on Elm Street” 1984 vs. 2010).
The duo kept their project quiet for a few months, as they worked out the kinks and built up their repertoire of reviews. In April they started telling people about the site, which in the latest month has attracted about 100 visitors.
“We wanted to get a lot of content on the website before we actually shared it, to make sure it was a real thing,” said Tillinghast, the son of Bobbie Jeffers, Bill Goodman and Stephen Tillinghast.
They cover all sorts of genres and often try to a review a movie that is timely with a holiday. For example, this past Memorial Day weekend they posted a review of the 2016 film “Hacksaw Ridge,” about a World War II medic. Each review offers impressions of the acting, direction, script and characters, among other elements. Tillinghast and Perchitti each also write a personal review and together determine a score for the movie. (Hacksaw Ridge garnered a 9.3 out of 10).
“Really, we like all kinds of movies,” said Perchitti, the son of Thomas and Ivy Perchitti.
This summer the pair intend to put more time into their blog, which they hope will educate others. Watching the movies, determining what to write and creating a website has certainly been a learning experience for them, too.
“We do try very much to keep it balanced between opinion and critical thinking,” Tillinghast said.
In fact, having to review a breadth of movies has expanded his movie palate.
“I was not into the Mission Impossible franchise at all,” he said, “but then I binge watched all six of them to rank them and I actually like them quite a bit.”
The Cinemasters also know that others may not be as passionate about film as they are, but Tillinghast and Perchitti aim to offer a service to someone who might want to learn more about a movie before heading out to the theater or choosing a couch flick at home. The website Rotten Tomatoes, they said, can be overwhelming to some because there are so many reviews of just one film to weed through.
“We’d like to show them that movies are a form of entertainment they’d be very interested in if they took the time to explore them,” Perchitti said. “We intend to do this for the long run; this is not just a short-term project.”