This week begins the 14th year of the Reel People Movie Review column in The Friday Flyer. The weekly article, written by Canyon Lakers Ron and Leigh Martel, critiques movies, but these Reel People try to make it interesting, especially in the first and last paragraphs of each review. They also have some fun in their articles with occasional inside jokes about Canyon Lake.
Everyone has differing views on movies, music, politics, etc. So, it should be no surprise that a husband and wife disagree on their ratings. “Many couples share a similar experience, so they seem to enjoy our public disagreement broadcast in the newspaper,” said Leigh. Reel People might be the only married couple publishing movie reviews on a weekly basis.
Having met at IBM more than 40 years ago, these critics are not trained in the cinematic arts and have no claims of theatrical expertise. Therefore, their reviews do not necessarily appeal to serious movie viewers. Ron insists, “Occasional viewers just want to know if a movie is worth their time and money and less interested in the technical aspects of a film, as assessed by national critics. Therefore, the name ‘Reel (real) People’ seemed to fit.”
The first movie reviewed was “Cellular” on Oct. 1, 2004, staring 22-year-old Chris Evans (now famous as “Captain America”). Since then, The Friday Flyer has published almost 700 Reel People movie reviews that can all be found on its website fridayflyer.com. During that time, the Martels have missed only eight or nine weekly reviews, but have also published many double and triple features in a single column and have reviewed as many as five movies in one article.
Movies have not always been the Martels’ passion. Raising daughters Angela and Teressa in Laguna Niguel, there was little time for movies. After the girls went off to college, Ron and Leigh moved to Canyon Lake. That same summer of 2004, they started a weekly “date night” with dinner and a movie. Only a few weeks later, The Friday Flyer advertised for a movie columnist.
As new empty nesters, Ron decided it might be interesting. As he wrote about the film they just saw, he realized Leigh had a different perspective and thought it fascinating to include her point of view in the article. Taking it a step further, they both agreed it could be fun, as a husband and wife team, to openly print their differing views, and that has generated the most consistent feedback.
A “thumbs up or down” rating was deemed too binary for them, so they discussed a one through 10 scale and a five-star rating. Having the girls graduate so recently, they related most to the school grading system. Now, each weekend, Reel People select a movie and their views are printed the following Friday.
Some would say Leigh is more discerning with her rating and Ron more generous. Leigh starts her evaluation at a “C” and adjusts depending on how it makes her feel, while Ron walks into the theater just happy to be there and starts at an “A.” As senior citizens, both subtract points for unacceptable levels of gratuitous offensiveness. Ron admits, “Most people seem to agree with Leigh.”
Reel People rarely miss a review due to travel. Movie theaters are everywhere, so they have reviewed movies seen in many cities around the world, including London’s Leicester Square. The review in The Friday Flyer’s current issue was seen in Las Vegas. They just write the review on their laptop and email it back to The Friday Flyer.
The Martels’ enjoyment of movies extends to a home theater they built in their lakefront home. It features a 140-inch screen, 2000 lumen high definition projector, Bose surround sound system and 35 theater chairs with stadium seating. Some of the chairs were originally installed at the Cal Oaks Theater in Murrieta and others are from the Historic Hemet Theater. They regularly invite close friends to “Reel People Movie Night” which sometimes include full costume on Halloween or red carpet attire on Oscar night. Either way, the evenings feature thought-provoking pictures and spirited discussion.
On movie night, even friends with common interests often disagree on movies. “This reminds us that we may disagree, but we are friends. We can and should respect each others’ opinions, not attack or belittle those that differ, as so often done in today’s politics,” said Ron.
Sometimes, strangers in stores and restaurants recognize the couple and kindly mention the column. Leigh said, “We are fortunate Reel People has served as an introduction to so many friends in the community, including all three past and present editors of The Friday Flyer: Carolyn Knight, Sharon Rice and Donna Richie. Ron said. “A married couple writing together for so many years is kind of like a bear on a unicycle. It’s not that it’s done well, but that its done at all.”
Reel People now have their own website, reelpeoplemovies.org, which provides easy access to current, recent and past reviews the couple have written for The Friday Flyer. The site also provides background information on the couple and their top rated movies. “Reel People Movies” is now a registered U.S. Trademark.