Since its incarnation, Flixster has aimed to be a social hub for movie fanatics. The jack-of-all-trades site combines trailers, user ratings, Rotten Tomatoes reviews, and a massive movie database into web, mobile, and set-top box applications that have enjoyed exponential growth in recent years. Flixster's iOS offering, for instance, is a handy reference for movie previews, nearby theaters, and Tomatometer scores. It's also perhaps the best method for viewing UltraViolet digital movies on the platform, as Apple continues to ignore the studio-supported venture. Still, Flixster has faced its share of criticism over invasive marketing practices and an overly sophisticated website.

The goal is helping users find movies faster

Today Flixster unveiled a refreshed homepage (presently in beta) that aims to resolve that latter issue, helping users find new movies faster than ever before. It does so by placing a heavy emphasis on Rotten Tomatoes (both companies are owned by parent Warner Bros.) When you navigate to Flixster.com, you'll now see two sliders that will help filter movies from the site's massive database. One reflects the Tomatometer scale, bringing up only movies with the best reviews — or worst, if you're in the mood to watch a flop. The other adjusts release year, letting you focus on recent films, older classics, or something in between. There are other ways of filtering as well (i.e. including only wide-release titles and leaving out independent flicks), and the experience ultimately makes for a convenient way of picking a weekend movie, if nothing else.

Flixster will now sell you movies directly

Like before, Flixster can tell you where a movie can be watched digitally — a godsend in what has become a fragmented mess of a market. It pulls in availability data from iTunes, Amazon, Netflix, and Vudu, but there's now another option among those: Flixster itself. The company has begun selling UltraViolet-compatible movies, most of which are priced between $9 and $10. Thankfully these includes titles from all major studios, rather than relying solely on Warner's own catalog. There is some bad news, however: though they can be streamed indefinitely, purchases can be downloaded a maximum of three times and are standard definition only. Though it wouldn't commit to anything specific, the company hinted to us that high definition content should be available in the future.

UltraViolet gets a bit less confusing

Speaking of UltraViolet, Flixster has sought to address UV's needlessly complicated signup process with a single-click solution that integrates Facebook Connect. You're given a free (and randomly chosen) UV movie upon signup. Additional bonus downloads can be earned through other actions like downloading the Flixster mobile app or adding five movies to your "want to see" list. The social aspects of Flixster (friend profiles, recommendations, etc.) remain in place, largely unchanged, and are easily ignored if you're not a fan. If Flixster's focus with this beta is discoverability, we'd have to say the studio is largely on the right track.