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Film Reviewing is Like Telling Another Story...YOUR STORY!!

  • Nov 14, 2009
Rating:
+5

Honestly, I really don’t think I should be writing something about “reviewing” in this site; not that I think that it isn’t necessary but because I feel that I am not exactly qualified seeing as 1) I am not a professional movie critic 2) I believe reviews are a reflection of one’s personal taste 3) I believe there are better writers than I am 4) I don’t think anyone would care what I think of reviewing. My friends Sean Rhodes and Cenobite7 both gave their two cents in the art of reviewing. Both write ups were incredibly well-written and very informative. I don’t think I can add anything else to the info both of them had shared. So what the heck am I doing following their write ups under a data point? Well, I mostly review movies and most of the time, I review movies that aren’t that well known; I try to review things other than mainstream Hollywood. I guess this write up would serve me better than any other reviewer; consider it a personal reminder and maybe a “guide” if you will to movie reviewing.

As I’ve said, I may not be qualified but hey, consider this a  to Lunch.com newbies who want to review movies in this site.
 
I am NOT a movie critic but I am a cinema fan. This is a hobby, and I am not getting paid to write reviews, but it has become a sort of a personal passion. I love comparing notes with my friends here at Lunch and I have learned from each of them. Anyway, consider what I am about to discuss my own personal guideline to reviewing movies--not to teach but to share and so maybe I can be better understood. Again, some of you may wonder how I can review Transformers 2 and give it a 2 star rating and then I review a lesser known movie (like Crank 2) and gave it a weak 3.5 stars. This is my personal guideline; it may not be perfect but it is my own…
 
Be Emotionally Detached and Remain Level-Headed.
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Emotions can play games on our mind how we react or how we like a film. I tend to avoid reviewing my favorite movies because I may become too biased and may sound too much of a fan boy. Don’t instinctively give a film a great rating because you like the director, actor or the film’s premise. Let’s say the new STAR TREK movie which has a huge fan base or the latest Transformers movie; I try not to get too excited that a new movie from my favorite franchise is being released, it compromises objectivity. I keep my emotions in check but I do allow the movie to instill whatever emotions it should wthin my gut. Nostalgia is good and entertainment value is good, but it has nothing to do with the WHOLE of the movie you are currently watching. Not to say they’re good or bad movies, but a reviewer should be able to break a film down with pure passion and credibility. What is the plot? How's the acting...the characters? It also works the other way around, just because a movie didn’t meet your expectations means that it is a bad movie. (I will discuss this next) Above all, keep your expectations low and remain hopeful to what you are about to watch...
 
Look for what the Film is trying to Express
NOT what You Want to see in a Film.
Sean Rhodes and I have discussed this numerous times. As he’s stated “an apple isn’t an orange” and this is a great way to put it. Let’s say that you don’t agree with the way Ridley Scott approached the way he made “Gladiator” or how Kim Ki-Duk makes Korean movies. Don’t expect “Citizen Kane” from “Crank 2”. A viewer has to go into the mindset of the director and take in the story to really know the film inside out. Let’s say you get offended with sex scenes or you say that “boring because it is like a reality show” as with “Paranormal Activity” or if a movie is disturbing, which sometimes is the point to the film (to be disturbing); find the reason for the movie in the first place. Complaining why something is, wouldn’t make your review credible it just shows how you reacted to the movie. Your reaction isn’t how everybody else would react, therefore it would only be an opinion and not entirely a  review. It is easy to just criticize or praise a movie or topic, but this is not reviewing. Myself, I usually put myself in the movie character’s or even the director's shoes. What would I do in that situation? 

      
 Read Between the Lines
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Thematic and Art House films require breaking down the films themselves. I love Asian cinema because they avoid the perfunctory happy endings. Instead of showing motivations for a scene, they may ask the viewer for the motivation. Great directors and writers know how to provoke a reaction. Learning to identify the anatomy of a scene is vital to movie reviewing. Looking for the positives of a film is vital to also identifying its negatives.
 
Capture the Tone of the film
I personally try to reflect the tone of the movie I am reviewing. Don’t be afraid to use the “Thesaurus” in Microsoft word. (I find it very helpful) If you’re reviewing a horror film, capture your emotions; if a drama, reflect just how dramatic the movie is and so on. Showing your enthusiasm for a movie (whether good or bad) is infectious to the reader. Adding some research to the film’s background and a summary/teaser of the film’s plot helps the reader to get into the rhythm. It also helps to know your audience.
 
Make Educated Comparisons to an original film…
…But don’t make this the main ‘ingredient’ of your review. Comparing sequels to original movies and remakes to originals are all well and good; however, avoid falling too much into this trap. Keep the focus on the film being reviewed. I loved “A Tale of Two Sisters” and disliked its American remake “The Uninvited”--review them separately and each film standing alone. Keep the topic about the original or the remake’s plot elements not how one outdoes the other. Also, it is a bad idea to compare a new movie to a director's earlier works. Example: rating Avatar as to how it compared to James Cameron's earlier works is not credible; a director's earlier work is different from his present ones. Why should you compare "Saving Prvate Ryan" to "Forrest Gump"? It is a case of apples and oranges once again.  Ok to compare but never forget that you are reviewing a stand alone movie which may be meant for a different audience.
 
Work Hard on the Review
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A reviewer is only as good as his/her last review. I often say my reviews are only as good as the film being reviewed. I write reviews to share what I have seen about movies I am passionate about. Try to share as much as you learn in your review. Back up your opinion, minimize spoilers unless absolutely necessary to prove a point. Capture your initial reaction and jot down notes during or after you see the film. Just ‘wing it”, it is ok to make grammatical errors (it is fixable) and be as opinionated and analytical (if need be) as you can. Question Yourself. Learn to doubt your own reaction to the film. You may be wrong and it is always a smart call to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes. Write from your heart and you learn from your own mistakes. Do not review a film you haven’t finished; It is just totally unfair to the reader. Most importantly, stay on your own side of the road. Make your descriptions vivid and engaging so that the reader can MAKE their OWN decision whether the movie is for them or not. It is not about how you rated the movie after all, but how you help others make an informed decision.
 
Find Something that is Your Own

                        
 
Be an individual, Find Your Style and know what you like and dislike. I usually open a review with a little basic background, a summary or a teaser to the film’s plot then my actual opinion of the film. My style is pretty much very basic and very simple. Open well and close the review well. Also, if you hate romantic comedies or if you hate exploitive cinema then don’t review films from this genre too often. Find what you are into and stick to it--however, be open-minded to other genres since there have been some movies under a genre I usually hate (like romance movies) but I would be caught totally by surprise. (“My Sassy Girl” and “Cyborg She” are great examples) Be adventurous and open, and think not inside or outside a box but deny that there is a box.
 
Make your Own Guidelines and learn to identify certain things. I have questions I ask myself:
1) Was I entertained?
2) Did all the plot elements fit the film’s screenplay or tone?
3) Is it Original, Creative or a Hack job?
4) How are the characters and performances?
5) Is it a popcorn film, an art house film or something with a theme?
6) Is it actually meant to be this way?
 
Reviewing itself is like TELLING A STORY.
Do not just copy product information and make a summary from the back cover. Whether by pictures and funny quips, get your readers’ attention--you can make a short humorous review. Reviewing is an art form and learn to respect (and maybe inspire) your readers. They took the time to read, the best a reviewer can do is make it worth their time but don't beat around the bush. Be as direct as possible while taking the reader on a journey. Remember a review isn't how you liked or why you liked a movie but putting your eyes in two viewpoints; the positives and the negatives. Oh, a review does not need to be long to be effective; be real, sincere and direct with your feelings/opinion about the movie. There are two types of readers: those who really like short reviews and there are those who wants to read long stories. It is your story--write whatever you feel.

I try to work hard to promote lesser known movies; Hollywood gets all the attention, so I need to find something else to review. Be credible, focused, and above all, have fun. Do it for yourself and not for anyone else.  But the biggest reward in writing a review on an obscure film is that someone out there may pick up the movie on your recommendation...it is intangible but makes the effort worthwhile!
 
You are a guest in a filmmaker’s art form so one needs to get himself into the film itself--whether the viewer likes it or not. Avoid presenting your assumptions about the film/director/writer as fact. Be honest with yourself; turn off the dvd player if you are getting disconnected and try again. Need two viewings? Go right ahead. First and foremost have fun in writing any review. Film reviewing is not a job, it is a passion. This is how I approach my movie reviews, whether you agree or not is all good. This is me.
 
Thank you very much. Enjoy your visit to Movie Hype at Lunch.com...

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Reviewing is Like Telling Another Story...YOUR STORY!!

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May 09, 2012
I would have liked this better if it were about book reviews. Kidding. You've done a terrific job crafting an insightful piece and I couldn't agree more about how irritating it can be when people judge a movie based on what they wanted it to be instead of what it is. Nicely done.
 
March 27, 2011
Interesting article. I've never actually broken down my own approach to film criticism. Considering the way I write, would you say that I'm doing it correctly (he asked in a desperate plea for approval)?
March 27, 2011
I know I'm not William, but I wanted to say that I enjoy your reviews, Chris, and I think you're doing them "right," if there are such concrete determining factors of correct and incorrect reviews. :)
March 27, 2011
don't worry about this write up. I think I wrote this in the site's early days and new members expressed their need to get inspiration. Oh, Chris you are doing it correctly (I prefer your reviews to my own at times). (I think reviews leave the writer's touch and identity. There is indeed no determining factors as to how anyone does a review and indeed I don't think there are incorrect reviews only wacky reviewers =).

However, Adri did an awesome answer to reviewing in one of the questions (so I asked her to do one) and Chris, I would love yours so I could pick your brain! 
March 27, 2011
To both Adrianna and William, thanks for the feedback. It's perhaps a little sad, possibly even desperate, for me to seek approval from others. But because I don't receive too many review comments, there are times when I'm not sure how I'm measuring as part of the Lunch community. When I read your article, William, it got me thinking: Maybe I'm not getting a lot of feedback because I'm doing it wrong. I guess it's not a question of doing it wrong, but simply of being fairly new to this site.
March 27, 2011
If you are looking for more comments and feedback from users, I recommend adding people as friends and following their contributions. I've noticed that when people are following my writing, they are more likely to comment on what I am reviewing (and vice versus). By adding people as friends and following their reviews, they in turn will follow you and give you feedback, especially if you send out bulletins or ask your followers/friends for specific feedback. :)
March 27, 2011
And it is not desperate to seek approval from others, especially when you are new to a site/community. You're doing great, Chris!
March 27, 2011
Great suggestions as always, Adri! I have to say Chris is an invaluable member of the community and he is one of the strongest reviewers I've seen. I think he should indeed get more feedback but sometimes folks are shy about these things. I do like the "number of views" thing added in the site. It helps to know how many folks read reviews.
 
March 26, 2011
Excellent advice! I loved it! I can't believe I missed this one. You're amazingly organized here. I'm intimidated about adding my own to the slew already out there about writing, lol!
March 27, 2011
Adri, your answer under one of those questions was awesome! That alone can be posted here, but of course, I know that you have much more to share about reviewing... ;)
March 27, 2011
LOL! The problem with me is that I will want to add more to that answer. I am not a writer who thinks it's got to be "short and sweet" to be good. ;)
 
November 18, 2010
AMAZING review WP, you are with out a doubt a brilliant writer Sir, love the title.
 
September 20, 2010
I don't agree with a lot of what you're saying, Woop--and no, I'm not going to write up my point of view in a separate review. Suffice it say that when dealing with a remake it's more than acceptable to compare it to the original--after all the people who made the film could have done something original but they chose to "copy" an exisiting work so they openned themselves up to comparison. Likewise directors or writers at different stages in their careers NEED to have their present work compared to their previous work--either because they've vastly improved or because they've taken a sudden nose-dive--or because they've fallen into a rut and are turning out the same film over and over again. Or because everything they do simply stinks. Are you listening Roland Emmerich and Michael Bay?
September 20, 2010
well...of course comparison between an original and a remake is unavoidable (especially if the remake is done shot-for-shot), but I don't think it should be the main focus of a review. For example, THE FLY or THE THING (arguably better than the originals) one needs to look at the point of view of the times when the remake is made. I was just saying that some folks just review a remake against the original, and (I while I do agree that it is a legitimate case), one also has to consider the remake's entertainment value (if any). I reviewed Zombie's Halloween 2 separately from the original before; if I did a mere comparison from the original then I would've rated it lower than a 3 since I loved the original Halloween. Does that make sense? Anyway, this write up is all an opinion, not meant to be taken seriously.. :)
September 20, 2010
oh, Emmerich and Bay are major hacks LOL!
September 21, 2010
I think that a comparison is called for when the remake either doesn't work at all or is just a frame by frame reworking of the orignal as in the case of PSCHO. How can anyone justify that?
September 21, 2010
It does of course. There are some reviews that I've seen that were more about rants than actually comparing the remake from the original. I can't comment on the Psycho thing, since I've only seen the original. How was the remake?
September 21, 2010
It was in color and starred Vince Vaughn and Anne Heche (?) and followed the original literally frame for frame except it addedNorman masturbating as he peeps through at his victim in the shower. I hate Vince Vaughn.
September 21, 2010
Good thing I skipped it then. I loved the Psycho series with Anthony Perkins (well, maybe I didn't love the last one, but it was still decent IMO). I am not fond of Vaughnn either, he plays the same characters over and over again.
September 21, 2010
He seems to think he's funny, and then he does PSYCHO. I don't get it.
September 22, 2010
me neither. I don't think Psycho should ever be remade anyhoo.
March 27, 2011
Just adding my two cents on the Psycho remake. Everyone is right in that it's nowhere near as good as the original. However, I disagree that Vince Vaughn was a bad choice for it. In my opinion, he was creppy as Norman Bates. The real disappointment was Julianne Moore as Lila Crane. There was no passion, no real sense of worry or determination; she was monotone and detached. they updated her character by having her listen to a walkman constantly, making her seem like a moody college student.
April 02, 2011
Yeah, that too. You'd be hard pressed to find anything that's RIGHT with that flick though. Vaughn creeps me out in general too, but not in a horror movie kind of way. Kind of like Bob Crane used to do. Oh, and on the subject of your reviews, take heart. The fact that I featured you in so many of my bulletins should tell you something!
 
September 17, 2010
wow thanks so much for this it really puts a lot of things into perspective and to be honest i love reading your reviews because you dont write about "hollywood"films. its def a breath of fresh air! keep it up...
September 17, 2010
Hi! Thanks for the kind words. If you guys keep reading then I'll keep writing.
September 28, 2010
=) x's 1,000,000,000,000,000,000
 
April 18, 2010
can i make froends with you ?
April 18, 2010
I am a chinese university student majoring in English !
April 18, 2010
Thank you !
April 18, 2010
sure...just clcik on add to friends.
 
March 05, 2010
"Look for what the film is trying to express...NOT want you want to see in a film." An excellent way to put it. I've run into this numerous times. I always try to read up one everything a little bit before going into it, so I'll at least know what to expect. That's actually one of the reasons why reviewing (and Lunch) is so wonderful. Before I began watching "Shigurui" (I'm on episode four now), I re-read your review so that I could know what to expect. I knew I could trust your review, and I knew it wouldn't contain too many, if any, spoilers. I love this site. Thanks for this helpful review that really demonstrated your passion for, well, reviewing :)
March 05, 2010
Thanks, Ula. This is more of guideline for me than anything else. It's just a method that works for me, I think and I am glad you enjoyed reading my little welcome to new lunchers. So you're on episode 4 now eh? ooohhh boy! I am so jealous since you are seeing it for the first time!
March 05, 2010
You're welcome. I didn't see this little welcome until I'd already been on the site for a few months, but that's alright. So you wish that you could see it for the first time again?
March 05, 2010
nothing beats watching Shigurui that FIRST time.
March 06, 2010
Haha, I see. I don't know much about samurai as of yet (I own "Bushido" but haven't had time to read it yet), but would you say that "Shigurui" portrays samurai pretty accurately?
March 06, 2010
well, that is a good question. The series was inspired by real events after all. I don't think it portrays the Bushido code accurately, (Hara-Kiri and Samurai Rebellion does that the best, I reviewed those here) but it is a damn good mythical tale.
March 06, 2010
Aah, you're killing me. More anime recommendations! Why did I have to be born with the physiological necessity for sleep...That's interesting. I was just curious about Shigurui's link to the Bushido code. It won't affect my viewing experience in any way.
March 06, 2010
ha-ha! Oh, if you like mecha, try a samurai-mecha hybrid in SAMURAI 7 (a tribute to Kurosawa's SEVEN SAMURAI). I feel the exact same thing when I read Jrider and Frank's reviews...
March 06, 2010
Samurai 7 was another title on my list, but I didn't know it was a mecha series. Yeah, my Amazon wishlist has something like 200+ anime titles on it. I doubt I'll ever be able to watch all of them, as I'm constantly adding new ones, but I can't bring myself to delete them either, because I don't know what I'd be missing out on.
 
December 01, 2009
Great stuff to think about and well communicated. I tend to do some of the things that you avoid, but I also feel that since I'm not a pro I can be more reactive b/c that's the kind of perspective that my friends and family would expect of me. Maybe people should read your review AND my review to the same movie to get two completely different takes. Oh...and don't sell yourself short, my friend...you write really well.
December 01, 2009
Thank you for the kind words, dalydose. I greatly appreciate it!
December 01, 2009
It's no problem when well deserved.
 
December 01, 2009
Aye, aye, now I know why I'm not doing reviews on movies, LOL... at this rate I won't be reviewing anything! You guys are taking it all too seriously, me... I'm simply trying to be me ;-) Ditto Debbie, I'll stick to food, so much more personal :-)
December 01, 2009
...and that is the best thing about anything..just being yourself! Don't sell yourself short, my friend, anyone can review a movie. ;-)
 
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About the reviewer
William ()
Ranked #2
Please "Like" Film and Movies and Keep the Economy strong....LOL!!      My Interests: Movies, Anime, History, Martial Arts, Comics, Entertainment,Cooking, Things I don't … more
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