This page last edited
July 14, 2002
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A.J.'s Classroom - Reviews 101: Do the Write Thing

So you want to write a movie review, eh?  Well, you've come to the right place!  In Reviews 101, you'll learn some basic guidelines for sharing your thoughts about the cinema.  By using these techniques, you will not only be able to express your opinions, you'll be able to express them in a way that others may actually listen and respond to!
For this lesson, we're going to need an example.  Case in point; a contrary view toward  my admittedly glowing review of the movie Minority Report recently found its way into my in-box.  Here it is, minus the identity of its sender:

To: <>
Subject: minority report
Date: Thu, 11 Jul 2002 18:35:41 +0100

I did see it like you said and was board with a film that lacked pace, the
actors had little to do, the SFX was bleached out with a poor grade, the
action was good not great, the end so poor and stupid. lets face it blade
runner was made in the 70's ( Is a far better film) look at how far film
making has come and in that respect ... Minority Report was and is piss poor
film making. TC and SS should have given us a better pic just because they
made it don't make it good.

You owe me &14.00 as it was you who said it was a great movie.

Let's take a look at our review example, as it relates to the following set of guidelines...

"Respect"  Respect for the reader is the basis by which others will ultimately judge the value of your thoughts and opinions.  This is the single most important guideline to remember in communicating anything to anyone. 
"Format"  The format of this review is 'stream of conscience' in nature, much as the thoughts would occur while experiencing the film.  This is a great way to take notes, but for a written review or persuasive rebuttal, these thoughts must evolve into a more cohesive narrative.  Remember, your goal is to inform the reader and / or sway their perception of the movie.
"Focus"  How are the ideas in this review presented?  Are they fully realized?  Are the opinions expressed clearly?  For instance, our example claims that Minority Report lacked pace.  We must assume that this means the pace was too slow, for a film that lacks pace of any kind is called a 'photograph'.

"Content"  In addition to writing what you liked and disliked about a movie, you can also write to convey the spirit of the film or the moviegoing experience.  A review does not have to simply state what the movie was about.  In fact, you'll find reviews on this site that don't even mention the plot of the film!

"Grammar"  Unless the review is being purposefully written in a style meant to convey a casual, conversational mood, proper grammar is vital to having your opinions valued by the reader.  Likewise, proper punctuation is also valued.  (And yes, my readers are aware that I'm comma happy.  File it under 'style'.) 
"Research"  Always research any fact you wish to include in a review.  Even something that you are convinced is true could be erroneous!  It is very easy to fall victim to not checking the facts, and believe me, when you get one wrong, you'll hear about it!  In our example, it is difficult to face that Blade Runner was made in the 70's, since Blade Runner was released in 1982.  (Though, come to think of it, 1982 was my favorite part of the 70's.)
"Proofread" Never post a review without first proofreading it for errors!  Our review example states that the reviewer was 'board' with the film.  Did the experience of watching Minority Report really transform the above writer into a stick of lumber?  I hope not!  Spell-check, dictionary, and thesaurus programs can be very helpful to this aspect of the writing process.
"Fun"  Always have fun when writing your reviews!  Include jokes, stories, or anything else your readers may find interesting. When you write, it should be fun for you as well!  (Personally, I enjoy including the occasional sarcastic barb.)    
So, these are the basic guidelines I try to follow when writing my reviews.  I hope they aid you in creating your own!  Now, using these guidelines, let's re-write a scathing review for Steven Spielberg's Minority Report!  Remember, we want to express the same opinions as in the original example:


    In contrast to the reviews I've read praising Minority Report, I found it to be boring and slowly paced.  The actors appeared just as bored as I was, since they were given so little to do!  Having already read the script, they were one step ahead of me!  Talk about a yawn-fest.  I'm getting sleepy just thinking about it.
    Also, I was surprised with Minority Report's bleached out and grainy special effects.  I had expected much better work from Steven Spielberg and ILM.  Granted, most of ILM is working on Star Wars prequels, but that's no excuse for poor filmmaking!  Spielberg should not have settled for such bad effects.
    As for action, Minority Report has some good scenes, but nothing special.  That is, unless you really enjoy seeing Tom Cruise jumping about like some kind of demented Super Mario Brother.  And what about that ending?  When will Spielberg get it through his joyful little brain that sappy endings are for saps?!
    Minority Report was based on a story by the same writer who penned Blade RunnerBlade Runner, which had a similar futuristic setting, was made over 20 years ago and is a much better film.  With all the technical advances in filmmaking since Blade Runner, why did Spielberg and Cruise try to make a movie that was only half as good?  They owe their fans more than that!  Just because they're big-shot Hollywood types, they shouldn't think they can get away with producing shoddy films like Minority Report
     Don't make the same mistake I did.  Ignore the hype, the stars, the famous director, the reviews, and especially that guy A.J. out in California who said this was a great movie.  None of them know what they're talking about.

Okay then.  See how easy that was? 

This concludes our lesson for today.  You'll be happy to know that you've passed with flying colors!  I hope Reviews 101 has been both informative and entertaining for you.  I sure had a blast teaching it!  And thanks again to the writer of our review example.  I'd love to read what this reviewer thought of the movie Zoolander.  (in-joke)

Until next time, class dismissed!


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