Tips on Writing a Film Review

Writing a Film Review
Structure in a Nutshell

1. Title – catchy, can indicate if review will be positive or negative, you can play with words to make it funny or different

2. Paragraph 1 – Opening paragraph – can start to summarise film and give early suggestions about your general view of it (positive/negative)

3. Paragraph 2 – Start or continue summary of film, don’t give details about the ending or else no one will go and see the film!!

4. Paragraph 3 and 4 – positive things you thought about the film, what did you like? Why? Use descriptive words, think about the story, setting, effects used, music used

5. Paragraph 5 and 6 – negative things you thought about the film, what didn’t you like? Why? Comment on the same type of things that you mentioned in paragraphs 3 and 4

6. Paragraph 7 and 8 – Characterization – talk about the characters, did you like them? Did the actors play them well? What was it about their portrayal that you liked or didn’t like? Other impressions of the characters, will certain audience members be able to relate to certain characters? How? Will certain audience members not like certain characters? Why not?

7. Paragraph 9 – Final comments – general comments that summarize your view of the film, you may want to say something inspiring to get the reader to want to go out and see the film or you might say something that would want them not to go and see it! After the paragraph you would give it a star rating out of 5 to indicate your rating for it.

Common words and phrases used in film reviews that you might want to use in your own reviews: spectacular visual effects, excessive violence, breathtaking, evocative, mood, atmosphere, poorly, unsuccessful, detail, scenery, irresistible, perfect, moments, plot, this movie has been compared to ____ because, wonderful, hilarious, momentum, unexpected plot twists, unbelievable, phenomenal, hype, suspense, disappointing, confusion/confused, fake, imitation, genre, unoriginal, typical, thrilled, was a very moving portrayal, quality of the film, I was impressed by, credible, cliché, a mixture of, classic, captivating.

You don’t need a degree in English to be a good movie reviewer, and that everyone is invited to rate & critique a movie here. However, as you step into reviewing movies professionally, there are certain quality and guidelines that your critiques should possess. You should not use generalized opinions such as “oh, it was a great movie” or “the acting was horrible”, but rather give specific reasons and the whys. Be sure to read up on tips for the actual write-up of a review - Here is a good guide to read up on. While we don’t limit you to a certain style of writing, the number of words you must have in your review, and what you must (or must not) write about, we do provide the following guideline to help you get started in writing a review.

Title of the movie

Paragraph 1
You will need to include the following: name of the film, prominent stars of the film, basic setting ( time and place), and type of film ( comedy, adventure, drama, etc.)

Paragraph 2
You will need to write a plot summary for the movie. Do not reveal the ending. Discuss at least 5 events and be sure to cover the entire scope of the movie, except the very end.

Paragraph 3
Discuss one aspect of filmmaking. You may choose from acting, direction, editing, costume design, set design, photography, background music, or anything else you may think of. Be sure that you are specific and cite examples from the movie.

Paragraph 4
Discuss another aspect of filmmaking. You may choose from acting, direction, editing, costume design, set design, photography, background music, or anything else you may think of, but obviously choose something different from what you discussed in the previous paragraph. Be sure that you are specific and cite examples from the movie.

Paragraph 5
Give your overall reaction to the film as well as your opinion on the quality of the film. also include your recommendations for potential viewers.
Remember, the guideline above is just what it is. It’s just a guideline, so throw in your own spin and develop your own format if you want to. Take a look at a sample movie critique for “Forrest Gump”:

Forrest Gump
“Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” However, when you watch Forrest Gump starring Tom Hanks as Forrest and Robin Wright as Jenny, you know you are going to get a lot of laughs and even a few tears. The screenplay for the 1994 movie was written by Eric Roth, based on the novel by Winston Groom. The story follows Forrest through 30 years of trials and tribulations, placing Forrest within historical moments of history, and in pursuit of his one dream–his “most special friend,” Jenny. According to the Washington Post, Forrest Gump won Oscar awards for Best Picture, Best Actor (Hanks), Best Director (Robert Zemeckis), Film Editing, Visual Effects and Adapted Screenplay. The movie was well deserving of these awards since the acting and the visual effects were extraordinary.

The films’ actors success in portraying their characters is a major factor in the film’s awards. Tom Hanks and Robin Wright worked well together, just like “peas and carrots.” The on-screen chemistry between the two was phenomenal. I felt a real connection between the two, finding myself mad at Jenny when she blew Forrest off and in tears when he told her that he was heading to Vietnam. Mokui’s Movie Review states “Tom Hanks IS Forrest Gump…He breathes life into the guy and you will feel what Forrest feels” (1994, par 1). James Berardinelli states, “Robin Wright gives the best performance of her career, surpassing what she accomplished in The Playboys” (1994, par2). Another performance that stands out is that of Gary Sinise. Sinise plays the part of Lieutenant Dan Taylor, whose life is saved by Forrest during the Vietnam War. James Berardinelli writes, “In this movie, his Lieutenant Dan Taylor is riveting” (1994, par 3). I thought that Sinise was quite convincing with his emotions throughout the movie, as if he was really a disabled vet who had lost both legs in the war.

Just as good as the actors were those working behind the scenes with the special effects. Throughout Forrest Gump the special effects were incredible. During Lieutenant Taylor’s scenes, I was convinced that he really didn’t have legs. I was studying the scenes, looking for any signs of legs, trying to figure out how it was done. It turns out that each and every frame was painted over to give it the true to life values that it holds. Also bringing the movie more credibility was the ability to place Forrest in history making events. These events ranged from Forrest teaching Elvis how to swing his hips to meeting Presidents for various accomplishments. These television clips of Forrest were done with such finesse that they look real. Critic Brian Webster (2003) states, “This is handled virtually flawlessly; if you didn’t know better, you’d believe that a fellow named Gump really did tell President Lyndon Johnson that he had been shot in the rump while acting heroically in Vietnam” (par 2). Rolling Stone (2003) states, “The effects dazzle, though never at the expense of the story” (Travers, par 2).

This story, complete with the Oscar winning performances in both acting and special effects is perfect for those in need of a dose of goodness. My family enjoys watching Forrest Gump together for rejuvenation, to view someone with true values of honesty, friendship and family. Forrest, with his heart of gold and his low IQ, never gives up. He always looks for the best in every scenario. The movie opens with a feather floating down over the city, landing at Forrest’s feet. Near the end of the story, Forrest questions, “Do we each have a destiny - or do we just float around accidental, like on a breeze?” As you are contemplating this question, the feather reappears and floats through the countryside right up into the ending credits.

Now, let’s look at what you need to do BEFORE you even start writing a single word:

Steps

Watch a movie, and during the movie, think about what you like and don’t like about it. Try to remember these things, because you will need them during the writing part.

Go home, and write down all the information that you gathered during the movie. Let all the information sit for up to a day because you need time to think over the movie. But, don’t let yourself take more than a day, because if you wait too long, you tend to lose interest and forget important things that you felt.

Write all the information down in a format that is readable for others. Remember to include a basic summary for people who haven’t heard of the movie, but remember to not give away the ending, or any other part that they wouldn’t want to have ruined for them.

Remember to aim for about 600-700 words for the entire review.

Hand out copies of your review to other people, so they can have the chance to read your opinion, and after time, you may start to get people wanting more and more reviews.

Tips

Remember to try reviewing every movie you see, because when you get into the habit, it will become easier.

Once you gain more confidence in your reviews, try to match the tone of each with the style of the movie. For example, a humorous writing style would work well for a comedy, whereas a more serious tone would be good for writing a drama review.

Warning

Try not to slam actors too much, because if it gets too out of hand, they may consider legal action against you. Just be careful. Again, as mentioned, we are not very strict in terms of the format and minimal word length. We do encourage you to have your own writing style that you are most comfortable with instead of going with the norm. You will continue to grow your readership as more people appreciates your style and agree with your reviews.

Get started by visiting this page: http://www.moviefilmreview.com/mcw

Useful Phrases

Reviews
x has much to recommend it.
X is, at heart, a(n) love/spy/adventure story.
It is based on a book by ...
It is set in the countryside/the future.
The film has a quality cast.
The film was directed by ...
The film score is enchanting/evocative/scary.
The film captures the spirit of ...
The hero/heroine/villain is ...
I felt/thought it was …
I was impressed by …
What struck me most was ...
What I liked most/didn't like was ...
The plot was gripping.
The characters were very convincing/very well drawn.
On reflection, I think it was ...
It struck me as being ...
What I didn't understand was how ...
In spite of these few criticisms, I think ...
I would have no hesitation in recommending …

These words and phrases can be used in the following text types, depending on what are asked to write about:
letters
essays
articles
proposals
reports
reviews

Expressing and supporting opinions

These words and expressions are especially useful in letters, essays and articles.
I believe/do not believe that ... (because) ...
Personally I feel that ... Let me explain why.
In my opinion, ... Just consider ...
As I see it, … The reason is ...
It seems to me that… This is because ...
I would argue that for the following reasons.
I feel very strongly that ...
I am convinced that ...
I am of the opinion that ...
I am very much in favour of/against ...
I am completely opposed to ...
The reasons why I believe that ... are as follows.

Opening phrases

These words and expressions are especially useful in letters, essays and articles.
People (sometimes) claim that … but I feel that ...
It is often said/argued that ... However, it seems to me that ...
It is a fact that ...
Over the past few months/years, it seems that …
Recently, we have all become concerned that …
Nowadays, we are all realising that ...
In the past, people used to …, but now ...
These days, it seems that ….

Making statements

These words and expressions are especially useful in letters, essays and articles.
It is clear that ...
On the whole, it appears/seems that ...
We must take into account the fact that ....
It goes without saying that ...
It is important to remember that ...

Explaining/Expanding ideas and giving examples

These words and expressions are especially useful in letters, essays and articles.
... This means that ...
... This is largely due to ...
…For example/For instance, ...
…In other words, ...
Take, for example, the situation in ...

Listing arguments

These words and expressions are especially useful in letters, essays and articles.
Firstly/In the first place / To begin with, …
Secondly/A second area to consider is …
Another point to remember is ...
Finally, ...
In conclusion, ..
Last but not least, ...

Evaluating ideas, Dismissing contrary arguments

These words and expressions are especially useful in letters, essays and articles.
I think it is true that ...
I totally disagree/agree with the point that…
It is questionable whether …
I am sure/I doubt whether …
It is true that ... On the other hand, ...
While nobody can deny that ... , I would like to point out that …
I agree that …However, ...
Although it is true that , we must remember that ...
It could be argued that … However, I would like to point out that ...
Despite all the arguments, I still feel that ...
Notwithstanding the claim that ... , I would argue that…
It may be true that ... , but all too often ...
In no way can I agree that ...
Surely it is completely unacceptable that ...

Persuading

These words and expressions are especially useful in letters and proposals.
I would urge you to consider…
I am sure you will agree that…
Surely you must agree that…
I would urge you very strongly to ...
When you hear the arguments, I am sure you will agree that ...

Evaluating

These words and expressions are especially useful in reports, proposals and reviews.
I was extremely impressed by…
I was rather disappointed by…
While X has much to commend it, I feel that some aspects could be improved.
The problem could easily be solved if ...
I would like to praise the ...
Another area for complaint is …
My overall impression was that …
I am sure that visitors/readers/holidaymakers will thoroughly enjoy ...
While some people will love ... , others may feel less happy.
A major problem is that ...
I was less happy with ...
Making recommendations

These words and expressions are especially useful in proposals and reports.
I recommend that we ...
I propose that we ...
We should also ...
I believe that we should ...
We could ...
If we were to… , we could ...
I suggest we… We would then be able to ...

Summarising

These words and expressions are especially useful in letters, essays,articles, reports, proposals and reviews.

All in all, I think that ...
To sum up, I believe that ...
In conclusion, the facts suggest that ...

Describing

These words and expressions are especially useful in articles, reviews, and letters.

Character/Personality
He tends to be ...
She can be ...
He is inclined to be ...
She appears/seems to be ...
Hobbies and interests
He is crazy about ... -ing.
She loves ... -ing.
His greatest love is ...
What she loves most in life is ...
He spends all his time ... -ing.