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3.14: Reviews

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    Whether a book or movie52 is a rotten tomato or a brilliant work of art, if people are reading or watching it, it's worth critiquing. A decent book/movie review should entertain, persuade and inform, providing an original opinion without giving away too much of the plot.

    A great review can be a work of art in its own right. Read on to learn how to analyze a book/movie, come up with an interesting thesis and write a review as entertaining as your source material.

    Start with a compelling fact or opinion on the book/movie. You want to get the reader hooked immediately. This sentence needs to give them a feel for your review and the work -- is it good, great, terrible, or just okay? -- and keep them reading. Some ideas include:

    • Comparison to Relevant Event or Book or Movie: "Every day, our leaders, politicians, and pundits call for "revenge"-- against ISIS, against rival sports teams, against other political parties. But few of them understand the cold, destructive, and ultimately hallow thrill of revenge as well as the characters of Blue Ruin."
    • Review in a nutshell "Despite a compelling lead performance by Tom Hanks and a great soundtrack, Forrest Gump never gets out of the shadow of its weak plot and questionable premise."
    • Context or Background Information: "Boyhood might be the first movie made where knowing how it was produced -- slowly, over 12 years, with the same actors - - is just as crucial as the movie itself."

    Give a clear, well-established opinion early on. Don't leave the reader guessing whether you like the book/movie or not. Let them know early on, so that you can spend the rest of the time "proving" your rating.

    • Using stars, a score out of 10 or 100, or the simple thumbs-up and thumbs-down is a quick way to give your thoughts. You then write about why you chose that rating.
    • Great Movie: "It is the rare movie that succeeds on almost every level, where each character, scene, costume, and joke firing on all cylinders to make a film worth repeated viewings."
    • Bad Movie: "It doesn't matter how much you enjoy kung-fu and karate films: with 47 Ronin, you're better off saving your money, your popcorn, and time."
    • Okay Movie: "I loved the wildly uneven Interstellar far more than I should have, but that doesn't mean it is perfect. Ultimately, the utter awe and spectacle of space swept me through the admittedly heavy-handed plotting and dialogue."

    Write your review. This is where taking notes during the movie really pays off. No one cares about your opinion if you can't give facts that support your argument.

    • Great: "Michael B. Jordan and Octavia Spencer's chemistry would carry Fruitvale Station even if the script wasn't so good. The mid-movie prison scene in particular, where the camera never leaves their faces, show how much they can convey with nothing but their eyelids, the flashing tension of neck muscles, and a barely cracking voice."
    • Bad: "Jurassic World's biggest flaw, a complete lack of relatable female characters, is only further underscored by a laughably unrealistic shot of our heroine running away from a dinosaur -- in heels."
    • Okay: "At the end of the day, Snowpiercer can't decide what kind of movie it wants to be. The attention to detail in fight scenes, where every weapon, lightbulb, and slick patch of ground is accounted for, doesn't translate to an ending that seems powerful but ultimately says little of substance."

    Move beyond the obvious plot analysis. Plot is just one piece of a movie and shouldn't dictate your entire review. Some movies don't have great or compelling plots, but that doesn't mean the movie itself is bad. Other things to focus on include:

    • Cinematography: "Her is a world drenched in color, using bright, soft reds and oranges alongside calming whites and grays that both builds, and slowly strip away, the feelings of love between the protagonists. Every frame feels like a painting worth sitting in."
    • Tone: "Despite the insane loneliness and high stakes of being stuck alone on Mars, The Martian's witty script keeps humor and excitement alive in every scene. Space may be dangerous and scary, but the joy of scientific discovery is intoxicating."
    • Music and Sound: "No Country for Old Men's bold decision to skip music entirely pays off in spades. The eerie silence of the desert, punctuated by the brief spells of violent, up-close-and-personal sound effects of hunter and hunted, keeps you constantly on the edge of your seat."
    • Acting: "While he's fantastic whenever he's on the move, using his cool stoicism to counteract the rampaging bus, Keanu Reeves can't quite match his costar in the quiet moments of Speed, which falter under his expressionless gaze."

    Bring your review full circle in the ending. Give the review some closure, usually by trying back to your opening fact. Remember, people read reviews to decide whether or not they should watch a movie. End on a sentence that tells them.

    • Great: "In the end, even the characters of Blue Ruin know how pointless their feud is. But revenge, much like every taut minute of this thriller, is far too addictive to give up until the bitter end.""
    • Bad: "Much like the oft-mentioned "box of chocolates", Forest Gump has a couple of good little morsels. But most of the scenes, too sweet by half, should have been in the trash long before this movie was put out."
    • Okay: "Without the novel, even revolutionary concept, Boyhood may not be a great movie. It might not even be "good.” But the power the film finds in the beauty of passing time and little, inconsequential moments -- moments that could only be captured over 12 years of shooting -- make Linklater's latest an essential film for anyone interested in the art of film."

    Gather basic facts about the book/movie. You can do this before or after you watch/read the movie/book, but you should definitely do it before you write the review, because you'll need to weave the facts into your review as you write. Here's what you need to know: The title and year; the director's or author’s name; the names of the lead actors/characters; the genre.

    Take notes. Before you sit down to watch a film, or read a book, get out a notepad or a laptop to take notes. Movies/books are long, and you can easily forget details or major plot points. Taking notes allows you to jot down little things you can return to later.

    • Make a note every time something sticks out to you, whether it's good or bad. Think about how this detail relates to the rest of the piece and what it means in the context of your review.
    • Take note of patterns you begin to notice.


    The movie “Remember the Titans,” is about the segregation and football. It starts when two different schools, black and white students, combine their football team. The season before their senior year they all must go to a summer football camp together and join as one strong team to win the state champion. However, during this time they are not fond of each other and fight all the time. The coaches bring them together as one and each game is an adventure especially playing all white teams. In the end of the movie one of the captains gets severely hurt and cannot finish the game, but at the end the team finishes the job and takes home the champion.

    In my opinion, I think that this movie is very good. It teaches about segregation. It’s about leadership, sports, and commitment. I think a huge factor that plays in it is race and no matter what color you are everybody is the same. It is very inspirational, and it is based on a true story. In the movie there was a lot of injustice about race and it’s a great story. I think it brings faith back in humanity.

    My opinion early in the movie was that there was a lot of judgement between the whites and black and it made me very emotional to see how it was back them for an example how the blacks were treated and I thought that it was going to stay like that for the whole movie. However, in the end it came out to have a great outcome.

    Finally, my review of the movie would be a 10/10 just because it teaches so much about history and I love how it is based on a true story. I would definitely recommend this movie to someone who likes sports because it teaches a lot of leadership and respect to others.

    Assignments and Questions to Consider

    Compose a movie, book, or TV show review. At a minimum, include the following criteria:

    • Gather basic facts about the book/movie/TV show and take notes.
    • Start with a compelling fact or opinion on the book/movie.
    • Give a clear, well-established opinion early on.
    • Move beyond the obvious plot analysis.
    • Bring your review full-circle in the ending

    52 “How to Write a Movie Review.” Co-authored by wikiHow Staff | Updated: September 17, 2019. Under an CC-BY-NC-SA License, wikiHow's text content is free to modify, republish and share.

    This page titled 3.14: Reviews is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Sybil Priebe, Ronda Marman, & Dana Anderson (North Dakota University System) .

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