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Netflix Review: How to Judge Films

July 15, 2009
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I’m going to review my Netflix rentals. That means there will be plenty of spoilers. You see, by the time I watch a movie, everyone else has already had a chance to see it. If you haven’t seen it, you weren’t going to anyway and a spoiler won’t really spoil anything for you.

I don’t know how to review movies. Should I give them stars, thumbs up or down, or just write a big blob of text? In order to make these reviews useful, I’ve decided to break my reviews into four categories, which I explain below.

Character Development (0 to 10 points): This is far and away the most important factor in determining if I like a movie. It’s the reason that sequels almost always suck compared to the original. In the original, the characters are introduced and explained, and it’s interesting. In the sequel, you already know Mel Gibson is a Vietnam vet whose on the edge but is essentially a good cop. Oh sure, they throw some jackass character played by Joe Pesci in there, but that’s not character development, it’s slapstick. Goodfellas, Shawshank Redemption, and Platoon are all examples of great character development. Road to Perdition, Australia, and As Good As It Gets have crappy character development. It’s not enough to just devote time to character development, the characters also have to be interesting – not necessarily likable, but interesting. For example, Hugh Jackman in Australia is about as interesting as a marshmallow.

2009 Academy Awards: Marisa Tomei

Plot (0 to 5 points): You won’t be surprised that plot is important, but you may be surprised that it’s less important than character development. The plot of Pulp Fiction is inconsequential compared to the characters and other factors. Some movies, like Momento, can make up for weak characters with a good plot. True or based-on movies seem to have the best plots. Catch Me if You Can, while having great characters, has an engaging story that would have been pretty good even with weaker characters.

Cinematography (0 to 3 points): I don’t actually know what the word ‘cinematography’ means, so I’m misusing it here to refer to how the story is told. In the aforementioned piece of crap, Australia, they employ a terrific cinematic technique where they start the story somewhere other than the beginning, then flash back to the beginning. Only they do it so poorly, it detracts from the first 1/2 hour of the movie. They start at x, then flashback to x-2 weeks to start the story over. Then they gloss over the 2 weeks without any detail or anything worthwhile. It was stupid and worthless. In contrast, Fallen gives you the ending from the outset (but you don’t know it) and brings it all full-circle at the end. There are extremes like Pulp Fiction and Momento with their out-of-sequence story line that adds interest to the film.

Je ne sais quoi (-3 to 3 points): There are certain aspects of films that can make them better or worse, but that are difficult to categorize. For instance, full frontal by Marisa Tomei would make a bad film tolerable. Meanwhile, Terry Bradshaw’s bare ass made Failure to Launch worse, which didn’t seem possible at the time. It also allows me to dock Wolf, or any other film that includes James Spader, a few points.

This rating system, which I just made up, is going to revolutionize movie reviews. This is your chance to get in on the ground floor. What am I missing?

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. July 15, 2009 8:03 am

    When are the actual reviews coming?? (I have a bit of ADD)…

  2. July 15, 2009 10:16 am

    I just watched Coach Carter the other night, so I’ll try to get that out this weekend.

  3. July 15, 2009 12:08 pm

    Well hell … I haven’t seen Coach Carter. Nick and I also watch all of our movies on Netflix so we are always behind on what’s current. I must have missed adding Coach Carter. Depending on your review … I might add it to our queue. We recently watched 88 Minutes and Pride and Glory – both pretty good, I thought. We have had Milk for longer than we should without watching it. We usually have two movies here at a time and Milk has lost out on several ‘which do you want to watch’ decisions. Which is odd because Sean Penn is one of my favorite actors. I just got an email telling me Lions and Lambs is on it’s way. I actually have no idea what that one is about?!

  4. July 15, 2009 12:44 pm

    ‘as interesting as a marshmallow’ – what a great line… I may borrow it sometime.

  5. plotline permalink
    July 15, 2009 7:45 pm

    I see that you and I would cancel each other out…any film that includes James Spader gets extra points from me! 😉

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