WRITING REVIEWS • by H. L. Hall, MJE
EVERYONE’S A CRITIC Television Film Dance Theatre Music Art Billiard Parlors Bowling Alleys Books Restaurant Video Games Web Sites Tourist Areas Computers and related items
CRITIC VS. REVIEWER • Critics are usually experts • Reviewers are usually generalists
REVIEWERS’ TASKS To compare and contrast. To say what kind of work is being reviewed and what it is about.
REVIEWERS’ TASKS 3. To back up with evidence and persuasive language based on knowledge and experience.
REVIEWERS’ TASKS 4. To give an informed judgment whether it is worth the time or money.
REVIEWERS’ TASKS These lines from reviews of 2005 movies would probably tell the reader not to bother.
REVIEWERS’ TASKS Into the Blue: “Not a thriller so much as an extremely violent swimsuit calendar.”--Justin Chang, variety.com
REVIEWERS’ TASKS A Sound of Thunder: “Edward Burns is the kind of actor you cast as the hero when a piece of wood is unavailable.”--Jason Andrews, Globe and Mail
REVIEWERS’ TASKS The Dukes of Hazzard: “The film’s ambitions are so low that it’s hard to imagine how it fell short of them.”--Jay Chandrasekhar, tvguide.com
REVIEWERS’ TASKS Elektra: “The resulting action leads to levels of excitement typically attained by proofreading science textbooks.”--Sean O’Connell, filmcritic.com
REVIEWERS’ TASKS Catwoman: “Despite its feline pretensions. Catwoman belongs to another animal family—it’s either a dog or a turkey.”--James Berardinelli, movie-reviews.colossus.net
REVIEWERS’ TASKS Deuce Bigelow, European Gigolo: “There is something to be said for the uncompromising idiocy of the film, but that something is unprintable.”--Lisa Rose, Newark Star-Ledger
Try to keep reviews brief Reviews do not have to be long. You can say a lot in 300 words or less. Look at this review for Star Trek. It’s 185 words long.
Star Trekby Leah Rosen, People Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, ZoëSaldana, Leonard Nimoy, Eric Bana / PG-13 /**** Director J. J. Abrams has put the pop back in summer popcorn movies. His Star Trek, an exciting and sassy revamp of
Star Trekby Leah Rosen, People the classic sci-fi TV show and film series, is a blast in every sense of the word. Coming as it does on the heels of an uninspired X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Trek is a kick-ass reminder that in the
Star Trekby Leah Rosen, People right hands and with savvy casting, anything old can be gloriously new again. This Trek starts with the birth of James Tiberius Kirk (Pine, boyishly engaging) during a
Star Trekby Leah Rosen, People space disaster. It then briefly visits him as a reckless child, a rebellious young man and finally as a Starfleet Academy cadet who sneaks aboard to join the crew of the newly built starship
Star Trekby Leah Rosen, People USS Enterprise as it heads off on a dangerous mission. In intro-ducing other familiar characters (Look, it’s Spock! It’s Bones!), the film pays respect to tradition while fondly tweaking it.
Star Trekby Leah Rosen, People There’s much wit here, bang-up action scenes and a twisting plot that will make sense to those who truly care to follow it. May this latest incarnation of the series live long and prosper.
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 Now, this review from Newsweek is SHORT! It’s only 59 words long!
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 The Original (1974): Only Walter Matthau can save New York from a runaway train fllled with hostages and the cooly creepy Robert Shaw. The Remake: Denzel is the hero. Travolta’s the villain. The costars: a very loud soundtrack and lots and lots of blood.
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 The Verdict: The suspense is gone, and with it most of the thrill.
The Jonas Brothers grow on ‘Lines, Vines and Trying Times.’USA Today The following review by Brian Mansfield is only 259 words long. Brevity attracts readers. The only problem is the review was written in four paragraphs. Keep paragraphs short--40 words or less to enhance readability.
The Jonas Brothers grow on ‘Lines, Vines and Trying Times.’USA Today Those Jonas Brothers’ fans are just going to love it when they hear the three brothers tell them they’re “much better” than that girl with “all the tears on her guitar.” Older observers may have had enough by now of hearing the aftermath of the brief Joe Jonas/Talor Swift romance
The Jonas Brothers grow on ‘Lines, Vines and Trying Times.’USA Today play itself out publicly, but what else do young celebrities have to write about? Fame? The Jonases’ fourth album certainly has that. “I start to freak and scream so loud/just like the females in the crowd,” Nick Jonas sings in Don’t Charge Me for the Crime—and that’s
The Jonas Brothers grow on ‘Lines, Vines and Trying Times.’USA Today the one about unwittingly becoming an accessory to a bank robbery. The best song may be the single written with song pro Cathy Dennis and producer John Fields, but the Jonases put a lot of themselves into their materials, using youthfully earnest metaphors about race cars and World War II.
The Jonas Brothers grow on ‘Lines, Vines and Trying Times.’USA Today They’re also showing signs of stress: Often, the girls are deceitful troublemakers, and the songs reflect circumstances spinning out of control. But the brothers sure know how to put the best face on it, with punchy horn parts and crazily catchy hooks that show an appealing variety of influences,
The Jonas Brothers grow on ‘Lines, Vines and Trying Times.’USA Today from the Stevie Wonder-style clavinet on Hey Baby to the fiddle breaks on What Did I Do To Your Heart. Everybody has to grow up sometime, and Nick, Joe and Kevin are taking their first wary steps in that direction. If they don’t get too tangled up in the lines and the vines, they should make it all right.
They may be longer, but… There is no set length for a review, but if you go over 500 words, you have probably given the reader more than he needs to know and more than he wants to know. The following review is 422 words in length, and it says enough.
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonianby Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly Usually, when characters in a movie are one-dimensional, that’s not a good thing. But in Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, the waxworks figures who come to life after
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonianby Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly sundown aren’t crassly sketchy or dramatically lacking. They’re one-dimensional, all right, but knowingly, delightfully so. Even at their most pop-up brash, they’re true to the way that kids see history. They’re like
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonianby Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly characters out of a cool yet innocent mischief-at-midnight children’s book—a Where The Wild Things Are of global story-time kitsch. And they give you a lift. The movie, make no mistake, is clownisly silly, a lark as high as
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonianby Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly balsa wood. If anything, though, it’s a faster, wittier spin on the formula of its predecessor. Released in 2006, Night of the Museum was a family popcorn extravaganza that touched a chord even its producers may not
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonianby Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly have anticipated. In the sequel, Ben Stiller, as the former night guard Larry Daley (he’s not a successful entrepreneur…of flashlights!), spends one long night infiltrating the galleries of the Smithsonian Institution, where he attempts to
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonianby Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly rescue the exhibits he first got to know at the American Museum of Natural History. (He’s trying to get his hands on the magical Egyptian tablet that brings them to life.) The T.rex, the capuchin monkeys,
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonianby Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly Attila the Hun—all have been shipped to the archives of the Smithsonian. And all are as feisty as ever. But Battle of the Smithsonian tilts away from the zoological. The films is a history-of-the-world burlesque in which
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonianby Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly such drolly self-centered icons as General Custer (Bill Hader), Ivan the Terrible (Christopher Guest), and Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria)—a made-up pharoah who lisps with the enthusiasm of Boris Karloff on his own reality show—collide
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonianby Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly happily with a living army of Albert Einstein bobblehead dolls, plus stone-carved angels who sing “More Than a Woman” and The Thinker come to life as a Brooklyn deadbeat. This is what you call a wholesome kiddie
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonianby Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly movie on drugs. It all works because Stiller, with his eager-to-please anxiety and his incredulous double takes, is the perfect addled straight man for a hellzapoppin history show. And it works because Amy Adams, as
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonianby Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly Amelia Earhart, has the breathless, daffy-sexy vivacity of a ‘30s screwball heroine, her eyes lit with fire, her delivery as sharp as cut glass as she rat-a-tats out lines like “You haven’t been able to take your cheaters off my
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonianby Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly Chassis since we met!” Battle of the Smithsonian has plenty of life. But it’s Adams who gives it a zing.
Night at the Museum: Battle of the SmithsonianBrief excerpts from various reviewers Those creaky exhibits come to life once again in "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian," and this time around there's a little more life on display.—The Hollywood Reporter
Night at the Museum: Battle of the SmithsonianBrief excerpts from various reviewers Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian(* * out of four) resembles anenthusiastic but undisciplined child running amok through an exhibit. The exuberance might be admirable, but the headlong dashing and lurching around are major distractions.—USA Today
Night at the Museum: Battle of the SmithsonianBrief excerpts from various reviewers So don’t take your children expecting that they’ll learn anything. But if you do take them, you will at least be able to enjoy Hank Azaria and Amy Adams, who play a fictitious pharaoh named Kahmunrah and the famed aviatrix Amelia Earhart.
Night at the Museum: Battle of the SmithsonianBrief excerpts from various reviewers Historical accuracy is not the point. No Egyptian potentate ever spoke in a lisping, aristocratic British accent, but Mr. Azaria is the master of funny voices, and he does fine work as the heavy. Ms. Adams, impersonating
Parents, teens won’t love ‘Beth Cooper’by Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel The following review is 377 words long
Parents, teens won’t love ‘Beth Cooper’by Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel Oh, to have teenage kids just so I could forbid them to see I Love You, Beth Cooper. A miscast and misjudged graduation-night comedy occasionally—only occasionally— wanders into “harmless.” Much of the time it’s sending bad messages about, oh, driving without your lights on after dark, using sex to score beer and letting peer pressure determine
Parents, teens won’t love ‘Beth Cooper’by Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel your sexuality. Let’s state emphatically that America’s teens are too smart to do most of those things. Let’s also state they probably won’t find much to laugh at in this emphatically unfunny comedy from the guy who owes his career to Home Alone. Paul Rust is the charmless, uncharismatic lead, Denis, a nerd who uses his valedictory
Parents, teens won’t love ‘Beth Cooper’by Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel speech to tell his classmates what he really thinks of them. And that girl he has lusted for, but never ever spoken to? She (Hayden Panettiere) gets his punch line. “I love you, Beth Cooper.” She is flattered, and over the course of a long and tedious graduation night, Denis and his pal Rich (Jack Carpenter), whom he outed