Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Twilight: 2 Stars

Extra Speical Guest Reviewer........Meg!

I'm not gonna lie, I loved the books. I went to see this movie opening weekend, and forgetting how terrible it was the first time, I saw it again when it went to the dollar theatre - which is what sparked the idea for me to review it here! Let's get rolling! If you don't know the plot, go check out one of the billion Twilight devoted fansites.. or read the book, it's really just better that way.

It's always a little bit difficult to review a movie that was adapted from a book. In this case, the movie was SO much worse than the book that I might explode with disappointment just thinking about it. There was not enough plot development, and at the same time the movie was very slow considerably too long. Bella and Edward's relationship went from nothing to everything in a very short amount of time, with no real story development for the viewer. It was a slow build until James catches a whiff of her human-ultra-sweet-scent and begins to hunt her. The chase and the hunt and the fight to the death at the end all happened in the last 20 minutes of the movie. I do, however, give it mad props for including small details that only people who read the book would understand,such as Edward catching the apple in the cafeteria and Stephenie Meyer's cameo in the diner.

I think the cast of a movie can make or break it, and it's much harder to cast a movie that is adapted from a book because the readers already have an idea of how they think the characters should look and act, and everyone's is different. So this is just my opinion! (Disclaimer: If you are offended by my review because you omg lOoOoVe Twilight!!!1, I'm really sorry you feel that way. Really. I am.)

Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen was a good, not great, but good choice because he looks like a vampire already! That is, Stephenie Meyer's version of vampires... He is pale and a little bit brooding and charming - even though that's just from having a British accent (which maybe he should have kept for the movie because quite frankly, his American accent isn't awesome). He did not, however portray Edward in the way the book describes him though, as the most charming of all, protective, kind-hearted, etc.

Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan was a poor choice. Where in the book or script did it say that Bella is angry all the time? The character is vulnerable and stubborn, and always trying to take care of people - not pissed off in every scene. Also, she was constantly fidgeting with her hands, and don't tell me that's just part of her character. If you claim to be a "real actress" who does "real acting" and not some dime-a-dozen "Disney kid", then at least act well. Enough said.

The Cullen family was a little bit disappointing too. I think Esme, Carlisle, and Emmett fit the bill, but I was expecting Alice to be smaller and more pixie-like, Rosalie to be prettier, ad Jasper to be less awkward. I know Jasper is supposed to "struggle", but it came across as plain awkward and slightly uncomfortable to watch.

Cam Gigandet made a great James. He was menacing, condescending, and creepy and all the right times. Kudos to the best actor in the movie!

Billy Burke as Charlie Swan was also good, just not what I was expecting. He acted well though.

The camera angles were unique and very modern. Catherine Hardwicke took some fierce chances with this movie, and I think as far as that goes she just did kind of average. Maybe that's why she's not signed on to do the sequel! Sick burn. There was really only one cool scene, and that's when they were playing baseball, that is, up until the bad vampires showed up. The music in that scene worked well - and might I say that it was the only time in the movie that the music complemented the scene - the shots were cool, and the cinematography was interesting. The rest of the time I was unimpressed.

Overall, the movie failed more than suceeded. It had SO MUCH potential to be awesome, and because it missed the mark it will lose tons of money that could have been made. I, for one, will not be buying this movie on dvd.

Thanks for reading!


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire: Four Stars

Here is a film that should be considered best picture of the year. Why say this in the first line because it is also the bottom line and the main argument I’m expressing in this review. The synopsis for this film can be found anywhere with information about this movie, I can tell you this movie is about love over coming all obstacles, and about faith and destiny lasting through endless trials and tribulations, but that’s not the synopsis of the film for that you can simply find on the films website. My goal here is to review this film in such a way that now only can the general pubic appreciate the artist value which lays in store within this picture but the give a review breaking down the elements like I would any movie I review. So let’s begin

As a story this film achieved all of its main goals, it had a well put together plot, the characters were dynamic and interesting and the Telos or theme and point to the piece was beautiful and magnificent. Now going into more detail the plot of a film is hard to pinpoint just how exactly it achieves excellence but one clue is in the mood and feeling it compels the audience to feel not only throughout the piece but especially at the end when the point of the film is made. Well put together plots pulls the audience empathy into the film and can send the audience on an emotional rollercoaster based on the actions of the characters. In Slumdog the plot was able to grab the empathy from the audience early and build on it till the climax of the piece where by that time the audience had so much emotional stock invested in the film and the characters that we were either going to leave highly elevated or leave emotional distraught based on the outcome. All films that should be considered for best picture of the year should have a powerful theme and the entire film taken as a whole should reveal something about life, society, culture, ideology, or make some sort of sociological/ philosophical statement. The story of Slumdog Millionaire was able to do that and true masterpieces of film share this quality as part of their nature.

Medium: (The Filmmaking)
Danny Boyle is a director who can take a story and tell it through the medium of film in a way that not many directors can. Boyle truly understands the capabilities and possibilities of filmmaking and explores them to their fullest potential. Now a great director cannot tell a story well if the story itself sucks, but he or she can take a great story and make it something more by telling it with all the artistic tools a filmmaker has their disposal to tell it, this is what makes Danny Boyle and any director for that matter great. What do I mean by using the artistic tools a director can use to turn a story into a great film? Well I’m talking about the use of editing, music, lighting, cinematography ext all these little capabilities Boyle uses to extravagant extremes but it works because the story itself is pretty extravagant and extreme so therefore should be told in like manner. Slumdog millionaire was told in a way that was not only appropriate for the story but made it something other mediums couldn’t and that’s the point of film making. I mean Slumdog millionaire the play, or Slumdog Millionaire the book cannot produce the same effect as the film did and that’s where a filmmaker achieves excellence in film, and therefore should be given deserved praise.

Slumdog Millionaire is an excellent film which becomes excellent through a well structured plot where as Aristotle would say, gives the audience what they secretly desire (probable impossibilities) and has the film making with all the elements involved to tell a beautiful story beautifully. Four Stars

Nature of Good Films

The Nature of Good Films

For any film credit to be able to judge or critique a film he or she must have a firm grasp about what a good film is and in turn be able to recognize ingredients or universal natures of good films. Just as a food critic must have an abstract idea of what good “taste” is in order to be able to recognize it in the foods he or she is critiquing. Same holds true for the critic of film, but how to get at the abstract but universal idea of what good films are. The purpose of this paper is to get to the core nature of a good film, and describe the universal ingredients all great films will have.

In order to know what a great film must have a critic should know what film is and how to dissect it. First film is of two parts, Medium and Story. The Medium in the method of delivery for a story, just like plays and books are other mediums used to deliver and tell stories. The second part of film is the story itself constructed of a plot and characters aimed at reaching the Telos (end point of the story in terms of action and also significance i.e. Theme). Because a film is made up of these two parts and well made film can be inferred to be a film which excellence is achieved in both parts. Achieving excellence in each of the two parts of film can be defined as the successful use and harmony of all the sub parts. Now I will define further the subparts that are found under the two main ingredients outlined to constitute what makes a film.

Starting with the medium of film there are many sub parts but each can be categorized into nine general categories:
Makeup/ Set/ Costume
Special/ Visual effects
These nine categories make up the medium of film and are used to tell the story, these categories found within the medium of film is what separates film from other mediums of storytelling such as plays, books, or even oral interpretation. Therefore it can be concluded that in order for a film to be constructed well, the appropriate use and harmony of all nine categories must be achieved.
Story makes up the second half of what makes a film a film and story has too it’s own subparts that must be used well in order for the story as a whole to work. The sub parts of story are:
Plot is the series of actions carried out by characters following a certain path of story. Path of story is the universal formula that all plots follow in terms of exposition, rising action, climax, and resolution, in order to reach the Telos or point of the story. Telos can be defined as the action which the whole plot builds to but also the significance of that action in terms of reveling the theme of the story. Therefore all good stories will include a well developed plot working harmoniously with well developed characters and will work together to reach the Telos.
Well developed characters can be defined using Aristotle’s laws of characters, which he defines as the rules a poet must follow in order to construct well rounded and crafted characters.
Goodness: For Aristotle, the most important aspect of a character is goodness, which seems to be linked to some sense of the character's intentionality.
Propriety: The behavior of characters must be suitable for their social rank. Here again, the stratification of the society of Aristotle's time is quite clear.
Verisimilitude: Characters must be believable. Attributes assigned to characters must conform to what would be expected from the same kinds of persons in real life.
Consistency: The kinds of behaviors assigned to a character must not change suddenly and inexplicably; if a character is meant to be represented as indecisive, erratic, or otherwise inconsistent, this inconsistency must be consistently portrayed.
Deus ex machina: Aristotle is concerned with preserving the identification of the audience with the actions depicted in the tragedy. Any of us who have read novels or seen plays or films in which something doesn't "ring true" can understand how flaws in plotting and characterization can interfere with our capacity to get caught up in the story. Both character and plot must be consistent and develop in ways that conform to the laws of probability.”

(Taken from an analysis of Plato’s Poetics from the source:

Now that film has been shown to be constructed of two main parts (Medium and Story) each with their own set of sub parts, a well made film will be a film that makes effective use of all the subparts in order to bring harmony to the whole part and in turn harmony to the film itself. A well made film is like an organism that has all of its parts working harmoniously to serve the purpose of its existence. Therefore critics should use this outline and grade films based of this asking the questions “Did a film achieve all of its goals?” Meaning did a film have an effective story and did the film tell the story an effective way using well all the tools at its disposal.

A good film if a film with a well constructed story with well developed characters and an effective Telos and told in an effective way by the use of the appropriate amounts of the nine categories available under the medium of film.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Doubt: 3 Stars

For the first movie I ever review on paper instead of in my head or out loud much to the dismay of my wife and friends, I must say this movie could not have been more of a puzzle. Pun intended, this movie left me with serious doubts. Now within this review I am not going to give a synopsis of the film, an individual can find a synopsis for this film easy enough and my job here is to analyze not summarize. So after much reflection and debate about this film afterwards this is my review:
As a film: (Storytelling) A+
As a film, and what I mean by as a film, is the medium of motion pictures and everything that goes with it to tell the story written by John Patrick Shanley. The acting was the most notable quality in the telling of this storying through the are of motion pictures. Great acting within dynamically interesting and well written scenes is a rare treat in films and is not only highly enjoyable but should receive proper praise when noticed. Therefore academy award nominations should be considered for Meryl Streep for her performance as and old fashioned and strict school principal. Equally as brilliant was Viola Davis for the job she did playing the mother of a trouble student. Philip Seymour Hoffman did an excellent job playing the priest, I did wonder a little if he was the best casting fit for that role, but even if he wasn’t he still played the part well and should be given credit. The film flowed well with dynamic scenes building appropriately to an interesting climax and subsequent dénouement. Music was good, costumes ext all were appropriate for the film. Because I felt this movie was told very beautifully in every way it could be told I give full credit to the director whom in every movie bares the responsibility of making sure a story is told the best way possible through the medium of film.
As a story: (The plot) B-
As a story I must say I was confused leaving the theater as to whom the protagonist/antagonist was and most importantly what the overall theme or point of the film was. Now I think after consideration a debate that the protagonist was Meryl Streep and that the theme centered around the life moral that doubt is not certainty and should not be treated as such or else there can be tragic consequences. Now even as I’m typing this review I am not sure that that is indeed what the writer was going for or if Streep was the protagonist. Now taking the obvious observation that the film is indeed called Doubt and that a little doubt and confusion and ambiguity on the part of the audience member might be intentional on the part of the writer as a means artistically trying to represent a story more like the real world than traditional stories. However a story’s foundation and the whole point of a story’s existence is to express a message or a theme of some kind and I was left wondering what exactly that theme might be. With a film of this magnitude the point and the messege has to be clear and cannot be purposefully vague or leave room for doubt by the audience member when leaving the theater. Now this film might very well have a clear theme and the director might say the theme can be found here and the viewer needs to look at it this way and it will all make sense but unfortunately the conclusion is still the same that the theme needed to be communicated better. Therefore it is within the story that I feel the film as a whole has it’s flaws and therefore did not meet all of its goals that it could have and should have met as a film and in turn receives the three star rating instead of four that it probably was destined to receive.
Doubt was enjoyable to watch and the main elements of film work were done well, directing, acting, cinematography, is in the story and in particular the theme and the ambiguity surrounding the theme which needed to be clearer even if the title of the film is doubt.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Five Star Film Grading Scale Defined

Dissecting and Defining the 5 Star Scale
Bryan Hoskins

The Standard deviation Chart Explained: This chart is meant to serve as a guide and a basic illustration of the spectrum of the film grading scale. This graphic illustrates the different percentiles that different star films tend to fall in historically. This graph is not meant to be an absolute mathematical measurement but a general illustration to serve as a guide.
Introduction: A brief forward about the legitimacy of a grading scale.
Before anyone can begin to debate the greatness or the opposite lack of, or even simply judge a film, a common ground from which to base their arguments must be established. The five star grading scale gives an individual a quantifiable scale from which to judge a films’ overall quality. Many will argue that films and art in general cannot be measured using quantifiable scales because Art in general is subjective and a matter of individual taste, therefore, no universal scale can or should be used to grade them. Philosophers as far back as Plato did not believe that art was completely subjective much in the same way they did not believe that truth itself was subjective, as later philosophers would claim. They believed in universal principals that existed before man and were principles for men to discover not to create. Socrates placed these universal principals to be part of the nature of something whereas Aristotle would define them as absolutes to which all things in that category aim.
Regardless of the category be it science, math, or creative arts such as film, all categories have a set of universal principles from which excellence within these categories can be measured. Aristotle expanded universal principles to art when he wrote on the Poetics. A work which sought to define some of the universal ingredients for which the proper use of would create the perfect drama or tragedy. Similarly Aristotle laid down rules and laws for comedies as well. One last note about universal laws in artistic categories, these laws were discovered and defined by the use of logic and reason, a way of thinking in which the Greeks discovered many universal laws in categories which at the time were thought to be indefinable such as Justice, Rhetoric, and government constitutions.
Therefore just as the Greeks established a way of thinking from which many universal laws were discovered and written down in many distinct categories, today the same techniques can and should be applied to new categories such as film. The same technique will be used in dissecting and defining the 5 star grading scale currently in place to measure films so that individuals can have a quantifiable common ground from which to grade and critique films.

The Grading Scale: Introduction
The grading scale for films is currently constructed on a five star scale where 5 stars is the best possible grade a film can receive and 1 star is the worst. The scale can be looked at as a spectrum where each end is an opposite extreme 5 stars on one end and 1 star on the other. With every spectrum there is a center point which something is neither part of one side nor the other but in the middle. This point defines where a film within the spectrum is the least like both extremes. Within the 5 star grading scale this middle point can be mathematically placed at 2.5 stars. A 2.5 star film will be a film that will define the absolute middle of the grading scale. Since 2.5 films are in the absolute middle these films will be neither good nor bad because they are on the fence and not a part of either side. All other films will be on one side of the middle point or they other and will therefore have either negative or positive connotations associated with them. Since all film’s are judged based on the presence and absence of things, stars will be awarded based on the presence of quality ingredients as defined in the Nature of Good Films and will likewise stars will be withheld based on the absence of these ingredients.

One Star Film:
A one star film has already been determined to be the lowest grade a film can receive. One the spectrum of film quality a one star film is the furthest away from a perfect movie. And just as a five star film embodies all the ingredients of a perfect film, so too can be determined that a one star film receives its grade based on the absence of all these ingredients. One star film can be viewed as empty based on the absence of any respectable quality. The complete and utter absence of any respectable quality will earn a film a one star rating since it is the worst movie that could possibly be made.

One and ½ star Film:
A one and a half star film can be described as a noticeable failure. This is a film that does not work on major levels such as plot, acting, directing ext. One and a half star movies never have the potential to work based on major flaws with foundational parts of such as plot or direction. These films are generally agreed upon to be bad movies bad the general pubic and by film critics because the flaws are so deeply rooted and therefore highly noticeable.

Two Star Film:
Two star films are described as a general failure for being unable to meet general mediocrity. A two star film is where a film can start to be described as more bad than good. Two star films can a few good things about them and potential to be an ok film but over all simply misses more times than it hits. These films can be classified as having potentials but just never reaching them.

Two and ½ Star Film:
Two and half star films can be classified and looked at as mediocre, neither good nor bad, but average. Two and half star films tend to make up the largest group of films where they contain just enough good ingredients not to be considered bad but still too many bad ingredients to be considered good. These are generally referred to as B movies for their average and merely OK natures. B movies can and often do have box office success with the general public but critics often have problems with them due to their often formulaic and unoriginal style.

Three Star Film:
Three star films can be described as better than average films but films which did not quite meet all their goals or potentials as a film. These films receive the grade of B+ good but not great. Three star films are better than average because they do include better than average film ingredients such as directing, acting, or writing but they are not three and half stars because the film could have been noticeably better. Therefore the film did not meet all of its goals but still better than average and should be given credit accordingly.

Three and 1/2 Star Film:
Three and half star films can be defined well made films not going for best picture of the year. Three and half star films are films which meet all their goals as a film and do them in a creative and original fashion. In any given category be it comedy, action, family film, or drama these are films that a reviewer should look at and say for what that film was trying to do it could not be made any better or well enough to say it met all it’s goals as a film. These are films that if the pool of four star films is not enough to fill all the nomination slots in a given year than three and half star films can be considered. Even though three and half star films are not quite four stars, they should still be considered an A quality movie.

Four Star Film:
Four star films are simply defined as 3 ½ star films that gave a little something more. That something more was intentional and found in the film’s overall theme or objective to the film. This something more can be a statement about society, a truth or theme about life, human nature, or love. It can be a philosophical argument or a political statement. This extra ingredient on top of an already well put together film can be in many different forms but in four star films it is always there and it is always intentional and is always part of the overall purpose of the film. Therefore 4 star films should always be nominated for best picture of the year unless quantity forbids all to receive the nomination. Four star films a rare piece of art that can also be recognized by their quantity. Just like 4 /12 and 5 star films only appear a few times over a course 25 years so too 4 star films tend to appear only about 4 or 5 times a year often times even less. Quantity is a good measure to keep in mind when grading films because even though irregular years in film will present themselves overall four star films will never be too numerous in a given year due to their rare quality.
Five and Four and ½ star Films:
A five star film is a perfect film and a Four and ½ star film is near perfect. These films receive their grade based on the complete or near complete presence of all the ingredients defined in the Nature of Good Films. These films will be valued throughout the entire history of cinema as the best films of all time. These films will be relatively few in number compared to the amount of films made, and being the rarest in number will hold the highest value since things that are rarer are thought to be more valuable. To respect and accurately place films within this most prestigious category a slightly different selection process must be made for these films.
I propose that the highest possible grade a film can be given at the time it was first reviewed is 4 stars. After a minimum span of 25 years a film can be reviewed again by a committee of educated film scholars to grant a film a four and ½ or five star rating. It is very difficult to be able to distinguish between 4 and a 4 ½ or 5 star film at the time it was released by waiting a span of 25 years a reviewer a better see the impact a particular movie had not only to influence future films but also the impact the film had on society and time also helps to show a films overall durability. It is often said that masterpieces are timeless. Furthermore a lot of truly special and great films are often ahead of their time and therefore do not appear to be great when released but when time catches up their greatness is easier to recognize. For Example Bizet’s famous opera Carmen was a flop at the time of its release and the composer died thinking his opera had failed. Therefore to respect and honor truly great masterpieces of film a committee of film scholars should wait a span of 25 years than review all eligible films for possible 4 ½ or 5 star rating.


This Blog has been created out of a passion for film review. But more than passion this blog has been created out of a necessity for universal guidelines and standards in the art of film review. Film review today lacks universal principles from which to judge and critique movies. Every film critic has his or her own grading style and many use unique grading scales, therefore, film review is lacking a solid foundation and a universal set of rules and principals for how to grade films. This blog will not only provide film reviews for the individual reader but even more important a paper defining a universal grading scale for films that defines what each grade means and why a film would receive that particular grade. Furthermore, this blog will provide a paper defining and explaining universal ingredients that make up the nature of good films in order to provide the reader with logical evidence to back up the arguments and final grade found in a particular review. All of this is aimed at bringing logical consistency to film review and to introduce quantifiable processes for grading and critiquing films.