Posted by: ckckred | June 16, 2013

How Do You Write Your Reviews?


In light of my recent Melancholia post, perhaps the most difficult thing I’ve ever written on WordPress, I thought I’d ask how you make your reviews.  I know a couple of other blogs use different formats, but what process do you go through to making them?

I typically do the same thing for each movie.  I bring a notepad while watching a film and take notes about what I thought about the movie.  Then I usually wait a day or two before I write the review to cement my thoughts.  When I do start, I usually format my posts in the same way.  I start out with an overview of the film, a short synopsis, than an analysis of the film (the script, direction, acting, etc.), and a conclusion.

But how do you write your reviews?



  1. I asked this question in my blog and people seem to have two ways of reviewing film: with notes or without.

    I have been writing reviews doing the latter, bringing my most composed self before watching the film, remembering things that demand remembering, and contemplate for half to a whole day to make my thoughts and feelings for the film concrete. If I have the money, I do a second viewing as it’s easy to overlook things. I write in all honesty; no sugarcoating or getting inspiration from other reviewers’ reviews (as some of them tend to persuade your thoughts). And that’s it.

    In the occasion of movie festivals, I do, bring a notepad handy, as I watch multiple films in there. It’s easy to forget details if you are putting too much in your brain.

    Great question as always!

    • Thanks! I like taking notes during the film to remind me of certain aspects I may forget later. Like you, I try not to base my opinion on others’.

  2. Good question! So far, my process seems to have settled into watching the movie (without making notes), thinking about it overnight, and then writing it up the next day. I write all my reviews within a day of seeing the film (even if I don’t post them online for a few days), as I find my memory is not particularly strong at retaining information for too long (especially if I’ve seen two films in one evening). I don’t really have the luxury of time to see a film a second time before reviewing it, sadly.

    My writing itself is just done in front of the computer, in the WordPress new post box, once I’ve copied across the basic format I use, changing data as appropriate (adding the poster, updating the credits, the tags and rating). I don’t really have a set format aside from: introduction to the film and what I thought of it, maybe some kind of outline of the characters and plot, stuff I liked about the film in whatever area (I try not to dwell on specific people’s contributions if I disliked them, as it seems mean), then sum it up.

    • Thanks! I usually don’t have enough time to write my review per one day, which is why I try to keep notes during the film. WordPress has a great set-up for writing.

  3. Your reviews are fantastic; keep up doing what your doing. What do you think is missing? Easy-Breezy reviews are okay, but ones that took thought, like yours, are more satisfying to read. I feel sorry for all you movie bloggers who feel you have to review every movie out there. I can’t imagine writing a review about a movie I knew would be crappy before I sat down to watch it! My point, I won’t read a review about a film I couldn’t care less about no matter how brilliantly you wrote it. I like to read about reviews of films I have heard but not seen; classics I forgot about or haven’t seen in decades and need to revisit; or genres I lack knowledge in such like French Noir. I also find it gets old to read fifty reviews about Superman. I will just jump to my favorite movie buff bloggers and read theirs. For instance, there’s no way I’m going to miss Ruth’s review at because the movie meant so much to her. Wow! What a long winded response. Great question!

    • I found the opportunity to start an argument, but keep in mind that I’m pursuing it for the sake of a healthy conversation and only for the sake of a healthy conversation. Look at reviews like this: they are consumers’ commentary. And I guess they are just that. We are afraid that we are going to pay for a movie ticket for a story of two creatures, human and vampire, who inevitably fall in love with each other. (Fogarty, I miss you. I’m shaking off the Twi-hate again! I need a tranquilizer or something.) People like to find guarantees, even if it’s impossible so. So they settle for mere thoughts and opinions.

      On the reviewers’ end, I guess is because we like movies, why we write one too many reviews. We just can’t stop talking about them. Like in my case, I try to catch up and review as many current films as I can, when I’m still a student and has not a lot of money to spend.

      In the end, it’s a free world. Everyone can do anything and I highly doubt that by writing commentaries on a regular basis, on an “each movie that is currently showing” basis, someone gets offended or gets tired. I, however, understand that too many reviews make up for only a vague collective opinion, but then again, no one said to read fifty long-arse reviews.

      Take under advisement that you read only reviews from reviewers and critics that you feel you share cinematic sensibilities with. It’s good to look for others’ once in a while too. Like, say, Leonard Maltin, Roger Ebert (RIP), and this feller blogging for a blog called “Cinematic.” Good luck, and stay away from Twilight! I just watched all of them this week. -_- I hate myself.

    • Thanks! I feel that reviews operate as commentary, and if I ever read a positive review of a movie from a critic I like I try to seek out. For example, I wasn’t expecting much from This Is The End, but I really enjoyed it.

      • You bring up a good point. There have been many films I’ve liked but the critics did not. ‘Flowers of War’ come to mind.

      • I love Seth Rogan and all his commrades. I’ve been wanting to check it out. Glad to hear you liked it.

  4. I put boggle letters in a slurpee cup and shake it up.

    • It shows.

    • So that’s your secret!! lol I should try that 🙂

    • Haha, that’s a good strategy.

  5. I’ve never taken a note during a movie but there were times I wish I had. I have a the same basic formula but it does vary at times. It all depends on how it comes together in my head.

    • Thanks for the comment. I usually take notes at home and do it to retain a solid opinion of it.

  6. I watch a movie, then, assuming I have anything to say about it that’ll fill more than a paragraph or two, I’ll jot down some quick thoughts then take those and flesh them out, hopefully making sense in the process.

    I don’t ever actually take notes during the movie, though. If something’s worth noting, it usually sticks with me well after the movie. 😉

    • Thanks for the comment. I typically try to write an outline as well. I find that notes are very helpful for me writing since I make my reviews a day after seeing them.

  7. I don’t like the taking notes thing. When I see a movie I don’t like having my critic’s hat on. This may be why my reviews don’t sound very critical, but as far as I’m concerned I don’t want my desire to review a movie to impact the actual viewing experience at all.

    When I write a review I feel its best to keep a plot synopsis brief. VERY brief. Like, one sentence. I know that when I read reviews, I don’t care to read a synopsis. If I’ve seen the movie, then I know all that already. If not, I don’t really want a plot breakdown, I can get the gist of it from a trailer or other means. If I’m reading a review I want the reviewer’s opinion of a film and their reasoning behind those opinions. I do not want a plot synopsis.

    And then there’s the rating issue, but I suppose that would be a whole other blog post topic. I do mine out of 10 which I feel gives me a good range of point increments.

    • I definitely agree with you on the plot synopsis thing, and I almost always skip over that part when reading others’ reviews. In my own, I usually write just a brief paragraph at the very least, though there’s times when I didn’t even include one at all. But yes, plot synopsis is by far the least important and most irrelevant part of a review, yet I’ve read more than my share of movie reviews where the majority of the writing is spent explaining the plot, which can be frustrating.

    • Thanks for the comment. I try not to take too many notes, but I find it helpful to describe what I felt during the movie. I usually find myself writing too much for a plot description and break down the story, which is probably a force of habit. I’m almost never confident on a rating system, which is why I rarely use them.

  8. I used to take notes, but then I stopped because I found myself missing things. Plus I didn’t seem to use them much afterwards, and it was just too much work. Usually the only time I really need notes is for my favorite quote, in which case I’ll usually just stop the film and note it, or hope it’s on imdb and look it up later.
    Plot synopsis is the thing I most struggle with, for sure. I think I go into the plot a lot more than most reviewers, and I realize this is a bad thing but I have a terrible time reforming. Usually I have to go over the movie in my head as I review it, and sprinkle in analysis as I review the plot. Otherwise I have to analyze the film while I’m watching it, which I do try to do, but when I focus too much I end up having a list of things I analyzed that I can’t quite connect back to the story.
    Also there’s the question of rewatches. I’m struggling with my review of Bringing Out the Dead at the moment, so I decided to rewatch it but I think I was turning my brain off a bit because I had already seen the film.
    I also struggle with the problem that Cindy was talking about. I felt I had to review Superman because everybody else was reviewing it and it was a highly anticipated movie. Because I didn’t see it until Friday and didn’t get my review up until Sunday, people are already sick of Man of Steel and I’ve gotten like no comments on it. Which is fine, it just seems like a waste of effort, time, and money, going to the theater for a movie everyone else has already reviewed and a movie people are not going to want to talk about once I get around to having my review up. Star Trek, the last really big movie, I was able to see on a Thursday and get up on a Saturday. It saw more of comments than Man of Steel is so far. I didn’t even bother with Iron Man 3, since I already had stuff scheduled and everyone was reviewing it anyway. That weekend I saw a decent amount of comments for 2001, but I don’t know if that’s due to being a break from the Iron Man posts or being a classic. It’s hard to schedule these things and select which films you want to review, because in some cases you want to review films that you think are overlooked or that you really connected with even if they are relatively obscure, but also obscure films don’t get as much comments sometimes because they are obscure. And some bloggers don’t like to read pieces on films they haven’t seen or reviewed yet, but then again, some do. And you also have to build up your base of background knowledge, though films like Taxi Driver and Psycho have been reviewed to death. It’s hard because either way you look at it (getting well known films that people have seen, or getting more obscure films that people might not care to read about because they haven’t seen them) you are going to loose some of your audience.
    Great question; I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.

    • Thanks! I usually only jot down a few things just to keep some of the movie’s elements in mind. I find myself getting too deep in plot synopsis’s as well and try to provide analysis. What did you think of Bringing Out The Dead, I think that’s one of Scorsese’s most overlooked films.

      • I loved Bringing Out the Dead, definitely agree that it is overlooked, especially considering it’s such a good film from Scorsese, a very popular director. I would have thought the similarities with Taxi Driver would have led to more discussion about it, but apparently not.

  9. The solution is simple: write for yourself. Your individuality is what draws people to your blog. Boxes become generic and reviews that are formulaic become like the mundane movies we love to criticize. When people come by, whether they “like” you or comment is always flattering and nice, but it’s the exercise itself, the writing, the satisfaction one gets when one puts their opinions out there that matters. I enjoy reading the different opinions and comments of everyone, and the blogs I appreciate the most are the ones that have me look at the movie in a different light or teach me something new. For example, I never went to film school, so posts about filming techniques are cool to me.

  10. Usually, I try and come up with the first few lines in my mind while I’m watching the movie. Rarely do I ever take notes. Way too distracting.

    • Thanks for the comment. I do they same thing as well. I find note-taking helpful but don’t do it often during the film.

  11. Well I layout my review in a totally made up format really and stick to that format. But I write about the different parts of the film that I use in my scoring system, e.g. Story, acting, characters etc. 😀

  12. Well, it’s been a process that took me a long time to finally figure out and be comfortable with. Usually, I write an introduction to prepare things while getting a few technical credits before watching the film. After that, I often go into a stream of consciousness approach to the writing though I often structure things accordingly. I just try to gather my thoughts into everything I write. Still, I take time to look into everything and see what to cut out and such. Nowadays, I’ve gotten used to not really writing summaries as I wanted to make the reviews more ambiguous a bit but still have an idea of what to expect or what not to expect. It’s something I’ve done for a long time as I’m hoping to improve more as a writer.

    • Thanks for the comment. I typically go through the same strategy as well, think about everything I can to write and try to cut out some unnecessary parts.

  13. I never really write notes; I find it hinders me more than it helps me.

    I don’t really have a writing strategy, either; I just plan to write a critical analysis of the film and hope that’s what comes out at the end. It all changes; writing a review for a Bresson or Godard film will always be different than writing one for Nolan or a buddy comedy. 🙂

    • Thanks for the comment. Note taking is a bit distracting while watching a movie, but I typically write my reviews a day after seeing a film so it helps me remember my thoughts during the movie. I try not to jot down too much though, just some quick thoughts.

      Good point about what movie you’re reviewing. I find when I’m making a review for a serious film, I tend to write more and analyze more elements. When I’m reviewing something else, I usually just give a quick synopsis and some brief thoughts.

  14. I love this question! It’s certainly fun to read all of the responses. 😀

    I write some notes down if I know without a doubt that I’ll be writing about the film, but I usually don’t decide to write a review unless I see something worth talking about. That’s why I have a ton of positive reviews on my site, lol. If I don’t have notes as a guide to writing, then I just sit down and write everything that’s on my mind about the movie. Then I leave the review, come back the next day, make a few changes and corrections, and post it.

    • Thanks for the comment. That’s a good process for writing.

  15. I usually wait about 3 days before I post a review but right after I see a film, I’ll jot down notes as to what I enjoyed and didn’t enjoy about it. Great post!

    • Thanks! I usually go through a similar process.

  16. I never take physical notes, but if things stand out I’ll remember needing to write them down. It can be a while sometimes before I write a review but I generally already have a rough idea what I want to write. As for the review itself, the middle part of it usually is a synopsis and the start and end paragraph whatever is on my mind besides what I already wanted to write down. The writing itself usually is pretty quick. Lately I have been thinking of changing up the format a bit, but have not put in enough time on how to improve it.

    • Thanks for the comment. For me, taking notes helps me remember some things I probably would forget when I start writing the review.

      • But doesn’t it take away your attention from the movie? I will probably forget some things…but while I’m watching I don’t really want to think too much about reviewing it. The mental notes are of the things that stood out that I’d probably discuss as well should I just be talking about had I not written any review.

      • I usually just jot down a few things, then write up more after seeing the film.

  17. Great question, I write notes under my shirt so nobody can see my phone light. I sit in the back so I don’t distract anyone. My reviews are short so I just need to get the main ideas down.

    • Thanks! You have a great format for reviews.

  18. Great post – look at all the feedback!

    I usually watch something I intend to write about and then vomit a bunch of words into a draft. Then I’ll sit on it for a few days and go back and change any words and spell check and add things like commas. A few days later I’ll re-read it and if it’s suitable, I’ll hit the publish button.

    • Thanks! Yeah, I typically do the same thing. A couple of time of times I’ve forgotten that I’ve written a few reviews and have published them a couple of weeks since I’ve seen them.

  19. My approach really is all over the map. For my weekly marathons, I set up a Q&A up front and answer the same questions for each film in that marathon. I also do straight-up reviews too, and I don’t have one specific approach for those. I don’t take notes during the movie, as it distracts me from what I’m watching. I just make sure to write within the next day or two so it’s fresh in my mind.

    With the reviews that aren’t using the Q&A structure, it really depends on what strikes me about the movie. I find that plot summary isn’t usually needed beyond a few lines, so what I discuss will depend on the themes, characters, or story elements that I find the most interesting. I don’t do ratings on my site, so it isn’t really about explaining why I gave it a certain grade. This keeps me from falling into a trap of getting stuck writing the same way every time. Those reviews can get stale at least for me.

    • Thanks for the comment. I don’t use ratings either, mostly because I never seem to agree upon one.

  20. I don’t take notes.

    Generally I watch new films some point during their opening weekends, and will right my review on Sunday.

    My format is typically the same. I give a fairly detailed account of the beginning of the film to a point, and then I go into my critique. I usually go over the negatives first and then the positive, and then end with an overall assessment. Sometimes I add a PS of something related to the movie but not necessarily the review.

    I proof my review the same day it goes live early in the morning to catch any missed errors.

    • Thanks for the comment. That’s a good format. I usually talk about my complaints and then what I liked as well.

  21. Great question! It really varies how I write my reviews. Sometimes I could write it fairly quickly (within 2 hrs) but sometimes it took me a while to do (like I did with Man of Steel). I still find writing reviews to be quite a challenge even after 4 yrs of blogging!

  22. Ideally I watch a movie, let it digest for an hour or two and then start writing. Of course, that rarely happens. I tend to do most of my writing for hours at a time on the weekends, often indulging in multiple reviews at once. I find it difficult to write after a long day of work during the week.

    • Thanks for the comment. Yeah, I usually try to write all my reviews at once too.

  23. I never take notes. I’ve actually found it’s quite useful to have the wikipedia page for the movie open in another window as I write. Mainly because they outline the entire plot from beginning to end, like a synopsis. Reading that usually helps jog my memory on anything that I might have missed that I particularly liked. I’ll be all, “Yeah, that bit. That bit was cool! Okay, why was it cool?” and it gets me writing.

    In the first paragraph I usually like to create a bit of context for the movie first, any little bit of movie history that might seem relevant, or whether I have or haven’t read the books etc. I know there’s a school of thought that you should review a film as if it exists in a bubble, and not relate it to stuff you’ve read or seen. But I don’t agree with that.

    If possible, I like to try and tie the last paragraph in with something I’ve said earlier in the review to round it off. Failing all that, I just smash the keyboard with my hands and hope that someone at least ends up getting a laugh out of my words. 😉

    • Thanks for the comment. I also typically use the wikipedia page for the plot as well as information about the actors.

  24. I never take notes during a film, though I usually try to write my review either the same day or next day so I don’t lose details. For me, the synopsis depends on how well known the movie is. If it’s a generally popular movie, I just do a very brief rundown, if it’s an obscure movie I’ll go into more details. Since I deal with superhero movies I generally discuss both concept of the hero and the villain, how I felt about everything, and a brief conclusion. I never rate movies because I like movies in so many different ways, and I try to guide a movie to someone who would enjoy it. A bad movie can be fun to watch if it’s got the right kind of bad in it, but only certain people enjoy those kinds of movies.

    • Thanks for the comment. That’s a good idea about the synopsis. I would prefer spending more time writing analysis’s about films than the storyline. I also don’t do ratings for the same reason, plus I can almost never decide on one.

  25. Nothing too creative for me. If I am writing a longer review I take notes during the film. If it is just for my monthly ‘worth watching’ piece, then I will scribble something down after the film. I try to write soon after I have seen the film, but have left it literally months before bashing out the review.

    I try not to have a set ‘formula’ for my reviews, because I worry that if it is too rigid it will be really bland for people to read. Usually it ends up with a short intro and a short conclusion. Two or three paragraphs in the middle. One generally on technical aspects of the film and/or acting. Another with a little on plot, but I generally don’t go into synopsis territory too much.

    • Thanks for the comment. That’s a good strategy.

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