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Language Network, Grade 8
Home > Language Network, Grade 8 > Chapter 29 > ANALYZING MEDIA: Movie Reviews
Return to book index Chapter 29 : Study and Test-Taking Skills


When a new movie hits the theaters, how do you know if it's a must-see? If you're like many people, you might read a critic's review of the movie in a newspaper, on the Internet, or in a magazine. A review often lets you know what the movie is about (usually without giving anything away). More importantly, a review usually includes the critic's opinions of the movie's various aspects, such as the plot, the actors' performances, the cinematography, special effects, or the music and sound effects.

Movie reviews can be informative—they can help you decide which movies to see and which to skip. But it's important to remember that a movie review is subjective; it only gives you one person's opinion. A movie that one critic thinks is dull and boring may be what another critic contends is the best picture of the year. And you may have an entirely different opinion.

When deciding whether to check out the latest blockbuster, ask your friends and family what they think about the movie. Read several critics' reviews online or in a newspaper. Consider your sources. Do you have the same interests and tastes as a particular friend? Is there a critic whose opinion you generally trust? What do these reliable sources tell you about the movie? Using all of these sources, you'll be able to make smarter, more informed choices about the movies you see.

Choose a movie that you've seen in the theater recently, and read what several critics have to say about it. Weighing the critics' opinions with your own, write a movie review that explains your opinion of the movie. Your review should also discuss how your opinions differ with those of the other reviewers. You may search for movie reviews on the sites listed below, or you can search for other entertainment sites using your favorite search engine. Share your movie review with your classmates.

Questions to Answer in Your Review

  1. What is the plot of the movie? Does the story grab your attention at the beginning? Does it hold your interest throughout the entire movie?
  2. Are the actors believable in their roles? Which actors give the best performances? The worst?
  3. Does the cinematography add to the movie's story or setting? What mood or atmosphere is conveyed?
  4. Does the movie have special effects? If so, how do these effects enhance the story?
  5. What music and sound effects are used? How do these sound elements affect your understanding of the story or the characters?
  6. In your opinion, which of the elements above—plot, actors' performances, cinematography, etc.—is the most important aspect of a movie? Why?
  7. How do your opinions differ from those of the other critics? Do you agree or disagree with any of their main points?

The use of specific lighting and camera work to contribute to the "look" and mood of a particular film. The cinematography should capture the atmosphere of a film. For example, a movie about cowboys in the American West should use camera work and lighting that will best reflect this location and mood.

Music and Sound Effects
Music is often used in movies to add emotional power to a scene, or to tell you how to feel about the story or the characters. Sound effects—especially in action movies, thrillers, and science-fiction films—can make the story seem more suspenseful and realistic.

A chain of events that makes up a story. A good movie plot grabs your attention at the beginning and holds your interest.

Special Effects
Special effects include manipulated video images, fast or slow motion, and computer-generated animation. For many people, action movies are more about the attention-getting special effects than about the actual plot.

Particular to an individual person.