Film Criticisms and Movie Review Tropes Which Irk Me

The following points primarily focus on film criticism but some of them can also apply to the reviewing of other forms of media. I am guilty to some of the following during my early attempts at writing movie reviews but eventually saw the error of my ways, and became increasingly aware of and irritated by the following. I may add more in the future.

 

Describing the Plot of a Film in Detail:

There was once a time I looked at reviews people had written and being impressed by big paragraphs of text, until I would actually read the review and find a large portion of it, sometimes majority of the review is a description of the film’s plot, essentially filler to make a review look longer than it actually is. If I have seen a film then I already know the plot so why would a read lengthy description? If I haven’t seen the film then I want the film to contain surprises and don’t want to know the plot in detail, and if I do want a summary of a film’s plot then I can just read a synopsis on IMDB or Wikipedia.

 

Labeling a Film “Outdated”:

I believe the term outdated can be aptly used at times; a friend of mine felt The Wages of Fear was outdated because he considered the remake Sorcerer to be superior, ok fair enough. The majority of the time, however, I feel it’s just used as a lazy way of writing off an old movie that someone didn’t enjoy. I didn’t enjoy the film, Little Caesar, as much as I’d like to as I’m a big fan of the Warner Bros gangster movies of the 1930’s; so should I just write it off as “outdated”? No. I’m sure I would have the same reaction to the film if I watched it in 1931. Instead, I’ll examine the movie for why I don’t like that rather than just calling it “outdated”.

Other times reviewers will label something as outdated as if it’s supposed to be a bad thing. “The special effects are outdated, the acting style is outdated, the politics are outdated, the music is outdated”. Yeah, that’s one of the reasons I like old movies. It’s a world away from our own and they offer an insight into the world at the time.

 

Being Overly Apologetic For Your Opinion:

It goes without saying that snobbery is looked down upon, but I do find the other extreme end to be annoying. I am guilty of this myself in the past, being afraid to put forth an unpopular opinion (i.e, my thoughts on Rocky V), which ultimately I believe leads to a misrepresentation of your true opinion. For example, In the review James Rolfe posted on his site Cinemassacre for Batman Begins as part of his Bat-a thon series of reviews (not to discredit the man as he is a huge inspiration on me), he spends most of the review criticising aspects of the film but only to say at the end he enjoyed the film overall.

I feel like there exists this fear of one being labeled a fanboy or fangirl for constantly praising something they like, and having to justify it by pointing out that they don’t love everything or even dislike pieces of work form an artist or franchise; talk about a first world problem. Someone on the internet called me a fanboy? So what, big deal; I like what I like.

 

Criticising a Film as Historically Inaccurate:

Movies are pieces of entertainment, not documentaries. Alfred Hitchcock said “drama is life with the dull bits cut out”. Do you really expect a film based on historical events to be entertaining and emotionally engaging if it’s 100% accurate to the known accounts? Unless we’re talking about a glaring anachronism which takes you out of the film, then a certain amount of artistic license is fair game. I find cinema can be a gateway to history; I watch a film based on a historical event and it may make me want to research said event, which I might otherwise not have known about.

 

Not Having Anything Unique to Say:

In the past I tried to review It’s a Wonderful Life, it’s one of my favourite movies however I couldn’t find much to say about it which has not been echoed by people in the past, so I simply didn’t write a review for it. How tiresome is it read/hear a review which just states the commonly known reasons why a particular movie is beloved or disliked (Or God forbid hearing that dreaded review opener “What can I can I say about this film which hasn’t been said before?”). Film critic Mark Kermode for example gave the Twilight movies positive reviews. I certainly don’t agree with him but it was refreshing to hear an alternative opinion rather than hearing the same old reasons why The Phantom Menace sucks for the millionth time.

 

Criticising the Use of Plot Holes:

If a film contains a plot hole and it simply doesn’t bother me, then it’s a testament to how great a film can be unless the plot hole hurts the story. The worst film reviewers will point out plot holes as a means of acting snarky. When a person or a group has invested several years of their lives towards the production of a movie they are certainly going to be aware if the script contains plot holes. Do you ether make changes in the script which will affect the flow of a film just so it can be more realistic or do you disguise the plot holes, which itself requires skill.

 

Complaining About Academy Awards:

I have a rule when writing reviews not to talk about Academy Awards because I feel it is so redundant to do so. “How did this beat ‘x’ picture?”, Why didn’t ‘x’ get an Oscar nomination?”; such tiring statements. It’s no secret that the Academy awards safe film choices and movies which don’t deserve to win throughout its entire 90 year history. There is no rhetoric employed by the Academy Awards to determine what makes a film awards worthy, so why is there always uproar or shock over their choices?

 

Criticising a Movie For Being Sentimental:

There doesn’t seem to be any word more dirty than sentimental. Unearned emotions? What does that even mean? Stories have been manipulating people’s emotions since the dawn of time. Pulling of effective sentimentality is a skill, and I have not come across a single good reason as to why it is a problem. This is the one film criticism which has annoyed me so much in the past it’s actually been bad for my mental well being. Give me the swooning love scene with the over the top music or the death scene in which the emotions are in full gear. I won’t feel guilty about being moved by it, not one bit.

 

Criticising a Movie For Being Melodramatic:

Another word which has become dirty for no good reason. Melodrama is a style of storytelling and there’s nothing wrong with it in and of itself; it can be done well and it can be done badly. It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but unless a film is overly melodramatic or has misplaced melodrama, then more than not it’s another cop-out criticism.

 

I Like It Because I Grew Up With It:

I’d be willing to give some leeway on this one as maybe some people can attach a strong nostalgic bond to a movie (or another piece of media) and enjoy it largely or entirely on that even if the media in question is not very good. Although I’m not fully convinced and see this as a possible cop-out answer rather than giving a movie a legitimate examination as to why you like it, not just because you grew up watching it. I feel that movies which fall under this banner are often those which people are embarrassed to admit they like. Which segue ways into my next point…

 

Describing Films Not Held In a High Regard as a “Guilty Pleasure”

Embarrassed to admit you like a movie? Then just say it’s a guilty pleasure and never have to defend your opinion. Ummm…no. I prefer to judge movies on an equal playing field. It doesn’t matter if you’re American Pie or The Seventh Seal. Why should I feel guilt for something which gives me pleasure? What are you? The Roman Catholic Church? What even constitutes as a guilty pleasure? I’ve some lists of so-called Guilty Pleasure movies which contain some surprising entries.

The Angry Video Game Nerd (2004-Present)

This Game Sucks…

The reviewing of poor media products on the internet has become a whole genre of comedy in itself. Movies, video games, anime, comic books, music, etc, all have dedicated reviewers who will pick them apart and criticize all in the good name of entertainment. One of the most famous perpetrators and originators of this genre within the cyberspace of the internet is none other than The Angry Video Game Nerd. The Nerd (James D. Rolfe), is a foul-mouthed, short-tempered retro gamer, destined to review as he would call them, “sh***y f**king games”.

The Nerd’s trademark humor is comprised mostly of strong profanity and over the top comparisons to describe how awful a game is, i.e. “This game is so hard it would actually be easier to outside in a thunderstorm and dodge rain”. It’s an acquired taste but trust me when I say there are few times in my life in which I laughed as hard when I first discovered this guy and watched his Ghostbusters review back in 2007.

This is partially due to many of the games he reviews being so horrific they almost review themselves but also because of James’ charisma as a performer. Let’s face it, almost everyone who goes on the internet and makes videos in which they try to entertain or inform (including top subscribed You Tubers, although I won’t name names) are either dull or are trying to force a personality onto themselves. James, on the other hand, is just a complete natural. He’s always an absolute joy to listen to and makes the art of appearing on camera and reviewing media (whether comically or straight) seem easy. However, James is first and foremost a filmmaker and thanks to this The Angry Video Game Nerd had considerably greater production values than most other internet content. Frankly, the guy is one of my personal heroes.

I still continue to enjoy new episodes of The Angry Video Game Nerd. I’m glad James now only makes several episodes per year, whereas at the height of the series productivity we had two every month. Some of the more recent episodes are among some of the funniest he’s ever done, not bad for something which debuted on YouTube 9 years ago. I just hope he will keep the character in this state of semi-retirement. With The Angry Video Game Nerd, James Rolfe managed to create something totally original. Countless imitators will come and go but the original will never be topped.

The Nostalgia Critic (2007-Present)

“What Happened To You Man? You used to have strong plentiful balls”: Ma-ti – Battlefield Earth Review

Back in 2007, an episode of The Angry Video Game Nerd involved the titular character reviewing the movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III. This was a change of pace to his regular videos as he would normally only review video games, however, I particularly loved this one video and wish he could have done more like this, or that someone would come around and be The Angry Video Game Nerd of movies. In a number of respects, this was The Nostalgia Critic (portrayed by Doug Walker). This is what first attracted me to the series when I first discovered it in 2009, and after watching a few episodes I was hooked. The series debuted on YouTube in 2007 before moving to Doug Walker’s own site That Guy With the Glasses.com (later re-titled Channel Awesome), a website which showcased of people involved in the increasingly popular genre of satirical reviews.

That Guy With the Glasses wasn’t entertainment being churned out by a corporation or by Hollywood executives, it was entertainment for the people by the people with no concern for financial gain but creating content purely out of passion which could be shared with a mass audience thanks to this thing known as the internet. I had my own aspirations to be on TGWTG, of course, nothing ever materialized, but to even be a follower of the site it felt like being part of something truly special and unique. All the great personalities the site had to offer; Spoony, Angry Joe, Todd in the Shadows, Linkara, Paw, Film Brain – the list goes on. Online videos like these have more heart, soul, and personality than contemporary Hollywood blockbusters or anything currently on TV.

But let’s talk about The Nostalgia Critic. Doug Walker was a natural comedian, he made the art of reviewing while cracking jokes, pop culture references and comedic over reactions look easy. Surf Ninjas is my favourite NC review, I have watched a good 30 times; a masterpiece of sarcasm. I remember I used to stay up on Tuesday nights to see each new video as soon as it was uploaded and I considered Doug Walker to be one of my comedic influences.

Various ex-fans of The Nostalgia Critic have different dates as to when he went downhill, so I can’t speak for everyone, but for me personally, 2011 was the beginning of the end. Right from the start of 2011, the cracks were showing. Sequel month was a lazy idea, just rehashing previous review source material, but I presumed this would just be a minor blip. Despite a few good videos over the following year, the quality had declined. Also while I absolutely adored the two year anniversary special Kickassia, the following anniversary special in 2011 Suburban Knights simply wasn’t funny, not to mention it felt like a very anti-climatic follow up to Kickassia in which they made the special in cooperation with an actual micro-nation. Going from something as large-scale and ambitious as that to a special filmed is suburban neighborhood felt like a bummer. When Star Trek month rolled around in January 2012 I gave up. Now at this point, The Nostalgia Critic’s video wasn’t awful, but more so just really boring.

I was glad when Doug brought the series to an end in August 2012 and began a new project called Demo Reel. Perhaps Demo Reel had potential but what I have watched of it is seriously dull; although at least it was something different and showed Doug didn’t want to be The Critic all his life. However, due to the failure of Demo Reel Doug revived The Nostalgia Critic. I haven’t seen everything he has done since the series revival but what I have is unbelievably awful. For this review, I had to try and watch more recent videos of his which I hadn’t seen, and doing so was the biggest chore, such a contrast to his older work which had such a natural progression and the best of which were consistently funny from beginning to end.

A rundown of the problems with The Nostalgia Critic beginning in 2011 and spiraling out of control in 2012:

Firstly he started going to way of MTV, he’s become The Nostalgia Critic in name only. This problem began in October 2011 when he reviewed Exorcist II: The Heretic and Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2; two films totally outside of his territory as there’s nothing nostalgic about them to the Critic’s target audience. He once had cut off date of 2000 (aside from the odd exception), however now it’s clear he’s run out of nostalgic movies and TV shows from his time frame and now reviews whatever he wants. He was at his best reviewing stupid and nonsensical Movies and TV shows from the 80’s and 90’s; that was the kind of material that worked best with his brand of humor.

His jokes are now forced beyond belief, an example? In his Top 11 F-Ups Part 3, he makes a joke about how people get the titles of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and Revenge of the Sith mixed up. Not only is this joke shoehorned in out of nowhere, it’s creating a situation that doesn’t even exist. However it’s bad enough when a joke is unfunny and forced, it’s even worse if it goes on for ages. I don’t mind long jokes if they’re done well as Doug himself has done so in the past such as the dream sequence in the Junior review. For an example of a joke which goes on for an eternity; the “Allen” gag in his Jurassic Park III review. I was in a state of disbelief and non-existent laughter at just how long it lasts. I could make a huge list of the individual jokes in his new videos and why each one doesn’t work.

Other reviews are simply unpleasant, hateful and mean-spirited. In his review of Eight Crazy Nights, he had recurring gag throughout the video making fun of Happy Madison fans as lowest common denominator yokels. Regardless of how terrible Happy Madison films are, I did not start watching this guy’s videos in the first place to see such mean-spirited gags such as this.

The other major source of increasing annoyance is the lack of research he does for his videos. In his Patch Adams review he clearly has no knowledge of film’s subject matter, or in his Jurassic Park review, he criticizes the science present in the film and even has a sketch about it despite having no apparent knowledge of it. This brings me to what annoys me most of what the critic has now become. He’s become a self-righteous know-it-all jerk, and not in an intentional self-aware funny way. His review of Patch Adams is just one huge snob fest, while in his reviews of generally well-liked films (Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, The Matrix), he parades like his opinion is fact even though his criticisms on these films are just stupid nitpicking. There was once a time when watching a Nostalgia Critic review was simply fun, now it’s about having Doug Walker’s self-righteous, poorly researched, incorrect or simply illogical statements shoved down your throat. The dividing line between Doug and his fictional creation is becoming increasingly blurred; in his Top 11 F-Ups Part 3 he makes a list entry related to videos he made speaking as himself and not the Critic.

Since Demo Reel failed the people Doug has hired to appear in that show are now regulars on the revived series of The Nostalgia Citric, and none of them of any charisma; it makes me miss the days of Ma-ti. His new videos also look too sterile and washed out; what happened to that warm inviting yellow background?

He’s also stopped using creative title cards and instead now uses lazy photoshopped title cards; ironic considering in his Drew Struzan tribute he criticized movie studios for using lazy, uninspired photoshopped movie posters. Also, all these new title cards have an exaggerated facial expression from Doug which is increasingly obnoxious. I’m sure there are many other problems I could mention, but trying to watch his more recent videos for the sake of this review is excruciating with how bad they are.

Then there’s his NC: Editorials. These annoy me for two reasons. Firstly it’s the constant retreading of this mentality that you’re simply blinded by nostalgia if you dislike some aspect of contemporary popular culture. Secondly, they’re pretentious, giving an over important emphasis to questions no one was asking the answers to (Is It Right to Nitpick? Why Do We Love Stupid?), or questions which have obvious answers (Have we gone too deep into CGI?, Why Is Tom & Jerry Genius?).

I can’t comment on the current state of other TGWTG contributors as I gave up on the site as a whole long ago (expect Todd In the Shadows who is the only one I still watch), but I know some of the longtime members such as The Nostalgia Chick, Oancitizen, Phealous, and Obscurus Lupa are no longer there.

When writing this review I was wondering if it was a mistake to undertake as I much prefer to write reviews of stuff I love instead of contributing to an internet full of negativity, but this show used to mean so much to me and bring me such joy, now it does the complete opposite. I have witnessed two things in my life degrade from being something I loved so dearly to becoming one of the worst pieces of so-called “entertainment” I have ever seen – The Simpsons and The Nostalgia Critic. It’s hard to watch his old videos now without thinking about what a joke he is now. Congratulations Doug on destroying your own creation.

Todd’s Pop Song Reviews (2009 – Present)

Review Brilliance

Of the internet reviewers spawned from the satirical reviewing site That Guy With The Glasses, I consider Todd In The Shadows to be one of the very greatest productions the site offers. While other reviewers on TGWTG mostly focused on movies, video games and anime etc, Todd brought the much-needed sector of reviewing popular music to the site.

Todd Nathanson began producing videos on YouTube and eventually was accepted onto TGWTG.com and found new spread popularity on the site and I don’t think this could have happened at a better time, due to this being the period when the likes of Lady Gaga, Keh$a and The Black Eyed Peas where beginning or already had been dominating the top 40 pop charts. Pop music needed criticism and analyses more than ever, and that’s where Todd comes in.

A standard episode of Todd’s Pop Song Reviews involves an analyses of a recent U.S Billboard Top 40 pop song, a bad one of course. Each episode begins with a piano cover of the song which about to be reviewed, followed by an introduction to the song and the artist behind it. The songs themselves are pulled apart, with deep analyses of the lyrics (often pointing out how they don’t make sense) and often comments on the music video itself, followed by a final conclusion of the song. Each episode is filled with jokes, gags, and one-liners mixed in with the review itself but is all perfected flawlessly making Todd’s Pop Song Reviews both a hilarious and insightful look into the world of pop music. The guy is one hell of a comedy machine and you can get quite the music education from his show.

However, I still have yet to mention possibly the most important aspect of the series. Like many other internet reviewers, Todd has a gimmick. The simple genius that we don’t know that he looks like due to wearing a hoodie and being unlit within the shadows he inhabits. I love the mystery of not knowing what his physical appearance is and it’s also quite a romantic idea in itself. Todd has to communicate primarily through his voice and he certainly has a voice which does just that; clear and audible, pleasant to listen too, and strong enough to get his points across. Todd’s Pop Song Reviews is one the finest review shows the internet has to offer. Todd Nathanson isn’t a household name but I can call the guy one of my heroes.