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The Mind of a Critic – New Writer on Podcast Juice


seanhill1

The Mind of a Critic

My name is Sean Hill avid movie watcher and self-proclaimed film buff. Movies have always been an important part of my life and in fact I have a BS in Communications with an emphasis in Broadcasting. I had hoped to turn that degree into a film career but that did not workout however my love of the cinema did not. I have seen more movies than I care to count and I really don’t have a favorite genre. I like all types of films except for bad ones! I currently reside in sunny San Diego with my wife and 2 children. Due to work and family obligations I am not able to get to the cinema as much as I would like to but my love for film has not vanished. In my reviews I try to be as honest as I can in my critiques with insight and humor.

I am often asked why I care so much about the movies. Why am I so critical? What makes me an expert in movies? My personal favorite question I’m asked is why can’t I just enjoy the movies I see and not analyze or over analyze them? Well my friends the answer is simple; I love the cinema and I have since I was a kid. There isn’t much to it than that. Some people love and consider themselves experts in wine or cigars or cars or whatever. I consider myself an expert in movies. I have spent a great deal of time not only watching movies but researching and reading everything I can about them as well. You know those commentaries on DVDs and blu-rays that no one cares about? I listen to them and find them quite enjoyable. Interestingly enough I like listening to commentaries of bad movies. Those are fun because sometimes the filmmakers acknowledge the film’s shortcomings while others will defend the bad movies that they have made. But I am getting ahead of myself here. The point of this piece is to give you some insight into how I view, evaluate, and rate the movies I see.

The first thing I try to determine is does the film work within the genre that it is in. For example is a comedy so the question I ask myself would be “is this movie funny “? In the case of BRIDESMAIDS it is extremely funny so the film works within its genre. THE HANGOVER PT.2 is a comedy that is not funny so it’s a film that does not work within its genre. Simply put how does the movie differentiate itself from other movies in the same genre. You have thousands of comedies to choose from so why chose “that” particular one to watch. Why see THE HANGOVER 2 when you can just see THE HANGOVER. Along those same lines another aspect I consider is does the movie accept what it is. Those who know me know I have affection for SNAKES ON A PLANE. While I acknowledge that it is not the best movie ever made what I do like about is that it does attempt to try to be anything other than “SNAKES ON A PLANE”. The movie knows it’s a B-Movie with and A-List star. I would rather sit thru that movie than say THE GREEN HORNET, a movie that can not make up its mind what it wants to be. Is it a parody, homage, a serious action piece, comedy? The movie can't decide what it wants to be and because of that it is not very good.

The second thing I take into consideration is the story of a movie. Contrary to what some may think I do not try to outguess or figure out where a story is going. I like to let it unfold and see where it goes. Once the movie is over then I try to determine if the story worked or not. I have found that trying to figure out where a movie is going I miss out on other things so I don’t worry about that while I am watching it. For example when I first saw THE SIXTH SENSE I knew that there was a surprise ending I just did not know what that surprise ending was. I did not try to figure it out although I did somewhat because I kept wonder why Bruce Willis only interacted with Haley Joel Osment during the course of the story. Of course at the end I had my answer but my focus was the story itself and not trying to put the ending together. [SIDENOTE: Out of all the “surprise twist ending movies” I believe this one holds up to repeated viewings. There are many other that try this same thing but if you go back and watch them a second time the ending just doesn’t work.] Now I may not like the outcome of a story but that won’t stop me from giving the film a positive review. For example I HATED the outcome of NIGHTS IN RODANTHE however I found the story compelling enough to give it a positive review.

Characters can make or break a movie and to me that is the difference between a good movie and bad movie. No matter the genre of a movie the characters have to be interesting. You don’t necessarily have to LIKE a character in a movie but if they are not interesting it doesn’t make a good movie. Hannibal Lector is not a likeable character but he is an interesting one. If you have read my previous entries on my greatest films of all time you will find there is a common thread between them and that is those movies are about the people first and what happens to them second. If the characters are not interesting then to me the movie is just two hours of background noise. Let’s use the beloved TWILIGHT series as an example. To me the movies don’t work, although I have given 2 of the 4 positive reviews, because the 3 main characters just aren’t that interesting. The filmmakers haven’t done enough to flesh them out and make them more interesting. [SIDENOTE: I haven’t read the books so I am just talking about their cinematic rendering and not what is on the page.]

Since Hollywood is devoid of ideas the last 10 years or so there have been loads of sequels, reboots, remakes, prequels, updates, directors cuts, and studio cuts being released. Reviewing these types of films is tricky because they come in with baggage from their sometimes successful originals. The way I look a these types of films is also simple and I again will use THE HANGOVER 2 as an example. If THE HANGOVER 2 was THE HANGOVER 1 would THE HANGOVER 2 be any good? My answer would be no. THE HANGOVER 2 as the first outing would not produce a sequel. I try to view these types as their own separate entity and determine if they can stand on their own. It’s the rare sequel that can do that with THE DARK KNIGHT being the most obvious example to this. I do not hold the recent rash of remakes in high regard because in most cases the films that are being remade are not all that bad. See my article on the Worst of 2011 and read my review of the remake of FRIGHT NIGHT at hillstreetviewz.blogspot.com for my thoughts on remakes/reboots.

Well there you have it you have entered the mind of film critic. I hope this helps you understand what things I consider when watching a movie. These rules don’t necessarily always apply, for example kid’s movies, but those are the things I generally look for. So the next time you read a review of mine you will have an idea of what thought process went into my ratings. I hope you enjoy reading my reviews as much as like writing them. You can also follow me on Twitter as @hillstreetviewz and read my reviews of mainstream films at hillstreetviewz.blogspot.com.

4 Stars-A MUST see
3 Stars-Very good but not GREAT
2 Stars-Watchable don’t expect t much. See something else instead
1 Stars-Skip it
No Stars-AVOID at all cost