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Introduction –

You may notice that I am giving reviews which seem to be harsher on adult oriented productions more than children oriented productions, or productions with higher budgets than with lower.  The reason for this is simple:  I gauge the review based on the attempt of the production, and the era.

It has become all to common of an occurrence with critics to create a false perspective of the production they are viewing so they appear “mature” or “in the know”.  This leads to industry skewed reviews for the purpose of ego inflation and acceptance.  I care nothing for that.  All I care for is that a production receives an appropriate score based on achievement of its goals.  As a final step, I believe the sum of a production is greater than any singular aspect combined.  Therefore, I will almost always round up to the nearest half point.  There are only a few rare instances where I will round down, such as when the remainder is just a smidge above the half-point mark (such as Pacific Liner, which was 4 hundredths off an average of 3 1/2 stars).  While I will eagerly place quarter points in individual scores, I want to keep the final average on a half-point gauge.

Yes, that means that a simple children’s short could very possibly receive 4 stars, while an Academy Award winning feature only receives 3 or 3 1/2.

The worst thing that has developed in this industry, is a manipulation of eye candy and budgets for the sole purpose of making a production appear to be better than it really is.  This has distilled content down to broad brushed strokes designed to manipulate the audience like a freshly painted day long carnival, rather than to give the audience a feeling of exploration like a themepark or comicbook convention.  Carnivals are fun (like a monster movie), but not everything should be a carnival.

You may also see I absolutely flunk an aspect (or entirety) of production; that’s in an instance where the production completely failed with their budget and attempt, or otherwise made a false claim that wound up injuring the reputation of someone undeserving of the slander.  Typically, anything below 2 stars, especially a flunked rating, will receive an asterisk to insure there is no mistake as to why the rating was received.

You will also see that most productions are above 2 stars.  2 Stars really means those in charge of that area of production couldn’t be bothered to do more than a half-hearted attempt.  It’s rare that someone who does a half-hearted attempt will remain in the industry for long, let alone an entire production.  I have seen terrible productions, and condemnation of a production must be reserved for those failures that are truly awful (and possibly epic) in scope.  I will not give a production that is despised by “those in the industry” a terrible grade simply because members or topic of the production is despised by “those in the industry”.

A production, or aspect of a production, must truly fail in some regard to receive below a 2 star rating.  There are plenty of critics out there who enjoy yelling at the screen for a quick emotional burst that makes their audience laugh, but in the end they become disingenuous toward the production and their audience by doing it too often.  Once a viewer sees a truly terrible production, such as “Manos: the Hands of Fate”, they come to to understand the difference between watching a terrible movie without any redeeming value (a 0 to 1 star production, which has nearly no effort behind its creation), and watching a decent production they happen to dislike (such as a 2-3 star production which has effort behind its creation).

This is why I go to the effort of writing out a review of what I see and understand regarding the effort put into the production itself.  Stars don’t say everything.  Stars don’t tell you what kind of production, what the production was attempting, or what you should expect.  Stars give you a small insight into the quality of the effort from those involved.  Snarky tones, one liners and percentage scores, really are the bane of the existence for understanding the topic that is put under any kind of review, therefore, I also try to stay away from that quip style commentary.  I’m sure you can find a few sentences or a line that I write which may encapsulate some aspect of a production, but it will be a rarity when a single sentence I write can give the full breadth of a regular review.  I typically find such quick overviews to be a betrayal of the effort of any production being reviewed.  5-10 minutes to read through a review isn’t too much to ask, as even the Director of Manos deserves that much time before you make up your mind.

Onto my system –

I divide a production into 6 aspects.  I gauge the aspects in quality by quarters from 1 – 4 stars.  I then add up the scores and average them out (divide by 6).  That number is then typically rounded up to the nearest half-star point, except in a few cases where it’s so very close to a rounded down half-star point.

Most movies are 2+ stars. 2 stars is the MINIMUM requirement in professionalism for a movie to be in the theaters. Anything below 2 stars contains massive errors or faults, and serious consideration should be taken in whether or not you want to see the film. Anything above 2 stars is a typical recommendation.
Still, use your judgment, don’t rely upon ratings alone!

Production –

The production aspect of the film includes all manner of preparation and finalizing (such as organization, marketing, set design, special effects planning, costume design, etc…).  Yes, I realize award shows like to give each individual personal awards for each aspect of production.  Well, these reviews aren’t award shows for individuals, they are reviews.  As such, these facets of production all occur within a clear and decided stage of preparation for any production.  In general, this is the very technical side of production preparation.

Direction –

This may include one or more directors.  One of the difficulties in the film industry is finding the names of all of the directors on any one production, especially older movies, as small directors can come in to provide some assistance with a single shot before leaving.  As such, I only list the names of those directors in the official credits, while mentioning specific aspects in the review that may help or hinder this score.

Script –

There are usually multiple script writers on set, but only 2-5 main writers.  On set script writers tend to be those who make minor changes throughout production to reflect the proper shooting script, or transcription.  Still, more often than not, only 2-3 people receive credit for the entirety of the script.  As with directors, I use the official credits list while citing any special area that I believe helped or hindered the score.

Acting –

I give a score to acting based on the overall talent displayed in the production.  You can have a 1 star script and huge actors giving a 3 star performance.  Even with terrible direction, a truly great actor can push through to give some sense that they are trying to accomplish something with the material and command given to them.  This score alone, however, should not be seen as a source of condemnation or praise for any singular actor (unless it’s a one man show), because all of a project actors affect this overall score.  I may not list all of the actors in the credits (some movies have pages of names, or even people who are not credited), but I try to give as many names as possible.

Editing –

This truly is about story continuity editing and visual editing for a production.  This is not sound or musical editing.  I do not list editors in the credits, this is because not all productions had them listed.

Sound –

Because of what happened between 2004 and 2008 in the sound industry, I’ve decided to separate all aspects of sound into its own category.  This includes musical editing and composition and sound editing and composition.  What happened between 2004 and 2008?  Ah, well, I’m not entirely sure.  I know some basics – companies like Dolby and Sony digital sounds went through a revolution of sorts around that time to improve quality to represent life like experiences.  What this usually means is that you wind up with whispers as low as an actual whisper (20-30 decibels), along with explosions as high as an actual explosion (peaking at or above 120-130 decibels).  This is not just an idle claim.  I’ve actually measured decibel levels in theaters, and despite limitations put forth by legislation, I’ve experienced and recorded levels in the same movie which have that exact spread.  I have heard and seen blown out speakers in theaters because of this sound revolution that took place.  It’s more than just a theater being specially tweaked, it’s the actual decibel spread of some of these special movies produced with this revolutionary sound technology.

The fact is, all aspects of sound have a collaborative effect, whether it’s music, someone speaking, dubbing or even a car crash.  They all affect the experience as an audience member in a combined fashion.

Conclusion –

I hope that this note helps you to understand the method of review.  In the end, a review is the sum of all its parts.  For you to decide if you like a production, you must use more than just stars or decimal points, you must understand the production and its attempt.  Just because a movie may have good acting, a great script and stellar effort, doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily like the movie itself.  Ben-Hur, for example, is a largely well done production, and while I recognize its worth and will gladly recommend it to anyone who likes that type of movie, I personally hate it.  When I review it, I always gauge it as a solid, 3+ star, recommendation to anyone and everyone who like to watch ancient historical fiction set within a biblical epic period; but when it’s on t.v., I can’t stand to sit through more than 20 minutes.  That’s because I can recognize the value of a production’s effort and accomplishments without having to like it.  That’s something that people need to understand.  Stars are just shiny object, don’t be blinded by them.  Read the review in its entirety.  Understand the substance before making your decision.  You may still dislike something while recognizing that it has a 3-4 star effort, and that’s ok.  Heck, you may love a 2 star movie despite its production, and that’s ok, too!  The objective of a review is to give someone insight enough to determine if the subject being reviewed is something they may like when compared with past experiences.

I hope you enjoy my site and the reviews, and if you have a desire to offer some counter reviews or debate, feel free to discuss!  I’m notified whenever anyone makes a post.  Be warned, I love a good debate!  So, if you want to debate a point, I’ll take you up on it!  Just make sure that any debate or discussion is kept at an enjoyable level.  A production is rarely something over which anyone should lose sleep, or become mortally offended.

We’re all here for one combined thing: to find experiences worthy of a good time with friends/family, while sharing and discussing the occasional idea.

Without Wax,

Kevin Conner