Friday, February 27, 2009

Neil Sonnekus demonstrates how not to write a movie review

As for the film’s politics, well, it’s positively Bushian in its anti-Arab sentiments. - Neil Sonnekus

NVDL: I see this quite often, and it's often based on the length of the review you're reading. The longer the review, the better the chance that the reviewer is telling you the story of the movie so that - you guessed it - you no longer need to go and watch it.

Because there is a thing known as 'tension' that filmamkers try to put into a movie. Tension adds to the emotion of a flick. Part of the magic of films is that we don't know or can't guess what happens next. One of the most common gripes about a movie is that it is unimaginative or 'predictable'. Let me be very very simple - a movie that's predictable is one where you have a good idea what's going to happen next. Audiences don't like that.

Now, I've also gone to press screenings, and it is a priviledge to see flicks before the public does. I don't understand why Reviewers (sorry that should be a small letter 'r' ) after seeing a movie, feel they have the 'scoop' on the movie, and treat it like an exclusive story. Like the directors ideas are theirs, that the zeitgeist the director probes automatically becomes the reviewer's to share with the public as though they've been given the copyright. You haven't!

When I watched Dark Knight I knew this was going to be one of the biggest movies ever (not many others did, so pat on the back for me). However, if I had gone and told (don't read this if you haven't seen it yet) you that Rachel dies in the movie I would have spoilt a lot of it for you.

In fact, that did happen to me. One of the most anticipated movies and someone kindly explained what happens... In a movie about escalation, the director is at pains to take you step by step through the escalation. Fortunately it is such a painstakingly intelligent film you can watch it a half dozen times or more and learn something new. Well, I have.

Back to Sonnekus. He starts his review of Taken really well, some nice insights on French filmmaking and Besson. But then by way of analogy for what is to follow Sonnekus defines what the slang word 'sick' means, before going through the plot details as though he'd written them himself.

Part of the knack of movie writing is providing a glimpse of the contents, just enough so you want to watch the movie, just enough so you have a reasonable idea what it's about. It's almost like pointing a finger at the thing you're promoting and then noting the pointing of the finger rather than what it's pointing to...which Sonnekus does, perhaps inadvertantly, with his introduction to french cinema.

What is the psycho psychology behind retelling a movie to someone? That's not a review, that's like an artist putting tracing paper over a cartoon and then signing his name. It's not creative, it adds nothing. It's pointless. But I guess if you can't make movies, you can tell people about everything that happens in it and sign your name to the review making sure everyone who reads your review enjoys the movie even less if they bother to go and watch it.

clipped from

The next thing he knows, his 17-year-old daughter, Kim (Grace), wants to go to that supposed city of love, Paris. She and a 19-year-old friend. Alone to a “sick apartment” in Paris, all the way from LA. And she has a paranoid, ex-forces father. The ex-wife exerts pressure and he finally relents, on condition that Kim phones him when she gets there, every night.

Are things going to go wrong? You bet they are. Kim might have meant the apartment was cool by calling it sick, in the parlance of teens today, but it turns out to have some sick consequences in the parlance of yesterday.

Is daddy going to bring all his special forces knowledge to bear on saving his daughter? Check. Thus begins his journey to the centre of the trafficking trade in human flesh in the city of love.

Does Neeson do well as a vigilante type father? Yes, in the sense that only the French can see something completely new in a non-French actor.

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