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Negative Movie Reviews

Updated on March 18, 2017
Chess anyone? Queen of Katwe director Mira Nair (in the middle).  Movie is about chess and family.
Chess anyone? Queen of Katwe director Mira Nair (in the middle). Movie is about chess and family. | Source

A film review can never be objective if it is based on other things and not the film itself. Some reviewers do a good job and justify their opinions.

Other critics use irrelevant measurements. Unfortunately the brick and mortar of most film reviews is the following:

  • The press kit

  • Comparison

  • Actors’ lifestyle

  • Previous work

  • Personal bias

The internet has made it possible for producers to spread the word about films very early, way ahead their cinema release. Some can be very irritating but even that irritation keeps the film in the attention of audiences.

Despite that, producers still send out electronic and hard copy press kits with the names of cast and crew, some photos and what the film is all about. It is natural for them to say nice things about their investment. A film review refuting everything in the press kit, before actually seeing the film is not a review.

It is also a bad review if it ignores names of the cast because it is a foreign film. The name Tabu in Ang Lee’s film Pi might not mean anything to an American film reviewer. Guess what? It means a lot in India, where Tabu has acted in countless films including Kohram, where she is a corrupt but beautiful police officer.

Blogs, Facebook, Twitter and the whole online scene has made everyone a film reviewer, but reviewers for television, radio and newspapers are still very effective. They have been in the business longer and have followers who check their opinion before going to the movies.

Established film reviewers hang out together. They go to the same film premiers in fact they have been doing it for years. Producers fear them because they can make or break a film. It is therefore possible for them to all end up with the same negative opinion about a film.

Films are business for producers and they lose a lot of money if an individual in a position of power says bad things about their products. Film reviewers in traditional media relish in this power.

Most producers just shrug when film reviews give them a hard time. One restaurant did not take it lying down. Yes, it is not a film but the problem is the same. This is what the BBC reported:

Ms Doudet was sued by the owner of Il Giardino restaurant in the Aquitaine region of southwestern France after she wrote a blogpost entitled "the place to avoid in Cap-Ferret: Il Giardino".


Mani Ratnam was in the same dilemma with Raavan, his 2010 film starring Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Abhishek Bachchan. The reviews were fierce. They were identical.

They did not say what exactly was wrong with the film. They said it was going to be pulled out of cinemas and cinema owners did just that.

I appreciated one reviewer who at least said he did not like the way Beera, Abhishek Bachchan’s character kept on screaming. The reviewer missed the point. The screaming was in context. Beera represents a people that is persecuted because they are black, they live off their land and enemies want that land.

His head is full of policemen who raped his sister. Sometimes Beera cannot take it. It was all in the character and the images the director shot for us. Mani Ratnam assembled a premium cast and crew to tell us a story that is seldom told so spectacularly. Film reviewers won. The world lost a chance to see what is meant by cinema.

Actors' Lifestyles

A film review should be based on the film being reviewed not on the actor’s divorce, return from rehabilitation, prison or his chain-smoking.

It takes away what films are all about. They are make believe. Actors play certain characters. How well did a particular actor play the role of The Pope or President Barack Obama? Come to think of it, in the Indian movie, My Name is Khan, Christopher B. Duncan played Obama beautifully.

That was what was important to me sitting in that dark theatre. Who Duncan is, where he has been was immaterial. What was important was that he was fully in character at that moment. I owe it to the producer and director to say something positive or negative about the film based on that alone.

There are cases where there is no acting. When Justin Bieber is in a film as himself, the audience is warned about. What actors do in their spare time, far away from movie characters should not be part of film reviews.

It is even worse for actresses. They know the inevitable question, ‘When are you getting married?” I’m not interested in that. That should not be part of the film review.

I just want to know how Cameron Diaz handled her character in the 2014 Annie, so that I know whether I can recommend it or not when it is time to catch a movie.

Tyler Perry Movies

People who review films for broadcast media are not sterile. They have their own views about who should be a filmmaker.

It does not matter who the director is. The fact that a film made for $5.5 million U.S. ends up raking in $50.6 million in the U.S. alone is cause for celebration. That was Diary of a Mad Black Woman, directed by Darren Grant, introducing on screen, Tyler Perry as Madea. He had that character in the play of the same title.

Darren Grant gave us great cinematography in Diary and Kimberly Elise, the main actor was in her element. Tyler Perry then directed the next batch of films known as Madea films.

Once again, every Tyler Perry film should be reviewed on its merits. Perry in drag should not be the trampoline for the review. The box office should not be the issue if we stick to the premise that each film deserves its own review.

But we have a situation of double standards. The box office is pertinent in some reviews. It is not in Tyler Perry films. His films consistently fly alone in first week box office takings, but film reviews still have addenda that the audience is black and female.

This myopic view ignores the reality that there are people who love film period and find joy in a Tyler Perry film, whether he is Madea or not.

Film reviewers were surprised when Spike Lee came with his calling card She’s Gotta Have It. There was jubilation in the black world. No prison film full of black men. No black woman as a maid in some southern U.S. state. No black woman helped by a caring white family.

Audiences ignored the bad reviews and flocked to the theatre. Spike Lee got paid and we have a filmmaker in our midst who loves cinematography. See Mo’ Better Blues.


Most film reviews are subjective. Ignore them. The only good review is your own. Just go to the theatre and make your own judgement.


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