REVIEW CRITERIA

I thought it might be a good idea to post this here, I’ve posted it elsewhere in the past, but not on this particular blog.

First of all, I will be doing a lot of reviewing on this site. I will be reviewing movies, books, television shows, etc. Now, I am in no way a final authority on any of these things. My reviews are purely personal opinion. Whether I love or hate something is just that: my opinion. I am in no way attempting to convince you, dear reader, to share my opinions. If we disagree, I believe we can still be friends.

I did, however, want to let you know what some of my criteria are when I’m reviewing things. This post was specifically written about movies, but the criteria hold true most of the time for books and tv shows as well. So without further ado:

Some of you out there may be pondering such mysteries as: why does Jenelle like movies so much? Or, what sorts of movies does Jenelle enjoy watching, wherefore and why? (which is redundant, by the way, since “wherefore” means “why”).

Movie night, growing up in my family, was a special treat once a week. My family did not watch television (except for baseball games… and even those were rather hard to see since our reception was not the sort of thing you pay for), and then we got to watch Saturday morning cartoons when I got a little older (with the same reception problems), from which many fond memories spring.

 However, besides these few exceptions, the TV was hardly ever on, and we never watched movies during the day or on weeknights. Thus, Friday night was special, something to look forward to, a tradition. We would get a movie and pizza and we would all gather in the living room for Family Night. Even more special were the Fridays when we would go out to a movie and then out to dinner afterwards. (This was your family night? you ask, watching movies?) You are right to ask, many people believe movies are not a truly social event. However, I beg to differ. While we rarely talked during the movie (except to ask my dad to explain what was going on, for which he would pause the movie and explain the plot to those of us who had gotten distracted or were under the age of 6), we always discussed the movie afterwards. Plots, characters, twists, quotes, scenery, etc. all of this got talked over in detail after the movie in a fairly lively family discussion. Many were the movies that made their ways into our hearts, many were the characters that we loved and quoted. Every now and then we came across a movie we turned off after 5-20 minutes (or walked out of if we happened to be in a theater) because it just wasn’t getting any better. This could have been anything from foul language to nudity to whiny annoying children who disrespected their parents (I still can’t stand those kinds of movies). Family night was the sort of thing we all looked forward to, and we rarely ever missed, even as we got older.

So, what is my criteria for a “good” movie? Well, my friends, my criteria are threefold, abstract, and often don’t match up with the MPAA criteria. Why? Because I am of the opinion that there are “R” rated movies out there worth owning, just as there are “G” and “PG” movies that are pure garbage. And don’t even get me started on the “PG-13” rating, which seems to be the compost heap for just about everything – the rating they slap onto a movie that they just can’t agree on (whoever “they” actually are), but I digress. I hardly ever pay attention to a movie’s rating anymore except as a very loose guideline.

Disclaimer: please try not to take offense if I write anything disparaging about a movie you happen to like.

My criteria for a “re-watchable or ownable” movie:

1. Heroic characters. This is the number one criteria in my opinion for a good movie. It has to have a hero. I’m sorry, but if I don’t like any of the characters, it could be the best movie in the world, but I’ll never watch it (or at least I’ll never watch it again). This does not mean it has to be an action movie, a heroic character doesn’t have to be a gladiator, a warrior, or a superhero; it doesn’t even have to be the main character – he or she just has to have heroic qualities that make them someone worth rooting for, someone you want to see succeed. A movie is worthless, in my opinion, if I walk away from it with the feeling that I would not have cared one iota if every character in the movie had ended up dead by the end (good example: the new “War of the Worlds” with Tom Cruise – I almost felt that it would have been an improvement to the movie if none of the main characters had survived)

2. A good story. (I’ll make a few exceptions in this case for things like Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail… a movie with no discernable story whatsoever) but in general, the story has to be well-written and interesting. It needs to have a good plot, something with a few twists and turns, or just enough development that it stays interesting even if I can figure out how it’s going to end.

3. Family friendly. The best movies are the ones you can watch with your entire family with no feelings of guilt or worry. This could encompass a wide variety of things. However, I’d like to say a few words specifically addressing foul language and (for the sake of my younger readers, we’ll just call them “scenes” with quotation marks so that you all know what I’m talking about).

a) Foul Language: I have two major objections to foul or crude language in movies. First, it is offensive from a purely Christian standpoint. I can quote you multiple verses, but the two that seem to apply the best are:

 Eph. 4:29 – Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths…

 Eph. 5:4 – Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk, or coarse joking, which are out of place…

Now, let’s look at the different euphemisms for “cussing” shall we? “Foul language,” “dirty language,” “filthy talk,” “crude language,” “potty mouth,” etc. Do these seem like synonyms for “wholesome talk” to you?

Alright, I’ve given you my Biblical objection, now let’s look at my second reason for disliking cussing in movies.

It’s lazy. I’m sorry, but foul language in movies is nothing rarely more than crutch for an actor, and a sign of laziness in an author. If you can’t write a strong emotion without using foul language, then you shouldn’t be writing scripts. And if your actor can’t portray a strong emotion without needing to swear for emphasis, then you cast your character poorly.

 b) “Scenes” – wholly unbiblical in every way. Also a trap that screenwriters too easily fall into, another sign of laziness; what is wrong with our culture that we cannot portray love without sex or passion without nudity? I don’t think I need to say more on this subject.

So what about violence in movies? I have very few objections on this count. Some of this is because violence  in general does not always equal sin. Take the movie “The Ghost and the Darkness” a movie about two lions who begin killing people for fun. First, it’s a true story. Second, it is lions doing all the violence, therefore it can’t be sinful violence since animals have no souls (this is another topic for another time). Third, the movie is otherwise full of heroism, and is one of the most beautiful depictions of friendship, perseverance, and courage that I have ever seen. Finally, and most importantly in my mind, violence in movies is all fake.

(Now, before you start pointing out that everything in movies is fake, let me explain): With cussing, an actor actually has to be willing to say the words. With nudity, an actor has to be willing to be portrayed on the screen in very little (or no) clothing. With violence, an actor just has to be willing to learn a whole bunch of choreography.

So there you have it: Jenelle’s movie criteria. Now you know: when I review movies, these are the topics you will probably see show up in some form or another throughout my reviews. This is not to say that these are the only things I look for in a movie, or that these are the only things that can sway my opinion one way or another, but these are the major ones that are common to all movies.

~ jenelle

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