How to Review a Movie – 9 Questions to Ask Yourself

We started Bollykings with the sole purpose of giving honest and credible movie reviews of popular films that were being churned out of the huge film factory known as Bollywood. Along the way, we have often questioned what it is that we look out for when reviewing a movie. How does one review a movie? Do you simply rate based on how the movie made you feel or do you look beneath the surface – at seemingly boring aspects such as the style of filmmaking or the pace of the story?

We have often asked and looked around for answers to this question and there are usually 9 aspects which one should look out for:

1. Was the movie engaging?

Yawn How to Review a Movie   9 Questions to Ask Yourself
Just saw Ra.One, eh?

The most important aspect of any movie is how interesting it was. If you’ve ever gotten so lost in the movie that you totally forget the reality (most recently, it happened when I was watching Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara), it means the movie is good. Really, really good.

The music in itself might be so-so, or the screenplay dodgy. But was the movie engaging on the whole? For me, this is what determines how good a movie is.

If there’s any point in the movie when my thoughts wander, or if I’m constantly shifting in my seat, getting impatient, it’s usually one of those films which makes you want to leave before the interval.

A good film hardly allows such moments.

 2. Dialogues

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Blah - That's exactly what a badly delivered punch line sounds like

Remember that time when you heard Akshay Kumar say something that sounded… a little off? Conversations in movies are quite different from those in real life.

For example in Don, Amitabh Bachchan rotates his neck, shows his teeth, with a cigarette in one hand and says, ‘Don ko pakadna mushkil hee nahin… namumkin hai.” Imagine a real life crook saying this dialogue.

Filmy dialogues sound artificial in real life, and real-life dialogues sound artificial in films. It’s not a written rule, this, but it’s an observation from a die-hard filmy-fan. 

The dialogues have to be absolutely crisp, sound believable and larger-than-life at the same time.

3. Sense

Is what you’re watching making sense? Did it have some connection to the central theme, or the movie itself? A good movie will have VERY few such scenes that only increase the length of the film. It’s like… a hamburger with a box that’s too big. Or a chewing gum that has been stretched till breaking point.

Bollywood filmmakers are an expert in making movies which don’t make any sense at all. Take the latest, Ra.One for instance.

I can think of one movie: Dum Maaro Dum. Before the intermission, we start from different times and dates, and at the end of the first half, all the scenes make sense!

4. Performances

joker How to Review a Movie   9 Questions to Ask Yourself
All The World's A Stage

I didn’t give this one priority because whilst I agree it’s an important constituent of a good film, it’s not something that a good film can not do without. I mean, I can totally think of Abhay Deol at this point of time. That guy doesn’t act as well as SRK or Priyanka Chopra, but aren’t his films [barring Aisha!] fantastic? Remember Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!? Road, Movie? or Dev D for that matter? You feel angry at his bad acting, but still end up calling it a film good!

What I believe is, good performances make a good film BETTER. Bad performances don’t make a good film bad, but yes, due to the frustration of the viewer, they definitely make a bad film WORSE.

5. Audio

When was the last time you downloaded a movie from the internet? While we strongly recommend that you purchase Original DVDs, it’s still narrow-minded to assume that the world does that. Here’s the thing: if, for example, you watched 3 Idiots, and couldn’t hear anything properly, would you have called the film good?

When you download a movie, you can watch it if it has a bad picture quality but good audio. But it’s IMPOSSIBLE to watch a movie with bad audio quality. Try it! High audio quality is a MUST for a film to be good. I mean, who’s going to be happy checking your paper if your handwriting is as unreadable as anything?

6. Expectations

expectations How to Review a Movie   9 Questions to Ask Yourself
A load too heavy to bear

Expectation is a double edged sword. When it comes to films, expectations can either be a boon or a bane. The weight of expectation caused films like Ra.One and Kites to not be, well, as great as they could have been if they hadn’t been so hyped up.

On the other hand, expectations also be a blessing in disguise. I had very little expectation with Band Baaja Baraat but when I went and saw the movie, I realized it was a pretty well made flick. If you walk into a theatre expecting nothing and instead get a fresh dose of good humour, good flow, an obvious storyline and decent performances, the film is automatically put in the ‘good’ category.

7. Story

Again, I don’t give this that priority that other film critics give it. A simple story, with good everything that’s above this, can be a great film. Remember A Wednesday? Very simple: bombs planted. Threats to the police. Simple story. But a great flow, great dialogues, good performances, very thoughtful [hence, it makes sense], made it a brilliant story [of course, the way it ends is the most awesome factor of all which brings us to our next point.

 8. The End

The End? Seriously? How does it affect a movie?

Well ask yourself this: Did you or did you not cry when Jack dies in Titanic? Or when Devdas dies in..well, Devdas? Would you have liked these movies if the characters had survived? Perhaps. But the impact would’ve been greatly reduced.

The End How to Review a Movie   9 Questions to Ask Yourself
While We Are Talking About The Importance of Endings ;)

Sometimes, the climax of a movie can change everything about it.

The Shawshank Redemption and Pulp Fiction are two of my favorite movies because of how they ended. In fact, Pulp Fiction had a non-linear story line and it was crucial for Tarantino to nail the climax.

Conversely, I didn’t love Rockstar so much because the movie was open-ended. It lacked that punch which was sorely needed to finish of an otherwise excellent tale.

9. Do you FEEL IT?

do you feel it How to Review a Movie   9 Questions to Ask Yourself
Do You Feel IT?

If you can ‘feel’ a movie, it means the combined effect of flow, dialogues, performances, ending, audio and story has had an effect on you.

If what you’re watching evokes pure emotion in you, then it’s good. If it moves you in some way to take some action, then it’s really good. If it changes something inside you (opinions for example), then it’s brilliant. Rang De Basanti inspired people in real life to stand against the flawed judiciary and do something. A feat very few movies have accomplished.

Hence, if nothing else suits you, you can simply sit on that chair at the end of the movie, and check if you’re lost in thought and wonder, or you’re walking out in a hurry, cursing Ram Gopal Varma [said in good humour]. It can help you judge in an instant.

 

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Comments

  1. says

    Well done Jaskunwar – a good article – and you have raised some very good points. I would also add another factor – which is the anticipation factor. You walk into a hall with a preconceived notion about how good or bad a film is – depending on what you have read or heard – and from that benchmark you begin to judge a film

    • Jaskunwar Kohli says

      Mridula, THANK YOU. You won’t believe it but in the list that I made, I somehow forgot to read ‘expectations’! However, I have added the point now.
      And credited you for reminding me, of course…! :)

  2. Reena Daruwalla says

    I think that the story is perhaps the most important – cinema is, imho, the art of telling a story – a good story, well told. I enjoyed those when my grandfather told them to me after school sitting on the jhoola and i still enjoy a good story at the cinema. a lot of hindi cinema just suffers from an inadequately fleshed out story, errors of syntax, disjointed occurrences, implausibility and basically a story poorly told!

    • [jSk].d@.cYn!C says

      Story… POORLY TOLD. You said it!
      It can be any story, just has to be BRILLIANTLY told. Kaminey had a basic story… So did 3 Idiots… it’s the TELLING!

  3. Abhishek Modi says

    Nice article no doubt. You wanted me to rate your article and call you, instead decided to be upfront in public. Everything you actually said was true enough but with whose prospective ? In India there are so many classes of people. The inception type (top of the tress class), the Don types [Srks, (The top class, and higher middle class,middle class as well), dabangg type (lower middle class, rickshaw wala and stuff)

    Your article is fantastic no doubt but the the points you have put in the article are sort of mixed. Some pointing to what top class things and some to other and so on… When we see NDTV and other newz channel some people say the movie rocked, top masala film and to movies like Guzaarish, phiki thee, topic not aware about and shit….

    So you see, the movie being different weren’t likes and likes by people.

    Frankly what I feel is Bollywood is all about gamble. You never know what movie becomes a hit or a Flop.

    • [jSk].d@.cYn!C says

      Ok, Mr. “Admin”, first of all, I think the word you’re looking for is “PERSPECTIVE” and not “PROSPECTIVE”.
      Second [of all!], this article has been written from the perspective of an experienced. and well developed ‘Perception’. Here, Perception is a noun. You may refer to my last paragraph [the BOLD one] where I refer to the power that every viewer holds, that is, the power of ‘Perception’. This article has been written from a Perception that says:
      1) Inception is the greatest thing ever
      2) Stuff like Guzaarish and Dhobhi Ghat is just beautifully amazing
      3) Dabangg is a fultu time pass and a deserving hit
      4) My Name is Khan is a boring, stretched, overrated movie that shouldn’t have won Johar ‘Best Director’
      5) …and basically that’s about it
      So, Mr. Admin, this is the Perception from who’s ‘prospective’ this has been written from!

      • Abhishek Modi says

        you are such a fucker.. I don’t know whats happening to me lately. Maybe the work load is getting on to me..

        Anyways, your point was good and I loved the article.. better add a few pictures to it now :)

        Also people, comment on the view point of JSK.. He would love see and share your insights..

  4. Mahe Talat says

    Yes, you nailed it there – perception – that’s what differentiate film critics from Cricket match umpires. MNIK may not have seemed deserving to you – it did to NK .. so? What’s your point? That she does not agree with you, so you slot her as someone who is past her critiquing days? I hate Rajeev Masand and Taran Adarsh .. so are we trashing all critics and branding ourselves the leaders? I relate to Nikhat’s reviews very often… and probably its because she has the same “romantic” (everybody .. pls don’t confuse this with romance per se) outlook about movies… and I find that dude on Zoom who presents the review (Omar Qureshi?) insufferable!! Perceptions!!!!

    I mean, it’s all subjective. I hated Dabangg .. many people will disagree .. I loved Guazaarish .. and I think that Khamoshi was the best work of SLB and Swades the best one of SRK. I mean, it’s art… not sports or science.. people will have their views. I loved KANK , so many other people did not. My husband loved G3, and I could suffer through the whole movie waiting for the movie to end :)

    Sorry for the rant :)

    • [jSk].d@.cYn!C says

      Bollywood is all about RANT, so no apology needed!
      No, Nikhat is not an idiot.
      But still. No one in their right mind would give MNIK a ***** rating. That’s like saying that it’s better than 3 Idiots, which got ****1/2.

      Here’s a little something corrupt. Trust me, I’m not lying.
      A certain time last year, Iron Man 2 came out. I checked the Friday review online on timesofindia.com. It had gotten a TWO AND A HALF star rating from Kazmi, and a very average review.
      In the Sunday Times, she gave it a THREE AND A HALF STAR RATING, and a good review.

      I mean… what the $%#$!?

      That’s when I stopped believing in her.

  5. Nav says

    Another wonderful article… truly entertaining to read, to the point but detailed and grasps my attention at every point.

    However, in my opinion the priorities to a good film differ a little. Eg- Story is probably one of the most important factors for me. It’s the foundation of every single film. A story is not just the basic concept of the film but how the movie is told. Flow of the movie, the ending, enigma codes, ‘feelings’ etc are branches of it. If you don’t have a good story, all you’re relying on is marketing to sell the film and that doesn’t always last long enough nor does it decide whether a film is good or not. It just attracts viewers with what its got.
    PS- The story of A Wednesday is NOT simple!

    • [jSk].d@.cYn!C says

      No it’s pretty simple. It’s the ending that changes the core of the entire story right? Thus my point about the ending being a powerful factor.
      Inception has a brilliant story. But The Shawshank Redemption has a very simple story. It’s the writing that makes it great. The flow. All that.
      And so you know, The Shawshank Redemption has been on the IMDb Top 250 #1 position for months now.

        • [jSk].d@.cYn!C says

          Yes. But you can have the most amazing endings to the simplest of stories. A Wednesday is just one example.

          • Nav says

            ITS NOT A SIMPLE STORY!!! ITS ABOUT A GUY WHO SENDS THREATS TO THE POLICE PRETENDING TO BE A TERRORIST WHEN HE’S NOT AND EVENTUALLY LANDS UP KILLING A FEW OF THEM FOR A GOOD CAUSE BUT KILLS PEOPLE NONE THE LESS!!! WHICH PART OF THAT IS SIMPLE?!

          • Reena Daruwalla says

            Simple can be good as well :). A simple story is not tantamount to a bad story and it does not take a complicated story to be ‘good’. Simple or complicated, the story has to be good, otherwise what is the movie doing? I think A Wednesday had a great story BTW

          • [jSk].d@.cYn!C says

            Reena, the point is, we get to know the REAL story of A Wednesday ONLY AT THE ENDING!

  6. [jSk].d@.cYn!C says

    The part about where he’s actually not a terrorist, kills for a good cause, all that is the ending. We only know that by the end of the film. Period.

  7. says

    Exes as in ex-brothers? Or as in ex- girlfriends or boyfriend?

    Movie reviews are always very subjective, You may not agree with NK’s reviews but many people swear by her.
    In the same way many people may disagree with the reviews we upload on this site – they are all the opinion of one person – his or her take on it.
    In the same vein – every article is one person’s opinion – with some input from the general public – the conclusions drawn from the input may vary. Thus whether I agree with a review or not – I will defend his right to write it – and I will defend my right to discuss it with him or comment about it – without getting abrasive.

    • [jSk].d@.cYn!C says

      But still that incident regarding the Iron Man 2 I’ve mentioned a little above this convinces me that Nikhat doesn’t write her opinions anymore… but the opinions of those who pay enough.

  8. says

    Very well thought-out…

    And, although I agree with you about 95% of the above,

    I’d still say that this article caters only to the minority that actually has the intellectual capacity and/or initiative to judge the worthiness(or lack of) of a movie.

    As far as I’ve seen, people watch movies for pretty much any reason, except the movie itself(In MOST cases)!

    But hey,
    great article nonetheless :-)

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