If you enjoy sharing your views about movies and have even thought about publishing them, a template is an efficient way of organizing your talking points and providing a user-friendly rating system. As you build a readership for your reviews, a template also allows you to maintain consistency in the placement of your critique elements and discussion of each movie's strengths, weaknesses and comparisons to previously produced titles. Accordingly, if fellow movie lovers are looking for specific information about a film, they'll always know exactly where to find it in your write-up.
Make a list of all the elements you want to include in your movie review template before you create it on your computer. Examples include: film title; genre; actors; director; producer; screenwriter; setting; era; synopsis; character development; dialogue; pacing; cinematography; music; strengths; flaws; comparisons; and trivia.
You'll also want to give thought as to how you'll rate your movies, such as a word system--"avoid/consider/must-see"--or a score of some kind, using numbers, letters or symbols, such as stars, smiley/frown faces or boxes of popcorn.
Rank your review elements by their value and relevance to prospective movie goers. Movie reviews typically follow the same structure as newspaper press releases in that the content is presented in descending order of importance. The first section of your template, for instance, should include the film title, genre, Motion Picture Association of America rating and who's starring in it. Additional data might include where and when the film is playing and the cost of tickets. The "grade" you give the film can either be placed at the beginning of the review or at the end.
Focus the second section of your movie template on a synopsis that identifies the plot's core conflict, describes the environment in which it unfolds and introduces the main characters. Keep in mind that the purpose of this section is to whet the reader's appetite but not spoil the visual feast by giving away the ending. This section typically makes mention of the film's director and its screenwriter. If the movie is an adaptation of an existing novel or play, a sequel to a previous release, or the remake of an older film or foreign fare, this is the place to reference it.
Discuss the movie's assets and liabilities in the next section of your template. This is where you'll analyze the individual elements such as the originality of the storyline, the acting, the dialogue, the pacing and plausibility of events, the visuals, the sound, the special effects and the settings. Even if you ascribe numeric or alphabetic grades to these elements, it's critical to supplement them with specific examples so that readers will understand your frame of reference. To say, for example, that the acting was a "C-" isn't as helpful as explaining that the actors seemed miscast in their roles or that they lacked convincing chemistry.
Use the next section of your movie template to compare and contrast the film to movies that embrace similar themes or movies written, directed or produced by the same individuals. It's important that these comparisons be fair and objective. You wouldn't, for instance, condemn a new film for not being as good as "Citizen Kane" if it's a young director's first project. As part of your template, you may want to add a section that states, "If you like this movie, you might also like..." and provide a short list of similar flicks to provide a tangible benchmark.
Include a section for trivia if space permits. People who love movies generally love movie trivia and gobble up tidbits such as who was originally offered which role, how special effects were created and unexpected problems that contributed to a pricier production, script rewrites or re-casting. Websites such as Movie Trivia Champ and Cinema Blend are good places to search for these items as well as find references to classic films.
Open a new document in Word, create one-inch margins on all sides and choose an easy-to-read 12 pt. font such as Courier, Bookman or Times New Roman. Give your movie review form a centered title along with your name. If you like, add some movie theme clip-art as part of your logo.
If you plan to write lots of reviews, you may find it helpful to create a movie review template that incorporates text box and check box form fields. A standardized form can be a time-saving tool in your analyses, especially if you use a grid for grading the various components of each film. You can find free starter templates at the Microsoft Word website as well as suggestions for Power Point layouts at Presentation Magazine. (See Resources.)
One of the many pull-down menus at the Internet Movie Database is a link to external reviews of new releases, classics, foreign fare, documentaries and TV shows. These will give you ideas on formatting and structure. (See Resources.)
- "Layout Index: Brochure, Web Design, Poster, Flyer, Advertising, Page Layout, Newsletter, Stationery Index"; Jim Krause; 2001
- "How to Understand and Use Design and Layout"; Alan Swann; 2003
- "Maximum Page Design"; John Foster; 2005
Ghostwriter and film consultant Christina Hamlett has written professionally since 1970. Her credits include many books, plays, optioned features, articles and interviews. Publishers include HarperCollins, Michael Wiese Productions, "PLAYS," "Writer's Digest" and "The Writer." She holds a B.A. in communications (emphasis on audience analysis and message design) from California State University, Sacramento. She also travels extensively and is a gourmet chef.