Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Writing a review

Look at this task.

You have been asked to write a short film review for a school /college magazine. Choose any film which you think might be of interest to your fellow students. The film can be in any language and it can be of any type: comedy, thriller, science fiction, romance, historical drama etc.
Your brief is to include a clear description of the story/contents, to comment on what you think the most successful and least successful features are, and to give an overall recommendation. Write about 250 words.

First, choose a film to review. It doesn’t have to be a new film, though it is helpful if you have seen it recently, and you don’t have to have enjoyed it. Sometimes it’s easier to pinpoint what you don’t like about something than what you like! Think about what you liked or didn’t like about the film.

The purpose of a review is firstly to give factual information about the subject, and secondly to give an opinion about it which will help the reader to decide whether to buy the book, see the play or film or visit the exhibition.
Reviews normally contain three main ingredients: overview, pros and cons, and verdict, which are described more fully below. A review may not always fall into three neat sections, however. The writer may decide to describe an aspect of the subject and comment immediately on strengths and weaknesses, for example, before going on to describe another aspect of the subject.

Overview – a description of the subject

Book – non-fiction:
What is it about? Who is it for? How technical is it? How is it organised? What topics are covered? What special features are there? How much does it cost? etc.

Book – fiction
What kind of book is it? (thriller, historical novel, science fiction etc)? Is it different in any way from other books of this type? What’s the story? etc (You can give an outline but don’t give the ending away!)

Play / film / TV programme
What is it about? Is there anything special / unusual about the production? Play / film: Where is it on? Are there any well-known actors? Who is the director? TV programme: Which channel? Is it part of a series? Who is the producer?

Pros and cons – detailed comments on the successful and unsuccessful features of the subject.
Your comments will probably include both objective views (the photographs in a book were poor quality or the costumes didn’t fit the actors properly, for example) and subjective views (based on personal feelings) – the story wasn’t interesting or the film was too violent. Make sure, however, that you give reasons for your comments.
You may have strong positive or negative feelings about the subject of the review and this is no bad thing. A strong opinion, clearly argued, is often more interesting to read than a carefully balanced assessment. Even so, try not to be completely one-sided.

Verdict – summing-up and recommendation
The last paragraph should sum up your feelings and make it clear to the reader whether you recommend the subject without any reservations, recommend it with one or two reservations, or don’t recommend it at all. In real life, readers often look at the last paragraph of a review first to see what the general verdict is. Make sure your review gives a clear verdict.

Example of a film review.

Crazy Plumber – Plaza Cinema

If you have seen the advance publicity, you might imagine that this was a funny film. Wrong. It’s a film which tries very hard to be funny and fails consistently. The story concerns a plumber who isn’t very good at his job. When his customers desert, and he can’t pay his bills, he decides to turn to crime. He tries a little shoplifting (he isn’t very good at it, of course) but then he gets involved in bigger things.
            Wayne Gibson, who plays the hero, has one or two good lines but most of the time he’s struggling with a terrible script. There are a few good moments – the car chase sequence is memorable – but the storyline is very slight and the director seems to have run out of ideas very quickly. As the film progresses, the level of violence increases. Despite the publicity, this is not a film for young children.
            A great deal of money went into the making of Crazy Plumber but in the end spectacular effects are no substitute for real humour.

Useful language


The book / film / programme  concerns …                                   a study of
                                               deals with …                          a survey of
                                               shows …                                            a history of
                                               describes …
                                               tells the story of …

It contains      a chapter on
It includes      a section on

Pros and cons

really              extraordinary             quite   interesting                 really              boring
                        fascinating                            amusing                                            unimaginative
absolutely      amazing                     fairly   entertaining              completely     humourless
                        beautiful                                exciting                                              hopeless
                        stunning                                informative                                        amateurish
                        superb                                    attractive                                            over the top
                        brilliant                                   successful                                         predictable


All in all          In the last analysis               In conclusion                        To sum up          On balance


  1. Thank you so much for this guide. I'm going to teach about this topic tomorrow and it's going to be my first time, doing it. I'm studying for the CAE right now; but I honestly believe this post will help a lot. Thanks.

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  3. writing review of a book is a bit difficult due to the fact that you can't blame someone relentlessly or show that you like it very much even if you want