Yet Another Review Collection

Shakefire.comThe Shakefire site is relaunching soon. Until then, enjoy the old site and these reviews that I wrote upon it.


Oh, and yes, I’ll still be reviewing after the relaunch.

Shakefire Ramblings

Shakefire.comHere is another list of reviews I’ve written for Shakefire.


How I Review

Since I’ve been writing over at Shakefire, I’ve gone through several phases of reviewing style. Back when I was being given lots of music, I tried to make sure I listened to the album, in full, while driving, while doing other things around the house and while actively listening to the music. That sort of regimen takes time which is part of the reason I don’t review music for them anymore – that and 90% of what they want me to review is music I don’t like, for some reason it was heavy on the hip-hop, jazz and screamo metal, though perhaps it’s just that their other music reviewers didn’t want to do those either.

These days, I’m mostly reviewing movies and some TV for them and my approach has solidified, and as such I figured I would take a post to talk about it.

First, I watch the film. I try not to subject myself to any trailers or ads about it, and half the time I don’t even read the back of the DVD/Blu-ray case. I’d rather go in blind. I’ll look at the cover art, maybe the tag line and determine if it’s horror or not and then watch the movie. At the end, I jot down my opinion at a letter grade, which is one form the ratings for the site go into the system as. So, for instance, I might finish a movie and throw down that it was “D” effort.

Next, after having seen the movie, I’ll start in on any extras. Outtakes, deleted scenes, other featurettes. Sometimes I’ll watch these immediately after, and sometimes it’ll be on a later day – I usually have most movies in my hands 2 or 3 weeks prior to needing to turn in my review. If there is a commentary track, I’ll watch the movie again with it on, usually 2 or 3 days later, though it may be sooner if a Blu-ray has multiple commentary tracks to give myself the ability to skip a day between viewings – the only time I’ve ever not watched a commentary track was a movie (I forget which) that included 3 full length commentaries, I watched two and just couldn’t do the third because they’d all been terrible.

If the disc includes multiple cuts of the film, I’ll try to watch them all, but before doing so I’ll go online to see if I can find out how different the cuts are. I just watched a film that had the theatrical and director’s cuts on the disc, the director’s was 5 minutes shorter and supposedly bloodier, but damned if I could tell – they looked identical to me.

Lastly, I write the review. When I go to the site, there is a form I have to fill out, with names and dates and upload a cover images and Amazon product IDs and such. After I’m done with the busy work, I drop into the main text box and just start blabbering about the film. What I remember, what I liked, what I didn’t like, were the extras good, etc. Then I’ll go back through it once or twice, move some sentences around, change some wording. When I’m mostly happy with it, I’ll re-read the whole thing and try to gauge how I think “the author” feels about the movie and compare it to my initial gut reaction score. Upon reflection, most scores change. A movie I thought was a “D” effort might get upgraded to a “C” once I realize how much of the film stuck with me and there were things I enjoyed despite a movie’s flaws. And something I originally called an “A+” might get downgraded to an “A-” or into the “B” area if it turns out the flaws stuck with me far better than the good parts. Once I re-score, I’ll go back and make another pass through the review to ensure my words reflect my score. If I’ve upgraded a movie from “D” to “C” it doesn’t track that I called it “shitty” because “C” is average, so I might replace it with “middling”.

Not every movie gets a grade change though… things with an “A” or “A-” are likely to stay there since I probably recognized my reservations from the start and didn’t give it an “A+”, and something I wrote down “F” for after my initial watch is probably going to stay an “F”. In any event, now that I’m happy with the review and the grade, I have to score the grade. Yes, it sounds stupid, but the site tracks letter grades as well as a numeric. The number is a 0 to 4 (but not really, more on that in a minute) and an “F” covers from 0 to 0.79, so a movie that is terrible through and through will get an “F” and a “0”, a movie that has a terrible plot and poor production values, but has one actor who managed to be memorable in a good way will get an “F” and maybe a “0.70”. On the top end, the highest number is 4.5 (yep, that 0 to 4 scale goes to 4.5, so a movie can actually get a 4.5 out 4, which is like giving 110% … ) and through most of the ratings I used the corresponding numeric range similarly, the number gives the letter a weight – I go to the low-end of the range for something I feel just barely earned that grade, and I go to the high-end of the range for something that I felt earn the grade and were knocking on the door of an upgrade.

Once I’ve settled the numeric score, I tidy up a few last details and post the review.

On a side note, the grade I give a review also influences the amount of spoiling I’m willing to let myself do. The higher the grade, the less plot details I want to give out. Sometimes I have to force myself to write more on great movies because I’m temped to just say, “This was great. Go see it.” On low rated items, I consider it a service to spoil the film. Perhaps if you hear in exact detail how stupid the movie was, you won’t waste two hours watching it like I did.

Anyway, I enjoy reviewing, at least, I do now that I get stuff I like watching most of the time. The only thing that could make it better would be if my reviews (and Shakefire) were included in aggregate sites like Rotten Tomatoes or metacritic – not that I like aggregate site, I abhor what they’ve done to the gaming industry, but since they are likely here to stay it would be neat to be a part of it rather than just a victim reader.

I Still Write for Shakefire… such that it is.

  • Accident : A team of killers create elaborate accidents to take out their targets, but now they are falling prey to accidents of their own, or are they not accidents?
  • Falling Skies : I got to preview the first four episodes on the new season.
  • Trial & Retribution – Set 5 : The UK makes some pretty good cop shows, and this is another one.
  • Road Trip : It was funny when I originally saw it, and it’s still funny now.
  • The FP : This movie is a comedy, but it’s done in the style that the film takes its subject very seriously, leaving the comedy to be found by the audience. The subject? Gangs who battle through a Dance Dance Revolution type game.
  • Franklin & Bash – The Complete First Season : Love this show!
  • Rogue River : Some horror films make sense, and some horror films just get made.
  • A Necessary Death : This was far more interesting than I though it would be. It captured the idea of following around a person intending to kill themselves very well.
  • Destination Truth : I watched the first couple episodes of the new season and mostly concluded that these guys seek truth without science, and thus will never find truth.
  • Freakshow Apocalypse: The Unholy Sideshow : I’d ask who gives these people the money to make a movie, but clearly they spent very little on making it. Terrible.
  • Warehouse 13 – Season Three : I love this show.
  • Extraterrestrial : Simply the best romantic comedy set against an alien invasion ever. This was hilarious and fun.
  • Sanctuary – Season Four : It’s a shame they didn’t get a fifth season, but this works as a good finale.
  • Ghost Attack on Sutton Street : Is this a documentary or a horror movie?
  • Lady of the Dark, Genesis of the Serpent Vampire : This might have been a good short film or music video, but it is a terrible movie.

And there you have it.

More Reviews on Shakefire

Shakefire.comYet another round-up of things I’ve written for Shakefire.

As always, some good, some bad, but in all cases I didn’t pay a dime for it.

The Reviews Are In

Here are some links to my latest reviews over at Shakefire.

And that’s it for the last month or so. Some gems, some turds, some in between. All movies and TV, no music and thus far more pleasurable to review, even when it isn’t particularly good.

Movie Round-Up: May 21st, 2010

Shrek Forever After:

I still haven’t seen Shrek 3.  And I’m getting burned out on the 3D.  I’ll probably try to watch Shrek 3 sometime soon and this one when it comes out on DVD.


I might have to eat my words here, but I predict a success of Wayne’s World proportions.  My reasoning is thus: what made Wayne’s World work where other SNL-skits-turned-feature-films failed was that they used the characters and the skit as a launch board into a complete world.  All the skits with Wayne and Garth were down in the basement doing their cable show, but the movie was “What happens when the camera turns off and they leave the basement?”  Unlike some other films that were more like “Let’s take the one joke of the skit, stretch it to 90 minutes and maybe shoe-horn a plot in that doesn’t spring from the character itself.”  With MacGruber, the skits are always the same: MacGruber is in a room with a bomb and there are a couple other people there, and as he tries to defuse the bomb he gets distracted with odd topics and they blow up.  The movie is basically going to show us what leads up to the room with the bomb, what happens after, and more.  Plus, I watched the trailer and it looks funny.  The only reason I might not see this in the theater is that the wife has no interest in it at all.

Movie Round-Up: February 19th, 2010

Shutter Island:

It’s a Scorsese film.  It stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Max Von Sydow, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson, Jackie Earl Haley, Ted Levine, and Elias Koteas.  It’s a horror, thriller, mystery movie.  I’ve just listed a whole mess of reasons why I should want to see this film, but for some reason I’m just not excited.  Perhaps it is because I’m worried it is going to be crap despite all the promise.  Scorsese’s The Departed was the same way, tons of reasons why I should rush out and see it, but I didn’t, and when I finally caught it on DVD I was disappointed.  I mean, I enjoyed the movie, but I thought it fell apart at the end.  So here I am looking at the trailers for Shutter Island and all I can think is “I bet it doesn’t end well.”  I probably won’t see this one this weekend, but I’ll be sure to catch it on DVD when it inevitably comes out later this year.  But who knows… if the reviews are good enough, I might make time to see it next weekend.

Saint John of Las Vegas:

Technically, this movie doesn’t release this week.  It had been making the festival rounds and it had a limited release back at the end of January (probably in two theaters), but if you look around you might find a showing (in LA) or a screening somewhere.  I saw it at a free screening this week thanks to the people at FilmMetro.  Anyway, it is the story of a man (Steve Buscemi) who has a gambling problem (he loses a lot) who works as an insurance claims adjuster in Albuquerque that asks for a raise and gets promoted to fraud investigator and has to head to Las Vegas to look into a claim.  I’ve been told this movie is inspired by the book Dante’s Inferno.  Having never read that book, I can’t be sure.  This movie isn’t splashy or action packed.  It is a slow film about a guy trying to deal with his vices and make his way in the world.  At times it is funny, other times it is sad, and overall I can’t really say the movie is good, but I don’t feel like I wasted my time.  I wouldn’t go out of my way to pay for this one, but if you can find a free screening or catch it on Netflix at some point in the future, maybe you might enjoy it.

Movie Round-Up: September 11th, 2009

I skipped last week because A) I was at Dragon*Con, and B) I hadn’t seen any of the movies.  The funny part is, all three movies (All About Steve, Extract, and Gamer) are ones I wanted to see.  I’ll catch them on DVD for sure.  Anyway, on to this week…

Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself:

I’m a big fan of Taraji P. Henson, but even she can’t get me excited about a Tyler Perry movie.  Nope.

Sorority Row:

A remake of sorts of The House on Sorority Row.  Now I love me some scary movies, but I do prefer them at home, where its quiet and I can have the lights off and cuddle under a blanket with the wife and help her hide from the really scary stuff.  I got a pass to see this one at a screening, but I had a work emergency and was unable to attend.  So I guess I’ll be waiting for the DVD.


Bring a jacket.  No, seriously.  For one, temperatures outside are dropping a tad, but it’ll be weeks before theaters adjust their air conditioning properly, and also this movie does a really fantastic job of showing you the coldest place on Earth.  If you are even mildly suggestible, the movie is bound to make you shiver.  The story here is about a US Marshal, played by Kate Beckinsale, who handles the law in the region and is just days away from leaving when someone finds a body.  Essentially, this movie is an action/mystery film following the Marshal as she tries to find out who did it and why, all under a deadline and the threat of an oncoming storm.  Overall, it was a good solid movie that I really enjoyed watching.


If I were to rate this movie on its visuals alone, I’d gladly give it an “A”.  However, once you include the bland, unsurprising and ultimately disappointing story, this movie can’t be given more than a “C” … or to go on a numeric scale, 9 is a 5 at best.  Most of this has to do with how it ends, which is fairly lame and mildly confounding.  It doesn’t make sense.  Two things people should know before going to see this film: 1) It is not for kids, really, it is not. Don’t take them, they probably won’t enjoy it.  2) Lots of advertising is tagging this movie as a Tim Burton film, and technically it is, however, he did not direct it and he didn’t write it, he only produced, and the result is that 9 is missing Burton’s touch.  If I hadn’t seen this for free, I’d be demanding my money back.

Movie Round-Up: April 17th, 2009

17 Again:

Look, it is, fundamentally, a body switching movie.  If you have ever seen a movie where a person gets to be younger or older or swap bodies with a friend, an enemy or a parent, then you have seen this film.  But the reason Hollywood keeps on making this film is that it can be told in so many ways with so many angles.  The body switching story is always, fundamentally, about self discovery.  The main character or characters are in this situation because they need to learn something about themselves.

Thomas Lennon makes this film.  Sure, Zac Efron is going to be the huge draw with all the tweens screaming and wetting themselves during his shirtless scene, but it is the character of Ned who steals every scene that he is in and is the main draw for the parents of those tweens.  Zac’s (and Matthew Perry’s) Mike is the popular jock kid, while Thomas’ Ned is the extreme caricature of the rest of us for whom High School were not the best years of their lives.

Anyway, the movie overall was fun, enjoyable, but predictable.  If you like body switching movies, you’ll like this one too.

Crank: High Voltage:

Did you see Crank?  Did you like Crank?  I can answer yes to both of those questions, and so I suspect I’ll like Crank 2 when I eventually see it.  But while I suspect the film will be a fun action filled ride, I’m comfortable waiting to see it when it hits DVD.

State of Play:

I want to see this film.  I got a free pass to see this film.  I also got a free pass to see 17 Again on the same night.  As you can see from my long review above, the wife and I saw 17 Again.  It is because I drag her to all those horror movies, I’m sure.  I definitely might have to see if I can scrounge up the dollars to go see this, if not at full price then at least at the matinee or early bird (shows before noon on a weekend) price.  If not, then I’ll be waiting eagerly for this one to get to DVD.  Hopefully no one spoils it for me before then.