Since most of the posts will be reviews, I thought I should give a rundown of my rating system. It’s a fairly straightforward star system, with a lot of the same reasoning and logic behind it as actual paid critics, and simple rating systems such as what Hulu uses. I’m explaining this from a perspective of movies, but the same basic principles apply to reviews of books, TV shows, music albums, or anything else.
When I’m watching a movie, some back part of my mind is paying attention the craftsmanship of it. I’m not a professional critic, I’m not even really a student of the media. I just enjoy them. But when you enjoy or dislike a movie, there are a lot of factors, sometimes subtle, that go into it. Beyond just the writing, the technical aspects are subtly affecting your perception even if you aren’t aware of them. That’s in the back of my mind when I’m watching a film, but it is there, and when I’m done watching it may come into the fore and be noted. But first and foremost the question is always, “Am I entertained?” If it doesn’t hold my interest, or leaves me feeling displeased, it’s a failure, no matter how well done it is otherwise. And if I enjoyed myself (in a non-ironic way; no slack for the “so bad it’s good” group of movies!) then it doesn’t matter as much if the dialogue sometimes strikes a false note, or if the cinematography is merely passable instead of great, or if some of the plot is downright ludicrous. So the entertainment value is the key factor to determining the rating I give something; the other aspects may move it by one star, but seldom by more than that.
I go with a simple 5-star rating system. Nothing gets more than 5 stars, nothing gets less than 1 star (unless something is simply so bad I feel the need to break the rules for emphasis, but this would be rare. Manos: The Hands of Fate rare.) And no half-stars, either. Half-stars would essentially change it from a 5-star system to a 10-star system, and I don’t want to go that route. While some people can articulate exactly what makes the difference between an 8-star movie and a 7-star movie, I don’t think most people could, and I don’t think I could on a regular basis. I’ve even seen some people rating things with tenths of a point, which is absurd. It’s great for averaging scores, but when it comes to an individual rating, anybody who could genuinely say why they gave something a 7.5 and not a 7.6 has the kind of mind where they wouldn’t have any time for entertainment because they’d be spending all their time sorting their spoon drawer. So I’m sticking with 5. Yes, it means that there are times when I’ll openly admit that one 5-star movie is better than another 5-star movie. That’s all right; it’s inevitable at any rating scale, anyway, or why would people pick favorite movies out of the ones they consider great? The ratings are broad, and serve to give a general idea of how I feel about the movie.
So here’s the breakdown on the ratings. It’s not exactly hard to figure out, especially after all of the above explanation, but clarity hurts no one. (And again, though I’m saying “movie” here, it applies to other media as well). You can click the images to see all reviews with that rating.
: This is a very good movie. It’s one I specifically want to own to watch again, or was simply superb even if it doesn’t lend itself to multiple viewings. It’s an all-time classic, a movie that should be seen by everybody, or simply so much fun that I think people would be missing out not to see it. Even if it isn’t an all-time great, it’s a solid work, and it could easily be listed among somebody’s favorites. Even if it’s not one that “everybody should see”, it might still be one that everybody who is a fan of its genre (e.g., sci-fi, westerns, etc.) should see, and most other people will enjoy it as well.
: This is a good movie, solid and enjoyable. There’s a good chance I’d like to own a copy, or at least wouldn’t mind picking up a copy cheaply. It may have some minor flaws or limited appeal that keeps me from giving it 5 stars, but I’m not overly worried about it; it’s the difference between “Hey, that was a good movie”, and “Wow! That was fantastic!” I think most people would enjoy it, fans of its genre would almost certainly like it, and it may be a must-see for people who are fans of its more specific sub-genre (e.g., heist movies, buddy cop movies, etc.) If it’s somebody’s favorite, I’m not questioning it; individual taste could easily elevate it a notch for some people.
: This movie was all right. It’s not awful, it’s just… OK. It was probably enjoyable overall, but there were definite flaws or weaknesses that made me feel that I can’t come out and call it “good”. Maybe the plot or dialogue is corny, maybe the acting’s a bit stiff, or it relies on special effects that fail to be wholly convincing, but it still manages to be decent despite these flaws. I doubt I’d seek to own a copy, and I’m probably not going to watch it again. If you said it was one of your favorites, and it wasn’t because you enjoy cheese, I’d be at least a little surprised. Now, although this isn’t very good, it’s still probably more of a “thumbs up” than a “thumbs down”. On the whole, I enjoy works of entertainment, and as long as it managed to be mildly entertaining, it’s still succeeding on some small level. It’s just that while the 4 and 5 star movies cleared the bar easily, this one just barely made it over.
: This movie was thoroughly mediocre, bordering on bad. There were numerous flaws, and it didn’t excel at anything. It didn’t capture my imagination, and I was probably checking my watch at some point. It’s completely forgettable, and felt like a waste of time. While I wouldn’t recommend a 3-star movie, a 2-star one is one I’m directly recommending people not see.
: This movie was downright awful. It’s not mediocre. Its director dreams of it being called mediocre. It was poorly directed, or had terrible acting, or ludicrous dialogue, or the plot was simply so stupid it wasn’t worth watching, or any combination of the above and more. If it has a redeeming value, it’s as a lesson in what not to do. It may have been actively painful to experience it. Stay far, far away.