Aug 23 2012

Which Movie Reviews Would Help Your Writing the Most?

Published by at 3:43 am under Writer's Reviews

After my anthology of superhero movie reviews (Avengers, Dark Knight, Amazing Spider-Man, Iron Man, Catwoman and Green Lantern) gets published, I’d like to look into a follow-up edition of 4-5 more great movies and 1-2 disasters. Which of the following would help you the most? Are there any movies you’d suggest?

  • A second set of superhero movies (perhaps a lineup like The Incredibles, First Class, Dark Knight Rises, Kick-Ass, and 2 disasters).
  • Pixar movies–any five of their great movies (e.g. Incredibles, Up, Toy Story, Monsters Inc., WALL-E and Finding Nemo) and the disastrous  Cars 2.
  • Crime/cop movies (perhaps Godfather, Dirty Harry, The Untouchables, The Usual Suspects, Gigli and another disaster TBD).
  • Science fiction (maybe The Matrix 1, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, District 9, Terminator 2, Avatar and Pluto Nash)
  • Spy movies (perhaps Casino Royale, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Argo, The Avengers, and The Jackal)
  • Something else?


We don’t have any ironclad criteria, but my publisher and I focus on these sorts of movies:

  1. Preferably, each movie is either a critical masterpiece or disaster. Strong opinions create interest.
  2. Preferably, the movie is a recent blockbuster and/or a memorable classic. The review will make more sense if many readers remember the movie well.
  3. Ideally, each movie offers stylistic variety compared to the other selections. In particular, I’d like to avoid doing 2+ movies from the same series in a book.
  4. Ideally, each work clearly fits into the category. (E.g. the Matrix isn’t clearly a superhero movie, even though it has superpowers and a dual identity between Mr. Anderson/Neo).

47 responses so far

47 Responses to “Which Movie Reviews Would Help Your Writing the Most?”

  1. Chihuahua Zeroon 23 Aug 2012 at 4:38 am

    I would be really interested in Pixar movies.

    Question though: Are you still working on your comic book?

  2. B. McKenzieon 23 Aug 2012 at 4:50 am

    “Are you still working on your comic book?” Yes, but financial limitations are definitely a factor there.

  3. Edgukatoron 23 Aug 2012 at 5:03 am

    What about superhero movies with certain genre similarities? – say comedy (Mystery Men, Kick Ass, Superhero movie, Megamind), spy-hero (The Phantom, Dark Man, The Shadow, The Green Hornet) or Horror-Hero (The Blade trilogy, Hell Boy 1 and 2, Spawn)…

  4. Robert Granton 23 Aug 2012 at 6:28 am

    I’d be really interested in spy movies, as long you steer clear of James Bond.

  5. B. McKenzieon 23 Aug 2012 at 6:50 am

    It might be advantageous to keep the genres as broad as possible because otherwise the pool of prospects might get too narrow. For example, if I had to pick six superhero horror movies, it might be hard to come up with 4 great movies (or even 2 memorable disasters).

  6. B. McKenzieon 23 Aug 2012 at 7:10 am

    “I’d be really interested in spy movies, as long you steer clear of James Bond.” Hmm. In the interest of stylistic variety, I’d probably limit myself to one Bond movie, probably Casino Royale. I think the publisher would feel a lot more comfortable if the book had one Bond review, though–Bond is an iconic character within the genre and Casino Royale is a recent blockbuster with highly favorable reviews.

    Plus, I think I’m already setting myself up for one minor fight with my publisher by passing over the Bourne series…

  7. Wilon 23 Aug 2012 at 7:59 am

    I think Sin City would be a good candidate here. I thought that movie was god awful but other people seemed to have loved it. So it’d be interesting to see a critical analysis of the movie itself.

  8. Loyd Jenkinson 23 Aug 2012 at 10:06 am

    Pixar movies. Even their “flops” are successful. Looking at why would be beneficial.

  9. aharrison 23 Aug 2012 at 12:26 pm

    I think it would be interesting to see a book or comic book/graphic novel comparison to its movie equivalent. The Sin City mentioned above might work for this. There is also Hunger Games as a possibility.

    I only suggest it because it might be useful to see how something changes as it changes media and how that can either help or hurt the story itself.

    I also second/third/fourth the idea of doing one or two Pixar classics. The Incredibles is a natural given this site’s focus, but Up is also a pretty powerful story in its own right.

  10. Seraon 23 Aug 2012 at 12:33 pm

    Pixar movies would be interesting. I think it would be nice to see someone else’s thoughts on them in-depth.

  11. aharrison 23 Aug 2012 at 2:18 pm

    For super disaster, there’s Catwoman, several Punisher flicks although I like the Tom Jane/Travolta one, Spawn (ewwwwwgh), and I’m sure many would put Mystery Men in the disaster category although it makes me laugh every time.

  12. B. McKenzieon 23 Aug 2012 at 4:33 pm

    If you’re interested in Catwoman, please check out my first book of superhero movie reviews when it comes out! The Catwoman chapter is 4300 words long.

  13. jjon 23 Aug 2012 at 4:44 pm

    Just keep doing the superhero movies man. Those are the highlight of my day. But wouldn’t say no to the incredibles or the first star wars and matrix. Seriously man do star wars.

  14. Edgukatoron 23 Aug 2012 at 4:49 pm

    Thanks for the criteria – I’d be interested in superhero movies, but didn’t you cover First Class?

    I’m not sure I’d be interested in a Dark Knight Rises review yet, because the debate we had here is still very fresh.

    I agree there aren’t enough examples in any one genre. What I was going for is very different takes on the superhero story that can act as a contrast. What we had last time were 5 takes on very famous characters and Hancock, but as a result Hancock became more interesting.

    My choices – Incredibles, The Crow, Kick Ass and Superman as the classics. As for disasters, what I liked about your choice of Green Lantern and Hancock was they weren’t unmitigated disasters, they each had redeeming qualities (so I’m not particularly interested in an analysis of Catwoman, for example). I’d be interested in, say, Unbreakable or The Rocketeer, that have a very take on the genre. (Rocketeer would be interesting to contrast with Captain America….)

  15. B. McKenzieon 23 Aug 2012 at 5:47 pm

    “Thanks for the criteria – I’d be interested in superhero movies, but didn’t you cover First Class?” I have written the review for First Class, but my publisher asked me to save it for a later book. We didn’t have space for it in the first book.

    “What we had last time were 5 takes on very famous characters and Hancock, but as a result Hancock became more interesting.” So far, most of the greatest and worst superhero movies have been based on characters already familiar to most viewers. The only other superhero movies that got to 70%+ on Rotten Tomatoes are The Incredibles, Hellboy 1 and 2, probably Iron Man 1 and 2, Kick-Ass, Chronicle, Thor, Sky High and probably Watchmen. I’d also give Dr. Horrible an honorable mention even though it does not have a RT rating.

  16. Linebylineon 23 Aug 2012 at 5:58 pm

    I vote Pixar.

    Both for this project and for any future “Learning from…” posts you may feel like writing.

    Incredibles, especially. I’ve had it filed in my mental “awesome stuff” drawer for so long that it would be interesting to see what they could have done better. (My first thought is the opening interview sequence; the point, per the director, was to show how things turned out differently than they expected, but that point never came up through the rest of the movie).

    As for what disasters you could review, I’ve heard that there was a rather poorly-received Captain America movie many years ago (not the one from last year, of course) about which I’d be interested in learning more. It might be interesting to compare and contrast what the old one did wrong that the new one did right. Of course, I say this knowing nothing about the old movie, so for all I know maybe that’s not feasible.

  17. B. McKenzieon 23 Aug 2012 at 6:15 pm

    There was a 1990 Captain America film. It was so bad that 21st Century opted not to theatrically release it in the United States. 11% on Rotten Tomatoes. Oof.

  18. Tetroskion 23 Aug 2012 at 10:12 pm

    I definitely vote Pixar–although I kind of wish that could be expanded to “computer-animated movies” (which are almost a genre on their own) because I’d like to see analyses of, say, Ice Age, Shrek, Madagascar… but Pixar reviews would be fantastic.

  19. aharrison 24 Aug 2012 at 6:55 am

    I think the Pixar fascination is that they are so good at crafting classic stories – the Toy Stories, The Incredibles, Up and Nemo are all such good movies because they have solid stories at their core. Even their arguably weaker films like Ratatouille (sp) still have pretty entertaining stories in them.

  20. B. McKenzieon 24 Aug 2012 at 7:46 am

    “Even their arguably weaker films like Ratatouille (sp) still have pretty entertaining stories in them.” Personally, I’d rank Ratatouille (96% on Rotten Tomatoes) leagues above Cars, Cars 2 or Brother Bear 2 Brave.

  21. aharrison 24 Aug 2012 at 11:13 am

    I haven’t seen Brave, but I’ve heard that it wasn’t nearly as good as it could have been. And I haven’t seen Cars 2, but Cars is just a sort of generic movie really although it’s not bad per se. Ratatouille is cute if you like rats. I happen to which is why it sticks out when I think of Pixar’s “weaker” films.

  22. B. McKenzieon 24 Aug 2012 at 4:41 pm

    Brave suffered from a bit of schizophrenia… Pixar replaced the director mid-development over creative differences–the original director was going for a more talk-oriented mother-daughter story and Pixar executives panicked because it was boring. They replaced the director with the guy that directed John Carter, and he did a more conventional amount of action, and the result feels sort of disjointed.

    Also, I (spoiler) *hated* the bear angle. Watching the trailer, I thought that the premise of the movie was that she made a wish to change her destiny, and what happened was that she’d be transported from an idyllic kingdom to a much more dystopian one*. Randomly turning several characters into bears didn’t really open many creative doors here–I think a dystopian reality shift would probably have been more promising.

    *E.g. going from a land controlled by destiny/law to a much more anarchic one would be thematically fitting, given her choice. I have NO IDEA how turning somebody into a bear tied into any themes.

  23. JPon 24 Aug 2012 at 5:02 pm

    B. Mac do you have any news about your guidebook?

  24. Cuddleson 24 Aug 2012 at 10:07 pm

    Crime/Sci-fi/Espionage/Fantasy. I feel like the problem with a lot of superhero fiction is that it focuses too much on the tropes of the superhero genre and doesn’t pay proper respect to the older genres that influenced it.

  25. B. McKenzieon 24 Aug 2012 at 11:02 pm

    “B. Mac do you have any news about your guidebook?” My two main strategies moving forward are…
    1) Gathering emails from people interested in the book. This will help convince publishers that making thousands of sales is a possibility.
    2) Start submitting the guidebook proposal again after the superhero movie review book comes out and I have some sales figures. I think that publishers will be more interested in the guidebook if the book of movie reviews does well. (Also, I’m now a published author, and wasn’t at the time I originally submitted the guidebook proposal–I think the publishing credit will help).

  26. Fluffmongeron 28 Aug 2012 at 10:19 am

    I think doing reviews of Pixar, and even some of the other CG films that have come out, such as those done by Dreamworks would be the most helpful to a wider audience, simply because Pixar’s works cover a wide range of genre within their subsect of inspirational magic-realism/fantasy/sci-fi, and for the way they manage to tie odder premises with relatable themes. The Incredibles is a superhero film, but it’s also a story about family and acceptance. Wall-E is sci-fi, with robots, and environmentalism, but it’s also a very well written love story. Up is abut an adventure to South America in a floating house, but it too is also a love story, and about moving on from grief.

  27. WritingNinjaon 30 Aug 2012 at 8:37 pm

    Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones, Sherlock Holmes, Princess Bride, and Ghost busters!

    I really don’t have any particular reasons why. I just think it’s good to look at the classics, why they work, why they were such a hit. The characters in all the movies had a reason and an ability of why they were there. It just fit. Plus very few people have not seen these movies.

  28. Sachikoon 08 Sep 2012 at 10:06 am

    PLEASE do the incredibles!! <3 one of my favorite movies! i'm so sad that it never got a sequel.

  29. B. McKenzieon 08 Sep 2012 at 2:27 pm

    The Incredibles will probably get a sequel eventually. TI’s director/writer/visual inspiration* (Brad Bird) discusses the possibility here.

    BIRD: “I think the reason it hasn’t [happened] yet is because the studio would like me to do it…. if I could come up with an idea that is to Incredibles that Toy Story 2 is to Toy Story, I would do it in a second.”

    *The visual designers used him as the model for the lead villain and lead protagonist. He was not amused. 🙂

  30. Anonymouson 18 Sep 2012 at 11:22 am

    In Time was a pretty interesting movie.

  31. B. McKenzieon 22 Sep 2012 at 2:54 pm

    “In Time was a pretty interesting movie.” I found it very rough around the edges.

    –I was hoping for so much more from the premise.

    –The characters seemed pathologically incapable of talking about anything but the premise (the time-as-currency setup), which struck me as rather stilted. In contrast, I’d point to District 9, The Matrix, maybe Hunger Games, and Children of Men as examples where a high concept influenced most of the conversations in a more natural way. In particular, I think it would have really helped to cut the time puns.

    –The characters could have used more interesting choices and more development.

    –It’s hard to tell this from just watching In Time, but it was directed by Andrew Niccol, who directed (the vastly superior) Gattaca and wrote The Truman Show.

  32. Agnion 22 Sep 2012 at 9:17 pm

    Hi everyone. I am new here.

    I would like a review on ‘Watchmen’. Its my most favourite superhero movie after ‘Dark knight’ trilogy. A very stylish film.

  33. B. McKenzieon 22 Sep 2012 at 11:00 pm

    Hmm. What did you find most interesting and/or unique about Watchmen?

  34. Dr. Vo Spaderon 23 Sep 2012 at 11:52 am

    Hey, B. McKenzie, just read about your anthologies…if you’re still looking for suggestions: is Inception a viable prospect?

  35. B. McKenzieon 23 Sep 2012 at 1:19 pm

    If I did a book of sci-fi movies, Inception would probably be one of the ~15 possibilities I’d send to the publisher.

  36. Agnion 24 Sep 2012 at 7:49 am

    @ B. McKenzie.
    I found ‘Watchmen’ interesting because of its unique story. It showed that even superheroes can have evil side. I think it is difficult to handle a story based on alternate universe. Dialouges were great and the character ‘Rorschach’ was brilliant.

    For disaster superhero movie I would pick ‘Batman & robin’. Worst superhero movie. Almost killed the batman franchise.

    For cop movie i will say ‘Hot fuzz’. It has 91% on rotten tomatoes.

  37. B. McKenzieon 24 Sep 2012 at 10:37 am

    Hot Fuzz would definitely be on my short-list for an anthology of comedy movies. If I were doing comedies, maybe 4-5 of The Big Lebowski, Hot Fuzz, Dr. Strangelove, Groundhog Day, Undercover Brother, Galaxy Quest, Some Like It Hot, and The 40 Year Old Virgin. I’d only do one disaster, but probably A Thousand Words or a Saturday Night Live movie or something especially lifeless and incompetent from Adam Sandler.

    “For disaster superhero movie I would pick ‘Batman & Robin’. Worst superhero movie. Almost killed the batman franchise.” It’s definitely an appealing candidate for the disaster slot. Even now, 15+ years later, it’s an icon of everything a good superhero movie can’t be.

  38. Dr. Vo Spaderon 24 Sep 2012 at 10:49 am

    Yeah, Sandler can disappoint…but Groundhog day! I love that movie! And the Watchmen was a very good movie. Although I watched the director’s cut…jeez…

  39. Kyleon 24 Sep 2012 at 2:35 pm

    I’d love to see Pixar but I like what someone else said above about expanding it to computer animated movies so you could add How To Train Your Dragon, which I think is Dreamworks’ only movie that is up to Pixar’s standards, as well as some of their disasters.

  40. Agnion 25 Sep 2012 at 2:55 am

    @B. McKenzie.
    Absolutely right about ‘Batman & robin’. The controversy over the bat-suit is still makes me laugh. One of my told me that he liked the movie and i told him to see a psychiatry.

    What about ‘Ballistic’ for the disaster slot?

  41. Seraon 02 Oct 2012 at 9:17 am

    I like that 21 Jump Street showed how times in school have changed. It’s no longer just jocks/nerds/cheerleaders. Shit’s gotten more complex than that (the scene where Jenko is figuring out the cliques is hilarious).

  42. Bridieon 13 Oct 2012 at 12:01 pm

    Hi, I’m also new here when it comes to commenting, but I love reading the posts and I always come here when I’m working(struggling) on my superhero-story, so thank you for a really fantastic site.

    I’d vote for the science fiction-reviews, because I love Sci-Fi, both writing it and watching it. One of my favourite sci-fi movies is Serenity(and the Firefly-series) by Avengers-director and banter-genius Joss Whedon. So funny and inspiring. I’d like to see a review of the new Star Trek-movie, which is amazing. Pure entertainment! I’m so glad they went with the original series line-up. Kirk and Spock is epic. 🙂 As a sci-fi disaster probably nothing can beat “Skyline”, but I’m not alone thinking that. “Avatar” kinda bored me into numbness, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a disaster. Taste is so subjective, and I like plenty of movies that are considered bad, believe me. But I have almost gotten into fights over that blue Pocahontas, so I really shouldn’t say anything, but there it is… I’m probably the only one in the world not waiting for the sequel.

    I would love the Pixar-reviews as well. Big fan! Toy Story 3 is one my all time favourite movies. And Wall-E. Very nice storytelling there. When it comes to weaker Pixar-movies I’d have to agree with “Ratatouille”, and add(with raised fists. Heh.) “Up”. I think I laughed just the one time, and boy, did I hate the human voice of that dog. Someone mentioned reviewing other animated movies like “Shrek”, and if so I’d like to include “Megamind”. His path into supervillain-ism from an identity crisis at school and then becoming the hero of the story is sweet. It could be made very interesting in a more dramatic story too.

    A second superhero-book sparked my interest, of course. Huge fan of Kick-Ass. And more Batman is always a good choice. I’m so sad Nolan only made a trilogy. I need to write him and explain that I need more Commissioner Gordon or my writing will suffer in a big way.

    When it comes to your writing I say: Good luck. Looking forward to the books. 🙂

  43. B. McKenzieon 13 Oct 2012 at 12:27 pm

    Avatar, Terminator 2 (also by James Cameron), and the original Star Wars series all have conceptually simple plots and highly archetypical (one-dimensional or two-dimensional) characters… but whereas Terminator 2 and the original Star Wars series were extremely effective emotionally, Avatar felt like just another summer blockbuster (i.e. unmemorable). I don’t think Avatar accomplished much outside of special effects and action/choreography, and the romance and main conflict were awful.

    In terms of a human-becoming-an-alien story, District 9 just kicked Avatar to death and came back for seconds. Also, District 9 handled its political angle with so much more flair and charm than Avatar’s corny environmentalism. I think the romance D9’s protagonist (sort of) loses is much more emotionally gripping than the romance Avatar’s protagonist gains… I am not sympathetic to a Dancing with Smurfs romance. My only complaint about District 9 was that the last act of the movie had too much mindless action, but Avatar was certainly not any better in that regard.

  44. B. McKenzieon 20 Oct 2012 at 8:28 pm

    Which non-Pixar movies over the past 10 years might be worth adding to an anthology of animated movies?
    –Rango –> one of the sharpest and most unpredictable formula movies I’ve seen. Huge points for daring. The weirdness could probably have been tamped down somewhat without compromising the enjoyment level for most adults. In a really, really weird way, it’s like Aladdin for adults.
    –Shrek or Shrek 2 –> the characterization and comedy improved significantly from 1 to 2. My main concern about #1 was that the movie was as predictable as most Disney movies. The “Holding Out for a Hero” scene in Shrek 2 was exceptional and the conflicts were somewhat more three-dimensional.
    –Bolt –> comically brilliant, but very much a Disney formula movie (Lost Family + American Journey). As soon as the journey starts, you know EXACTLY how will it end. That said, some of the plot developments are genius (“Aliens!”) and, if you can get around the talking animals, I think it is an extremely adult-friendly kid’s movie.
    –Chicken Run?
    –Spirited Away?
    –Lilo & Stitch?

  45. Nayanon 20 Oct 2012 at 10:44 pm

    I will vote for ‘Chicken Run’. May be ‘Cloudy with a chance of meatballs’. But I did not like the idea of food becoming super food.

  46. Asayaon 01 Nov 2012 at 12:56 pm

    I think Chronicle (you know, the three psychic teens) would make for a pretty interesting review.

    What I liked best was the fact that the whole movie served as the origin story and motivation for the surviving character, while being it’s own complete story(mainly by having it center around the cousins’ actions, which was resolved by his…y’know). THAT, I think, would actually lead one want to become a superhero. Methinks it will make the sequel more substantial, sort of like the way Marvel set up the Avengers movie. Though they’ll have a lot to hold up to.

  47. Qwertyon 01 Apr 2013 at 12:05 am

    If you’re still taking ideas for movies to review, I’d suggest Megamind (Dreamworks Animation). It had some neat plot twists that made the story interesting, and pretty much the whole way through things were played for a comedic angle that I found quite enjoyable. I’d be interested to see your take on how it worked as a half original/half “spoof” superhero story.

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