The 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.
Here is another list of reviews I’ve written for Shakefire.
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
… 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.
Two weeks. And not long before that there was a ten day gap. I blame a lot of things. The untimely end of the Rebuild project was a bit of a blow. I had intended that to be a weekly feature here on the blog for a long while, and my motivation to start back up has been flagging. I will though, as I plan to sit down on the coming weekend and play through the entire game in one or two sittings to get all the details and screen shots I need, that way the game can’t delete on me again. This will have the unfortunate side effect of me knowing how it ends before I start, knowing who dies before I create them, which is less fun for me as I enjoyed the idea of being shocked and then forced to write out the scenes. I also needed to revisit how I did the screen shots. Before I was manually doing Alt+PrtScr and then pasting into GIMP, but now I’ve got IrfanView which will give me a simple key combination that will screen shot directly to a file in a directory of my choosing, so I can speed through the game. Then I’ll probably take a week or so off and start writing, hoping I’ve forgotten exactly what happens to any individual character.
I’m also working on Season 2 of Man vs Wife. I’m calling it Season 2 because of the, at first, unintentional break we took. In part this was because Dungeon! was such a bad play. I mean, I like the game, but the 2 player version in the manner we chose to play it was rough. The wife hasn’t really felt like playing much, though I did manage to get her to play Fluxx (the write-up for which is going to be hilarious). Any way, so I decided that we are going to line up about 8 games and then do a marathon weekend, which will become Season 2, eventually. I just need to find 8 games worth playing. And I might cheat in order for me to actually win a game – I’ve got a copy of Trivial Pursuit, Genus Edition from the mid-1980s that I’ve played a lot, plus I am a fountain of inane and useless information, and she isn’t.
In spite of not doing much writing for the blog, I’ve actually been writing quite a bit. Reviews for Shakefire as well as my own stuff. I got crafty and took a couple of Sharpies to my NEO and now instead of being Sherman Tank green it’s black on the back and has a nice blood-red top. I haven’t colored the keys yet, and I’m not 100% sure I will. I kinda like that the keys stand out. I’ll post a picture at some point, once I’m sure it’s done.
Speaking of crafty… Dragon*Con is also coming up, and we’ve been trying to actually put together ideas for costumes AND execute them. That second part will be a new endeavor this year as we usually just dream them up and never do anything.
Also, I’ve been sort of working on an idea for a podcast. It’s still in idea mode and I’m working out some of the logistics, but I think it’ll be pretty cool, and different. Maybe… it also might suck royally. Or I might drop the idea and simply not do it.
Anyway, more to come, I promise.
Yet another round-up of things I’ve written for Shakefire.
- The All-American Rejects – Kids In The Street : A solid album worth listening to.
- The Darkest Hour : A mediocre monster movie.
- Top Shot – The Gauntlet : Probably one of the more interesting reality shows that I’ve seen.
- Goodnight for Justice – The Measure of a Man : Oh, Luke… Luke, Luke, Luke… I guess it’s better than not working.
- Time Team – Unearthing the Roman Invasion : Watch it, you might learn something.
- Franklin & Bash : I got to preview four episodes of the upcoming season.
- The Innkeepers : This right here is why I put up with reviewing some items that are complete shit. Not only is this a fantastic movie, but it’s a Blu-ray of a fantastic movie with fantastic extras.
- Madison County : A not horrible horror movie. It’s not good either, so don’t get your hopes up.
- The Genesis Code : Interesting, yet dumb.
- Ralphie May – Too Big To Ignore : Some of it was very funny, and some of it I’m sure would have been funny if I understood it. Completely unmentioned in my review, every time he tells a joke that involves black people, they cut to the exact same black guy in the audience laughing.
- Car54, Where Are You? – The Complete Second Season : Still funny after all these years.
- The Aggression Scale : I didn’t hate it. In fact I even kinda liked it, but I never would have seen it if I hadn’t needed to review it.
- Erin Brockovich : The funniest movie about a corporation knowingly poisoning people in a small town that you’ll ever see. Re-released on Blu-ray for part of Universal’s 100th Anniversary collection.
As always, some good, some bad, but in all cases I didn’t pay a dime for it.
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.
Just the other day I was wondering, “Does anyone leave comments on my reviews over at Shakefire?” So I searched through and found that, as expected, most of the time the answer is “No.” Rarely, someone will leave a single comment either in agreement with or disagreement with my review, or some aspect of my review. For example, on a review I did of one of those baseball DVDs that compresses a whole season into a couple or three hours I said it was the best way for most people to watch baseball since baseball can be pretty boring. The comment was that people are missing out by not watching the entire season.
However, one review I did got a number of responses, and I thought I would, rather than reply there, reply here. The review in question was for the album Impulse by ERRA. The main fault of this album is that I hate the genre of growling/screaming music. Since this review, I’ve sorting things out with the guy who runs the site so that I don’t get these sorts of things to review. It’s actually in both our best interests – I don’t have to review something I hate and he doesn’t get a site full of low-grade reviews due to poor product/reviewer pairing. Anyway, the original review is here.
Admittedly, because I didn’t like the album, I went for sarcasm and humor in my review. Like most other reviews, it probably would have gone uncommented on. But someone went and posted a link to it on ERRA’s Facebook page’s wall. As expected, fans of the band didn’t like that I didn’t like the music, and posted comments.
Without further ado, the comments…
Im disappointed in both your review and the website’s decision to give you this album to review. You can’t compare the quality of an album where there are screaming vocals in it to something that doesn’t. It is a genre of music. And your reviews are supposed to inform people about the qualities and the downfalls of a record. Being a journalism major, and being someone who actually wants to write publicly about music, I am disgusted by this review, especially the last half. Pure garbage.
Being a journalism major, this guy probably has some high ideas about what journalism is. He wants to write publicly about music. He can. Blogs are free (which is why, in part, print media is dying). And as far as I can tell, assuming he’s one of the guys who also posted on Facebook, he does have a tumblr account, where my review apparently inspired him to write a review of the same album and give it a 5 out of 5 over a month ago, but hasn’t posted anything since. Allow me to impart a single piece of advice to you: a writer writes. If you really aspire to work as a writer, write, even if no one is paying you.
As for his claim that my reviews should inform people about the qualities and the downfalls of a records – I think I did: there is screaming, and that is the downfall of the record.
You don’t know what you are talking about.
Yes I do. Since I’m giving my opinion on the album, I am, in fact, the only person capable of knowing what I am talking about.
im laughing hard…..
I’m unsure of what is going on here. Is he laughing at my review (win!), the other comments, or just in general? He’s a fan of the band, so I think he’s with the other comments and laughing at me (not with me).
Did Shakefire pay you for review this? EY! WHOEVER HELL HIRED THIS GUY, CAN YOU HIRE ME TOO?
Nah, this review was epic. Epicly shitty. If you hate their screamer then you hate a lot of really good low-pitch screamers from hardcore/metal bands, no ?
Come on dude, chill the fuck out. They’re incredible.
Like with many review sites, no, Shakefire didn’t pay me. Well, they gave me a free copy of the album, which is dubious payment at best. They might hire you. Want to know how I got the job? The guy running Shakefire tweeted that he was looking for writers and I replied. Done. Which takes us back to the first guy… want to know how easy it is to get a “job” writing reviews? It’s that easy. Now, getting paid cash to write reviews… that’s another story. And to answer this guy’s question, yes, I hate a lot of screamers from hardcore/metal bands.
You should have gone against your instinct and given this album at the very least an “A.” You have admitted to letting your individual aversion to screaming cloud your review. I’ll chalk up the fact that you gave this an album “a big fat F” as being due to your hearing going progressively downhill since 1974. Listening to music with an objective ear is not a crime, Sir.
“at the very least an ‘A’.” Honestly, looking back and playing a few cuts from the album again (I didn’t delete it because seriously, what’s one album when you a terabyte of drive space?) I think, if I could ignore the screaming, I might give them a ‘B’ if I was being charitable. See, this isn’t a 7-9 scale. We (I) use the whole thing, from top to bottom. As for my hearing, it’s fine, except maybe a little worse after listening to this album from ERRA and the other screamer bands I’ve had to review. And listening to music with an objective ear isn’t a crime, but it also isn’t my job. I’m not teaching a music appreciation class, I’m reviewing, which is a broad spectrum of writing that includes my chosen take: giving my personal opinion of what I experience.
hahahahaha ur such a faggot dude. don’t review this kind of music if you don’t listen to the genre. Its like giving someone who listens to only rap, Carnifex’s new CD Until I Fell Nothing. which is NOTHING close to rap. and don’t say you are use to this genre cuz ur not just admit it. if you still believe you are, then ur mind is playing tricks on you.
I don’t really want to respond to a guy who uses “faggot” in this way, but he does have a small point which I addressed earlier. I don’t choose what to review, I’m assigned it. The boss sends me links by email or physical products in the mail which I experience and then review by the deadline assigned. We’ve cleared up some issues so that I’ll have less of a chance of getting stuff I am biased against, so in the future I won’t be reviewing bands like ERRA unless there is simply no one else to review them.
I give your review a -10 out of 10
So do I. Did you know that all reviews are scored only in Absolute Values? Thanks for the 10!
Seriously, though, when reading reviews or opinion pieces, it is important to approach it from the same direction the author did. One week in Entertainment Weekly, there was a column which I read and thought was hilarious. My wife read it and found it to be despicable. We discussed it, and while I had approached the article from a point of satire because I knew the history of the author’s satirical style, she had approached it as a serious piece, and since part of it was praising the awesomeness of the Twilight movies and how Bella Swan can teach us things, I understand why we had such different responses to the article. But then again, someone who loves Twilight and really does think Bella Swan is a great role model, reading the article in a satiric tone would be harsh.
And that’s what happened here. I listened to music for review that I have zero interest in because I don’t like it. So I took a humorous approach to my review with hints of scathing scorn for the genre. People who like the genre didn’t like my review. Only one of us devolved into name calling. Hint: it was the guys who used the words “faggot” and “douchebag”.