Monday, October 06, 2014

Ask JKM a Question: "Are There Any Reviews I Couldn't Finish Writing?"

A regular reader, Mike, writes:

“Are there any reviews that you began to write but found you just couldn’t finish?”

Mike, that’s a terrific question and one that I think all bloggers face. Or maybe I’m just kidding myself, and it’s only me.

My blog has approximately 5,800 published posts at this juncture and about 217 drafts at this point. 

Among many of those drafts are in-depth reviews that I started and then -- for whatever reason -- simply did not finish.

Some of the titles for the unfinished movie reviews are Fight Club (1999), Sucker Punch (2011), The Dark Knight (2008), and Inception (201). 

Why didn't I finish these reviews?

Well, I have very different reasons.

I feel a little intimidated about Fight Club. It’s one of my all-time favorite movies, and so I feel like I have to write one of my all-time best reviews to cover it adequately. So I keep freezing, feeling that I’m not honoring the movie as much as I should. I guess you could say that I’m “psyching” myself out.

In terms of Sucker Punch (2011), it’s more complex. I feel the movie is really great, and in some weird way, a musical.  Literally, in terms of structure, the movie is an old-fashioned movie musical, with fight choreography replacing dance. But getting all my ideas down, and explaining that concept fully and credibly, is difficult.

With Dark Knight, I am stuck. I feel that the film’s action is poorly shot, but that it is otherwise constructed as a powerful defense of the tactics of America during the War on Terror. As a good critic and an impartial reviewer, I should laud it for making its case well. 

And yet there is something about the movie that I truly dislike (in part the idea that it is better to lie to “the people” for their own good than trust them with the truth,) and so I have had a tough time squaring the circle. I think the movie is generally well-made (outside the hacked-up action scenes), but I hate what it has to say. So again, I get stuck on the review, especially since so many people seem to have loved the film.

Similarly, I didn’t like Inception very much.  Mission: Impossible did similar stories more credibly --- and with more suspense -- on TV for seven years. I hate writing negative reviews, though.  

I do know myself well enough as a writer to know that at some point I will finish these reviews.  Fight Club (1999) and Sucker Punch (2011) first, probably.   I always prefer to write about movies I love than about movies that I dislike.

It took me forever (like two years of trying…) to write my reviews of The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), but then one day the pieces fell right together, and I had my reviews ready. I hope and believe the same will happen again with at least some of these other drafts.

So one of these days, expect to see reviews of Fight Club (1999), Sucker Punch (2011) and the rest. 

...But don't pressure me! 


  1. You are not alone John. I've had a few reviews sitting in my draft pile for a couple years now including "eXistenZ", "Galaxy Quest", "In the Mouth of Madness" and "Pulp Fiction". Got a whole variety of reasons for not finishing. I feel I need to watch "eXistenZ" again to really do it justice. For "In the Mouth of Madness" I can't put my finger on why it doesn't quite click for me, even though it should be right up my alley. My "Galaxy Quest" review turned into the rantings of a raving madman, so it just needs a rework and probably a rematch (and maybe a Beryllium sphere or two). And "Pulp Fiction" well that film made a huge impression on me when I was younger. My review turned into a personal journey of sorts. I think that it needs to be two separate blogs, one dealing with the movie and another dealing with the impact it had on me. All that is a lot of work, and sometimes that alone is intimidating.

    Looking forward to reading your thoughts on "Sucker Punch", I've heard some really great and really horrible things about it. Interested in hearing where you stand.

  2. If you ever want to work on a review of "Sucker Punch," feel free to use my assessment: "jailbait strippers with machine guns." No charge.

  3. Anonymous4:40 PM

    I haven't seen the first two. I really should watch Fight Club. I also own Sucker Punch but haven't had the time to watch it (like the 200+ movies in my collection waiting). It is very interesting that you don't like such lauded movies as The Dark Knight and Inception. I averted seeing them for a long time because of the hype. I ended up liking both of them, though. No pressure, but I look forward to the day you release your reviews.


  4. SteveW3:28 AM

    I'm with you on "The Dark Knight" (which I walked out of) and "Inception." Despite many many reviews extolling their greatness, I've yet to read a single one that convinced me. There's no shame in not feeling passionate enough about a movie to write about it.(I can't comment on "Fight Club" since I haven't seen it.)

  5. John, in this age of instant opinions -- where, for example people Tweet their 'insights' during TV the shows they're allegedly watching -- I think it's commendable that you've left some reviews unfinished for now.
    That said, I was really interested in your thoughts on Dark Knight, so I'm especially keen to see you finish that one.