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"Film review" is a general film magazine much like many of the other film magazines on the market at the moment. It is, however the longest running magazine of its type, covering fifty-one years of film-making and reviewing -although I know many people believe that this accolade goes to "Empire". It originally started life as a free promotional magazine which informed film-goers what would be hitting their local ABC cinema within the coming months. (A fairly recent example of this type of magazine would be "Flicks", which I believe began to charge, but which I certainly haven't seen since its attempt to make that transition.) Over the last half a century it has changed drastically from an undiscerning magazine restricted to one particular cinema chain, to a magazine that is widely distributed and is more critical than most magazines of its type. Its fiftieth anniversary issue - Issue #600 - included a reprint of the first magazine, which is certainly an interesting read and comparison to the magazine that graces the shelves of newsagents today. Obviously since its early days, it has changed more than just its approach and availability, it is now part of a group of magazines owned by publishers "visimag" who produce other magazines such as: "Cult Times", "Shivers", "TV Zone", various magazines about particular actors, and "DVD Review". The last is the only one that really interests me, and as the big DVD reviews are generally covered in "Film Review", I don't really see the attraction of their sister publications. As I have said, "Film Review" contains many of the features that you would expect from any general film magazine. So, just in case you don't know what I consider to be broadly representative, here is a quick run-down of what this consists of: readers letters page with prizes for those published (normally a video or DVD), informati
on on upcoming films (thankfully not too much gossip here), reviews of films, CD's, websites, books, videos and DVDs (all accompanied by star ratings), articles mainly dealing with new releases and award ceremonies, an area dealing with film fact queries, along with a competitions section. All said and done, I'd say that that sounds pretty standard - so why did I start buying it, and why do I continue to? Well, I have always been interested in films, and when I was about fifteen or sixteen I decided that I wanted to read about them before shelling out for a ticket. I had previously just gone to the cinema on the basis of adverts on television or at the cinema itself. As not all films promotional budgets are the same I was aware that I was missing out on some really good films. A film magazine was the way forward - that way I would be better informed. So, are you expecting me to say that I bought "Film Review", and that I've enjoyed it ever since? Well, no. I started by reading "Empire", and at first really enjoyed it, but after two years I'd had enough. In my view, (which must be in the minority because "Empire" is the biggest selling film magazine in Britain), the magazine endorses far too many big blockbusters and is far too self-congratulatory of its own wittiness and wide appeal. (I just cannot stand their witty little captions underneath photographs.) Basically, in my view "Empire" wasn't living up to its own hype, in fact, it could almost be described as being a little too big for its boots. So that was me done with film magazines for the next three or four years. Recently, I decided to get more into film again, so the search was on for an alternative magazine. Initially I tried "Total Film", but much like "Empire", it is only really interested in the big blockbuster films. Then I tried "Sight and Sound" for what I thought would be a more int
elligent approach to film reviewing, (after all, it is produced by the British Film Institute,) which I did get - except that there was one major problem. For each film they gave a synopsis and a review which both tended to give away the whole plot - especially that all-important twist at the end! So, that was a whole month of films ruined for me... Eventually I found "Film Review", which is somewhere between "Sight and Sound" and "Empire". For me the most important aspect of a film magazine is the quality of the reviews. These tend to be pretty good. They are written in an intelligent and approachable way, and conveniently for me tend to coincide with what I think about films. They also do not contain the excessive endorsement of blockbusters, which drove me away from Empire. Don't get me wrong, I do like blockbusters - I may be a bit of a film snob (I like quite a few "arty" films) but I'm not that excessive. I just have a benchmark that all films must pass, and that is regardless of the film stars or the money that has been thrown at it. I was pleased to see in this month's issue that they looked at the re-release of "ET" in a critical way. It would be easy to expect a film with that kind of history and reputation to gain a five star rating regardless of its merit to audiences today. In this case the reviewer gave it four stars, saying that the alterations that were made for re-release probably weren't the ones that Spielberg should have gone for - they are mainly cosmetic, and don't actually deal with the repetition in the film. This was what the reviewer felt detracted from making the film as approachable for first time filmgoers as it was back in the early eighties. The reviews are pretty comprehensive covering all the films reviewed in the month, (even repeating reviews when release dates have been delayed after the magazine has gone to print,) and even includ
es the occasional release of a classic film at the bfi (British Film Institute). I especially enjoy reading these issues, because it give you the opportunity to look back at an old friend with fresh eyes, or is a welcome reminder to do something about watching that film. The point where "Film Review" most resembles "Empire" is when it comes to the articles. Although articles occasionally appear on classic films (recently Genevieve was reviewed) and occasionally slightly obscure awards ceremonies (this month it was the Annual London Film Critics Awards), they are mainly concerned with films that are being released that month. This tends to mean that the articles are generally fairly promotional because at the time the article was written it had not been reviewed by critics - which I suppose still gives you the benefit of the doubt when it comes to seeing that film. The articles are normally on blockbuster films, but I can see this as being both an advantage and a disadvantage. It would be nice to hear about slightly more obscure films, but it is the blockbuster films that provide the interviews and publicity material from which these articles are written - and let's face it, they are the films which interest most of us filmgoers. Catching a beautifully made obscure film is a bonus, but it's the films that we have heard about that are definitely going to get bums on seats and sell magazines. That doesn't mean that the article is not going to highlight the bad films in an actor's career when interviewing them (Gene Hackman in an article about the "Royal Tenenbaums" this month), or the contradictions between what different actors say about the same film (as in last month?s article on Gosford Park). My general feeling when I read "Empire" was that reviewers tended to endorse a film if it was a blockbuster regardless of whether the film itself was any good. "Film Review" definitely
does not do this. There are often reviews that slam a film which has a fairly promotional article written about it later in the magazine. In this week?s magazine two small column articles were written about "Crossroads" and "Thirteen Ghosts", both only managed to score one star. (Sorry, I have to say this - that's a shocker isn't it Britney - only one star!) There are also a few nice touches, which "Film Review" uses, which I'd like to briefly tell you about: - A box where star-ratings are compared. All four resident reviewers give star-ratings, along with an extra reviewer. (Particularly useful if you're not quite sure about seeing that film!) - DVD and Video reviews of the same film are reviewed separately. (Giving your more information to base your rental or purchase on.) - DVD reviews have two different star-ratings - one for the film and one for the quality and extras on the DVD. - Now showing page - this shows the films still showing including who stars, and the date that it was released, along with the issue it was reviewed in. (Useful for film queries or just for reference.) There is one thing which really lets "Film Review" down, and which nearly forced me to stop reading the magazine. As far as I can see, they obviously do not employ a proper proofreader, because it is littered with spelling mistakes and typing errors. In one issue the caption for "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" looked remarkably like "Castaway", and "Castaway" looked remarkably like "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon". For a magazine, that I feel is the best on the market at the moment, this really does let it down - surely it would be worth it not to alienate potential readers by clearing up these mistakes?! ?Film Review? does also produce four specials a month, but my advice is just to buy these if you decide tha
t they are of interest to you. Similar material normally appears in the bog-standard magazine, so it may not be of as much interest to you. There is also a website connected to the magazine which you can order subscriptions from. I recently ordered my subscription through this and found it very easy and efficient. Although when I ordered my subscription it was during the busy Christmas period, I received my first copy the very next month. My one gripe with this, was that I was not informed when I was going to receive it, and could have bought the same copy had I allowed the four to six weeks for it to turn up. If you are unsure of whether to buy the magazine, you can view a limited number of articles and reviews from the past issues on the website. Primarily, my feeling is that this is designed to encourage you to buy back copies, but it might be of use to you if you want to get a feel for the style of the magazine and the general trend of its reviews. I think that ?Film Review? magazine is, in general, a very good film magazine that is unfortunately let down by a little carelessness. Although this is annoying, I think that it is well worth the irritation that this may cause because it is a balanced magazine that appears to review things on face value rather than hype. If you are looking for a magazine that is an alternative to ?Empire?, then ?Film Review? might just be for you.
If Empire is the government of film magazines then Film Review is the Worcestershire county council (no offence to either!).Empire is commercial in its critiscm and easily bribed to hype the bigger more expensive productions whilst FR generally talks up what it perceives are good movies over what they really think, hence Evolution getting four out of five. This is the only issue I buy though as it has a complete A-Z filmography of last year’s releases. The reviews are taken from the magazine over the year, which is ideal for the winter video watchers who start to go through cinema releases they want to see now on DVD and VHS. Its an excellent dictionary of movies for the past year to see what’s good on the shelves. I generally check at least three publications before I rent the smaller less hyped films, which often brings the most enjoyable rentals. The film mags tend to go along with the hype from the studio PR people so they guarantee the all-important advertising from those media group’s outlets. Film Review though is very much lower in the industry food chain and its only real use is second opinions iffy films like Bridget Jones and Pearl Harbor, although the later was slaughtered by all! The magazine itself in presentation is very glossy and colorful like a porn mag so get a bag. The opening pages of this end of year addition have a nice readable summary of the years most significant films be them good or bad. Harry P and The Rings gets a ton of coverage here and page seven is a write up on young Daniel Radclife who played the little bespectacled one and hero of the Middle Class kin. Cate Blanchett is next up for her role in The Rings as the hype continues of two films that really don’t need it from a British film mag. Dog Angeline Jolie is next for FR in depth interview, although it’s now the faces of 2001 series of interviews and articles, its a big no no
for keeping my attention. You need to mix it up a bit guys. Sorry make it four in a row with the exquisitely beautiful, but busy Penelope Cruz.Looks like we are heading for the top ten faces of 2001.Oooooooooow, Kate Hudson at number five, how good was she in Almost Famous!. Kidman, boring, well we know she’s had a great year and blasted her ex into obscurity. I think his only chance now to be in the news over her is if he does”come out”. Zellweger, bit cute but Bridget Jones was highly over rated don’t you think. We then go into the complete listing of most if not all the films released at movies and most from VHS and DVD.The Croupier isn’t there though which was released just before Christmas so their must be others a stray!. A lot of the films here you probably wont come across in Blockbusters or the local independent although its well worth hanging on to this listing if you don’t have a video review book. A.I gets another iffy review in the A,s with the brilliant Amores Perros getting the big five stars. The foreign films tend to get higher marks than the American ones for some reason with the Brit lottery ones getting hammered, bar Late Night Shopping.Bridget Jones getting five is nonsense as it wasn’t as good as Notting Hill and a bird reviewed it here. The tiring Tom Hanks on an island in Castaway got four out of five which is very generous as is the one star for the awful,”Dude you stole my car” Ghost World gets five which I haven’t seen and will be checking you guys reviews to see if you agree with Hannibal getting four,hummmm. Intimacy, which is the first film to show oral and explicit sex on the high street gets three but will well be worth a zipper trip later in the year guys. The surprise low budget hit of the year in America was “A Knights Tale” gets five, which I doubt is anywhere near accurate judging by the trailer and Americas s
ense of humor. Miss Congeniality four stars, Mummy Returns two?,now that cant be right.Moulin Rouge has the predictable five out of five for its bold approach with The Others tight in behind with four and a bit. Quills five!,well Kate Winslet is a babe and a real women so I will give it a go next time.Series 7 is another 5, ill have a rent here as again it gets good write up.Sexy Beast was worth more than three out of five if just for Ben Kingsleys brilliant turn.You have to see that film. Michael Caine got a decent write up for Shinner that’s still waiting a video release. Richard Harris who cameos in it once said of the cockney sir”An over fat, flatulent, 62 year old windbag. A master of inconsequential masquerading as a guru, passing of his vast limitations as pious virtues”. Now I have little idea what that means but I bet it was a moment and crossed walking sticks when they met at the catering wagon on set. Shrek Four along with Rage, which looks a nice little Brit movie sleeper, then again it could be awful. Any sort of sexual favor or bribe could have been presented in this game for a decent review. Steven Segal stopped protecting the envirmonet and blew most of it up in the brilliantly named Exit Wounds that got an expectant two out of five. Boy was he fun in the cool Under Siege though. Or as Anthony Perkins once said and someone else wrote for him”Where some men are self contained he’s vacuumed packed, brilliant line!. The silly Unbreakable gets four out of five, which indicates the ambivalent nature of the different reviewers. Again What Women shows up in the hits of the year in this strangely enjoyable comedy from Mel Gibbo. At the end of the index theres a list of famous film people to be pushing up daisies at this current time including the average musician who bought us the brilliant Life of Brain with his money spent wisely in George Harrison of the Ruttles. Anthony Qui
nn is the only other significant thespian that has taken the trip to the big Groucho Club in the sky. Two pages for the saddos who like to buy back issues and collect things to do with Film Review magazine is next followed by the actors and movie index credits of the last year which have worked and broadcast respectively. And to go with the magazine’s porno jazz mag look theres an 0906 premium line on the back page to the Hollywood Hotline!…….”Hi im Russell Crowe, im three hundred pounds and wearing ladies underwear, what are you wearing darlin…
The following review was written in september 2000. I have left the review untouched but have placed an update at the end to cover any changes since it was written.
It was way back in the early 80's that I first started to buy film magazines although I've been a movie addict for as long as I can remember. Film review was one of the first I bought. It has gone through a number of changes in its long history but the current product is, I'm afraid to say, a great disappointment to any movie fan.
Over the past few years I've seen the magazine diminish in size both in the number of pages (currently averages about 100) and content. What I mean is the text seems to have given way to pictures. Large pictures at that and lots of them. I don't know about you but I buy these magazines to read about movie related news and I think that a monthly magazine should take more than one or two lunch hours to read.
To be fair it does seem to have fewer adverts than most of the other films magazines available but considering it's the same price as it's rivals you would be better of looking at Total Film or Empire and putting up with the ads.
It does also seem to be very blockbuster biased with most of the interviews and news items restricted to big name stars or Hollywood movies, often overlooking the better films and actors. At least the review section claims to cover all the films released for that month (using a five star rating system) and a quick glance through the past couple of issues seems to back this up and the reviews are short but concise. The video and DVD review section also offers a fair guide as to what's available to rent or buy and there are small sections for related books and CD's.
Overall it's hard to recommend this to anyone. If it were cheaper it would be best suited for someone who just has a passing interest in films and would just like to know a bit about what is currently doing the rounds at the local Odeon but as it stands there are much better titles available for the same price, especially if you're more of an addict like me.
Thanks for reading.
© Nomad 2000
Update - August 2005
I would like to report an improvement but am unfortunately unable to. I hadn't bought this magazine for ages but picked up an issue a couple of months ago and pretty much everything I said in my original review holds true now.
The price has gone up from £2.80 to £3.99 so it's now more expensive than the competition and thanks to the content it is still leagues behind. Pictures rule and the text seems almost an afterthought. No change from the one star rating.