I think film reviews are, on the whole, useless.
First of all, they are usually written by film buffs who are enthralled with film culture and the "art" of it all. That's just fine, if you're a highly-educated film buff yourself, but the average movie-goer is not. These so-called academic/ arty/ cultured reviews usually contain a plethora of snide remarks about popular culture. I classify these as "snob reviews", and (as Kim would say) they make my neck itch. Secondly, film reviews have stopped having any effect whatsoever on the film-going public. It's all about word of mouth these days, and in this modern age word of mouth is lightning fast. It used to be the case that if you had a lousy movie to distribute you'd be able to get at least one good week out of it before word of mouth killed it off. But nowadays, the audience is busy texting their opinion of the film while they're still sitting in the cinema.
Film reviews might be more helpful, and more accessible, if they tried to determine who the target audience for each film might be, and then tried to determine whether this type of film was well-made enough to appeal to the audience for which it was made.
Now I'll give it a go. I don't think it's as easy as it seems.
"A Serious Man"
This one's great for after-movie dinner conversation. Go with your partner and another couple, and you're guaranteed to be able to steer the conversation away from their kitchen renovation, their children's school fees and their baby's adorable cuteness. You might not be able to agree on what the first scene with the dybbuk means, or how it's connected to the plot. If you're not Jewish you might not be able to understand why some of the audience found certain scenes hysterically funny, then again, even if you are Jewish you'd probably disagree on the humour. Is it funny? Depressing? Self-hating? Meaningful? Meaningless? It's all up for interpretation. This is a thinker's film, you won't lose yourself in the characters or the story, but you'll have a lot to ponder afterwards. It's entertaining in the way a well-written book is, you don't love it, but you'd recommend it to your friend the Professor of Literature.
Final word: You'll walk out of the cinema with a bemused expression, stifling a yawn, but reticent to say exactly what you thought of the film until your more clever friends tell you their opinions.
"The Invention of Lying"
This is great for a Saturday night when you need to get out of the house and detox. You don't care that it's not really that funny, and that it's not really well-acted, you want to see comedy on that big screen for at least 90 minutes. You want to eat that packet of Maltesers in a dark, air-conditioned cinema, sitting next to your partner who's munching on his choc-top like it's his last meal and he's gonna be executed tomorrow. You want to forget that you need to pay the bills, that your son is playing too much Xbox, that the dog hasn't been washed in a month and that you need to start eating more healthy shit and exercising more. You just want to tune out.
Final word: You'll walk out of the cinema with a small smile and chocolate smears on your t-shirt. You'll agree that it was an original concept, that it had some very clever moments but it just wasn't that funny. One of you might find the Pizza-Hut-box-10-commandments scene funnier than the other, but hey, that's what makes it interesting.
Coming...next post...reviews of "Time Traveller's Wife" and "2012"......
I'm rushing off now to see "Where The Wild Things Are."