Film Review Vocabulary

“I’ve never had a movie that got great reviews.”

Wes Anderson, an American filmmaker

In “How to Describe Films” we looked at idioms and collocations related to films. We also analyzed the differences (mostly regional) between film, movie and cinema. Now, here is some useful vocabulary found in the latest film reviews. We hope you’ll find it useful…

The first “Maleficent” was a magnificently designed, too-densely plotted piece of fairy-tale revisionism.

A plot is the events that form the main story of a book, film, or play. A plot can be simple, complex/complicated, confusing, etc. A dense plot is the plot that contains a lot of information, which can make it difficult to understand. A dense plot is overstuffed (it contains too many different things).

Revisionism is the development of ideas that are different from the official or traditional ideas of a particular group: Revisionism often occurs during or after major political upheavals (= violent/sudden changes).

We have to wade through some syrupy scenes.

To wade through something is to read or deal with a lot of boring information: We just need to wade through the paperwork.

A syrupy /ˈsɪrəpiscene is extremely romantic, nice, or kind in a way that seems silly. Other things that can be syrupy are love songs, tales, films, and speeches.

Incoming director Joachim Rønning ensures that it all looks gorgeous.

An incoming /ˈɪnˌkʌmɪŋ/ director is the director who has just been chosen for the job: So, you, as the incoming director, also have a role as a detective?

This anti-heroine can be magnetic when she’s given a chance to hold the screen.

If a character holds the screen, the focus is on the character: I wish he would hold the screen more often.

The director orchestrates it beautifully.

To orchestrate is to plan and organize a complicated event or course of action, especially without being noticed, so that it achieves the result you want: I can and will help orchestrate this reunion.

The character is an instant hit.

A hit is someone or something that people like very much: Shaun the sheep is a huge hit with the children. An instant hit is the character that is liked from the very beginning: In “Supernatural,” Castiel was an instant hit.

The comedy is mostly slapstick silly.

Slapstick is humor that is based on physical actions such as people hitting each other or falling over, rather than on the clever use of language: Their hallmark (= distinctive feature) was slapstick.

It’s packed to the rafters with visual gags and witty wordplay.

If something is packed to the rafters with something, it’s completely full: The club was packed to the rafters. A rafter is any of the large, sloping pieces of wood that support a roof (see the picture below).

pexels-photo-997606

The rafters support the roof.

A gag (informal) is a trick played on someone or an action performed to entertain other people: It was a bit of a running gag (=a joke which is repeated) in the show.

Wordplay is clever or funny use of words. Example: My nose is really runny. You may think that’s funny, but it’s not. There are a few types of wordplay. Check out this article to know them.

This is a bold move for a universe with such an ardent fan base.

An ardent /ˈɑː(r)d(ə)ntfan is a loyal/devoted fan. Ardent people show a particular emotion very strongly, especially in support of someone or something: She is an ardent feminist.

It’s the film’s greatest asset.

An asset /ˈæsetis a major benefit: Youth is a tremendous asset in this job.

The most talked-about piece of casting was obviously Robert De Niro.

Casting is the process of choosing people to act in a film, play, etc.: We also have some idea of how casting might be achieved. A cast is all the performers in a film, play, etc.: The play has a cast of four. To cast is to choose a performer for a particular part or for a particular type of part in a film, play, etc.: She was tired of always being cast as a sex symbol.

They show off genuinely dazzling visual effects, technological marvels that give us photo-real animals in an absolutely convincing setting.

To show something off is to show people something that you are very proud of so that they will admire it: Young musicians will get the chance to show off their musical skills.

A dazzling thing is extremely impressive: The actor showed a dazzling display of talent.

Photo-real animals look very real. Photorealism is a style of painting or drawing in which images look so real that they are hard to distinguish from photographs.

A setting is a particular time or place that a play, book, film, etc. happens in: This is a love story in a tropical island setting.

They showcase the ability of Disney to assemble a world-class voice cast.

To showcase something is to show something off: They showcased the enthusiasm and talent among our schoolchildren.

The film is enthralling, engaging and gripping.

Something enthralling /ɪnˈθrɔːlɪŋkeeps someone’s interest and attention completely: an enthralling book, novel, play, etc.

An engaging thing (or person) is pleasant, interesting, and entertaining: an engaging book, novel, article, smile, girl, etc.

Something that is gripping is so interesting or exciting that it holds your attention completely. In other words, it is enthralling: a gripping book, movie, story, etc. (Related: “How to Describe Books“)

Have you watched any enthralling, gripping and engaging films recently? 😉

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