An old acquaintance of mine, now a college professor, recently paid me the huge compliment of asking if I’d send his students some notes on how to write a movie review (obviously he’d heard of the staggering fame and fortune I’ve attained from that occupation). Here’s what I wrote:
"There’s no set method to writing a movie review. One approach is to see yourself as a consumer reporter on the movies, carefully recounting the film’s attributes and offering your guess as to how much the 'average viewer' will like it. I used to look down my nose at this approach when I was younger, but I don’t any more. The 'average viewer' is a myth, I think, but even so your reader should be able to locate his or her own tastes in relation to that myth.
The opposite approach is to make the review a personal essay, with the movie basically serving as source material for you to riff on—in other words, to make it all about you. This is a less 'useful' approach, certainly, but it can also be enjoyable if the reviewer is a good writer. But I think that most sensible writers instinctively try something in between these two extremes when attacking the task of writing a movie review. Any device or conceit that helps you structure your review comfortably may be worth a try. Don’t feel like you have to cram every point about the movie into some short review—if you can’t find a place to discuss the cinematography or the music, or you just don’t feel any compelling need to discuss them, don’t worry about it. Focus on whatever aspects of the movie made the most vibrant impression on you, for good or bad, and try to say why. Sometimes I imagine a sort of fictitious 'Gentle Reader,' a friend who has asked me about the movie over dinner, and my review is my organized attempt to 'answer' them.
It can also be helpful to ask yourself what the movie you’re reviewing is trying to be. If it’s a horror movie or action movie or lowbrow comedy, it’s not fair to knock it for not being high drama. It’s fine to note that a certain genre isn’t to your taste, but you should usually make a good faith effort to decide if the movie in question is good of its kind.
The central thing to remember is, first and foremost, to make the review itself worth reading, and easy and fun to read, whether the reader is interested in the movie or not. I once heard Roger Ebert (I think it was) quoted as saying something to the effect that 90 percent of people who read a movie review do so just for the experience of reading the review; that they would never think of going to the movie, regardless of the reviewer’s opinion of it. So that’s my advice: create a piece of writing that’s worth reading, no matter what the movie is or what you think of it."