Inside the Mind of a Movie Reviewer

February 25, 2013 at 10:43 am

Inside the Mind of a Movie Reviewer | Zack Mandell |

by Zack Mandell

Zack Mandell is a movie enthusiast, writer of movie reviews, and owner of which has great information on movies, actors, and films like Snitch. He writes extensively about the movie industry for sites like Gossip Center, Yahoo, NowPublic, and Helium.


When I was 18 or 19 a good friend of mine was throwing a party and invited me to attend, suggesting I arrive several hours early so we could hang out before it started. I did so to find he had his hands full with party preparation more intense than he’d anticipated. As I couldn’t be of much help he suggested I watch a movie in his room until the party started. This friend had been a film student for a while and had an excellent collection so I was happy to oblige. I liked movies but wasn’t a committed film buff or anything. Remembering a positive endorsement from my mom (who has great taste in movies) I put on Unforgiven, the Clint Eastwood Western and became increasingly engrossed.

William Munny (Eastwood) and his old partner Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) are aging ex-gunmen who’ve been hired by a group of prostitutes to kill two men that had slashed up one of their number in a Big Whiskey, WY brothel. Opposing Munny and Logan is Big Whiskey’s protective, brutal ex-gunslinger sheriff- Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman). Munny, by his own admission, had himself been an incredibly cruel, drunken, sadistic and murderous desperado as a younger man before being reformed by his (since deceased) wife. Much of Munny’s youthful sadism had been inspired by liquor, which he’s sworn off.

[Spoiler Alert] Near the end of the film William Munny is preparing to return home when he finds out that someone very close to him has been been captured and tortured (inadvertently) to death by Daggett. At this revelation Munny takes a bottle of whiskey he’s spurned several times and drinks while learning the details of his friend’s ordeal from a terrified prostitute, who in turn reveals details about Munny’s exceedingly vicious past. As we watch, William Munny the father, loving husband, pig farmer and homesteader is dissolved by the whiskey and William Munny the dangerous, bloodthirsty, ruthless, ice water-cold gunfighter emerges. His transformation precipitates and precedes probably the best sequence ever filmed for a Western.

I was transfixed. Everything about Unforgiven seemed backwards: the good guys are hired assassins and the villain a small town sheriff just trying to protect his little patch of territory. The prostitutes seek revenge for their cut comrade, who is perhaps the only one of them not intent on vengeance. One of the men the assassins were hired to kill is good-hearted, hadn’t done any violence himself and was mostly guilty of running to his partner’s aid on instinct, unaware he (the partner) meant to cut up a woman.

Colorful characters enrich Unforgiven’s universe without conforming to cliché, notably incredible turns by Richard Harris as another hired shooter, “English Bob”, and Saul Rubinek’s W.W. Beauchamp- Bob’s Western-mythology-smitten pulp biographer- both of whom put in amazing performances. The primary players- Munny, Logan, Daggett and English Bob, were all old men who’d long since past their prime. It was like watching the hangover following a John Wayne and/or Gary Cooper Western. The tough cowboys, brave sheriffs and slick gunfighters had grown up and grown old. No one is spared (or spared from) the gritty reality of Western life. I’d never seen a movie like it, particularly a Western. When my host came to fetch me for the party (which started about halfway into the movie) I thanked him but requested time to finish. That viewing of Unforgiven affected my initiation into movie buffness.

Obviously, my description of a great movie is nothing at all like watching one and that’s maybe the best case to be made for reviewing movies. Since even the best review can’t really capture the movie experience, good or bad, reviewing appeals to me as a tool for steering viewers toward something they’ll never forget, or at least enjoy. Just as a well-done review can deliver an innocent from a bomb intent on stealing $10 bucks ($44 if concessions are purchased) and two hours of their time. My advice, such as it is, for anyone interested in writing reviews is to write toward a purpose. If you haven’t been assigned a particular movie to review, write on one that stood out to you or had some feature that stood out, whether good or bad. If a movie employs some tired convention or is representative of some trend that bothers you (or that inspires you), point it out.

Write what you think; not what you think you should.

Beware of prevailing review-trends though and learn to recognize them. The woman who wrote for the art and entertainment page of my college newspaper epitomized trend reviewing. When the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) movies were being released she sang their praises, as did everyone. However, when the backlash that inevitably accompanies any widely-popular entertainment phenomenon struck she immediately began referencing the LOTR films as the embodiment of boredom and filmic pretension.

Also- be aware of your disposition and situation and let a movie sit with you for a little bit before writing about it. More than once I’ve seen bad movies in some strange mood or with an enthusiastic watching buddy that totally colored my consideration of it, and led to some unforgiven recommendations. Likewise, I’ve watched great movies in a bad mood and judged them too harshly. On a number of occasions something I didn’t immediately like, or even actively disliked, nevertheless stuck with me. Despite an initial neutral-to-negative reaction, if I find myself chewing a movie over for several days afterward (if I’m not thinking on how overtly horrible it was) I almost always come around to digging it.

Another trend in reviewing that’s gained popularity is an attempted populist-appeal. A crappy action movie with the requisite inclusion of explosions and shootings will score glowing reviews from columnists intent on proving how absolutely they dismiss film snobbery and embrace regular-Joe cinematic taste. That being said- both the audience and genre should be kept in mind. If you’re writing a review for Best Car Chases Ever! dot com, the terrible Fast and the Furious sequel you just watched should be weighted regarding the content of the chase scenes with less attention given to the ridiculous dialogue. To be at all successful and satisfied, I think a writer of anything has to write from a place of passionate opinion. If you hate a popular movie or love a “terrible” one- I guarantee there are people out there that agree with you. Write what you think; not what you think you should.

Awesome Ninja Turtle Fan Art

April 11, 2012 at 7:15 am

Amazing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Fan Art...  Amazing!


It’s no secret that I’m slightly pumped for the new Ninja Turtles movie currently in development.  Over the last few weeks, I think I’ve covered the Ninja Turtles more than any other franchise in the history of this blog.

XTRA | Why The New Ninja Turtles Movie Is Off To A Great Start

XTRA | Top 10 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movie Quotes

As I scoured the web for information on the new live action film, I came across hundreds of incredible fan art.  Dammit I wish I could draw!  I wanted to take a moment to pay tribute to some extremely talented artists out there.

When searching for Ninja Turtles fan art, you have to start with David Rapoza.

Amazing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Fan Art...  Amazing!

His collection of Ninja Turtles fan art has been featured on hundreds of sites around the world.  I’m actually extremely late to the show but holy crap it’s impressive.

Amazing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Fan Art...  Amazing!

Another frequent image I came across in my travels was created by Nebezial and hosted at DeviantArt.

Amazing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Fan Art...  Amazing!

Further investigation revealed this piece featuring featuring Shredder & Krang by Nebezial.  Wow.

Amazing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Fan Art

Here is a brilliant image by srmraider189:

Amazing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Fan Art...  Amazing!

How cool is this image of Super Shredder by Vassago?

Amazing Ninja Turtle Fan Art...  Amazing!

This could easily go on forever but I just wanted to share a few.  So many other sites out there have featured Ninja Turtles fan art in the past.  I’ve included a couple great collections for your viewing pleasure.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – A Selection of 20 Awesome Fan Art

Amazing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Fan Art

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Awesome Fan Art

Epic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Fan Art

Dawn of the Ninja Fan Art

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Fan Art


Is this the world’s biggest Ninja Turtles Fan?


XTRA | Storyboarding When You Can’t Draw

XTRA | Confessions of a Wannabe Animator

XTRA | The Non-Artists Guide To Photoshop Addiction

Branding A Movie Blog: The Athletic Nerd

April 10, 2012 at 9:50 am

Branding A Movie Blog: The Athletic Nerd | Movies, Screenwriting & Independent Film


The Athletic Nerd is now close to 3 years old and has evolved a ton over the years.  Slowly, I’ve carved out an identity for this blog and the graphic look has been gradually improved along the way.  Regular readers probably hopefully noticed a couple new banners, ads and post headers popping up over the last few months.

Branding is definitely key when it comes to first impressions.  Long ago, my blog was hideous…  It’s okay you can say it.  With so many fantastic looking blogs out there, you have to be able to compete when it comes to design.  So today, I’m unveiling the one thing I felt The Athletic Nerd was lacking.  An official logo!

Graphic design is a tricky thing for someone with no training and no ‘official’ experience.  For years, I’ve relied on tutorials online and my obsession with Photoshop to get by.  I’m sure design professionals will spot flaws I’m unaware of but I like it.  I wanted something simple that could be implemented in a variety of ways.  For now, I’m sticking with the header image above and the odd advertisement but you’ll see it all over the place in time.  In the end, I wanted something that could stand up next to the blog’s tagline:

Movies, Screenwriting & Independent Film

Hope you like the new logo.  Stay tuned for a more updates including a brand new series which should be unveiled towards the end of next month!

Click here to check out my about page and email me at with any comments, questions or suggestions.

Thanks for visiting!


iPad And The Screenwriter

January 27, 2010 at 7:52 pm

Finally, the mysterious device has a name:


I’m not a massive fan of the name but I’m a huge fan of what I’ll be using it for when I get my hands on one.

Before I get to that, here are some terrific links and information I’ve collected for those who aren’t up to date on the new device.

Just make sure you come back to read the rest.

Update: You can now watch the entire event on Apple’s site.

All caught up?  I’m pretty pumped about it.

I’ve never owned a laptop.  I’ve always been more of a desktop kind of guy.  When it comes to writing, there’s nothing better than sitting at a desk and working on a screenplay.  I couldn’t even imagine ever being productive anywhere else.

Until I got my iPhone.

Now I can write notes, outlines and entire screenplays with my phone no matter how far away from my desk I am.  I can research, blog and market my projects from a single tiny device.  I’ve written a lot about the idea of Portable Writing.  I’ve posted articles about my favorite apps and how I use my iPhone on-the-go to stay ahead on my work load.

The iPhone opened my eyes and I realized that I have to break away from my desk and enjoy the freedom to write wherever I want. It got me thinking about the next logical step.  Laptop? Netbook?

Apple’s timing couldn’t have been any better. The correct answer is iPad!

  • Screenwriting: One of my favorite aspects is how the apps on my phone will work on the iPad.  This means that as a screenwriter, I can pull out this device and type on a BIG keyboard.  Black Mana’s Screenplay app will be glorious on the iPad.
  • Blogging: Updating my blog will be easier than ever with the bigger display and easier navigation.
  • Research: The iPad will make researching faster and more efficient with full screen internet access at super fast speeds.
  • Social Networking: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and more…  Social marketing is huge and 17 West is right there with the newest trends.
  • Email: Yet another way to stay in contact and up to date on all of 17 West’s upcoming productions.
  • Business: Budgets, Contracts, Paperwork and more will be even easier to manage.
  • 17 West Productions: More connectivity, more productivity and more creativity.  I’m very excited about the possibilities. (All of which rhyme by the way.)
  • Cost: The iPad starts at $499!  I want the 3G so it’ll be and extra $130 but even then, it’s cheaper than a laptop.

I do a lot of development work in the library.  It’s my quiet place to plot out my scripts.  I’ve always wanted a laptop with screenwriting software loaded and ready to fire off the pages but it’s never really been in the budget.  Finally, I’ve got an affordable alternative to the laptop that just happens to be a super cool technology as well.

I suppose my only questions relate to the absense of a webcam and whether or not the device will work with my existing data package.  I have no intention of adding another 30 bucks a month when I already have 6GB’s of data on my account…  We’ll have to see.

Regardless, I love new gadgets and Apple definitely creates cool gadgets.  The iPad presents me with yet another option to work on my number 1 passion in life.  Screenwriting.

I want one.

The countdown begins!