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L'empire des loups (2005)
A mixed bag - With a little help from fellow IMDb reviewers
In my experience fellow user-reviews like on IMDb can be, but don't have to be of course, very helpful. Either in deciding whether to watch a movie, or for the purpose of getting a better understanding of it afterwards. So I am always grateful when a reviewer took his time, and actually helped me along in a good way. That said, 'L'empire des loups'by director Chris Nahon is a case in point. The cinematography is ambitious, and it's not just l'art pour l'art, it works in enhancing our viewing experience, at the same time keeping up with the several plot twists this movie abounds, or drowns, in. The musical scores aren't some ready-made products but try to punctuate the action,sometimes successfully, sometimes less so; but always staying high enough above average to strengthen their scenes. The lead actors are engaged, and deliver mostly believable performances of the characters they are given. Especially Arly Jover as Anna", anyway Jean Reno as the shady and brutal ex-cop Schiffer, but also Jocelyn Quivrin as the not too stereotypical younger homicide cop Nerteaux. The occurring shortcomings seemed to me to be not their fault but clearly the director's. Watch 'L'empire des loups' in the French original by the way, with your preferred subtitles as I did (German), to make the most of the cast's efforts. But these caveats concerning the actors' performances – 'the characters they are given' and so on – lead me to the main problem of this on a superficial level entertaining, partly also quite captivating movie. On the one hand it contains rather a few plot twists. Some generally foreseeable, others considerably unbelievable. And although I'm unable to come up with any better alternatives for the script writers to get out of the - in the structure of this plot inevitable, I guess – dead ends, they still should have made a better effort. On the other hand, and that brings me back to my introduction, beyond just plot twists and the like this movie simply degrades the further it progresses. This process works just as fellow IMDb reviewer kosmasp" has already shown in a rather moody review in 2007. He writes
you will notice the point where the movie breaks ... where it won't only get ridiculous, but the movie also falls to pieces." And he's right. I noticed this - in a way, to be honest - while watching it, and could see it clearly in retrospect after reading his review. In fact, this movie is a textbook example of the Hegelian notion that merely quantitative changes beyond a certain point pass into qualitative differences – Marx's words, not mine. Anyhow, thank you, kosmasp, though I don't follow in your harsher rating of only four stars, because I still think that 'L'empire des loups' displays many positive facets that I enjoyed on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Four stars I assign to the many, sometimes seemingly unavoidable, movies much worse than this one. It deserves a five, I gave the lead actors a six. But maybe that's being a bit too friendly?
Star Wars: Rebels (2014)
How to rate a show - where the protagonist is a jerk
'Clone Wars', the predecessor to 'Rebels', had its drawbacks and not too few flaws. But it was watchable for an adult, or at least middle- to late-teen, Star Wars fan nonetheless. And it encompassed a large enough swath of the Star Wars universe to sometimes even be politically interesting - concerning this fictional universe's politics and history, mind you. 'Rebels' however falls short on all of these advantageous features. Other reviewers have rightly pointed out the meager quality of its animation. That doesn't bother me so much. Others bemoan that Ahsoka and Rex don't get enough story time allotted to them. Yes, true, but actually they should give Ahsoka her own spin-off because 'Rebels', at least how it was set up for this series, just isn't about her as a central character however much we like seeing her back in action. No, the single biggest permanently annoying flaw of 'Rebels' is its protagonist, young Ezra Bridger the terrible. While watching the show, by now being in the middle of season 3, I catch myself fairly enjoying all scenes he's not in. But since Ezra is the main character of the show, these better parts are spread out rather thinly. So, slowly but surely a certain aggression starts to build up towards this pesky figure. And the fun you're having watching a Star Wars series is severely diminished when you're hoping - more and more strongly - for the main protagonist to be killed off soon (or locked away in some remote boarding school, to keep this review civil). How come? It's easy to decipher how Ezra is designed as a character. Troubled conflicted teenager, reckless young male with a lot to learn but, of course, also with much potential, albeit driven by his inexperienced impulses, haunted by a difficult past, and so on etc. pp. All this done well wouldn't necessarily have predestined him to be such a glaring failure as a show's anchor. So, in my opinion, it is not his "design parameters" per se that pose the problem, but their execution. Ezra, as a person, is being served to us comprised from the same assortment of shallow clichés as nearly all the other characters in this show. But they don't have to carry more than half of 'Rebels'' screen time, and aren't as central to the unfolding story. And: they are not as stupid as Ezra is, or as annoyingly irresponsible in a very stereotypical, and foreseeable, way. I mean, most of the time the flaws of the main character of 'Rebels' serve as the episodes' main story driver. That soon proves to become a huge burden to the development, or evolution, of this series, also its likability. And speaking of which, 'Rebels' really doesn't succeed in endearing Ezra to me (us?) despite, or actually because of, his catastrophe prone behavior as in other shows employing the same plot device. No, Ezra endangering everyone around him for no good reason just proves himself to be a clichéd fool. Well then, how to rate a show where the main protagonist continues to be a bothersome jerk? I've decided to not overlook this big flaw in favor of the many smaller characters and other elements I do enjoy in 'Rebels'. And since I have also begun trying to be stricter in my ratings, even downgrading some older ones, so they may become more meaningful again, I settled, with a heavy heart concerning a Star Wars show, for a 5/10.
Regrets of the Past (2016)
A mixed bag worth watching - if you like Star Wars fan films
As with all Star Wars fan films one has to give them credit for the dedicated effort they've put into their project. Maybe even a small bonus, considering that a lot of people came together, and sacrificed their spare time to create, in this case, nearly a full-hour Star Wars movie. This long short has an original albeit in parts quite foreseeable plot. It has very good visual effects, and excellent costumes and accessories. And, considering most fan films take place either in some kind of desert, or in a mountainous forest terrain, they make good of their location on the forest side. Also, while the fight scenes can not be called professional, they are delivered in a, to say the least, rather satisfactory manner. The story doesn't use the crutch of a narrator, and it doesn't need one. There are flashbacks, but they are not only helpful, they are an integral part of the story. It seems obvious the film makers peer at a possible sequel, but that doesn't hinder their narrative in this 'pilot' to still be self-contained. What this movie suffers from most is – at least in the German version – badly written dialogue. Their lines are too formal in the sense of being awkwardly highbrow while at the same time being delivered in an amateurish manner, which makes these flaws even worse. Speaking of amateurish and slightly off, of course the acting's not up to professional movie standards. In a few scenes far from it. Some of this, I'm afraid, really interferes with one's viewing experience, but other scenes reward the viewer for continuing to watch this film. Plotwise, I'm sorry to say, there are a few holes and incongruities, but I won't discuss these bad scenes and inconsistent narrative arcs further, as not to spoil anything. Overall 'Regrets of the Past' is an achievement worth watching for any Star Wars fan with a friendly attitude towards fan film projects always leaving a bit to be desired – although the movie doesn't fully carry its 50+ minutes, take a look.
Considering all First Contact movies - this is it
It's been a long time since I rated a movie with a 10, or even a 9, here on IMDb. But a lot of the reviews show, how a sizable number of people were disappointed, or even angered, by 'Arrival'. The reason that so many viewers were really put off by this movie, while many others praise it enthusiastically, stems from the fine line it walks. If it doesn't suit you from the start, you've got two long hours to get quite mad. A fine line: Not much happening in this film, on the other hand - and following my experience of the movie - a rewarding story-line pushed energetically forward. Oftentimes seemingly lifeless, shot in mostly dull colors, the sparse action oriented parts playing out mostly off screen, or transmitted only via news broadcasts ... What's to like? Well, in my opinion, a lot. Starting with the nuanced, and very humane, performance of Amy Adams, the fitting soundtrack (but no engulfing/immersing orchestral music, actually not much "music music" at all), the elegantly weighed photography, but most of all the serene calmness of an intense revelation story at the center of this very intelligent film. I felt like I was taken by the hand and guided by this movie while its grand design unfolded without making a fuss of it. Enough bad poetry: considering the many movies that have hitherto tackled the theme of First Contact, and there were some good ones among them, that I still like to watch, 'Arrival' is now by far the best take there is on this sub-genre with its sometimes proud, and sometimes also very funny, history. That said, I really understand people disliking this movie. If it doesn't get a hold of someone, I'm afraid, there's no redemption to be had with him or her for 'Arrival'. Those who haven't seen it yet, just give it a try.
Airlords of Airia (2013)
Nice pictures, bad acting.
Being a crowd funded amateur movie goes only so far as to excuse the really amateurish bad acting of "Airlords". On the other hand it gives you some very nice steam punk buildings and most of all air ships, a few other interesting vehicles (although they are not necessarily related to the plot and were clearly put into this short movie just to show them off - well, I don't mind). It also contains some small good jokes which albeit may be funny mostly for German viewers recognizing the historical allusions. So, watch it for the CGI if you are a fan, but don't expect anything from the acting itself. A word of caution: Some people might object to the rather casual depiction of violence especially of quite a few unpleasant ways to die. It may be said this comes with a story like "Airlords'". But actually its disturbing quality follows from being part of a movie that is to be watched mainly because of its nice animation. Therefore the "realist" argument does not cover the actual execution of the fighting scenes in the movie.