Thursday, 29 January 2015

Feature - New Year Honours List 2014

Many apologies for the lateness of this but I thought that I'd better wait to see who'd won the FA Cup of Actors. Although in a truly perverse obscurendure fashion the winner isn't included in this list. In fact, neither of the finalists are. Some people get on the Queen's honours list because they've done really well at the olympics, won loads of awards or they're dead posh. But here, we like to champion the underdog.

Click here to find out who's included.


Saturday, 24 January 2015

Feature - The FA Cup of Actors Grand Crowning

It's been a long competition (longer than I thought, anyway) but it's finally over. It was a tough final battle but a victor has emerged, (cue jaunty fanfare on a piccolo) - the winner of The FA Cup of Actors is... 

Ellen Page

You can tell she's won because she's wearing the Queen hat.

Despite winning the competition, I've actually gone off Ellen Page quite a bit. Her performances are generally the same, and when she does deviate she can become a tad irritating, like in Smart People. It will be interesting to see what she does as she gets older. 

If only I'd been able to review The Pack, Émilie Dequenne would have won easily. (It's ironic because Doccortex would have preferred it if Page had lost.) Dequenne's performances throughout have been pure quality. But it's all down to the films that the actors have chosen to work on that decides their fate. And Ellen Page has chosen well: Super, Juno, The East, Whip It, Peacock and Hard Candy are all solid films (and no, despite Page being the best thing about it Inception was useless). I haven't seen the more recent X-Men films yet although they may improve her ranking further.

Although I have my misgivings, she's still won, beating off a slew of quality actors. So well done Ellen Page, you are the Queen.


Thursday, 22 January 2015

Review - The Pack (2010 - Franck Richard)

(Due to the fact that I've already reviewed The Pack, the competition rules state that Doccortex has to review it instead. So here's the final review of the FA Cup of Actors as Émilie Dequenne faces Ellen Page, who scored a respectable 6.5 with The East - evlkeith)

It’s the final of the FA cup of actors and I’m faced with reviewing this offering from the tournament favourite Émilie Dequenne with equal amounts of anticipation and trepidation. After her steadfast campaign through to the final of the World’s premier acting knockout competition, her ultimate success relies on what I think of this grubby looking little horror film. My hopes are not high, but maybe her impressive pedigree in the game will pull her through this final challenge.

It’s strangely likeable for a French horror film but no less predictable, with grotesque characters performing unspeakable horrors to passersby in the rural heartland of the country. Dequenne, however somehow manages to hold our interest with a smouldering, tobacco stained performance as the hapless road tripper Charlotte. She single-handedly turns the film from something I would have mercilessly fast forwarded into a positive experience holding your hand as you charge headlong through a nightmare world of fat women in chain mail, hell’s angels and miners. (Yes, that’s coal miners.)

The rest of the cast, action and plot seem to swirl around her classy performance in a somewhat shambolic fashion. After picking up a mysterious hitch hiker Charlotte ends up a captive in a dubious bar/café establishment which not only serves up croissants, coffee and onions to French rural folk, but also acts as a feeding station for a gang of mutant zombie coal miners who rise from the earth now and again for a bite to eat. 

Although the miners are heavily stylised and moderately ferocious they’re no way near a frightening as their South Yorkshire cousins who chased me around a local golf course as a teenager due to the ‘Did you shout fore?!’ incident. Needless to say it all ends in tears as bikers, fat woman, zombie miners and an attractive French actress all meet up for the shack based resolution rumble.    

It’s a cut above the other French horror films I’ve viewed due the dark humour, the atmosphere and Dequenne’s excellent performance. Ultimately it’s fun, a little gory and engaging stuff but lacks anything particularly memorable or especially scary, (and to be honest evlkeith’s original review was way more entertaining than the actual film!) And for that reason…I’m sorry Emily because you were great…I’m rating the film just a little better than average at 6/10. I just hope that’s enough but I know how highly evl rates Page so I'm not hopeful…

How close was that? It all came down to half a point. But Ellen Page is the winner of the FA Cup of Actors. We will have the crowning ceremony soon... - evlkeith

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Review - The East (2013 - Dir. Zal Batmanglij)

And so we get to the final of the FA Cup of Actors. Ellen Pages pits her wily scissor kick skills against the solidity of Émilie Dequenne's back four. Ellen Page kicks off with her effort - which I'd fancied watching for a while - The East.

Sarah (Brit Marling, who also co-wrote this along with starring in obscurendure favourite Another Earth) works for an elite intelligence firm looking after the interests of their big business clients. She is tasked with infiltrating a group of anarchists, The East, who have been naughtily upsetting these big business types, for example, pouring a load of oil into the house of the CEO of a company that has allowed a huge oil spillage in the ocean; an eye for an eye, no more, no less. As often happens in these situations, Sarah becomes attached to the group and everything gets a bit morally grey.

This for me was the greatest aspect of this film; I was constantly thinking about whether what The East were doing was justified or not. There is no doubt about the companies being entirely dodgy - as they generally are - but do they deserve some of the group's punishments? And just as Sarah becomes emotionally involved with the members, so does the viewer. It's all rather cleverly done. 

Initially I was thinking that both Brit Marling and Ellen Page had been miscast. I just couldn't see them being part of this group. As the plot develops it turns out that the members all came from middle class families, but they were sick of the  consumer crazy madness we now live in and the companies that drive it. They go dumpster diving to get their food, and they don't do too bad. I'm not convinced I could do it though. Added to this the characters in the group all have a grudge to bear against one of the corporations they are up against, so by the end the casting was spot on.

But given that this is Ellen Page's entry she isn't actually in it that much, and it isn't one of her better performances. If she goes on to win the competition, she has done so on the back of far greater performances than her own: Brit Marling's here and Cillian Murphy's in Peacock. Even so, the FA Cup has been about how wisely the actors choose their projects so it's maybe fair enough.

But Brit Marling owns this film. She goes from company drone to portraying a full on anarchist in a very convincing manner. She flits between the different states as she goes back to her real life. Through her acting it is easy to see her attachments growing to the group, but is she able to keep enough of a distance to continue doing her job professionally?

Easily the worst thing about The East is the most useless, tame version of spin the bottle I've ever seen. It's rubbish. There's plenty of hugging and a bit of lady kissing lady action. But the kinkiest it gets is when one character kisses a lady's belly button. Once. Big deal. 

The East gives the viewer plenty to think about after the film has finished, which is pleasant. (It makes you wonder whether the actors involved lead a less consumer driven lifestyle now.) But this film is more likely to change someone's viewpoint (as Fight Club changed mine) than Tinker Bell and the Pirate Fairy. It's the moral quandaries that raise this above the average and give it a healthy rating of...

If you like this you could also try:
Dawn of the Dead, Fight Club.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Feature - evlkeith's Top Ten Films of 2014

It's been a funny year for film watching antics. I've seen absolutely loads but I haven't got around to reviewing some of the more choice offerings. Once the FA Cup of Actors is over I'll finally get round to writing about some of the films shown below in last year's top ten.

10. Space Battleship Yamato

This live action adaptation of an anime series has some quality space battles but is let down by some slow talky bits near the end. 

9. Drive

Surprisingly violent driving film that owes more to westerns than The French Connection.

8. Stories We Tell

Sarah Polley tells the story of her family using photos, video footage and reconstructions. A touching film.

7. Red Cliff

An epic historical sword-a-thon that has some quality action sequences and humour.

6. I Was Monty's Double

I can remember watching this with my granddad when I was about six. I enjoyed it then, but I love it even more now.

5. Our Children

Emotionally gut wrenching drama starring one of our finalists in the FA Cup of Actors.

4. Oblivion

Far more intelligent (and slow paced) than the average Hollywood blockbuster, this is a film that I've seen a few times already.

3. Wolf Children

Halfway through this touching anime by this excellent Mamoru Hosoda, I thought I'd got the rest of the plot sussed. I was wrong.

2. Grave of the Fireflies

If anyone is in any doubt that anime can be for adults, give this a watch. Haunting and heartbreaking.

1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

I wasn't keen on the first film but this is much, much better. It's more like a seventies spy thriller than the usual superhero stuff. Plus Black Widow and Nick Fury get a lot more to do.


Friday, 2 January 2015

Feature - The FA Cup of Actors - The Final

It's been a long year but here we are at the final of the FA Cup of Actors. Let's have a look at how our two finalists have arrived at this illustrious venue (for the respective reviews, just click on the titles):

Ellen Page

Round 1 - Natalie Portman  vs.  Ellen Page
                Hesher - 6/10           Whip It - 7/10 

Round 2 - Radha Mitchell         vs.           Ellen Page
                Melinda and Melinda - 3/10     Smart People - 6/10

Semi - Ellen Page   vs.   Jennifer Connelly 
           Peacock - 6/10     Dark Water - 5/10

Émilie Dequenne

Round 1 - Nathan Fillion  vs.  Émilie Dequenne
                Slither - 6/10         Our Children - 8/10

Round 2 - Émilie Dequenne      vs.      Barbara Crampton
                The Girl on the Train - 6/10    Robot Wars - 2/10

Semi - Émilie Dequenne   vs.   James Stewart
      Écoute le Temps - 6/10  Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation
                                                     - 5/10

Here are some lovely statistics:

Ellen Page
Average rating = 6.3
Highest rated film = Whip It - 7/10
Goal difference = 5

Émilie Dequenne

Average rating = 6.7
Highest rated film = Our Children - 8/10
Goal difference = 7

Dequenne is still the favourite, although it could be closer than once expected. Ellen Page didn't actually contribute that much to the quality of Smart People or Peacock and a case could be put forward that she shouldn't even be in the final. But she is in Hard Candy, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Juno and Super, so she's got some half decent films still in her arsenal. Dequenne meanwhile has been solid in each of her films, although the rarity (and cost - one is over a hundred quid on Amazon) of some of her films may limit her final selection. Only time will tell as we enter the final stage of the competition.