Blog: The Top 6 Most Interesting Actors Working Today

I don’t consider this list to be definitive, there are of course scores of other interesting actors who may turn out to be far more interesting than the individuals mentioned below. For now though, here is a list of six people whose career paths are following the most interesting trajectory.

6 – Arnold Schwarzenegger

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He’s not the most talented, nuanced of actors, but I’ve been a fan of the Austrian Oak’s iconic persona since I was a child. Schwarzenegger deprived fans for 8 years during his incredulous tenure as Governor of California, and he downright teased us in 2010 with his brief cameo in ‘The Expendables’. However, he is no longer the Governator, he has returned to his second career, the one that made him most famous. He’s already starred in ‘The Last Stand’ (2013), a film that annoyingly I haven’t been able to see yet. However it was great seeing him in last year’s ‘The Expendables 2’ which was, to quote Patrick Bateman, a ‘laugh riot’. I’m always up for a slice of Arnie cheese, and I’m sure ‘The Tomb’, ‘The Expendables 3’ and perhaps even ‘The Terminator 5’ will be entertaining, however I’m not sure how the latter will work out.

5 – Michael Fassbender

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Fassbender has proved his worth in small independent films such as ‘Fish Tank’ (2009) and ‘Shame’ (2011) and big-budget blockbusters like ‘Inglourious Basterds’ (2009) and ‘Prometheus’ (2012).  With films like ‘The Counselor’, ‘Jane Got a Gun’ and ‘Prometheus 2’ in his upcoming canon, the affable Fassbender seems to be forging a career that is both critically and commercially successful.

4 – Ryan Gosling

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It’s remarkable to think that a man who starred in the worst film ever made, The Notebook, could appear on this list. Since the offence in 2004, Gosling starred in films such as Half Nelson (2006) and Blue Valentine (2010). He didn’t truly come to my attention until 2011, when he assumed the role of ‘The Driver’ in Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive. His performance, like the film, wasn’t the most layered, but he certainly excelled in producing a steely aura and being just so incredibly cool.

The great thing about Drive was that it signalled Gosling’s encroachment onto the edgy, independent area of cinema. It was also hopefully going to be the first instalment in a cinematic collaboration between him and Danish director Refn. Those hopes were confirmed when images of Only God Forgives surfaced, showing Gosling with a badly beaten up face.

3 – Nicolas Cage

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He’s by no means a new kid on the block, quite the contrary, he’s becoming a rather venerable member of Hollywood. Since his emergence in the mid to late eighties, Nic Cage has appeared in approximately two million films.

Some may be surprised by his inclusion, his role decisions are becoming increasingly questionable, but I really like Cage, he’s idiosyncratic in more ways than one. Firstly, as Mark Kermode once rather rudely pointed out, he certainly doesn’t have leading man looks, and his hair is very, very strange. He is also famously capable of delivering unhinged performances, performances which can only be described as ‘Cagesque’. Among the finest examples in the ‘Cagesque’ oeuvre are ‘Vampire’s Kiss’ (1988), ‘Bad Lieutenant’ (2010), ‘Deadfall’ (1993), ‘Face/Off’ (1997) and ‘Matchstick Men’ (2003). It’s this combination of unconventional looks and persona that make him a favourite of mine.

Of course, Cage can also deliver more balanced, subtle performances if a director manages to tame him, as demonstrated in ‘Leaving Las Vegas’ (1995) and ‘Adaptation.’ (2002). Because of the sheer personality of the man, I’m always on the look-out for updates on his career – I was utterly delighted to hear that he will be appearing in ‘The Expendables 3′.

2 – Christian Bale

Christian-Bale-transformationChristian Bale is the undisputed king of ‘weight acting’.

His performance as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho (2000) is one of my all time favourites, and his roles in ‘The Machinist’ and ‘The Fighter’ show how he’s a truly committed actor. Now that the vastly overrated Batman trilogy has ended, Bale can leave the boring character of Bruce Wayne and build on an already impressive portfolio. His appearance in ‘Untitled Terrance Malick Production’, which co-stars Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender and Rooney Mara is a step in the right direction. Bale will be offered the best scripts in Hollywood; we’ll probably find him in the Best Leading Actor category at an Oscars ceremony in the very near future.

1 – Matthew McConaughey

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Matthew McConaughey’s films have been famously commercially-minded for the past decade or so, with films such as ‘The Wedding Planner’, ‘Sahara’, ‘Ghosts of Girlfriends Past’ and ‘How to Loose a Guy in 10 Days’. This career move is understandable, the man has amassed a fortune from these films, however he has lost a damning amount of credibility in the process.

Not anymore though, over the past few years he has shown what he’s capable of in films such as ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’, ‘Bernie’, ‘Magic Mike’ and ‘Killer Joe’, which for my money is the best film of 2012. I fawned endlessly over his performance in my review of ‘Killer Joe’, and for good reason, he doesn’t just break his typecast, he shatters it. It’s one of the most menacing performances I’ve seen in years.

It seems this upward trajectory isn’t slowing either, with McConaughey going all method actor and losing massive amounts of weight for his leading role in the upcoming ‘The Dallas Buyer’s Club’. Other roles include ‘Mud’ and Scorsese’s ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’. I’m all for this, but I can’t help imagining this rapid ascension has left McConaughey feeling rather smug, he’s gone from a mere rich heartthrob to a rich, critically respected heartthrob!

Alien vs. Predator

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In my honest, correct opinion, Predator is a better film than Alien.

While both films share one crucial thing in common, that their narratives both concern a homicidal extra-terrestrial, they are constructed completely differently.  From its score, characters and set design – Alien is all about understatement.  On the other hand, Predator is loud, brash and brilliantly macho. Both films have the same central conceit, however Alien, the one that takes itself very seriously, is the one that unfairly claims all the critical praise.

Despite the massive amount of praise Alien has been steeped in over the years, it’s little more than a B-movie. The film follows a seven-member crew aboard Nostromo, a commercial spacecraft that is carrying millions of tonnes of mineral ore. The cast of characters are:  Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), Captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt), Kane (John Hurt), Lambert (Veronica Cartwright), Ash (Ian Holm), Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) and Parker (Yaphet Cotto).

Their routine procedure is complicated when the crew are ordered to investigate an anonymous transmission from a nearby planetoid. During the investigation, they find a nest of eggs, one of which hatches with worrying results. What ensues back on their ship is nothing more than B-movie fare, which usually isn’t a problem, however its aura of restraint and suspense seems to have convinced people that it’s some sort of masterpiece.

Despite my reservations, I do think Alien is a good film. Its first quarter is compelling, suspenseful and in one particular scene, very shocking. H.R. Giger’s set design is also striking and original, below is an image of the famous ‘Space Jockey’. Last summer I visited the H.R. Giger museum in Gruyeres, Switzerland; it was very interesting, the Alien imagery could be seen throughout his body of work.

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Through its use of sound, set design and Jerry Goldsmith’s understated, creepy score, the film creates an effectively eerie aura, but it doesn’t do much more than that. I must note that it’s important to consider the impact Alien had on its release. There’s no doubt that Alien is an epochal film that really worked with audiences, however the elements that made it gripping and original in 1979 have unfortunately been eroded by the dozens of spin-offs. On repeated viewings, the film is restrained to the point of tedium; it hasn’t got the replay value of Predator. Some would say that Predator is one of those spin-offs, but it’s so much more than that.

My main problem with the film is its cast, they’re convincing, but the crew members are devoid of charisma, especially Ripley, the leading lady. Predator is by no means an exercise in character development, but its characters are amusing caricatures; the crew aboard Nostromo just leave you indifferent.

After the chestburster scene, a truly remarkable moment, the film drastically reduces its use of on-screen gore. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is testament to the power of sparse amounts of violence, but in Alien, it just feels neutered and disappointing. Also, there are moments that are laughably dated and unfrightening, most notably in the scene captured below.

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Xenomorph: Suprise!!

Just Like Alien, Predator is a B-movie, however it’s as a B-movie should be, exciting and pulpy. The film concerns Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a tough Major who commands a platoon of comparably hard men, including: Dillon (Carl Weathers), Mac (Bill Duke), Billy (Sonny Landham), Blain (Jesse Ventura), ‘Poncho’ (Richard Chaves) and Hawkins (Shane Black).  The platoon are traversing through the lush, dangerously vast jungles of Central America to infiltrate a camp of guerilla forces who have kidnapped a politician and his aide.

In stark contrast with the believable but boring crew of Alien, the characters in Predator are funny, charismatic and comically masculine, none less than its leading man Schwarzenegger, who delivers his iconic Schwarzerisms with one liners such as ‘Stick around!’ and the now famous ‘GET TO DA CHOPPA!’. Below is a scene I find very unintentionally funny, but female readers be warned, the scene below is pumped with so much testosterone that you may become pregnant.

Dillon! You son of a bitch!

The bloody confrontation at the camp, which serves as the film’s primary action sequence, is brilliantly shot and choreographed, it’s a quality slice of squibby carnage from the superlative action director John McTiernan, who has largely been a wasted talent ever since the superb Die Hard (1988). Unlike Alien, the violence in Predator is strong and grisly, the film hasn’t dated in this respect, and surprisingly its smart use of CGI hasn’t dated either, it remains convincing to this day.

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Its smart, resourceful use of special effects means that ‘Predator’ is convincing 26 years later.

Predator is a film teeming with life and energy, these vibes being very much compounded by Alan Silvestri’s score, which is both excitingly militaristic and intensely suspenseful.  The film takes a B-movie concept and successfully blends the best of the action and science fiction genres, creating a experience which is thrilling, funny and satiatingly violent. Alien on the other hand exercises its talent in typography.

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I concede that Alien’s typography is superior. 

Alien: 78%

Predator: 85%

The Expendables (2010)

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A surprisingly entertaining film that ignores credibility with delightfully wanton results.

All realism and credibility is thrown out of the window in this delightfully macho celebration of the 1980s action film. The action scenes are huge, loud and fantastically violent. It blends brutally choreographed mêlée, explosions and gunfights, with each one of the Expendables having their fair share of the action. However, although the film is satiatingly steeped in aestheticised violence, I did find that some of the CGI violence wasn’t as tangible as I’d have liked, I prefer old fashioned squibs and syrup. This is unfortunately a problem in many modern films,  even in the incredibly violent ‘Rambo’ (2008).

The plot is a simple, familiar one; it follows the Expendables as they infiltrate and overthrow a Latin American dictator, with the token sinister executive thrown in there for good measure. Away from all the wanton destruction are parts that are surprisingly character driven, particularly the chemistry between Stallone and Statham, whose tough, competitive camaraderie may be somewhat clichéd but certainly entertaining.

As the image above suggests, a terrific cast has been assembled, it includes: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Mickey Rourke, Randy Couture, Steve Austin and even cameos from Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. There are some notable names missing from the cast, but thankfully there’s scope for a whole Expendables franchise, giving many other fan favourites an opportunity to become an Expendable. This is probably the first time that I’ve found myself wanting a mindless blockbuster franchise to come to fruition; with a team of cine-literate, witty writers, the possibilities are almost endless for potential sequels. Who knows, the film could even attract some heavyweight talent in the form of Clint Eastwood, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino – ‘The Expendables’ could add further dimensions to its celebration of masculinity!

Perhaps my satisfaction with the film was accentuated by my low expectations coming into it, but I think I would’ve enjoyed it regardless of expectation; it delivered the masculine, ridiculously excessive carnage that, for me, makes it a funny, exciting break from reality – I left the film with a big smile on my face.

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