The Guest: introducing the English Ryan Gosling

The latest Downton Abbey export to head to Hollywood is Dan Stevens. I don’t watch the show, but I hear his character is a nice guy who’s good at seducing the ladies.

dan

Now actors often like to break the mould when it comes to roles – to avoid being typecast and all that. So if people think you’re a nice guy, what do you do? Turn it on its head, subvert people’s expectations of you.

And so we have The Guest, a film which starts with Stevens’ soldier, David, introducing himself to a grieving mother, saying he served with her son in the army. Naturally she invites him in, keen to learn more. After all, he’s such a nice young man. He called her ma’am for a start.

maika

The Guest is an interesting sort of thriller, and a lot of it is down to Stevens’ performance. You need someone who can be warm and likeable then, in an instant, be utterly frightening in a stone-cold psycho way. In that respect Stevens does well.

It helps having piercing blue eyes of course (a must if you’re going to make it as a leading man in Hollywood), and he uses them to his advantage. He’s got good screen presence too and conveys a convincing sense of coiled menace – the sort you might expect a special forces soldier to have.

THE GUEST

So… If you have a scary guest in your house you’ll need someone to question why the hell he’s there (particularly when the rest of the family think he’s lovely). Step forward suspicious daughter Anna (Maika Monroe, looking and acting considerably more grown up since last year’s Labor Day).

Another interesting point to note with this film is that it keeps you guessing. You’re never entirely sure of David’s motives – at least for the first half of the movie – and he switches effortlessly between nice guy and bad guy. Part Jason Bourne, part Ryan Gosling a la Crazy Stupid Love.

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The final act has teen slasher franchise Scream written all over it – or perhaps other references, given the ’80s-tinged soundtrack (there’s shades of Drive, Hanna and Alice In Wonderland in this film with the lurid, neon colours and fairytale horror feel). However it carries it off with panache and a loving nod to the time of year with the Halloween setting.

So if you’re looking for an engaging thriller with a few scares, a cool soundtrack and England’s answer to Ryan Gosling, look no further than The Guest. Incidentally, a good date movie too.

Top 10 thinking man’s actresses

Hello my film-loving friends. Today I wish to share with you my list of a thinking man’s top actresses. Ladies that have a certain allure in terms of intelligence, physical beauty, acting prowess and – to avoid using an overused French phrase – an indefinable something.

With each actress I’ve also mentioned the films that first made me fall in love with them. Now you may disagree and say some of these ladies are just a pretty face and nothing else – that’s fine. Hopefully I can state my case and change your mind.

  1. Natalie Portman – Garden State, Closer, V for Vendetta
    It’s no secret I hold this actress in high regard and I’ve previously discussed her top performances in another posting. So I’ll just say she makes my top spot by being a perfect blend of intelligence, beauty and vulnerability – a winning combination.
  2. Eva Green – The Dreamers, Casino Royale, Dark Shadows
    Hypnotic, alluring, sensual – she got her debut in Bernardo Bertolucci’s The DreamersThe Director described her as ‘So beautiful, it’s indecent‘. It’s not the world’s best film in terms of plot, but if you want to truly appreciate the appeal of this actress I highly recommend it.
  3. Anne HathawayLove and Other Drugs
    In this film I’ve mentioned she plays a character who has early stages of Parkinson’s disease. Some of her scenes – particularly in the third act – are heartbreaking and put her firmly in third place. Even without Catwoman in The Dark Knight she’d still be here, she’s that good in this film. If you’ve not seen it here’s a nice little clip.
  4. Amanda SeyfriedChloe, Alpha Dog, Dear John, Jennifer’s Body
    An actress with the biggest, most beautiful eyes in Hollywood. You have to love the internet, a quick search turned up a site dedicated to her eyes! That aside, she’s been in an interesting and varied bunch of films that slowly but surely convinced me of her inclusion. Out of them all I recommend you see Chloe.
  5. amber heardAmber Heard – The Rum Diary
    She’s the kind of actress that exudes an old-school Hollywood charm and mystique. But who am I to say these things you ask? Well if you don’t believe me listen to Johnny Depp – he compared her to Veronica Lake and other old Hollywood beauties, she clearly had quite an impact.
  6. Jennifer LawrenceWinter’s Bone, Silver Linings Playbook
    I heard a story once that Ms Lawrence was walking down the corridor in a Hollywood studio when a bearded guy in a cap stopped her saying ‘Are you the Jennifer Lawrence?’ Turns out this was Steven Spielberg. He’d seen Winter’s Bone and been captivated by her performance, as many of us were seeing her for the first time.
  7. beth albatrossJessica Brown Findlay – Albatross,
    Black Mirror, Misfits, Labyrinth

    If you only know Miss Findlay from Downton Abbey then you’ve missed a trick. I loved her in Albatross, where she plays a bit of a sexy troublemaker, seducing her best friend’s dad. She gives the character warmth, depth and vulnerability – with a sharp, sassy nature to boot.
  8. Marion CotillardPublic Enemies, Inception, Dark Knight Rises
    She won an Oscar for playing Edith Piaf  in La Vie En Rose and I’m excited to see her forthcoming film Rust and Bone, where she plays a killer whale trainer. She was fantastic in Inception – intense, vulnerable and mesmerising. Watch the ‘waiting for a train’ scene.
  9. Mila KunisForgetting Sarah Marshall, Friends with Benefits, Ted
    I struggle with Kunis. She’s still Meg from Family Guy – a problem when she’s clearly stunning and likes to play quite fiesty, yet down-to-earth characters. The perfect girl-next-door, if you happen to live in Hollywood. There’s a rumour she might play Anastasia Steele in the forthcoming Fifty Shades film, an enticing prospect.
  10. Felicity JonesCemetery Junction, Albatross, Like Crazy
    Ah Ms Jones, great up-and-coming actress. She comes across as really sweet and genuine. Like Crazy cleaned up at the Sundance film festival in 2011 with her performance getting compared to Carey Mulligan’s in An Education. Emotional and heartfelt, watch the trailer.

So there’s my list. As ever I was ruthless with the cut – there’s probably a lot more that could have made my top 10 but there you go. I hope you enjoy this selection, until next time.