Friday, December 19, 2008

British Invasion

Man, I've been slacking in blogging, eh? I wish I could blame my oh-so-fabulous life with all sorts of busy and important goings on, but that's just not the case. I have been enjoying myself, but it seems that the more laid-back my schedule gets, the less I do to fill the time. I actually sit around and watch movies, and then instead of talking about them or writing about them, I make some popcorn and watch more. So, all I can really say about that is this. When I do, then, make the effort to write about one of my top picks, you can rest assured that I have done my due diligence and you can place a lot of confidence in the fact that although I'm just blabbing on about superficial crap, it is at least thoroughly researched crap.

So, though I don't claim to be an Anglophile of any sort, I have watched and weighed all the delightful nuances of modern hot Brits to bring you this little hidden-gem suggestion. Even I can't deny the earnest intensity of Colin Firth, or the scoundrel charm of Hugh Grant in Bridget Jones's Diary, particularly when they're engaged in their slaptastick fist fight.

And I have no problem with the new Bond, Daniel Craig, as I've been on to him since Layer Cake.

But, for me, if I'm going to look across the pond, I'd most likely be gazing at Clive Owen. I don't think I really need to talk about his assets, do I? Pretty self-evident with this guy. I mean, he doesn't mesmerize me to the point where I'll try to convince you that Shoot 'Em Up is a decent flick. But I sure don't mind watching it, either. Though, slight digression here, a nearly identical flick, Hitman starring the riveting Timothy Olyphant was sneered at by audiences, mostly because the movie didn't resemble the vastly popular game it was based upon, and so the gamers didn't support it. And yet, it's a completely watchable, and even pretty enjoyable movie. If you're in the mood for some serious action, check it out.

But Shoot 'Em Up got roundly panned, and it's understandable why. On paper, it all sounds good. Paul Giamatti as an arch villian, Monica Bellucci as the hottie, and Clive shooting everything in sight. And yet, well. A lot of Clive's movies have turned out that way. He took a turn in a twisty psychological thriller that could've done better, but he starred opposite Jennifer Aniston, and for whatever reason, her movies always flop. He played opposite Julia Roberts in Closer, but that whole movie just turned out to be a mean-spirited dirge. He made a couple classy pictures back-to-back with the highly underrated Inside Man and then the somewhat overrated Children of Men. But both pictures had a slow and lumbering feel, something Clive seems drawn to, which is what makes it so refreshing to check him out in the unexpected Greenfingers. He's been Sir Walter Raleigh and King Arthur, and was made for his role in Sin City. Gosford Park? Critics ate the shit up; it's an English Manor-Manner whodunit by Robert Altman, but it's not a satisfying film for everyone. I actually liked it quite a bit, which is saying quite a lot, but it's still not my top pick.

Often, Clive picks characters or scripts that are, to say the least, morally ambiguous. And in that vein was the lifeblood of Clive's blossoming film career: Croupier.

I actually think Clive's gotten better looking over the years since this movie, but he certainly wasn't anything to kick out of bed even then. But he's also perfect as the dual characters Jack and Jake in this neo-noir that's absolutely riveting. As a failing writer, Jack takes a job as a croupier at a casino and begins to write a novel about it. A dark meditation of fate vs. free will, this is equal parts thriller and philosophical drama, and Clive is hypnotic, completely pulling this movie together with nuances that aren't charming or sexy, but instead is cunning and enigmatic. It gives him enough credibility to be able to skate by on his deep voice and insouciant charm in Hollywood crap like Shoot 'Em Up. And believe me, I know my crap.

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