Film No 38 (2014) : Love Actually

love actualyChoosing Christmas presents? I love it. Shopping? Love that even more. Parting with the cash is sometimes painful, but  I can cope. Wrapping up all the gifts? I hate it. Absolutely bloody hate it. It’s an annual battle, me against the Clinton roll wrap. So, whilst I barricaded myself in the bedroom and stuck a ‘Keep Out – Elf at Work’ sign on the door, ‘Love Actually’ was a great choice to distract me from the disobedient sticky tape.

The film interweaves twelve love stories, which take place in the 5 weeks leading up to Christmas. Written and directed by comic genius Richard Curtis, the film is gentle and thought-provoking, exploring love in its many guises. Watching the film for the first time is probably the best, as the links between the characters are gradually revealed; David the Prime Minister is Karen the Mum’s brother, and Natalie, who is David’s secretary, turns out to live next door to Mia, who is Karen’s husband’s (Harry) secretary and in love with him and so on. It sounds complicated and in some ways it is, but so is modern life; we are all inter-connected by links of romantic love, parental love, friendship, familial love. The film is saved from being corny by its robust script and strong cast, as almost anyone who is everyone in British acting puts in an appearance: Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, Martin Freeman, Colin Firth, Bill Nighy …..and more. Even Rowan Atkinson pops up as an over-attentive shop assistant. Rodrigo Santoro, one of Brazil’s most talented and famous actors also stars, as Karl, with whom Sarah is in love. Santoro does not have a big role, but deserves a mention simply because he is absolutely drop-dead gorgeous, especially when he takes his shirt off!

‘Love Actually’ has probably become part of the UK Christmas viewing landscape, together with ‘Its a Wonderful Life‘, ‘The Snowman‘ and the ‘The Sound of Music‘. The film is showing pretty much back to back on Sky over the Christmas holiday, or the DVD is only £3 on Amazon so would fit into your stocking. I suppose the fact that I could watch the film whilst multi-tasking probably says something about its watchability; it’s mental floss. But that doesn’t make me like it any less!

 

Film No 24 (2014) : Taken

takenI struggled to see this film as entertainment. As I am a parent, it hit where it hurts most – the fear of something happening to my children. In particular, my teenage daughter being abducted and sold into sex slavery. It was almost unbearable to watch.

Maybe I am a little too old for heartthrobs but I have a soft spot for Liam Neeson. In ‘Taken’, he plays Bryan Mills, a retired CIA agent living in California. His daughter, Kim, travels to Paris with a friend. The girls are kidnapped by an Albanian gang. Using all his detective skills, Mills sets out to find them. It’s a film: you can probably guess the ending.

The film is gritty (not a word I use often) and violent. The scenes with drugged-up young girls trapped behind dingy curtains is frightening, especially as I imagine there must be more than a grain of truth in these portrayals. Shooting, fights and torture also feature prominently, together with some impressive car chases. I have to be honest; I spent a fair amount of the film peeping through my fingers.

Despite the uneasiness it caused, this is a ‘must-see’ film. A stark reminder of the dangers of society – and why you should always tell your parents the truth about where you are going.