Film, List

FEBRUARY IN FILM

A lowdown of the films hitting UK cinemas this month…

Dad’s Army

downloadDirected: Oliver Parker

Starring: Catherine Zeta Jones, Bill Nighy, Michael Gambon, Toby Jones, Tom Courtenay, Sarah Lanarcshire, Mark Gatiss

Will it be good?: Based on the beloved BBC sitcom of the same name, which ran from 1968 to 1977 and depicted the British Home Guard during WWII, the big-screen remake of Dad’s Army has a solid cast in its favour. UK acting veterans including Bill Nighy and Michael Gambon make up an ensemble cast which also features Inbetweeners star Blake Harrison. Director Oliver Parker and writer Hamish McColl have previously collaborated on 2011’s Johnny English Reborn, whilst the latter also penned Mr Bean’s Holiday (2007). With some proven talent both behind and in front of the camera, Dad’s Army looks set to be an enjoyable adaption for anyone fond of the original series, though the challenge comes in creating something that strikes the right balance between nostalgia and something new. The characters from the sitcom are also relatively iconic, leaving big shoes to fill for the actors who are taking on the roles – though their combined comedic talents suggest the new cast should be up to the challenge.

Goosebumps

goosebumps_xlg-655x1024Directed: Rob Letterman

Starring: Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, Amy Ryan, Ryan Lee, Jillian Bell

Will it be good?: Based on the famous children’s book series by R.L Stein, Goosebumps is the latest vehicle for Jack Black. Director Rob Letterman has worked on the likes of Monsters Vs Aliens (2009) and Shark Tale (2005), as well as the critically reviled Jack Black starring Gulliver’s Travels (2010), suggesting a mixed bag that makes it hard to tell if this Goosebumps adaption will be successful. Then of course there is the issue of Jack Black, who’s back catalogue is so inconsistent it is almost impossible to predict what direction his latest venture will go in. The Goosebumps series has a whole array of different stories which would look good on the big screen, and the US reviews (the film was released last October stateside, making most of the Halloween market) suggest that the director has made the most of the selection. Critical reception in the US has also been surprisingly positive, suggesting that both Letterman and Black may have somewhat redeemed themselves whilst doing the Goosebumps series proud.

Point Break

pntbr_poster4Directed: Ericson Core

Starring: Edgar Ramirez, Luke Bracey, Ray Winstone

Will it be good?: Kathryn Bigelow’s 1991 film Point Break starring Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves is looked back upon as a fun action classic – why Ericson Core has felt the need to remake it is something we will never know. The film has opened to negative reviews in the US, which comes as little surprise based on the trailers, which suggest that the film leans heavily on 3D to provide shallow thrills and, well, that;s about it. For anyone who wants gravity defying action with little substance, Point Break is the film for you. Critic reviews has summed the film up as a shallow and unnecessary remake of Bigelow’s much-loved original, and whilst Edgar Ramirez’s career is looking promising with his recent supporting role in Joy, it doesn’t look like he is enough to save this from becoming a forgettable bargain bin flick.

Trumbo

trumbo-poster-bryan-cranston-2Directed: Jay Roach

Starring: Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Elle Fanning, Helen Mirren, John Goodman, Louis C.K

Will it be good?: Since he broke bad and forever shook of the image of loveable buffoon Hal in Malcolm in the Middle, Bryan Cranston has been a sought after property in Hollywood, and he has earned himself a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his leading role in Trumbo. Based on the book Dalton Trumbo by Bruce Cook, the film tells the true story of the blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter. It’s an immediately interesting premise – the paranoia of McCarthyism is an inherently interesting concept, as dark as it was – and Cranston is sure to be magnificent in the lead role. Pair that with a strong supporting cast that includes the likes of Diane Lane, Helen Mirren and John Goodman and it is clear that this is a film with plenty of star power behind it. Jay Roach is best known for his work on comedies including the Austin Powers films and the first two installments in the Meet the Parents franchise. Much like the case with Adam McKay and The Big Short, Trumbo’s success will be largely based on Roach’s ability to balance comedic moments with the dramatic heft required to tell this story.

Deadpool

download (1)Directed: Tim Miller

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Moerna Baccarin, Ed Skrein, T.J Miller

Will it be good?: Everything appears to be in place and it looks like fans are finally getting the Deadpool film they have been seeking so desperately ever since the cult favourite character was butchered in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Test footage and trailers suggest that things are finally being done right – writers Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese have a strong back catalogue that includes the critically adored Zombieland (2009). The film is the directorial debut of Tim Miller, who is best known for his work as the creative director on opening sequences of films such as The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011) and Thor: The Dark World (2013). This suggests Miller has a real creative flair – but can a first time director carry the weight of expectations from fans who have been disappointed before? Ryan Reynolds is back in the role, and it is clear that the charismatic leading man is determined to nail it second time around, so the chances of the film totally missing the mark are low.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

download (2)Directed: Burr Steers

Starring: Lily James, Sam Riley, Jack Huston, Bella Heathcoate, Douglas Booth, Suki Waterhouse, Matt Smith, Lena Heady

Will it be good?: Probably one of the weirdest films to be coming out this month, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is based on the parody novel by Seth Grahame-Green, which is based on the famous Jane Austin novel. A comedy horror which envisions the Victorian era as one that is in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, the film won’t appeal to everyone. That said, it has a decent cast attached to it with the likes of former Doctor Who star Matt Smith and Game of Thrones alumni Lena Heady. It’s a fun twist on a classic novel and it will be fun to see the prim propriety of the era juxtaposed with gory zombie horror – think Sean of the Dead (2004) set a century earlier. Burr Steers is best known for his teen comedy 17 Again (2009), so it is hard to tell how he will handle the horror elements, but fans but fans of the book are likely to enjoy this thoroughly different release.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip

alvin-road-chip-poster-2Directed: Walt Becker

Starring: Jason Lee, Tony Hale, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Justin Long, Jesse McCartney

Will it be good?: There’s a good chance that, like all previous Alvin and the Chipmunk movies, this is a film that most likely won’t appeal to anyone over the age of five. Why do they keep making these movies? The film opened in the US at the end of last year to resoundingly negative reviews (big surprise there) and it has also been nominated for a total of three Razzie awards, including nominations for the voice work of Jason Lee and Kaley Cuoco. Hopefully this will be enough to bring the sorry franchise to a halt – though the fact that it has managed to make it to a fourth film suggests that this might not be the end.

A Bigger Splash

a-bigger-splashDirected: Luca Guadagnino

Starring: Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Matthias Schoenaerts, Dakota Johnson

Will it be good?: The latest film from Italian director Luca Guadagnino – frequent collaborator with Tilda Swinton – looks set to be interesting. Mixing established talents such as Swinton and Ralph Fiennes with the rising talents of Matthias Schoenaerts and Dakota Johnson, the film is loosely based on 1969 film La Piscine. The erotic thriller was released in Italy last November to generally positive reviews and the trailers suggest it will be an edgy affair. The trailers look like Fiennes in particular is having the time of his life and with such a heady mix of talent, A Bigger Splash is sure to be an intense affair.

Jem and the Holograms

JemposterDirected: Jon M Chu

Starring: Audrey Peeples, Stefanie Scott, Aurora Perrineau, Hayley Kiyoka, Ryan Guzman, Molly Ringwald, Juliette Lewis

Will it be good?: Based on the 1980’s animated TV series, Jem and the Holograms tells the story of a young singer who becomes an overnight Youtube sensation. Nashville actress Aubrey Peeples is in the lead role, and 1980’s sweetheart also shows up for a rare supporting gig. Jon M Chu’s previous work includes a couple of the Step Up sequels and Justin Beiber film Never Say Never (2011). It has taken the film months to make it to the UK after it opened in the US to negative reivews. The trailer doesn’t offer anything particularly promising and it appears that at best the film is a paint by numbers musical drama that is unlikely to appeal to anyone outside of its tween target audience.

Concussion

concussion2015Directed: Peter Landesman

Starring: Will Smith, Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Luke Wilson

Will it be good?: Concussion tells the real life story of Dr.Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian forensic pathologist who went up against the NFL after discovering a disorder known as ‘Game Brain’. It is Peter Landesman’s second film and has Will Smith in the lead role, with a strong supporting cast that includes Alec Baldwin. Reviews in the US have been positive, with Smith in particular being singled out for his strong central performance (there have been comments that he may have been snubbed by the Academy and is deserving of a Best Actor nomination). From my point of view, Smith hasn’t been at the top of his game for a long time and his performances as of late are increasingly reminiscent of clutching at straws, but it seems like Concussion is an interesting role for the actor and could be a return to Smith at his best. With the #OscarsSoWhite scandal continuing to rage on it will be interesting to see if his performance lives up to the hype.

Zoolander 2

zoolander-2-posterDirected: Ben Stiller

Starring: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Benedict Cumberbatch

Will it be good?: Comedy sequels are notoriously hard to get right – most fall into the trap of becoming a blow by blow repeat of the original (The Hangover 2 being a prime example), whilst the other danger is being unable to live up to the often insane levels of hype (Dumb and Dumber To, coming in over a decade after the original, was blighted by this issue from the start). Zoolander 2 has arguably already succumbed to the latter issue, but who knows if it will be able to deliver. Ben Stiller is back in the directors chair and titular role, and just like the first installment he has an all-star cast behind him. Establishing a new story whilst remaining faithful to fans of the original will be the biggest challenge, but there is no doubt that people will turn out to see the long awaited sequel.

The Finest Hours

TheFinestHoursTheatricalPosterDirected: Craig Gillespie

Starring: Chris Pine, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Eric Bana

Will it be good?: Telling the true story of the 1952 US coastguard rescue of the 55 Pendleton during a huge storm, The Finest Hours looks set to be a good old fashioned rescue story. Craig Gillespie is best known for much smaller scale films including Lars and the Real Girl (2007) and the 2011 Fright Night remake, so it will be interesting to see how he handles film-making on a larger scale. The film boasts an impressive cast including Chris Pine and Casey Affleck, but there is plenty of room to fall into done to death cliche with a story of this nature. The film has been produced by Disney and is set to be released in both 3D and IMAX formats, which suggest that it will be family friendly and attempting to cash in on the sea-faring visuals. It is likely that The Finest Hours will be as enjoyable as it is unoriginal.

How to be Single

How-To-Be-Single-Movie-PosterDirected: Christian Ditter

Starring: Rebel Wilson, Dakota Johnson, Alison Brie, Leslie Mann

Will it be good?: How to be Single is the latest Drew Barrymore produced romantic comedy from the writer behind numerous films including He’s Just Not That Into You (2009). The film is based on the book by Liz Tuccillo, who also wrote self-help book, you guessed it, He’s Just Not That Into You. The film’s cast includes rising star and 50 Shades of Grey (2015) actress Dakota Johnson, alongside Rebel Wilson of Pitch Perfect fame and Leslie Mann. It looks like a fairly straightforward film about a girl who is faced with a break-up and must be taught by her friends how to deal with the single life. The film looks set to be decidedly average, but will be sure to be a fun Friday night movie.

Grimsby

3351_the-brothers-grimsby_2DD7Directed: Louis Leterrier

Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Strong, Rebel Wilson, Isla Fisher

Will it be good?: The latest comedy vehicle for Sacha Baron Cohen will see him play a typical Englishman from Grimsby, who finds his long-lost twin (Mark Strong), a special agent. Baron Cohen is a divisive comic – whilst some find his various characters, which include Borat (2006), Bruno (2009) and The Dictator (2012), hilarious, whilst others find him tedious and offensive. This latest film looks like more of the same and is therefore likely to appeal to the actors existing fans without attracting many new ones. Louise Leterrier is known for his work on the first two Transporter films (2002/05) and The Incredible Hulk (2008), so he is at least likely to produce well-handled action scenes, but don’t expect much in the way of laughs (if it’s not obvious, I’m not a huge Baron Cohen fan).

The Forest

download (3)Directed: Jason Zada

Starring: Natalie Dormor, Taylor Kinney

Will it be good?: A supernatural horror starring Game of Thrones actress Natalie Dormor, The Forest has received generally negative reviews since it was released in the US. It is Jason Zada’s directorial debut and horror is a hard genre to stand out in, though Dormor is somewhat of a rising star with her supporting role in the latter films of the Hunger Game franchise and her performance has received praise in spite of the lackluster reception to the rest of the film. The Forest will be a welcome outing to horror films, with January being a somewhat horror-free month for cinema released, but the chances of it being remembered as a genre classic is somewhat low.

Secret in Their Eyes

download (4)Directed: Billy Ray

Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofer, Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts

Will it be good?: A remake of the 2009 Argentine film of the same name, which is based on the 2005 novel, Secret in Their Eyes boasts an all star cast and boasts a director and co-writer who’s previous credits include penning The Hunger Games (2012) and Captain Philips (2013), the latter of which won him an Oscar. This all points towards a strong final product, but the film has so far been met with mixed reviews from critics. That said, it is hard not to take note of such a strong cast and it looks like Secret in Their Eyes could be a more than passable thriller.

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List, Music

TOP 5 CHRISTMAS SONGS:

PicMonkey Collage

The countdown is on and it will soon be Christmas. One of the best things about this time of year are all the Christmas songs that dominate the airwaves. There are literally hundreds of brilliant tunes to get you into the festive mood, but I’ve ranked my five personal favourites here for your listening pleasure:

Honourable mention…

CHRISTMAS IS ALL AROUND – BILLY MACK

As my previous post made abundantly clear, I am a huge fan of Love Actually (2004), and it will therefore come as no surprise that I think the song my favourite character Billy Mack sings in the film is on the shortlist for my favourite christmas songs. A festive version of The Troggs’ Love is All Around, the song is best when accompanied by the undeniably hilarious video.

5- LONELY THIS CHRISTMAS – MUD

This Elvis-esque track actually has a very sad theme of being alone at christmas, but it still makes it way onto my list of favourites due to just being so damn catchy. Seriously, try listening to it getting lodged in your brain for at least 24 hours. It’s also a nice old school departure from some of the more poppy, cheesy christmas hits that we all know and love.

4 – DO THEY KNOW IT’S CHRISTMAS? – BAND AID 20

I was born in 1995, and I was therefore nine years old when Band Aid 20 released their single in 2004. It is for that reason that the song is a favourite of mine, a nostalgia trip which allows me to reminisce over all the artists who were big in 2004 – Dido, McFly, Busted, The Darkness, Bono was still there for some reason…

3 – WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS TIME – PAUL MCCARTNEY

This song is one of my favourites due to the fact that it features on the soundtrack of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Movie (1998), an animated christmas film that I loved watching on VHS when I was younger. The song bass everything you look for in a christmas song – it’s retro, cheesy, upbeat and was written and recorded by a former Beatle – a surefire winning formula.

2 – ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS YOU – MARIAH CAREY

The majority of christmas classics were produced from the 1950s to the 1980s, and there are actually surprisingly few additions since then that would be classed as a bonafide ‘classic’. Mariah Carey proved to be the exception to the rule in 1994 when she released the self penned All I Want For Christmas is You, a song that has become a staple of the holiday season. Interestingly, Carey released a children’s book based on the song – which has by now raised over $50 million in royalties – this year.

1 – FAIRYTALE OF NEW YORK – THE POGUES AND KIRSTY MCALL

I’m sure i’m not alone in holding this song dear as my favourite christmas song of all time – this irish folk-ballad actually holds the title as the UK’s most played christmas song in the 21st century. The song is sung from the point of view of an Irish immigrant in New York, who is in the ‘drunk tank’ (prison cell) and thinking about his girlfriend, who he has an apparently love/hate relationship with.

What are your favourite christmas songs? Let me know in the comments section! Meanwhile, enjoy the songs featured on this list right here:

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Film, List

‘LOVE ACTUALLY’ STORIES: RANKED:

laRichard Curtis’ ensemble romantic comedy Love Actually came out in 2004, a full 11 years ago, meaning it has now been out long enough to accrue the title ‘Christmas classic’. I indulge in multiple viewings of this film – which kickstarted a trend in the US where every holiday got itself an all-star ensemble (New Years Eve, Valentines Day etc) – and whilst it may have its critics, I am sure I am not alone in holding it as a festive favourite. The film has a total of nine storylines interweaved with one another, and I have taken it upon myself to rank them below…

Honourable mention…

RUFUS:

e5ea6edb7f7b1a94761f96ef2284aee3Rufus (Rowan Atkinson) is a department store employee who firsts shows up wrapping a necklace for Harry (Alan Rickman), with his over-enthusiasm for providing a premium service raising laughs. He then shows up later at the airport, providing a distraction which allows Sam (Thomas Sangster) to slip through security. His supporting role has not been included due to the fact that he is a lone character who does not have a storyline of his own, though he is still extremely important to the overarching plot.

Atkinson is excellent in this small role, with the Mr Bean actor propelling the intertwined plot along in an amusing way. The DVD commentary of the film reveals that the original script had Rufus being a Christmas Angel – a role he still fulfils in the final product, though it is never explicitly stated. His slow pace at wrapping up Harry’s gift could be taken as a stalling tactic, attempting to stop Harry from causing his indiscretion. He also shoots Daniel (Liam Neeson) a knowing glance when Sam runs past, suggesting he knew what he was doing by distracting the guard. The idea of Rufus as an angel makes the already adorable film all the more sweeter (who knew that was possible?)

9 – COLIN & AMERICAN GIRLS

Love_Actually-colinThe story: Colin (Kris Marshall) is a goofy English waiter who is having no luck in his endless attempts to win over various women. He tells his friend Tony (Abdul Salis) that he it is British woman that he is undesirable to, and that if he went to America he would have more success. Colin then announces that he is in fact going to the US, and when he lands in Milwaukee he almost immediately becomes acquainted with three women – Stacey (Ivana Millecevic), Jeannie (January Jones) and Carol Ann (Elisha Cuthbert). The girls invite him to stay with them and their room-mate Harriet (Shannon Elizabeth). In the epilogue Colin is seen returning via Heathrow with Harriet, who has brought her sister (Denise Richards) for the stunned Tony.

Rank explained: This relatively small segment is undoubtedly comic relief to balance out the more serious moments in other stories. Colin is a one-dimensional character who is obsessed with sex, and this is without a doubt the weakest storyline in the film. The American women are presented only as sex objects with literally no character development, and the fact that Colin must go to America to get sex also creates negative connotations about both British and US women. Thankfully it is a very small part of the film, meaning it does not have too much of a derivative impact on the story as a whole. There are also some amusing cringe-worthy moments near the start, such as when Colin tries to chat up the caterer at Juliet and Peter’s wedding. Still, I would expect more of a Richard Curtis film than to revert to basic one dimensional stereotypes and crude sex jokes. Not cool.

8 – SARAH, KARL & MICHAEL

tumblr_mdc7yptV4f1ql2ny4o1_500The story: Sarah (Laura Linney) is an American woman working at a design company (run by Harry) who has been in love with co-worker Karl (Rodrigo Santoro) for years. Harry encourages her to make a move, and the pair finally kiss after dancing together at the office christmas party. They go home together, but are disturbed by Sarah’s phone ringing. It is her brother, Michael (Michael Fitzgerald), who stays in a mental health facility. Sarah is unwilling to put Karl before her brother, and goes to visit Michael. Karl and Sarah are work late on Christmas Eve, and it becomes clear that they won’t get together. Sarah is last seen celebrating Christmas with Michael.

Rank explained: This is where the ranking begins to get tricky – the whole Colin segment is the only part of the film that I actively dislike. In my eyes, the rest is excellent, and Sarah’s story is no different. Laura Linney is perfectly cast as Sarah – she inhabits the role so much and makes it totally believable. Her awkwardness is relatable, and her quick-cleaning of her room is one of the films comedic highlights. The core of Sarah’s story is how sometimes familial love comes before romantic love, and the way that she puts aside what she wants to care for her brother. It is very emotional at points, because she is the type of character that fully deserves happiness. The only reason this story ranks so low is because it makes me a little sad.

7 – DANIEL, SAM & JOANNA

thomas_liam3The story: Daniel (Liam Neeson) is mourning the loss of his wife Joanna, as well as trying to be step-father to her son Sam (Thomas Sangster). Sam reveals that he is in love with an American classmate, also named Joanna, and learns to play the drums so that he can accompany her at the school concert. Daniel then helps him chase her to the airport (Joanna is going back to America), and he meets another parent Carol (Claudia Schiffer) in the process. The epilogue shows Carol and Daniel waiting with Sam to meet Joanna, who has returned from America.

Rank explained: Another great storyline that I feel bad for ranking low, this shows Liam Neeson before his action-man resurgence that began with Taken in 2009. Watching his character struggle to deal with the death of his wife becomes all the more poignant with the knowledge that his real life wife Natasha Richardson passed away in 2009 after a skiiing accident. In spite of this happening years after the film came out, it makes viewing in this context more emotional than it already was. Whilst the story shows Sam pursuing Joanna, it is really about the bond between Daniel and Sam, and the way that good things can come out of the worst of times. The pair have become extremely close by the end of the film, having bonded over coming up with a plan to win over Joanna. Again, this only ranks lower due to the fact that unlike many other stories in the film, this one does not have a big standout scene (though the airport chase is pretty wonderful).

6 – HARRY, KAREN & MIA

oly1.56269.1356370498imageThe story: Harry (Alan Rickman) and Karen (Emma Thompson) are a married couple who have two children. Harry manages a design company whilst Karen stays home with the children. Mia (Hieke Makatsch) is Harry’s new secretary, who makes it increasingly obvious that she is interested in Harry. He buys her an expensive necklace, which Karen finds and excitedly thinks is for her. She is upset when she instead receives a Joni Mitchell CD from Harry, and she finds it hard to to hide her upset. She later confronts Harry and tells him that he has made a fool of her and her life. The family are later seen greeting Harry at the airport in the epilogue, where things still seem slightly tense between him and Karen.

Rank explained: This is one of perhaps the most debatable parts of the film, with many different possible interpretations of the Harry/Karen/Mia saga. Some will argue that Harry is a total idiot for jeopardising his happy marriage (which he obviously is) to the excellent Karen, whilst others may argue that their marriage is more akin to a friendship than a romantic relationship. Whatever your take on it is, it’s an interesting one to think about – was Harry having a mid-life crisis? Is Mia the worst? (a no-brainer) Did their marriage survive the indiscretion? One thing is for sure however, and that is that Emma Thompson breaking down in the bedroom as the Joni Mitchell songs is the biggest emotional gut punch in the film and probably one of the main reasons that it continues to be so well loved to this day. I rank it at number six purely because I really don’t like Mia – seriously, what was her deal?

5 – JULIET, PETER & MARK

tumblr_me9y6mbT8A1rgewb2o8_r1_250The story: Juliet (Kiera Knightly) and Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor) get married, with best man Mark (Andrew Lincoln) organising a surprise choir and filming much of the day. It is later revealed that Mark generally avoids or acts coldly towards Juliet, who tries to break the ice when she goes over to get his footage of the wedding. Mark is reluctant to show her the footage, and when she watches it she sees that it is all focused on her. Mark hastily leaves, saying he acts the way he does due to “self-preservation”. On Christmas Eve Mark shows up at Juliet and Mark’s flat and shows Juliet via cue cards that he is in love with her, but does not want or expect anything from her. She gives him a friendly kiss, and he states “enough, enough now” to himself. The trio are then shown in the epilogue and things appear less awkward between Mark and Juliet.

Rank explained: Pre-Walking Dead Andrew Lincoln was all lovelorn and moody in Love Actually, revealing himself to be in love with his best friends new wife. Classy. Yet somehow, the film manages to make it all seem quite charming. I’ve never been a huge Kiera Knightly fan, but again I never took this story to really be about the love Mark has for Juliet, or even the love Juliet and Peter have for each other. I always took it as being about the love Mark has for Peter – even though he is ‘hopelessly’ in love with Juliet, Mark’s bond with Peter is so strong that he would never even consider betraying him. This is significant because we see betrayal in other parts of the film – Jamie’s brother and girlfriend have an affair for instance.  It’s the second best bromance in the film (more on that later), and it is absolutely adorable.

4 – JAMIE & AURÉLIA

Jamie-and-AureliaThe story: Jamie (Colin Firth) returns from Juliet and Peter’s wedding to discover that his girlfriend (Sienna Guillory) has been cheating on him with his brother. He departs to a French cottage to write and he meets housekeeper Aurélia, who is Portuguese and doesn’t speak any English. In spite of the language barrier, there is a spark between the pair and they begin to fall in love. Both are upset when it comes time for them to go back to their respective countries. Jamie then learns Portuguese and goes to find Aurélia on Christmas Eve, eventually proposing to her in front of the town. She says yes, revealing that she had been learning English. The epilogue shows them meeting Juliet, Peter and Mark at the airport.

Rank explained: Colin Firth is at his loveable best here. Whilst the story is itself a little far fetched, it is perfectly suited to a festive romantic comedy (they’re rarely lauded for their realism). Firth is hilariously British, with a particular highlight coming towards the end when he gives up a cab to a fellow traveller before jumping up and down in frustration. In spite of the less than realistic story Firth and Guillory pull it off due to having believable and tentative chemistry. This is one of the story lines that critics of the film will make a beeline towards, but I believe that it one that is at the heart of the magic.

3 – DAVID & NATALIE

42694_1199325940723_fullThe story: David (Hugh Grant) is the newly elected Prime Minister and when he moves into 10 Downing Street he meets one of his household staff, Natalie (Martine McCutcheon). There is an instant spark between them, but David chastises himself for liking her. The President of the US (Billy Bob Thornton) visits and David is led to believe that something untoward happened between the President and Natalie, leading him to make a defiant speech and also get Natalie moved from her position within the house. He later gets a christmas card from Natalie where she admits that it is him that she wanted all along, and he goes on a door to door search from her, eventually finding her and taking her to her brothers nativity play. The pair are then caught kissing backstage, and the epilogue shows Natalie greeting David at the airport as the press look on.

Rank explained: Like Firth, Hugh Grant is at his probably typecast best here as the new British Prime Minister (I have already conceded that this film isn’t one that is thinking about realism, alright?) . Grant’s speech where he stands up to the lecherous US President is perfectly executed, and one of the best moments in the film. The story, like all the best ones on this list, is actually a very simple one, making it accessible to everyone in spite of being about the Prime Minster. McCutcheon, who has flown somewhat of the radar in recent years, is also on excellent form as the slightly goofy Natalie, but Grant gets all the best scenes without a doubt – the dancing through 10 Downing Street is another highlight.

2 – JOHN & JUDY

a0002692_02141The story: John (Martin Freeman) and Judy (Joanna Page) are professional body doubles who are filming sex scenes for a film where Tony is the production assistant. They are comfortable with the work but are otherwise very shy talking to each other, and John eventually asks her on a date very tentatively. They go on a date and Judy tells John “all I want for Christmas is you!” after kissing him. They are then shown in the epilogue having gotten married.

Rank explained: This is one of the smaller stories in the film but it makes the number two spot due to being SO CUTE. Joanna Page and Martin Freeman are an adorable match made in heaven, and they’re tentative beginning of a relationship in less than usual circumstances sums up the entire message of the film in a smart little subplot. Pretty much the best part of the film, other than the pair who took the number one spot…

1 – BILLY MACK & JOE

love_actually_7The story: Ageing rocker Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) is trying to stage a comeback with the help of his manager Joe (Gregor Fisher). He has released a festive cover of The Troggs’ Love is All Around entitled Christmas is All Around. After a string of controversial media appearances where Billy Mack is increasingly inappropriate, he becomes the surprise Christmas Number One and goes to celebrate with a party at Elton John’s house. He then leaves the party to spend time with Joe, who he admits is the (platonic) “love of my life”.

Rank explained: Was it going to be any other? Taking the crown for one of the best bromances ever is Billy Mack and Joe. It feels like Bill Nighy was born to play this highly inappropriate, past his sell by date rocker, and Gregor Fisher plays the straight man fantastically. The comedic heart of the film, the pairs high jinks throughout make for some of the biggest laugh out loud moments, and the scene where Billy admits that Joe is the “fucking love of my life” never fails to make me a little misty eyed (even though it contains the hilarious line: “There’s been a terrible mistake chubs” in the SAME SENTENCE). Behind all the laughs is the message that love between friends is just as important as any other kind, and it takes the number one spot because it embodies everything the whole film is about, and manages to do so in a hilarious fashion.

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