REVIEW: REDBELT

CAST

Chiwetel Ejiofor (Doctor Strange)
Tim Allen (Last Man Standing)
Alice Braga (I Am Legend)
Rodrigo Santoro (Westworld)
Jose Pablo Cantillo (The Walking Dead)
Randy Couture (The Scorpian King 2)
Caroline Correa (Go Big)
Ricky Jay (Mystery Men)
Joe Mantegna (The Rat Pack)
Max Martini (The Town)
Emily Mortimer (Lars and the Real Girl)
Jake Johnson (New Girl)
Jennifer Grey (Dirty Dancing)
Ed O’Neill (Modern Family)

While closing his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu studio one evening, martial arts teacher Mike Terry (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is approached by attorney Laura Black (Emily Mortimer), who is seeking the owner of the vehicle she accidentally sideswiped. Off-duty police officer Joe Collins (Max Martini), who was receiving a private lesson from Mike, sees that Laura is distressed and tries to take her coat. Startled, Laura grabs Joe’s gun and it goes off, shattering the studio’s front window. To avoid having Laura charged with attempted murder, Mike and Joe agree to conceal the event.Mike’s insurance, however, will not cover his act of God claim that the window was broken by a strong wind. Mike’s wife Sondra (Alice Braga), whose fashion business profits are the only thing keeping the struggling studio afloat, requests that Mike ask for a loan from her brother Ricardo (John Machado), a mixed martial arts champion. At Ricardo’s nightclub, Mike meets with Sondra’s other brother, Bruno (Rodrigo Santoro), and learns that Joe quit as the club’s bouncer because Bruno never paid him. Mike confronts Bruno about the situation but is rebuffed. Mike then declines Bruno’s offer to fight on the undercard of an upcoming match between Ricardo and Japanese legend Morisaki (Enson Inoue), which could potentially pay out $50,000. Mike believes competitions with money as the incentive are not honorable and weaken the fighter.Meanwhile, aging Hollywood action star Chet Frank (Tim Allen) enters the nightclub without security and is accosted by a man with a broken bottle. Mike intervenes and subdues three men in the process. The following day, Mike receives an expensive watch and an invitation to dinner from Chet. Mike gives the watch to Joe to pawn in lieu of his unpaid salary at the nightclub. At the dinner party, Chet’s wife Zena (Rebecca Pidgeon) arranges an informal business deal to buy a large amount of dresses from Sondra’s company. Chet, impressed by Mike, invites him to the set of his current film. As Mike and Sondra leave the dinner, Mike explains his unique training method to Chet’s business associate Jerry Weiss (Joe Mantegna). Before a sparring match, each fighter must draw one of three marbles, two white and one black; whoever draws a black marble has to fight with a handicap.Mike uses his military experience to answer a few technical questions for Chet on the film set and is offered the role of co-producer. That evening, Mike faxes the details of his training methods to Jerry so they can be used in the film. Joe arrives at the studio and informs Mike that he was suspended from duty for pawning the watch, which turned out to be stolen. During their dinner that evening, Mike relays the information to Jerry who excuses himself to handle the matter, but never returns. At home, Mike learns that the phone numbers that Zena gave Sondra have been disconnected. Sondra is panicky, having borrowed $30,000 from a loan shark to order the fabric for the dresses. As he meets with the loan shark to discuss an extension, Mike notices Bruno and Marty Brown (Ricky Jay) on television using Mike’s marble-drawing method as a promotional gimmick for the undercard fights of Ricardo’s match.Mike hires Laura to sue, but Marty’s lawyer threatens that if they do not drop the lawsuit, he will give the police an empty shell casing with Laura’s fingerprints, as proof that she attempted to kill an off-duty cop. He also threatens Mike as a witness who covered up the crime by bribing the cop with a stolen watch. When told of the situation, Joe feels responsible and kills himself. Mike feels obligated to help Joe’s financially struggling wife and, in desperate need of money himself, decides to compete as an undercard fighter in the upcoming competition. At the arena, Mike discovers the fights are being fixed via a magician (Cyril Takayama) using sleight of hand to surreptitiously switch the white and black marbles. Disgusted by this revelation, Mike confronts the conspirators: Marty, Jerry and Bruno who confirm that unknown to the competitors, the fights are handicapped by the fight promoters so as to ensure winning bets. They also reveal that Ricardo is intentionally losing the fight to Morisaki so they can make money on the rematch. Jerry tells Mike that Sondra is the one who told them about Laura shooting the window and Bruno justifies her betrayal by explaining that his sister is too smart to stay with someone who cannot provide for her.As Mike is exiting the arena, he meets Laura. Their conversation is not audible, but it ends with Laura slapping Mike. Mike then re-enters the arena. He incapacitates several security guards trying to stop him and is ultimately engaged by Ricardo. The audience and camera crews take notice as Mike and Ricardo face off in the arena’s corridors. Inspired by the Professor (Dan Inosanto), an elderly martial arts master attending the match, Mike manages to slip a difficult choke hold and defeats Ricardo, making it onto the ring to speak to the Professor personally. He is approached by Morisaki, who offers Mike his ivory-studded belt, previously referred to as a Japanese national treasure, as a sign of respect. He is then approached by the Professor himself, who proceeds to award the coveted red belt to an incredulous Mike, and embraces him, acknowledging his dedication to the art.Red Belt doesn’t fail at being an action flick; it just succeeds more so at being an entertaining drama with an MMA theme. This is an easy movie to recommend.

 

 

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REVIEW: THERE BE DRAGONS

CAST

Charlie Cox (Daredevil)
Dougray Scott (Mission Impossible II)
Wes Bentley (Ghost Rider)
Golshifteh Farahani (Exodus: Gods and Kings)
Olga Kurylenko (Oblivion)
Rodrigo Santoro (300)
Derek Jacobi (The King’s Speech)
Lily Cole (The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus)

A young journalist long ago rejected by his now aged and dying father finds himself investigating one of his father’s former friends, a candidate for canonization. Uncovering the two men’s complicated relationship from childhood through the horrors of the Spanish Civil War unveils a compelling drama filled with passion, betrayal, love and religion. An action packed story set during a murderous time in history that ultimately serves the present by revealing the importance and timeless power of forgiveness.The film explores the senseless nature of war and its consequences, the spiral of hatred that slowly engulfs men, the repentance for terrible mistakes and the struggle to forgive them. Each character follows a path filled with dilemmas and suffering at the end of which they must fight themselves and their dragons. Do not expect an action packed war film. For those who have interest in the roots of Opus Dei, this film will not help you there. It deals with the repercussions of war and strife in people, it does not deal with the grander scale of things. there Be Dragons is a deeply personal and spiritual film. It is very intense and reflects unapologetically the worst side of humanity.

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: THE 33

 

CAST

Antonio Banderas (The Mask of Zorro)
Rodrigo Santoro (300)
Juliette Binoche (The English Patient)
James Brolin (the Amityville Horror)
Lou Diamond Phillips (Young Guns)
Mario Casas (SMS)
Gabriel Byrne (End of Days)
Bob Gunton (Daredevil TV)
Adriana Barraza (Cake)
Kate del Castillo (No Good Deed)
Juan Pablo Raba (Agents of SHIELD)
Naomi Scott (Power Rangers)

Dozens of people from Copiapó, Chile, work in the San José mine. The owner ignores the warnings of the failing stability of the mine, which collapses a short time later. The only path inside the mine is completely blocked, and the thirty-three miners manage to get to the rescue chamber. They discover that the radio is useless, the medical kit is empty, the ventilation shafts lack the required ladders, and there is very little stored food. Mario Sepúlveda becomes the leader of the miners, dividing the foods rations and stopping the outbursts of violence and despair. The mine company does not attempt any rescue, and the relatives of the miners gather around the gates.The government of Chile decides on active intervention, and orders the use of drills to reach the chamber. The first exploratory boreholes move off-target, but a later one reaches the required destination. The miners attach a note to the drill bit to announce their survival. They receive new food and clothing, and television communication with the surface. A second, bigger, drill system is prepared to retrieve the miners one by one.The 33 is exceptional. Based on the book “Deep Down Dark” by Héctor Tobar, the film version takes few liberties with the facts and fashions a very compelling narrative. The screenplay succinctly, but effectively sets the stage and develops its characters – both above and below ground. We feel the desperation of both the miners and their families. As the miners’ story unfolds, concurrently with that of their families and those attempting to rescue them, Patricia Riggens directs with great pacing (which is helped by nearly perfect editing). She also gets great performances from her cast and blends the talents and experience of well-known and little-known actors wonderfully. Although the movie did drag a little as it neared its dramatic conclusion, this is a film which tells its story with drama, sensitivity and even some humor.

 

REVIEW: 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE

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CAST

Sullivan Stapleton (Blind Spot)
Eva Green (Dark Shadows)
Lena Headey (Game of Thrones)
Hans Matheson (Sherlock Holmes)
Callan Mulvey (Batman v Superman)
David Wenham (Van Helsing)
Rodrigo Santoro (Lost)
Jack O’Connell (Unborken)
Andrew Tiernan (The Pianist)
Igal Naor (Green Zone)
Andrew Pleavin (Inception)
Peter Mensah (Spartacus)
Luke Roberts (Reign)


After its victory over Leonidas’ 300, the Persian Army under the command of Xerxes marches towards the major Greek city-states. The Democratic city of Athens, first on the path of Xerxes’ army, bases its strength on its fleet, led by admiral Themistocles. Themistocles is forced to an unwilling alliance with the traditional rival of Athens, oligarchic Sparta whose might lies with its superior infantry troops. But Xerxes still reigns supreme in numbers over sea and land.

7 years of waiting has paid off. 300: Rise of an Empire is thoroughly satisfying. The violence in this film makes you grin with glee from ear to ear despite considering yourself a seasoned veteran of gore films. 300: Rise of an Empire is not just about the sea battle, but masterfully takes us through several flashbacks without jeopardizing the story and turning it into a mess. The film also leaves enough room to create several believable characters, most prominent of all the real historic female naval general Artemisia, wonderfully played by Eva Green. Green plays Artemisia with an authoritative aura that has warrior written all over it. Xerxes takes a back seat this time, but we do get a glimpse into his past and who the man once was.

At the end of the day, if you hadn’t already come to this realization 7 years ago, you need to now: 300 is a work of art, not a historic movie. It is the film adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novels and thus sticks to the literature both in story and in art design. Hence the oversized moon. Hence the ridiculous blood splattering. When viewed in this context, it is almost impossible to find flaws in these two adaptations, as they masterfully bring the graphic novel to vibrant life.

Last but not least, 300: Rise of an Empire offers breathtaking setpieces and backdrops, and is arguably more grand than the original 300 film, although of course we aren’t treated to the plethora of enemies and fantastical creatures as the first film did. Nevertheless, a well done and truly satisfying sequel. My only gripe is that the final duel should have been far more epic, and the soundtrack could have used some of the familiar thematic choirs of 300. Still, a 5, out of 5 stars.

REVIEW: 300

CAST

Gerard Butler (The Ugly Truth)
Lena Headey (Game of Thrones)
Dominic West (Punisher Warzone)
David Wenham (Van Helsing)
Vincent Regan (Lookout)
Michael Fassbender (Prometheus)
Tom Wisdom (Dominion)
Andrew Pleavin (Inception)
Andrew Tiernan (The Pianist)
Rodrigo Santoro (Lost)
Stephen McHattie (Watchmen)
Peter Mensah (Spartacus)
Michael Sinelnikoff (The Lost World)
Patrick Sabongui (The Flash)

In the Battle of Thermopylae of 480 BC an alliance of Greek city-states fought the invading Persian army in the mountain pass of Thermopylae. Vastly outnumbered, the Greeks held back the enemy in one of the most famous last stands of history. Persian King Xerxes lead a Army of well over 100,000 (Persian king Xerxes before war has about 170,000 army) men to Greece and was confronted by 300 Spartans, and several hundred Arcadians. Xerxes waited for 10 days for King Leonidas to surrender or withdraw left with no options he moved. The battle lasted for about 3 days and after which all 300 Spartans were killed. The Spartan defeat was not the one expected, as a local shepherd, named Ephialtes, defected to the Persians and informed Xerxes of a separate path through Thermopylae, which the Persians could use to outflank the Greeks.

300 is basically  just one epic fighting scene after another. Most noticeably is the camera work and the visual effects. Every shot seems like it was intended to be a work of art. The colors, the characters, the costumes, the backgrounds… every little detail has been given so much attention. During the big fights you’ll also instantly notice the unique editing. There are a lot of “time slowdowns” throughout the battles which show what exactly is happening. Fatal wounds that slowly leak blood spatters in the air, decapitated heads traveling in slow-motion across the screen… it’s all there.

The story on the other hand isn’t very complicated, in the sense that the whole movie could probably be described in a sentence or two. The dialog is simple and most often talk about moral values like freedom and honor.

For me the good outweighs the bad by miles. From the second the movie started it grabbed me and didn’t let go. Every battle, every scene of the movie had me at the tip of my chair. Everything from the strong acting to the wondrous visuals to the war-shouts of the soldiers was just so stunning… it was truly a wonderful experience.I did not one single moment felt like the movie lacked anything.

REVIEW: WESTWORLD – SEASON 1

MAIN CAST

Evan Rachel Wood (Thirteen)
Thandie Newton (Crash)
Jeffrey Wright (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire)
James Marsden (X-Men)
Ingrid Bolsø Berdal (Hercules)
Luke Hemsworth (Neighbours)
Sidse Babett Knudsen (Borgen)
Simon Quarterman (the Scorpion King 2)
Rodrigo Santoro (Lost)
Shannon Woodward (Raising Hope)
Ed Harris (The Abyss)
Jimmi Simpson (Date Night)
Angela Sarafyan (The Promise)
Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of Tue Lambs)
Ben Barnes (Dorian Gray)
Clifton Collins Jr. (Pacific Rim)
Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarok)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Louis Herthum (Longmire)
Leonardo Nam (He’s Just Not That Into You)
Talulah Riley (St. Trinians)
Oliver Bell (Salem)
Currie Graham (Agent Carter)
Steven Ogg (The Escort)
Michael Wincott (The Doors)
Eddie Rouse (I’m Still Here)
Brian Howe (Catch Me If You Can)
Demetrius Grosse (Saving Mr. Banks)
Kyle Bornheimer (The D Train)
Gina Torres (Firefly)
Bojana Novakovic (Drag Me To Hell)
Eddie Shin (That 80s Show)
Ptolemy Slocum  (Hitch)

As many sci-fi fans will know, the show ‘Westworld’ is based on the 1973 feature film of the same name (written and directed by the late, great Michael Crichton), and the premise is basically the same as it was then: In a future where technological possibilities are seemingly endless, a highly sophisticated theme park offers rich clients the chance to visit the long gone era of the Old West .

The show does a great job pulling the viewer immediately into Westworld. Within 10 minutes of the first episode, the basic rules of the theme park are established: paying guests called “newcomers” get to interact with androids called “hosts” (which to the naked eye are indiscernible from the guests) in a world dressed up like the Old West – and in this world, the guest truly is king. The rules are brutally simple: the visitors get to do whatever they like with – or to – the androids. They can have a friendly chat with them, flirt with them or embark on a spontaneous (or scripted) adventure with them – but they can also shoot them, rape them, torture them and kill them at will.

The androids, on the other hand, are constructed and programmed in a way that is supposed to inhibit them from physically harming “living” creatures. At the beginning of the show – thanks to an interesting choice of storytelling – we get to experience Westworld from the perspective of the androids, which reveals a cruel detail about their nature: they apparently experience emotions. Artificial or not, they do feel pain and fear – as well as affection and anger, and they have no idea that they don’t count as “real” people (at least not to those who call themselves real people). And while that detail certainly makes the “game” even more thrilling and more realistic for the visitors, it means that the shocking abuse some of the androids have to suffer is harrowingly real to them.

The way the show is constructed  it immediately confronts the viewer with very uncomfortable questions. How do we as humans behave towards creatures we consider non-human? How excessive do we become and how thin does our layer of morality turn out to be if we’re allowed to live out all our fantasies without having to fear any consequences for our actions? And at what point should a creature have rights similar to those we demand for ourselves? How do we define “sentient”? How do we define “human”? And how well do we actually understand – and how well are we able to control – the amazing technology our species seems to have acquired so suddenly?

As an avid film fan, I found ‘Westworld’ immediately intriguing; not only because it dares to challenge the viewer with fascinating philosophical questions and scientific concepts, but also because its premise offers the chance to explore a wide range of film genres: sci- fi, western, drama, horror – to name but a few.As for the non plot related aspects of the show: production design, music and effects are fantastic – as we’ve come to expect from HBO’s high concept productions  and with the impressive ensemble of high caliber actors do a great job at bringing their respective characters to life (artificial and otherwise).

A special mention needs to go to Ed Harris and Anthony Hopkins: their charismatic screen presence is once more just impossible to ignore and they simply own every scene they’re in.  Given the amount of talent involved, anything else actually would have been surprising. Produced by J.J. Abrams, created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy Nolan based on a concept by the late – great – Michael Crichton; directed by Neil Marshall and Vincenzo Natali (among others), and with a cast most shows would kill for, the stars really seem to have aligned for ‘Westworld’.

My overall verdict so far: ‘Westworld’ is intelligent science fiction for adults (some scenes are very graphic) which offers more than just eye candy and is full of mysteries for the patient viewer to uncover. It provides a powerful metaphor for oppression and exploitation of other beings – and it shows how quickly we tend to lose our “humanity” when given ultimate power over those we somehow consider less “human”.  With a great cliffhanger season keeps you salivating for the second season which wont air till 2018.

12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: LOVE ACTUALLY

CAST
Hugh Grant (About a Boy)
Martine McCutcheon (Eastenders)
Liam Neeson (Batman begins)
Colin Firth (The King’s Speech)
Sienna Guillory (Resiendet Evil 2)
Emma Thompson (junior)
Martin Freeman (The Hobbit)
Chiwetel Ejiofor (Serenity)
Andrew Lincoln (The Walking Dead)
Keira Knightley (King Arthur)
Laura Linney (The Truman Show)
Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Game of Thrones)
Alan Rickman (Dogma)
Rodrigo Santoro (Lost)
Billy Bob Thornton (Eagle Eye)
Rowan Atkinson (Johnny English)
January Jones (X-Men: First Class)
Elisha Cuthbert (24)
The film begins with a voiceover from David (Hugh Grant) commenting that whenever he gets gloomy with the state of the world he thinks about the arrivals terminal at Heathrow Airport, and the pure uncomplicated love felt as friends and families welcome their arriving loved ones. David’s voiceover also relates that all the messages left by the people who died on the 9/11 planes were messages of love and not hate. The film then tells the ‘love stories’ of many people:
Billy Mack and Joe
With the help of his longtime manager Joe (Gregor Fisher), rock and roll legend Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) records a Christmas variation of The Troggs’ classic hit “Love Is All Around”. Although he thinks the record is terrible, Mack promotes the release in the hope it will become the Christmas number one single. The song does go to number one; after briefly celebrating his victory at a party hosted by Sir Elton John, Billy discerns that Joe is in need of affection and suggests that he and Joe celebrate Christmas by getting drunk and watching porn.
Juliet, Peter, and Mark
Juliet (Keira Knightley) and Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor) get married in a lovely ceremony orchestrated and videotaped by Mark (Andrew Lincoln), the best man. He promises no funny business on their wedding day, but as they walk down the aisle as husband and wife, a singer, choir and band appear performing “All You Need Is Love”. Both Juliet and Peter believe that Mark dislikes her to the point that, when she has a favour to ask, Peter warns his best friend to be nice. Mark avoids seeing her so he will not have to show her his taped version of her wedding, but she stops by one day with a snack hoping to get him to warm to her. She confesses that she knows they are not close, but asks him to give her a chance. When asked to show her the tape, he feigns ignorance of where it is, but Juliet quickly finds it after only a brief search. She pops it in and at first is happy to see a decent shot of her in her wedding dress as the professionals messed theirs up. As the video continues, she sees it’s focused only on her and it causes her to stop talking. Left in an uncomfortable silence, Mark can only blurt out that he acts that way for ‘self-preservation’ before running out and leaving her alone. On Christmas Eve, the doorbell rings at Juliet and Peter’s house. She runs down and opens the door, only to find Mark, carrying a boom box playing Christmas songs and large cue cards. The first one tells her to tell her husband that it’s carol singers. One by one, the cards confess his love for her. Then he walks away. Juliet runs after him to give him a quick, innocent kiss and runs back inside.
Jamie and Aurélia
Writer Jamie (Colin Firth) is pushed to Juliet and Peter’s wedding by his girlfriend (Sienna Guillory) as she feigns illness. He returns between the ceremony and the reception to check on her. Finding his brother there, at first he believes his explanation, but the reality is revealed when she yells down to his brother that she wants to have sex a few more times before Jamie comes back. Crushed by this, Jamie withdraws to his French cottage where he meets Portuguese housekeeper Aurélia (Lúcia Moniz) who speaks only her native tongue. Despite their inability to communicate, they have similar personalities and become attached to each other. When Jamie returns to England, he realises he is in love with Aurélia and begins learning Portuguese. He returns to France to find her and ends up walking through town, gathering people as they walk to her job at a restaurant. In his broken Portuguese he declares his love for her and proposes. She responds, “Thank you. That will be nice. Yes is being my answer” in broken English as the crowd erupts in applause.
Harry, Karen, and Mia
Harry (Alan Rickman) is the managing director of a design agency; Mia (Heike Makatsch) is his new secretary. Harry is comfortably married to his wife, Karen (Emma Thompson), who stays home to raise their children. Harry becomes increasingly aroused by Mia’s overtly sexual comments and actions at the office and does nothing to dissuade her. At the company Christmas party held at Mark’s gallery, he not only inquires if Mark is her boyfriend, but dances closely with her. While at the shops, he calls Mia to find out what she wants for Christmas and ends up almost caught by his wife purchasing an expensive necklace from the jewellery department thanks to the salesman Rufus (Rowan Atkinson). Later on, Karen discovers the necklace in Harry’s coat pocket and happily assumes it is a gift for her. When he hands her a similarly shaped box to open on Christmas Eve, she is heartbroken to find it is a Joni Mitchell CD instead and struggles to hide her pain from her husband and children. She realises that the necklace was for someone else and asks him what he would do if he was her and if the supposed affair is just sex or more than sex (love). When he sees the harm he’s done to his wife, he is truly sorry and calls himself a fool. She responds that not only has he made a mockery of their marriage but of her and the way she chose to live her life.
David and Natalie
Karen’s brother, David (Hugh Grant), is the recently elected Prime Minister. Natalie (Martine McCutcheon) is a new junior member of the household staff at 10 Downing Street and from the moment they meet, there is a spark that David continuously admonishes himself for. One day, while meeting with the U.S. President (Billy Bob Thornton), they run into Natalie and the president makes some inappropriate comments to David about Natalie’s body. Later, David walks in on Natalie serving tea and biscuits to the president, and it appears that something untoward is happening. Natalie seems ashamed, but the President has a sly grin on his face. Due to this, when he gives his political speech, David is uncharacteristically assertive while taking a stand against the President’s intimidating policies. Finding that his relationship with Natalie has become strained and a distraction, David has her moved to another job. However, he is spurred to action on Christmas Eve when he finds a Christmas card from Natalie declaring that she is his and no one else’s. After a hilarious door to door search of her street, he comes across Mia, who informs him that Natalie lives next door. The entire family is on their way out the door to a multi-school Christmas play and he offers to drive them so he can talk to her. After Natalie sneaks him in to the school, he runs into his heartbroken sister who believes he is there for his niece and nephew. As the two try to keep from being seen and watch the show from backstage, they finally kiss. All their hiding was for nothing because as the curtain rises, they are seen kissing by everyone.
Daniel, Sam, Joanna, and Carol
Daniel (Liam Neeson), Karen’s friend, mourns the recent death of his wife Joanna, as he tries to raise his stepson Sam (Thomas Sangster) alone. Sam has fallen for an American classmate, also named Joanna (Olivia Olson), and, after discussion with his stepfather, decides to learn the drums so that he can accompany her in the big finale for their school’s Christmas pageant (the same one that Natalie’s nephew and Karen and Harry’s children are in). After Sam feels that he missed his chance to make an impression on her, Daniel convinces Sam that he must go catch Joanna, who is returning to the US, at the airport that night and show her how he feels, lest he regret it for his whole life. Sam runs away from the airport security and says hi to Joanna, who then kisses him on the cheek. Meanwhile, Daniel, who previously mentioned admiring supermodel Claudia Schiffer, meets Carol, played by Schiffer, the parent of another of Sam’s school mates.
Sarah, Karl, and Michael
Sarah (Laura Linney) first appears at Juliet and Peter’s wedding, sitting next to her friend Jamie. She is an American who works at Harry’s graphic design company and has been in love for years with the company’s creative director, Karl (Rodrigo Santoro). For unknown reasons they admire one another from afar, but neither is willing to make the first move. They finally connect at the Christmas party and he drives her home. They kiss but before more could occur, they are interrupted by her mentally ill brother, Michael, phoning from his residence in a mental care facility. Sarah and Karl’s evening tryst is aborted and Karl leaves. On Christmas Eve both are working late and, when Karl wishes her good night, he tries to say more but cannot and only wishes her Merry Christmas. As he leaves, Michael phones and she spends the night with him, sharing her Christmas scarf.
Colin, Tony, and the American girls
After several blunders attempting to woo various English women, including Mia and Nancy (Julia Davis), the caterer at Juliet and Peter’s wedding, Colin Frissell (Kris Marshall) informs his friend Tony (Abdul Salis) he plans to go to America and find love there, convinced that his Britishness will be an asset to him in a foreign country. Landing in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Colin meets Stacey (Ivana Miličević), Jeannie (January Jones), and Carol-Anne (Elisha Cuthbert), three stunningly attractive women who fall for his Basildon accent and invite him to stay at their home, where they are joined by roommate Harriet (Shannon Elizabeth).
John and Judy
John (Martin Freeman) and Judy (Joanna Page) are professional body doubles for films. They meet for the sex scenes in a film for which Tony is a production assistant. John tells Judy that “It is nice to have someone [he] can just chat to.” While the two are perfectly comfortable being naked and simulating sex on-set, they are shy and tentative off-set. Carefully pursuing a relationship, they attend the Christmas pageant (involving David and Natalie, Harry and Karen’s children, Daniel and Sam, et al.) at the local school with John’s brother.
Rufus
Rufus, played by Rowan Atkinson, is the jewellery salesman, whose obsessive attention to gift-wrapping nearly results in Harry being caught buying a necklace for Mia by Karen. Also, it is his distraction of staff at the airport which allows Sam to sneak through to see Joanna. In the director and cast commentary, it is revealed that Rufus was originally supposed to be a Christmas angel; however, this was dropped from the final script.
Epilogue
The epilogue is set one month later; the relationships of the characters have continued to evolve. Billy arrives with a gorgeous groupie in tow, and confirms to Joe that his hit song has launched his successful comeback. Juliet, Peter, and Mark arrive together to meet Jamie and his new bride, Aurélia. Karen and the kids greet Harry, but Karen’s reaction suggests that they are struggling to move past his indiscretion. Sam greets Joanna, who has returned with her mother from America, and Daniel is joined by his new girlfriend Carol and her son. Newlyweds John and Judy, heading off to their honeymoon, run into Tony who is awaiting Colin as he returns from America. Colin returns with the gorgeous Harriet and her sister Carla (Denise Richards) who greets Tony with a hug and a kiss. Natalie aggressively welcomes David back from his flight in view of the press, indicating that their relationship is now public. These scenes dissolve into footage of actual arrivals at Heathrow Airport, as the screen is divided into an increasing number of smaller segments which form the shape of a heart, as The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” plays on.
the film is a bit over the top, a bit exaggerated, but it still works perfectly, has the perfect balance of humour and seriousness, and is one that I would see again