As Love Actually begins we are told that perhaps the world isn't such a dire and hateful place that "love actually is all around." Around London anyway. The film explores no less than seven different romantic scenarios within the bustling British capital--all of which interconnect and eventually resolve on Christmas Eve. There's the newly elected dashing Prime Minister (Hugh Grant) who is smitten with his secretary the earthy Natalie (Martine McCutcheon); Karen (Emma Thompson) whose husband Harry (Alan Rickman) has strayed with his seductive secretary Mia (Heike Makatsch); Sarah (Laura Linney) the American wallflower who has a crush on her colleague Carl (Rodrigo Santoro); Jamie (Colin Firth) who falls for his pretty Portuguese housekeeper Aurelia (Lucia Moniz)…there are lots more but you get the gist. As love goes things may not get tied up neatly in brightly colored packages for everyone but there's still enough good cheer to spread around.
Showcasing some of Britain's finest actors Love Actually doesn't have a bad banana in the bunch. Floppy-haired Hugh Grant turns in an endearing performance and proves there isn't a romantic comedy he can't handle. He has an uncanny knack for connecting with any actress he happens to be romancing; in this case it's the adorable McCutcheon best known for the hit British TV drama EastEnders. Rickman and Thompson are quite good as the couple whose long-term marriage is beginning to crack; Thompson especially does a nice job trying to hide her pain while being a happy mom. Linney too shines as Sarah who glows with excitement when she finally gets what she so ardently wished for. Veteran stage and film actor Bill Nighy (Underworld) however steals the show as a carefree aging rock star desperate for a comeback. His Billy Mack smacks of Mick Jagger Keith Richards and Rod Stewart all rolled into one.
"I'm worried that we don't have the word 'massacre' in the title " writer/director Richard Curtis fretted to Entertainment Weekly referring to how horror-loving American audiences might not take to his new romantic comedy that is already a huge hit in Britain. True perhaps a romantic comedy starring a multitude of A-list British actors might not bring in the required masses. But who cares about the money (did I just say that)? Curtis who has written some of the best romantic comedies of the last decade including Four Weddings and a Funeral Notting Hill and Bridget Jones' Diary steps behind the camera for the first time here and is able to give each story a unique point of view from the lovesick to the wacky. There actually may be too many stories in Love Actually but it's a small gaffe. Love Actually is a refreshing good old fashioned warm and gushy movie that takes your mind off the bad things for the holiday season and Curtis should feel confident about his directing debut.
Freddy Krueger and Jason Vorhees teamed up this weekend to defend their No. 1 title at the box office--and it worked: Freddy vs. Jason managed to murder the competition for the second week in a row with $13.4 million*.
Freddy vs. Jason was followed by the '70s inspired police pic S.W.A.T., which claimed the No. 2 spot with $10.8 million, while the Western Open Range and the family remake Freaky Friday tied for third place with $9.4 million apiece. The Jackie Chan martial arts actioner The Medallion, the only one of this week's new wide releases to crack the Top Five, followed with $8.2 million.
The two new comedies, however, failed to tickle the fancy of moviegoers. The finally released, two-year-old Ashton Kutcher laffer My Boss's Daughter premiered in tenth place with $5 million while the hip-hop comedy Marci X disappeared off the charts with a paltry $865,000.
Although Freddy vs. Jason dropped off significantly from its $36.4 million high last week, it is the first summer film since X2: X-Men United to spend two weekends in a row at the top of the box office. But after a full month of $30 million plus openers, the box office lost its typical end of summer steam.
This week's Top 12 films grossed a total of $86.1 million, down a little more than 35 percent from last week, when they earned $132.6 million. The total, however, was up almost 33 percent form this time last year, when the Top 12 films grossed $64.8 million.
THE TOP TEN
New Line Cinema's R rated horror flick Freddy vs. Jason defended its No. 1 title for the second week in a row with an ESTIMATED $13.4 million (-63%) in 3,014 theaters (unchanged). Its $4,463 per theater average was the highest of any movie playing wide this week. Its cume is approximately $61.4 million.
Directed by Ronny Yu, it stars Robert Englund and Ken Kirzinger.
Sony Pictures' PG-13 rated S.W.A.T. retained in its No. 2 spot in its third week with an ESTIMATED $10.8 million (-40%) in 3,204 theaters (-16 theaters; $3,371 per theater). Its cume is approximately $88 million.
Directed by Clark Johnson, it stars Colin Farrell, Samuel L. Jackson, LL Cool J and Michelle Rodriguez.
Buena Vista's R rated Western Open Range also held on to third place in its second week with an ESTIMATED $9.4 million (-33%) in 2,075 theaters (+88 theaters; $4,346 per theater). Its cume is approximately $29 2 million.
Directed by and starring Kevin Costner, it also stars Robert Duvall, Annette Bening, Diego Luna and Michael Gambon.
Buena Vista's PG rated family remake Freaky Friday tied for third place in its third week with an ESTIMATED $9.4 million (-30%) in 3,058 theaters (+79 theaters; $3,074 per theater). Its cume is $74.5 million.
Directed by Mark Waters, it stars Jamie Lee Curtis, Lindsay Lohan, Chad Michael Murray and Mark Harmon.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
Sony Pictures' PG-13 rated martial arts actioner The Medallion premiered in fifth place with an ESTIMATED $8.2 million at 2,648 theaters, with a $3,097 per theater average.
The film, Jackie Chan's first theatrical release in three years without a famous co-star, revolves around a Hong Kong detective who must protect a Buddhist monk child and a mysterious medallion from a ruthless crime lord.
Directed by Gordon Chan, it stars Jackie Chan, Lee Evans and Claire Forlani.
Buena Vista Pictures' PG-13 rated fantasy pic Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl remained strong in sixth place in its seventh week with an ESTIMATED $7.3 million (-20%) at 2,404 theaters (-306 theaters; $2,500 per theater). Its cume is approximately $261 million.
Directed by Gore Verbinski and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, it stars Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley.
Universal Pictures' PG-13 rated equestrian drama Seabiscuit gained a spot to finish in the No. 7 position in its fifth week with ESTIMATED $6.3 million (-22%) in 2,534 theaters (+72 theaters; $2,500 per theater). Its cume is approximately $93.1 million and headed for the $100 million mark.
Directed by Gary Ross, it stars Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges and Chris Cooper as three down-and-out men who find fame and fortune in an equally down-and-out racehorse.
MGM's PG-13 rated riches-to-rags tale Uptown Girls dropped three rungs to place eight in its second week with an ESTIMATED $5.6 million (-50%) in 2,495 theaters (unchanged; $2,244 per theater). Its cume is approximately $22.3 million.
Directed by Boaz Yakin, it stars Brittany Murphy, Dakota Fanning, Donald Faison, Marley Shelton and Heather Locklear.
Universal Picture's R rated teen comedy American Wedding fell two spots to finish ninth in fourth week with an ESTIMATED $5.7 million (-34%) at 2,467 theaters (-518 theaters; $2,260 per theater). Its cume is $90.6 million.
Directed by Jesse Dylan, it stars Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott, Alyson Hannigan, Eddie Kaye Thomas and Thomas Ian Nicholas.
Rounding out the Top Ten is Dimension Films' PG-13 rated fowl comedy My Boss's Daughter, which debuted in tenth place with an ESTIMATED $5 million in 2,201 theaters with a $2,272 per theater average.
In the film, a young executive housesits for his boss and tends to his prized pet owl in hopes of skipping a few rungs up the corporate ladder.
Directed by David Zucker, it stars Ashton Kutcher, Tara Reid, Molly Shannon and Andy Richter.
Paramount Pictures R rated hip-hop comedy Marci X opened to a disappointing $875,000 in 1,200 theaters with a $721 per theater average.
In the film, a New York Jewish socialite is forced to take over a hard-core hip-hop label and deal with a controversial rapper whose record is gaining some negative publicity.
Directed by Paul Rudnick, it stars Lisa Kudrow, Damon Wayans, Richard Benjamin, Christine Baranski and Jane Krakowski.
Fox Searchlight's R rated teen drama Thirteen, meanwhile, opened in five theaters to an impressive $112,213 with a $22,443 per theater average.
The movie focuses on an innocent, pigtailed 13-year-old who enters junior high with a promising future ahead of her, until she falls in with the ultra-popular, hottest girl in school and is introduced to a world of sex, drugs and misdemeanors.
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke, it stars Holly Hunter, Evan Rachel Wood and Nikki Reed.
Miramax Film's PG-13 rated comedy The Battle of Shaker Heights, winner of the 2002 Project Greenlight competition developed by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, also opened in limited release this week. The film took in $52,000 in 5 theaters with a $10,400 per theater average.
Set in the Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights, the film is about a teenage World War II buff and battle re-enactor, Kelly Enswiler, who is encouraged by a new friend to take on the school bully.
Directed by Kyle Rankin and Efram Potelle, it stars Shia LaBeouf, Kathleen Quinlan, Amy Smart and Shiri Appleby.
Last year's top three included: Buena Vista's PG-13 rated sci-fi thriller Signs, which reclaimed the No. 1 spot in its fourth week of release with $14.2 million at 3,453 theaters ($4,137 per theater average); Sony's PG-13 rated actioner xXx, which dropped to second place its third week with $13.2 million in 3,517 theaters ($3,770 per theater average); and Dimension's Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams, which came in third in its third week with $7.5 million at 3,307 theaters ($2,295 per theater).