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— Tate Donovan, Hercules

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Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Dark of the Moon is the best of the Transformers trilogy. —Matt Anderson (review...)

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Love Actually is a lovely film with a wonderful feeling. Judging by the intro, the movie was inspired by people at airports. There is video footage of people kissing, hugging, and smiling at airport gates. Reunions of family, friends, and lovers happen all the time and serve as evidence, so this movie seems to say, of the overwhelming good of human beings, if not humanity as a whole.

Maybe that notion adds weight to this romantic comedy. Maybe it only adds schmaltz. But I believe the sentiment is in earnest, so lovers take heart. Cynics, you stay home with the kids (Love Actually is rated R for sexual situations and nudity).

9 Lives

The best Christmas-spirit movie of the season isn't Elf
The best Christmas-spirit movie of the season isn’t Elf

Writer/director Richard Curtis weaves together nine different plot threads. Some of them are better integrated than others — Harry (Alan Rickman) encourages a lovesick employee to pursue the man of her dreams, even as he considers an affair with a different employee; he’s married to the sister (Emma Thompson) of Britain’s new prime minister (Hugh Grant), who has fallen in love with one of his new assistants. The loose-hanging threads are the British writer who falls in love with his Portuguese maid, in spite of their having no common language. He’s only tied to another story by a contrived friendship with one of the other characters.

All of the stories are about love, but they’re not all about romantic love. Sarah (Laura Linney) really wants to date a friend at work, but her mentally ill brother needs her more, and she’s not sure she can give him up for a boyfriend. An aging, cynical rock star records a Christmas cover of “Love is All Around.” He promotes the song by mocking the crassness and commerciality of it, but in the end, the spirit of love hits him, not magically, and not out of character, but in the simple love of friendship.

Fantasy Island

Love Actually is a light enough romantic comedy that it often moves into fantasy. A lonely, horny waiter (Kris Marshall) believes that America is like the beer commercials. If he goes to there, women there will find his British accent irresistible and want to sleep with him in droves. There’s also a fantasy that will speaks to the hearts of a lot of Britons and not a few die-hard American liberals: the prime minister stands up to the American president and calls him a bully.

Because the movie does allow itself some fantastic moments, it’s easier to accept the shift from funny to touching to sad. Emotion-jerking movies annoy if they’re not handled just right. In Love Actually, timing, mood, and performances are well coordinated, and you almost never feel jerked. Only once did I feel like the movie was asking too much from me — during the scenes when the writer and his Portuguese maid found themselves saying the same things without either one realizing it. It was too much of an obvious intrusion of the screenwriter onto the characters.

Otherwise, Love Actually has a great feeling to it, and it is well-timed with holiday season. Maybe it’s a little transparent and lightweight, but it’s great entertainment that leaves you smiling.