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Being married often brings a change in lifestyle, but it also means that you watch more romantic movies then ever before! Whilst the Rom-Com genre is not my favourite, I have to admit to having enjoyed recent releases such as Notting Hill and Bridge Jones’ Diary. For this reason I was looking forward to Love Actually which saw the directorial debut of Richard Curtis, previously responsible for penning films such as Notting Hill and Four Weddings and a Funeral. Most people thought the step up would be no problem for Curtis, but were they right? Love Actually received a mixed response upon its theatrical release, but even taking on board some of the negative criticism, I still thought I would enjoy it and therefore I looked forward to getting my hands on the DVD release.

Love Actually
Love Actually is a difficult movie to sum up in a few hundred words without giving away a large part of the plot. The film interconnects various stories together around the weeks before Christmas; each love story has a different slant and complicates things further!

The film opens in a music studio where aged rock star Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) is recording his Christmas record, a re-recording of Love Is All Around which has now been changed to Christmas Is All Around! We are also introduced to the Prime Minister (Hugh Grant), who is coming to terms with his election and finds the close attentions of one of his maids (Martine McCutheon) an appealing prospect. Not having so much luck is Daniel (Liam Neeson) who is now a widow after the death of wife due to cancer. Another person having a bad time of things is Jamie (Colin Firth) who is getting over a failed marriage. He uproots and heads off to France where he comes into contact with a Portuguese lady. There are various other small stories, for example Harry (Alan Rickman) has two women after him, a work colleague and his wife Karen (Emma Thompson). There are a couple of other characters as well, but I won’t mention them all in this review.

I really expected Love Actually to deliver on all fronts; with a cast that most directors would be envious of and a writer with the credentials of Richard Curtis the film surely couldn’t falter, or so I thought. Well, from my point of view, the movie wasted two hours of my life which I will never get back! This may sound a little harsh, but I was greatly disappointed by the movie and for most of it I was bored stiff. The only thing that kept my interest was the fact that the film promised at several points to link up all the stories in a clever way but that ending didn’t appear, instead what we got was a lacklustre and unoriginal conclusion. I don’t think it would be exaggerating to say that I could probably have written any of the individual love stories and linked them together in a better way!

Love Actually
So what about the cast themselves? Well to be honest they do their best, but I suppose you can only really work with what you have in front of you! This leads me to question what the likes of Hugh Grant, Colin Firth and Liam Neeson were doing putting their names forward for such a weak script?? Judging by the success of this movie there most be a lot of people who found Love Actually to be a good film, and to my surprise my wife was one of them! I have spoken to quite a few work colleagues about this movie and all of them agreed with my views, but interestingly enough they were all males. That probably best sums up this film; I think the female of the species will find enough amusing and romantic moments to ensure that they are entertained enough, however the opposite sex will find themselves looking at their watches more often than the screen! There are plenty of better romantic comedies available at the moment, so I would do yourself a favour and give this one a wide berth!

Universal have presented Love Actually in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and it is pretty eye-catching. The image is in pristine condition, as would be expected for a recent high profile movie. The detail is rich and spot-on. Lots of recent transfers I have witnessed have seemed to be on the soft side, but Universal have produced a transfer which is near perfect. Colours are vibrant and true, skin tones are accurate, black levels are solid and the image appears lifelike throughout. While this transfer is not quite reference quality it is hard to really criticise it for any blemishes. There was no sign of edge enhancements, and compression artefacts were also nowhere to be seen. Grain was evident in a few scenes, but there was nothing too distracting, and certainly not at levels which should concern you. Overall I am struggling to criticise this transfer and that is why I have given this aspect of the disc quite a high mark.

Just the one soundtrack with this release which may annoy our foreign readers. For some reason Universal have decided to include just an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track, which is bemusing since there are not an overwhelming number of extras and therefore space on the disc could not have been used as an excuse. The soundtrack in question is actually respectable, but as is to be expected from a film of this genre, it is restrained and certainly not good enough to be considered a demo disc. The number of times the rears come into play could be counted on your fingers, and these are mostly times when the musical score kicks in. Probably the most important aspect of a romantic movie is the dialogue and this is dealt with proficiently. There’s not much more to say about the audio on this disc, the simplest way to describe it is as adequate. In line with the soundtrack are the subtitles for this release, there is just the one language accounted for and that is English.

Love Actually
Universal have crammed a reasonable number of extras onto this one disc release. The first extra is an Audio Commentary with Richard Curtis, Hugh Grant, Bill Nighy and Thomas Sangster. The extra was created before some of the cast had even had a chance to see the movie for the first time, and Hugh Grant also turned up late for the commentary as he was caught in traffic. These points make the commentary all the more interesting and just go to show how important DVDs are to the film industry these days. As you would expect, Richard Curtis speaks the most during the commentary but he is well backed up by his fellow commentators, in particular Hugh Grant who is worth listening to as he has lots of humorous comments to add.

Next up are some Deleted Scenes with an introduction by Richard Curtis. There are ten deleted scenes in total; each one is introduced by Richard Curtis who discusses why they were not included in the final cut of the movie. At first glance the most appealing scene to men will be the one title ‘Claudia Schiffer Naked Naked Naked’. This scene isn’t as exciting as it sounds, but it is amusing nevertheless. It involves a web search for rude pictures which launches several pop ups which cannot be closed down. The additional scenes included are probably some of the most in-depth that I have come across, and this is definitely a section of the disc worth visiting.

If you are a fan of music videos then you will be interested by the next section which is called Music Highlights. This section includes five songs from the movie; each song is introduced by Richard Curtis who talks about why he included the relevant tracks in the film. The songs are then played, but be warned they are the actual clips from the movie, so in the case of the Beach Boys song – ‘God Only Knows’ this song is featured at the end of the movie so it would be wise not too look at this section unless you have already seen the film. There is also another music video in the extras section which is ‘Christmas is all around’. This video is the main song from the movie and it runs for just over four minutes

Love Actually
The next extra is called The Storytellers focuses on the writers (Richard Curtis and producer Duncan Kenworthy) involved with the movie. It is evident from this extra that Richard Curtis writes a lot of his movies using past experiences. During the ten minutes that it runs for Richard Curtis talks about the characters and surroundings used in the film and how they related to his life. Personally I didn’t find this extra very appealing, but I am sure fans of the movie will find certain aspects interesting. The final section houses various Trailers. This section is not advertised on the back of the DVD, but there isn’t a lot to be found in it so the fact that is missing isn’t really a great surprise. You would at least expect a trailer for Love Actually to be found in this section, but it isn’t! Instead what we get is a trailer for Thunderbird and an Oxfam advertisement.

As I said previously, I expected a lot from Love Actually but I was left with a sour taste in my mouth afterwards. It just goes to show that assembling an all-star cast does not guarantee you instant success, and even though the movie performed amicably at the box office there were just as many people who slated the film. I found Love Actually to be a dull and lifeless tale of multiple love stories which are linked in the most tenuous ways possible. Universal have tried their best to makes this disc as appealing as they can, and to some extent they have succeeded. The transfer and audio aspects are perfectly acceptable, however the extras look good on paper but flatter to deceive. If you are a fan of the movie then I am sure you will make this disc a purchase, however if you are looking for a impulse buy for a loved one then I would definitely consider something else.