Nanny McPhee

  • Directors: Kirk Jones
  • Producers: Lindsay Doran, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner
  • Writers: Screenplay, Emma Thompson, Books, Christianna Brand
  • Genres: Comedy, Family, Fantasy
  • Actors: Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Angela Lansbury, Imelda Staunton, Kelly Macdonald, Thomas Sangster, Eliza Bennett, Jennifer Rae Daykin, Holly Gibbs

Taking place in 19th century England, widower and undertaker 41-year-old Cedric Brown (Colin Firth) has seven children: 12-year-old Simon (Thomas Sangster), 10-year-old Tora (Eliza Bennett), 9-year-old Lily (Jennifer Rae Daykin), 8-year-old Eric (Raphaël Coleman), 7-year-old Sebastian (Samuel Honywood ), 5-year-old Christianna (Holly Gibbs) and 1-year-old Aggie (Hebe Barnes and Zinnia Barnes). He loves his children very much, but spends little time with them, unable to handle raising them all on his own. The children have had a series of seventeen nannies, whom they systematically drive out; it is a point of pride for them to get rid of each nanny as fast as possible. They also terrorize the cook, Mrs. Blatherwick (Imelda Staunton) but are cared for and loved by Evangeline (Kelly Macdonald), the young scullery maid.

Cedric attempts to hire another nanny from the agency that sent the past seventeen nannies, but the agency refuses him, as the children have sent the past nannies away, terrorized. Desperate to find another nanny, Cedric heeds the advice of a mysterious voice from the house, which says, “the person you need is Nanny McPhee.” After a series of mysterious events, an unusual and hideous woman named Nanny McPhee (Emma Thompson) arrives at Brown home, introducing herself as a “government nanny”. With discipline and magic, she transforms the family’s lives. In the process, she herself transforms from ugly to beautiful. The children, led by Simon, attempt to play their tricks on her, but gradually start to respect her and ask her for advice. They change into responsible people, helping their hapless father in solving the family problems, and making Nanny McPhee less and less needed. (The storyline is, at this point, very similar to Mary Poppins).

Interestingly, not all of the lessons are for the children. In addition, the last one can vary depending on interpretation.

Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang

  • Directors: Susanna White
  • Producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lindsay Doran
  • Writers: Emma Thompson, Christianna Brand
  • Genres: Comedy, Family, Fantasy
  • Actors: Emma Thompson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ralph Fiennes, Rhys Ifans, and Maggie Smith

In England during the Second World War, teenager Norman (Asa Butterfield), a younger boy and a girl live at a farm with their mother, while the father is away as a soldier. Two spoiled cousins, a boy and a girl, are evacuated from the city and join them. At first the two groups quarrel.

Nanny McPhee (Emma Thompson) arrives, telling the mother that she has been assigned to this family, and that the mother does not have to pay her a dime. With discipline and magic, she transforms the family’s lives. In the process, she herself transforms from ugly to beautiful, just like in the first film.

The farm is owned half by the mother, half by her mean brother-in-law. The brother wants to buy the mother’s share, and uses mean tricks to force her to do so. First he releases her pigs, which would be a serious financial loss, but Nanny McPhee and the children find and return them. Then he gives them a forged Killed in action notice regarding the father. Norman feels in his bones that his father is still alive, and after going to London with Nanny McPhee and one of the cousins it turns out that the father is “only” missing in action. Meanwhile the other children manage to delay the mother signing the contract.

The father returns safely. Nanny McPhee leaves, as she is no longer needed.

Love Actually

  • Directors: Richard Curtis
  • Producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Duncan Kenworthy
  • Writers: Richard Curtis
  • Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance
  • Actors: Alan Rickman, Bill Nighy, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Keira Knightley, Rowan Atkinson, Laura Linney, Martine McCutcheon

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 known 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, culminating in a final scene at the airport enacted to the tune of The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” that closes their stories. The film ends with a montage of anonymous persons greeting their arriving loved ones that slowly enlarges and fills the screen, eventually forming the shape of a heart.

With the help of his longtime manager Joe (Gregor Fisher), aging rock and roll legend Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) records a Christmas variation of The Troggs’ classic hit “Love Is All Around.” Despite his honest admission that it is a “festering turd of a record,” the singer promotes the release in the hope it will become the Christmas number one single. During his publicity tour, Billy repeatedly causes Joe grief by pulling stunts such as defacing a poster of rival musicians Blue with a speech bubble reading, “We’ve got little pricks.” He also promises to perform his song naked on television should it hit the top spot. Mack keeps his word—albeit while wearing boots and holding a strategically placed guitar. After briefly celebrating his victory at a party hosted by Sir Elton John, Billy unexpectedly arrives at Joe’s flat and explains that Christmas is a time to be with the people you love, and that he had just realized that “the people I love… is you”, despite simultaneously hitting Joe with insulting comments about his weight. He reminds Joe that “We have had a wonderful ride” touring around the world together over the years. He suggests that the two celebrate Christmas by getting drunk and watching porn. Billy and Joe’s story is the only one exploring platonic love, and the two characters are unrelated to any of the other characters in film, although a few of the other characters are shown watching Billy Mack on their TVs or listening to his song on the radio.

Rufus is a minor but significant character played by Rowan Atkinson. He is the Selfridges jewellery salesman whose obsessive attention to gift-wrapping nearly gets Harry caught buying Mia’s necklace, and later at the airport, his distraction of an attendant allows Sam to sneak through security and see Joanna before she goes back to America. In the original script, the character was revealed to be an angel, and the airport scene showed him disappearing as he walked through the crowd, but this aspect of the character was removed, although he does give Daniel a wink indicating he knows he is giving Sam cover to slip through. Richard Curtis says that with all the storylines already complicating the movie, “the idea of introducing another layer of supernatural beings” seemed over-the-top.[1]

Last Chance Harvey

  • Directors: Joel Hopkins
  • Producers: Tim Perell, Nicola Usborne
  • Writers: Joel Hopkins
  • Genres: Drama, Romance
  • Actors: Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Kathy Baker, James Brolin

The film follows in parallel two lonely people: Harvey (Dustin Hoffman) is an American commercial jingle writer, whose dream – long ago given up – was to be a jazz pianist, and whose unpalatable job is in jeopardy. Kate (Emma Thompson) is a single Londoner, cautious about romance after past disappointments, who works at a boring job collecting statistics at Heathrow Airport, and gets frequent calls from her neurotic mother and none from anybody else.

Harvey travels from New York to London for his daughter’s wedding, briefly encountering Kate and rather rudely refusing to fill her questionnaire. His daughter Susan (Liane Balaban) has a strained relationship with him, and when Harvey tells her that he will not be staying for the wedding reception because of work, she informs him that she has chosen to have her stepfather (James Brolin) walk her down the aisle. He attends the ceremony, then attempts to return to New York but misses his plane, then learns at Heathrow that he is being fired from his job. Drowning his sorrows at an airport bar, he meets Kate, initiating a conversation, which leads to lunch and then they stroll alongside the River Thames. They grow close and she convinces him to attend the wedding reception. He agrees, but only if she’ll come with him.

At the reception, Harvey redeems himself with his daughter and Kate begins to fall for him. They walk and talk until sunrise and then make a date to meet again at noon. Harvey is unable to make the meeting, however, and must track Kate down later to try to make amends.

In the Name of the Father

  • Directors: Jim Sheridan
  • Producers: Jim Sheridan, Gabriel Byrne
  • Writers: Jim Sheridan, Terry George
  • Genres: Biography, Drama
  • Actors: Daniel Day Lewis, Pete Postlethwaite, Emma Thompson

Gerry Conlon (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his friend Paul Hill (John Lynch), fed up with life in IRA-era Belfast, move to London and join the hippie scene. They hook up with a bunch of spaced-out hippies squatting in a derelict flat. There they meet Carole Richardson and Paddy Armstrong. Hanging out in a London park after a fight with their flatmates, Hill and Conlon meet a homeless man named Charlie Burke in a park, who claims the bench they are sitting on belongs to him. While the two talk to Burke on the park bench, an explosion is heard. Later that night Conlon steals money from the apartment of a prostitute who drops her keys on the sidewalk outside her house. A fellow squatter, jealous of Conlon’s advances to a female in the group, drops a hint to the police that Gerry and Paul, being Irish, may be involved in the bombing, and they are arrested.

Britain’s newly-passed anti-terror laws enable the police to hold suspects for 7 days without charge. During this time, Gerry and Paul are subjected to torture until they confess. The four principal defendants (Hill, Conlon, Armstrong and Richardson) are sentenced to 14-30 years in jail. From their prison cell, Gerry and his father Giuseppe (Pete Postlethwaite), who is sentenced along with him as part of the Maguire Seven, try to appeal. Giuseppe’s health continues to worsen while in prison. In the meantime, the police arrest IRA member Joe McAndrew (Don Baker) who admits to the Guildford bombing. The police ignore his confession and the Guildford Four remain in prison.

Meanwhile, barrister Gareth Peirce (Emma Thompson) begins to investigate the case in the police archives, after receiving Giuseppe’s letters of appeal for assistance, believing that Gerry, his father, and Gerry’s friends are not guilty. Fortuitously, on a day the original archives clerk is sick, she asks for the file of Conlon. The replacement clerk asks “Which Conlon? Giuseppe or Gerard?” Realising the situation, after only having had access to Giuseppe’s file, she requests Gerry Conlon’s file. The Gerry Conlon file contains statements and photographs clipped together with a note that says “not to be shown to the defence”. This material provides the accused with a solid alibi and in 1989 the court is forced to release all four (Giuseppe had died in prison nine years prior). On leaving the courthouse, Gerry states that he will continue to fight injustice “in the name of his father.”

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

  • Directors:
  • Producers: Chris Columbus, David Heyman, Mark Radcliffe
  • Writers: Screenplay, Steve Kloves, Novel, J K Rowling
  • Genres: Adventure, Family, Fantasy
  • Actors: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Michael Gambon, Gary Oldman, David Thewlis, Timothy Spall, Emma Thompson

Harry Potter is with Dursleys for the summer, learning to do more spells, and awaits an imminent visit from Uncle Vernon’s sister Marge. Harry loses his temper when Marge insults his family, and unintentionally causes her to inflate and float away. Harry flees, as he expects to be punished for performing magic outside of school. The Knight Bus appears and takes Harry to the Leaky Cauldron where Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge tells Harry he will not be expelled. Harry learns that Sirius Black, who is said to be a supporter of Lord Voldemort, has escaped from Azkaban and that Black will likely come after him.

Harry journeys to Hogwarts with his best friends Ron and Hermione. On the Hogwarts Express train, they share a compartment with the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Remus Lupin, who is sleeping when they enter the compartment. Abruptly, the train is stopped and a Dementor boards, searching for Black. Harry faints when the Dementor enters their compartment, but Lupin awakens and repels the Dementor after hearing a woman-like scream. At school, Albus Dumbledore informs the Hogwarts students that the Dementors have been set as a guard around the school grounds as a protection against Black. In addition to Lupin, Hagrid is announced as the new Care of Magical Creatures teacher. Lupin’s lessons prove enjoyable; he teaches useful spells and helps less confident students like Neville. However Hagrid’s class does not go to plan; on the first day, Draco Malfoy deliberately provokes the Hippogriff Buckbeak into attacking him. His father Lucius Malfoy successfully has Buckbeak sentenced to death.

Hermione reveals that she possesses a time-turner, which is how she has been taking multiple classes at once. She and Harry travel back in time three hours, watching themselves go through the night’s events. They set Buckbeak free and return to the Whomping Willow. As the Dementors are about to attack the “other” Harry and Sirius, Harry realizes that he is the person who cast the Patronus, which gives him the confidence to do so now. Harry and Hermione rescue Sirius, who escapes on Buckbeak. At the end of the year, Lupin resigns, knowing that people will not allow a werewolf to teach their children. Later, Sirius sends Harry a Firebolt, an extremely fast racing broom.