The London List Part I: Ten favorite scenes set in London

The 16-day 2012 London Olympics is coming to an end today. For some of you, it’s certainly been quite an exhilarating two weeks of watching and championing for the athletes you’re rooting for in various sports. I haven’t been following the event at all other than watching the opening & closing ceremony, but since I LOVE the city of London and they have done a splendid job hosting the biggest sports event in the world, I thought I’d create a list in their honor. [I’ve now added a Britastic tag for all my UK-related posts]

So for this particular posts, I want to highlight ten of my favorite scenes set in London. Stay tuned for the favorite actors posts up tomorrow!

Notting Hill Changing Seasons

Well, since Fall is just around the corner, I particularly LOVE this melancholy scene from Notting Hill set to Ain’t No Sunshine by Bill Withers. It’s a perfect song to highlight William’s broken heart since Anna left him. This is perhaps one of my favorite Hugh Grant moments on film, he certainly got the British rom-coms cornered for a while there. I’ve highlighted this scene in this post before, but it remains one of my favorites.

The World is Not Enough The Thames Boat Scene

The film as a whole is crap but this rousing opening sequence on the Thames is awesome! Pierce Brosnan’s Bond once again is outrun by one of his hot female villains, but I think the gorgeous London scenery here just might outshine both of them. Here’s an interesting trivia per IMDb:

The boat chase took 7 weeks to shoot, as the Thames’ 9-MPH boat speed limit had to be factored in. Two “Clamper” policemen were disturbed in their line of duty during filming, being soaked so much that one of them ended up nearly going over the front of the car they were supposed to be clamping. Needless to say, their reactions in the film are very much real. This 14-to-15-minute opener is still the longest pre-credits sequence ever in a James Bond movie.

28 Days Later – London deserted

This scene is beautiful as it is eerie. Cillian Murphy’s Jim wakes up from a coma in the hospital and finds that his city has been deserted. Still in his scrubs, he’s walking along the Westminster Bridge at sunrise that’s completely empty. There music is so very subtle, and at first there’s no music at all, which enhance the sense of abandonment and creepy feeling of this brilliant scene.

Last Chance Harvey – Wedding invitation

There are a lot of lovely scenes around London in this heartwarming film. This is one of them overlooking the Thames on a sunny day. Kate, the woman Harvey’s path crosses with during his London trip, encourages Harvey to actually attend the wedding reception of his daughter. There’s a lot of poignant dialog in this film and the tentative romance between Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson’s characters just felt so authentic.

Rocknrolla – Art Museum dealings

Guy Ritchie’s version of London, the criminal underworld setting that his films are often set in. I’m not sure the name of the Art Museum in this setting, perhaps one of you Londoners might be able to tell me? Gerry Butler and Thandie Newton make for a stunning couple and Thandie is especially seductive here, wearing a spiky pair of heels that even macho guys like One Two would notice.

The King’s Speech – A stroll on a foggy day

I can’t find the exact scene when Bertie [that is Albert the Duke of York] takes a stroll with his speech therapist Lionel in the misty gardens. It’s one of the key scenes between the two of them that ends with the duke being angry at Lionel for wanting to treat him as equal as part of his therapy, and the parting words to Lionel is a pretty harsh one, ‘You’re a Nobody.’ The foggy setting somehow makes this scene even more affecting.

Now, since I can’t find that scene, I also love this whimsical ‘speech exercise’ scene at Lionel’s beautiful home:

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince – Death Eater’s Attack

There are perhaps a bunch of other London-set scenes that I’m forgetting about as there are so many of them in the Harry Potter movies. But this one that mixes contemporary London with the Hogwarts universe is particularly memorable and beautifully-filmed. Voldemort’s evil henchmen launched an air attack on Trafalgar Square and the Millennium Bridge, the special effects of the fiery attack is fantastic. Certainly one of the most bombastic London scenes ever filmed.

My Fair Lady – Wouldn’t it be loverly?

Ok, I’ve got to have at least one classic films on here, right. Well, I picked one of the three earliest Hollywood films I’ve ever watched which is set entirely in London. The opening sequence outside of the Opera House in Covent Garden is one of my favorites. There’s a plethora of other wonderful songs here, but this one before Eliza becomes a ‘lady’ is just well, lovely. The one where Freddy sang On The Street Where You Live as also quite memorable, I could listen to that song over and over again.

Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix – Flying over Thames

I didn’t want to have TWO scenes from Harry Potter but I just couldn’t live this one out as it shows London at night when Harry and his co-horts are flying over the Thames. The Parliament looks absolutely magical with all those lights. I love night aerial scenes, just like in Superman films whenever Supes takes Lois up around Manhattan.

Love Actually – Heathrow scene

Since I made an entire posts on the London Tubes a couple of years ago, I think Heathrow Airport, one of the busiest airports in the whole world. This sweet scene in Love, Actually is fun and quite touching. I think puppy love is always so endearing and Liam Neeson’s stepson Sam who falls for his American classmate Joanna is just so darn adorable. This chase through the airport always makes me tear up 🙂


Stay tuned for Part II with favorite actors born in London.


Well, what are YOUR own favorite movie scene(s) in London?

DVD Picks: Love Stories for Grown-Ups: Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day & Last Chance Harvey

With all the Gen Y and teenybopper flicks out there, how about a couple of poignant love stories for grown-ups?

Both of these films deal with middle-aged people finding love, even though story-wise they can’t be more different.

Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day (2008)

pettigrewI’ve been wanting to see this for quite some time, particularly after Lee Pace blew me away with his performance in The Fall, which leads me to IMDB him (yes, that’s a word as much as google has become one) and see what else this bloke has done.

Miss Pettigrew… tells the story of a penniless London governess in desperate need of a job who ends up in the house of a glamorous American actress, Delysia Lafosse. It’s a rather fluffy fairytale story but a delightful and entertaining one nonetheless, largely because of Frances McDormand and Amy Adams‘ performance as the title role and miss Lafosse, respectively. It’s an example of how a fairly simplistic story can be so much more with perfect casting, down to the supporting casts that include two of my favorite British character actors Mark Strong and Ciaran Hinds (best known as Julius Caesar in HBO’s Rome).

It’s fitting that fellow blogger M. Carter calls McDormand an actress that’s ‘perfect for every part.’ At first I wasn’t sure what to make of her in this, but she carries her role with aplom and a touch of whimsy, even her British accent is pretty darn good. As Lafosse’s social secretary, Guinevere Pettigrew is suddenly catapulted into London’s glitzy world. The movie shows a nice contrast between her straight-laced character and the unscrupulous Lafosse who pretty much sleeps her way to the top.

The actress lives in a fancy apartment belonging to Nick (Mark Strong), a wealthy nightclub owner, but at the same time she’s fooling around with the young son of a producer of a musical she wishes to star in. That’s not all, her third boyfriend, nightclub pianist Michael (Lee Pace) is also thrown into the mix, which forces the disconcerted Guinevere to be little creative (ok, tricky) in making sure her boss’ dalliance doesn’t cost her the musical role nor the fancy apartment. The overwhelming sequence of events happen within 24-hours (it’s like a whimsical retro episode of 24 without Jack Bauer). In that short period of time, Miss Pettigrew herself ends up finding romance in an unlikely circumstance. Her suitor Joe Bloomfield (Ciaran Hinds) is a lingerie designer from a humble beginning, whose conversation with Guinevere is one of the heartfelt and less frivolous moments of the movie.

Amy Adams is just as bubbly (if not more) here as she was in Enchanted, yet she has that rare gift that makes any character she plays so darn lovable despite her vice. She also looks as if she belongs in pre-WW II era, those teeny-tiny waisted skirts and dresses fit her perfectly. The costume design and cinematography are exquisite, see some of the images from the movie in this interior designer’s blog.

The fairy tale ending is to be expected, wrapped with a pretty red bow even an air raid warning in the brink of war can’t dampen its buoyant spirit. But hey, some movies are made for pure escapism, and on that note, this movie delivers and then some.

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels


Last Chance Harvey (2008)

HarveyI saw this on the plane back from Bali. Although dealing a similar theme of ‘you’re never too old to find love,’ this one is no fairy tale. In fact, what’s great about Last Chance Harvey is its realness and honest-to-goodness quandary most of us can relate. Boasting two top-notch performers who are on top of their game, Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson make a delightful and endearing couple.

Set in London, Hoffman plays Harvey Shine, a divorced and workaholic jingle-writer on the verge of losing his job. He is in London to attend his estranged daughter’s wedding, only to realize how distant he is from his own family that she decides to ask her stepfather to give her away instead. Heartbroken, Harvey attends the wedding anyway, only to be interrupted by an emergency work call during the ceremony, but he ends up missing his flight and gets fired.

What a double whammy for Harvey, and it all happens within a day! But you never know when life can take an unexpected turn, that’s one of the lessons this movie tells me. It’s when he’s sulking away at an airport bar that he bumps into Kate, who’s dealing with her own bad day the best way she knows how, with a glass of wine and a book. Emma is a wonderful actress whose acting style is so natural it’s as if she’s not acting at all. Her witty, comical yet poignant banter with Dustin is what makes this movie great. No need for fancy camera work, great costumes or any CGI of any kind in this movie, as watching these two act against each other is the best ‘special effect’ there is.

Well, if there is another fantastic element that nearly stole my attention away from these two, it would be the gorgeous London scenery. I’d rent this one again just to ‘take a tour’ around the beautiful city. The location is a perfect backdrop for the love journey they share, as their chance meeting leads to lunch, a walk around the city, even going back to Harvey’s daughter’s reception together. Despite her hapless love life—illustrated brilliantly at her blind date with a younger man that leaves her out of her element—Kate is still optimistic about life, which unwittingly helps Harvey gets his ‘spark’ back as well. Just like any real-life romances, things aren’t always smooth sailing. We often run into disappointment and heartbreak, whether the circumstance is intentional or planned.Yet everyone deserves a second chance, or third or fourth, and that’s what this movie is all about.

This is a slow-paced romantic film and the storyline isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but great performances and well-written dialogue keeps it fresh and far from boring. In fact, it’s a real gem of a flick that shines brilliantly amongst all the big budget & trivial selections lining up your movie rental walls.

4 out of 5 reels


Has anyone seen either one of these? If so, what did you think?