Sign in using your account with
How I Spent My Summer Vacation: Entertaining Action-Thriller
Sometimes small is better. There are times when all you want is a basic, straightforward action film that doesn’t require you to turn a blind eye to the rules of logic; one that doesn’t consider good action and decent characters to be mutually exclusive. How I Spent My Summer Vacation is that film. It’s not a blockbuster but it’s very entertaining and does what it sets out to do really well.
Mel Gibson plays an unnamed criminal who steals a few million from an American businessman and runs off to Mexico only to get caught by a couple of corrupt border police. The policemen take the money and throw Gibson in a jail that’s more of a shantytown surrounded by snipers than your classic cells-with-bars set-up. In there, he meets a young boy (Hernandez) who shows him the ropes and teaches him about the power hierarchy. Gibson adapts pretty well and starts to carve out a little niche for himself, until the robbed businessman sends some of his henchmen to find him and retrieve the stolen money. Gibson has to find a way to break out of jail, taking the kid, who’s about to have his liver stolen by the prison’s head inmate, and the kid’s mother (Heredia) with him.
The main factor that pushes this film from average into surprisingly good is the decision to have the Mexicans speak in Spanish instead of accented English. A sizeable chunk of the film is subtitled which automatically gives the film a sense of reality and makes it so much easier to take the characters seriously. Add to it the City of God style visuals and the Latin soundtrack and you have a film that feels authentically Mexican. And even though the Mexican characters are mostly corrupt officers, criminals or dirt poor - sometimes all three - they’re not walking stereotypes; both due to the sheer variety of the characters and the acting. Even the criminals, who are basically everybody other than the kid, are not portrayed as one hundred percent evil; they’re given human sides and motives that shine a light on the logic behind their actions.
Gibson gives a pretty understated performance, biding his time until his character’s given a chance to let loose and show flashes of borderline insanity, but he’s thoroughly watchable whether he’s eavesdropping, pick pocketing, brandishing a gun or lobbing grenades. His charisma shines through and he turns his character into a criminal worth rooting for. And speaking of grenades, the film is big on violence though it hardly feels gratuitous. It has some pretty sweet, well filmed, action sequences - ones in which you can actually see what’s going on - and quite a few cool-guy-walking-away-from-explosion type shots, which while ridiculous, are still completely entertaining.
Honestly, this film was a surprise. Not only is it far better than its marketing campaign lets on, but it’s genuinely entertaining. It’s a solid action film on all counts.
Sinking the already-shaky horror-genre deeper into further oblivion, Ouija – based on a popular spirit-summoning board-game from the 1890’s – is, unfortunately, nothing to get excited about.
Written and directed by Stiles White – along with the penning support of Juliet Snowden – the story is centred on best friends, Laine (Cooke) and Debbie (Henning), who, ever since they were young girls, loved to indulge in a childish and seemingly harmless play using the Ouija board.
Several years later, however, Laine is shocked to learn that Debbie has killed herself and even more surprised to learn that – after visiting her home – that there is evidence of Debbie playing with the Ouija board all by herself; a big no-no in the world of spirits and magic. In order to get to resolve the mystery surrounding her death, Laine calls upon the help of her sister, Sarah (Coto), friend, Trevor, (Kagasoff) and Debbie’s boyfriend, Pete (Smith), to play with the Ouija board and summon Debbie’s spirit.
However, things turn upside down when they accidentally end up summoning an evil spirit who, unlike Debbie, wishes to spread harm upon the group. Now, Laine, who brought everyone into this mess in the first place, needs to find a way to shut the portal - between earth and the life beyond - before it’s too late.
Although the idea of turning a popular board-game into a movie doesn’t sound all that ridiculous and the material seems generally interesting, there just isn’t enough imagination or character in Ouija to make it worthwhile. Lacking depth and character, the film relies a little bit too much on the jump-scare tactic and the lack of suspense and tension only adds to its weak attempt to create a frightening horror experience.
Adding salt to the wound, the characters are just as weak thanks to the poorly-scripted material. Cooke leads the way as the only character of note and the relatively new face won’t have harmed her future prospects. The rest of the cast, unfortunately, simply don’t register and ultimately fail to convey a single genuine emotion.
Ouija is tedious, unimaginative and seemingly uninterested in elaborating and expanding on its own source material.
Written and directed by David Ayer, Fury may come across as just another WWII story that has been told many times before, but there’s more to it than it meets the eye.
Set in April of 1945, the story centres on the final days of the war, just as the Allies and their forces have pushed the Germans back into their own land for one last fight. Having just returned to base from a long, drawn-out battle, Sgt. Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier (Pitt) and his loyal ‘Sherman’ tank crew, including Boyd Swan (LaBeouf), Grady Travis (Bernthal) and Trini ‘Gordo’ Garcia (Pena), are mourn the death of their buddy, Red.
However, they're soon presented with his replacement in the form of Norman Ellison (Lerman); a young and a naïve clerk, who’s only been in the army for eight weeks and has never set foot on a battlefield, let alone operated heavy artillery. Naturally, the Sherman boys aren’t very keen on welcoming the fresh-faced soldier onboard.
Nevertheless, they all soon head onto the battleground to fight what is left of the Nazi forces and Norman’s inexperience, naivety and general apprehension of blood and war is soon put to the ultimate test.
There are over two hundred WWII Hollywood-made movies and although the genre has produced some truly memorable films over the years, the majority have failed to add anything new.
Enter David Ayer – the director and writer behind gems such as Training Day and End of Watch – who manages, ever so subtlety, to inject the story with plenty of essence. Extremely violent and grey, Fury – told mainly from within the confinement of a military tank – is explosive and full of anger – hence the title – however, it’s more peaceful and quieter moments that speak the loudest and the harshness of war and loss is felt throughout.
The onscreen chemistry between the loyal band of brothers keeps the film interesting. Pitt offers an engaging performance as a hard-worn sergeant, while LeBeouf, Bernthal and Pena round off the impressive cast with solid performances.
Similarly, Lerman, better known for his role in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, delivers the naivety and innocence of youth that the role demanded with aplomb.
While many will consider Fury to be of little significance in the large scope of war period dramas, it's very much the case that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. You won't see anything new here, but the film's heart and soul is largely owed to its central characters and a director who knows how to tell a story.