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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.
Despite the fact that so few sequels have ever topped, or even matched, the original, How to Train Your Dragon 2 – the sequel to the 2010 hit and the middle chapter of the three-part trilogy – proves otherwise.
Written and directed by Dean DeBlois, the story is set five years after the events of the first film; the Vikings of Berk are now sharing their skies with their winged-friends and Hiccup (Baruchel) has patched things up with father, Berk’s powerful leader, Stoic (Butler).
Now that Red Death has been defeated, the island is relatively peaceful, but Hiccup – now a fully grown man – is about to face a new set of challenges as his father prepares to pass the torch down to his only heir. However, Hiccup prefers to spend most of his time exploring the uncharted lands beyond the island with his now-girlfriend, Astrid (Ferrera), and his pet-dragon, Toothless, a.k.a Night Fury.
Soon, they come across Eret (Harrington); a dragon thief looking to poach anything he can get his hands on to sell to Drago (Honsou) – a ruthless figure looking to build an army of dragons and assume power over the entire kingdom. After successfully escaping Eret, they end up finding a dragon sanctuary controlled by Valka (Blanchett); a mysterious woman who holds a deep understanding of dragons and the only person who might be able to help Hiccup – and the Vikings of Berk – fight off Drago’s rising threat.
In order to make a worthy sequel, one must first make sure that the story is worth revisiting; the first movie was a big hit so it was only natural that a sequel would follow – one of the basic rules of Hollywood. Moving the story into a new direction and building on its already established premise is the next key to its success.
The setup is much bigger this time and the well thought-out narrative ends up serving as a coming-of-age story – as opposed to an underdog tale of a boy and his pet-dragon – which now follows a young man who is forced to leave the naivety of his adolescence behind and move into the troubling waters of manhood. There are a lot more dragons to play with too and the skies over Berk are livelier and feistier than ever; the animation is refined and engaging and there is never a dull moment.
Baruchel is once again loveable as the hesitant hero and as his tenacious father, Butler – still sporting a strong Scottish accent – is as efficient as ever. However, it’s the addition of Blanchett that adds weight to a story that not only entertains, but also offers a few life lessons on the importance of family, integrity and courage.
First, it’s important to establish that we cannot place the blame in its entirety on Ramez Galal for his sadistic show. A big part of the blame should fall on us, the viewers, who eagerly wait for pranks and spike the show’s ratings, even reaching the point where café owners will blast these shows on large TVs to attract customers. It’s time to admit that there’s a sadist in all of us.
The premise of the show is a guest will come in to film an episode about the World Cup on a zodiac boat out at sea. The boat malfunctions, one of the presenters dives in to see what’s wrong, and the events quickly escalate to the boat sinking with the guest and a fake shark attack.
In the episode with Rania Mahmoud Yassin and Mohamed Riad, it’s interesting to point out that the boat didn’t sink entirely, and Rania kept a firm clutch on her sunglasses in a situation where any normal person would’ve let go of his/her belongings in exchange for safety. We ignored these points at first, but after several mentions on TV and by other viewers, we couldn’t help but wonder.
The show comes with a lot of legal issues this year, of which, a case that Athar El Hakim filed against Galal, banning her episode from airing, under the pretence that the prank extremely frightened her. The truth behind that is in question, after a video of her discussing her pay for the episode was leaked. Other legal issues concerning the show include damage to marine life from planting metal poles to support the hidden cameras.
Because nothing is black and white, it’s important to admit Galal’s sense of humour and experience, especially when it’s imitated by an artist like Mohamed Fouad in his show “Fo’sh Fil Mo’askar”, a stale and completely void of humour prank show.
We have to admit, we were impressed by the shark boat Galal uses to rescue the guests. He is a smart actor who was able to establish himself within Ramadan TV and create shows that people wait for year to year.