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.
Many were concerned that Disney’s revisit to the story of Jungle Book would find it hard to be as fun or as magical as the original. Luckily, however, with an excellent voice cast and an impressive array of visuals, The Jungle Book is something of a technical marvel which manages to retain the heart and the essence of the story’s long-established roots.
Mowgli (Sethi) is a young boy - a.k.a ‘man-cub’ - who was found abandoned in the Indian jungle by a panther named Bagheera (voiced brilliantly by Kingsley) when he was only a toddler. Brought up by a wolf pack - led by leader Akela (Esposito) - Mowgli has been accepted as one of the jungle’s own.
However, there’s one member of the jungle who’s not so keen on having a human living in their midst; vicious Bengal tiger, Shere Khan (the absolutely magnificent Edris Elba), worries that the boy will soon grow into a ruthless man who will bring nothing but destruction and devastation to them all. Coming to the conclusion that it’s in everyone’s best interest if he leaves, Mowgli embarks on a journey through the jungle where he meets and quickly befriends a friendly bear named Baloo (the always excellent Bill Murray) who convinces the young boy to stay, as he finds himself returning home to face Khan.
Infusing the story with plenty of heart and an incredible sense of visual grandeur, director Jon Favreau and writer Justin Marks pull together elements from both the Disney’s 1967 animated adaptation and Rudyard Kipling’s original collection of stories to great effect. In addition, there are refreshingly darker, less happy-go-lucky moments throughout the film, with Elba’s chief antagonist, Khan, being astonishingly affective as the villain of the piece, while Johansson’s Kaa is just as hair-raising.
The brilliant voice performances, which give their gorgeously rendered and astonishingly real-looking CGI-generated characters plenty of personality, charm and wit, is definitely one of the strongest aspects of the story, with Elba and Murray coming out on top as the most scene-stealing of the bunch. Sethi is equally wonderful as the young Mowgli, filling his character with plenty of genuine childlike wonder, while Walken is absolutely superb as the singing Gigantopithecus, King Louie.
Wonderfully told and gorgeous to look at, The Jungle Book is not only a marvellous technical achievement in filmmaking, but a commendable and surprising achievement in storytelling.
There have been fewer talked about films over the last six months – possibly longer – than the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)’s latest entry, Captain America: Civil War, save for possibly the largely underwhelming Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Just the very idea of Cap and Iron Man going head to head has been enough to make even the most casual comic-book movie fan salivate – and they won’t be disappointed. At least for the most part.
By now, we all know the plot – the government-sponsored Savokia Accords that are to police and scrutinise superhero activities, have split the Avengers and some other familiar faces and pitted them against each other in what has been built as a battle for the ages.
While there are parallels to draw between Civil War and Batman Vs Superman, the former benefits from the fact that its heroes have been established over the last eight years and so it’s easy to invest in the emotions of the situation the heroes find themselves in – and emotion is a key word here, because there’s plenty of it thanks to the fact that the base of the film is much more complex as opposed to the usual black-and-white, good-versus-bad set-up of previous MCU films.
Other than just two sides of opposing views facing each other, personal revenge, the continuing fallout of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the introduction of new characters, like Black Panther and, of course, Spider-Man, flesh out the story into a much more rounded film.
There’s an air of seriousness that has rarely reared its head in previous MCU films, but it doesn’t come at the expense of the touches of humour and general energy that has come to define the MCU. There’s a good balance between these factors that all comes together nicely thanks in part to the performances, which keep things grounded. Evans and Downey Jr produce their best and most complex turns as Captain America and Iron Man respectively and their own personal feud is the driving force of the story. Downey Jr. in particular can chalk this down as one of his best performances in years, reminding us that he was a ‘serious actor’ in his pre-Iron Man days.
But this is not the perfect superhero movie everyone willed it to be. Like the Avengers movies, Civil War still feels like a cog in a machine that isn’t all that clear. The most obvious assumption to make would be that it’s all still building up to the next Avengers films, Infinity War Part One and Part Two.
As a spectacle, this is a thrilling ensemble comic-book adaptation that was impossible to imagine when Iron Man was released way back in 2008 and is a good platform for the expanding Marvel roster. The best metaphor one could refer to in describing Civil War, though, is that it’s a little bit like eating at prissy high-end restaurant that serves small dishes – the food is fantastic, but you leave still feeling hungry.