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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.
With critically-acclaimed box office hits like Crash and Million Dollar Baby among his past credits, British screenwriter and director, Paul Haggins, has a Hollywood reputation that brings a certain expectation to any project he’s involved in. His latest effort, however, doesn't seem to know which way it wants to go or what it wants to say.
Set in Paris, New York and Rome, Third Person is built around multiple storylines which follow the lives of three couples, each dealing with their own set of dilemmas in matters of the heart. Michael (Neeson) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author whose best days are behind him. He's come to Paris to work on his latest novel and also to spend some quality time with his young mistress, Anna (Wilde); a fame-hungry journalist with a mysterious past.
Meanwhile, in the Eternal City of Rome, Scott (Brody) – a dodgy American businessman, who makes his money stealing designer clothes in order to make cheap knockoffs – is in Italy for business where he ends up meeting Monika (Atias); a distressed Romanian-gypsy beauty trying to find her daughter, who, according to her, was sold into slavery.
Last of all, there is Julia (Kunis); a troubled ex-soap opera actress –now working as a housekeeping maid in a five-star hotel – who has been battling for custody of her six-year old son from her ex-husband, Rick (Franco) – a famous New York artist who believes that Julia is mentally unfit to take care of their child.
Interlocking stories tend to make an interesting watch – see Magnolia, Love Actually, Paris Je T'aime – and there is always a sense of anticipation in watching how all of the story threads will come together at the end. In Third Person, unfortunately, there is very little that’s engaging about the the storyline itself. The script is overstated – even overdramatized at times – and thanks to the constant clue-dropping, the end-result is predictable, to say the least.
Kunis spends most of her time crying, while Franco’s instinctive laid-back approach doesn’t really register. As the shifty entrepreneur, Brody is given one of the most simplistic – and highly implausible – scenarios to work with, but thanks to his chemistry with the gorgeous Atis, he manages to deliver. Neeson, meanwhile, is convincing as the weathered author, while Wilde is once again incredibly watchable and engaging.
Pretty to look at but lacking the direction, focus and overall passion needed to sustain interest; Third Person is awkward and most definitely one of Haggins' most disappointing projects to date.
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.