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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.
The latest film from American director, Brad Anderson – the same man behind 2004 psychological thriller, The Machinist, and 2001 indie-horror, Session 9 – takes a rare look inside the workings of 911 response services.
The Call begins with 911 operator, Jordan Turner (Berry), handling calls at 'The Hive' – L.A's emergency response centre. Six months after failing to help a young girl escape an intruder that broke into her home, Jordan throws in her headset and turns to training rookies.
Even now, Jordon still has a hard time dealing with the incident and despite the moral support of her co-workers and cop boyfriend, Paul (Chestnut), the veteran operator’s past still haunts her. Soon, she is forced to face her nightmares, when she receives a call from Casey Welson (Breslin); a teenage girl who has found herself trapped in the trunk of a car, kidnapped by a madman at a mall parking lot. With time running out, Jordan needs to keep Casey calm and safe until help can reach her.
With the penning support of Richard D'Ovidio, director Brad Anderson creates a gripping and psychologically-unnerving ride that will keep viewers' adrenaline pumping. Knowing that there is no time to waste, The Call doesn't give you time to get to know the characters and dives into the action straight away, which ultimately results in countless white-knuckle thrills, a good dose of shocking brutality and edge-of-your-seat drama.
Despite this, The Call suffers from several plot holes; the build-up is intense and rock-solid, but as the plot winds down towards a climax, things become a little too familiar and cheesy.
After several questionable turns since her historic Oscar win, Berry delivers a very watchable performance; cool and collected, the role is a perfect fit for the forty-six year old. Breslin – now all grown up – shows that she has matured as an actress and even with one too many moments of over-the-top hysteria, her role is very much the driving force behind the drama. However, all of the brownie points go to the Canadian-born actor Eklund, whose portrayal of the psychotic abductor is unsettling in the most merciless of ways; just as it should be.
Although it requires you to suspend your disbelief quite severely at times, The Call still manages to thrill, entertain and make you look over your shoulder when in an empty parking lot.
Subtlety has never really concerned Australian-born filmmaker, Baz Luhrmann. The man who brought us as Romeo and Juliet and Moulin Rouge is both known and reviled for his dazzling and glitzy visual panache, and the notion of impossible love is forever present as the heart of his largely theatrical and melodramatic productions.
Flamboyant and extravagant, The Great Gatsby is visually striking, but when stripped down, has little to offer.
The film opens with a depressed and weary Nick Carraway (Maguire) who is being treated for alcoholism. Unable to articulate his thoughts on a man named Gatsby, he begins to put pen to paper under instructions from his doctors.
We then flash back to 1922, where Nick, then a bond salesman, moves to the fictional town of West Egg, nearby to his cousin Daisy Buchanan (Mulligan) and her husband Tom (Edgerton). Nick’s new home happens to neighbour that of a mysterious and elusive Jay Gatsby (DiCaprio). An enigma to his neighbours, Gatsby perennially throws the most extravagant parties, but the millionaire generally lives his life as a recluse.
After discovering that Tom is having an affair, Nick receives an invitation to one of the Gatsby’s infamous parties. Once there, Gatsby reveals that he is still in love with Nick’s cousin Daisy, after a brief romantic encounter years before. As Nick slowly becomes entangled in the bizarre life of Gatsby, the cynicism and hypocrisy of West Egg’s inhabitants drives the characters to great lengths to preserve their own vanity and sense of self-importance.
F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel has continually struggled to translate onto the big-screen and previous adaptations have failed to capture the essence that made this the ‘Great American Novel’.
Disappointingly, Luhrmann’s stab at the project has yielded few improvements. The director’s trademark approach is extraordinary, and over-the-top doesn't begin to describe the flamboyant visual experience that he creates. But while for the most part it works, the unflinching visual style and the sweeping overhead shots prove to be a little too sensational for what is an intricate and complex plot.
However, the biggest downfall is the emotional hollowness of the story. Luhrmann fails to infuse emotional connections between the characters, while the soundtrack – which features everything from jazz and hip-hop to techno and dance – is every bit as awkward as it sounds.
Despite Luhrmann’s misguided post-modern motions, DiCaprio gives the film depth with an excellent interpretation of the eponymous character’s charm and allure. Meanwhile, Mulligan plays her character in a way that maintains her position as the object of desire perfectly; though she too is a victim of the absurdities of West Egg, it becomes difficult to surrender any sympathy to her. Maguire, on the other hand, shines in his wallflower role; although he is guilty of enabling many of the decisions that the characters make, he retains an innocence and naivety that is integral to the plot.
All in all, Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby fails to render the novel’s grandness in terms of plot, but taken as a whole package, the stylistics make for an entertaining piece of cinema.