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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.
James Watkins’ 2012’s The Woman in Black – led by one Daniel Radcliffe – was named one of the best British horror films of the past twenty years, so it comes as no surprise that a sequel, The Woman in Black 2 – a dreary follow-up which unfortunately fails to re-capture the mood and tone of the original – was quickly set to follow.
Directed by Tom Harper, The Woman in Black 2 is set forty-years after the events of its predecessor and plays out against the backdrop of WWII, as a number of orphaned children are evacuated to the countryside for safety.
Schoolteachers, Eve Parkins (Fox) and Jean Hogg (McCrory), are put in charge of helping to evacuate eight orphans out of the city and are tasked to take them to the abandoned Eel Marsh House, where they’re expected to set up camp until things back in the city settle down. Amongst the group of foundlings, is Edward (Pendergast); a young and a seemingly troubled boy who, after witnessing the death of his parents, has become temporarily mute and only communicates through notes and drawings.
It doesn’t take long before Eve – someone who has taken a special liking to Edward – begins noticing that something is off and that the young boy is being troubled by an evil presence (a.k.a The Woman in Black).
Like so many horror sequels, The Woman in Black 2 is nothing but a futile and a poorly constructed cash-grab. While the misty aesthetics manage to add a bit of the creepiness to the overall proceedings, the story – which has already been assessed and probed from all angles in the original – doesn’t really know where to go, let alone sustain the interest of the audience who will almost certainly see the jump-scares coming from a mile away.
Taking every single horror cliché and failing to provide and infuse any real depth or meaning to the character’s individual arcs, the performance, as a result, were equally ineffective. The drama is non-existent and the frights are cheap and relatively short-lived, ultimately, branding the film completely redundant.
Well-deserving of all the attention it’s been getting, James Marsh’s Theory of Everything – an emotional and a rousing look inside the life of one Professor Stephen W. Hawking and his loving but, turbulent thirty-year long marriage to Jane Hawking – is nothing short of wonderful.
Sourced from Jane’s 2008 memoir, Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, the story begins in 1963, with an exceptionally charming twenty-one physicist, Stephen Hawking (Redmayne), on his way of pursuing his doctorate from the University of Cambridge.
It is there that he first meets the beautiful literature-major student, Jane Wilde (Jones); a devout Christian whose outlook on life – and science in particular – doesn’t necessarily fall in line with his more agnostic and mathematical assessments of human existence.
Just as the love between the two begins to blossom and Stephen begins preparing for his final thesis, he discovers that he is suffering from motor neuron disease; an illness that will soon begin to take away his ability to walk and talk, amongst other things. Having been given only two years to live, the young and the highly-intelligent physicist – whose thirst for knowledge and passion for life refuses to surrender – slowly begins to challenge his weaknesses. However, as he continues to grow professionally, his life at home with Jane – who is single-handedly carrying his physical limitations on her frail shoulders – begins to show signs of despair.
While this is in fact a biopic – a simple and a straightforward one at that – which celebrates the life and work of Hawking, it is also very important to note that this is not a story that goes deep into his rise to fame as the renowned physicist we know today. It’s a much smaller scale story of love and compassion and a one focuses on human endurance, courage and, most of all, hope.
The Theory of Everything is shot beautifully and a real sense of romanticism and nostalgia – driven by a sensual and a tear-jerking classical score – can be felt throughout. It’s an emotionally-rich drama that, although sometimes can feel a little too sugary, manages to stay grounded. It is, to a large degree, thanks to Redmayne’s extraordinary performance audiences will be able to appreciate what is an insightful and meaningful peak inside the private life of one of the most respected and remarkable minds living today.