Wednesday, 13 June 2012

EURO 2012: Ireland vs. Spain preview

The comfortable 3-1 defeat to Croatia in the opening game of Ireland's Euro 2012 campaign was a shock to some in Ireland. Inside 3 minutes of our first international championship in 10 years, we were brought back to reality with one dodgy header that trickled in. On an RTE poll, 86% of those who text in thought we would actually beat the Croatian's (a team who are currently ranked 8th in the FIFA rankings). Excuses were made, but the stone cold truth is that we're just not that good and Croatia, despite not being all that much better, could do the basics better and took advantage of our slack defending to punish us.

The current world and defending Euro champions Spain present us with an even greater threat, but more importantly with a surprising opportunity. Depending on which Spain turns up; the one that wants to play some football or the one that wants to have a whine and a moan, there are two possible outcomes. The first is; the Spain that has won all the major international tournaments turn up and we are thought a footballing lesson, where only a miracle of biblical proportions could defend us from being destroyed by a potent Spanish attack. Not being unfair to the players who are representing us; but players like Stephen Ward and Stephen St. Ledger (who has done terrific and scored a great goal against Croatia) who has had limited football time at his club Leicester City (not even a Premier League team) is worrying and up against the likes of Xavi, Andrés Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas. In the game against Croatia, we saw Ireland giving the opposition too much space and if that trend continues against the Spain, it could very well be a long night.

The second (and slightly less likely event) is that we get at the Spanish back four. In our favour, the Spanish defence is far from solid and there is definitely room to get amongst them and give them some hassle and put them under pressure. Seasoned veterans like Robbie Keane and Damien Duff are good enough to keep the Spanish defence busy and carve out a few chances. But these chances will be few and far between as Spain will no doubt have the majority of possession and will dominate from the off. A possibility and likely to happen will see us crowd the midfield and have two banks of 4 in front of every Spanish move and then attempt the counter. Glenn Whealan and Keith Andrews will have to have extraordinary games and have utmost discipline to keep them at bay. And possibly if the Spanish grow frustrated and their fans start getting on their backs, who knows? As seen in the Champions League this season, the best footballing teams don't necessarily mean victory. Even at that, as remarkable and astonishing it would be to see Ireland get a result against Spain, going by what we have seen in the first game, it is not all that likely of happening. But we can still all dream. Fingers crossed.

ALBUM REVIEW: The Smashing Pumpkins - Oceania (2012)

Artist: The Smashing Pumpkins
Album: Oceania
Label: EMI/Caroline Distribution/Martha's Music
Genre: Alternative rock
Length: 60:02

The Smashing Pumpkins heyday in the 1990's found them universal acclaim, multi-platinum album sales and a legion of dedicated followers. Rock music in general has suffered considerably in the past decade and the decline of The Smashing Pumpkins has coincided with this decline with a long chronicled tale of infighting which led to their eventual split in 2000. Now reformed with frontman Billy Corgan as the only original member in the line-up and with 2008's ugly and disappointing return Zeitgeist behind them as well as the partly finished 44-track experiment hit-and-miss fest Teargarden by Kaleidyscope put on-hold for the release of this "album-within-an-album", Oceania.

Oceania is everything that Zeitgeist isn't. Zeitgeist's overproduced and grinding guitars are largely absent from Oceania despite opening similarly heavy; the end product is a far more melodic and gentle album. Depending on your tolerance levels for Corgan's unique vocal delivery and his often pandering lyrics, this album will satisfy Pumpkin fans who adored the Adore-era output of the band and those who saw any sort of promise in the ambitious Teargarden by Kaleidyscope project. The production here is top notch and the songs are wonderfully varied with traditional Pumpkins mainstays of heavy riffs and gentle tracks to the psychedelic and use of electronic (used to fantastic effect in the great Pinwheels). Corgan's voice is in great shape and always has had a hauntingly beautiful quality to it (when he is not waling at least). Album stand-outs like Violet Rays, Pinwheels, Pale Horse and Wildflower are gorgeously textured tracks and are sweeping in scale and ambition. Violet Rays is an early hint that this group of musicians have finally clicked as a unit and are flowing seamlessly and with artistic vigour. Corgan's grandiose compositions are no surprise given his talent, but rarely (lately especially) has it all come together so well. The best song on the album is the lively and infectious Glissandra and comes at a stage in the album (track 11 of 13) where a kick in adrenaline is needed and it is pitch perfect and invokes memories of some of their biggest hits.

This album is a supreme return to form by Corgan and company. After the bad taste Zeitgeist left, Oceania is a vibrant, expressive joy of an album. The album is a wonderful reminder that while the original line-up of The Smashing Pumpkins may be gone never to reform, Corgan and his choice of replacements have recaptured a sound that has not been heard at anywhere near it's best since 1998's Adore. Unexpected as it may be, this may very well be one of the albums of the year.


Friday, 8 June 2012

EURO 2012: Ireland's Euro 2012 vision

Ireland made it to their first major football competition in 10 years with an emphatic (yet unsurprising) demolition of Estonia in the play-off decider. What awaits us in Group C is another monster completely. The might of Spain and Italy mixed with grit and underdogs Croatia who have sprung more than a few surprises in their time. Realistically, our hopes of progress rely firmly on the Spaniards contracting the Ebola virus (even at that, I predict a 1-1 draw), the Italians withdrawing from the competition altogether after reports of several squad members betting accounts have offshore accounts in the Cayman Islands and the slight chance that Croatia is assimilated back into Yugoslavia and embrace love over the violent and conflict-filled game that is football. But if that doesn't happen, how will Ireland's adventure to Poland and the Ukraine go?

Our opening game versus Croatia will basically decide our progress beyond the group stages. A win against the tricky Croat's will no doubt build up confidence to immeasurable levels and the Spanish and I-talians will no doubt crumble at the mere sight of WHELAN and ANDREWS, a partnership that makes the tiki-takaier's Xavi and Andrés Iniesta look like schoolboys (size wise anyway). On the field however, I would expect Spain to dominate possession. As they inevitably do. Always. However, as boring European Champions Chelsea exhibited against the cool teams like Barcelona and Bayern Munich (or as I always prefer to call them; FC Bayern Munchen, rawr), boring football bores the opposition into submission. Chelsea's reliance on long-ball Jackie Charltonism may have worked a treat against Barca and Munchen, and could well do so again against the handbag carrying Spaniards, but how will it work against those dastardly I-talians?

Charltonism: Jack explains route one football to an unfortunate player

Traditional Italian football standards in the group stages suggest a slow start and a great finish (usually over-performing to levels that generally consist of finishing as Semi-Finalists or winning it). But based on their slow start and overly defensive set-up against out overly defensive set-up, don't be surprised if the scoreline ends up something like -1 apiece. So, based on my calculations of our results from those first three games will leave us with something resembling 9 points or thereabouts, which would give us a slight chance of making the Quarter-Finals. This means France or England (or ideally Sweden or Ukraine, but this is a serious article so we'll keep it that way). Both France and England seem like tantalising revenge jobs. The English, perpetual Quater-Finalists and hazy after heavy partying for the Queen's Jubes will only field six players due to injuries, excuses and hangovers while the French will receive 7 red cards for continuously handling the ball (clichéd I know) and will eventually forfeit in embarrassment as super-sub Paul McShane scores a 70-yard screamer. 

Paul McShane: Thundering lummox or footballing superstar?

After making it that far, I assume the greatest challenge to our European domination will be the Germans and the Dutch. The Netherlands will be as fiesty and competitive as they come. Tackles would fly in and cards will be shown at will. The deciding moment of the match will be a clash between Irish member of the Night's Watch Richard Dunne and Dutch warlock Nigel De Jong. After extra-time, Dunne finishes De Jong off in a brutal submission maneuver that renders De Jong's loins void for the rest of his life. Win via submission and IRELAND ARE IN THE FINAL. But against the Germans. A force so powerful in European football they stole it from 1933-1945. A final of terrific spectacle, some of the finest football ever to be seen will be played on this night. Silky Mario Gomez versus the now world class and £54 million quid rated Paul McShane is the battle of the century. But with all the talent on display, it's a shut-out 0-0 at full time. Extra-time breaks Irish hearts with the introduction of 57-year old powerhouse Angela Merkel. As shown on numerous occasions before, The Irish teams inability to deal with the lofty German enforcer costs us dear. But despite falling at the final rotund German hurdle,  it will be a great tournament for the Irish. Beaten finalists is nothing to be ashamed of. Neither is conceding multiple sucker punches to a 57-year old German lady. As they say, that's football. Bring on BRAZIL in 2014 where the Irish team will have the pleasure of watching in Ireland.

Angela Merkel: 114 goals in 21 German appearances. 

Thursday, 7 June 2012

FILM REVIEW: Project X (2012)

Director: Nima Nourizadeh
Starring: Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper, Jonathan Daniel Brown and Kirby Bliss Blanton
Running Time: 88 minutes
Genre: Teen comedy

Early previews for Project X labelled it as the next Hangover/Superbad crossover hit. They were wrong, so very wrong. Unfortunately, unlike the two aforementioned titles, Project X comes off as a second rate crude 'comedy' that relies on the lead trio of abusing each other verbally continuously and over-reliance on "OMG we're the cool kids for tonight" type nonsense rather than genuine character progression or development. The lack of those themes in comedy have often worked a joy in the past, but for it to work, the characters need to be likeable and sympathetic to a certain degree and even more importantly, it has to be funny. The film has none of those going for it and is a cluttered mess of direly unfunny gags and swearwords.

To celebrate Thomas's (Thomas Mann) birthday, he along with his friends Costa (Oliver Cooper) and J.B. (Jonathan Daniel Brown) organize the house party to end all house parties. As the crowd grows too big and out of control, the shit hits the fan. That's it, that's the story here. How the writers thought they could possibly get 90 minutes worth of decent entertainment from that is beyond me, even if the script had at least a few laughs and the tiniest bit of charm. It fails spectacularly. The characters are generally generic cardboard stereotypes of the teen comedy genre; the geek, the fat one, the underachiever, the hottest girl in school, the John Cusack cool kid who is nice to the dweebs. The leads even lack the most basic charm or likeability as the birthday boy Thomas, betrays a girl he may be in love with to try and "get with" the school's most popular girl and woop-di-woop, gets caught in the process, but takes some drugs to get over it.  The ecstasy use depicted in the film infuriated me no end and the message that this film sends out to the no doubt legion of underage people that will be going crazy for this film. Taking ecstasy to assist in having a good party time and oh, well "I'll be fucked up tomorrow" after as the only side effect is irresponsible, even in the context of a fictional film is unforgivable (especially in a film marketed at kids). Seeing this blatant mixing of drugs and alcohol equating to fun times is irresponsible film-making and is exploitive and damaging. It's a party film, fine, but glorifying that kind of drug use on screen without repercussions (in fact, it's celebrated in the film with slo-mo scenes of underage kids taking tablets and having a 'good time'). All this would not have mattered if they learned a lesson of some sort or even if it was a genuinely funny film, but it really wasn't.

Project X misses the mark on all the promise of being the next Superbad. Mean, unfunny and basically a 90 minute advert for the latest party dance songs, this film is really poor. For those who enjoy seeing teen geeks fantasies about getting with skimpily dressed teen girls who are "out of their league", this film isn't even for you. It's that bad. Worst film so far this year.


FILM REVIEW: I Saw the Devil (Akmareul boattda) (2010)

Director: Kim Ji-woon
Starring: Lee Byung-hun, Choi Min-sik, Jeon Kuk-hwan and Kim In-seo.
Running Time: 144 minutes
Genre: Thriller

Kim Ji-woon's return to familiar ground after the light-hearted but ravishingly excellent action funfest The Good, The Bad, The Weird is an uncompromising and tough serial-killer thriller that packs plenty of venom and shock moments. Ji-woon's talent for orchestrating gorgeous visuals (the opening blood-soaked snow scene) from bleak situations again sets this film apart from the average genre fare, as well as a thrillingly innovative game of cat-and-mouse between the terrific pairing Lee Byung-hun and Oldboy's Choi Min-sik.

After his fiance Joo-yun (Oh San-ha) is brutally murdered and dismembered by the vile and sadistic Kyung-chul (Choi Min-sik), Soo-hyun (Lee Byung-hun) is determined to have his revenge and make Kyung-chul suffer for his terrible crimes. A highly entertaining chase thriller ensues that is relentlessly bloody and gruesome as the duo trade blows. The set-pieces are adrenaline filled and quality of the highest order. Especially in a scene where Soo-hyun tracks Kyung-chul down to a house where the occupants have been taken hostage by a psychopath friend (Choi Moo-sung) of Kyung-chul's and all hell eventually breaks loose. The ten-minute scene is as exciting, brutal and terrifically choreographed scene you will ever see. Despite the films slightly long running time, the pace is relenting as the chase goes from set-piece to set-piece and as Kyung-chul becomes more desperate in his actions the tension is amped up to a finale that is as brutal and unforgiving as the previous two hours you have just witnessed. Central to the films success or failure is the performance of the two leads and gladly they both excel. Byung-hun has the tougher role as the mourning Soo-hyun, but his restrained, shell-shocked performance and relentless descent into Kyung-chul's world is fascinating and disturbing in equal measures. The real joy of the film is Choi-Min-sik's unhinged performance as the vicious killer Kyung-chul. He gives a gleefully sadistic performance and beneath his devilish smile is a psychopath unhinged with no remorse.

I Saw the Devil thrills on many levels. The role-reversal between killer and mourner is a joy and the cat-and-mouse thrills that follow are entertaining and gruesomely violent and give the film an extra edge and grit. The creative set-pieces and interplay between the two leads never fails to entertain and amuse. But be warned, this film is not for the faint of heart and is strictly for adults with a high gore and violence tolerance level. 


Wednesday, 6 June 2012

FILM REVIEW: Prometheus (2012)

Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba and Guy Pearce
Running Time: 124 minutes
Genre: Science-fiction

While not up to the level of his Alien and Blade Runner efforts, Ridley Scott's big return to the science fiction genre is still a highly effective and creative thrill-ride that takes a well known mythology (of the Alien film series) and not only reinvigorates it, but turns the series in another and more ambitious direction. But while not being a proper prequel to Alien, it contains many odes and obvious references to the seminal 1979 film that made Scott an icon. This film aims to be bigger and more expansive than the Alien franchise and to a level it succeeds, but often at the expense of logic and gaps in continuity. 

From the opening scene, Prometheus is a gorgeous, wonderfully shot and epic looking film. Perhaps this epic and awe inspiring imagery covers up some of the inadequacies in the plot and with the characterization. Noomi Rapace does well with the well-worn female hero role and while being nowhere near as iconic as Sigourney Weaver's Ripley, she puts in a great effort as an archaeologist whose discovery may lead to the extermination of mankind. Her and her partner Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) become part of the journey to explore the same star maps they found on different archaeological expeditions on earth. On board the ship (named Prometheus), we met the 17 strong crew who and their mission to make contact with extraterrestrial life. Even early on, the standout of the film is Michael Fassbender's David. Fassbender has proven himself as a terrific performer with his roles in Hunger and Shame and again here he is nothing less than stunning in his portrayal of this android. Effortlessly swaying from sinister to sincere, Fassbender's David is a joy. His emotionless performance and robotic delivery is frighteningly divisive, is he good or bad, should we be cheering him on or condemning him (especially in comparison to Alien's Ian Holm, of whom David is an earlier model of). Scott's various odes to Alien are common, none more so than the central villain of the piece, the space jockey (seen in Alien, but not explained) or as they are now called, Engineers. While fascinating and creepy, the plot holes start to come into effect here and it adds to moments of questioning that even pushes science fiction logic to its limits. But as the logic falls, the action suspense and space horror elements are very well done. There are quite a few cringe moments of gore that up the ante and bodies start piling up. Characters like Rafe Spall's Milburn and the underrated Sean Harris's Fifield get little screen time, they make enough of an impression to feel for their plight. Captain Janek (Idris Elba) is the captain of the ship and despite his lack of screen time, Elba is as charismatic as ever. Vickers (Charlize Theron) is the Burke (ooh, Aliens reference) of the film; a company woman with profit and power on her mind as well as a few secrets that turn out to be predictable and poor reveals. The biggest disappointment (besides his terrible make-up) is the genuine waste of Guy Pearce, an actor so good it's criminal to have him hidden behind 40 layers of prosthetics. 

A return to form this may be for Ridley Scott, it however still falls short of his classic Alien and Blade Runner masterpieces. But you have to admire the scale and ambition seen in Prometheus, it expands on a beloved franchise and breathes new life into a genre that has become stale and tame. Prometheus, while far from being a perfect film and having a weak plot, is a greatly entertaining science fiction thriller that is high on gorgeous visuals, big set pieces and a towering performance from the terrific Michael Fassbender.


TV REVIEW: Game of Thrones: Season 2 (2012)

WARNING *major series spoilers contained*

The first season of HBO's Game of Thrones was a revelation. A show brimming with complex characters, blockbuster set design and a world so beautifully realised and expansive that having only 10 episodes in a season felt in itself like a betrayal. Season 2 expands even further on the glorious first season, with new characters introduced as The Seven Kingdom's are on the verge of war as four claim to be king. Add to this some of the series most shockingly brutal moments and delightful character developments that give us a second season that is on par with the epic first season. 

Robb Stark (Richard Madden) is now the head of the Stark's and claiming to be King of the North. He is battling veteran campaigner Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) while Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) and his brother Renly (Gethin Anthony) also lay claim to Joffrey's (the fiendishly good Jack Gleeson) throne.  Their brotherly rivalry and their dislike for what each other has become forms the backbone of the series early episodes. This rivalry is brought to an abrupt ending mid-season with the help of sinister priestess Melisandre (Carice van Houten). Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) meanwhile, is now Hand of the King and sets about making waves in King's Landing much to the chagrin of his sister Cersei (Lena Headey). 

Tyrion's clever moves against Cersei and her vicious retaliations are great to watch and set up what King's Landing is about. Even in a scene of warmth between the two where they are open to each other ends in venomous barbs at each other and backstabbing plotting. Arya's (Maisie Williams) journey to The Wall is short lived after she and Gendry (Joe Dempsie) are captured by Lannister soldiers. She is handpicked by Tywin to be his cupbearer and their interactions form the seasons most entertaining exchanges with young Williams performance being sensational even when acting alongside powerful screen presence Dance. Robb decision to trust Theon (Alfie Allen) and send him to Pike to persuade his estranged father to give the Stark army ships sets up Theon's descent from ally of the Stark family to rebel and betrayer. Theon's fall from grace and his reasoning for doing so are fascinating and the mental anguish he suffers at the hands of his father drive him to make unforgivable actions. Theon's actions, while being initially despicable, as the season comes to its climax and in particular in a wonderful scene with Maester Luwin (Donald Sumpter), where a new perspective is put on his tragic circumstances. 

Dany's (Emilia Clarke) exile continues which leads her and Ser Jorah (Iain Glen) to the beautiful yet strange Qarth, where all is not as it seems. While she isn't given much to do this season, her scenes with the Thirteen, who are amusingly sinister and allows for her to exhibit her growing confidence and power. The build up to Stannis's arrival at King's Landing is tantalizing and slow paced, but effectively allows to build up the power of Stannis's fleet and the inner turmoil at King's Landing, where Joffrey is becoming a hated and resented King and whose vile actions are putting the Lannister's and Sansa (Sophie Turner) at risk. As the internal squabbles between Cersei and Tyrion continue up until the ninth episode, we are treated to one of the most ambitious episodes of television ever crafted, the brutal 'Blackwater'. This penultimate episode is unlike any episode of the show seen before. Rather than covering the Seven Kingdoms and more, this episode focuses on Stannis's invasion of King's Landing and Tyrion's attempts to defend the city. What follows is 60 minutes of tense action and spectacle with some of the series most brutal scenes. This episode has it all, great drama, great action and the fantastic spectacle of what this season had been building to. 

The second season of Game of Thrones builds on an already well established and sweeping epic television show. The character and story progression, while expansive and slow in places, comes together fantastically with no character being neglected or thrown aside. There can be no higher praise for the high quality production and set design, the locations are gorgeous and looks like a $250 million dollar blockbuster continuously. More importantly, the core group of characters remain as interesting and as likeable as before (or hated, depending on your allegiance). This show is simply television at its finest on every level.


Saturday, 2 June 2012

FILM REVIEW: The Raid: Redemption (Serbuan Maut) (2012)

Director: Gareth Huw Evans
Starring: Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim, Donny Alamsyah, Yayan Ruhain and Pierre Gruno.
Running Time: 101 minutes
Genre: Action thriller

Indonesia is not a place you would traditionally associate with being at the center of modern Asian action cinema. Despite this, Welsh born director Gareth Huw Evans (who is based in Indonesia) has crafted one of the most entertaining, exhilaratingly pure action films ever made. Being an Indonesian production has only helped Evans in his vision, as surely a film with this level of violence and mayhem would have struggled to be financed in Western cinema. Without a doubt, The Raid: Redemption is the best action film since 2003's Thai martial arts epic Ong-Bak. 

The story is staggeringly simple and perhaps the films tagline is the perfect synopsis of what to expect here; "1 ruthless crime lord, 20 elite cops, 30 floors of chaos", simple, but highly effective. The lack of plot is almost instantly is forgiven (and forgotten) as the early exchanges only serve to amp up the 90 minutes of batshit bonkers madness that is going to follow. We are introduced to our hero Rama (Iko Uwais) and his fellow squad of stereotypes and cardboard cut-outs who we all know are only there for one thing; to die. We also get an unflinching and brutally explicit early look at the crime lord (and his two henchmen) and what our heroes are getting themselves into. Once the squad enter the building, all subtlety goes out the window and quickly descends into chaos, terrifically choreographed chaos with some of the most impressive and badass martial arts and shoot-outs ever seen on screen. While comparisons to 1988 action classic have been highlighted in some reviews (hero stuck in a building full of criminals), it bears very little resemblance and is more like Die Hard's coked-out-of-his-mind distant relative. The thrills come thick and fast and are high-octane and thrilling in equal measure. Necks snap, bones break, blood is let; it is an action junkies dreamland. But more importantly, each set piece is terrifically shot and entertaining and any slight concerns about set design or characterization go out the window (like some unfortunate characters literally do).

Gareth Huw Evans's The Raid: Redemption is the action event of the year. Highly inventive, in your face and containing a badassery level that is off the charts, The Raid: Redemption is a thrill-ride of chaos and carnage that will leave you breathless. And more good news, Evans is planning sequels. Oh my.


Friday, 1 June 2012

FILM REVIEW: The Innkeepers (2012)

Director: Ti West
Starring: Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, Kelly McGillis, Lena Dunham and George Riddle
Running Time: 101 minutes
Genre: Horror

Ti West is one of the most promising directors to emerge on the horror scene in quite some time. His films are highly influenced by stories that favour atmosphere over gore and character development over high body count. His style, highly reminiscent of 80's auteur John Carpenter, usually has a slow paced opening and a tense build to a finish that gives a finality that tends to allude most modern horror films (usually a cop-out or left open for a sequel). His latest effort, The Innkeepers, builds on the great promise shown in his previous effort, the little seen chiller The House of the Devil.

While billed as a horror film, The Innkeepers borrows from many different genres. There are elements of romantic comedy, slacker comedy mixed with psychological thriller elements that combined with the haunted house story create a peculiar and offbeat treat that is at the heart of The Innkeepers appeal. Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) are working in the Yankee Pedlar Inn, a hotel which is closing down after the weekend. As the hotel is practically deserted (bar an ageing actress and a mother and son), Claire and Luke pass the time by maintaining Luke's ghost-hunters website and doing some ghost-hunting of their own in the hotel. While this all sounds like it has been done before story-wise, West builds up the relationship between Claire and Luke so effectively, that by the time the creepy stuff starts happening, we genuinely care for their safety and well-being. Paxton and Healy are great in their roles and both are immensely likeable, even as rom-com possible elements come into play. The effective build-up and introduction of actress-cum-psychic Leanne Rease-Jones (Kelly McGillis) allows for the tension to grow further, as her ominous presence brings a sense of dread to proceedings. Like with his previous effort The House of the Dead, the final act sadly comes short, the big reveal of the actual ghost isn't as terrifying as it should be. But there still are still tense, effective chills to be had in the build-up to the underwhelming reveal.

Ti West is an great young talent. His old school direction technique and favouring of a slow and tense build up mixed with endearing character based development over cheap thrills and gore is a refreshing take in a modern horror film community where films tend to be blood-soaked and devoid of humanity. The Innkeepers is a traditional horror tale that embraces the ghost story genre with some modern beats. Add to this good lead performances by Paxton and Healy, where you are genuinely left worried for their safety and you have all the signs of good storytelling.


FILM REVIEW: How I Spent My Summer Vacation (aka Get the Gringo) (2012)

Director: Adrian Grunberg
Starring: Mel Gibson, Kevin Hernandez, Peter Stormare, Peter Gerety and Dean Norris.
Running Time: 96 minutes
Genre: Crime thriller

Mel Gibson's has had a tough time of it lately. His personal life has been full of embarrassing and controversial (however true they may be) behaviour. But whatever you may think of him as a person; as an actor, he is still the charismatic lead man that made him a worldwide star for over the 30 years. He carries this fun little thriller emphatically and even though the youthful looks have given way to an older, grizzled looking Gibson, he can still bring the chuckles and badassery when needed and with aplomb.

Driver (Gibson) is sent to jail in Mexico after stealing money from a dangerous crime boss (Peter Stormare). The premise is simple in that respect. However, the prison is unlike any prison you have ever seen before and is more like a town, where the powerful control the flow of drugs while the guards prevent violence and bloodshed. It may not be the most accurate portrayal of the prison system but it provides plenty of opportunities for fun set-pieces as Driver hatches an escape plan with the aid of a local kid (Kevin Hernandez) and his mother (Dolores Heredia). The mother and son are kept in the prison for a reason that endears them to Driver and soon we have entertaining sequences with Driver showing the kid the tricks of the trade. The humour in the film is great, it doesn't take itself too seriously and Gibson is not afraid to poke fun at himself, which is refreshing for an actor certain media have branded as a monster. In particular, a scene where love at first sight doesn't go as planned between Driver and Kid's Mom is a wonderful piece of misdirection and sets up the kind of film we're dealing with here, it's snappy and quick paced with great wit. Despite the often light tone, once the bullets start flying, it is as bloody and violent as they come. 

Gibson is back with a bang. He shows the natural charm and charisma that has delighted audiences for decades. Unfortunately due to his personal life this film seems to not have given a chance in the States and that's a great shame because this is a genuinely entertaining thriller that doesn't take itself too seriously. If you want a film that is darkly humourous and highly entertaining, How I Spent My Summer Vacation is definitely the film for you and a greatly enjoyable 90 minutes.