What I Did On My Vacation Strikes Back

Thief

(1981, dir. Michael Mann)

My name is Frank. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

Used car salesman by day, master cat burglar at night, James Caan is on top of his game here as Frank the Thief. The plot is nothing to write home about, with holes big enough to drive a truck through – director Michael Mann would revisit many of the same themes later, with much greater success, in his seminal Heat. Still, if you enjoy a gritty tale of the underground with a neurotic relationship story pasted on top, you could do worse than watch this stylish (I am really trying to avoid saying “gritty” again, but it’s kind of hard to resist the temptation) anti-hero tale from way back.

Wake In Fright

(1971, dir. Ted Kotcheff)

Wake In Fright

Beer, the breakfast of champions.

For some reason, I was under the impression that WIF is a horror movie set in the Australian Outback. Well, I got the Outback part right, but really, WIF is closer to a promotional film by the Woop Woop Tourism Board (especially with the alternate title Outback) than a horror flick. I suppose some tender souls might be horrified by the almost non-stop beer skulling (& associated blatant product placement) and general debauchery, all of which was probably quite outrageous back in 1971 when the movie came out. That, and the kangaroo slaughter – even if the movie makers went out of their way to point out that the roos were slaughtered by professionals who had been tasked with keeping the numbers down, and really, these particular roos were kind of asking for it anyway. Worth a watch for a great performance by Donald Pleasence as an alcoholic bush doctor.

Hobo With A Shotgun

(2011, dir. Jason Eisener)

Hobo With A Shotgun

All right, you primitive screw-heads, listen up! See this? This… is my boomstick!

Hobo is a hodgepodge of wink-wink-nudge-nudge over-the-top cliché and hammy acting, with a title doubling as the script (see Snakes on a Plane). It would be a stretch to say that Rutger Hauer puts in a career-defining performance, in fact far from it, but I guess there are a few bits here and there where he’s actually kind of sympathetic as the underdog who rises to the occasion and kicks some serious arse.

Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham

(2001, dir. Karan Johar)

Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham

Waiter! There’s a fly on my nose!

K3G is a veritable cinematic smörgåsbord in that there’s a little bit of everything, except there’s not just a little bit but so much to gorge on (and quite a lot of it cloyingly saccharine) that gastric lavage might be required to restore a modicum of sanity. This is, of course, par for the course for a Bollywood spectacle. Much has been said about the on-screen chemistry of Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol, and it’s all true – they do work very well together. One can’t help though but think that the running time of 210 minutes (3 1/2 hours!) could be whittled down just a touch, especially seeing as the plot is pretty paper-thin and, frankly, ridiculous.

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