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Long Weekend (UK DVD)

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Long WeekendReviewed by Gareth Jones

Starring Jim Caviezel, Claudia Karvan

Directed by Jamie Blanks

Distributed by Showbox Home Entertainment


Oh, the huge manatee! I know, I know…and I’m sorry; but for a long time I’ve wished for a legitimate reason to use that phrase. Like a gift from the gods of silly plays on words, that reason recently graced my desk – Jamie Blanks’ remake of the 1978 eco-horror Long Weekend, hitting UK shelves courtesy of Showbox Home Entertainment on February 8th.

Blanks’ film stars Jim Caviezel and Claudia Karvan as the incessantly bickering couple Peter and Carla. In an effort to patch up their tattered marriage, the two take off for a weekend camping along the picturesque Australian coast with another couple of friends. Finding themselves lost, they spend the night in the car only to awaken right next to the campsite. With the non-arrival of their friends forgotten about quite early on, the couple almost immediately set about to taking verbal pot shots at each other and treating their beautiful surroundings with what could only be interpreted as a concerted effort to place in the Guinness Book of World Records for douchebaggery.

They chuck their trash around; needlessly chop down living trees for firewood; smash eagle eggs and Peter starts taking recreational shots at the nearby wildlife with his trusty rifle while impersonating Christopher Walken. Events reach a head when Peter shoots at something in the water, and a dead Sea Cow is found halfway up the beach the next day – apparently attempting to reach the plastic-bag coated body of her washed-up offspring.

Of course, Mother Nature isn’t gonna take this shit lying down and soon the pair find themselves the target of almost supernatural coincidences and pissed-off animals, with the seemingly deceased mother manatee slowly making its way further and further into land. Even if you haven’t seen the original, I’m sure you can guess that our pair of big city idiots will not come out of this unscathed.

The biggest problem with Long Weekend is that it simply isn’t scary. In fact, it’s so preoccupied with ramming its message down your throat that no effort is made to round out the inherent silliness of it all with some much-needed threat. Instead, you’ll just get pissed off listening to these two exceptionally unlikeable characters shout at each other endlessly and treat their surroundings with the type of disregard that would see you slap them senseless should you ever end up camping with them. You want them dead. You want to see what nature is going to dish out for them…but you want it quickly. Much, much more quickly than the film offers. Long Weekend is a slow-burn affair, but when the runtime is spent listening to these two go off on one another instead of building genuine fear it’s all for nought. One thing the film does do well, is the crying sounds the couple hear at night – they are genuinely freaky and had the film kept this creep factor more sustained, we may have had somewhat of a success here.

After putting up with the slow pace and hateful characters, having the horrific climax being Caviezel’s character waking up face to face with the dead manatee, quite possibly the least threatening looking creature ever put to film, and run screaming into the forest is a masterpiece of unintentional humour and missed opportunity. At least shortly afterwards we get an impressively spectacular man vs. truck moment.

I’ll admit to not having seen the original 1978 version (which writer Everett De Roche also penned), so cannot comment exactly on the similarities however I am led to believe that much of this is almost a shot for shot remake. Visually, that’s certainly not a bad thing as Blanks really knows how to shoot the Australian scenery to maximise the effect of its beauty. The locations used in Long Weekend are exceptionally gorgeous, and beyond that Blanks definitely knows what to do with a camera and how to frame some truly great shots. The cast can’t be faulted for their performances either, rather the failure mainly lies with the script. It simply isn’t shocking, isn’t frightening, isn’t revelatory or anything in between. One would assume that the modern attitudes toward climate change and going “green” made the project seem like it would be deservedly relevant, but the overall truth is that manatees just aren’t scary. Long Weekend is competently made, but heavy handed and inherently flawed. If you can put up with the characters you might get a few chills out of it (as mentioned, the night scenes/crying amp up the shivers somewhat), but don’t expect anything impressive beyond the scenery.

Now, if all of the above sounds familiar that would be due to the fact that Long Weekend is already available on bare bones DVD in the US under the horrible moniker Nature’s Grave. In the UK though, Showbox have given the flick much more love than it rightfully deserves and released it in a 2-Disc Special Edition. The first disc houses the film itself, along with the trailer and those for a selection of other titles. The picture is sharp, clean and solid with nothing much to complain about at all. Audio is presented in standard Dolby 2.0 Stereo, or an impressive 5.1 Surround mix which keeps your tweeters alive with that ever-so-threatening chirping of wildlife.

Disc two is where the Special Features action is at, with a huge amount of behind the scenes action available for viewing. Largely eschewing the standard interview-driven format in favour of a first-person on-set experience, these extras are involving and interesting. Caviezel provides a few standout moments including a hilarious impromptu Jackson Five dance routine that must be seen. The Director’s Production Diary featurette is more of the same but features a running commentary by director Jamie Blanks offering even further insight into what goes into making a movie.

Alongside this we have an extended scene of Caviezel’s duck-taunting Christopher Walken impersonation, interviews with Claudia Karvan, Everett De Roche and Toby Eggleston and, my personal favourite, a featurette named “Taming the Wild”. This is an endearing, albeit short, look at the animals involved in the film and the shooting of their scenes.

All in all, the Special Features clock in at almost two hours of viewing and are, in fact, a much more interesting and rewarding watch than the film itself. The inclusion of a commentary to go along with the movie would have made this a top-class package are far as extras are concerned, but if you’re fascinated by what goes on behind the scenes you’ll find here that even an unimpressive final product like Long Weekend can offer plenty of worthy insight.

Special Features

  • Director’s Production Diary
  • Interview Gallery
  • Deleted Scene – Jim & The Ducks
  • Making Of
  • Taming the Wild
  • Peter’s Death – Behind the Scenes with Grant Page & Roger Ward

Movie

2 out of 5

Special Features

3 1/2 out of 5

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Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View

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Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly

Directed by Marcel Sarmiento


Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as

17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?

What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.

  • Film
2.0

Summary

Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?

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IAMX’s Alive in New Light Review – A Dark, Hypnotic, and Stunning Musical Endeavor

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Recording eight albums is an achievement no matter the artist, group, or band. This is especially true for Chris Corner’s IAMX, his solo project after the trip hop group Sneaker Pimps, which has enchanted listeners since 2004’s Kiss + Swallow with its dark electronic aesthetic. There’s something fascinating about the music Corner puts out as IAMX. Perhaps it’s the underlying melancholy that seems to pervade the music, almost certainly a result of the musician’s battle with depression and chronic insomnia [Source]. Perhaps it’s the unexpected melodies that reveal themselves with each new measure. Whatever it is, IAMX’s music is a constant delight.

On Alive in New Light, Corner reveals that his eighth album was a product he created as a way of “…breaking free from demons that have long plagued him,” per an official press release. Strangely enough, this uplifting attitude may easily be overlooked but repeat listens unveil a sense of hope and wonder that are simply breathtaking. The title track echoes with almost angelic choir pads that positively shine as Corner exultingly cries in a shimmering falsetto, “I’m alive in new light!” This comes after the Depeche Mode-esque “Stardust”, which offers the first collaboration with Kat Von D, whose pure voice is a beautiful addition to the pulsating track.

The third track, “Break The Chains”, has an opening that immediately called to mind Birds of Tokyo’s “Discoloured”, which is meant as a compliment. It’s followed by the Nine Inch Nails influenced “Body Politics”, which meshes Corner’s crooning vocals with a 90’s industrial backdrop. “Exit” has an almost sinister progression lurking in the background that builds to an aggressive, in-your-face third act. The cinematic Middle Eastern flairs of “Stalker” mutate effortlessly into a heartbeat pulse that features back-and-forth vocals between Corner and Von D. The haunted circus vibe that permeates through “Big Man” is mirrored by its playful gothic aura, ghostly “oohs” and “aahs” sprinkled carefully here and there.

While the album has been a delight up to this point, it’s the final two tracks that took my breath away and left me stunned. “Mile Deep Hollow” builds layer after layer while Corner passionately cries out, “So thank you/you need to know/that you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow/and I love you/you brought me home/because you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow.” The way the song’s melodies back these wonderfully uplifting lyrics feels grand and epic, as though a journey is coming to an end, which is where “The Power and the Glory” comes in. Far more subdued, it’s a beautiful song that feels almost like a religious experience, a hymn of a soul that is desperate to claw its way to salvation and escape a life of pain and darkness.

What makes Alive in New Light so wonderful is how much there is to experience. I got the album and listened to it no less than five times in a row without pause. I simply couldn’t turn it off because each return revealed something new in the music. Corner also makes fantastic use of Von D’s vocals, carefully placing them so as to make them a treat and not a commonplace certainty.

While some may be disappointed that there are only nine tracks, each of the songs is carefully and meticulously crafted to be as powerful and meaningful as possible. It really is a stunning accomplishment and I’m nothing short of blown away by how masterfully Alive in New Light plays out.

  • Alive in New Light
5.0

Summary

IAMX’s Alive in New Light is a triumph of music. Full of beauty and confidence, it doesn’t forget the foundation that fans have come to know and love for over a decade but instead embraces that comfortable darkness with open arms. Corner states that this album was a way to break free from his demons. It certainly feels like he’s made peace with them.

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The Hatred Review – A History Lesson Dug Up From The Depths Of Hell

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Starring Zelda Adams, Lulu Adams, John Law

Directed by John Law


I don’t know about the scholastic interests the masses had (or have) that read all of the killer nuggets that get cranked out on this site, but when I was an academic turd, one of my true passions was history, and it was one of the only subjects that managed to hold my interest, and when the opportunity arose to check out John Law’s ultra-nightmarish feature, The Hatred – I was ready to crack the books once again.

The setting is the Blackfoot Territory in the late 1800s, and the pains of a lengthy conflict have taken their toll on the remaining soldiers as food has become scarce, and the film picks up with soldiers on the march in the brutal cold and snow covered mountainside. In tow is a P.O.W. (Law), and the decision is made by the soldiers to execute him in earnest instead of having to shorten their rations by feeding him, so he is then hung (pretty harshly done), and left to rot as the uniformed men trudge along. A short time later the group encounters a small family on the fringes of the territory, and when the demands for food are rebuked, the slaughter is on and the only survivor is a young girl (Adams) who prays to an oblivious god that she can one day reap the seeds of revenge upon those who’ve murdered her family. We all know that there are usually two sides to any story, and when the good ear isn’t listening, the evil one turns its direction towards those who need it most, and that’s when the Devil obliges.

The answer to the young girl’s prayers comes in the resurrection of the prisoner that was hung a short time ago, and he has been dubbed “Vengeance” – together their goal will be achieved by harshly dishing out some retribution, and the way it’s presented is drawn-out, almost like you’re strapped into the front-row pew of a hellfire-cathedral and force-fed the sermon of an evil voice from the South side of the tracks. It’s vicious and beautiful all at once, Law’s direction gives this visually-striking presentation all the bells and whistles to please even the harshest of critics (hell, you’re reading the words of one right now). The performances, while a bit stoic in nature, still convey that overall perception of a wrong that demands to be righted, no matter how morally mishandled it might be. Overall, I can absolutely recommend The Hatred for not only those wanting a period-piece with ferocious-artistry, but for others who continue to pray with no response, and are curious to see what the other side can offer.

  • Film
3.5

Summary

The Hatred is a visually-appealing look into the eyes of animus, and all of the beauty of returning the harm to those who have awarded it to others.

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