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French horror tells the story of a young woman named Lucie (Chloé Coulloud) who is studying to be a home care nurse. On her first day, she learns that one of her future patients, a comatose old woman named Mrs. Jessel (Marie-Claude Pietragalla), is rumored to have some kind of hidden treasure in her creepy old house. Lucie tells her boyfriend William (Félix Moati), who sees possible riches as a way out of their small coastal fishing village. They break into the house one night, along with their friend Ben (Jérémy Kapone), but soon find themselves locked in and that the house and it’s occupant have a nightmarish secret.
Flick is written and directed by Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo, the French duo who brought us the bonkers chiller Inside and the recent Leatherface. It starts out as a sort of haunted house thriller, but then evolves into something else as we find out what really inhabits the Jessel home. There are some very spooky visuals as the duo use the creepy old house setting very well. There is also some of their trademarked graphic violence and the film has an unsettling atmosphere, especially once our three protagonists get inside the house. The flick is held back by a narrative that doesn’t always make sense, but does weave in some dark fairy tale elements, especially in the last act. The film also has moments that evoke Guillermo del Toro’s Cronos and even if we are scratching our heads a bit by the time the credits roll, there was enough to chill and entertain and maybe gross us out a little bit.
The cast are good with lead Chloé Coulloud making a strong heroine in student nurse turned reluctant thief, Lucie. She seems like a sweet girl and has issues of her own that motivate her and even affect her actions when she meets the occupants of the old house. Félix Moati is fine as her fisherman boyfriend, who dreams of a better life. He’s not an outright bad guy, just someone who is willing to cross lines to get out of his small town. Jérémy Kapone is also solid as Ben, a friend of the couple and another reluctant participant in the events. He is more likable than William. Marie-Claude Pietragalla is suitably creepy as Mrs. Jessel in both flashbacks to her days as a cruel dance instructor and to the old woman she is now. Rounding out is Catherine Jacob who is the home care specialist with a secret who is training Lucie and Chloé Marcq as Jessel’s daughter, who we are told is long gone and is seen in flashbacks when we start to get some backstory.
After the shocking Inside, Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo followed it up with a spooky flick that has some chilling moments, but also suffers from being a bit too ambiguous at times. It may leave us with a quite a few questions once it’s all over, but has enough chills and unsettling sequences to entertain us well enough. Not as memorable as Inside, but shows the French duo have some interesting ideas, some unique twists on familiar tropes and a solid visual style to accompany the chills and gore.
3 rusty scissors.
WARNING!: the Livide trailer gives away some substantial spoilers!
BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL (2017)
Samurai period piece tells the story of swordsman Manji (Takuya Kimura) who kills his corrupt master and bodyguards, only to realize too late that one of the bodyguards was the husband of his younger sister, Machi (Hana Sugisaki). This drives Machi crazy and puts a price upon Manji’s head. When confronted by a large group of men wanting to collect, Machi is killed and Manji escapes mortally wounded. An old witch (Yôko Yamamoto) gives him the power to heal his wounds and tells him he is now immortal. After 50 years of trying to overcome what he did to his sister, he meets a young girl, Rin (also Hana Sugisaki) who seeks revenge on a sinister swordsman (Sôta Fukushi) and his men for the murder of her parents. Can Manji finally achieve his desire for redemption if he helps Rin on her quest for revenge?
Samurai epic is directed legendary Japanese director Takashi Miike from a script by Tetsuya Oishi based on Hiroaki Samura’s manga. It is a blood-soaked story of redemption and revenge told in the style of classic samurai cinema, but with a generous dose of modern day cinema violence. There are some intense and bloody sword duels with a host of colorful characters and various weapons, as Manji and Rin draw closer to Anotsu Kagehisa (Fukushi) and his thugs. Along the way they meet many foes and a few allies and it’s well over two hours and hundreds of bodies later that we finally get the confrontation that we have been waiting for. Miike gives the story some nice emotional depth, as Mani seeks to finally end his tormented life and Rin seeks to avenge the death of her parents. If anything holds this epic back a bit, it is that it is slow paced and a bit overlong. The combination of the more moderate pace, like the samurai flicks it evokes had, and the extremely long running time, make this more of a slow boil with occasional explosions of gruesome action. By the time the last act bloodbath is reached, we’re ready for this to conclude. It’s never boring, but might have been a bit more effective at a somewhat tighter run time. Another issue is that with our anti-hero being immortal, even when he is greatly outnumbered, it’s hard to fear for his safety when we know he will eventually heal and even lost limbs will re-attach. It neuters some of the suspense. Technically the film looks sumptuous with cinematography from Nobuyasu Kita and has an atmospheric score by Koji Endo.
The cast are very good. Actor/singer Takuya Kimura was solid as the tortured swordsman Manji. He is a whirlwind of fury in the action scenes and has the chops to give strength to the dramatic scenes as well. Though immortal, Kimura let’s us know Manji’s wounds hurt and we feel the characters pain. Sugisaki is good in the role of Rin. She’s immersed in grief and a desire for revenge, but is a tough girl and the actress has us endeared to her in her quest. Sôta Fukushi gives us a lethal villain with his master swordsman Anotsu Kagehisa, who has the skill and ferocity to kill hundreds as he carves his way to dominance for himself and his clan, the Ittō-ryū. The supporting cast are also top-notch with characters ranging from the traditional to the more colorful and eccentric.
Miike is a versatile director that has made over 100 films ranging from horror, to crime thrillers, to period pieces such as this and his great 13 Assassins. This film shows his skill at both bone crushing action and dramatic intensity and that he has a love for the traditional, as well as, the ability to be innovative and original. If anything holds this particular flick back a bit, it’s that it’s moderate pace and extremely long running time sometimes work against a story that is driven by numerous action set-pieces. Still very recommended for fans of these movies and certainly for those who appreciate Miike’s films.
Complete estimates are in for the weekend box office
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1. “Coco” $49 Million
2. “Justice League” $40.7 Million
3. “Wonder” $22 Million
4. “Thor: Ragnarok” $16.8 Million
5. “Daddy’s Home 2” $13.25 Million
6. “Murder on the Orient Express” $13 Million
7. “The Star” $6.9 Million
8. “A Bad Moms Christmas” $5 Million
9. “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” $4.5 Million
10. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” $4.4 Million
source: Box Office Mojo
THE PUNISHER (2017)
Spin-off series from season 2 of Netflix’s Daredevil finds ex-soldier Frank Castle aka “The Punisher” (Jon Bernthal) thinking he’s finished his mission of revenge and hanging up his skull adorned bulletproof vest under the new identity of loner, construction worker Pete Castellini. Upon being contacted by a whistle blower thought dead named Micro (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), Castle finds that there is a deeper conspiracy responsible for the murder of his family, one that involves high ranking military personal, dirty CIA agents and unknowingly himself. Castle returns to the road for revenge, but only now he has a tenacious Homeland Security agent on his tail (Amber Rose Revah) who has her own score to settle.
The Punisher solo series’ first season leaves some mixed feelings. Bernthal is still a great Frank Castle/Punisher and there is certainly a lot of the bone-crushing, brutal action like the character was involved in on Daredevil. The problems here are some sub-plots that don’t seem necessary or to add much to the proceedings and the fact that it once again takes nearly the whole season for The Punisher to really re-emerge. It’s more of a conspiracy show, a la the X-Files, which would be fine if it stuck to the conspiracy and it’s attention didn’t wander to sub-plots like a growing relationship with Micro’s “widow” (Jaime Ray Newman) and kids (Kobi Frumer and Ripley Sobo) and an emotionally disturbed young vet turned terrorist named Lewis (Daniel Webber). These sub-plots seem more like plot devices, one to keep his relationship with Micro antagonistic and the other to wrongfully out him to the world as a terrorist. At times they feel a bit like filler to stretch the series out to it’s 13 episodes when maybe a more streamlined 10 would have served it better and kept to the main story. Sometimes the violence seems a bit too over the top and Frank seems to bounce back from severe wounds or beatings far too quickly to be believable. If the show wants to ground itself in reality, which it does, than it’s hard to swallow a man entering physical combat mere days after being beaten practically to death. Still the show is well done and the acting is strong across the board, especially from Bernthal, Moss-Bachrach and Revah. Paul Schulze makes a detestable bad guy as rogue CIA director William Rawlins, one of the season’s main villains. There are also some returning characters From DDse02, such as Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page and Clancy Brown as Major Schoonover. While there are generous amounts of action throughout, once The Punisher suits up again there are some really intense action set-pieces, which illustrate just how bad-ass this incarnation of the character is. The show does have a kind of Sons of Anarchy vibe, it handled the theme of a combat vet’s life back home very well and a more focused second season could really fire on all cylinders for the character.
Overall, the first season for Marvel’s gun-toting vigilante wasn’t exactly on target, but has enough going for it to look forward to more. Now that the revenge and conspiracy elements are taken care of, season two can get down to The Punisher doing what he does best. Not a great first season, but one that shows a lot of potential if season 2 can lock it down.
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