Movie Preview: James Wan sees Seattle as “Malignant”

Maddie Hasson, Annabelle Wallis and Nichole Briana star in “Saw” man Wan’s latest “universe” expander and potential franchise, a Sept. 10 release.

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Movie Review: For the love of Allah, don’t summon “Kandisha”

“Kandisha” is not your run-of-the-mill demonic assault thriller.

No movie that summons up a burka-clad Moroccan demon to avenge herself on toxic masculinity, that depicts animal sacrifice and an Imam performing an Islamic exorcism could be. Of course it’s French and yes. it’s a bit “out there.”

The co-directors of “Leatherface,” Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, have conjured up a “Candyman” and “Exorcist” mashup set in the immigrant-packed projects of suburban Paris. It’s novel enough to be fascinating, even if that doesn’t overcome the rather humdrum deaths and the emotionally flat performances that are supposed to be its beating heart.

Good friends Bintou (Suzy Bemba), Amélie (Mathilde Lamusse) and Morjana (Samarcande Saadi) are off for the summer, which means more time for bonfires, hanging out with boys at the pub, and for their passion — graffiti. They sign their “tags” with their initials, “BAM.”

But Amélie has this violent ex-boyfriend who pummels her one night as she’s walking home. It’s a brutal fight which she escapes with his a bloody nose.

They’d been tagging the interior of one battered building that turned up a covered-up piece of art titled “Kandisha.” Islamic Morjana describes this Moroccan legend, “the ghost of a beautiful woman who destroys men (in French with English subtitles).” That night, Amélie decides to summon her.

And damned if Farid isn’t finished off in an “accident.”

Pretty much everything that follows earns that criticism, “emotionally flat.” Amélie may go a bit wide-eyed when she first sees the demoness, and the third act confrontations give the players the chance to show us how scared they’re supposed to be.

For the most part, we’re as underwhelmed as the actors are when this ex-beau or that friend or relative is summarily murdered by the towering, hooved demon (Mériem Sarolie) dressed like a harem dancer.

The novelty of the Islamic nature of the “help” our trio turn to, with a reluctant rector (Walid Afkir) finally letting them see the one Imam who knows a little something about exorcisms holds our interest.

But aside from a moment here and there, we get little commitment from our star trio. What should be wrenching all along the way is mainly momentary grief, guilt or fear.

For us to buy in, the leads have to buy in. They don’t.

MPA Rating: unrated, graphic violence, smoking, profanity

Cast: Suzy Bemba, Mathilde Lamusse, Félix Glaux-Delporto, Samarcande Saadi and Walid Afkir.

Credits: Scripted and directed by Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury. A Shudder streaming release.

Running time: 1:24

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Next Screening? M. Night’s vacation from hell — “Old”

Kids grow up…so fast.

Especially when they’re on the wrong beach without sunblock, or whatever the hell it is that’s aging them with or without SPF80.

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Netflixable? Beaus are like shoes. Look for that “A Perfect Fit”

“A Perfect Fit” is a light, schmaltzy Indonesian romance about superstitions and shoes.

A shoe designer and a fashion blogger meet cute, but seem destined to marry wealthier, bullying partners who offer security and a lot of stress. What’s it going to take to pair these two up?

Yes, it’s cute enough to make your teeth ache. There’s no edge to it, the picture’s respectul tone means it doesn’t wring many laughs out of every time someone hands someone else a tiny palm leaf and orders her to “spin around three times, or advise that “People who had bad luck are in need of a breath that’s new.”

A “cleansing” it is!

Will these two ever get it together or find a “perfect fit?” As Saski quips in her blog, “The journey pf a thousand miles begins with a fabulous pair of shoes!”

Saski (Nadya Arina), an upbeat fashion blogger with a sickly mother (Ayu Laksmi) who is deep into Lontar, the palm scriptures of the ancients. That’s why Saski is marching towards the altar with the handsome, rich bully boy Deni (Giorgino Abraham). That’s also why she lets herself get arm-twisted into having her fortune told.

The spiritualist tells her which fabrics “repel bad energy,” and foretells “You will find a new path to travel on.” Here, take this “spell” with you, and ignore it at your own peril.

And despite Saski’s insistence that “life’s not some movie with a silly prophecy that has to be fulfilled,” she lets BFF Anda (Laura Theux) talk her into it.

That’s what puts her in the not-yet-opened shoe shop, Shoes With Love, where hunky Rio (Refal Hady) presides. He’s Mister “Those don’t suit you” about the shoes she picks out, and offers his interpretation on what she needs, what suits and what will work.

“You can tell what a person is like by their shoes,” he opines (in Indonesian with subtitles, or dubbed into English). Shoes determine “fate,” he suggests, making way too much eye contact, then telling Saski “You’re staring at me. Please don’t. You might fall in love.”

That there is Bali’s best pick-up line ever.

“As someone whose days are filled with shoes, my heart is always a step ahead.”

That should settle it. Except his mother is anxious that he link up with childhood friend and ruthless shoe out-sourceress Tiara (Anggika Bolsterli). She’s just as pushy as Kaski’s Deni, wealthy and smitten. Her bullying is all aimed at the working classes.

Amidst all the rituals, ceremonies and traditions, and talk about “Oh no, these are melinjo leaves! They’re supposed to be JACKfruit!” and fairytales and “Ladybugs are said to bring patience,” there’s a sweet, chaste romance that kind of gets lost in the mix.

The various rites and superstitions seem mockable and mocked. But it’s a light “Who believes in that stuff anyway?” ridicule, and as the whole movie is driven by Saski’s “fate” and “bad luck,” which is an endorsement.

The leads have good chemistry. But the obstacles to their being together are worn out cliches with a light frosting of “cleansing,” “readings” and Lontar and leaves.

Deni is a caricature of the “projecting” paranoid and ill-tempered boyfriend, and Tiara is the “working woman” cliche incarnate.

So “A Perfect Fit?” Not perfect. Not that close. But cute, here and there.

MPA Rating: TV-PG, violence

Cast: Nadya Arina, Refal Hady, Giorgino Abraham and Laura Theux

Credits: Directed by Hadrah Daeng Ratu, script by
Garin Nugroho and Hadrah Daeng Ratu. A Netflix release.

Running time: 1:52

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Movie Preview: Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Ben Affleck and Jodie Comer star in Ridley Scott’s “The Last Duel”

He started his big screen career with “The Duelists.” Now Ridley Scott returns to that subject and another French period piece.

Oct. 15 look for “The Last Duel.”

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Movie Review: Dutch Road Ragers are just the worst — “Tailgate (Bumperkleef)”

The villain is introduced in the first scene, a meticulous pest exterminator (“Ongedierteverdelger,” in Dutch) mercilessly hunting down a cyclist on a backroad in the land of windmills, wooden shoes and Dutch treats.

He gets the drop on his quarry, who begs for his life. That never works, even in the Netherlands.

“The time for apologies is behind us,” our unnamed exterminator (Willem de Wolf) officiously growls. We all know what that means, or have our sinking suspicions.

“Tailgate,” which sounds almost adorable in the original Dutch (“Bumperkleef”) is a thriller in the “Duel/Breakdown/Unhinged” mold. And its tagline — “Road Rage Has its Consequences” — suggests something most of its predecessors in this subgenre avoid. Maybe the monster tormenting motorists has a point.

We don’t know how that cyclist crossed him. But next time we see him, he’s just minding his own business, driving the speed limit in the left lane of a divided highway (“dual carriageway”). All those cars backed up behind him? They should be like him, following the rules, being polite, etc. Right?

Especially the frazzled if not-totally-fractured family piled into that Volvo XC 90, scrambling to get to Grandma’s house for what might be Grandpa’s last birthday.

The kids (Roosmarijn van der Hoek, Liz Vergeer) are noisy, quarrelsome tweens.

Wife Diana (Anniek Pheifer) has a hint of passive aggression in her disorganized procrastination. Husband Hans (Jeroen Spitzenberger)? There’s no “passive” to whatever he has going on. His mother is calling, constantly, nagging them for an ETA. The kids are griping and fighting.

And there’s this “kont gat” in the passing line, tying up traffic.

If you’ve ever been behind the wheel you know how this goes. Lights flashing and the horn won’t move him. “Tailgating” only gets you a stop-short. One rude gesture later and the die has been cast.

Diana’s “Don’t provoke people unnecessarily” falls on deaf ears for a guy seeing red. And that inevitable stop for gas is merely the second confrontation. Hans turns his back, and our exterminator is telling a gruesome story — a parable — to his kids. The family wants to leave and the tall man with sprayers and a hazmat suit tucked into his van isn’t having it.

“I’d advise you to apologize,” he purrs, in Dutch with English subtitles, or dubbed into English, “so that you can get back on the road safely.”

Writer-director Lodewijk Crijns — the teen cancer comedy “Sickos” was his — doesn’t reinvent the wheel here. But he keeps the camera tight, capturing the growing fury and then panic inside that Volvo, and keeps his extreme closeups low — bumper’s-eye-view — for the pursuit, chase, and frantic struggles and escape attempts.

All you want out of a movie like this is the ride, fraught and harrowing, a little empathy for the victims and some sense of release.

Crijns works hard to dodge the tried and true in that regard. This has “High Tension” touches that take it out of the realm of the straight-up “Duel” chase with its relentless pursuer. He finds new ways for our villain to get inside his quarry’s heads.

But sometimes avoiding the obvious leads to missteps as tension is frittered away and “logic” flies out an open car window.

I can only imagine the Dutch stereotypes Crijns is poking with his mixed messaging. The first “jerk” the family deals with is driving an Audi, sort of motoring shorthand for “kont gat” the world over. A bike-crazy culture frets over what transgression the first victim could have committed. The littering, speeding, bickering family with the blowhard, confrontational husband isn’t the easiest to root for.

And the villain? Is he or is he not owed his “apology?”

MPA Rating: unrated, violence, profanity

Cast: Jeroen Spitzenberger, Anniek Pheifer, Roosmarijn van der Hoek, Liz Vergeer and Willem de Wolf.

Credits: Scripted and directed by Lodewijk Crijns. A Film Movement (July 30 streaming) release.

Running time: 1:26

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Movie Preview: This August, Neill Blomkamp goes “Demonic”

High tech horror from beyond the grave, August 20.

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Movie Preview: Old Guys kicking each other in the ‘nads — “Jackass Forever”

Stunts and pranks and injuries for laughs return October 22.

Paramount uhhhh, raises the bar?

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Movie Preview: Making Music, and hit records, in Montserrat “Under the Volcano”

The Police, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Earth, Wind and Fire, The Stones, Dire Straits and Jimmy Buffett singing “I don’t know where I’m a gonna go when the Volcano blow” are among those who made music in Beatles Svengali George Martin’s Montserrat Air Studio, before the volcano blew and buried it all.

This August 17 release looks intriguing, from a rock history standpoint.

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Movie Preview: Choose the circumstances of your birth over “Nine Days”

Zazie Beetz, Benedict Wong, Tony Hale, Arianna Ortiz and Bill Skarsgaard are among the stars of this provocative, atmospheric fantasy.

This one opens July 30.

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