James Wan's 'Malignant' Will Be the First "R" Rated US Horror Movie to Release in China

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Bloody Disgusting 09 September, 2021 - 03:07pm 4 views

When does malignant come to HBO Max?

'Malignant' will release in theatres and to stream exclusively with the HBO Max Ad-Free plan in the US on September 10, 2021. hbomax.com'Malignant' will release in theatres and to stream exclusively with the HBO Max Ad-Free plan in the US on September 10, 2021.

[Review] James Wan's 'Malignant' Is a Bloody Valentine to Outrageous '90s Horror

Bloody Disgusting 10 September, 2021 - 11:41am

American Crime Story has developed a formula that recreates the guilty pleasures of following these exhaustively covered scandals while also subjecting them to meticulously fair retrospective critiques. In both shows, expert pacing makes all the legalistic complexities of the scandals in question comprehensible, while flawless casting keeps us invested. It’s the actors who manage to locate something sympathetic and human in each of these familiar and mutually antagonistic characters. What ACS grasps, and what prevents the shows from becoming tediously didactic, is that these stories were riveting for a reason. The success of both shows can be measured by how believably they replicate the sensation of being engrossed by these events as they unfolded in real time.

The saga of Bill Clinton’s impeachment, which totally dominated American politics and media from 1998 to 1999, has been undergoing a public reevaluation for several years. This is partly due to the Clintons’ declining clout since Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary in 2016, as well as the #MeToo movement, which has drawn attention to the myriad ways women are exploited and abused in the workplace. It’s also part of a related cultural trend, in which vilified women from the ’90s, from Tonya Harding to Anita Hill, are receiving more nuanced reexaminations than the media offered them at the time. What makes the impeachment story so additionally ripe for revisiting is the emergence of one of its central characters, Monica Lewinsky, from a decade of self-imposed exile.

Beginning with a Vanity Fair article in 2014 and continuing with a widely discussed TED talk on bullying and public shaming in 2015, Lewinsky has belatedly embraced fame on her own terms, taking charge of the narrative that was imposed upon her after the public exposure of her affair with Clinton during her White House internship. By seemingly all accounts, recent history’s most relentless slut-shaming could not have happened to a nicer person. Lewinsky, now 48, has won over a large and influential fan base with her humor, self-awareness, and resilience. Those qualities are evident in Impeachment, on which she served as a co-producer at the invitation of director and executive producer Ryan Murphy, providing insights that lend the series authenticity. (When Lewinsky delivers pizza to the West Wing, for instance, real Washingtonians will recognize that it comes from Armand’s.)

Lewinsky is portrayed by 28-year-old Beanie Feldstein (Booksmart, Lady Bird), who clearly feels a deep rapport with her character. “We’re both Jewish girls from L.A. who listen to showtunes on the treadmill,” Feldstein told Vanity Fair recently (a lot of the casting, from Billy Eichner’s Matt Drudge to Cobie Smulders’s Ann Coulter to the so-far-underutilized Edie Falco’s Hillary Clinton, is similarly on the nose, which is not a complaint at all). Feldstein’s task is to capture realistically what the public had no interest in understanding about Lewinsky in the ’90s—her intelligence, her loyalty, her refusal to break under FBI interrogation, her earnestness, her past experience of being taken advantage of by a significantly older man—while still exposing those aspects of her behavior that Lewinsky herself must find embarrassing today. The Lewinsky who had an affair with Clinton was cripplingly insecure, kind and trusting to a fault, a bit self-absorbed in the way lots of recent college graduates in Washington are, and delusional about her one-sided relationship with the president—and it’s to Feldstein’s credit, and Lewinsky’s, that all of this is on display amid the story of her martyrdom.

Clinton is somehow the most familiar and the most enigmatic of the central characters, and while it may take a beat for audiences to accept the British actor Clive Owen in the role of a universally recognizable Arkansan, things soon click into place. Owen is able to channel three of the forty-second president’s much-documented qualities: first, Clinton’s magnetic charisma, his infamous ability to look anyone in the eye and make them feel fully seen, which in the case of Lewinsky escalates to literal seduction; second, his cold-blooded, calculating political instincts, which enable him  to discard Lewinsky ruthlessly the instant she becomes a liability; and third, the simmering competitive rage that compels him to fight for his presidency when a more sober-minded politician might have done the decent thing and resigned. The script for Impeachment also strongly implies that Clinton is guilty of all of the sexual misconduct alleged by Paula Jones (Annaleigh Ashford), Kathleen Willey (Elizabeth Reaser), and Juanita Broaddrick, all of whom are treated as credible accusers—and while none of the misconduct itself is actually shown on camera, Owen’s performance makes it all seem horribly plausible. The series is no right-wing hit job, and while liberal journalists have been getting more vocally critical of Clinton’s treatment of women over the past several years, this may be the first pop-cultural depiction in which Clinton comes off as not just incorrigible but also predatory.

Still, the central character in this story is neither Clinton nor Lewinsky but rather one of the great villains in recent American life, Linda Tripp, masterfully played by Sarah Paulson, who was also remarkable in the role of Marcia Clark in the O.J. miniseries. Tripp, the ostensible friend who secretly recorded her intimate conversations with Lewinsky about the affair and turned the tapes over to the special counsel investigating the Clinton administration, has always been the least sympathetic player in the whole scandal, and for good reason. Paulson’s challenge is to make Tripp interesting and to identify how she rationalized a personal betrayal so monstrous it transcends politics.

As a child of the D.C. suburbs, I found Paulson’s performance resonated, because it’s very rare to see a character like Tripp—the kind of unglamorous, clock-punching, mid-tier, career federal bureaucrat on whose labor the Beltway runs—get such an extended fictionalized treatment. Her apparent bond with the Beverly Hills–reared and fashion-conscious Lewinsky, with whom she goes antiquing ahead of her unsettlingly Teutonic annual Christmas party, is a marvelous study in how professional and personal distress can forge human connections across cultural divides—and how those connections, in turn, can be weaponized. Tripp embodies a particular conservative archetype the historian Rick Perlstein explores in his 2009 book, Nixonland: a conservatism rooted primarily in the resentment that the ordinary and mediocre feel toward liberals with more social capital. While that’s a terrible excuse both for right-wing politics and for wiretapping an emotionally vulnerable colleague, it’s also a rich vein for an actress of Paulson’s caliber to mine.

The “vast right-wing conspiracy” that Hillary Clinton would allege was responsible for her husband’s troubles gets plenty of screen time, as well. It includes media figures like Drudge and Coulter, as well as legal minds like Kenneth Starr and his young henchmen Brett Kavanaugh and George Conway, and the somewhat less famous Susan Carpenter-McMillan (Judith Light), a wealthy operative who takes the hapless Paula Jones under her wing. It excuses nothing Bill Clinton did to recall that his presidency was nearly brought down by a reactionary cabal that exploited his accusers no less cynically than he did, in pursuit of an agenda far removed from the public interest.

One thing Impeachment doesn’t have is sex: We see the flirtations between Clinton and Lewinsky, and the resulting sex acts the public would eventually hear far too much about are clinically described when the plot demands it, but the acts themselves are left tastefully off-screen. This might seem surprising, since the conventional wisdom has always been that the scandal was fundamentally about sex, and not about the supposed high crime of lying about sex under oath in a civil suit. But the impeachment drama was about a lot more than sex and lies: It was one episode in the still-ongoing power struggle among competing petty factions in our decadent imperial capital—distinguished above all by the women whose lives and reputations were its collateral damage.

David Klion is an editor at Jewish Currents and a writer for The Nation and other publications.

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Malignant Review: Fresh, Original Horror With a Few Fumbles

ComicBook.com 10 September, 2021 - 11:41am

Malignant review – lurid Argento-influenced horror is hit-and-miss

The Guardian 10 September, 2021 - 11:41am

For a goodly chunk of the film, that rudimentary game of perspective is the most compelling dimension of scenes that prove more interesting to think about than watch. That all changes around the midway point, as the script shifts gears into an agreeable register of B-movie lunacy, but it takes too much of the nearly two-hour run time to get there. Wan and screenwriter Akela Cooper have a sturdy, memorable hook on their hands, good enough to be left unspoken here – let’s just say that medical oddities have proven a reliable source of bizarre grotesquerie for many before them. If only they’d put fuller faith in the true nature of their premise, and leaned all the way into the kookier side of body horror. Instead of trying for the sophistication of Cronenberg and coming up short, they’d be better off embracing the near-absurdity of lower-rent cult objects like Basket Case from the start. Like one of its key characters, this movie only comes alive when it mutates into the thing it’s been concealing.

A prologue sets the heightened tone that Wan then puts on hold for about an hour, starting with an exterior establishing shot of a Gothic-designed mental institute unafraid to look like an old-school miniature model. There, a patient’s escape coincides with all hell breaking loose stylistically; canted camera angles keep us off balance, splashes of crimson embellish the frame, and actors read their lines with the theatrical exaggeration endemic to late-night Elvira selections. It’s good fun, and as the somewhat more grounded scenes to follow illustrate, it’s the only way to make Wan and Cooper’s gummy dialogue work. Madison and those in her orbit speak with a dull sense of bald purpose, their words hustling the plot along without conveying much in the way of character. “I’m her sister,” is how Sydney (Maddie Hasson) announces herself, and though her bond with Madison solidifies into the film’s load-bearing emotional column, their closeness is generally stated rather than shown.

Sydney and the detectives (George Young and Michole Briana White) working her sibling’s case follow the string of corpses right back to Madison, whose claim that her girlhood imaginary friend Gabriel the Devil did it doesn’t hold water with the cops. Up to this point, Wan’s just reconfiguring his filmography’s favored narrative devices – Saw’s patient madman taking revenge years in the making, the hysterical possessions of Insidious and the Conjuring – without too much fresh innovation. A handful of set pieces toy with space using flashing light bulbs to underwhelming effect, but it’s only once Madison’s getting the snot kicked out of her in a jail cell by the great stuntwoman Zoe Bell that all hell starts to break loose. The lurid aesthetic returns in full force, the blocking grows frantic and restlessly mobile, even the writing sharpens up. Following a massacre of local police, a woman calling 911 takes a beat and realizes the people she’d be calling are already dead all around her.

In an interview with IGN, Wan expressed a desire to work at a more intimate scale between blockbuster studio gigs, something in line with “the kind of films that excited me when I was much younger, when I was a teen growing up, idolizing film-makers like De Palma, Argento, and all that”. Those influences, De Palma’s twisted Sisters in particular, make themselves known in this winningly demented second-act stretch up to the acrobatic finale. (The Argento name-check boils down to the copious closeups of black-gloved hands wielding a medical award modified to serve as a dagger, a splendid and original signature weapon.) Maybe there’s something to be said for the surprise factor of such a sudden, palpable change in the film’s atmosphere. In practice, however, it feels like Wan’s being stingy with the livelier mayhem he’s evidently capable of unleashing. He can access a spectacular cinematic evil lying dormant inside him, so he ought to take a cue from his own story and let it be free before it can eat through the back of his skull.

Malignant is out in US and UK cinemas and available on HBO Max

Malignant Review: James Wan Returns To Horror

Den of Geek 10 September, 2021 - 11:41am

In the director's new feature, a woman is tormented by horrific visions of murders that turn out to be real.

By Frank Scheck

The latest horror film directed by James Wan (the Conjuring franchise) is being offered on HBO Max for a limited time coinciding with its theatrical release, but it would be advisable to catch it in a theater. Not so much because it demands to be seen on the big screen, but rather so you can join in on the rollicking laughter of your fellow moviegoers.

Take the ingredients of films by the likes of Dario Argento, David Cronenberg and Brian De Palma, throw them into a blender, and you’ll get something approximating this ambitious but misconceived effort. While Malignant clearly reflects the filmmaker’s love for classic giallo, it feels less an homage than the sort of half-baked imitation conceived as the result of a dare.

Release date: Friday, Sept. 10

Cast: Annabelle Wallis, Maddie Hasson, George Young, Michole Briana White, Jacqueline McKenzie, Jake Abel, Ingrid Bisu

Director: James Wan

Screenwriter: Akela Cooper

Akela Cooper’s screenplay — based on an idea she developed with Wan and his wife, actress Ingrid Bisu (The Nun) — begins with a prologue set in the sort of storm-battered, cliffside mental hospital seen only in gothic horror tales. There, Dr. Weaver (Jacqueline McKenzie) is attending to a patient who’s clearly in need of drastic intervention.

“It’s time to cut out the cancer,” Dr. Weaver announces dramatically to her fellow doctors. How this shocking introduction relates to the rest of the story is revealed only gradually, but suffice it to say that narrative coherence was clearly not a priority.

Cut to the present day, where we’re introduced to the main character, the very pregnant Madison (Annabelle Wallis, of The Mummy and Annabelle), whose abusive husband (Jake Abel) repeatedly beats her, at one point bashing her head against the wall so severely that she wakes up with her pillow covered in blood. Hubby soon pays dearly for his transgressions, when he’s killed by a home intruder who seems to be some sort of demonic creature. As it’s later sarcastically described in the film, think Sloth from The Goonies, if he had also been a contortionist and was in bad need of a haircut.

Upon her recovery from her injuries, Madison, whom we learn has suffered a series of miscarriages, begins experiencing horrific visions in which she sees the same creature brutally murdering other victims, including Dr. Weaver and the other physicians involved in the opening sequence. Needless to say, the gruesome killing spree attracts the interest of a pair of homicide detectives (George Young, Michole Briana White), one of whom becomes convinced that Madison herself is the murderer. Meanwhile, Madison receives a series of communications from the professed killer. He calls himself Gabriel, which also happens to be the name of her imaginary childhood friend, the memories of whom she’d long repressed.

For a while Malignant works fairly well as a creepy, if slow-moving, thriller, tinged with supernatural elements rendered with visually striking CGI effects. But as more of the jaw-dropping, outlandish scenario is revealed, the sillier and more frenetic the proceedings become, devolving into a series of ludicrous chases and extremely gory fight sequences in which Gabriel displays his admirable physical agility and lethal skills with a blade. The most elaborate set piece, staged in undeniably arresting fashion, involves a massacre in which he wreaks murderous havoc in what looks to be the world’s largest holding cell for female prisoners.

The film might have been outrageously bizarre fun if it displayed any humor or ironic self-consciousness, but everything is played so straight that viewers will find themselves laughing not with the film, but at it. The characterizations are paper-thin, the dialogue is perfunctory and the performances are, to put it charitably, adequate at best. And while Wallis, as the beleaguered heroine, certainly projects abject terror effectively enough, one longs for the nuance that a Margot Kidder or Jessica Harper would have brought to the role.

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