Connect with us

Reviews

‘Mr. Malcolm’s List’ Review: A Winsome Regency Romance Bolstered by a Swoonworthy Ensemble

Published

on

‘Mr. Malcolm’s List’ Review: A Winsome Regency Romance Bolstered by a Swoonworthy Ensemble

In the wake of the persisting popularity of Netflix’s adaptation of the Bridgerton series proudly promenading all over TV screens across the globe, you might be under the impression that the soon-to-be-released Mr. Malcolm’s List is merely poised to capitalize on a certain trend, or riding on the coattails of what some would perceive to be its Regency-era predecessor. But the upcoming film, directed by Emma Holly Jones and written by Suzanne Allain (based on her novel of the same name), actually precedes the Shondaland TV show by several years. The original story concept was initially released online as a small film starring many of the same actors, with the hope being that it would then lead to the making of a feature-length movie. Cut to three years later and Mr. Malcolm’s List is making its society debut again, now with even more time afforded for its tale of friendship, love, and what happens when the best-laid plans of carefully orchestrated revenge inevitably go awry. It’s a more conventional, less anachronistic cousin to the Bridgertons of the world, absent of any orchestral pop music covers or scandal that will steam up the screen, but there are still plenty of familiar genre motifs included to satisfy the most ardent of Regency romance lovers.

If you need a quick snapshot summary: the titular Mr. Jeremiah Malcolm (Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù) has been long-talked-about in society, not just because of a fortune that would be substantial enough to see to any future wife’s needs but owing to the fact that he is in possession of a certain list. Said list numbers out each of the qualities that Mr. Malcolm is looking for in a potential bride, and any woman who does not meet with every single one of these attributes is quickly and summarily discarded. Unsurprisingly, this perfunctory method of courtship ends up making its way into the scandal sheets via caricature — as well as the name of the most recently rejected party, Julia Thistlewaite (Zawe Ashton). Enraged and embarrassed, especially once she finds out about the infamous list, Julia reaches out to her childhood friend Selina Dalton (Freida Pinto), with the aim of concocting a scheme against Mr. Malcolm to get revenge for his poor treatment of her. The goal? Selina will present herself as the personification of every single quality Malcolm is looking for in a wife, but the endgame will involve her public rejection of him, as well as the reveal that he has failed to meet her listed-out qualifications for a prospective husband. Granted, none of the conspiring parties involved, including Julia and her cousin Lord Cassidy (a rather fidgety Oliver Jackson-Cohen), could have ever predicted what would happen when Selina and Malcolm actually set eyes on each other for the first time — beneath the moonlight and in the privacy of an orangerie — before either one is actually aware of whom the other truly is.

Advertisement


RELATED: ‘Mr. Malcolm’s List’ Trailer Presents a Romantic Comedy for People Hungry for More Period Dramas

If that setting alone reads as particularly swoony, then you may be pleased to know that Mr. Malcolm’s List delivers on every one of the scenes between its romantic leads that are thoroughly infused with more yearning — even if they happen somewhat sparingly in comparison to the overall plot of the film. That initial chance encounter between Selina and Malcolm, in which the two of them proceed to have the equivalent of Regency-era foreplay in the form of a verbal sparring match, is the first of several between the two that deliver the right combination of tension and allure, and director Jones knows exactly how to frame each lingering instance of hands and gazes to build up the anticipation for what’s to come. When Malcolm places a gloved touch over Selina’s arms in order to assist her with finding her best shot in a game of pall-mall, or as the two of them gaze inextricably into one another’s eyes during a waltz at a costumed ball, these scenes are readily felt, especially because Dìrísù proves such a transfixing presence on-screen. A scene in which his character fights and fails to hide a beaming smile during his first dance with Selina left me utterly charmed and could truly solidify Mr. Malcolm as one of the leading Regency heroes right alongside others of the canon, like Darcy or Knightley.


Pinto’s largest efforts in her performance involve earnestness and being torn between two conflicting but equally strong feelings, as Selina struggles with remaining steadfast to a dear friend while finding herself falling for the man she has already agreed to sabotage. She’s more of an unadorned existence on-screen, though, next to the utter force of comedy that is Ashton’s Julia, who seems primed to know exactly when to utter a sudden, wordless exclamation of dismay purely for the sake of drama. It helps that the two women are such opposite personalities, with Selina often needing to rein Julia back from her more outlandish ideas while Julia frequently nudges Selina to be bolder and less cautious. Meanwhile, the climax of the crisis that occurs, as well as the darkest moment of betrayal, actually plays out with equal importance between the film’s lifelong friends as it does its romantic duo. While Julia could have come across as particularly one-note in the hands of a lesser actress, Ashton imbues the role with oodles of charm and humor as well as crucial sincerity — which doesn’t necessarily absolve the character of all of her missteps, but certainly goes a long way to making her more endearing. Simultaneously, Julia isn’t abandoned without a potential romance of her own, with equally enjoyable banter playing out between her and the handsome Captain Henry Ossory (Theo James) in the backdrop to the central love story.


Advertisement

There might be few real surprises over the course of Mr. Malcolm’s List, but that’s precisely the point. Even if you know what the natural end result of Julia’s misguidedly hatched plan for Selina and Malcolm will be (and those who are most familiar with the genre certainly will), the most compelling aspects of the film lie in a readiness to follow these characters in the journey itself, through all of the highs and lows. It’s one of the aspects of any romance that the movie gets absolutely right. When the finale automatically revolves around a happy ending, all that’s required of us is to sit back and enjoy the story, and in the hands of this particular ensemble, the course of true love may not run entirely smooth, but it also couldn’t be more charming to watch.

Rating: A-

Mr. Malcolm’s List is currently set for theatrical release in the U.S. and Canada on July 1.

Advertisement

Reviews

‘The Terminal List’ Review: Chris Pratt Stars in Your Dad’s New Favorite Show

Published

on

By

‘The Terminal List’ Review: Chris Pratt Stars in Your Dad’s New Favorite Show

Whether you love or hate Chris Pratt, the career he’s built for himself is certainly respectable. Initially breaking out as the lovable doofus Andy Dwyer in Parks & Recreation, Pratt soon was on his way to becoming of the one biggest movie stars in the business. He’s Star-Lord in the MCU, is one of the main faces of the massively successful Jurassic World films, and has lent his vocal talents to critically acclaimed animated flicks like The Lego Movie and Onward. Even in more straightforward action films like The Tomorrow War or The Magnificent Seven, Pratt has managed to bring in some of that goofy everyman presence that made him a star. That makes his involvement in the new Prime Video series The Terminal List a bit of a head-scratcher.

It’s not that The Terminal List is a bad show; it’s insanely entertaining, with some expertly shot and well-choreographed action set-pieces, and a serviceable, albeit cliché tale of revenge. In other words, it’s one of those shows your dad will love watching alongside new episodes of Jack Ryan and Bosch. But its overt self-seriousness and commitment to grit can often get in the way of allowing Pratt to be himself onscreen, or at least bring some of that charm that fans of his are familiar with.

Advertisement

RELATED: ‘The Terminal List’ Images Reveal an Intense and Gripping Military Thriller

Based on the bestselling novel of the same name by former Navy SEAL Jack Carr, The Terminal List centers around James Reece (Pratt), a Navy SEAL who returns home in a state of disarray after an operation gone terribly wrong leads to his entire platoon being ambushed. Upon his arrival back to the states, Reece begins to doubt his own memories and recollections of previous events and suspects that he may be one of those responsible for the attack on his platoon. When the blood and violence start to follow him back to the stateside, causing numerous personal tragedies and putting those he loves in danger, Reece takes matters into his own hands, embarking on a ruthlessly cruel path of revenge.


The Terminal List without a doubt delivers when focusing on its action. It’s a blend between Reacher and Commando, with shades of the anti-establishment and anti-war themes of First Blood. One may be quick to dismiss Pratt’s James Reece. He’s not your typical action hero, and some of the lengths he undertakes in his revenge tour would likely even make John Wick blush. There’s even a scene that feels straight out of Mortal Kombat, featuring Pratt’s Reece ripping out the intestines of an adversary and hanging him. It’s a pseudo-Punisher type tale and at times it’s hard to buy a typically likable presence like Pratt in this type of role. He has the physicality down, but there’s a bit of a disconnect, especially since the show’s writing often doesn’t do the audience any favors in knowing whether to condone the actions of his character. While it’s easy enough to buy into the misfortunes that plague its protagonist, the series never does enough to make James Reece feel human.


The supporting cast around Pratt is impressive, despite some being ludicrously underutilized. Taylor Kitsch‘s performance as Reece’s ally Ben Edwards is one of the biggest highlights of the series. Both Kitsch and Pratt are at their best in their scenes together, with authentic chemistry that makes the brotherly bond they have for one another palpable, and it’s their interactions that give the show the majority of its emotional elements. After initially risking overexposure in the early 2010s, it’s truly nice to see Kitsch getting these types of roles that genuinely bring out his charisma. Jai Courtney is another major standout as Steven Horn, a shady businessman who becomes one of Reece’s primary targets. Courtney seems to know the exact kind of project he’s in, feeling much more like the villain out of a nineties action flick but never feeling out of place, playing the kind of antagonist that you love to hate. Constance Wu is another winner amongst the ensemble as Katie Buranek, a journalist who becomes an unlikely ally to Reece. While an unlikely addition to the cast, Wu plays off both Pratt and Jeanne Tripplehorn extremely well. Riley Keough, who has proven in the past to be extremely talented, isn’t given much to do as Reece’s wife to make an impression, despite being listed in the main cast.

Advertisement


It’s the generic nature of the writing and execution that is the biggest hurdle for The Terminal List and in the end, it just barely squeaks by. The story itself is insanely predictable and even casual viewers will likely see every twist and turn the series throws at them within the first two episodes. Shows like Reacher succeeded in providing successful misdirects and revelations that had audiences at home jumping to the next episode. With The Terminal List, those who are willing to commit to all 50+ minute episodes, will likely just be tuning in to see what kind of crazy things Pratt does next. The series is undeniably watchable and despite the length of each episode, the story never feels too overstuffed to the point where it drags, but it is also far too simple and any moments of genuine excitement aren’t there.


The Terminal List is not some disaster, nor is it unwatchable. In fact, it’ll likely garner a huge following and become a hit for the streamer, but a film might have been the more beneficial route to take, especially for Pratt’s performance and the overall story. Prime Video has delivered plenty of action-revenge tales; in fact, they seem to have a firm grasp on it with films like Without Remorse, much like Netflix has a grasp on the romantic comedy genre. But at the end of the day, a story this simple shouldn’t be this damn long. Pratt has long shown an interest in portraying military roles on screen, as can be seen through his social media as well as his roles in films like Zero Dark Thirty. It’s no mystery what attracted him to this kind of project, and he is at the point in his career where he is free to take risks, but it comes at the cost of losing that natural charisma he’s brought to other roles. As a show to watch alongside your dad during the summer months, it’ll likely do the trick, but this isn’t the kind of show that’ll garner much discussion — at least until its inevitable second season.

Rating: B-

Advertisement

The Terminal List premieres July 1, exclusively on Prime Video.

Continue Reading

Reviews

Minions: The Rise of Gru Review: An IQ Lowering Origin Story

Published

on

By

Minions: The Rise of Gru Review: An IQ Lowering Origin Story

Illumination’s gibberish-babbling, Twinkie-shaped henchmen return in a brainless CGI sequel meant for young children. Minions: The Rise of Gru will lower adult IQ points in a seventies themed origin story that struggles mightily to fill ninety minutes. Big action sequences are sprinkled around a slim narrative that introduces the primary Despicable Me characters. I chuckled a few times as the indecipherable Minions, bombastic new supervillains, and a nascent Gru (Steve Carell) battle over a powerful artifact. More often than not I was hideously bored by a franchise that’s completely run out of creative steam.

The film opens in 1975 with an eleven and three quarters Gru (Carell) dreaming of becoming a supervillain. He idolizes Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin), the butt-kicking geezer leader of the Vicious Six. Gru doesn’t know that Wild Knuckles has been ousted by Belle Bottom (Taraji P. Henson) after the group stole the legendary Zodiac Stone medallion. Gru is ecstatic to receive an interview to join the Vicious Six. He appreciates the Minions building his first evil lair but feels they may be holding him back.

Advertisement

The Vicious Six laugh themselves silly when Gru shows up. He’s just a kid. Their tune changes when Gru snatches the Zodiac Stone. A chase ensues with Gru and his loyal Minions rocketing through the city streets. Gru gives the rotund Otto (Pierre Coffin) the medallion to hide; which he promptly loses. Gru’s anger turns to hero worship when he’s kidnapped by Wild Knuckles. Kevin, Stuart, Bob, and Otto (all voiced by Coffin) must find the Zodiac Stone then travel to San Francisco to rescue their beloved leader.

Related: Mr. Malcolm’s List Review: A Funny & Charming English Period Romance

A Flimsy Plot

Minions: The Rise of Gru tries to make up for its flimsy plot by milking seventies pop culture. Jaws, Afros, Tupperware, pet rocks, and of course, Kung Fu, take center stage on the Minions quest. The film is also loaded with the decade’s toe-tapping musical hits from Black Magic Woman to Funkytown. The grooviness and visual cues distract to a point; then becomes filler material for a script with zero substance.

Advertisement

I will give the animators credit for a solid action spectacle. You can see where the blockbuster budget was spent; apart from Steve Carell’s salary and the musical rights. The Vicious Six, Wild Knuckles, and Gru create mayhem with their eye-popping gadgets. The grown up baddies duke it out in cartoonish brawls. The Minions join the fisticuffs after a crash course under the tutelage of Master Chow (Michelle Yeoh). The Chinatown climax looks impressive.

Illumination Needs a Fresh Perspective

The Minions are akin to a piece of gum that’s losing flavor. It still looks bright, yellow, and appealing but has been chewed to rubber. The previous films had endearing qualities. They were silly and humorous with a healthy dose of heart. The latest iteration is pure fluff. It ekes out a few giggles over a strained runtime. Minions: The Rise of Gru is solely meant for a kindergarten audience. I have no doubt it will slay the summer box office and spawn further sequels. Illumination needs a fresh perspective with these characters and the franchise.

Minions: The Rise of Gru is produced by Illumination. It will have a theatrical release on July 1st from Universal Pictures.

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Reviews

‘Ms. Marvel’ Episode 4 Review: Chaos and ClanDestines Come to Karachi

Published

on

By

‘Ms. Marvel’ Episode 4 Review: Chaos and ClanDestines Come to Karachi

The Khans are headed to Karachi! Well, two of them are anyway. Following last week’s Ms. Marvel, where Sana (Samina Ahmad) told her granddaughter Kamala (Iman Vellani) to come visit her in Pakistan with her mother (Zenobia Shroff) to solve the mystery of the bangle, the episode opens with the two of them on a plane, Karachi-bound. But just because they’re flying halfway around the world together does not mean all is forgiven after the stunt Kamala pulled at Aamir’s (Saagar Shaikh) wedding. Though Kamala is more than willing to explain to Nakia (Yasmeen Fletcher) what happened, it seems she doesn’t seem quite as willing to share with her mother.

They arrive in Karachi in a scene familiar to anyone who has ever flown to visit family in that part of the world, where the airport is packed with more family than can possibly be needed to convey the travelers to where they’re staying. In Kamala’s case, her grandmother is accompanied by her cousins Zainab (Vardah Aziz) and Owais (Asfandyar Khan), who are around Kamala’s age and are eager to show her around.

Advertisement

Before they can do that, Kamala and Muneeba head back to Sana’s house, where she and Kamala get down to the real reason for their visit. While Muneeba remains under the impression that Sana wanted them to visit because her mother isn’t getting any younger, Kamala and her grandmother set about trying to solve the mystery of the bracelet, of the ClanDestines who want to take it, and of why they both shared a vision of the train Sana took from India to Karachi. Sana repeats information Kamala already has: that they’re genetically djinn and that as a child she found her father at the train station by “following a trail of stars.” But the firsthand account seems much more matter-of-fact, and less the wistfulness of a daydreaming woman Kamala’s family seemed to think it was.


RELATED: How ‘Ms. Marvel’s Comedy Offers a Relatable Look at the MCU’s First Muslim Superhero

While out with her cousins, Kamala is determined to investigate the train vision further and begs off the coffee shop excursion to make her own way to the train station instead. There, her search is interrupted by Kareem (Aramis Knight), a member of the underground group known as the Red Daggers. When he realizes who Kamala is, he brings her to the Red Dagger headquarters where their leader Waleed (Farhan Akhtar) gives Kamala some added context for the ClanDestines.

He assures her that they are not the djinn she’s heard of from legends or religious texts, and explains that the nickname is merely a by-product of where they happened to arrive when crossing from their dimension into Kamala’s. This is a relief, to say the least, as it would be very disappointing if the MCU’s first Muslim superhero was also genetically linked to a group of beings often misused and misunderstood by Western storytellers. By making the ClanDestine’s djinn alias more of a nickname used by those who didn’t know better, it nominally ties them to the part of the world where they appeared while clearly marking them as separate.


Advertisement

Waleed then goes on to tell Kamala that if the ClanDestines get their hands on the bangle, and use it to open the veil of Noor that separates the two dimensions, the hidden dimension they came from will spill over and devour Kamala’s, making it essential that she keep the bracelet away from them. That, however, is proving to be more and more difficult as Najma (Nimra Bucha) and the other ClanDestines break out of the Department of Damage Control’s custody and head to Karachi. The only one who does not accompany them is Kamran (Rish Shah), as Najma feels she can’t trust him in this.

In and around the exposition and the lore that spills out in this episode, writers Sabir Pirzada, A. C. Bradley and Matthew Chauncey, and director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy make plenty of space to examine not only the diaspora experience, but also the experience of those growing up in the shadow of generational trauma. While Sana spends the bulk of her time in her home, surrounded by memories of all that she lost, both during Partition and when her daughter left for America, Kamala’s cousins are not so similarly haunted by the past. They know their history, of course, but while their grandmother lives with the memories and consequences of choices made by British colonizers, Zainab and Owais are proud members of a yacht club, which is a colonialist institution if I ever saw one. True, it’s frequented by locals, but locals who still uphold a certain idea of class and social hierarchy. Neither Sana nor Zainab and Owais are wrong for the way they live. Generational differences are a tale as old as time. But to those whose families lived through a major upheaval in their way of life, there is familiarity in the dichotomy between those who live for the memory of what was, and those who live looking to make the best of what is.


The one major downside to this episode is the prolonged chase scene with the ClanDestines tracking down Kamala and Kareem. It’s true this is a feature of superhero shows, and Ms. Marvel is no exception, but there are only so many alleys to run down, trucks to dodge, and stalls to trip over before the whole thing starts to feel repetitive. The action scenes in previous episodes benefited from either being short or containing some kind of tension beyond Kamala’s immediate survival. In the third episode, when a fight breaks out at the wedding, there is the constant worry that someone will see her powers — a tension that paid off when Nakia caught Kamala using them. But here, the people of Karachi are simply too calm at the sudden influx of flying trucks and teenagers being chased by dagger-wielding assassins.


The sequence does end with another wild cliffhanger, however, something this show does especially well. Najma stabs Kamala’s bangle and opens what appears to be a hole in space-time, dropping the 21st-century girl from New Jersey smack in the middle of a train station in Partition-era India. If they’re really going the time-travel route, it’s possible Kamala might be the source of the “trail of stars” that reunites her grandmother with her father and therefore ensures Kamala’s own existence. But I suppose time will tell.

Advertisement

Rating: B+

The first four episodes of Ms. Marvel are streaming now on Disney+.

Read More about Ms. Marvel:

‘Ms. Marvel’: Trailers, Release Date, Cast, and Everything We Know So Far About the Disney+ Series

‘Ms Marvel’ Cast and Character Guide: Who’s Who in the Disney+ Series

How to Watch ‘Ms. Marvel’: When Is the MCU Series Streaming Online?

Continue Reading

Trending