By Anne Brodie
The Menu follows Tyler and Margot (Nicholas Hoult and Anya Taylor-Joy) on a culinary adventure in a remote island restaurant with an excruciatingly high snob factor. The woman he was to bring dumped him, so she was replaced by Margot, who wasn’t aware until the chef (Ralph Fiennes) told her so. They join diners who have also paid thousands per plate to experience the legendary local nature-based nouvelle cuisine of Chef Slowik (Ralph Fiennes). He’s a strange dude whose need for precision and dominance isn’t uncommon in a chef, but as the night goes on, becomes uncommon. He dominates the guests, terrifying, titillating, and frightening them with his descriptions of each of the tasting courses. He says they won’t get full and warns them not to eat but taste. He serves the bread course without bread, the first withholding maneuver that sets him up as a dangerous, devious person. His assistant, the intrusive, stonehearted Elsa (Hong Chau) surveilles the guests, disciplines, insults and abuses them, and interestingly, no one stands up to her. She and Chef take cruel liberties with the diners physically and psychologically, but why? Chef says it’s about the food – and it is in more ways than one. There is a serious grudge unwrapped, and a man with a broken soul carrying out vengeance. Equally fascinating and repugnant, thrilling and sickening, The Menu is a twisted satire/horror from Director Mark Mylod and writers Seth Reiss and Will Tracy, which, while savagely satirical of the wealthy, submissive diners who respond to cruelties against them like frightened birds, it serves up man’s worst intentions, unchecked. Denmark’s famous Noma seems to be the inspiration but why? Not the cruelty porn but the idea of striving hard enough to satisfy the chef? It’s tight, well written and loaded with excellent performances – like the subtle depth charge of Judith Light, whose face says all the lines she didn’t get, Fiennes’ nutty nut, Taylor-Joy’s street cred, John Leguizamo, the tone-deaf, washed-up superstar, Janet McTeer as the poisonous food writer and a thieving tech guy gang. Wow. In theatres.
She Said based on the book She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite the #MeToo Movement reminds us that two brave New York Times reporters Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor (Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan) faced up to one of the most notorious sexual predators and bullies in Hollywood, Miramax founder Harvey Weinstein, and the vast machine engineered to protect him. Eighty-three women came forward in total to tell their stories of sexual assault by Weinstein by the time he was sent to prison for 23 years. Twohey and Kantor managed to find and speak with multiple victims but none would go on the record, or provide documents or confirmation. Rose McGowan had spoken out on Twitter but she’d been written off, her career and reputation ruined by the Weinstein machine. They built their story under threat knowing they were under surveillance and potentially in danger. Twohey and Kantor pushed on with the power of the NYT behind them and weathered Weinstein’s delaying and legal tactics. They found Weinstein had “settled” over the past decade or so massive payouts in return for victim’s signed nondisclosure agreements so often that his Board begged him to stop. They knew and protected him. The women’s damning findings were the seeds of a workplace sexual harassment cultural shift, revitalised Tarana Burke’s #MeToo movement, and a global awakening to workplace harassment. Mulligan and Kazan and the supporting cast’s serious performances and director Maria Schrader’s sober and measured tone work well. The film underscores the value of investigative journalism; thankfully Schrader treated it as such without cheap tactics and distracting flourishes. Only in theatres.
The documentary Salvatore: Shoemaker Of Dreams from Call Me By Your Name director Luca Guadagnino looks at the surprising life and legacy of Italian superstar shoemaker, the late Salvatore Ferragamo. Based on his memoir, we learn his strength of will and courage, how he got himself on his own, at age 12, from his home village of Bonito to Florence, to Ellis Island and Hollywood, and became a global celebrity master shoemaker. His faith in his gift – and passion – at that age is remarkable. By 17 he got to the US west coast with a decade of shoemaking experience to his credit. What made his handmade shoes so special is that he perfected comfort. He learned the art of cutting, stitching, measuring, and crafting shoes alone, selling shoes out of his parents’ hallway pop-up. He made enough money to move to Naples and Florence to refine his work and when in America studied anatomy and skeletal structure. His conclusion was that there are no bad feet, just bad shoes. He joined his brothers in Santa Barbara the pre-Hollywood filmmaking capital and earned the trust of filmmakers and stars. Among his customers were Lillian Gish, Gloria Swanson, Douglas Fairbanks, Marion Davies, Joan Crawford, Rudolph Valentino, Pola Negri, and later in Hollywood Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Bette Davis, Rita Hayworth, and Ingrid Bergman to name a few. He had a happy marriage and six children, his dreams had come true. Martin Scorsese, Manolo Blahnik, Grace Coddington, Todd McCarthy, and two generations of Ferragamo family members fill out this amazing portrait of determination, artistry, and his part in the Hollywood Dream Machine. Scotiabank theatre.
Amazon Canada Original film Sugar looks back at two Montreal-based women and their unwitting part in the international drug trade, a true story. Jasmine Sky Sarin as Melanie and Katherine McNamara as Chloe are sociable twenty-somethings – Melanie lives at home with her loving single dad and Chloe is a social media influencer who can’t pay her rent, adrift in life. The pair become friends in a club one night when an acquaintance offers them a luxury cruise halfway around the world, for free. They’re naive and don’t press for details and soon they’re on their way, posting super happy, kissy face pix as carefully managed as their makeup. Little by little, it dawns on them that they aren’t safe. The men “watching” them are sketchy so they’re not entirely surprised to discover bags of cocaine stashed in their stateroom ceiling. The girls shift the stash and look for ways to go home but are forced to complete the trip – as drug mules. They stop in upstate New York, Panama, Lima, Tahiti, and finally Sydney, a sympathetic friend is murdered, and they find themselves running for their lives through the jungle from drug guerillas with assault rifles. But it’s on to the next destination. Chilling and real. On Prime Video.
Fleishman Is In Trouble now on Disney+ loos at the breakdown of a marriage. A newly divorced man and father of two whose acrimonious split has sent him into a tailspin. Toby (Jesse Eisenberg) is lonely and angry but takes care to handle his children gently. Little Hannah (Meara Mahoney Gross) is especially hurt – she acts out, talks back, and insults him – and he keeps apologising to her. Son Solly (Maxim Swinton) is at sea with what’s happening. His ex Rachel (Claire Danes) dumps the kids on him, interfering with his job as a leading liver surgeon and disappears. He’s buoyed by the reappearance of old friends Libby (Lizzy Caplan) and Seth (Adam Brody), who try to help him shake off the old life and start anew. They suggest a dating app, and hey presto, he’s a hit. Seems every able-bodied New York woman wants him and so begins a hypersexual phase – when the kids are at school. Just sex, no relationships. But where is Rachel? Her friends take plenty of digs at him and nose around, but won’t share any info they may have on her. Dinner in the Hamptons and a massive job offer only serve to depress him, apparently set up by the missing Claire, so he can earn more money and she can get that condo she wants. So she cruelly leaves the door open. Graphic sexual content and a bit of a downer.
Jason Momoa visited loads of Toronto restaurants and landmarks while he was here making Slumberland. His Instagram posts show a man truly enjoying himself and that joie de vivre is his character’s greatest charm in the delightful teen fantasy. Based on Winsor McCay’s comic book series, Little Nemo in Slumberland puts a modern spin on the classic. Nemo, a female protagonist (Marlow Barkley) lives happily with her widowed father (Kyle Chandler) in a remote lighthouse. She has a terrific imagination, and lots to read, she studies and draws and knows how to operate the lighthouse if the need should arise. Her father answers a distress call during a wild sea storm leaving her in charge. Her vivid and terrifying nightmare comes true; he never returns. She’s sent to live in a sky-scraping condo block in the city with her father’s estranged brother Phil (Chris O’Dowd). He has no idea what to do with her and she’s unhappy living in a glass box and aches to return to the lighthouse and find her father. A strange fantasy figure appears to her named Flip – Jason Momoa in top form – and teaches her the difference between waking and sleeping life. He has been asleep for so long that he doesn’t remember who is his waking self but his current sleeping self is an adorable horned “outlaw”. There are many undercurrents at play – mourning for her lost father and life, refusing to believe she won’t see him again, her resistance to city life, and Flip’s search for a pearl he believes will fix everything so he will find out who he is and Nemo’s relationship with her uncle. Momoa and Barkley are perfectly in sync with one another – they dance, run, hide, search and try to figure things out, even as they are tracked by Slumberland and Waking Life officials who get in their way at every turn. Energising and fanciful, it’s a lovely experience for children that could help them navigate some of life’s tough issues. And Toronto and Canada get plenty of amusing asides. On Netflix Nov 28.
Super Channel Fuse launches S2 of the engrossing British crime anthology The Pact, on Nov. 22, and it’s a doozy. A loving Welsh family led by matriarch and social worker Christine (Rakie Ayola) mourns the death of their son and brother Liam. While vulnerable, a sinister presence enters their lives. A stranger is stalking the Anthonys; they don’t see him, but we do; he gets into the house on multiple occasions and stuns Liam’s sister and brother in the family-owned diner. He is the very image of Liam. He’s Connor (Jordan Wilks) and claims to be their brother. Will (Lloyd Everitt) and Megan (Mali Ann Rees) are aghast; their mother absolutely denies it – “I’d know if I’d had another child”. He slowly ingratiates himself into their circle; they’re open to him but wary. DNA tests are ordered and past contacts are called. He seems perfectly nice but viewers know better, and now he has access to their digital lives and becomes violent, but out of sight. A concerned friend looks him up and finds Liam has a lengthy criminal record – he easily explains the incidents. The eldest married son’s wife tells him too much info about the land they’re developing for an Adventure Park and all seems in danger of collapse, as we wait for the characters to do something. Intriguing, addictive crime drama about a stranger in town with a determined, unbalanced mind, and the ripple effect of evil and secrets.
Now for some smiles! Mickey: The Story of a Mouse now on Disney+ in time for Mickey’s birthday, salutes the iconic cartoon character, the corporate symbol, the white-gloved rodent, one of the world’s most recognisable graphic images. Walt Disney’s creation, a sprightly fella inspired by Charlie Chaplin, made his theatrical debut in 1928 in Steamboat Willie, as a replacement for the underperforming Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Mickey took off, his falsetto voice, youthful hijinks and easygoing attitude. Steamboat Willie was a sound picture, accompanied by a full orchestra and made a big splash. To quote an interviewee, Mickey hit the “stratosphere” of popularity comparable to Star Wars later on. Mickey’s adventures included flying, sailing, saving people, romancing Minnie and performing. It wasn’t long before Disney developed specialised merchandise that flew off the shelves and enabled Walt and his brother Roy to expand their animation dream factory. Mickey changed with the times and made political and social statements, like acknowledging the Depression, the threat of Hitler and Nazism, war, the counterculture sixties, and other cultural touchstones. He was used for American WWII propaganda so successfully that he was banned by Hitler and Mussolini. Walt was a patriot and conservative and a suburbanite in later years, when Mickey pushed those values, golfing, mowing grass, etc. But overall, he reflected the American zeitgeist and fascinated global audiences. Disney theme parks allowed fans to “meet’ Mickey and experience Disney’s world in 3D. While the film seems propaganda for the Mouse and Disney studios, it also acknowledges Mickey’s periods of irrelevance. Animators, artists, social commentators, art historians, and even Andy Warhol provide insights. Sure, Mickey: The Story of a Mouse is a commercial but it’s fascinating to watch the artists and voice actors work to marry tradition and modernity as they put together a new short.
The Cottage Life documentary special Loons: A Cry From The Mist raises the alarm for the future of the beloved bird whose instantly recognisable call warms the hearts of Ontarians. Seems Southern Ontario is the top loon nesting and breeding ground in the world, with its thousands of isolated lakes and science, is trying to determine how to save them. Dr. Doug Tozer, Dr. Walter Piper, Linda Grenzer, Sheldon McGregor, Dr. Peter Soroye, cottagers, citizen scientists, and bird experts lead us through one year of loon life. The Common Loon has migrated from the Gulf of Mexico to southern Ontario for 70 million years. They are expert fishers but unable to navigate dry land, they build nests in the reeds, away from “preying” eyes, where babies are born and raised. It’s an idyllic scene, but modern problems are killing loons. Pollution poisons and makes murky their waters, global warming dangerously overheats them and increasing boat traffic impacts them even to death. These days there are up to 30% fewer chicks born that survive than in the 90s as man further infiltrates their habitat. Researchers found there were zero loons on eight lakes in Algonquin, and only 15% of chicks return to the lakes now as compared to 60% previously. It’s a grim picture, that a bird so skilled and tough would succumb to human carelessness in a few short decades. Tonight.
Here is a checklist of ways to preserve the Loon:
⦁ Use non-lead tackle
⦁ Give a 200-foot berth or more to loons when driving a boat around the lake
⦁ Stay off the shoreline where most loons are, canoes and kayaks included
⦁ Keep natural vegetation on your lake shoreline to give loons nesting areas and provide fish habitat
⦁ Don’t use fertilizer on your lawns as it can leach into the lake, fuel the growth of algae, and reduce water clarity, making it hard for loons to find fish
HBO has the 37th Annual Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony tomorrow night, recorded on Nov 5. and On-Demand the next day. This year’s inductees are Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo, Duran Duran, Eminem, Eurythmics, Dolly Parton, Lionel Richie, Carly Simon, Judas Priest, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Harry Belafonte, Elizabeth Cotton, Allen Grubman, Jimmy Iovine, and Sylvia Robinson.