MOVIES with Ralph Fiennes and a weird menu, Guillermo del Toro’s take on a classic children’s story and a Disney update on another

Most new movies this week are worth your time. But there are a few that I don’t have here today. For some reason they weren’t available in preview.

bardofor example, described as a surreal black comedy about a midlife crisis by a famous Mexican director, Alejandro G. Iñárritu. Or Fiery, a revamp of A Christmas Carol starring Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell. A New York Times review called it “a tedious comedy”. Or She says about the denunciation by this same newspaper of the story of Harvey Weinstein.

All three are playing now, in theaters or via streaming.

So are these…

The menu: 3 stars

Pinocchio by Guillermo del Toro: 4

Disenchanted: 3 ½

Stay the night: 3 ½

Salvatore Shoemaker of Dreams: 3

THE MENU: Weird but very clever was my reaction here. This film is funny then tense, intriguing then close to a horror tale. Ralph Fiennes himself brings all these vibes, flavors perhaps, as a chef who runs a very exclusive restaurant on a remote island. He oversees a team of cooks who obey him like army soldiers. It serves a multi-course meal and precedes each with a description and a signifier. “Don’t eat” he said. “Enjoy” Also, it explains why there is no bread served. Throughout history, bread has been for the poor.

Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

His guests, 12 in number, are not poor. They each paid $1,250 for the meal and the experience. Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult are a couple; John Leguizamo is a once famous actor, Janet McTeer is a food critic who uses pretentious phrases, three athletes are a bit drunk, an elderly couple have eaten there more than once. With the exception of Anya’s character, they’re all foodies, and as the film listens to their conversations and the chef’s speeches, it turns into a twisted parody, with a few accompaniments of privilege shots and of class. It’s common in the work of director Mark Mylod, who has helped many episodes of Succession.

Anya’s character is the only one not swayed by the greedy bliss and the first to see the evening turn into terror. It’s happening slowly but perfectly because Fiennes is such a good host. It almost makes sense. (In theaters) 3 out of 5

PINOCCHIO BY GUILLERMO del TORO: This is the title. The director’s name helps distinguish this version of the classic children’s story from many previous versions. Definitely Disney’s animated masterpiece and lackluster rendition with Tom Hanks that arrived recently. No, del Toro’s perspective is darker and different in several ways. It places the story at the time of Mussolini. Fascists are the main evil forces that attract the young puppet. Geppetto carved it out of grief for his own son who died in a bomb attack during World War I. I don’t remember anything like that in the previous story.

Courtesy of Netflix

This is not a film for children, not young children in any case. It’s sometimes strange, the intense, messy and grotesque characters are very strange. Pinocchio is sometimes rude. At one point he looks up at a crucifix and asks why people “like him and not me”. The puppet sometimes looks scary and the characters he meets are evil. This includes Count Volpe, the circus boss voiced by Christoph Waltz, and the Fascist leader voiced by Ron Perlman. On the bright side, there’s Tilda Swinton as the woods sprite and Ewan McGregor as Sebastian J. Cricket, his friend and narrator. It’s the same journey between good and evil, but this time shown in nifty stop motion animation. (Cinema Now; soon on Netflix) 4 out of 5

DISILLUSIONED: It has been 15 years since Delighted proved so popular for its reworking of fairy tale questions. So here we are again with much of the same cast, more song and dance, live action with bits of animation, and enough dazzle to make you forget about any flaws. Namely a cute opening and some hokey developments after that. But much of it works just fine. If you have a niece or daughter, this would be a good watch during the holidays. It’s best for older kids, those who know fairy tales well enough to appreciate the many ways this movie twists their conventions.

Courtesy of Disney+

Amy Adams as Giselle wonders if “happily ever after” is possible. What happens afterwards? She and Robert (played by Patrick Dempsey) now have a teenage daughter (Gabriella Baldacchino) and a new baby, are tired of New York where they last met, and are moving to the suburbs. There, she meets a self-proclaimed “queen” of the town (Maya Rudolph) and ultimately must fight to usurp her. This confrontation happens after she makes a wish for this place to become like the fairy tale town she comes from. But along with that, she also has to endure personal change. She turns into a classic “mother-in-law”. She fights with her daughter. But also “the queen”. The film turns into a huge spectacle of light and special effects. And a feel-good thriller. (Disney+) 3 ½ out of 5

STAY FOR THE NIGHT: Here is a nice change. A love story that works beautifully, plays out easily and sensitively, just like in real life. You’ve probably had similar experiences and can relate very well. For about 90 minutes, we watch two different people meet, tentatively share a part of their story, get to know each other better, and help each other. Some movies would put them to bed almost right away and make a big deal out of it. This one is much more about making a connection by talking. It’s warm and pleasant and Canadian too. You see real neighborhoods of Toronto.

Courtesy of Photon Films

Grace (played by Andrea Bang who some will recognize Kim Convenience’s) is far too reserved (according to her sexually happy friend) and misses a promotion at her office. Carter (played by Joe Scarpellino, an actor I’ve never seen before) is a pro hockey player who is sent back to the minors for underperformance. Naturally, these two will meet, share their thoughts on the world, and help each other with advice and empathy. She’s still a virgin, for example, and doesn’t want to change that. He is injured by his professional slip. Their conversation reveals all the context we need about their lives and we feel like we know them. Scarpellino is particularly impressive, but both actors are doing well and director Renuka Jeyapalan (she has plenty of TV credits) is keeping us in touch with them and the film is moving forward. (In theaters in Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver) 3 ½ out of 5

SALVATORE: COBBLER OF DREAMS: Who would have thought that a documentary about a man who designed shoes would be so interesting. But Salvatore Ferragamo’s life had a compelling story. He was fascinated by the art of shoemaking as a young boy in Italy and at the age of 12 he wanted to open his own shop. As a young man, he went to America and got a job designing shoes in Hollywood. Big stars like Clara Bow and Greta Garbo wore them. His notoriety grew and he returned to Italy to open the shop he dreamed of and also traveled back and forth between the two countries. Its name lives on with stores in Toronto, Vancouver and elsewhere. And with famous brand.

Courtesy of Mongrel Media

The film shows his dynamism. “Determination”, he called it. “Courage”, calls her sister. We hear his own voice in a few clips, and actor Michael Stuhlbarg reading appears to be his diary. Realtives, writers and names in the shoe world like Manolo Blahnik and Christian Louboutin talk about his art of design. He was appalled at machine-made shoes, for example, and would only accept handmade ones. Martin Scorsese seems to enthusiastically recount the Hollywood segment of his career. It’s not really necessary through energetic anyway. There is mention of Mussolini, but how he affected Ferragamo is unclear. A rare flaw in a living film. (In theaters) 3 out of 5