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Capsule Reviews: The Menu and Spirited


  • By The Newnan Times-Herald
  • |
  • Nov. 18, 2022 - 4:47 PM

Capsule Reviews: The Menu and Spirited

The Newnan Times-Herald

By Jonathan W. Hickman

The Menu

Review Rating: 7/10

Director: Mark Mylod

Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult, Hong Chau, Janel McTeer, Paul Adelstein, John Leguizamo, Reed Birney, and Judith Light

MPAA Rating: R

Running Time: 1 hour, 46 minutes

Available in wide theatrical release

“The Menu” is an intelligent, intense horror-adjacent thriller with a fantastic cast. This modern foodie take on the well-traveled “The Most Dangerous Game” narrative manages to skirt the formula while touching on impactful themes.

Ralph Fiennes plays a reclusive chef named Slowik, who has been set up on an isolated island where he and his team deliver culinary delights to the ultra-rich. His food, of course, is legendary. He’s something of an enigma in that he lives on the island and has few contacts with the outside world.

The film opens with an attractive young couple, played by Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult, waiting on a boat dock. The woman, Margot (Joy), is none-too-pleased to be taking the unique, peculiar journey to Slowik’s restaurant island. And she’s not impressed by the status of the other guests that includes an aging movie star (John Leguizamo), a famous food critic named Lillian (the always great Janet McTeer), and assorted snarky corporate executive types. This eclectic menagerie will be dining together far away from the mainland.

Once on the island, Chef Slowik’s right hand-in-command, Elsa (Hong Chau), aggressively seats their guests. The Chef governs the evening rules, and there are no substitutions. We’re treated to a series of courses built around a wicked theme that becomes more and more horribly apparent as the night progresses. The Chef has it all planned out, or so he thinks.

Without giving too much away, the clueless diners are in for the meal of their lives as the Chef plays out his ultimate revenge. He beckons his guests not to “eat;” instead, he invites them to “taste.”

“The Menu” is a clever and frequently delicious movie. Fiennes is terrific as the cooking maestro orchestrating everything, but his character is matched by Taylor-Joy’s resourceful and intuitive Margot. For a film that turns ultra-violent, it’s surprising how much it may also make viewers hungry--seeking a juicy cheeseburger and crinkle fries.

Director Mark Mylod, whose background is mainly in episodic series work on the likes of “Game of Thrones,” delivers a focused thriller that won’t disappoint genre fans. And Janet McTeer (see “Ozark”) and Judith Light adds colorfully to the collection of interesting and talented faces in this ensemble guilty pleasure.

Spirited

Review Rating: 6/10

Director: Sean Anders

Cast: Will Ferrell, Ryan Reynolds, Octavia Spencer, Tracy Morgan, Patrick Page, and Sunita Mani

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 2 hours, 7 minutes

Available in limited release and on Apple TV+

Following an exclusive, limited, one-week theatrical run, “Spirited” lands on the Apple TV+ streaming service this weekend. It’s an amusing musical spin on the classic Charles Dickens novella “A Christmas Carol.”

In “Spirited,” Will Ferrell plays the ghost of Christmas Present, the head of a supernatural organization that each season tries to save one soul by instilling the holiday spirit within. But the disillusioned Present has grown tired of the game, which focuses on Scrooge types that can be easily converted. And when he encounters Clint Briggs (Ryan Reynolds), he sees a challenge worthy of his team. But Present’s partner, Jacob Marley (Patrick Page), warns him that Briggs is unredeemable.

Of course, that revelation makes Present want the job even more and inevitably sets him on a collision course with Briggs. For Present and his ghostly team (which includes Tracy Morgan voicing Yet-To-Come), this particular season might be transcendent for both the apparitions and the souls they haunt.

“Spirited” is a jaunty affair. Ferrell and Reynolds are charming and do their level best to lift their voices in song and their bodies in fun dance routines. But after the amusing setup, the film gets a little baggy. Still, it’s hard to dismiss this blockbuster comedic pairing that keeps Reynolds safely in the PG-13 penalty box while also evoking hearty laughs. The movie makes for light, family-friendly entertainment.