By Anne Brodie
Malcom is Missing, Robert Osborne and Jari Osborne’s chilling documentary feature plays one night only this Sunday at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema. Port Hope, Ontario mother Brooke Mullins was alarmed when her father Malcom Madsen failed to return calls on his annual trip to Mexico in 2018. He spent half the year at his beloved beach home with his girlfriend Marcela Acosta Ramos and supported her family of five. Mullins called the local police who were “unconcerned”, then flew to Puerto Vallarta to investigate. Among her findings was clear video evidence that Ramos doctored Madsen’s drink at a bar and led him, wobbling, outside. He was never seen again. Mullins learned that 100,000 people go missing in Mexico every year and 95% of violent crimes are never solved. Fortunately, she had allies in her father’s longtime driver and a journalist whose identity is hidden and they developed an airtight case against Marcela, her son, and others. Still, Mexican police did nothing, likely bribed by Marcela, from money missing from Malcom’s bank account. By now she controlled Madsen’s money and home. She’d asked Mullins for her father’s passwords in ways that were not obvious at first. Mexican police finally searched five locations for Madsen’s body; no luck but they found many others. And Mullins still doggedly pursues the case. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers, reporters, and Mullins.
Deeply uncomfortable conversations on culture are at the crux of Netflix‘ original comedy feature You People. Writer-director Kenya Barris follows new couple Jonah Hill (who co-wrote) and Lauren London as Ezra and Amira, as they navigate cultural landmines and their harshly judgemental parents. Ezra’s mother Shelley (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) attempts to jump into the Black culture and does so with the grace of a dynamite blast. Amira’s father Akbar (Eddie Murphy) bullies Ezra and demeans his Jewish background and reluctance to stand up to him. Ezra and Amira are in love and choose to roll their eyes and gently defuse awkward moments that happen 100% of the time. Nothing helps. So goes the tale, leavened with comic moments and startling truth bombs. Shelley is unable to say anything that doesn’t sound racist or pandering and, worse has no clue she’s doing it. Akbar’s equally racist views “Are you comparing slavery and the Holocaust?” he asks, and cruelty towards Ezra lies there like an ugly rug. We root for the kids to change their minds, marry and live their lives. It doesn’t seem likely to happen, a pity, two kids who love each other derailed by their stubborn unteachable parents. It’s worth watching this particular culture war play out, to heed the warnings about personal integrity and remember empathy.
Jennifer Lopez adds to her actor’s toolbox in Prime Video‘s romcrimecom Shotgun Wedding, an amusing tale set in a luxury resort in the Philipines (actually the Dominican Republic). She’s Darcy and she’s marrying Tom (Josh Duhamel), an unlikely match given her fiery personality and his plodding, painstaking attention to detail. He’s planning the perfect wedding, hands-on, stringing dozens of pineapples with lights, making the charts, fussing over this and that. It’s his first marriage and her second. And oops, her ex Sean (Lenny Kravitz) shows up out of the blue. Tom’s mother (Jennifer Coolidge) does a lot of Coolidge-y things, she’s loud, pushy, blunt, and funny.
Darcy’s mother (Sonia Braga) and her snobbish hauteur is entirely unlike her grounded, common-sense daughter. Darcy’s uber-rich father (Cheech Marin) and his fiancee, a chasm of years between them, hover. All’s going, not well, when armed guerillas, dressed in some kind of tropical Medieval soldier’s gear land, and take guests hostage in the swimming pool. Darcy and Tom are in the jungle unaware, but they’re attacked and morph into warriors. Darcy’s especially impressive. Lopez jumps, flies, fights, shoots, spins and thinks strategically in midair! So who are these miscreants and why target the party? Total comic eye candy thanks to the setting, wardrobe, and pretty stars, aided by the element of surprise and Lopez’ performance. A starstudded mid-winter no-brainer.
Life Upside Down in theatres and TVOD takes us back to that seminal time of the pandemic’s early days. Cecilia Miniucchi’s bittersweet, lifelike love/hate comedy stars Bob Odenkirk, Radha Mitchell, Danny Huston and Rosie Fellner. The lockdowns and social restrictions forced us all to look at our lives and face ourselves, often alone, in our homes, wondering when and how the heck to live again. We tended to evaluate our decisions, relationships, and goals with little input except through video calls and masked trips to the store if it was open. The stinging familiarity. Miniucchi follows two couples and a fifth person beginning to absorb isolating pandemic protocols. The first couple seems distant and he’s in an affair with a single woman. They have sex behind a curtain at his sparsely attended art show, his wife ten feet away at the buffet table, as we wonder what message he’s sending himself. The second couple is compatible and loving but intellectually worlds apart; their union is strong. Blowback from the characters’ bad or insufficient acts is constant like they’re being punished by a plague and their selfish decisions. A most unusual and interesting slant on life under lockdown.
Harrison Ford stars in his first series for a streaming service in Apple TV+ series Shrinking. He’s in the supporting role of Paul, a cranky but caring therapist. He’s keeping an eye on his business partner and fellow shrink Jimmy (Jason Segel) whom he believes hasn’t grieved the death of his wife a year prior, as Jimmy’s daughter Alice (Lukita Maxwell) rebels with all her might, and pushes her dad away. He blames himself for his failure to get a grip and his daughter’s dependence on their next-door neighbour to “raise” her and decides not to fail anymore. But then he has three apparent successes with three difficult patients and reckons he did it with straight talk, not by the book. He demands a woman leave her abusive husband, a lonely narcissistic change his ways and think about others, and turns an angry young veteran with PTSD into a caring, useful citizen and friend. He commits big no-nos, with his new unconventional methods and they – and he – begin to heal. He stops drinking and drugging and hiring hookers for late-night pool parties, takes the soldier into his home and vows to do right by his daughter. Sounds grim but Shrinking, in half-hour eppies, is entertaining and original with plenty of twists, plus there’s the ageless comedy gold of psychiatrists’ couches! Ford is wonderful with comedy which we often forget, his droll delivery and straight face balance Segel’s go-for-broke comedy style. Good fun.