Hidden Gems: HBO Max
The LEGO Batman Movie (4.5 Stars)
Released in 2017, The LEGO Batman Movie is a wonderfully enjoyable animated comic book film that is fun for all ages. The story follows Bruce Wayne (Will Arnett) leading a life of solitary crime fighting, until one day fellow orphan Dick Grayson (Micheal Cera) shows up at his doorstep to be taken under his wing. The highlights of this film are Will Arnett (without a doubt the best part of The LEGO Movie as well), and the script which is jam packed with so many jokes that incorporate the Batman source material and mythos that you’ll be catching new references with each subsequent viewing. The movie is perfectly designed for the realm of animation, allowing for insane action sequences and the full utilization of fellow comic book characters. If you are not a huge nerd such as myself and allow the reference-laden text to pass you by, then never fear! You are still left with a delightfully zany story that possesses a good message at its core, as well as entertaining voice work and plenty of humor.
Doubt (3.5 Stars)
Released in 2008, Doubt is an excellent drama that succeeds on the strength of its powerhouse acting talent. The film revolves around a 1964 Catholic Elementary School in the Bronx where Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep) serves as the principal. She must contend with Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a priest advocating reform of the school’s strict customs. The storyline is fine, but it primarily serves as a platform to demonstrate the incredible performances on display. Streep and Hoffman are both fantastic, expertly portraying the strict disciplinarian principal and the charismatic priest attempting to upend the system. Additionally, Amy Adams delivers some of her best work, playing a young nun at the school who must choose which viewpoint to align herself with. The story can drag at times, but the journey is a rewarding one, as the viewer is privileged to watch some of the best thespians of this generation together onscreen.
Long Shot (3.5 Stars)
Released in 2019, Long Shot is a shot in the arm for the modern romantic comedy genre, coupling humor, romance, and relevant political themes to provide an amusing story. The film follows Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen), a journalist that reunites with childhood crush, Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron), who is now the Secretary of State and gearing up to make a run for the presidency. Fred gets hired to work as Charlotte’s speech writer, and as their professional relationship grows, so does a personal relationship. The premise is solid, and the story works diligently to make this relationship more believable than most romantic comedies. Rogen and Theron are both likeable, but it’s O’Shea Jackson Jr. who steals the show as Rogen’s best friend. He is the strength of the film from a comedic standpoint, although each character is successful when given moments to provide laughs. The storyline also serves as a catalyst for some important political issues and the compromising of beliefs that can accompany a successful climb to the top. Some of the comedy doesn’t land, but overall Long Shot is a film with a true voice that pulls off the right balance of being funny and sweet.