In our latest installment of Field of Streams, Frank presents our very first TAKING IT TO THE MAX, a look at some of the great offerings from HBOMax
Welcome to Field of Streams, Cinapse’s guide of what’s playing on your favorite streaming services. What are the best unknown gems on Hi-YAH? What does MUBI have going on this month? What are the most exciting things streaming on HBOMax and Kanopy? We’re here to help guide you towards the best and brightest streaming today. We built it for you, so come and join us in the Field of Streams.
The good folks at HBO Max know how to appeal to every kind of demographic under the sun, or under one roof, I should say. At least, that seems to be their goal judging from the wealth of varied content the streamer has put out recently. HBO Max already declared itself as a presence with the streaming of new theatrical films like The Witches and Wonder Woman 84 while making sure no fan waited longer than was necessary for new seasons of their favorite shows to drop.
Last year’s bombshell announcement of all of Warner Bros. 2021 slate debuting on the streamer on the heels of theatrical release is still making headlines. This ensures that HBO Max is poised to grow even more relevant in terms of the content it provides and as one of the premier streaming services around. As the beginning of 2021 looks and feels eerily similar to the year that has just passed, HBO Max and its wide assortment of choices can’t help but feel like the perfect outlet at a less than perfect time.
LET THEM ALL TALK
Stephen Soderbergh teams up once again with Meryl Streep following the dire 2019 fiasco The Laundromat for a film worthy of both their talents. When a neurotic famous author (Streep) embarks on a transatlantic cruise with her nephew (Lucas Hedges) and two longtime friends (Candace Bergen and Dianne Wiest), old ghosts and new revelations start to show themselves. Always the cinematic marvel, Soderbergh shot Let Them All Talk aboard a cruise ship in two and a half weeks with very little scripted dialogue and only natural lighting. While perhaps done for economical reasons, this style gives the film a deeply warm and pensive quality as everyone in the main cast finds themselves wrestling with what led to their current existence. The entire cast is sublime, but it’s Streep and Bergen who truly captivate as two women whose once unshakeable bond fell by the wayside. Watching their characters wrestle with what they both mean to each other in the here and now makes Let Them All Talk the kind of rewarding experience one hopes it can be.
THE BEE GEES: HOW CAN YOU MEND A BROKEN HEART
It’s usually the case that chart topping bands who have the most staying power are the ones not afraid to reinvent themselves as both their artistic sensibilities and the times they find themselves in change. No group personified this better than The Bee Gees as this documentary reaffirms. Featuring archival and present-day interviews, the journey of the Gibb brothers (Barry, Robin, and Maurice) and the band they created is thoroughly and thoughtfully explored. How Can You Mend a Broken Heart shows us the evolution of the group’s sound, from being the heir apparent to The Beatles in the late 60s, to helping usher in the disco movement in the 70s, to being some of the most sought after writers and producers throughout the 1980s and beyond. The highs and lows are all accounted for, including their swift fall from the top following the infamous decrying of disco as a genre. At its heart however, this is a story about three brothers with shared dreams and a bond which held steady through the long road of fame and fallouts.
Movie jail sentences don’t get any harsher than they did with writer/director Kenneth Lonergan’s Margaret. When New York teen Lisa (Anna Paquin) accidentally causes a bus driver (Mark Ruffalo) to run a red light, striking and killing a passing woman (Allison Janney), it leads her down a journey of heavy guilt and sorrow. Margaret is a deep and somber film filled with the kind of raw emotion, traumatic events and human behavior which have come to define Lonergan’s work. The sprawling cast, which also includes J. Cameron Smith, Jeannie Berlin, Jean Reno, Kieran Culkin and Matt Damon are all excellent in roles which give them plenty to sink their teeth into. It’s Paquin though who remains the film’s core and seeing her navigate the kind of trauma Lisa experiences while also coping with the pangs of adolescence makes Margaret such a compelling watch. The stories of the film’s years of editing woes are by now infamous with Lonergan and various producers and executives battling over final cut before dumping a heavily-edited Margaret 6 years after filming ended. Now on HBO Max in an extended version, the beauty and drama of Lonergan’s film can finally be experienced.
One of the few things the DCEU has gotten right is this series about a group of unorthodox superheroes living together at the home of wheelchair-bound scientist Niles Caulder (Timothy Dalton)and forced to use their powers/peculiarities in an effort to destroy a time-traveling madman (Alan Tudyk). Brendan Fraser, Matt Bomer, Diane Guererro, April Bowlby and Joivan Wade play the titular team; a motley group of anti-heroes with complex pasts and various, uncontrollable powers. The first season brilliantly blended character and spectacle, touching on themes such as homosexuality, racism, mental health and simple empathy. At the same time, the mazes, traps and rabbit holes set by the nefarious Mr. Nobody (Tudyk) offered the show the opportunity to indulge in a parade of special effects, the likes of which few other television series have. Season two amps up the story with even more visual wonders and genuine character development thanks to the introduction of Niles’ daughter Dorothy (Abigail Shapiro), a young girl who has the ability to bring her imaginary friends to life. Never once sacrificing emotions for effects, Doom Patrol remains of the best additions to the superhero genre.
The mind of David E. Kelley joins forces with acclaimed director Susanne Bier for this story of an upper class New York family plunged into murder and scandal. When the killing of a young mother at her son’s school is linked to her doctor husband (Hugh Grant), a psychiatrist (Nicole Kidman) works to find out the truth of what happened. The Undoing is the perfect melding of two distinct talents: Kelley’s penchant for thrilling, yet deeply human pieces and Bier’s European cinematic sensibilities. The two craft a sprawling tale that paints a different view of New York as alliances and emotions are given just as much care and attention as the clues to solving the murder in question. Issues of class and privilege are dealt with to a fair extent, but The Undoing is more about the collapsing of a world and a reality one thought would be impossible to shake. Featuring excellent supporting turns from Donald Sutherland, Lily Rabe and Edgar Ramierz, The Undoing’s wealth of rich performances (especially from the incredible Noah Jupe as the couple’s teen son) and intriguing story make it one of the more notable miniseries to come along in all of 2020.
I was nervous about watching the first movie filmed and set during the Covid-19 era, but the combined talents of Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anne Hathaway and director Doug Liman create both a captivating rom-com and a decent caper film that’s squarely in line with where most of us are right now. Although the relationship of CEO Linda (Hathaway) and delivery driver Paxton (Ejiofor) has come to an end, the pandemic has forced them to share the same London home. While the two try their best to stay out of each other’s way, they can’t help but unleash some of the mental fury inspired by both lock down and the unsatisfying state of their lives. Things change however when the opportunity to steal a rare diamond presents itself, giving both Linda and Paxton a reason to leave the house. Locked Down is a winner of a film thanks to the two figures at its center and the messy relationship they share. Both Linda and Paxton are stuck, physically as well as emotionally. Their various rants on how they got to this point in their lives is a remarkable combination of writing and acting that hits on the unavoidable abundance of self-reflection 2020 has brought on. The caper itself proves fun, but the heart of the film is watching one of the most unprecedented times in the world play out in such an entertaining and surprisingly cathartic way.
There are countless services to explore and great things to watch on all of them. Which ones did we miss that you would suggest to us? Tell us what we’re missing out on or what new services we should check out by leaving a comment below or emailing us.