Reminiscence (2021): Inception for People Who Like Being Bored

“Reminiscence” is written and directed by Lisa Joy (Westworld, Burn Notice) and stars Hugh Jackman (X-Men, The Greatest Showman), Rebecca Ferguson (Mission: Impossible – Fallout, The White Queen), Thandiwe Newton (Mission: Impossible II, Solo: A Star Wars Story), Cliff Curtis (Missing, Fear the Walking Dead), Marina de Tavira (Roma, Ana and Bruno), Daniel Wu (Into the Badlands, Tomb Raider) and this film is set in the future when climate change has severely affected Miami. During this time, Nick Bannister (Hugh Jackman) is part of a business responsible for a machine called the tank, which allows people to go back in time and see older memories. One day, a client named Mae comes in looking for her missing keys. Shortly after, Nick and Mae become romantically involved, although Nick’s co-worker, Emily “Watts” Sanders does not trust Mae and wants to do anything she can to keep Nick from seeing her. In addition, Nick spends time revisiting past memories in the tank involving his love interest, which could trap him forever.

Well, that took some time to explain now didn’t it… I’ve been looking forward to “Reminiscence” for a number of reasons. It’s from my favorite studio, Warner Brothers, despite how they’ve stabbed the backs of theater owners this year. It’s got a decent cast with Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson in starring roles. But I also really like the concept this movie tries to deliver. Sometimes going into this movie, it would remind me and a few other people of a Christopher Nolan flick. In fact on the surface, it really does feel like that. The color grading and sets feel like something out of “Inception” or “Tenet,” and much like those two movies, this film has a concept that mixes action, romance, and transportation to another reality. The trailer for this film was not too bad, although I have seen better. The way they edited it though made it feel like it was somewhere outside our world even though it really was in our not so far future, and the action did look pretty sick.

Another reason why this looks like a Christopher Nolan movie… Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan’s brother, was one of the film’s producers. And this should not be surprising, after all, he is the director’s wife! Hollywood, everybody! It’s about WHO you know! Not always what ya know! Granted, Jonathan Nolan had no writing or directing credits by the end of the product, Lisa Joy wrote and directed this film on her own, but it would not surprise me if some of his touch made it into the final product.

But going back to what I said about “Inception” and “Tenet,” as much as I like both movies. And I do. …Very much. I would say that “Inception” is clearly the better film because at the end of “Tenet,” I’m left amazed, but also wondering how certain things came about in that film because it is one of the most beautifully confusing things I ever watched.

“Reminiscence,” to me, even though the concept was somewhat, well, reminiscent, of “Inception,” kind of felt like it belonged in the same category as “Tenet.” As a high-concept sci-fi film, it is nice to observe, but there were still some loose ends that needed tying.

That’s what I would say if “Reminiscence” weren’t so goddamn forgettable! I would have reviewed this earlier if I had the motivation and time, because I did watch this film days after it came out, but I waited until this point because this is just the way things lined up. And now that I’ve had as much time as I did to think about this film, I think I may have spent more time thinking about the film I watched before this one, “Don’t Breathe 2.”

I really like the concept of “Reminiscence.” To have people go back and revisit their favorite memories, especially in a future where it seems that there are no positive memories left to create, is fascinating. I honestly wish a machine like this existed because it does seem to be safer than time travel and there are fun memories that I would love to revisit for one reason or another. I would love to go back to my first visit to New York City or one of my flocks to Salisbury Beach. Those were fun times and I would love to relive those. In fact, the more I think about what this movie is trying to do, it kind of succeeds at communicating that people do not see rainbows and unicorns in the future and would do anything to revisit their past. I just wish the story involving all of these elements happened to be more attractive. You know, kind of like Rebecca Ferguson in this movie. Props to the costume design on this film, a couple of her looked legit.

“Reminiscence” does not have the best screenplay of the year. At least in terms of visual execution. But there is one line that is repeated throughout the film that I found intriguing.

“No such thing as a happy ending. All endings are sad. Especially if the story was happy.”

Believe it or not, there is some truth to that. This is perhaps a slightly more artistic way of saying “Nothing lasts forever,” or “We all die at some point,” or “There will come a day where you will hate something that ‘Star Wars’ puts out.” I think this is a great quote, even if the script leaves a bit to be desired.

Technically speaking, this is not a bad looking film. Some of the shots are majestic, and kind of have a feel that harkened back to not just the couple of Nolan films I mentioned, but I’d even bring up “Blade Runner” and “The Shape of Water” as goto comparisons.

If anything, “Reminiscence” was an idea that had wasted potential. Aside from the concept, which I mentioned earlier, the film comes in with a stacked cast from Hugh Jackman to Thandiwe Newton. These are all-stars, and they’re working on one of the most uninteresting sci-fi flicks of the past few years.. The one thing that I wonder is that even though Lisa Joy has been in the visual entertainment industry for some time, is if she was truly ready to take on a movie like this. Because most of her work has been through television. I’m not saying that Lisa Joy should be forbidden from directing, writing, or working on a film if she so desired, but I wondered how out of her comfort zone something like this could have been for her. What else has she directed? One episode of “Westworld?” Okay… I mean, I’ll say in her defense, HBO programming usually has a higher price tag, standard, and more cinematic feel compared to most television shows. I’ll give her that. But I think if you were to direct a film like this, which is not the most expensive thing in the world, but it is by no means cheap, I think you would want someone with more experience in the director’s chair to pull this off. I am glad that women are getting more opportunities to direct, but I wonder if Lisa Joy should have just stuck to the screenplay and let someone else bring her vision to life. Because despite my complaints about the screenplay, the original script for this film was on the 2013 Black List of most-liked unmade screenplays. This film had a lot going for it. I’m glad Lisa Joy could get her movie out there, but my god I wish it were better.

In the end, “Reminiscence” by no means the worst movie of the year. In fact, I think at this point I’d rather watch this again as opposed to some other recent Warner Brothers titles like “Space Jam: A New Legacy” and “Tom & Jerry.” Then again, this may come with a bias towards sci-fi. I had very little connection to the other two projects going into them with the exception of liking one of the trailers for the former. As for “Reminiscence,” it had plenty going for it from the marketing (even though they did not spend much money on it), the people in it, and the concept. But in the end, it all feels like a waste. I’m going to give “Reminiscence” a 4/10.

“Reminiscence” is now playing in theaters and it is also on the ad-free tier of HBO Max for a limited time.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to let everyone know that my next review is going to be for “Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings.” I wanted to get this out a bit earlier, but life has been busy, so I’ve been holding this review off for some time. I do want to let everyone know that I already did see the movie, AND I am seeing it again tonight, which unfortunately may spoil part of my thoughts regarding the film itself, but either way, look forward to my review when it drops! Also, be sure to check out my review for “Malignant,” whenever that drops as well! If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Reminiscence?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a film that you think has a great concept with terrible execution? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Zola (2020): You Wanna Hear A Story About a Negative Film Review?

“Zola” is directed by Janicza Bravo (Lemon, Gregory Go Boom) and stars Taylour Paige (Boogie, Hit the Floor), Riley Keough (The Lodge, The Devil All the Time), Nicholas Braun (Prom, How to Be Single), Ari’el Stachel (Blue Bloods, The Band’s Visit), and Colman Domingo (Fear the Walking Dead, Euphoria). This film is based on a story summed up in 148 tweets on a single account. These tweets were the foundation for where they ended up taking this film, which is about a girl who goes down to Florida with a stripper named Stefani only to find herself in a prostitution scheme with Stefani’s pimp, X.

I have a soft spot for A24. It is a studio that has made some of my favorite films of the 2010s including “Room,” “The Disaster Artist,” and “Lady Bird.” In a world of big, gigantic blockbusters, many of which I enjoy like those of the “Star Wars” and “Mission: Impossible” franchises, sometimes I need something simpler, something lower in budget and scale. Something more intimate. A24 usually hits the spot because they have a tendency to align themselves with talent that can tell a great story with a limited budget. Portions of “Zola” seem to reflect this lower budget. Certain shots go on for such a long time, there are shots that look like they fit more in a YouTube vlog compared to a typical movie. That previous statement by the way, is also one of my big critiques because despite this movie having some good framing here and there, the shot selection occasionally feels repetitive or, as I said, vlog-like. Looking like a vlog is not always a bad thing, but it sort of almost pulled me out of the movie. It lacked a slight sense of immersion if you will.

At the same time though, the movie has a number of shots that are beautifully lit. This movie gave me a fine first impression with the opening five minutes for providing one of the most vibrant scenes of the year. Technically speaking, this movie is a mixed bag. Unfortunately, it may be the best part of the movie because I progressed through “Zola” rolling my eyes, placing my hands over my head, and the desire to put a gun in my mouth. “Zola” is probably my least favorite movie of 2021. Yes, I know some would argue it is a 2020 film, but it just had a big release this year, so I’m counting it as a 2021 film. Either way, this movie has an intriguing first five minutes, but as for the rest of the hour and a half, the wheels fall off the wagon and it comes tumbling toward a cliff.

This film starts off with some catchy and magical music then tops off its candylicious intro off with some of the best lighting I have seen this year. Like many other A24 films, this one definitely has its quirks. These were some solid quirks, but examples of quirks I could give later in the runtime just get worse. Admittedly, there is this quirk that annoyed me, I don’t know if the rest of humanity would feel the same way, every time I would hear a notification noise during the movie, part of my brain wanted to check out. I know this is based off tweets, but come on!

One thing that kind of, and I repeat, KIND OF, holds this movie together is the acting. The chemistry between Zola and Stefani is not my favorite of the year, but the respective actors that play these characters, Taylour Paige and Riley Keough, are decently put together. Certain scenes made them feel like a natural pair for the story that was being told. I do want to give a shoutout to the supporting cast too. At the same time however, they honestly felt like they were occasionally overacting. This film is based on a tweetstorm and I feel like it occasionally gets overhyped for the sake of having a “big screen experience,” which is weird to say about something that is a small, independent picture. Actors like Nicholas Braun were sometimes a delight to watch and made me feel like I was not actually wasting my time. Seeing him and others made the movie feel like it was jacked up on caffeine, but it did not make for an excellent product in the end because I left feeling unsatisfied and having placed my hand on my head way too many times.

Also, I don’t know the actual story, and for all I know, some of the tweetstorm from Zola may have been fabricated, but I want to bring up Stefani’s voice. Throughout the movie, Stefani talks in this weirdly southern accent, and I don’t know why, but by the end of the movie, it felt like that voice transported me through a cheese grater. It was so annoying! I watched an interview of Riley Keough on “The Tonight Show,” so I know that her voice in “Zola” is not her actual voice. But her voice in the movie t feels over the top and similar to something out of a C-grade “Power Rangers” villain.

Honestly, what makes this movie even worse is that it has not even been a full week since I have seen “Zola” and I feel as if I have forgotten a majority of it. Thankfully, I remember some things about the movie. Both good and bad as evidenced by this review. But if I go through this review nearly blanking what to talk about and I have not even gone through a full week without seeing the movie, that’s a problem. I went through THREE weeks trying to get a review out for “Tom & Jerry” and that film was awful! I knew what to talk about in that review! “Zola” is one heck of a story, but as a movie, I just wish it stayed in my brain for just a bit longer. Is it funny? Occasionally. Is it sexy? Kinda. Is it quirky? DID YOU SEE THE A24 LOGO?! But if anything, this did not add up to ride that was compelling. It added up to something that feels sliced and diced and nearly discombobulated despite looking somewhat polished.

In the end, “Zola” is not only my worst movie of the year so far, but as of right now, it is probably also my least favorite film from A24. “Midsommar,” you’re saved. To say a film is bad is hard enough. To say a film from A24 is bad, that’s another level. Because A24 is one of my favorite studios working today. I’ve already gone on about how amazing some of their films have been over the past few years. “Zola” on the other hand, not only felt like a waste of time, but oddly forgettable too. At least I still remember why I was absolutely turned off by “Midsommar.” I still recall its ugliness to this day. Plus with “Midsommar,” you could make the argument that the film was supposed to give me the reaction that I ultimately gave it. I was supposed to be turned off by that film. With “Zola,” I was supposed to be thrilled, turned on, and maybe jumping out of my seat from time to time. The movie did not do its job and I wasted 90 minutes of my life. I’m going to give “Zola” a 2/10.

“Zola” is now playing in theaters wherever they are open. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! This week is a big one for movies because we are continuing summer blockbuster season with arguably the strongest competitor of the bunch, Marvel Studios’s first film in two years, “Black Widow!” I’ve already got my tickets for Thursday and I cannot wait to share my thoughts on the movie with you.

Also coming this Thursday, stay tuned for my review of “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” in the ongoing review series, “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews.” If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account and like the Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Zola?” What did you think about it? Or, what are your favorite AND least favorite films from A24? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Dark Waters (2019): WARNING: This Movie May Contain Man-Made Chemicals That Become Attached To You

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“Dark Waters” is directed by Todd Haynes (Carol, Velvet Goldmine) and stars Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight, The Avengers), Anne Hathaway (Interstellar, The Intern), Tim Robbins (The Shawshank Redemption, Mystic River), Bill Camp (Molly’s Game, Vice), Victor Garber (The Orville, The Flash), Mare Winningham (Grey’s Anatomy, Amber Waves), and Bill Pullman (Independence Day, The Equalizer). This film is based on true events, it’s inspired by particular news articles, most notably Nathaniel Rich’s New York Times Magazine piece, “The Man Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare,” and is about a case involving the chemical company DuPont, who has been called out in the past for putting various dangerous man-made chemicals into products. Due to this, many deaths have occurred, some people have facial deformities, this movie basically focuses on some negative effects of the corporation. The movie dives deep towards the perspective of Robert Bilott, an attorney investigating the situation and its effects.

We are nearing the end of November, and with that in mind, it is perhaps without question that we as a moviegoing audience are being blessed with one god-like piece of material after another. Earlier this month I saw “Honey Boy,” an Amazon Original that made me argue whether or not Shia LeBeouf writes better than he acts. I soon saw “Ford v. Ferrari” which is one of the best racing movies I have ever seen. And the day before I saw this current movie that I’m talking about, I went to the cinema to go watch “Knives Out,” which is just pure fun. Enough said. It’s one of those movies that feels incredibly wild and it is all the better for it. Although unlike “Knives Out,” which I have been hearing about since some of the cast happened to be announced, I do not recall hearing much at all about “Dark Waters.” It’s one of those movies that just sneaked up on me. But I had a chance to go to a free screening on the day it opened in Boston, so I took advantage of that.

“Dark Waters,” on the surface, had a number of things going for it. It has a cool cast. Mark Ruffalo is pretty big right now, Anne Hathaway is one of my favorite actresses working today, and I should not go without mentioning Tim Robbins, who I did not know was in this movie until after I saw it, but he was in perhaps in 1994’s best film, “The Shawshank Redemption.” Let me just say something, this movie is no “Shawshank.” Not even close. I enjoyed it, but it’s no “Shawshank.” Part of why I feel this way is because of how much I tried to recall upon trying to write about this movie. Part of me almost forgot about a core element about the film and its screenplay in particular, which stood out to me when I saw it, but somehow it just slipped out of my mind almost as if this were a disposable comedy or something that I’ll watch once until I move onto the next thing.

But with that in mind, I still enjoyed what was in front of me. The story itself is one of those that I thought worked well for the big screen, even if it did take more than few moments to get me fully onboard. I think the performances given by multiple actors, leading and supporting, make this film watchable. I’d also say that it is an appropriate film for this time considering how it partially involves how big corporations are harming their consumers, plus to add onto that, the main message is about the environment and how we need to be aware of what we’re doing regarding it. Not only that, but we, the consumers, are not the only ones to blame for what’s being done. Will this film be forgotten over time? Hard to tell. It’s not the most popular film out right now, but at the moment, if a good number of people see it, it may reflect the current state of our environment to them.

I sort of mentioned this already, but the actors here do pretty well, and I think the two leads in particular, Mark Ruffalo and Anne Hathaway, have terrific chemistry and are extremely suitable for their roles. Mark Ruffalo plays an environmental lawyer who is trying to hold DuPont accountable and the movie managed to put me on his side, I also really enjoyed the moments where he was interacting with a farmer. That may have been one of the more hypnotizing scenes of the whole film.

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But if you ask me, the best performance in the film probably comes from Anne Hathaway, and this delights me to no end. Not just because I am a fan of Anne Hathaway, not just because she was in a few of my favorite movies ever, but also because she was just in a TERRIBLE movie this year called “Serenity,” which was a step down for her, and for a few others who were involved with that project as well. Now, Hathaway has bounced back with what I think may be one of my personal favorite performances from her. She plays the wife of the main character, and there are various scenes where she’s observing her husband doing things that might as well make him look bats*it crazy. Just about every execution of a line given by her was perfect.

I gotta say though, this movie has problems. It has been almost two weeks since I saw this in the theater, but even with that, this movie is a tad forgettable. I remember various portions of it, but it doesn’t feel like something that I’d salute for the rest of my life. I don’t know why, but this movie feels like a restaurant located in my town that I have only gone to once, liked, but because of competition, specifically in said town, there is a good chance I will not be returning anytime soon. The pacing was alright, but there is minor room for improvement. But I think the biggest flaw this movie has that I can think of is the ending. I say that because without going into spoiler territory, it feels incredibly abrupt. It’s not like the movie ends and it doesn’t make sense, but it ends leaving this weird taste in my mouth. I dunno… This is one of the weirdest movies I have seen this year. When I saw it, I enjoyed it thoroughly, but at the same time, I am having this weird spiral of memory loss when I try to think about it. For the record, I am twenty years old, not eighty. I think my memory itself is in rather good standing.

In the end, I do think “Dark Waters” is a really interesting, not to mention informative story. This movie I believe exists more to inform than to entertain, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I don’t know if they have ever done a documentary on this, but if not, I guess this is about the closest we’ll get to having a documentary. Hang on a sec… *Switches tab* WAIT! Just Googled it, there is a documentary. I take that statement back! I think the movie is well acted, well shot, the color grading kind of works for the film at hand, but I don’t think it’ll win best picture. Although this movie is from Participant, who made last year’s Best Picture, “Green Book,” so you never know. I should point out, it barely has a release whatsoever, so we’ll have to see how far this movie can expand before we make any further conclusions about box office, popularity, or overall potential to be recognized this award season. Until then, I’m going to give “Dark Waters” a 7/10.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for “A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood,” a movie which at one point, may have been one of my most anticipated of 2019. Will it live up to the hype? You’ll have to find out for yourself! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account if you want greater access to the site, and also check out the Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Dark Waters?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite Anne Hathaway performance? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!