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Reminiscence (2021) Review

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Reminiscence

Time: 116 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, drug use & suicide
Cast:
Hugh Jackman as Nick Bannister
Rebecca Ferguson as Mae
Thandiwe Newton as Emily “Watts” Sanders
Cliff Curtis as Cyrus Boothe
Marina de Tavira as Tamara Sylvan
Daniel Wu as Saint Joe
Director: Lisa Joy

Nick Bannister (Hugh Jackman), a private investigator of the mind, navigates the darkly alluring world of the past by helping his clients access lost memories. Living on the fringes of the sunken Miami coast, his life is forever changed as he uncovers a violent conspiracy while trying to solve the mystery behind a client (Rebecca Ferguson) who disappeared.

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I was quite curious about Reminiscence going into it, I liked how it looked from the trailers, I liked the cast involved including Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson, and the director is Lisa Joy, who is one of the creators of Westworld. I was a little hesitant after seeing the less than stellar critical response, but I wanted to see it for myself. I’m definitely in the minority of people who actually liked it, despite some clear issues.

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The premise about investigating the mind is great, and the concept of being able to recall memories definitely gives the film the ability to use flashbacks in a natural way that actually works within the context of the plot. It is definitely reminiscent of other sci-fi movies, borrowing from films like Inception and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but I still like what was done here. However, I think a lot of this could’ve been executed better. The pacing wasn’t the best, it takes quite a while for the plot to really progress, and some of the story is fairly predictable. I liked the story for the most part, I was on board throughout and it never really lost me. With that said, the story is definitely more interesting after a slower first half. Reminiscence is very neo noir inspired and I really liked that aspect of the film. I also really liked the world that is being built here, even if it comes with some issues in the way that Lisa Joy decided to convey it. There is a lot of exposition in this movie as it is establishing the current state of the world and the setting, especially towards the beginning. This is probably why it takes so long for the movie to get to the actual mystery at the centre of the story. While I definitely appreciate the amount of detail and context that Joy tries to give this world, it was a bit too much. A lot of the exposition comes through Hugh Jackman narrating throughout the film, something which I’ve noticed a lot of other people complaining about. I’m somewhat inclined to give this a pass simply because it is a play on hard boiled neo-noir films to a degree. However, the use of it was nonetheless overbearing and just about borders on self-parody. Not only that, but the dialogue a lot of the time is very over-melodramatic at many points. While it does feel like it doesn’t feel like it meets its potential and is a little disappointing, I wouldn’t say that the script is bad by any means.

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While much of the characters feel a little underdeveloped, the acting from the solid cast definitely elevates them. Hugh Jackman does a very good job in the lead role as expected. Everyone else does well, Rebecca Ferguson is particularly a standout, and actors like Thandiwe Newton and Cliff Curtis are also great in their parts.

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This is Lisa Joy’s directorial debut, and while there are some issues, I think it’s a good first film. First of all, this movie has some stunning cinematography, and the production design is solid. This noir inspired futuristic setting is gorgeous and fascinating to watch, at the very least on a visual level. There aren’t a ton of action scenes, but they are decent when they are there. There is a particularly creative action scene that takes place inside a collapsing building. Sometimes the CGI is a bit too noticeable but it didn’t bring me out of the movie. The score from Game of Thrones and Westworld composer Ramin Djawadi is great and really fits the tone and vibe of the film.

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Once again, I don’t think that Reminiscence really reaches the peak of its potential, and it was a little disappointing, with the script definitely being the weakest point. However, I was still invested throughout, I liked what Lisa Joy was going for, and it has some really good moments. Joy’s direction and the performances from the cast (especially Jackman and Ferguson) are also great, and elevates the overall quality of the film. At the very least I do think that it is worth checking out.

Bringing Out the Dead (1999) Review

Time: 121 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Nicolas Cage as Frank Pierce
Patricia Arquette as Mary Burke
John Goodman as Larry
Ving Rhames as Marcus
Tom Sizemore as Tom Wolls
Marc Anthony as Noel
Cliff Curtis as Cy Coates
Director: Martin Scorsese

Frank (Nicolas Cage), a mentally strained and overworked paramedic from Manhattan, tries to maintain his sanity as he tends to various emergencies and hallucinates about all the people whose lives he could not save.

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I watched Bringing Out the Dead some years ago for the first time. I remembered it involving paramedics, Nicolas Cage and it was directed by Martin Scorsese, and I recall liking it. Of course, with The Irishman coming out, it was only appropriate that I check it out again, I wanted to be sure of what I thought about it. Watching it again, I not only consider this to be one of his most underrated movies, it could be among his best films as well.

Paul Schrader wrote Bringing Out the Dead, with this being the last collaboration between him and Scorsese. With that fact, there are comparisons with this movie to Taxi Driver, and indeed this movie is a bit of a companion piece, following a troubled protagonist who narrates the story. It really conveys the strain that someone has in the line of work as an EMT. It also doesn’t have much of structure and mostly focuses on the main character as a character study, I can get that a bunch of people would find it to stretch on for too long with not much happening. However I was both riveted and entertained throughout. One of the biggest surprises on this repeat viewing was the dark comedy, I don’t remember this movie being as funny as it was, and it’s definitely intentional and works with the very off kilter and strange tone throughout. Nonetheless it is effectively off putting and exhausting at times, just as the main character feels over the course of the plot. Whenever something really horrific and graphic happens, you really feel it. Despite it possibly being one of Scorsese’s darkest movies, it’s also strangely one of his most empathetic.

Nicolas Cage gives one of his best and underrated performances as lead character Frank Pierce. This movie surrounds this character, and he absolutely delivers and convinces in his role. So much of it is in the eyes, every time you look at him, he just looks tired, burnt out and exhausted, on the edge of sanity. Frank is haunted by the people that he’s failed to save, and partway into the movie he realises that his job is less about saving lives, and more about bearing witness to their deaths. He occasionally slips into some crazy moments that Cage is known for, but it actually really worked for the character. Having seen him here, I can’t see anyone else in this role. He’s definitely the star of the show but the supporting performances shouldn’t be overlooked, especially considering the number of memorable characters that Pierce encounters. Frank’s partners are played by John Goodman, Ving Rhames and Tom Sizemore, and they share great chemistry with Cage. Rhames is particularly a scene stealer and is hilarious. Other performers like Patricia Arquette and Cliff Curtis also do solid work in their roles. Scorsese himself also provides his voice for the dispatcher and he really fitted the role.

Martin Scorsese directs this and it’s no surprise that he does some great work here. Like with Taxi Driver it’s set in a very dark and grimy city, however here it feels even more unsettling and haunting. He does a good job at getting you in the head of Cage’s character. Robert Richardson’s cinematography is stunning, there’s a desaturated dull look to it that works oddly perfectly for the movie, the use of colour was quite effective. The soundtrack was great, with a solid lineup of songs that accompany the film perfectly.

Bringing Out the Dead is haunting, disturbing, darkly comedic, and all around fantastic, one of Martin Scorsese’s most underrated movies. Scorsese directs this with just the right amount of style, the character’s journey was a journey I liked being on, and the acting is great from everyone, especially from Nicolas Cage who does some outstanding work here. Definitely not one to miss.

Doctor Sleep (2019) Review

Time: 151 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, horror, drug use & offensive language
Cast:
Ewan McGregor as Dan Torrance
Rebecca Ferguson as Rose the Hat
Kyliegh Curran as Abra Stone
Cliff Curtis as Billy Freeman
Carl Lumbly as Dick Hallorann
Zahn McClarnon as Crow Daddy
Emily Alyn Lind as Snakebite Andi
Bruce Greenwood as Dr. John Dalton
Director: Mike Flanagan

Struggling with alcoholism, Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) remains traumatized by the sinister events that occurred at the Overlook Hotel when he was a child. His hope for a peaceful existence soon becomes shattered when he meets Abra (Kyliegh Curran), a teen who shares his extrasensory gift of the “shine.” Together, they form an unlikely alliance to battle the True Knot, a cult whose members try to feed off the shine of innocents to become immortal.

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Doctor Sleep was one of my most anticipated movies of 2020, however the filming of it seemed to have gone so well that the release date was moved up to 2019. Mike Flanagan has been proving himself as a really solid horror director with movies like Oculus, Ouija: Origin of Evil, and with Gerald’s Game he showed himself at being great at adapting Stephen King’s work (which is now being praised as one of the best Stephen King movies). So, he was definitely a person who could at least handle the challenging task. On top of that, Ewan McGregor and Rebecca Ferguson would be part of the cast, and they’re very talented actors cast in some very prominent roles in this movie. So even though The Shining sequel on paper seemed like it would be a disaster, the talent behind it and the fact that it would be based off one of King’s books at least showed that it had potential. Doctor Sleep actually manages to surpass expectations and is one of my favourite movies so far this year.

First of all, I think we need to talk about the obvious, the fact that Doctor Sleep is sort of a sequel to The Shining. A lot of people will be expecting it to be just that, a Shining sequel. However, it’s a completely different movie and plays completely differently, it’s definitely standalone and its own thing. The movie is lengthy at 2 hours and a half long, and for quite a large part of the movie it’s quite slow and that may lose some people. For the first 40 minutes it’s spending time with Danny Torrance (played by Ewan McGregor), showing him in his adult life decades after the events of The Shining. I really do appreciate that they didn’t just try to jump to the horror scenes and have a fast moving plot, they actually took the time to establish him in his current state. I know that a lot of people will be bugged by this, but I wouldn’t wish for this bit to be cut down at all. Once it starts bringing in the antagonists of The True Knot into the forefront, that’s when the movie really starts to pick up. Generally though, Doctor Sleep takes its time telling its story, and I really appreciated that. I noticed that there was a lot of concern is that it’s just riding the coattails of The Shining, and that’s definitely not the case. While there are characters from that first movie/book that appear and are mentioned, it generally stays as its own thing. It’s really only the last 30 minutes where it goes to the Overlook Hotel, so there’s 2 whole hours of the movie having to stand on its own first. I know some people may be bugged by these scenes but I personally liked the callbacks, it doesn’t quite go overboard as they could’ve. Now I guess you could watch Doctor Sleep without watching The Shining and be completely fine with it all, but the last 30 minutes aren’t going to mean that much to you if you don’t. As for accuracies to the book, I haven’t looked into it too deeply, but I did hear that the movie stays mostly true to it until the last act.

The cast are all great in their roles. Ewan McGregor is solid as Danny Torrance, who was traumatised for decades after the events of The Shining and becoming an alcoholic like his father Jack. The first 40 minutes of the movie is dedicated to following him and showing what happened with him before the plot kicks in, and McGregor’s performance is a big part of why it works so well. Danny’s recovery arc is also handled very well throughout the plot, especially in the third act. Kyliegh Curran was really impressive as Abra, a girl who is very powerful with the Shining ability that Danny and the main villains of the movie take notice of. She also gets to show herself as being very powerful with her abilities and Curran was very convincing in these scenes. There are also the antagonists who work very well within the movie, they are called The True Knot, who are a group of people who torture and kill people with the Shine so that they can feed off it and live for a very long time. It’s led by Rebecca Ferguson as Rose the Hat, who nearly steals the movie and I can see her becoming an iconic horror villain with some time. Ferguson plays Rose and she’s absolutely captivating whenever she’s on screen. The rest of the True Knot with the likes of Zahn McClamon and Emily Alyn Lind aren’t quite given the same level of attention or depth but are also given some distinct personalities and characteristics. Something that is effective is that the movie bothers to actually make them human and show their perspective on things. It makes them feel more real and not just one dimensional villains who do bad things because the plot demands it. Other supporting actors work well, like Cliff Curtis, Bruce Greenwood, and more. I won’t get into too much about what his role is or what happened with him in the story, but Jacob Tremblay is in a small portion of the movie, yet managed to be a standout with his performance being a large part of the reason why his scene worked so well.

Mike Flanagan by now is more than familiar with the horror genre at this point, and once again he does a great job at directing. It’s stunning to look at and the visuals are great and creative, I wasn’t prepared for how some of the scenes would play out. There’s particularly a very trippy sequence maybe halfway into the movie involving Rose the Hat, and it was one of the highlights of the movie for sure. While I guess there are scenes of horror, I didn’t necessarily feel this was a horror movie all the way through, though I was fine with that. There’s surely no obnoxiously handled jumpscare here, so that’s a win. With all that being said, by far the most horrific scene in the movie was the one involving Jacob Tremblay, you’ll know what I mean when you see it. Even if you wanted to make just an adaptation of Doctor Sleep only keeping in mind what happened in The Shining book, there’s no way that you can just ignore Kubrick’s version, it’s become so incredibly iconic at this point. This movie tributes The Shining quite a lot in how it’s directed, especially in the way a lot of it is shot even before the plot gets to the Overlook Hotel. Personally I feel these moments are earned. The only aspect that really bugged me are when they flat out have flashbacks to scenes from the original movie but recreate them with different actors and all that. They were really distracting and honestly just weren’t needed, anyone who saw The Shining or even vaguely knows about it already knows about many of the iconic scenes and didn’t serve the movie in any way. With that said, it only happened a couple times thankfully. It plays a small part in the movie, but the Overlook hotel was recreated well, pretty much as close to the Kubrick movie as possible.

Doctor Sleep is a solid follow up to the original Shining, while managing to really stand on its own. Mike Flanagan’s direction was excellent, the cast were great (especially McGregor, Curran and Ferguson), it’s captivating and character driven, and although the movie is lengthy, it really utilises that longer runtime well. Considering the massive task they had and all the things they had to get right, I think they really pulled it off.

The Meg (2018) Review

Time: 113 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Jason Statham as Jonas Taylor
Li Bingbing as Suyin Zhang
Rainn Wilson as Jack Morris
Ruby Rose as Jaxx Herd
Winston Chao as Dr. Minway Zhang
Cliff Curtis as James “Mac” Mackreides
Director: Jon Turteltaub

A massive creature attacks a deep-sea submersible, leaving it disabled and trapping the crew at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. With time running out, rescue diver Jonas Taylor must save the crew and the ocean itself from an unimaginable threat — a 75-foot-long prehistoric shark known as the Megalodon.

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The Meg marks the end of the Summer Blockbusters season of 2018. In the lead up to its release, I have been having mixed feelings about it. Honestly while the movie looked like it could be fun, it felt that there are so many ways that this wouldn’t work. Yes, the idea of watching Jason Statham take on a giant shark sounds cool and all, but yet there was something about it that didn’t have me immensely hyped. Fortunately it turned out rather well. The Meg is not a great movie, and it does have its fair share of problems but I can’t deny that it’s still rather entertaining.

I found out in the end credits that The Meg is actually based on a book, but since I haven’t read the book I won’t make any comparisons between it and the movie. Something I should establish early is that despite the latest trailer working well, all the moments about the meg attacking people on the beach are from the third act. So don’t expect an hour and 50 minutes of that. The Meg doesn’t have the greatest of writing and is very straightforward and almost a little generic. The humour doesn’t really work like 95% percent of the time, and it can really miss. There is a forced kind of relationship between Jason Statham and Li Bingbing’s characters which kind of comes out of nowhere. Even though the latest trailer made it seem like a completely goofy shark flick, The Meg does have a weird mix of goofiness and seriousness. It actually quite surprised me how serious this movie felt a lot of the time. Most of the time you can look past it but whenever it tries to get very dramatic and when people are killed off, you don’t really feel anything. Despite its problems, I generally had fun throughout. It got better over time and by the time it got to the third act, I forgot about most of the problems. If you know what you’re in for, than you’ll probably like it.

Jason Statham is as usual entertaining and likable in the lead role and he does very well to lead this movie. The rest of the cast, which consists of Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose and others do well enough in their roles, but their characters don’t have enough depth. With that said, I didn’t really expect the characters to be really complex or anything, and they work well enough for the movie.

The direction of this movie by Jon Turteltaub is pretty good, it looks good and the CGI bits most of the time are decent enough. It does have some jumpscares, and annoying as they may be, a couple of them made me jump a bit. The tension is generally done well, I didn’t worry too much about the characters because I knew everything would be fine and all that (not to mention the film didn’t really give enough reason to care about them), but nonetheless a lot of the scenes can be very thrilling. However the movie does feel like it was held back a little bit, like it might’ve benefited a lot more had it been more over the top and more outrageous. Originally, Eli Roth wanted to direct this movie but because he wanted an R rating, the studio passed on him. While The Meg still works fine enough with a PG-13/M rating, I think it would’ve benefited from an R rating, with them going all out with it.

The Meg does have some faults and there are some aspects that could’ve been improved that would’ve made it better (like going all out with an R rating or outrageous and over the top) but on the whole, I had fun with what we got. If you saw all the trailers for The Meg and thought that you’d like it, go and see it, you’ll probably like it. I personally had a good time with it, and it was a good way to end 2018’s Summer Blockbuster season.