Reminiscence

STREAMING REVIEW: 

Warner/HBO Max;
Sci-Fi;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for strong violence, drug material throughout, sexual content and some strong language.
Stars Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson, Thandiwe Newton, Cliff Curtis, Brett Cullen, Natalie Martinez, Angela Sarafyan, Mojean Aria, Marina de Tavira, Daniel Wu, Nico Parker.

Memories of happy times can often be a bittersweet reminder of things lost, particularly when nothing better comes along to supplant them.

That seems to be a motivating dilemma in Reminiscence, an ambitious sci-fi mystery from in the mold of a Christopher Nolan thriller. As with most Nolan noir, Reminiscence is marked by a time-shifted non-linear narrative built around a high-concept sci-fi hook — in this case, a device that helps people re-live their favorite memories as if they were new.

Hugh Jackman plays a nostalgia merchant named Nick who runs a business where people can pay to use such as machine. The film is set sometime in the near future in a Miami flooded by rising oceans, where peoples’ everyday lives tend to be so depressing they’d rather turn to the past for a respite.

Late one night, a woman named Mae (Rebecca Ferguson), a singer at a local nightclub, walks in and asks to access her memories to find her lost keys. Nick is immediately obsessed with her, sparking a brief relationship that ends when she vanishes without a trace. Unwilling to let her go, Nick delves into his memories with her, until his partner and former war buddy (Thandiwe Newton) forces him to face reality.

Nick also takes contract work with the district attorney to depose criminals by retrieving their memories. When he discovers Mae in the memories of the associate of a drug lord, Nick sets off on a quest to uncover exactly what happened to her, even if it means learning she wasn’t exactly who she claimed to be.

Reminiscence was written by and marks the directorial debut of Lisa Joy, whose husband, Jonathan Nolan, is Christopher Nolan’s brother and frequent collaborator. The husband-wife team, who co-produced the film as well, also developed and produce HBO’s “Westworld,” a show with equally trippy sci-fi themes about the nature of identity and existence.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The sci-fi trappings of Reminiscence make for a visually arresting experience, though the story and premise are often reminiscent of other films. The pairing of Jackman of Ferguson, for example, immediately brings to mind their teaming in The Greatest Showman, in which she also played a singer who caught the eye of a Jackman character (P.T. Barnum in that case). The drifting in and out of dreams to drive the narrative has echoes with Christopher Nolan’s Inception, which dealt with dreams instead of memories. And the very idea of memory manipulation, leading to questions of what is really happening or not, bring to mind films such as Total Recall. The depiction of a future world that has shifted its day-to-day routine around the culture of water travel, while interesting in its worldbuilding possibilities, seems a bit like a proto-Waterworld.

Still, if not as profound as its cinematic cousins in the Nolan canon, Reminiscence should manage to provide an entertaining diversion for a couple of hours, however fleeting the romance at its heart might be.

In addition to playing in theaters, Reminiscence will stream on HBO Max through Sept. 17.

Joker

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 1/7/20;
Warner;
Drama;
Box Office $333.5 million;
$28.98 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $44.95 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for strong bloody violence, disturbing behavior, language and brief sexual images.
Stars Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, Glenn Fleshler, Bill Camp, Shea Whigham, Marc Maron, Douglas Hodge, Josh Pais, Leigh Gill.

In DC Comics, the Joker has been Batman’s primary nemesis for 80 years, and part of the reason he remains such a fascinating character is the mystery surrounding his origins and motivations.

That isn’t to say that there haven’t been versions of a Joker origin story over the years, most often tailored to a specific story being told. There just hasn’t been a definitive one as clean as his counterpart’s, the boy who grew up to fight crime after the murder of his parents. The tale of the Joker is often messy and contradictory, which only adds to his intrigue and popularity.

With the movie aptly named Joker, director Todd Phillips brings a new interpretation of the character. The script by Phillips and co-writer Scott Silver is mostly a gritty, disturbing character study about what could push a man to reject society and embrace chaos; calling it Joker, as Phillips admits in the bonus materials, just gives comic book fans an excuse to see it.

But that’s not quite a fair assessment, as the story, while not directly adapting any of the myriad source material available, does touch upon several classic elements associated with Joker and Batman from the comics, particularly the notion that all it takes is “one bad day” to push a man over the edge.

Follow us on Instagram

The film is anchored by Joaquin Phoenix’s immersive performance as Arthur Fleck, an anti-social, mentally ill loner and aspiring stand-up comedian who fantasizes about being accepted by a society that has little use for him. The film is set in 1981 in a moody version of Gotham City that threatens to burst at the seams at any moment, as corrupt bureaucrats leave public services underfunded while the wealthiest citizens, including Thomas Wayne, seem to have no interest in alleviating the tension.

While the story takes some violent turns and the film has courted controversy with its disturbing tone and sympathetic portrayal of a homicidal iconoclast, it nonetheless became a massive it. The film’s version of its title character has struck a nerve, becoming something of an anti-establishment champion of the downtrodden.

Phillips himself as even hinted that maybe Fleck isn’t the villain who ultimately confronts Batman, but is more of an inspiration for whomever that may be. But that’s a debate for fans and potentially a sequel that was never intended but may become a reality due to the film’s success.

Even so, there’s no requirement that this version of Joker be tied to any of the other versions of DC characters being displayed on the big screen at the moment. The look and style of the film is heavily inspired by Martin Scorsese crime dramas of the 1970s and ’80s, particularly Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy, which is perfectly in line with graphic novels that reimagine characters in different settings, something DC’s Elseworlds imprint did all the time. So, this movie is basically just what if the Joker were a Scorsese antihero.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The bonus materials for his initial home video release of Joker are somewhat sparse given its impact. The primary extra is “Joker: Vision & Fury,” a pretty good 22-and-a-half-minute behind-the-scenes featurette that includes interviews with many of the filmmakers and cast discussing how they sought to present their distinct vision of the character and his circumstances.

The other three featurettes are short highlight reels. “Becoming Joker” is a minute-and-a-half montage of Phoenix test footage; “Please Welcome … Joker!” is a nearly three-minute compilation of alternate takes of Joker’s entrance onto the late-night talk show that plays a central role in the story; and “Joker: A Chronicle of Chaos” is little more than a three-minute slideshow of photos from the movie.

A commentary with Phillips is available exclusively through copies of the film on iTunes, which owners of the Blu-ray can access as a result of the Movies Anywhere redemption code included with the disc.