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Davis Journal

The Movie Guru: ‘Reminiscence,’ ‘Free Guy,’ and movies for every mood

Aug 19, 2021 10:58AM ● By Jenniffer Wardell

Reminiscence (theaters, HBO Max) 

Though it’s wearing a science fiction trench coat, it’s important to know that “Reminiscence” is as noir as it gets. Written and directed by Lisa Joy, co-creator of the “Westworld” TV series, “Reminiscence” stars Hugh Jackman as a man who watches people’s memories for a living. When the woman he loves vanishes on him, however, he’s forced to re-examine his own memories and those of others in a quest to find out the truth of what really happened. Jackman is excellent as the world-weary memory interrogator, as is Thandie Newton as his alcoholic, gun-toting assistant. There’s a fairly surprising twist in the third act, held up by fantastic acting from Rebecca Ferguson, but nothing can save the ending from coming off as too sentimental and oddly unsatisfying. Up until that moment, however, “Reminiscence” is the perfect movie to satisfy any noir cravings you might have. 

Grade: Three stars

CODA (Apple TV+)

If you’re looking for a beautifully made family movie that’s both heartwarming and a little bit heartbreaking, “CODA” is the movie for you. The bones of the story are familiar – a teen girl follows a passion her family can’t understand, meets a boy, and learns valuable life lessons – but the additional elements had interesting depth. Ruby loves singing, but the entire rest of her family is deaf (CODA stands for “child of deaf adults”) and the complicated but honest attempts to bridge that divide are messy but ultimately deeply moving. The entire cast is incredible, with Ruby’s parents and brother actually played by deaf actors, and the entire family dynamic feels so genuine you’ll be amazed they aren’t actually related. There are no surprises here, but every moment is executed so perfectly and in such harmony with the rest of the film it feels like you’re watching a symphony unfold. 

Grade: Four stars

Free Guy (theaters) 

On the surface, “Free Guy” looks like a fun, goofy adventure about a background video game character who suddenly becomes the hero of the story. It is that at first, with the movie lingering over worldbuilding details in a way that might feel slow to anyone who’s not into that sort of thing. As you keep watching, though, the movie unfolds into an unexpectedly deep look at what makes people special, what it really means to be real, and what you’ll do for the things and people that matter most. I didn’t expect to get emotional at a Ryan Reynolds movie, but sometimes things happen that you’re not prepared for. 

Of course, there’s still also plenty of exciting moments, along with several fun cameos and two surprises that had people cheering in the theater. There’s also a good dose of silliness, with some of the cameos indulging in their wackier sides and one particularly ridiculous guest appearance by Ryan Reynolds (yes, you read that correctly). I can’t tell you much about it without spoiling the fun, but if you’re looking for a good fantasy adventure this is definitely a ride worth taking. 

Grade: Three and a half stars

Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Utah Film Critics Association. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at [email protected]  

Credit for photo ©Warner Brothers