Tag Archives: jennifer garner

Pacino Back in Form as ‘Danny Collins’

Danny_Collins_Official_PosterWelcome back, classic Al Pacino.

Pacino stars as the titular role in “Danny Collins”, a film that follows an aging rocker who decides to make some life changes after receiving a 40-year-old letter written to him by John Lennon. Annette Bening, Jennifer Garner, and Bobby Cannavale all co-star while Dan Fogelman writes and makes his directorial debut.

There’s really no sugar-coating it, this is a story that we have seen before. A famous person in the final stage of their life realizes that they’ve made some mistakes, and set out to make peace and find redemption. “Danny Collins” never tries to stray from the course, but thanks to a fantastic cast and some fun writing, it is elevated above its cliché narrative.

I’m personally a fan of screenwriter Dan Fogelman. He may not be Tarantino, but his scripts, including “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” and the underrated “Last Vegas”, usually feature playful dialogue that lend themselves to fun scenes and character interaction. In “Collins”, he pens some great exchanges between Pacino and Annette Bening, who plays the manager of the hotel Pacino stays at, and their chemistry keeps the film from every getting stale.

I’m also a fan of Bobby Cannavale, and he turns in a solid performance here playing Pacino’s adult son who has never met his father. Cannavale brings the Italian charm that makes him so likeable, but at the same time gives a balance of hatred and unease in the scenes he shares with Pacino. He doesn’t want to forgive his father for being absent all his life but at the same time knows it isn’t fair to let his daughter grow up not knowing her grandfather. In the scenes with Pacino and Cannavale often no words are said, but both men do excellent jobs letting the audience know how they are feeling with their body expression and eyes.

While it is able to mostly overcome its familiar subject matter, there are times that “Danny Collins” becomes almost frustrating in how predictable it is. Whenever something is going right for a character you know bad news is right around the corner, and Danny’s addiction to drugs and alcohol seems to come-and-go as needed by the plot. The final act of the film is also somewhat poorly paced, slowing down considerably before rushing to a finish.

With a cast this talented and charming (Christopher Plummer and Nick Offerman both also make appearances), “Danny Collins” mostly overcomes its contrived moments and leaves the audience feeling good when the credits role. As the opening slide of the film states, this is “kind of, sorta” based on the true story of folk singer Steve Tilston, who discovered a letter from Lennon back in 2010, which makes the film just a tad bit more interesting.

Overlaid with John Lennon tracks and featuring one original song that I still have stuck in my head, “Danny Collins” is a feel-good film featuring a strong central performance from Pacino, who like Collins himself has recently entered into near self-parody in his work. If you’re looking for a tale about redemption and some fun interplay between some big name actors, then you’ll want to book a ticket to Danny Collins.

Critics Rating: 7/10



‘Draft Day’ an Engaging and Fun NFL Ad

Draft_Day_poster            As if there isn’t proof enough that the NFL doesn’t have an offseason, here comes just another piece of evidence to support the claim: I give you “Draft Day”, the new film starring Kevin Costner.

Directed by Ivan Reitman, the film follows Cleveland Browns general manger Sonny Weaver Jr. (Costner), who trades three of his team’s future first round draft picks for the number one overall pick. This move is met with scrutiny and anger from much of the organization, especially the head coach, played by Denis Leary. Jennifer Garner costars and multiple real-like NFL personalities, like Commissioner Roger Goodell and Deion Sanders, make cameos.

It is easy to write this film off as one big ad for the NFL, because the commercials and trailer certainly portray it as one when they insert real-life players, despite no real players appearing or even being mentioned in the film (aside from Texans running back Arian Foster, who is actually in an acting role as a draft prospect).

But when you look past the over glamourized portrayal of the NFL, “Draft Day” is a very entertaining, at times intense, film, with shades of “Moneyball”.

Kevin Costner does a solid job as the film’s protagonist. He portrays a man who has a lot on his plate, having traded away his team’s future for a single pick (or “a cow for magic beans”, as they say in the film). On top of that, his general manager is threatening to fire him if the draft is a bust, his girlfriend tells him she is pregnant and his father passed away the week before. A lot to take in on the most important day of the year.

The real strength of the film lies in the NFL-based statistics and draft analysis. This film can be enjoyed by most everybody but the audience that will enjoy it the most is the people who like the behind-the-scenes of football; looking at potential picks and what are the skeletons hiding in their closet. In the film, everyone thinks a QB out of Wisconsin is the unanimous number one overall pick; however Sonny isn’t sold about his personality.

There are quite a few twists in “Draft Day”, some more plausible than others, but they all make for a fun time at the movies. You try and think about what Sonny is cooking up, and how he is going to save not only the Browns, but his job. It is interesting and almost insane to see what NFL GM’s go through on draft day (gasp, that’s the film’s title!) and how many last minute behind-the-scenes moves go on.

The film really doesn’t have too many flaws, as far as an entertainment standpoint goes. There is a 15 minute lag near the beginning of the film, right after Sonny makes the deal for the number one pick, but after that ends it is pretty much non-stop energy until the end of the film. Also, like I said, people who aren’t invested in the goings of the NFL may not be as entertained as people who live and breathe football (like me).

But it is worth mentioning that I saw this film with my lovely mother, who admits she knows little about the NFL besides teams and star players, and she really liked and was engaged by the film. So take that for what its worth…

I really don’t know what else to say about “Draft Day” other than I really liked it. It is a fun, engaging ride, and it was fun to try and think one step ahead of the characters and predict what Sonny possibly could be thinking. If you are a football fan, you will really enjoy this film. If you like business and statistics then you should have a good time, too. If you like bland pieces with forced love triangles, then go watch Twilight or something, because “Draft Day” is probably too interesting for you.

Critics Rating: 8/10