DANNY COLLINS REVIEW

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Brilliant!

An ageing rock star (Al Pacino) decides to change his life when he discovers a 40-year-old letter written to him by John Lennon.

There is nothing more enjoyable than when you see a film with no expectations and end up being rewarded with great acting and good writing.

Al Pacino proves at 75 that he’s still got it. I was a little anxious after his recent endeavours. Understandably, he’s no spring chicken but Pacino looked like he was sleepwalking through his latest roles. In 88 Minutes, he was a mess. A zombie. A shell of the once great screen icon.

However, this time round? How glad I am to eat my own words. The man was on fine form. Funny, charismatic and lively. A resurgent performance.

This is very loosely, and I emphasize loosely, based on a true story about a musician who discovered a letter written to him by John Lennon 40 years ago. The rest, of course, is fictionalized.

We join Danny Collins as he drinks and drudges his way through the repetitive retread of his best hits. Hits he wrote 40 years ago. Pacino’s singing wasn’t bad. A little wispy but very much in the vein of Cat Stevens. I wasn’t expecting too much with his singing, to be honest.

His stage presence, on the other hand, was another story. Embracing his inner Barry Manilow. The velvet jackets, the flamboyant get up. Having a laugh and not giving two monkeys. A perfect showman. I’m not sure if the song ‘Baby Doll’ was made up for the film but it was quite catchy.

After receiving the letter, Collins (in typical movie fashion) soon re-evaluates his life and looks backs at all his regrets. Realizing that he might not be living the dream after all. Desperate to make amends and repair burned bridges, it’s not going to be an easy task for the ageing rocker.

Annette Bening was very good as the hotel manager Mary Sinclair. Forced to put up with the deluded musician and his many advances. The “patter” between the pair was top notch. They had great chemistry and you could tell they were having fun. There were moments where you couldn’t tell whether they were improvising or not.

It was good to see Jennifer Garner in a role. There wasn’t enough of her, to be honest. Giselle Eisenberg was adorable as Collins’ ADHD daughter. She played it really well and got the balance right. She didn’t irritate and stole the scene at every chance.

Bobby Cannavale proved yet again why he is such a versatile actor. The range that the man can do. To go from Gyp Rosetti in Boardwalk Empire to the Annie remake (Okay, the less we say about that. The better. But I never expected to see the gangster singing and dancing). He was brilliant as Collins’ estranged son, Tom. He worked well with Pacino and they really made the scorned father/son dynamic work.

It was also great to see Christopher Plummer play Collin’s best friend and manager. Not enough of him, either.

I was engrossed and impressed. An easygoing, entertaining affair. BUT even though the main cast were flawless, some of the supporting characters were a little weak.

Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation) was wasted in his role (No, seriously. Was he drunk?). The opening interview scene was needed to establish the reason for Lennon’s letter but Offerman didn’t really get to shine or deliver a laugh. Shame. The scene was a little unnecessary. The tape recording of the interview would have sufficed.

Melissa Benoist (Supergirl/Whiplash) and Josh Peck (Drake and Josh) were a little disappointing. Their ongoing hotel staff romance felt forced. It was obviously an ongoing joke to break up the family stuff and Collins and Sinclair’s brewing romance but it didn’t really work and wasn’t that interesting.

The film may have been corny and a little predictable BUT there was enough charm and charisma from ol’ Scarface to breeze through it and the closing moments were tense, dramatic and uplifting.

The soundtrack was very good. And of course, it would be. You can’t have a story made around a loose John Lennon connection without using any of his repertoire. Writer/director Dan Fogelman made full use of the nine songs they were able to obtain from Lennon’s back catalogue. He incorporated every song to match a crucial moment in the film. A perfect example during a tense and awkward first meeting between Tom and Danny, the song ‘Beautiful Boy’ was playing in the background.

Why are films like this not getting enough publicity? It baffles me. The premise may seem like nothing more than a TV movie but there was enough talent and substance to make this stand out from the rest.

I highly recommend. Easygoing, funny, charming. A pleasant surprise.

3.5/5 (With room to change to a 4)

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*THROWBACK REVIEW* MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDREN REVIEW

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DO. NOT. BOTHER.

Jason Reitman pens a delightfully dull and dreary commentary on the woes of social media.

Certainly not what I expected. Which worked in one aspect BUT failed on so many others.

The recent spate of trailers seemed to market this as a romantic drama seen through the platform of social media i.e. Facebook, Tumblr, etc.

BUT all I got was a slow, dark and sombre social drama that made some fair points but didn’t really back them up with any substance, tension or story.

Merely a movie of moments. A shame considering the talent.

So what is it about? A group of high school teenagers and their parents attempt to navigate the many ways the Internet has changed their relationships, self-image and how they communicate.

It really does sound as boring as you think. BUT it’s not a complete disaster.

The opening sequence was quite strange. A visually stunning but unnecessary tracking shot of a satellite travelling through the solar system. Eric Steelberg’s cinematography was superb (in this sequence). The wonderful Emma Thompson provided her vocal gravitas to the appropriately titled character, “Narrator”.

However, she soon blathers on about how sounds and videos were recorded in a capsule during 1977 to send out as a welcome message to extra terrestrials. Interesting. But what is the relevance?

None, apparently. It didn’t really fit in with the message or the tone of the film. Granted, the songs and messages highlighted how far we have progressed technologically to a minor extent BUT we still haven’t contacted extra-terrestrials. That we know of. If there are any. If we care. And if there are, they obviously didn’t like our noises.

BUT what does that have to do with social media impacting the everyday?

It felt a little pretentious for my liking and certainly didn’t get things going.

It eventually zipped along and was watchable. BUT the story lines and content just didn’t have enough for the two hour running length.

The only statement that I felt Reitman made well was the desensitisation and over-sexualisation of teenagers.

The scene in which a group of 16 year old cheerleaders are talking about how many men they have slept with and supposed sex acts they have inflicted was uncomfortable to listen to BUT all too true.

The fact that it is so easy for young teens to access porn and sexual images in this digital age paired with their ever-increasing hunger to grow up quicker was and still is a scary prospect.

Olivia Crocicchia was very good as the deluded Hannah Clint. A ruthless and overly ambitious young lady who will do what it takes to get what she wants. Her relationship with her mother Judy Greer was captured well and it was interesting to see the gradual change from something that seemed so innocent as a little modelling site soon becoming something much more.

Some of the story lines excelled, while others merely gave us a taster and then fizzled out into nothing really.

Kaitlyn Dever and Ansel Elgort played the outsider high school couple well, I suppose. BUT it wasn’t original or interesting. Their story line was a little stale. Hiding in the library and sneaking out to cuddle by a waterfall or river. I can’t remember. Lost interest. The closing minutes certainly came to a tense, if predictable, finale.

Jennifer Garner played Dever’s overprotective mother perfectly. Not enough of her. I was determined to see if there was more to her obsession with controlling and knowing her daughter’s whereabouts.

BUT no! The world is a terrible place and the Internet is worse. Her embargoes on the household Wi-Fi and mobile phone tracking apps certainly hinted at the cons of digital gadgetry.

The whole fear of online predators is still an important issue. Even more so with trolling and cyberbullying. BUT Reitman doesn’t even bother penning a story line featuring this shocking new development.

The whole affair felt quite dated. This would have been a lot more hard-hitting a decade ago, to be honest, when instant messaging and blogging had first popped up in the domain.

Dean Norris’ football loving dad arguing with Englert for dropping out of the team after his mum flew the coop was predictable guff. Englert’s video game obsession felt dated. I mean World of Warcraft is still a highly popular game BUT surely there’s a new one. Plus it wasn’t really explored that well.

J.K. Simmons was wasted in his role as the father in Elena Kampouris’ bulimic daughter story line. Her situation was one that should have been covered a little better. Hiding in her room trying not to eat while talking to online forums about fighting hunger pains was crazy.

Her story ended quite abruptly after hitting a crucial juncture and deserved more screen time, especially with vulnerable teens that are constantly battling with image and oversexualized music videos, media coverage and fashion magazines.

Adam Sandler was finally given another serious role and he did quite well but his character was so bland. The whole porn desensitising the average male debate was a valid point but who wants to see Mr Deeds getting hot and heavy while watching smut? Not me.

Reitman raised a good point in how teenage lads in particular will be looking for a particular woman after being subjected to such videos. Sandler’s son developing a crude taste for domination videos was a taboo that should have been explored. BUT Sandler’s character never confronts him properly about it.

In fact, he sees his son’s videos and has a bash himself. A little dark and comical BUT the tone didn’t really fit. I couldn’t tell how serious Reitman was trying to be. The film went too serious one second and satirical the next.

Sandler’s storyline was mediocre at best. It had a fair point about how couples lose intimacy and seek extra marital companionship online. The ease in what you can do on the Internet is a crazy and unsettling thing.

The affair sequences were certainly different BUT didn’t really amount to anything which was surprising, considering they “confronted” each other at the end. It just infuriated me because they seemed to blame their lost innocence from 9/11. Emphasizing how it changed everything.

I mean it could have been inappropriate timing that they changed as the world changed at that moment but I felt the reference lazy and unnecessary.

The sequences in which we see what people are texting, along with video inserts, was a nice touch. Especially when you see what people are texting about others who are in the same room.

BUT it’s hardly original. Hollyoaks milked that speech bubble text talk thing to death.

It made some good points BUT ones I’ve seen dealt with a whole lot better. It felt like a missed opportunity to expand, debate and explore new developments and how families are growing up with them.

It’s watchable BUT if you’re looking for hard-hitting, thought provoking Internet-related drama, I recommend Cyber Bully.

2.5/5 (Just)

DALLAS BUYERS CLUB REVIEW

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Alright, alright, alright.

In 1985 Dallas, electrician and hustler Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) works around the system to help AIDS patients get the medication they need after he is diagnosed with the disease.

An engrossing (and gritty) tale of one’s man fight for survival. I can’t believe this was a true story. McConaughey provided a stellar performance. Worthy of that Oscar gold.

What made this story more interesting was the fact that Woodroof was a homophobic redneck who had unprotected sex with drug users. The moment he revealed his diagnosis, he was soon ostracized by his friends and evicted from the trailer park. A somewhat darker Southern take on Philadelphia.

Woodroof was very much a man on the path to destruction. At first, it was quite difficult to empathise with him. His drug and alcohol abuse merely making his condition worse. He even stole the only FDA approved drug AZT.

“Screw the FDA, I’m gonna be DOA”.

BUT as his condition deteriorates, Woodroof has to deal with the bureaucracy of the US healthcare system and the FDA as he buys and sells unapproved FDA pills. Unapproved pills that are proving more successful in their trails than AZT.

Woodroof strikes up a business opportunity. Establishing a drugs membership, The Dallas Buyers Club, for struggling AIDS sufferers who aren’t getting the proper treatment. With his partner in crime, the transsexual Rayon (the Oscar wining Jared Leto), the pair work together to fight against the system and their expiry dates.

It was incredible watching the lengths that Woodroof went to. An unbelievable story. Yves Belanger’s cinematography created a gritty look that fitted the tone and mood of the piece. Great direction by Jean-Marc Vallee (Wild), a well written script adapted from an in-depth interview with Woodroof himself by Craig Borten and a superb cast consisting of Jennifer Garner (Alias) as the conflicted Dr Eve Saks, Dennis O’Hare (True Blood) and Steve Zahn (in a surprisingly straight faced role) made this one to watch.

The pace was slow burning BUT allowed everything to bubble along perfectly. Leto and McConaughey were a fantastic duo. I couldn’t believe Leto was in this. He was on scene stealing form. The pair really put their bodies on the line for the roles. They looked ill. It did ponder the question on how far actors should go for a role. McConaughey lost over 3 stone. Crazy.

Dallas Buyers Club marked a resurgent return for the man and he hasn’t looked back since with True Detective, Wolf of Wall Street and Interstellar filling his filmography, I think there will be more to come.

Endearing, intriguing, emotional, gritty. Not what I expected at all. BUT all the better for it. Definitely worth your time.

4/5