Al Pacino and Christopher Plummer

Al Pacino and Christopher Plummer star in ‘Danny Collins.’

“Danny Collins” (Drama: 1 hour, 46 minutes)

Starring: Al Pacino, Annette Bening, Jennifer Garner, Bobby Cannavale and Christopher Plummer         

Director: Dan Fogelman

Rated: R (Profanity, drug usage and nudity)

Movie Review: Al Pacino plays Danny Collins, an aging rock star, in this noteworthy drama.

Danny Collins decides to change his life after receiving a 40-year-old letter from John Lennon. Collins never received the letter sent in 1971, but Collins longtime friend and manager, Frank Grubman (Plummer), found the letter in a collector’s possession.

When Collins reads the letter, he sees it as a revelation to revamp his life, including reconnecting with his estranged son, Tom Donnelly (Cannavale), and his son’s family, wife Samantha Leigh (Garner) and granddaughter Hope (Giselle Eisenberg) and finding an age-appropriate woman to date, Mary Sinclair (Bening).

Pacino plays a singer still touring after only few big hits well. He makes this role believable. He fits this type of onscreen persona, and this screenplay by first-time director Dan Fogelman, who wrote the screenplay, needs this.

The realness Pacino brings facilitates the story. He is a deplorable man, yet it is easy to care for him. He needs help, and he is trying to do the correct things.

Danny Collins has a few good people around him to help. Plummer and Bening lend their talents in this aspect. They provide wisdom and guidance to Collins. Simultaneously, Collins offers or has offered them in the past a chance for happiness and redemption.

Pacino’s scenes with Cannavale are some of the best; they add sincere drama. Their actions add moments to know these men. Their relationship keeps all grounded in a real manner.

“Danny Collins” is an easy-to-like production for those looking for a gratifying drama. It ends on a low-key and anticipated happy note, but the cast makes it an emotive, enjoyable treat.  

Grade: B (He’s the man.)

Playing in larger cities.


“Mr. Turner”

(Period Drama/Biography: 2 hours, 30 minutes)

Starring: Timothy Spall, Paul Jesson, Dorothy Atkinson And Marion Bailey        

Director: Mike Leigh

Rated: R (Sexuality, nudity and strong language)

Movie Review: A deep impacting 2014 film about J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851), “Mr. Turner” explores the complexities of a British man and his changing art style. While the film is slow moving, it is nice and well acted.

Mr. Joseph Mallord William Turner (Spall) is a complicated, eccentric man. He relies heavily on his elderly father, William (Jesson), who helps sell his son’s art. Mr. Turner is also the admired and loved by his housekeeper, Hannah Danby (Atkinson), whose affections Turner ignores.

Meanwhile, he has a “down-low” relationship with landlady Sophia Booth (Marion Bailey). These trysts would explain why Hannah’s aunt, Sarah Danby (Ruth Sheen), is ill spirited. Despite multiple affairs, Turner keeps painting as a member of the Royal Academy of Arts.

Mike Leigh (“Vera Drake,” 2004) directs this historical piece for which he wrote the screenplay. It is magnificently portrayed biographical study about a man and his art. Leigh plays close attention to detail, making art of his own.

First, Leigh allows this screenplay to show the complex man Turner is. His relationships with people are insights into his true nature. While he appeared to be compassionate to people, Turner keeps his distance emotionally.

Two scenes show this.

Turner has intimate relations with his maid. Hannah Danby, where he more or less forces himself on her, but he does not want to be affectionate with her.

He later visits a brothel. There, he encounters a beautiful woman. He has her undress, and he only wants to study and draw her.

Turner’s depiction is of a revolutionary artist. He realizes photography will change the way people paint, as photograph could now capture what painters do in seconds. Turner sees this and begins trying something new. He starts proto-impressionistic paintings that gain him unwanted attention for which other artists, art critics, art collectors and even royalty criticize him.

Leigh shows why Turner’s art changes. He does this in a slow manner that is majestic but tedious. As Tuner changes, the scenes change to reflect transformations in Turner’s painting style.

Cinematographer Dick Pope also creates scenes that appear much like Turner’s palette. Pope adapts his style to fit the story. This is an enjoyable visual treat, for which “Mr. Turner” garnered one of its four Oscar nominations.

Technically, this biopic is well done. Costume and production design and other facets of this film are exceptional.

The acting is superb also. Spall, who was Oscar nominated in the best actor category, and the rest of the cast are superior. Their roles are subtly powerful. Spall, often silent in scenes, is exceptional.

This film has many fine features. It has a great story. The one drawback is the length and the boredom that ensues. At two and half hours, the film moves slowly enough to induce a coma. It is good, but one should see it when most energetic.

Grade: B (Paints a slow but well played screenplay.)

Playing in larger cities.

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