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Title: Danny Collins

Movie: :4stars:
Video: :4.5stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :1star:

HTS Overall Score:78

Al Pacino has been out of the spotlight for quite some time. Much like Robert DeNiro, Al has been slumming it in the DTV market, churning out flop after flop without any end in sight. My last outing with Al was “The Humbling”, an ambitious piece of work, but one that ended up being about as entertaining as nails on a chalkboard. I’ve always been amazed when I see actors who have made MILLIONS in high profile movies like “The Godfather”, “Scarface”, “Heat” and countless others fall down to taking whatever they can get just for the paycheck, and its heart breaking when it’s one of your favorite childhood actors. While I can’t say if this is a 180 degree turn for Pacino, but “Danny Collins” was one of the most entertaining rides from the aging actor that I have seen from him in over a decade. It was sweet, charming, funny and the classic John Lennon songs were just icing on the cake. There was a hiccup here and there, but overall “Danny Collins” won over my heart and restored my faith in Pacino’s talent.

Danny Collins (Al Pacino) is at the end of his rope. He’s lived as high on the hog as one could ever expect to live, being a Neil Diamond style rock star that has had all the “fun” that lifestyle can provide. He’s been coating along on his greatest hits for about 30 years, singing the same old songs to the same old fans in the same old auditoriums. His best friend and manager, Frank Grubman (Christopher Plummer), changes up everything when he gives Danny his birthday present. This present was actually a letter written to Danny in 1971, at the beginning of his career, by none other than John Lennon himself telling Danny to be true to himself and his music, and that we make what we make out of life. As if struck by lightning, Danny looks back over his life and the pain and regret over his mistakes washes over him like a wave. Leaving his ditzy (and cheating) fiancée (played by Katarina Cas), Danny throws caution to the wind, moves out of his mansion and into a Hilton hotel in little old New Jersey.

There in this little hotel room Danny starts to go back to the beginning and do something that he hasn’t done since the 80s, actually write new music. While there he meets his match with the hotel manager Mary Sinclair (Annette Bening), a feisty woman who doesn’t put up with the rock star baloney that Danny is so used to schmoozing people with. The two act as the perfect foil to each other, giving a little bit and receiving just as much in return. Danny obviously likes her, and you can tell there’s a little spark in her eye as well, but it plays out much differently than you’d expect for this type of movie. While New Jersey may certainly be an out of the way spot for a famous Rock legend, Danny has an ulterior motive. His son Tom (Bobby Cannavale), whom he has never met, is located there and the aging star wants to mend some fences. Obviously things don’t exactly work out exactly as planned for Danny. Tom and his wife Samantha (Jennifer Garner) aren’t thrilled to see the man who left his son for a life of fame, and Danny is not exactly the picture of normalcy. He’s out of touch with reality and tact isn’t exactly his strong suit.

“Danny Collins” could have easily dive bombed in a saccharin sweet puddle of clichés. They are all there in reality. The rich rock star dad, the desire to actually do something with your life, the love interest who’s ACTUALLY somewhat age appropriate, the long lost child, the whole works. Under a different director this could have been just another insipid tale of winning against all odds, but Dan Fogelman (the famed Disney writer being “Cars”, “Tangled” etc) handles it with near a near perfectly balanced hand. The tale unfolds organically, allowing the hopefulness of the future to meet the hard reality of the present. Danny Collins and Mary’s little flirtation was the real tipping point for me. Most movies leave you rolling your eyes or chuckling at the clichéd romance that suddenly transforms a life, but really the “romance” was more of a true friendship that shows POTENTIONAL for a romance to bud down the road (and that was obviously Danny’s attention). Mary was the perfect foil for Danny’s crazy rock star life. She’s prim and proper, but with a strength and childlike glee that felt wonderfully refreshing, while Danny is the crazy rock star who’s out of touch with “normal” day to day operations, but is so perfectly human on the inside. The tale with his son was one of the more realistic (not completely so, but at least much more realistic than most movies) representations of a father and son finding each other after all these years. There’s ups, there’s downs and there’s going to be PLENTY of those in their future, but that inner CRAVING for familial love allows them to open the door for some kind of relationship in the near future, even if it isn’t perfect.

Al Pacino knocks it out of the park as Danny. He’s worn down, beaten down, but still the same fantastic actor that we’ve known for generations. He really throws himself into the role of a man who has hit rock bottom. The look in his eyes just breaks your heart most of the time, even when he seems to be having fun. Annette is great, but surprisingly takes a back stage to Jennifer Garner and Bobby, who both play their roles exquisitely. I laughed, I cried, and I had a misty eyed smile on my face as the credits rolled, and in reality, that’s exactly why we watch movies. To feel touched and moved by them.


Rated R for language, drug use and some nudity

Video :4.5stars:
The 2.40:1 scope image on “Danny Collins” isn’t a film that begs to be looked at, but it is near flawless in technical presentation. The soft blue tones and natural looking greens of New Jersey look incredibly lifelike and beautiful when Danny is visiting Tom and Samantha, and the slightly softer colors of the Hilton hotel where Danny spends his days looks finely detailed and sharp, albeit a little bit bland due to, well, it being a hotel. Skin tones and contrast levels are well balanced and natural looking and the blacks are amazingly inky and dark. The dusky bar where Danny does his first real “gig” in years is slightly Smokey and VERY dim, yet somehow manages to stay crisp and clear throughout with plenty of detail. Sharpness and clarity are excellent, and while it’s not filled with pretty explosions or fancy places, “Danny Collins” is impeccably shot and is faithfully representative of the original source, without digital artifacting or annoying digital manipulation during the encode. .Well done all the way around.

Audio :4stars:
The single solitary 5.1 DTS-HD MA English track presented on disc is almost as good as the exceptional video score, and only really hampered by being a dialog heavy movie. Being a dialog heavy film, “Danny Collins” is a bit front heavy with the majority of the weight being taken by the center channel, and some back up support from the mains. HOWEVER, due to the musical leanings of the story, we have several times where the full 6 channels are used with exceptional aplomb as the John Lennon and “Danny Collins” songs are belted out with a visceral level of excitement. The songs throb with power, from the deep LFE, to the rising crescendo of the chorus, and every bit of the soundstage is used during these moments, then back again to long periods of nothing but dialog. While it isn’t a powerhouse “Transformers” type of immersion, the simple 5.1 track does an excellent job with the genre of film that is given with, especially at balancing the volume levels between the songs and the vocals, something which a lot of films seem to lose sight of these days. A very solid A

Extras :1star:

• Behind the Scenes of "Danny Collins"
• Danny Collins: Album Covers Through the Years

Overall: :4stars:

I was really REALLY surprised at how much I liked “Danny Collins”, not only the movie, but the fictional character himself. The heavy usage of John Lennon’s music throughout the music gave it such an authentic “vibe” and Pacino very obviously put himself into the role. On the subject of Lennon’s music. There are actually NINE John Lennon songs sung throughout the film. That’s right NINE songs. If you know anything about music, one of the big things is that John Lennon or “The Beatles” music is insanely expensive to license, yet somehow Dan Fogelman directs an indie film that only cost $10 million to make that somehow features NINE of John Lennon’s songs. That little trick is actually a neat tidbit, as one of the producers actually has an in with Yoko Ono and was able to work a little magic to get so much great Lennon music into this low budget film, and with amazing results. The film itself is fantastic, and although it has a few slip ups, they are easily overlooked and the end result is simply amazing. The great audio and video scores amp it up another notch and the ONLY real flaw I can see in the whole package is the lack of substantial extras. Still, don’t let that deter you from a watching a great movie, and this is one I give a very hearty recommendation.

Additional Information:

Starring: Al Pacino, Annette Bening, Bobby Cannavale, Jennifer Garner, Christopher Plummer
Directed by: Dan Fogelman
Written by: Dan Fogelman
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio:English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Studio: Universal
Rated: R
Runtime: 108 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: June 30th 2015

Buy Danny Collins On Blu-ray at Amazon

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

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