Danny Collins

An aging rock star decides to change his life when he discovers a 40-year-old letter written to him by John Lennon.

Release Date: April 10, 2015
Writer: Dan Fogelman
Director: Dan Fogelman
Cast: Al Pacino, Annette Benning, Jennifer Garner, Bobby Cannavale, Christopher Plummer

Al Pacino plays Danny Collins, the aging rocker, who still manages to sell out stadiums across America. As famous as he has become, Collins is a man going through the motions on stage and finding solace in drugs and his very young fiancé. On his birthday, Collins’ manager Frank Grubman (Christoper Plummer) bring Danny a letter than John Lennon had sent to him before he became famous. The letter was never delivered to Collins and Grubman found it from a collector.

The Lennon letter is an instrument of irony. It was an encouragement to Collins to remain true to himself and soft-handed warning about the trappings of fame.  The letter prompts Collins to examine his life and where he is. It also prompts him to visit the son he never knew.

Collins take a trip from Los Angeles to New Jersey hoping to mend things with his son, Tom Donnelly (Bobby Cannavale), Tom’s wife, Samantha (Jennifer Garner) and his granddaughter, Hope (Giselle Eisenberg). Collins says at the local Hilton, where he meets and becomes smitten with the manager Mary (Annette Benning).

Danny Collins is a story of redemption. Can Danny make things right with the son he abandoned as a child. Considering he is the result of a one-night stand and never bothered to know his son because he just didn’t care. On the flipside, can Tom forgive the father, who never wanted to be his father. Can Tom allow himself to be the object of Danny’s redemption. Finally, will Danny Collins ever become the artist that John Lennon say 40 years ago.

Danny Collins is a story that’s been told before, but these stories never starred Al Pacino. Pacino brings Danny Collins to life as a celebrity famously known around the world. You root for him as a man who wants to change and fix the pain he’s caused in the past. You also root for him in hopes that he overcomes the demons of not only drugs, sex and rock-n-roll, but the demon of failure.

As his son Tom, Bobby Canevale holds his own against Pacino. He is not a victim of Danny’s apathy, but then again, he is. Tom also faces a struggle of him own and soon realizes how much he needed a father-figure in his life…better late than never.

Danny Collins, the movie, is no Dog Day Afternoon and Pacino’s portrayal of Collins is no Michael Corleon. But Danny Collins is a light, fun comedy that leaves you feeling good about the world in the end. As a veteran actor, Pacino is comfortable as Collins even to the point of singing his own songs. It’s clear the Pacino wanted to do a comedy as a challenge and he picked the right one from writer/director Dan Fogelman.

7 out of 10

Fifty Shades of Black

Fifty Shades of Black is Marlon Wayans’ parody of the sexually-charged movie, Fifty Shades of Grey. In this parody, businessman Christian Black (Marlon Wayans) is looking to naïve reporter, Hannah (Kali Hawk) to be his sexual submissive.

Release Date: January 29, 2016
Writer: Rick Alvarez, Marlon Wayans
Director: Michael Tiddes
Cast: Marlon Wayans, Kali Hawk, Mike Epps, Affion Crockett, Jenny Zigrino

To say that Fifty Shades of Black is a bad movie is being kind. The movie suffers from being incredibly bland. It strings together a series of mediocre jokes using a fragile, if non-existent, storyline. The fact that this is a parody of Fifty Shades of Grey, the filmmakers use the storyline and structure of the film as a loose guide solely to get us from the beginning to the end of the movie.

It is almost not worth summarizing the story, but let’s try. Christian Black is a successful and mysterious millionaire, who has made his riches selling drugs and stealing everything. Hannah is a young ingénue, who interviews Black, when her nymphomaniac roommate is under-the-weather after a night of violent banging.

During the incredibly awkward interview, Christian is enamored by Hannah and offers to enter a business-like love relationship, which includes sessions in the playroom. If you’re familiar with Fifty Shades of Grey, you know where this is heading.

As a comedy, writers Rick Alvarez and Marlon Wayans basically took every scene from Fifty Shades of Grey and rewrote it by added a series of jokes and gags. The problem lies in that by adding jokes to a scene they managed to remove the parts of the story that leads you to the next scene. So while you might mildly laugh at the juvenile sex humor, you then wonder where is this movie going?

For example, the scene where Hannah is talking to her roommate Kateesha (Jenny Zigrino), about the interview with Christian Black. While Hannah is going over the questions, Kateesha can’t help but go on and one about her sexual encounter the night before that left her in this weakened state.

The other problem is the level of inconsistency in characters and in its storyline. It’s as if the filmmakers just want to throw jokes in your face hoping you’ll laugh at something. In one scene Christian is going to spank Hannah for some reason I can’t remember. The joke is Hannah butt is tight and as Christian spanks her, he is the one who feels pain in his hands. Later in the film, Hannah is being whipped on the rear and she feels pain. It’s as if they write these scenes completely independent of one another and are not concerned with how they match against each other.

Fifty Shades of Black is just a plain old bad movie. The original Fifty Shades of Grey was funnier because you had actors saying and doing the most ridiculous gags with a hilarious level of seriousness. In this movie, the actors are comedians both in on the joke and telling the jokes. Gags are shoved into scenes because they need gags. Laughs are childish, scatological and penis jokes.

3 out of 10