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Danny Collins: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Review

Danny Collins (2015) movie poster Danny Collins

Theatrical Release: March 20, 2015 / Running Time: 107 Minutes / Rating: R

Writer/Director: Dan Fogelman

Cast: Al Pacino (Danny Collins), Annette Bening (Mary Sinclair), Jennifer Garner (Samantha Leigh Donnelly), Bobby Cannavale (Tom Donnelly), Christopher Plummer (Frank Grubman), Katarina Cas (Sophie), Giselle Eisenberg (Hope Donnelly), Melissa Benoist (Jamie), Josh Peck (Nicky Ernst), Brian Thomas Smith (Judd/"Busywork"), Scott Lawrence (Dr. Ryan Kurtz), Michael Patrick McGill (Neighbor Steve), Kiff Vandenheuvel (Marty), Nick Offerman (Guy DeLoach), Eric Schneider (Young Danny Collins)

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Danny Collins stars Al Pacino in the title role of an aging rock star who emerged in the early 1970s. With help from a lot of booze and a little cocaine, Danny is still playing sold out stadiums to adoring fans of advancing age in the present day. He has a giant house and a pretty fiancιe less than half his age and he hasn't written a new song in over thirty years.

Despite all that, Danny isn't feeling entirely fulfilled, something he realizes when his lifelong best friend and manager Frank Grubman (Christopher Plummer) gives him a priceless gift
at a lively surprise house party for an unspecified birthday. Frank has obtained a never-before-seen letter addressed to Danny hand-written by John Lennon in 1971. In the note, the legendary, long-deceased Beatle extended some encouragement and his personal phone number to the young Collins in response to a magazine interview Danny had given (the film's prologue).

Moved by the gesture and how it might have changed his life had he gotten it back in the 1970s, Danny takes immediate action. To Frank's bewilderment, he cancels the remainder of his lucrative world tour and checks in for an indefinite stay at the Hilton in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey. Charming the hotel's college age employees and hitting on its manager Mary (Annette Bening), Danny has his Steinway delivered and even tries writing some new songs on the hotel's complimentary notepads. But the real reason for this visit is the hotel's proximity to Tom Donnelly (Bobby Cannavale), the illegitimate son Danny has never before met.

"Danny Collins" stars Al Pacino as an aging rocker blown away by the untimely receipt of a handwritten letter from John Lennon.

Tom, a construction worker with impossibly precocious 7-year-old daughter Hope (Giselle Eisenberg) and a loving wife (Jennifer Garner) six months pregnant with their second child, does not want anything to do with Danny now after decades of absenteeism. But the remorseful rocker works his way into the Donnellys' lives, getting the family a rare interview for Hope to enroll at a selective, prestigious private school in New York City.

In the process of bonding with this estranged family, Danny learns that Tom is secretly suffering from the same rare form of leukemia that claimed his mother's life. Notes taken from doctor sessions share those Hilton notepads with the lyrics Danny tries out on Mary, with whom he shares "patter" and a drink.

The poster and cover art for Danny Collins claim the film is "Inspired by a True Story." The opening screen more accurately states it is "kind of based on a true story a little bit." The only part of the movie based in reality is a musician's discovery of a decades-old handwritten note from John Lennon. That really happened to Steve Tilston, an English folk singer-songwriter you almost certainly have not heard of. The rest of the film, including the titular character, is the invention of Dan Fogelman, who makes his directorial debut here after eight years of writing and contributing to films like Crazy, Stupid, Love., The Guilt Trip, Last Vegas, Cars, and Tangled.

Tom (Bobby Cannavale) and Samantha Leigh Donnelly (Jennifer Garner) are the beneficiaries of Danny Collins' guilt-fueled generosity.

Fogelman returns to the themes that have most defined his live-action work:
family ties and late-in-life romance. Like his past scripts, this one is contrived and often too cute for its own good. At least, there is a fascinating factual foundation and a message of redemption that is easy to get behind. There is also Pacino giving one of his best film performances of this century, which admittedly isn't saying much. The chief appeal of his film-carrying turn may be that it does not seem explicitly designed as a comeback vehicle for the actor. Many, myself included, have wanted one of those Pacino for a long time, but there is freedom in not having any apparent Oscar ambitions. Pacino just seems to be having a good time, something he hasn't explicitly had in something of worth in quite a while.

Describing Danny Collins as something of worth is a mild stretch, since the movie consistently chips away at the goodwill it builds early on. Even knowing nothing coming in, you just assume redemption will take the form of connecting with the son he's never knew. When Danny shows up at the Donnellys' suburban house with a bag of bagels, you fear the film will take a turn for the worse, knowing how treacly Fogelman has written family issues in the past. The secret disease reveal only deepens your skepticism. And the movie works itself into a regrettable corner with a climactic diagnosis that won't feel right either way.

Still, the feel-good nature of Fogelman's storytelling isn't completely lost on you this time. The R rating -- his first -- frees up the writer to put believable dialogue in the mouths of characters. Danny Collins isn't some PG-13 version of a rock star, either, no matter how much more in line that would be with Fogelman's mainstream past and primary audience of mild-mannered adults. Fine support from the likes of Plummer and Cannavale also help us overlook the iffier and more familiar material. All in all, Danny Collins leaves a film critic feeling okay and perhaps an average moviegoer better than that, as evidenced by the film's formidable 7.2 average user rating on IMDb, where the scribe's every film is overrated.

The very first theatrical release of New York-based film distributor Bleecker Street, Danny Collins grossed a somewhat respectable $5.6 million, despite a max theater count of just 739 and only a single top ten finish at the weekend box office. It reaches DVD and Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack this week as part of Bleecker Street's multi-year output deal with Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

Danny Collins: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English); DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish, French
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: June 30, 2015
Suggested Retail Price: $34.98
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Blue Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as standalone DVD ($29.98 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Like most new movies, Danny Collins looks great on Blu-ray. The 2.40:1 picture is as sharp, clean, and detailed as films with budgets many times more this one's $10 million. Musically, Fogelman treats the movie like a love letter to John Lennon, using his solo songs throughout. They are the most prominent feature of a perfectly satisfactory and occasionally lively 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack.

Writer-director Dan Fogelman discusses his creation in "Behind the Scenes of 'Danny Collins.'" Pictures of Al Pacino from over the years are turned into era-specific album covers, displayed in this gallery.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Danny Collins is joined by just two bonus features

on both Blu-ray and DVD.

First, "Behind the Scenes of Danny Collins" (3:44) is a short general making-of featurette dispensing the standard mix of cast and crew comments, clips, and production B-roll. The most interesting note to come from it may be Fogelman's description of the title character as a cross between Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow, and Rod Stewart, names that might have come to mind as you try to think of a realistic real-life counterpart. (Collins' signature hit "Hey, Baby Doll" is a transparent rift on Diamond's "Sweet Caroline.")

The other extra is "Danny Collins - Album Covers Through the Years", a gallery showing off 10 believable album covers created for the film using Pacino pictures new and old.

The discs open with menu-inaccessible trailers for I'll See You in My Dreams, My Old Lady, and Pawn Sacrifice. Danny Collins' own trailer is not included here.

The main menu of each disc is static but scored.

The lone insert within the slipcovered blue keepcase supplies your Digital HD code (compatible both with iTunes and UltraViolet) and advertises other "romantic favorites" available on Blu-ray from Universal.

Danny Collins (Al Pacino) pursues a dinner date with Woodcliff Lake Hilton manager Mary Sinclair (Annette Bening) for much of the movie.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Steadily employed screenwriter Dan Fogelman makes an okay directorial debut on Danny Collins, a redemption tale with an appealing premise whose brushes with contrived, familiar family melodrama are not fatal. If nothing else, this light, accessible quasi-indie gives Al Pacino his best role in a number of years.

Universal's Blu-ray combo pack is ordinary, but satisfies on the basis of its fine feature presentation.

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Related Reviews:
Written by Dan Fogelman: Crazy, Stupid, Love. • Last Vegas • The Guilt Trip • Tangled • Fred Claus • Cars • Bolt
Al Pacino: The Humbling • Stand Up Guys • Jack and Jill • Any Given Sunday • Ocean's Thirteen • The Insider • Scarface • The Godfather Trilogy
Annette Bening: The Kids Are All Right • Girl Most Likely • Ruby Sparks | Bobby Cannavale: The Station Agent • Blue Jasmine • Win Win
Jennifer Garner: Juno • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day | Christopher Plummer: Elsa & Fred • Barrymore
Nowhere Boy • Jersey Boys • This Must Be the Place • Rock of Ages • St. Vincent • The Royal Tenenbaums

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Reviewed June 29, 2015.



Text copyright 2015 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2015 Bleecker Street, ShivHans Pictures, Handwritten Films, Big Indie Pictures, and Universal Studios Home Entertainment.
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