‘Danny Collins’ Dodges Bullets This Weekend

A great performance by Al Pacino dominates a movie weekend that is otherwise punctuated by persistent gunfire and numerous civilian casualties.


Danny Collins
Al Pacino triumphs in this joyful story of a legendary pop-music star who faces a late-midlife crisis when he discovers that, way back in 1971, John Lennon had written him a letter urging him not to sell out as an artist. The warning comes 40 years too late, but no matter: Danny Collins quits his latest sold-out tour, checks into a New Jersey hotel and tries to reconnect with his grown son. The superb cast includes Annette Bening, Christopher Plummer, Jennifer Garner and Bobby Cannavale (FULL REVIEW)


The Gunman
Perhaps hoping to carve out a Liam Neeson-like action-movie career, another great screen actor — Sean Penn — picks up a sidearm and leaps into the abyss. Here he’s a retired hit man trying to turn his life around — but, of course, his past catches up with him. Mayhem ensues.

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The Divergent Series: Insurgent
Even after watching the trailer we have no idea what this movie is about, but the first installment ( Divergent, natch) made $260 million. It looks a little bit like The Hunger Games, so there’s that. If nothing else, director Robert Schwentke’s name is fun to say.


Still out there:

50 Shades of Grey
We’re not supposed to laugh out loud at a movie that features beautiful young people having kinky sex, right? Yet that’s precisely what happens almost from the moment we’re introduced to billionaire bondage boy Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and his oh-so-willing submissive partner (Dakota Johnson).

Disney’s live-action adaptation of the animated classic keeps the most charming elements of the original’s damsel-in-distress scenario and transforms the central character into a strong-willed young woman determined to overcome her dismal plight at the hands of a truly wicked stepmother ( Cate Blanchett).

The Cobbler
At its best, this dramatic fantasy — about a hapless New York shoemaker ( Adam Sandler) who discovers he can magically become his customers simply by trying on their shoes — plays like an above-average  Twilight Zone episode. The plot gets too convoluted, but Sandler again proves adept at a substantial acting role.

Maps to the Stars
Despite a great cast — including  Julianne Moore, John Cusack and Robert Pattinson — director David Cronenberg’s satire of Hollywood is as phony as the culture he attempts to skewer. ( FULL REVIEW)

Run All Night
Liam Neeson’s got a gun. His son is threatened by the mob. This may not end quietly. FULL REVIEW

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
In this sequel. the original stars (including  Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith and Bill Nighy) prove to be just as delightful the second time around. Regrettably, the script adds precious little to the  first installment.  Richard Gere is charming as a new guest, but young Dev Patel wins Actor We’d Most Like to Evict.


New on DVD, Blu-Ray and Video on Demand:

In 2002, writer-director Richard Linklater wrote a script about a young boy’s life from age 6 to his late teens. He filmed it over the ensuing 12 years, letting his actors literally grow into their parts. His gamble on casting Ellar Coltrane as the boy is inspired; as his parents, Patricia Arquette and  Ethan Hawke show it’s not just children who evolve over a decade or so. (FULL REVIEW)

Exodus: Gods and Kings
As Moses and Ramses,  Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton do a lot of railing, if only to be heard above the crashing soundtrack. The real star here is director  Ridley Scott, whose vision of the Exodus is, if not more inspired than Cecil B. DeMille’s, at least splashier.  FULL REVIEW

Top Five
Chris Rock stars in (and wrote and directed) this comedy about a day in the life of a newly sober comedian who wants to become a serious movie star. Keep an eye out for a heaping helping of Rock’s BFFs, among them Adam Sandler, Kevin Hart, Whoopi Goldberg, Jerry Seinfeld, Cedric the Entertainer and Tracy Morgan.

Maude: The Complete Series
Ask TV legend Norman Lear — creator of All in the Family and The Jeffersons — what show he’s most proud of: He’ll tell you it’s this groundbreaking 1970s series about a staunch liberal (Bea Arthur) coming to terms with the foibles of middle age and beyond. With a great supporting cast (especially the irreplaceable Bill Macy and Adrienne Barbeau), Maude’s 141 episodes make for essential “retro-bingeing.”

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