Danny Collins

Danny Collins

Director: Dan Fogelman
Cast: Al Pacino, Annette Bening, Jennifer Gardner, Christopher Plummer
Rating: R    Running Time: 106 min.
Genre: Drama/Comedy, Music
Grade: B+


A movie with elderly Pacino and Benning would generate high expectation from viewers, especially from critics. They are so good that their mere presence, especially if Pacino is playing a world famous rocker, would dictate the flow of the narration, a slight change in their facial expression working like a dialogue too. The added merit is that the actual dialogue in the movie is as sharp and savvy as these actors. “Danny Collins” is about finding true values in one’s twilight years; in Danny Collin’s case, a steep climb to redemption from four decades of a dissolute life.

Pacino as Danny Collins


Pacino plays the titular character, and Jimmy Collins is young and naive in the beginning. A recognized music prodigy, he shivers during the interview session because he was just told how his musical talent would usher in a life of riches, fame, and more women than he can possibly dalliance with. Then the movie jumps 40 years forward, and we meet Jimmy Collins in his 60s, snorting a powder of cocaine before he hits the stage, and his fans can barely wait for him to sing his hit song ‘Baby Doll.’ For four decades, he has lived a fast and loose life, one we commonly associate with heavy metal rockers who chant “Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Rolls” as their life’s motto, but when his manager gives him a birthday present, in the form of a letter written by John Lennon four decades ago (Lennon wrote the letter after reading the interview mentioned earlier), he embarks upon to change his life, mainly by reconnecting with his long-lost son.

Danny Collins career throughout the years


It is charming and romantic to conceive of a letter hand written and unsent for 40 years, especially so if it is written by such a legend as John Lennon. On the other hand, the idea is somewhat cheesy, especially as a torsion that twists his 40 years of unconstrained drug and sex life into a life of a saint who would help out his long-lost son’s family. Fortunately, the strong acting and sharp dialogue rescue the film and make it an entertaining movie, with the characters we can cheer on and care for. A few genuine laughs accompany the movie also.

Pacino, Bening, and Benoist


More faults surface when I reflect upon the movie (with three failed marriage and countless backstage sex, he only has one child?), but the movie is never dull despite such. Pacino as a rocker is a sight to behold. The character’s attempt at second act in his late life is confronted with challenges (a life-long habit is not a yielder), but he forges on. With a story somewhat contrived yet entertaining and engaging nonetheless, “Danny Collins” will please any fans of Pacino, believers of redemptions, and aficionados of cool cars.



Wild Tales

Wild Tales

Director: Damien Szifron
Actors: Richard Darin, Oscar Martinez, Erica Rivas
Rating: R     Runtime: 120 minutes
Genre: Drama
Grade: A


One particular aphorism says, “If you are about to venture upon a revenge, begin by digging two sets of grave.” The easy inference inherent in this saying is utilized a number of times in many narrative arts, but nowhere as creatively, entertainingly, and abrasively as in the Oscar nominated Argentine film, “Wild Tales.”

Unbeknownst to many, form is as important aspects of a film as content is, and it is important to pay equal attention to both. “Wild Tales” casually provokes audiences’ attention to its form, as it is comprised of six different yet thematically coherent stories. This rare form in movie making is tantamount to the film’s storytelling and the director’s potential motives. The theme? The animality of human beings and what happens to it when we can no longer suppress it. Right after the aerial sweep and shock of the first story unsettle us, the burning gaze of wild animals (during the the initial credit roll) seems to impart that we audiences are in for the wild ride through the animal kingdom. Each story examines the situation in which our animality has been laid bare, a particular human animality that has been contorted and evolved by the social forces through the eons of civilization.

Each story is distinctively different in its outlook: a man brings a most unassuming and unexpected revenge upon everyone who has stood against him in his life, including his parents; a waitress serves a patron who has driven her father to suicide; a country roadside mayhem between a rich man in his shiny ride and a peasant in his derelict truck; a dynamite engineer unraveled by the bureaucratic corruption of his nation; an accident by a drunken teenager that killed a pregnant lady and his rich parents’ dealing with the lawyers; and lastly but not leastly, a story of a wedding night during which a vengeful retribution takes roll as soon as the bride senses and confirms her soon-to-be husband’s infidelity. Each story deals with violence and reconciliation on its variant ways. The threshold for each character’s suppressed animality varies too, and these short clips, each about 20 minutes long, touch upon our dark nature of humanity in a montage-like ways. The emergent effect is a feat impossible to achieve in a one-long narration.

The film particularly unsettles us because it acknowledged the frail society in which all of us, branded as “civilized,” have potential to spew forth our anger and animal instincts at any moment by any means. Our primal instincts are never dead, only hibernating. Although this dreadful premise may prevent some viewers from watching the movie, they should be informed of its level of intensity and entertainment that will indulge the viewers fully throughout the whole run-time. Whatever angers us in our daily cycles, we are not alone in suffering.


My Love, Don’t Cross that River.

My Love, Don’t Cross that River (님아, 그 강을 건너지 마오)

Director: Jin Mo-Young
Starring: Jo Byeong-Man, Kang Kye-Yeol
Genre: Documentary
Runtime: 85 min.  Rated: PG
Year: 2014
Grade: A


We in this modern world may be all guilty of misusing or abusing the word “love.” It can neither be recognized in one instance, as Werther-like romantics would like to believe, nor be considered as our innate nature as if we can enact it effortlessly. It only begins to take form after a long period of nurturing our kindness, care, and sacrifice toward the other. Love is not only kind but is also naive, and requires unimaginable patience. There is something transcendental and subliminal about love in a true sense of it, and this documentary about a couple who has been married for 75 years forces us to reflect on the meaning of human nature as beings capable of love, and how true sinners those are who neglect that capability  during one’s lifespan.

The movie begins when the grandma is crying in front of the tomb, and we instantly know that the movie starts with its ending. In this scene, everything is blinding white; the entire mountainous region is covered with snow, and her hair color is indistinguishable from its color. Then the film takes us back in time (18 months ago) when her husband was still healthy. Although old-age surely has deteriorated their physical forms mercilessly, their mind remained pristine and pure, the very effect of love. They often act like a newly-wed; they sweep leaves together in the yard, and the Husband becomes playful with her, as if he can’t resist her attractiveness. He pins a flower on her hair and tells her she is beautiful. They can hardly hear, can only eat jelly-like food; every movement requires tremendous effort, but nothing can deter their affection for each other. The Grandma is afraid to go to the outhouse in the middle of the night, so the Grandpa tags along and sings her a song to comfort her, waiting outside.

She is 89 years old. Her husband was 98. They were married for 75 years. They were 14 and 23 respectively when they got married. The Grandma confesses that her husband waited 3 years before sharing a bed because he thought she was still too young, still too tender. They had 12 children together; 6 died in their infancy. Together, they witnessed wars, and the period of deadly measles and the dictatorial government. Still, in their deepest twilight years, they still had love for each other to hold on to, and a purpose to make life joyful for each other.

The documentary, as heartrending and beautiful as it is, is also distinctively a Korean movie, much more so than many that have been popularized among foreign audiences. We witness many Korean traditions; the Grandpa and Grandma mostly wear Han-Bok, the traditional Korean custume, and from their conversations, we can gain insight into the genuine Korean aesthetics and values. In Korea, this movie set a record for a highest grossing movie of all time in the realm of documentary genre. The scenes depict, along with the couple, the beautiful nature that changes with the season, generating a metaphorical effect that we and the nature are inseparable.

What would take to keep such kind of love for 75 long years? We can’t help but wonder. And what purpose and meaning would a life entail if the other is gone? (They always refer to the end of life as “going somewhere,” never “die or pass away”). I recommend this movie without an ounce of hesitation to anyone who wants to love. The movie provides a rare chance these days for us to reflect on what it truly means to be a human, what it means to love another human being.