Movie Review: “Draft Day”

Starring
Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Dennis Leary, Frank Langella, Chadwick Boseman, Josh Pence, Tom Welling
Director
Ivan Reitman

You can tell the kind of movie “Draft Day” is going to be by the company it keeps. The NFL and ESPN are on board, which means they approve of the story line, which means said story is safe as kittens. And holy cow, is this movie safe. That it manages to still be entertaining is to its great credit, and nearly all of that is because of Kevin Costner. Imagining this movie with anyone besides him in the lead role is unthinkable.

Sonny Weaver Jr. (Costner) is the general manager of the Cleveland Browns, and he’s feeling the heat. It’s the first day of the NFL draft – and only a few months after his father, and legendary Browns head coach, passed away – and Sonny is picking seventh. He’s fine with picking seventh, but the team’s owner, Anthony Molina (Frank Langella), is not. He wants Sonny to make a headline-worthy move, making it clear that it will cost him his job if he doesn’t. Sonny lets that pressure get the best of him by agreeing to trade a king’s ransom to Seattle for the first pick in the draft, much to the dismay of new coach, and Super Bowl winner (just ask him), Penn (Denis Leary). Having the first pick puts Sonny in position to take can’t-miss Wisconsin quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Bo Callahan (Josh Pence), but as the day progresses, Sonny learns things about Callahan that cause him to question Callahan’s character. Is there a way to take the decision he made to mortgage the team’s future and spin it into something he can be proud of?

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Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to April

april

With the exception of Marvel’s Captain America sequel, the directorial debut of longtime Christopher Nolan collaborator Wally Pfister, and yet another Kevin Costner sports drama, April is suspiciously lacking in many big releases. Before theater chains are inundated with all the summer blockbusters, this month’s slate is mostly comprised of smaller independent films, many of which are actually quite promising.

“CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER”

Who: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Sebastian Stan and Anthony Mackie
What: Steve Rogers struggles to embrace his role in the modern world and battles a new threat from old history: the Soviet agent known as the Winter Soldier.
When: April 4th
Why: The first Captain America movie may not have been one of Marvel’s best, but it was a solid and completely necessary introduction to the character that helped pave the way for the awesomeness that was “The Avengers.” And just like that film marked the beginning of the end of Phase One, “The Winter Solider” serves a very similar purpose for Phase Two. Loosely based on the popular storyline from the comics featuring the title character, Cap’s second solo adventure is shaping up to be everything fans wanted and more. The action looks fantastic and the cast is stacked – including the return of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, as well as the introduction of another famous face from the Marvel universe with Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson (AKA The Falcon) – so it’s easy to see why expectations are so high.

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“DOM HEMINGWAY”

Who: Jude Law, Richard E. Grant, Demian Bichir and Emilia Clarke
What: After spending 12 years in prison, notorious safe-cracker Dom Hemingway is back on the streets of London looking to collect what he’s owed.
When: April 4th
Why: It’s been nine years since writer/director Richard Shepherd burst onto the scene with the hugely entertaining black comedy “The Madator,” and with the exception of his underseen 2007 follow-up (“The Hunting Party”), he’s spent most of that time as a hired gun for various TV series. But he’s finally back with a new movie featuring a character that could rival Jonathan Glazer’s “Sexy Beast” for the title of Most Polarizing British Gangster, which is quite the feat considering that the British crime genre is jam-packed with loud, ballsy and over-the-top characters. Jude Law has always been one of my favorite actors, so it’s great to see him playing against type here as the larger-than-life criminal, much in the same way that Pierce Brosnan shocked audiences in “The Matador.” Though the film has received fairly mixed reviews since its UK debut, Law’s unhinged performance looks like reason enough to catch this in theaters.

“DRAFT DAY”

Who: Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Dennis Leary, Chadwick Boseman and Sam Elliot
What: The General Manager of the Cleveland Browns struggles to acquire the number one draft pick for his team.
When: April 11th
Why: Between “Bull Durham,” “Field of Dreams,” “Tin Cup” and “For the Love of the Game,” it’s safe to say that Kevin Costner and sports movies go together like peanut butter and jelly, so perhaps the only surprising thing about “Draft Day” is that it’s about football instead of America’s favorite pastime. Filmed in Cleveland where it takes place, locals are no doubt hoping that this film can provide a much-needed reversal of fortune for their precious Brownies in the upcoming season. Whether it will be any good is another matter entirely. You’d have to go all the way back to the early ‘90s to find director Ivan Reitman’s last great movie, though it’s certainly encouraging that “Draft Day” seems to be more along the lines of “Moneyball” than “Major League,” because the behind-the-scenes stuff is far more engaging than anything that happens on the field.

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