Archive for September, 2016


*Note: portions of this review were originally published during coverage of the 2016 Sundance Film Festival

The quirky family dramedy is a perennial staple, and the genre’s demands are thoroughly satisfied by “The Hollars,” directed by The Office’s John Krasinski. This is a film where an aloof son (Krasinski) is summoned home due to the ill health of a parent (in this case, character actress Margo Martindale) and the ensuing reconnection to his past thrusts him out of a rut a changed, matured and awakened man, ready to face his future.

It’s a familiar formula, but one that is successfully executed by the incredible ensemble cast, which includes perfect human Anna Kendrick as Krasinski’s pregnant, no-nonsense wife, Richard Jenkins as his endearingly buffoonish father, Sharlto Copley as a mildly-unhinged brother and small but memorable parts for Josh Groban, Charlie Day and Mary Elizabeth Winstead.

But it’s not all sunshine. The potential loss of a parent hangs over the proceedings, and the b-plot hinges on Copley’s character struggling to cope with the recent separation from his wife and children. But the drama side of things floats above despair, avoiding the sharper edges of hipster negativity that populate similar work by Zach Braff or the Duplass Brothers — not a knock on either style, simply a comment a tone.

The tidy, group-hug ending may be a little too breezy for some, but ‘The Hollars’ is funny, it’s heartfelt, and it goes down smooth.

Grade: B+

*The Hollars opens in Salt Lake City on Friday, September 23.

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It’s established early on in “Sully” that all 155 people aboard U.S. Airways Flight 1549 survived the plane’s emergency landing on the Hudson River on January 15, 2009.

But that knowledge doesn’t rob emotion from the scene, roughly two-thirds through the 96-minute running time, in which Tom Hanks’ Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger learns that every passenger and crew member is safe on dry land.

That’s a credit to the fine and mature performance of Hanks, who taps into the well of understated sincerity he’s crafted over the course of a decades-long career as Hollywood’s go-to everyman.

It’s the quality of Hanks’ performance, with the help of a competent supporting cast including Aaron Eckhart  (The Dark Knight), that elevates director Clint Eastwood’s latest drama from what could have been a dull reenactment to, instead, a moving portrayal of human success.

It’s hard to criticize a film this optimistic. This is a story about decent people rising to the daunting challenge of unthinkable circumstances. It culminates with a montage of New Yorkers rallying to the rescue. And the closest it comes to conflict are the exaggeratedly uncooperative federal agents investigating the crash, whose inevitable endorsement of the pilot’s actions arrive right on cue to wrap the film up in a bow.

But the film’s flaws are there. Eastwood relies on overly blunt sequences of self-doubt by Sully to prolong the film’s first act, the aforementioned investigators are cartoonish in their villainy and the movie suffers from an egregiously omnipresent show of corporate sponsorship by the Marriott hotel chain.

The film is also staged in a non-linear structure, allowing Eastwood to dole out and revisit the centerpiece plane crash in increments and from different viewpoints. It’s hard to say whether that choice is effective or not, as the non-crash sequences tend to drag with little to say. When the conclusion arrives, it feels postponed, rather than earned.

Far from a misfire, “Sully” is an above-average film that gives due diligence to a cinema-worthy piece of American history. But it’s also a lesser entry in the filmographies of both its director and star, albeit one that gives Hanks a near-perfect platform to showcase his strengths.

Grade: B

*Sully opens nationwide on Friday, September 9.

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