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The Hollars Blu-ray + Digital Review

The Hollars (2016) movie poster The Hollars

Theatrical Release: August 26, 2016 / Running Time: 89 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: John Krasinski / Writer: Jim Strouse

Cast: Sharlto Copley (Ron Hollar), Charlie Day (Jason), Richard Jenkins (Don Hollar), Anna Kendrick (Rebecca), John Krasinski (John Hollar), Margo Martindale (Sally Hollar), Josh Groban (Reverend Dan), Randall Park (Dr. Fong), Mary Kay Place (Pam), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Gwen), Ashley Dike (Stacey), Didi Costine (Matilda), Isabela Costine (Constance)

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Halfway through his long run on NBC's "The Office",
John Krasinski made his writing and directing debuts on the little-seen 2009 indie dramedy Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. Since then, Krasinski directed three "Office" episodes and co-wrote the screenplay of Promised Land (2012) with Matt Damon. For his second feature as director, Krasinski gives us The Hollars, another independent dramedy, this one overflowing with on-screen talent.

Krasinski plays John Hollar, a thirtysomething living in New York who is struggling to make it as a graphic novelist. His pregnant girlfriend Rebecca (Anna Kendrick) passes along word that John's mother Sally (Margo Martindale) has suffered a seizure and has been found to have had a very large tumor on her brain. The tumor has been there for years but went undetected as her husband Don (Richard Jenkins) misinterpreted her symptoms as weight-related. Naturally, John flies in to be with his family in their unidentifiable suburban world, as Sally prepares to have a surgery to remove the tumor.

In "The Hollars", a mother's (Margo Martindale) brain tumor reunites her family (John Krasinski, Richard Jenkins, and Sharlto Copley) at the hospital.

Back home, John reconnects with his high school girlfriend Gwen (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who has just had a baby with her husband Jason (Charlie Day), John's old classmate and Sally's present nurse. John also witnesses the sad state of his unemployed brother Ron (Sharlto Copley), who likes to drive up to his ex-wife's house and peek in on her, their daughters, and her new boyfriend (Josh Groban, the film's unlikely bright spot), a youth minister, with binoculars.

With his uncertain future occupying his mind, John also learns that the family's business is on the verge of bankruptcy and that Sally questions marrying Don after all these years.

To the bewilderment of his brother John (John Krasinski), Ron (Sharlto Copley) uses binoculars to peek in on the lives of his daughters, his ex, and her new beau.

With all the talent it assembles, The Hollars should be a home run. You expect an intelligent and heartfelt tale of family. But this is an indie that seems to want to be a mainstream movie. Tonally troubled throughout, this PG-13 dramedy is inauthentic, manufactured, and schmaltzy. Somehow, the Oscar-nominated and eminently respectable Jenkins feels like an amateur performing the hysterics he's given. Copley hasn't had much of a career outside a trio of films for his fellow South African, Neill Blomkamp.
His character here feels so out of place and unnatural that you wonder if the compelling District 9 star has the range or vocal ability to play an average American. In the lead role, Krasinski seems as uncomfortable as anyone, his tight shirts, skinny jeans, and ennui making you suspect the protagonist is intended to be about ten years younger than the actor is. Even the ever-entertaining Day can't entirely crack the riddle that is his character, one who largely bows out after John's awkward evening as dinner guest.

Lathered in ineffective independent music and saddled by unconvincing sentiment, The Hollars feels like Krasinski's too-late attempt to make his own Garden State, albeit one that feels more like a cheesy network television dramedy than a bona fide independent feature film. Though as star/director/producer, Krasinski may earn the lion's share of the fault, some of the blame must go to Jim Strouse, the film's lone screenwriter, a man who typically directs what he writes, including Grace Is Gone, The Winning Season, and People Places Things.

Though gradually expanded in Sony Pictures Classics' limited late summer theatrical release, The Hollars predictably faded fast, hindered by negative reviews mattering more than they would on a heavily-marketed mainstream movie. Grossing a little over $1 million from a peak theater count of 298, The Hollars has now hit DVD and Blu-ray, the latter also wielding Digital HD in the edition reviewed here.

The Hollars Blu-ray + Digital cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.85:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English, Japanese)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, Chinese Traditional, Japanese
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: December 6, 2016
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Suggested Retail Price: $30.99
Blue Keepcase with Side Snap in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on DVD ($25.99 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

The Hollars may be low-budget cinema, but it still looks as clean and polished as any new Sony Blu-ray. The 1.85:1 picture is clean, crisp, and vibrant, while the 5.1 DTS-HD master audio gets the job done without inviting notice, good or bad, in any way. For some reason, the usually global-minded Sony equips the disc with Japanese dubs and subtitles plus Chinese subtitles and nothing else for international markets.

John Krasinski directs in "The Family Trust: Inside 'The Hollars.'" Photographs depict a number of Margo Martindale's past stage and screen roles in "Persistent Vision."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray's extras begin with an audio commentary by director-star John Krasinski and actress Margo Martindale.
They are very positive about each other's work and that of everyone else who contributed to the film. Get ready to hear a number of the same stories told here elsewhere in the disc's video extras.

"The Family Trust: Inside The Hollars" (17:44) is a standard making-of featurette, which finds actors describing their characters and Krasinski discussing how the film came about. It's standard and you get some of the same information (and jokes) elsewhere, but if you are inclined to watch exactly 20 minutes of making-of on Hollars, this is your best bet, with its behind-the-scenes footage and talking heads.

"Persistent Vision: Margo Martindale" (6:03) celebrates the actress you probably recognize with career reflections from her, photos from past stage and screen roles, and high praise from all the actors she worked with here. This kind of feels like a wishful thinking For Your Consideration piece.

John Krasinski tries as hard as Michael Scott to be funny in his Los Angeles Film Festival Q & A remarks. The Hollars' theatrical trailer opts for a turquoise color scheme that the poster and cover art didn't reprise.

Next, from the LA Film Festival (18:54), comes pre-screening remarks from John Krasinski (who's trying way too hard to be funny and charming) and a post-screening Q & A session which has festival programmer Jennifer Cochis ask questions of Krasinski, Martindale, and Anna Kendrick.

The Hollars' extras conclude
with its theatrical trailer (2:21), which Sony Pictures Classics is good about including.

"Previews" repeats the same three full trailers with which the disc opens, advertising The Meddler, The Bronze, and Equity.

The main menu keeps close to the one-sheet and cover design, using some of the same character stills and color scheme only with an excerpt of score laid over it. Sony authors the disc to both support bookmarks and resume playback.

A Digital HD code insert joins the full-color disc in the side-snapped keepcase that is topped by a glossy slipcover reproducing the same artwork.

John Krasinski and Richard Jenkins play son and father in "The Hollars."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

One look at the talent assembled in The Hollars and you're probably convinced that the movie is worth giving a chance. But this John Krasinski-directed indie dramedy eliminates most of the goodwill you have coming in with its phony, manipulative presentation. With good picture and sound, an audio commentary, and 45 minutes of video extras, Sony's Blu-ray serves the film well. It's the film that doesn't serve you very well.

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Related Reviews:
New to Disc: The Intervention Punch-Drunk Love Hell or High Water Coffee and Cigarettes Army of One
John Krasinski: Away We Go License to Wed | Sharlto Copley: District 9 Elysium Maleficent
Anna Kendrick: The Last Five Years Into the Woods | Charlie Day: Horrible Bosses Going the Distance
Richard Jenkins: Lullaby Step Brothers | Margo Martindale: August: Osage County
Written by James C. Strouse: People Places Things New York, I Love You
This Is Where I Leave You Jeff, Who Lives at Home Grosse Pointe Blank Love the Coopers

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Reviewed December 12, 2016.



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