Sarah Knight Adamson is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and a voting member for the Critics Choice Awards for Movies.

Sarah Knight Adamson and Jessica Aymond are both Members of the Chicago Film Critics Association

Film Rating Code:

★★★★ Outstanding Film- Run, don’t walk to the nearest movie theater.

★★★½ Excellent Film- Highly recommend seeing the film in a movie theater.

★★★ Very Good Film- Recommend seeing the film in a movie theater.

★★½ Good Film- Wait for the DVD, the film is still worth viewing.

★★ Wait for the DVD and proceed with caution.

★½ Wait for the DVD the film has major problems in most areas.

★ Can’t recommend the film.

Life (R) ★★½

Ryan Reynolds as Rory Adams in Life
Photo credit: Columbia Pictures

A decent but forgettable thriller that adds nothing new to the Doomed Space Crew genre.

Are you a space scientist?

I’ll assume you’re not and proceed to ask you this: “Not being a space scientist, do you nevertheless have an opinion as to whether it would be a good idea to mess with a newly discovered life form from Mars that you’ve brought aboard your ship that’s growing at an unbelievable pace and, as one of your very smart crew members observes, is ‘all muscle, all brain, all eye?’” What’s that? You would NOT think that poking, prodding and otherwise annoying such a creature would be a good idea? OK. Then we’re on the same page.

One of the biggest flaws in Swedish director Daniel Espinosa’s (Safe House) Life, which follows what happens to the crew of the International Space Station after they discover the first evidence of extraterrestrial beings, is that lead biologist Hugh (Ariyon Bakare) seems to immediately throw all common sense out of the window and get emotionally attached to the thing they’ve brought on board, despite really REALLY glaring warning signs that the alien is highly intelligent. At least other people, such as Ryan Reynold’s wisecracking space mechanic Rory, attempt to talk some sense into Hugh. Olga Dihovichnaya’s Russian cosmonaut Katerina is another who stays level-headed when others lose it.

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Posted in Movies 2017, Reviews

Beauty and the Beast (PG) ★★★½

Emma Watson as Belle in Beauty and the Beast
Photo credit: Disney

This live-action remake may not be necessary, but it’s still a lot of fun.

I usually try to review remakes (or prequels or sequels, for that matter) on their own merit as standalone films, but it’s impossible for me to do so with Disney’s live-action remake of its 1991 animated take on Beauty and the Beast. I’ve had a 26-year love affair with that film: I’ve seen the stage version and the Disney Hollywood Studios version in Orlando, I have the DVD, I have Belle-themed dishes (that my 18-month-old daughter uses now, I swear) . . . and though I have no idea how many times I’ve actually watched the movie, it’s enough that I know every single word by heart.

You know the story, too, right? The Beast (Dan Stevens) was once a spoiled prince who was mean to an enchantress, and she got her revenge by turning him into a big hairy creature—and all of his staff into various objects. They’ll only be returned to their original forms if the Beast learns to love (and earn someone else’s love in return) before the final petal of an enchanted rose falls. Belle (Emma Watson) is from a nearby village and is eventually held prisoner in the Beast’s (Dan Stevens) castle after bargaining with him to let her father (Kevin Kline) go. The narcissistic Gaston (Luke Evans) is hell-bent on marrying Belle, and thinks if he can kill the Beast and rescue Belle, she won’t be able to refuse his proposal.

I’m happy to say that my knee-jerk reaction to this remake was positive. I loved seeing the story brought to life, I loved singing along again, and I was relieved that director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, Chicago) didn’t ruin my memories of the “original” (I know the 1991 version isn’t really the original, but you get what I mean). But upon further reflection, I’m not sure how much of that reaction was due to the fact that I could still recite almost all of the film in my head (much of the dialogue is the same), that I will always love its songs (except for the new ones, which added nothing), and that Condon knows his way around a lavish musical. Beauty and the Beast looks spectacular—it’s gorgeous from beginning to end, whether Belle is belting out her desire for adventure in “the great wide somewhere” from atop a mountain, or being charmed by the many creatures in the Beast’s opulent castle.

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Posted in Movies 2017, Reviews

T2: Trainspotting (R) ★★★½

The Boys are Back!

Is revisiting the zaniness of Trainspotting (1996) 20 years later worth the trip? (Pun intended.) I guess if you’re wondering if Renton, Sick Boy, Spud, or Begbie made the decision to “choose life,” then yes− checking in with these wacky, cultish characters will totally be a rewarding experience. It’s especially worth the trip if all of the same players are back, including the esteemed British director, Danny Boyle, and in this case, yep–homerun−all are back in T2’s lively sequel. You can only imagine my elation when I discovered I’d be in London in February, a full eight weeks before the opening here in the USA. I viewed the film on my birthday, February 11, at the Empire Theater in Leicester Square, where the film opened on January 19. Yes, it was an excellent day.

Empire Theater, Leicester Square London, England

Empire Theater, Leicester Square London, England

Being a huge fan myself of the original film, I was extremely happy about the sequel. However, how does one follow a film that so creatively defined the essence of the Brit-Pop “20-somethings generation” or, in this case, the “Peter Pan 20-somethings”? Boyle’s unconventional sharp lens gave us a wild, frantic ride by using the music of the time, a script driven by rebellious ideology, and one with hardcore drug use as an underlying theme, no less. Seriously, if any film warrants a “stand alone” status, unquestionably, Trainspotting fits the bill.

The Empire Theater in London Leicester Square. Beautiful! Sarah Knight Adamson 2017

Edinburgh does remain the setting in T2 (as it should), and it should also be noted that in 2004, Trainspotting was voted the best Scottish film of all time in a public poll. The film is ranked 10th by the British Film Institute (BFI) in the Top 100 British Films of all time. An impressive legacy indeed; it even demoted the inspirational Chariots of Fire (1986), which is best known for its opening scene of Olympic hopefuls running on the Scottish coastline of St. Andrews; the conditions are arduous, with wet sand and bare feet as waves break. Vangelis’ famous Academy Award-winning score “Tides” plays in the background as the runners glide in slow motion. In contrast, Trainspotting’s opening scene includes frenzied running at hyper-speed down Princess Street in Edinburgh by Ewan McGregor (Renton) and Ewen Bremner (Spud) while being chased by security guards just after robbing John Menzies Bookstore while Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” blares on.

T2’s opening scene views Renton running again, but this time on a treadmill in Amsterdam. Evidently, he’s surrendered to “life,” as he’s chosen to run artificially. Within minutes, in a hysterical scene, he clumsily falls off. There’s a re-visit to the original chase scene by Renton, and just like that, we are off to the races again. Read more…

Posted in Movies 2017, Reviews

Kong: Skull Island (PG-13) ★★★

All is not what it seems on Skull Island.
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

Kong: Skull Island is a blast.

Almost exactly a year ago, my husband and I ran around the Islands of Adventure theme park in Orlando. We passed by a large barricaded area surrounded by high fences and halfway covered by tarp; signs informed us that it was the future site of the Skull Island: Reign of Kong attraction. I remember thinking, “Hmm, they’re making a huuuuuge bet on a movie that doesn’t even seem like it’ll be a sure-fire hit.”

I don’t know if Kong: Skull Island will do well enough at the box office to justify its $185-million-plus production budget on top of a dedicated park attraction, but what I do know is that I went into the film pretty skeptical . . . and came out feeling like the Summer 2017 film season had just kicked off three months early. It’s directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, who is THE COOLEST (especially because he’s come to the Chicago Critics Film Festival twice, first for his wonderful 2013 indie The Kings of Summer and then for his hilarious 2014 documentary Nick Offerman: American Ham), but hadn’t ever worked on something of this scale, so I hoped against hope he could pull it off. Now we can count him as part of the growing trend of celebrated indie directors making the successful leap to tentpoles, along with others like Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed (one of my all-time favorites) to Jurassic World) and Gareth Edwards (Monsters, to Godzilla, to Rogue One). Kong is the definition of a great “popcorn movie”: an A-list cast, a familiar franchise, crazy action sequences, a huge budget that supports an exotic location and top-notch effects (which include tons of explosions, of course), a rockin’ soundtrack, nothing too deep to ponder over story-wise, and a couple of excellent one-liners thrown in for good measure.

I’m tempted to stop my review right there and be like, “Just go see it, you know the plot doesn’t even matter.” But I will carry on for those of you who remain as skeptical as I was.

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Posted in Movies 2017, Reviews

Table 19 (PG-13) ★★

‘Table 19″ stars Anna Kendrick, Craig Robinson, June Squibb, Lisa Kudrow, Stephen Merchant and Renzo Eckberg. Photo Credit: Fox Searchlight.

Table This Film…For Good

Have you ever attended a wedding and ended up wanting to crawl into a hole because you were seated at a table with complete strangers? Despite an uncomfortable start, these situations often result in hilarious stories. Table 19, the comedy-drama written and directed by Jeffrey Blitz, banks on this situation being funny enough to sustain a movie. Although Table 19 is plated with potential, can it deliver the goods?

The film opens with Eloise (Anna Kendrick, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, 2016) receiving a wedding invitation, which sparks a variety of emotions for her. One minute Eloise is vindictive and the next she’s sobbing. After much internal debate, Eloise draws an “x” on the RSVP card for yes, then crosses it out, then starts burning it and finally sends the half burnt piece of cardstock in the mail. 

Through an entertaining montage, we’re introduced to a number of other wedding guests including: Jerry and Bina (Craig Robinson, Sausage Party, 2016; Lisa Kudrow, The Girl on the Train, 2016) a married couple that seem to have lost their passion, Tony (Rezno Eckberg, Grand Budapest Hotel, 2014) a socially awkward teenager who is unlucky in the dating world, Walter (Stephen Merchant, Logan, 2017) a distant cousin who was recently released from prison and Jo Flanagan (June Squibb, Other People, 2016) the bride’s childhood babysitter. Although they all react differently to the invite, they are all surprised to be invited and respond ‘yes.’ You’re likely to correctly predict what’s to come… Read more…

Posted in Movies 2017, Reviews

Logan (R) ★★★½

Hugh Jackman stars as Logan/Wolverine in Logan. Photo Credit: Ben Rothstein.

Logan is the tenth X-Men movie . . . and might just be the best.

When I review a film from any franchise that has what might be described as “rabid fans”—be it Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, or anything from the Marvel or DC universes—I feel the need to confess my level of fandom up front so that readers know where I’m coming from. In Logan’s case, I need to talk about where I stand on both X-Men and an entire genre: Westerns. The truth is that I’ve never been that into X-Men films. I’ve enjoyed most of them (I even liked Apocalypse more than most people, it seems), but I don’t get excited for them in the way I do about a new Star Wars installment, and I pretty much forget about them until the next one comes out. And Westerns have never been my thing. But the weird truth is that Logan could be described as director James Mangold’s attempt at an X-Men Western . . . and the even weirder thing is that it works fantastically.

The year is 2029, and Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is some sort of Uber-like limousine driver. He’s bitter, grumpy, usually drunk, and also appears to be popping pain pills as his regenerative healing ability is failing and his leaking Adamantium skeleton is now slowly killing him. But his claws still work, and we get up-close and brutal proof of that in the opening scene, which sets the tone for the rest of the film. And that tone is dark, dark, dark. To the point where I was totally stunned at certain parts, thinking, “Wow, did they really need to do that?” So in case you’re wondering: no, don’t bring your kids.

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Posted in Movies 2017, Reviews

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