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.

Deadpool (R) ★★★

“Deadpool 2” Stars Ryan Reynolds. Credit: Twentieth Century Fox

To begin, I’m strongly advising you see Deadpool starring Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson, before attempting to view Deadpool 2. The original highly successful R rated film is the first of it’s kind in the comic book genre to present a snarky, foul-mouthed anti-hero of sorts with a cynical attitude. Reynolds hit the jackpot with this role, and fans just can’t get enough. So how do you follow up an R-rated comic book film that grossed more than any other R-rated comic book film in history with over $750 million (US) in box-office receipts, and one that came in second of all time, behind The Passion of the Christ? This is a tough question; thankfully, Deadpool 2 doesn’t veer too far from the original, nor does it try to ‘out do’ the original.

Reynolds stepped up to the plate to safeguard his ‘breakout’ character—yes, he has screenplay writing credits. If you’re a fan of the snarky, one-liner, potty-mouthed, red latex bodysuit, invincible guy—then you’ll most likely be entertained by Deadpool 2, as I was—it’s outrageous adult ‘raunchy fun,’ but also darker than the original. The screenplay written by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, and Reynolds is directed by David Leitch of John Wick (2014) and Atomic Blonde (2017).

An obvious fact, but one that needs to be stated, is that Deadpool 2 is the meta-Deadpool, a movie about the first movie’s wild success, and focuses on the likely hurdles that a sequel presents. In fact, it’s so mindful of the situation it blatantly proclaims, “Sequels are unimaginative cash-grabs.” near the opening.

“Deadpool 2” Stars Ryan Reynolds. Credit: Twentieth Century Fox

Creative license soars to new heights in Deadpool 2, the opening credits are child-like crayon drawings that introduce the film, they’re all a farce; as in the director card stating: ‘Directed by the guy who killed the dog in John Wick’ as the funniest. Eccentric in tone, the sequences feel as though they’ve been spread out on to a desktop and patched together like a quilt; these random storylines could easily be interchangeable. However, that’s precisely why the film stands out. Writers Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, and Ryan Reynolds want their comic book character to have above all uniqueness, Deadpool is filled with over-the-top non-conformance.
The entire film references other comic book films, and pop culture mentions, typically by making fun of them in some way; Green Lantern, joke in the credits, Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice’s silly mommy moment, Hawkeye’s lack of powers, Josh Brolin’s Thanos’s two-timing as a character in Avengers: Infinity of War less than three weeks ago, at one point Wade simply calls Brolin’s (Cable), “Thanos,” Logan’s gags you’ll need to see for yourself. Look for chatter of Disney’s Frozen movie soundtrack, and let’s not forget Canadian Ryan Reynolds ode to fellow Canadian star singer Céline Dion. Read more…

Posted in Movies 2018, Reviews

Book Club (PG-13) ★★★½

Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen, Jane Fonda, Mary Steenburgen all star in “Book Club” Credit: Paramount Pictures 2018

Book Club, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Wine Bottle

For those of us that are currently in a ‘book club’ or those of us who’ve been in one in the past, we are undeniably privy to the fact that the book is never the star of  ‘book club’ it’s the wine and the sisterhood. I’m pleased to say; in the film, Book Club director/writer Bill Holderman and writer Erin Simms got this right for their debut rom/com. 

Mary Steenburgen, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Diane Keaton, all star in “Book Club” premeire Credit: Getty Images

The collective star power cast, Jane Fonda (Vivian), Diane Keaton, (Diane), Candice Bergen (Sharon), and Mary Steenburgen (Carol) all friends since college gather monthly for their book club. Vivian decides to spice things up by choosing Fifty Shades of Grey, the trilogy. As stated, the film doesn’t center on the book or books; it’s about using them as vehicles to generate conversations that will seep over into their romantic lives, or possibly lack thereof.  So call your friends, choose a theater serving wine as Book Club has so much to say about older women and the realization that we should all be living our best fulfilling life, despite what society may proclaim.

This wildly comical, smart film shows older female characters taking risks in order to find their voices; thus unleashing dormant mindsets. In Hollywood’s blatantly under-served market, the ‘star power female foursome’ of Bergen, Fonda, Keaton, and Steenburgen are a fresh respite; these seasoned actors could all go toe to toe with the Sex and the City girls. The film gives encouraging notice to the younger crowd of what the third act in life should look like, by providing an understanding that life isn’t over just because you’re a certain age.

(L-R) Don Johnson, Jane Fonda in the film, BOOK CLUB, by Paramount Pictures

Book Club explores individually, the four women’s romantic lives, and their attempts to either spice up the game, be open to love again, or in two of the women’s situations get back in the game. Here’s the great news, the film also takes a more in-depth look at ageism in our society, a smack dab, in-your-face interpretation. What behavior is acceptable to an older woman? Shouldn’t knowledge and wisdom count for something? After viewing this empowering film, I’m here to tell you that Hallmark’s card and party section of “Over the Hill” black party themes is yesterday’s news! Growing older should be a celebration of a continued journey filled with knowledge, growth, risk-taking, facing your fears all-leading to self-actualization—that aha moment of realizing your true self. 

Mary Steenburgen in the film, BOOK CLUB, by Paramount Pictures

Steenburgen the musically talented singer and dancer plays her role as sweet as honey, yet there’s a twist, she’s an underhanded schemer, although happily married to Bruce (Craig T. Nelson), she longs of igniting the fire that has since burned out of their love life. With the help of her friends and the racy Fifty Shades books she devises several covert plans, puts them into action while we see the hilarious or not so comical results.

Jane Fonda in the film, BOOK CLUB, by Paramount Pictures

The sassy successful, real estate mogul Fonda has dated most of her life but has built up walls to protect herself, thus avoiding intimacy; she’s missing an emotional attachment. When a past boyfriend played by the ever handsome Arthur (Don Johnson) circles back into her life, she’s willing to give love a second chance. Her journey is poignant as she faces the challenge of being emotionally vulnerable and hurt.

Diane Keaton in the film, BOOK CLUB, by Paramount Pictures

Keaton plays her typical insecure, pleaser role as a recent widow after 40 years of marriage and is reluctant to get back into a romantic situation, especially as her grown kids discourage any male friends. Her life heats up when she meets the suave and unwavering Mitchel (Andy Garcia). Their magnetic chemistry shows on screen, as their improv scenes are natural; recalling their fantastic performances in The Godfather Part Three, (1990) the last time they worked together. 

(L-R) Candice Bergen, Diane Keaton in the film, BOOK CLUB, by Paramount Pictures

Bergen is a workaholic single federal judge who’s lost her belief in herself.  Her obstacle is her own self-worth; a palpable victim of how she views society judges her: That a woman of her age is no longer pertinent, is no longer sexy, and should no longer be in a physical relationship. She’s closed that door, living a dedicated life to her career; of being a very successful, powerful federal judge and after all, she does have a cat for company. Married for many years to a bland guy, (Ed Begley, Jr.) salt is added to her wounded spirit, he’s engaged to a younger woman less than half her age whom he met on a dating website. Again, with the help of her sisterhood, she gets back in the game, (look for a hysterical dressing room Spanx scene), her first date is none other than tax attorney (right up her alley) Einstein (Richard Dreyfuss). Incidentally, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Dreyfuss; he’s a no filter kind of guy, all around. Screenplay writer Erin Simms shared with me that he told her, “I think if there’s going to be a Book Club 2 that I should have a part in that, I absolutely want to work with Candice Bergen again.” Simms, grabbed her notebook, with pen in hand and documented his statement and replied, “Duly noted Mr. Dryfuss!”

(L-R) Richard Dreyfuss, Candice Bergen in the film, BOOK CLUB, by Paramount Pictures

The gloves aren’t off here, or the clothes, but the filters are, which adds to the believability of the older age comedic situations, in this Chardonnay sipping tale. All four award-winning women have nothing to prove anymore career-wise, they are clearly working because they choose too. Does it mean they’ve simply dialed in their performances? No, never, not these actresses, they offer their esteemed professionalism to the highest degree of their craft. These are women to be admired for their years of hard work and dedication in an industry that has typically undervalued women. Each has paid her dues and paved the way for generations to come. They should be applauded! 

(L-R) Diane Keaton, Andy Garcia in the film, BOOK CLUB, by Paramount Pictures

The Bottom line: Book Club is smart, funny, deeply rooted, all while giving the world a mirror to how ‘old age’ should appear.

Cast: Jane Fonda (Vivian), Diane Keaton, (Diane), Candice Bergen (Sharon), and Mary Steenburgen (Carol), Andy Garcia (Mitchel), Don Johnson (Arthur), Richard Dreyfuss (Einstein), Ed Begley, Jr. (Tom).

Credits: Director, writer Bill Holderman, writer Erin Simms

Studio: Paramount Pictures

Run Time: 1 hour 44 minutes 

Check out my interviews with Bill Holderman and Erin Simms https://www.sarahsbackstagepass.com/bill-holderman-and-erin-simms-interview-book-club/

Sarah Knight Adamson© May 17, 2018

Posted in Film Review Podcast Archives, Hollywood 360, Movies 2018, Radio Podcasts, Reviews

Solo: A Star Wars Story (PG-13) ★★★½

“Solo: A Star Wars Story” Credit: Disney Studios-2018

Younger Hans Solo Has Grit and Drive

Solo: A Star Wars Story is a fun-filled, entertaining prequel; mostly due to its lead and co-stars. Alden Ehrenreich (Hans Solo) first caught my attention in the romantic gothic fantasy film Beautiful Creatures (2014) he plays a love-struck teen who dreams of leaving his oppressive small town of narrow-minded people. The two roles have similar elements; Han’s in love with Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) as he also schemes to escape— whereas here, he’s an indentured teen slave. There’s something about the twinkle in Ehrenreich’s eyes, the cocked-head and roguish half smile, this guy’s a charmer all right—one who’s usually up to mischief and grand plans. In Solo, his master plan is to pilot a spaceship. Flying is non-negotiable for him and when we ultimately view him in the cockpit—I guarantee you’ll be thinking—sweet!

“Solo: A Star Wars Story” Credit: Disney Studios-2018

Director Ron Howard, got on board after two of the former directors, Chris Lord and Phil Miller were let go over creative differences. George Lucas dreamed up Star Wars in 1977, due to the fact that he couldn’t get the rights to Flash Gordon—and the rest is history. Howard picked up the pieces and re-shot most of what was in place, adding his own touches, the goal was to keep the same story-line, just create a stand-alone unique film. And that it is. Father and son screenplay writers Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan, weave the back-story of a young Han Solo, fighting for his survival in the crime-ridden mean streets of the industrial shipbuilding planet Corellia.

Ron Howard Directs “Solo: A Star Wars Story” Credit: Disney Studios-2018

From the get-go, Han is determined to get in the pilot’s seat, he eventually meets a heist boss, a strong-minded Beckett (Woody Harrelson) who’s assembling a team of rouges to perform risky heists that garner sky-rocket profit margins. In a mud-soaked scene, Han meets up with Chewbacca, (Joonas Suotamo), and when he discovers his name, he says irksomely, “I’m not saying that every time, I’ll call you Chewie.” Suotamo began his Star Wars journey in 2015 when he first appeared as Chewbacca in Star Wars: Episode VII. As a former 6’11” professional basketball player, he played basketball at Penn State, graduated in three and a half years with honors studying film and video. During the Red Carpet premiere of Solo: A Star Wars Story, he was asked to ‘Wookiee roar’ on cue he then said his thank you’s to screenwriters Lawrence and Jonathan Kasda, “I especially love the line where I say, (makes Wookiee utterance).” He was also quoted as saying, “Thanks for giving me all of that dialogue.” Read more…

Posted in Movies 2018, Reviews

Bill Holderman and Erin Simms Interview “Book Club”

 

My interview for the movie Book Club, with director Bill Holderman and screenplay writer Erin Simms was held in a suite at the beautiful Park Hyatt Hotel in Chicago, May 11, 2018. It’s always easier to interview talent when you truly love a film, and that is the case here. Bill’s a Chicagoland native, and Erin is his longtime friend and former colleague. What I found intriguing about our meeting was learning about how, the screenplay idea came to light. Let me just say that Bill sent all three books of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy to his mom, yes his mom as a gift. Erin’s reaction is priceless…please read on.

(L-R) Writer, producer Erin Simms, and director, writer, producer Bill Holderman on the set of the film, BOOK CLUB, by Paramount Pictures

Sarah Knight Adamson: Can you tell me about your Chicago roots? I’m not sure where you grew up.

Bill Holderman: Yeah, so, born and raised here, I went to high school out in LaGrange at Lyons Township. My mom lives right downtown [Chicago], my dad lives out in LaGrange still, but I… Even in high school I would commute from downtown [Chicago] a couple days a week, and Chicago is the greatest city in the world. I’m biased.

SKA: LT? You went to LT?

Bill H: Yeah.

SKA: So did my husband, Bill Adamson.

Bill H: Really? That’s amazing!

SKA: He’s a fanatic, yes. Still has friends with his kindergarten class. 

“Book Club” premiere. Mary Steenburgen, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Diane Keaton Star. Getty Images.

Read more…

Posted in Celebrity Interviews, Interview Archives, Interviews

Always At the Carlyle (Documentary) ★★

Check in For an Impressive Guest List, Check out due to Tattletaling

I’ve always maintained that The Carlyle Hotel is a captivating art enthusiast destination in New York City due to the paintings of Ludwig Bemelman that adorn the walls of Bemelman’s Bar. For those who haven’t seen the murals, they are worth the trip—you’ll see whimsical drawings of New York City in all four seasons by the famous ‘Madeline’ book artist. I’ve visited there a few times over the years to enjoy the ambiance of the cozy place while sipping a cocktail. Truth be told, I never had much interest in actually staying at the swanky Carlyle Hotel, but may now after viewing the documentary, although not sure that justify’s the hotel’s high prices. I had no idea the hotel is typically full of celebrities, who knew that George Clooney is actually a regular, (he’s checked in for three months in the past) as well as Anthony Bourdain, Harrison Ford, Vera Wang, George Clooney, Naomi Campbell, Sofia Coppola, Harrison Ford, Angelica Huston, Lenny Kravitz, and Wes Anderson, to name a few. Name-dropping is what this doc is all about—from JFK to Princess Diana—the staff will acknowledge that certain celebrities have stayed in the hotel. Unfortunately aside from name-dropping—not much else worthy of noting is divulged in this somewhat drab, thinly scripted doc, that’s mainly stuffed with talking heads.

Director Matthew Miele is on a roll, with his recent films that center on similar upscale establishments as Tiffany’s, Crazy About Tiffany’s (2013) and Bergdorf Goodman, Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s (2013) the docu-style tone is similar in its advertorial nature. However, before you get too excited—check out the price for a one-night stay. The film is a long list of celebrity interviewees anchored by devoted Carlyle Hotel staffers, who serve them. Unfortunately tonally, the film feels two-faced—yes, the Carlyle Hotel, known for its discretion on guests’ details or gossip, (made clear from the beginning of the film)—has a catch-22—the core celebrity factor along with name-dropping depends on those stories, without them, there is no film. Given the pristine reputation of the Carlyle, these stories—unless told by the guests feel like a betrayal.


Read more…

Posted in Movies 2018, Reviews

Life of the Party (PG-13)★★★ Radio Podcast

Melissa McCarthy stars in “Life of the Party” Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

McCarthy’s Sweet Mom-Com Has a Ginormous Heart

Undeniably, Melissa McCarthy is one of the funniest women working in Hollywood to date. After her break-out role in Bridesmaids (2011), the female version of The Hangover, McCarthy continues to cross over into typical guy-dominated roles: buddy cops in The Heat, world reconnaissance in Spy, and exterminating ghosts in Ghostbusters. Here she’s reinventing the manboy character as in Rodney Dangerfield’s Back to School and Will Ferrell’s Old School in creating a sweet, unassuming mom role in Life of the Party. Truly a winner, as the smart script offers a variety of relatable themes—mom-daughter bonds, single parenting, facing your fears, and becoming your best self—all while boasting several laugh-out-loud moments. The audience I screened the film with applauded and cheered at the ending.

Melissa McCarthy as Deanna, in “Life of the Party” Photo Credit Warner Bros.

She teams up yet again with her husband Ben Falcone, as co-writer, director, and actor (he plays the Uber driver whom McCarthy voices her sob story). McCarthy plays Deanna, a be-dazzled sweatshirted mom who’s dropping her college-senior daughter Maddie (Molly Gordon) at school and saying her good-byes. Their relationship is open, respectful and loving. All her annoyingly cheap dad, Dan, (Matt Walsh), can say is that ‘he’s looking forward to the day her tuition payments are over.’ While driving away, he basically tells Deanna he’s in love with another woman, (the local real estate agent Marcie (Julie Bowen), he is selling their house and wants a divorce. Deanna’s reaction is hurt, followed by anger; she kicks the car, stomps off and dials Uber. Read more…

Posted in Movies 2018, Radio Podcasts, Reviews

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