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.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (PG-13) ★★★½

Epic Blockbuster that Pays Tribute to the Past and Launches us into the Future

You’re in for a fun-filled time at the theater as Star Wars: The Last Jedi’s sweeping space landscapes and humorous tone bring the forty-year saga full circle. I’m absolutely pleased to report that it’s also a tribute to the first beloved film’s characters, while highlighting Carrie Fisher, who passed away last December. Fisher is onscreen early in the film and remains front and center throughout; her scenes with Mark Hamill are nostalgic, garnering images of the initial film. This ninth film in the series picks up where Star Wars: The Force Awakens left off. It ranks high on my list of the Star Wars collective films and in my Top Ten Best Movies of 2017.

Where were you when you first watched Star Wars? Was it at home or at the theater? Did you know, the first film only opened in 32 theaters on May 25, 1977, on a Wednesday, and then spread to 43 in subsequent days?

Upon reflection of the forty-year ‘Star Wars’ film franchise, my mind unconsciously rewinds to my first viewing of Star Wars in 1977. I was with my parents at the Oak Brook Theater in Oak Brook, Illinois. From the get-go, the film was mesmerizing, the ultra-cool “space writing” on the screen accompanied by the astounding John Williams score set the sci-fi tone in a new and clever way. When the credits rolled, what I remember most is the feeling that I had just experienced something special, something new, and certainly something ground-breaking in filmmaking; indeed, the bar had been raised. Mostly what I have always treasured about the film are the unforgettable characters: Leia, Han, Luke, Obi-Wan Kenobi, “Chewy” Chewbacca, R2D2, C-3PO, and Darth Vader.

Rian Johnson, director/writer of the sci-fi hit Looper (2012), is the new director/writer at the helm with most of the cast members returning. New characters are Laura Linney as Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo, Benicio del Toro as DJ, and Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico. Returning cast members are Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, and Andy Serkin along with Carrie Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd. Unfortunately, as previously stated, Carrie Fisher passed away on December 27, 2016.

Three story lines are woven together with hope at the core. Leia opens the film in command of the spaceship; she gives orders in “hopes” that the combative attack by Snoke the Supreme Leader of the First Order will be averted. Rey (Daisy Ridley) seeks “hope” on an isolated island that Luke Skywalker will teach her the ways of a Jedi Warrior. Poe (Oscar Isaac) and Finn (John Boyega) leave the base ship in “hopes” of finding another way to stop the First Order from destroying their colony. I suppose one could say there’s another story-line of hope, and that would be Rey’s desire for Keylo Ren, Darth Vader’s grandson (Adam Driver) to turn from the dark side toward the light of the Force.

Disney has asked that critics not give away too many details of the film, as it’s best seen as a surprise and I will honor that request. For the remainder of the review, you’ll find highlights or tidbits that don’t give away any plot points that merely serve as an enticement to see the film.

I’ve mentioned that R2D2 does make an appearance; he does connect with Luke and shows him the Princess Leia hologram from the 1977 film that blew everyone away in which she states, “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi: you’re my only hope.” A rather complacent Skywalker replies, “That was a cheap move.”

Laura Linney (Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo) is a fabulous new addition to the series. She wears a light purple wig and grey dress. Her strong demeanor works as she shows her power to Poe when she says, “You’re trigger-happy and impulsive.” The scenes with her and Carrie Fisher are touching as they repeat the famous quote “May the force be with you” simultaneously.

Are there light saber duels and full-out battles? Of course. The scenes with Ren and Rey are particularly intriguing, as Adam Driver has fully stepped into his dark character, giving a riveting performance.

There are a few moments, in particular when Rey’s in the mirror cavern, that drag on or are simply too long, but that’s not enough to totally not see the film, but it is enough to not grant four stars. The film does need to be tightened in spots and edited a bit more. 

Lastly, Luke has a chance to shine, and does as Yoda returns to give him more wisdom and teachings. We see the sacred Jedi books destroyed, only to be the opening for a joke: apparently, “page-turners they are not.”

The best advice is to sit back, relax, munch on your popcorn, and enjoy this entertaining film that will fill you with incredible nostalgic memories of a beloved classic film.

The Bottom line? An epic blockbuster of a film that pays tribute to the past and launches us into the future.

Cast: Daisy Ridley (Rey), Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Carrie Fisher (Leia), Oscar Issac (Poe), John Boyega (Finn), Billie Lourd (Lieutenant Connix), Laura Dern (Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo), Domhnall Gleeson (Armitage Hux). 

Credits: Directed and written by Rian Johnson

Studio: Walt Disney Pictures

Run Time: 2 hour 32 minutes

Sarah Knight Adamson © December 12, 2017

Posted in Movies 2017, Reviews

Lady Bird (R) ★★★★ Radio Podcast 🎙

Saoirse Ronan (Christine ‘Lady Bird’ McPherson). Photo Credit: A24

Radio podcast will post after the review has aired on Hollywood 360 Radio Network. Stay Tuned! 

Lady Bird

Lady Bird is the story of a teen, Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn 2015) as (Christine ‘Lady Bird’ McPherson). The setting is Sacramento, California in 2002, the hometown of the film’s writer/director Greta Gerwig. It portrays the mother-daughter relationship between Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson and her mother Laurie Metcalf as Marion McPherson.

A genuine coming-of-age story, filled with snapshots of the tender shift from the teenage years to adulthood. Gerwig herself has termed the film ‘a love letter to Sacramento’ where incidentally she grew up. Her directorial debut bursts onscreen with a strong script and outstanding performances to back it up. Much of the films’ narrative reminded me of another outstanding script, Manchester By the Sea. The dialogue is filled with authentic nuances with everyday life clichés, which in turn allows us to care about the characters and to truly know them. From the beginning until the credits role, you’ll experience a family dynamic that gives us the struggles and the triumphs—while adding comedic moments in all the right places.

The Bottom-Line? An enduring film with so much to rave about! Oscar-worthy performances, outstanding direction, great script (so real, raw and emotional) along with tremendous editing; definitely my kind of film!

Cast: Saoirse Ronan (Christine ‘Lady Bird’ McPherson), Timothée Chalamet (Kyle Scheible), Laurie Metcalf (Marion McPherson), Lucas Hedges (Danny O’Neill), Tracy Letts (Larry McPherson)

Credits: Directed and written by Greta Gerwig.

Studio: A24

Run Time: 1 hours 33 minutes

Posted in Film Review Podcast Archives, Hollywood 360, Movies 2017, Radio Podcasts, Reviews

23rd Annual Critics Choice Awards Film and Television Nominations

“The Shape of Water” starring Sally Hawkins.

 “THE SHAPE OF WATER” AND “FEUD: BETTE AND JOAN” LEAD NOMINATIONS FOR THE 23rd ANNUAL CRITICS’ CHOICE AWARDS  “THE SHAPE OF WATER” TOPS FILM NOMINEES WITH 14 POSSIBLE AWARDS “FEUD: BETTE AND JOAN” SIX AWARDS NETFLIX LEADS NETWORKS WITH 20 NOMINATIONS

GALA EVENT WILL AIR LIVE ON THE CW NETWORK THURSDAY, JANUARY 11, 2018
FROM THE BARKER HANGAR IN SANTA MONICA

(Los Angeles, CA – December 6, 2017) – The Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA) announced today the nominees for the 23rd Annual Critics’ Choice Awards.  The winners will be revealed live at the star-studded Critics’ Choice Awards gala on Thursday, January 11, 2018.  The awards show will return to The CW Network and will be broadcast LIVE that night from 8:00 – 10:00pm ET/PT.

FILM NOMINATIONS FOR THE 23rd ANNUAL CRITICS’ CHOICE AWARDS

BEST PICTURE

The Big Sick

Call Me by Your Name

Darkest Hour

Dunkirk

The Florida Project

Get Out

Lady Bird

The Post

The Shape of Water

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Read more…

Posted in Events, TV/DVD

The Disaster Artist (R) ★★★★ Radio Podcast 🎙

“The Disaster Artist” Stars Dave Franco and his brother James Franco. Photo Credit: Focus Features

🎬Radio Podcast review will post after the review has aired on Hollywood 360 Radio Network. Stay Tuned!

The Disaster Artist

James Franco directs and stars in a mockumentary of sorts that centers on the Hollywood dreams of writer and director Tommy Wiseau. Similar in tone to Johnny Depp’s Ed Wood, Wiseau is a serious actor/director, who simply can’t act nor direct well. In 2003, he produced a film titled The Room; a serious film about love, friendship, betrayal, and dreams. The film’s debut found a theater in full uproarious laughter. Yes, the film is so bad it’s good. Gaining cult status has actually reaped income for The Room.

Franco secured the rights from Wiseau to simulate the development, process and final product as closely as possible. Dave Franco, James’s brother in real life, plays Wiseau’s friend Greg Sestero, an aspiring film actor. Together they work towards fulfilling their dream of making it in Hollywood.

The Disaster Artist is based on the book, “The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made” by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell.

Other cast include Alison Brie (The Little Hours 2017) as Amber (Dave Franco wife in real life. Zac Efron (Baywatch 2017) as Dan Janjigian. Seth Rogen (Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising 2016) as Sandy Schklair. Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 2015) as Philip Haldiman.

The Bottom-Line? James Franco has found his “dream role” in Tommy Wiseau, he’s perfect in every way for the part. This is Franco’s movie all the way. Wiseau is a bizarre, complex character; for starters the guy’s personal attributes of mystery, his wacky haircut and accent are hysterical. He refuses to tell anyone who old he is, where he’s truly from (he says New Orleans) and how he got his millions. Franco wears a prosthetic on his face, adding to the guise, he has transformed into Wiseau in every screen way possible, and we are the fortunate viewers. Be warned; you will laugh out loud through most of the film; while appreciating the comedic genius of Franco and his buddy Seth Rogen and brother Dave.

Cast: Bryan Cranston (Bryan Cranston), Alison Brie (Amber), James (Tommy Wiseau), Dave Franco (Greg Sestero), Zac Efron (Dan Janjigian), Seth Rogen (Sandy Schklair), Josh Hutcherson (Philip Haldiman), Jackie Weaver (Carolyn Minnott), Cameos by Lizzy Caplan, Kirsten Bell, Adam Scott, Zach Braff and J.J. Abrams

Credits: Directed by James Franco. Written by Michael H. Weber and Scott Neustadter.

Studio: A24 Films

Run Time: 1 hour 38 minutes

Posted in Movies 2017, Reviews

Darkest Hour (PG-13) ★★★½ Radio Podcast 🎙

Gary Oldman stars as Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour” Photo Credit: Focus Features

🎬Radio Podcast will post after the review has aired live on Hollywood 360 Radio Network. Stay Tuned! 

Darkest Hour 

Stars Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in an Oscar-winning performance. The story takes place during a four-week time-span in 1940 focusing on Churchill’s courage to fight Nazi Germany in spite of his doubters. Kristin Scott Thomas stars as Churchill’s loving, supportive wife Clemmie, Lily James as his hesitant, loyal secretary Elizabeth Layton and Ben Mendelsohn as King George VI, a skeptic who came to his aid.

The film begins with Churchill’s first weeks in office in London’s Parliament during the early days of the WWII. His unconventional, yet brilliant diplomacies brought him at the unlikely age of 65 years old, as a candidate for Prime Minister. With allied nations continuing to fall against Nazi Germany troops, and with the most of the British army stranded in France—Dunkirk is a companion piece to the film. A tough leader is direly needed.

He takes office on May 10th, 1940 to find his own party plotting against him along with King George VI. Most are skeptical that he will be able to combat the Nazi’s. The centerpiece of the film is whether Churchill will negotiate a peace treaty with Nazi Germany or fight against inconceivable odds.

Looking to the British people for guidance Churchill decides to stand strong and fight for his nation’s ideals, liberty, and freedom. He realizes the only way to win over the nation is to deliver speeches that are so powerful and convincing England will rally and ultimately win.

The Bottom-Line: Oldman’s performance is mesmerizing to watch, his emotional depth is uncanny, especially when he states, “When will they realize that you can not negotiate with a tiger when your head is in its mouth?” Shades of Daniel Day Lewis’s enactment in Lincoln yep Oldman has nailed the performance. His performance is worth the price of admission as well as the epic directing by Joe Wright and the supporting performances by the entire cast. Excellent film!

Director: Joe Wright (“Atonement,” “Hanna,” “Pride & Prejudice,” “Anna Karenina”)Writer: Anthony McCarten (“The Theory of Everything”) Prosthetics, Make-up and Hair Designer for Gary Oldman, Kazuhiro Tsuji.

Cast: Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, Stephen Dillane, Ronald Pickup, and Ben Mendelsohn

Run Time: 2 Hours and 10 Minutes

Posted in Movies 2017, Reviews

Coco (PG) ★★★

Coco is an action, adventure, and comedy animated film by Disney. Pixar Studios. Miguel, voiced by newcomer Anthony Gonzalez is a young boy living in Mexico and dreams of being a super-star musician like his idol Ernesto de La Cruz, (voiced by Benjamin Bratt). His family has forbidden music as his ancestor abandoned the family in order to peruse a musical career.

Miguel is driven to follow his dream despite the family ban and finds himself in the land-of-the-dead. During his adventure, he finds truth, friendship and the courage to become a musician.

Coco marks the reunion of director Lee Unkrich and producer Darla K. Anderson following their celebrated collaboration on the Best Picture Academy Award nominee Toy Story 3 (2010).

The Bottom-Line? Yes, the set design is gorgeous in the land of the dead, and the family-centered theme is a winner… however, Coco’s story-line didn’t wow me. In a somewhat, slow, lifeless tale of death, Miguel the hero, discovers murder and betrayal, all due to an intellectual property rights dispute. No wonder the younger kids in the theater were yawning and antsy; Coco is suitable not for kids under the age of 7 or 8. The final family scenes are impressive but with a 1 hour 49-minute runtime that’s way too long to wait in a child-centered film. I did love the short (21 minutes) Disney film Olaf’s Frozen Adventure that played before Coco. Parents, be prepared to stay at least 2 and a half hours at the theater.

Cast: Anthony Gonzalez (Miguel), Gael García Bernal (Hector), Benjamin Bratt (Ernesto de la Cruz), Alanna Ubach (Mamá Imelda), Renée Victor (Abuelita), Jaime Camil (Papá)

Credits: Directed by Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina. Written by Adrian Molina and Matthew Aldrich.

Studio: Disney/Pixar

Run Time: 1 hour 49 minutes

Stay tuned, more to follow on both films!

Posted in Movies 2017, Reviews

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