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.

A Wrinkle in Time (PG) ★★★

Family Centered, Features a Rising Star-Storm Reid

Madeleine L’Engel’s novel A Wrinkle in Time, 1962 was first introduced to me in the late 80s when I began teaching fourth and fifth-grade gifted literature. We considered using it as a unit of study and then realized our Jr. Highs were teaching it. Rich in narrative, creative themes, vivid descriptions and family-centered; this Newberry Medal Award-winning book is a favorite classic in children’s literature. It’s well known that the novel may be ‘unfilmable’ due to the fantasy elements and cinematography. I’m happy to say, yes, indeed it can be re-created for the big screen, and the results are eye-popping while magnificent.

Ava DuVernay, director of Selma (2014), has created a fantasy world like no other. Vivid colors, glorious special effects, while staying centered on family values. There’s so much for all here to take note of and champion; especially a new determined, young lady, Storm Reid, (Meg Murray) to say that a “star is born,” is not an understatement. Her performance under DuVernay’s careful eye is spot on.

To be clear, this is first and foremost a young adult film; Meg Murray is a middle school student. She’s an awkward, underachieving, bullied and grieving teen whose father, Alex Murray (a bearded Chris Pine) disappeared four years prior leaving she, her mother, Kate (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and gifted brother Charles Wallace, (Deric McCabe) to fend for themselves. Meg’s troubled classmate Calvin (Levi Miller), also a loner joins the siblings in their pursuit to find their father.

As a young adult film, it delivers and speaks to kids. On the whole, it is disjointed and purposely slow at times. If one hasn’t read the book, you may be in the dark as to exactly what is going on. Which leads back to the comment of unfilmable — I wholeheartedly recommend the film, just know it has a few problems that I’m willing to overlook for kids and adults in order to have the opportunity to experience their beloved novel on the big screen. Read more…

Posted in Movies 2018, Reviews

Red Sparrow (R) ★★ Radio Podcast and Transcript 🎙

Red Sparrow rated R is based on a novel of the same name by Jason Matthews. Jennifer Lawrence stars as Dominika Egorova Russian Operative − a dangerous, abusive life and profession she did not choose.

After a deliberate career-ending fall as a result of her ballet partner’s intention to break her leg− she’s forced into an agreement to save her mother and their home. Thus, she has no choice but to enter a world of seduction, (physical, sexual and mental abuse) and betrayal.

Let’s Take a Listen: (Clip from “Red Sparrow,” Trailer) Lawrence speaking, “I was told to take a man to a hotel they said he was an enemy of the state.” A man, a Russian politician, Dimitri Ustinov, played by Kristof Konrad begins speaking, “Take off your dress off.” Lawrence continues, “And in exchange, my mother would get the doctor she needed. Instead, they cut his throat.”

Directed by Francis Lawrence, who also directed Jennifer Lawrence in three of the four, Hunger Games. Red Sparrow is torture porn and full-on sexual exploitation of women.

Here’s Another Clip: Her uncle speaking, “She’s a sparrow you should work with me and make him pay. You are better at this than any other. Your only problem is that you have a soul.” Read more…

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

Black Panther (PG-13) ★★★★

Best film of 2018 so far!

Black Panther is based on the Marvel comic book character, and raises the bar for all comic book films going forward. The film’s genre is Drama, Science Fiction, and Fantasy; founded on the Black Panther character by Marvel Comic Book writers Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. It made its debut appearance in 1966 in Fantastic Four Vol. 1 issue 52.

Black Panther the film is truly a cultural milestone, presenting an Afro-centric viewpoint — while highlighting current world issues of race, class, broken families, and gender inequality. Above all, it’s a beautiful, creative, and timely film. I highly recommend it for all ages, depending on parent guidance. I still get chills recalling my thoughts of “pure joy and elation” upon the rolling of the credits. In short— I loved this film!

Opening with a back-story of the five tribes in Africa who’ve battled throughout the years while enlightening Black Panther’s myth, we are given a portrait of the high-tech city of Wakanda along with its secrecy. Fast forward to 1992 in Oakland, CA: a young boy, Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), is left behind to fend for himself in order to maintain a family lie. His father, who appears magically, also leaves magically by ascending into the sky via a high-tech spaceship.

Fast forward again to present-day in the city of Wakanda, Africa. We meet T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), who, after the death of his father, becomes the King of Wakanda, a technologically advanced and isolated nation in Africa. The film centers on the life of T’Challa after the events of Captain America: Civil War, the discovery of another relative, Erik Killmonger, who challenges the crown and the mistakes of family. Writer and director Ryan Coogler (Creed, 2016; Fruitvale Station, 2013) knocks it out of the park! To sum it up — a triumph of a film. Read more…

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

Hostiles (R) ★★½

Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Wes Studi, Ben Foster,  and Jesse Plemons star in “Hostiles.” Photo credit: Entertainment Studios

Western Film Goes South

During the settling of this country, American Indians were often described as “savages” based on their fearsome reputation. While this connotation certainly struck fear in many, in reality, atrocities were committed by both sides in the battle for control of the United States. Truth be told, the tactics used by the U.S. were arguably worse and more effective. In the end, U.S. forces were too strong, and the Indian way of life was changed forever.

Although there have been a multitude of movies covering the settling of the west, American films did not have a respectable historical track record with its depiction of Native Americans. It was not until the 1990s with films like Dances with Wolves (1990) and Last of the Mohicans (1992) that mainstream movies really depicted Indians as anything more than bloodthirsty villains. The new western-drama, Hostiles, attempts to come to terms with the violent history between U.S. forces and the Indians. Unfortunately, even with noteworthy cinematography and an excellent A-list cast, the story fails to deliver a memorable experience and plods along at too many points. 

Read more…

Posted in Movies 2018, Reviews

“A Fantastic Woman” Foreign Film Documentary ★★★½

A ‘Fantastic’ Film

A Fantastic Woman is a foreign film from Chile that is nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language. (Update, March 4, 2018 A Fantastic Woman Won the Oscar and Daniela Vega presented at the 90th Oscar ceremony.) Focusing on a transgender’s plight with the death of a committed boyfriend, we view first hand the cruel blockages she faces. Chilean director Sebastián Lelio’s (Gloria 2013) centered on a middle-aged woman’s longing for a life, here we find similar themes as Daniela Vega’s (Marina) longs for respect.

Cowriter Gonzalo Maza) along with director Sebastiàn Lelio creates a character that we can’t help but empathize with. When we are first introduced to Marina, she’s in a bar singing to her much older lover Orlando (Francisco Reyes), who astonishingly looks like a younger version of Jeremy Irons. The pair draws us into the story; we wonder how their lives mirror our own. Yes, they care deeply for one another as Orlando has made plans for a birthday trip to Iguazu Falls, which appear in the opening shot of the film. But how does not only the 20-year age difference work but how does the transgender element come into play?

Vega, a transgender, has been quoted as discussing the reality of cisgender actors (someone whose gender identity corresponds with the sex assigned to them at birth) who have played transgender roles, notably Jared Leto who won an Oscar for his transgender woman with Aids in (The Dallas Buyers Club 2013). She said in an interview, “As an acting exercise, I think it’s an interesting challenge,” she says. “I could – and I have – played male characters.”

Writer and director Lelio first met with Vega to discuss the idea of bringing her on board as an advisor to the film before the film was even written. After becoming friends with Vega, Lelio knew he had his lead. Read more…

Posted in Movies 2018, Reviews

“In the Fade” Foreign Film Documentary ★★★

Diane Kruger gives a Riveting Performance

The reason to see In the Fade is due to German-born Diane Kruger’s outstanding  performance as a grieving wife and mother. She’s previously acted exclusively in English and French films – most notably Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Bastards. Here she convincingly portrays Katja’s fragility, anguish and unrelenting determination to seek justice for the terrorism act that killed her husband and 6-year-old son. She won the best-actress prize at Cannes for her outstanding performance, and the film also won a Golden Globe.

As a courtroom thriller, In the Fade delivers. We are shown that stereotyping is dangerous thus causing a downward path to acts of vengeance. Director Fatih Akin takes us on an emotionally affecting journey into the dark world of senseless terrorism, and it’s consequences. We view Katja’s pain and suffering to the degree she’s trapped with no recourse but to take the law into her own hands. But, then again perhaps she makes another turn. The best way to truly know the outcome is the view the film as it unfolds.

Akin’s film is rich in character development; he introduces us to Nuri (Numan Acar) Katja’s husband and his wife, Katja Kruger. We see them being happily married, as he steps out of a prison cell for the event. Fast forward years later as the blissful family of now, three goes about their daily routine. Katja is a loving mother to her son Rocco, dad Nuri has stepped up and has a legit job–despite his shady past as a drug dealer.

Akin’s 2004 breakout film, Head-on also speaks to the desperation of a female protagonist centering on culture conflicts in Germany. As a filmmaker, here he drew on his own experiences growing up in Hamburg, Germany, the son of Turkish immigrants. It’s a highly personal film for Akin, as it’s based on the National Socialist Underground, a right-wing terrorist group who murdered nine people of Turkish, Greek and Kurdish origin as well as a German policewoman; Akin remembers these incidents all too well as his brother knew one of the victims. Read more…

Posted in Movies 2018, Reviews

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