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.

The Glass Castle (R) ★★ Radio Podcast 🎙

From L to R: Naomi Watts as “Rose Mary Walls,” Woody Harrelson as “Rex Walls,” Chandler Head “Youngest Jeannette,” Iain Armitage as “Youngest Brian,” and Olivia Kate Rice as “Youngest Lori” in THE GLASS CASTLE. Photo by Jake Giles Netter.

🎬 Stay tuned Radio Podcast will air Saturday evening and Review will post after air date.🎙

Detroit (R) ★★★

John Boyega,, Anthony Mackie, Will Poulter and Algee Smith star in “Detroit.” Photo Credit: Annapurna Pictures.

Detroit: When 1967 Meets 2017

When most people talk about the civil rights movement, they usually refer to the work of activists to counter racism in the South. But African-Americans didn’t face injustice solely in the South; many large cities in the North were rife with discriminatory social policies that resulted in poverty and marginalization. Unfortunately, racial discrimination and urban decay are still hot button issues today and have recently sparked violence across the country. Inspired by the recent unrest in Ferguson, MO (among other places), the film Detroit examines the Detroit riots and the subsequent Algiers Motel Incident that occurred 50 years ago, which sadly shows times may not have changed much. Directed by Oscar-winner, Katherine Bigelow, this film is an eye opening and often cringe-worthy look at a dark moment in our nation’s history.

The film takes place in the summer of 1967 when Motown may have peaked musically, but racial tensions were reaching a boiling point. The city of Detroit had just experienced several days of looting and rioting and even threats of sniper attacks. At one point, gunshots were allegedly fired near a National Guard outpost, which resulted in the Detroit police and other law enforcement agencies descending on the nearby Algiers Hotel. Not finding a clear suspect, the cops took matters into their own hands, and began terrorizing a group of African-Americans who just happened to be at the scene of the alleged crime. Refusing to believe their claims of innocence, the police were determined to find the culprit who allegedly fired shots at law enforcement and utilize brutal tactics. Making matters worse, the National Guardsmen outside (who are there to help), find out how terribly local police are handling the situation and turn their backs to avoid being linked with the controversy. 

Read more ›

Atomic Blonde (R) ★★★ Radio Podcast 🎙

                         

Radio Podcast will be posted after the reviews airs this Saturday evening. Stay Tuned!🎙

Atomic Blonde (R) ★★★

Charlize Theron stars in “Atomic Blonde.” Photo credit: Universal Pictures.

Atomic Blonde Provides Explosive Action This Summer

Charlize Theron, may be an Oscar-winning actress, but she might be better known as an action star with her recent performances in The Fate of the Furious and Mad Max: Fury Road.  What makes this career path even more remarkable is that in 2005, while filming a sci-fi action film, Theron was nearly paralyzed after landing on her neck performing a stunt. After enduring excruciating pain for years, she eventually opted for a risky medical procedure to alleviate the pain and the rest was history. Clearly, Charlize Theron is one of the toughest actresses working today, which is on full display in her latest film, Atomic Blonde, where she takes her gifts to another level playing a Cold War spy around fall of the Berlin Wall.

The film opens with a man running through the alleys of Berlin while 80s songs play in the background. After seemingly getting away from whatever chases him, the man is hit by a car and then shot and killed by the driver who turns out to be a Russian spy. We soon cut to Theron’s character, Lorraine Broughton, immersing herself in a bathtub full of ice with bruises and cuts all over her body while drinking cold vodka to numb the pain. Lorraine is then summoned to her headquarters where she is interviewed by both British (Toby Jones, Anthropoid, 2016) and American (John Goodman, Kong: Skull Island, 2017) intelligence officers about what happened in Berlin. Lorraine, who is annoyed at the distrust in the room, begins her side of the story.  Read more ›

Dunkirk (R) ★★★★ Radio Podcast 🎙

Warner Bros. Pictures

Click Here to listen to Sarah Knight Adamson’s Hollywood 360 Radio Podcast:

Dunkirk (PG-13) ★★★★

Fionn Whitehead, Damien Bonnard, Aneurin Barnard, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles and Tom Glynn-Carney are among many who star in “Dunkirk.” Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

A Masterpiece on All Fronts

The Battle of Dunkirk is not as well as known to average Americans compared to other WWII battles such as D-Day or the Battle of the Bulge. That is probably because no Americans fought in Dunkirk and it was not a great military victory, but a desperate evacuation. Still, without the heroism displayed by the Allied soldiers and many ordinary citizens, there wouldn’t have been a D-Day, and perhaps not even Europe as we know it. It’s about time this critical battle and those who bravely risked their lives to literally preserve the free world received their just due in the new movie, Dunkirk. Written and directed by Christopher Nolan, this historical war epic is undeniably a masterpiece and is unlike any war movie you have seen.

The film opens in a deserted French coastal town with leaflets raining down from the sky. British soldiers pick up the leaflets and read the messages from the German side. The Germans have surrounded the British and French against the ocean and will accept surrender. These soldiers come under fire, but only one named Tommy (Fionn Whitehead in his film debut) escapes to the beach. From his point of view, we see the hopeless situation – 400,000 soldiers stuck on the beach with few ships to carry them while German planes and U-boats are waiting. Making matters worse, the naval commander (Kenneth Branagh), who is leading the beach evacuation, learns that the Brits cannot spare more ships for the rescue as they are needed to defend against the invasion of England itself.

From here, Christopher Nolan presents the story from three different vantage points to illustrate the battle: the mole, the sea, and the air. The “mole” focuses on the men stranded on the beach trying to avoid German bombs and gunfire while hoping for safe passage on a ship. Plus, they must wait for the tides to rise enough to let the ships get close to shore. For the scenes in the mole, audiences follow teenage soldier Tommy and his friends who struggle to stay alive. Read more ›

The Big Sick 😷 (R) ★★★★ Radio Podcast 🎙

Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan star in the romantic comedy ‘The Big Sick’ Photo: Amazon Studios

 

The Big Sick (R) ★★★★

Zoe Kazan, Kumail Nanjiani, Ray Romono and Holly Hunter star in ‘The Big Sick.’ Photo: Amazon Studios / Lions Gate

 “The Big Sick” Will Cure the Blockbuster Overload This Summer

Many romantic comedy films can be fairly sappy with the main crisis being some variant of “will they or won’t they.” In fact, it’s pretty rare when a romantic comedy breaks the mold and explores serious societal issues in anything but a silly way, which makes the achievement of the new romcom, The Big Sick so remarkable. Not only is there a heartfelt love story at its core, but the movie intelligently deals with issues surrounding race, religion, family and even illness. Based on the real-life experience of the film’s star, Kumali Nanjiani, and his wife Emily Gordon (who also co-wrote the movie), The Big Sick is a solid film that provides laughs and tears. 

The movie begins with a comedian Kumail, played by Kumail Nanjiani (Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, 2016) describing to audience what it was like growing up in Pakistan through a series of funny jokes. Kumail is still struggling to break through as a stand-up comedian and works as a part-time Uber driver in Chicago. As Kumail performs before his hometown crowd (with an important comedy booking agent in attendance) his set is thrown when a young woman in the crowd shouts something that interferes with his rhythm. After the show, Kumail approaches the woman and tells her that yelling during a comedy set, even if it’s a positive comment, is still considered “heckling.” The two playfully banter back and forth. Eventually, Kumail finds out her name is Emily (Zoe Kazan, Our Brand is Crisis, 2015) who is a grad student studying to become a therapist. They end up spending the night together, and the next morning they agree that they’re both too busy for a serious relationship and that they shouldn’t see each other again. Their connection was undeniable, however, and the pair continues to see each other, eventually becoming a serious couple.  Read more ›

War For the Planet of the Apes (PG-13) ★★★

‘War For the Planet of the Apes’ Caesar played by Andy Serkis (Motion Capture) Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox

Humans bad (Unmerciful, Bullies, Stupid). Apes good (Peace-loving, Compassionate, Intelligent).

At its core, War for the Planet of the Apes is exceptional filmmaking; the “Gorilla in the room” is clearly the disappointing lopsided script and the uneven character choices. Don’t get me wrong; I thoroughly enjoyed and applauded the first two films in this recent trilogy, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. The main problem with War is the ideology.

Yes, I know war is hell, but what happened to the humans here? Why don’t we see one single soldier show any sign of compassion for the apes? And yes, I also know there’s a mute, sweet, young doll-carrying little girl, but she’s in no position to symbolically help the apes. We can also surmise that she represents the last hope for humanity. I held out for hope. Hope that Gabriel Chavarria’s (Preacher) soldier character would step up to the plate. Nope, not a chance. Even though the apes spare his life, he offers no aid, not even a small nuance of humanity. Truly, this is a big mistake as the prior films show humans empathizing with the apes’ cause to the extent of some trying to work toward peace. Read more ›

A Ghost Story (R) ★★★★

Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara in A Ghost Story
Image credit: Andrew Droz Palermo

A deeply affecting meditation on life, death, grief, time, existence — and letting go.

So as you can probably discern from the statement above, A Ghost Story goes deep. Even though it tells a simple tale, has only two main characters and features several scenes that are mostly silent, it is more moving, more memorable, and just so much BETTER in every way possible than 95% of the films I see each year. By the end I felt like both my brain and my emotions had been put through the wringer. But I personally believe that’s what the best films should do—make you think deeply, feel deeply, and leave the theater a changed person in some way. A Ghost Story achieves these things because of the brilliant vision and execution of its writer and director, David Lowery (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Pete’s Dragon), who does a lot with a little.

Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara—who worked together in Ain’t Them Bodies Saints as well—play C and M, a couple who live simply in a ranch-style house. We get just a taste of their relationship before C unexpectedly dies. He dies . . . but he’s not gone. He rises up from the table in the morgue, still covered by a white sheet, and (in an especially gorgeous shot, accompanied by a wonderful, violin-heavy score by Daniel Hart) makes his way back home. He watches M go through the stages of grief, but he can’t do anything except stand there in his sheet and observe. Mostly.

Read more ›

Spider-Man: Homecoming (PG-13) ★★★ Radio Podcast 🎙

Spider-Man: Homecoming (PG-13) ★★★

Spider-Man Comes Home to Queens, Spinning a Friendly Web

Spider-Man: Homecoming provides the new charming Spider-Man/Peter Parker (Tom Holland) with his own feature film. However, it’s the sixth film in the series, and he’s the third actor to don the suit. The idea of an immature, untrained neighborhood Spider-Man, as in Holland’s, does bring a fresh look and feel to the franchise. In addition, Michael Keaton as the sinister villain ‘The Vulture” brings a sympathetic nudge toward an anti-hero. Let’s just say there’s enough brilliance to the film and its script to recommend seeing it in the theater.

Other cast in the film include a young, hot-looking Aunt May (Marisa Tomei); Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.); Jon Favreau as chauffeur/henchman Happy Hogan; Jacob Batalon, Peter Parker’s best high school friend; Laura Harrier as Liz, Parker’s love interest; Zendaya, Michelle, a member of the Academic Team and a fringe friend; and Tony Revolori, Flash (remember the lobby boy), as another member of the Academic Team who antagonizes Parker. The high school kids have a diverse assortment of personalities and backgrounds; they are a well-cast group. Odd in an action film, each is written with humor and enough depth to create a group of teens such as John Hughes’ Breakfast Club. The ensemble of a group of “good kids” creates   a strong model as they set an example of how high school students work hard to achieve success.

Marisa Tomei stars as Aunt May in Columbia Pictures’ SPIDER-MAN™: HOMECOMING.

Tony Stark/Iron Man, who mentored Parker in the prior film, Captain America Civil War, takes a backseat in Spider-Man: Homecoming, which makes for a better-centered film. Parker continually is trying to coerce Stark into letting him fight crime in his slick Spider-Man suit, and at every turn, Stark is saying no way! What occurs is that Spider-Man does find a way to go at it alone, and thus we see his trials and tribulations. The approach works, and it is refreshing.

Spider-Man climbs the Washington Monument in Columbia Pictures’ SPIDER-MAN: ™: HOMECOMING.

Read more ›

Despicable Me 3 (PG) ★★ Radio Podcast 🎙

Where Are the Minions? So Sad, Not Much Screen Time, Only Jail Time

Click Here to listen to Sarah Knight Adamson’s Hollywood 360 Radio Podcast:

The film starts with an angry, downer tone. Both Gru and Lucy are fired by a weird woman that screams at them and kicks them both out of the company.

Soon Gru is reunited with his twin brother Dru, who wants to learn how to be a criminal. Together they ultimately go up against a wacky 80s villain named Balthazar Bratt. The minions are sent to jail and aren’t in the film with Gru for at least 50 minutes.

Is jail time an appropriate storyline for a kid’s movie? Especially if the prisoners are the beloved, yellow Twinkie-shaped fun-loving Minions; I don’t think so.

All voice cast is back as well as the director with the addition of two more directors.

Could the trouble actually be that three directors were involved with this remake, all with separate agendas? Who knows?

Voice Cast: Steve Carell (Gru / Dru), Kristen Wiig (Lucy), Trey Parker (Balthazar Bratt), Miranda Cosgrove (Margo), Julie Andrews (Gru’s Mom).
Credits: Directed by Pierre Coffin, Kyle Balda and Eric Guillon. Written by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio.
Studio: Universal Pictures
Run Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

My podcast review will be posted after the radio review on Hollywood 360 Radio Network airs. Stay tuned.

Baby Driver (R) ★★★★ Radio Podcast 🎙

Baby (ANSEL ELGORT) charms Debora as she works in TriStar Pictures’ BABY DRIVER.

Click Here to listen to Sarah Knight Adamson’s Hollywood 360 Radio Podcast:

Baby Driver (R) ★★★★

 

Adrenaline Rush From Start to Finish

Do fast film car-chase scenes like Bullit, The French Connection, Ronin, the Mad Maxx Series or the Fast and Furious series rate highly with you? If so, then here’s a film with not only incredible get-away chase scenes, but there’s a creative twist—music is the main source that assists in the driving. Baby Driver is an original—a musical car-chase film—with a good-hearted leading actor and the bonus of an old-fashioned sweet love story.

Baby (ANSEL ELGORT) helps Debora (LILY JAMES) do her laundry as they dance around each other and kiss in TriStar Pictures’ BABY DRIVER.

Here’s the great news: so far, it’s one of the best movies I’ve seen this year, and I will guarantee you’ll be on the edge of your seat for most of the film. I’ll resist writing the typical cliché “fasten your seat belt,” however — extra restraint may be needed to stay seated—the possibility of swerving side to side, toe-tapping, or even humming along while viewing “Baby” strategically driving at hyper speed to a pulsating playlist is virtually impossible for one to remain calm. Come to think of it, what would be perfect is one of those over-the-head metal pull-down bars on the Disney rides that locks you in because, at times, I did feel immersed in a wild ride simulation. The film is aptly realistic cinematically while choreographed to perfection. I loved it.

Baby (ANSEL ELGORT) charms Debora as she works in TriStar Pictures’ BABY DRIVER.

Baby (Ansel Elgort) is the self-given name of a musically talented young man who’s a getaway heist driver. He suffers from tinnitus, donning ear buds connected to an old-school iPod chock full of mixes that he created to help block out the constant ringing in his ears. It’s revealed that as a young child he was riding in the backseat when his parents were killed in a car crash, leaving him with the hearing condition. We also find out he’s been in and out of foster care and at times on his own since the age of ten. Currently, he lives with his deaf somewhat older foster dad, Joseph, played by the highly animated C. J. Jones, who is deaf both on screen and in real life. He communicates via sign language. Read more ›

Paris Can Wait (PG) ★★★ Radio Podcast 🎙

Diane Lane stars in “Paris Can Wait” Sony Classic Pictures

Diane Lane and Arnaud Viard. Sony Classic Pictures

Click Here to listen to Sarah Knight Adamson’s Hollywood 360 Radio Podcast:

Eleanor Coppola, (Francis Ford Coppola’s wife) at age 81 makes her narrative directorial and screenwriting debut. The film stars Diane Lane as a Hollywood producer’s wife, who unexpectedly takes a road trip from Cannes to Paris. Her neglectful, movie producer husband, (Alec Baldwin) flies ahead as she drives with a business associate played by (Arnaud Viard). The seven-hour trip turns out to be a couple of days filled with amazing French food and wine. I enjoyed the slow pacing the stunning cinematography and the culinary delights. As one film critic has stated, “Gee I think I gained 10 pounds just by watching this movie!”

Diane Lane and Arnaud Viard. Sony Classic Pictures

Eleanor Coppola directs “Paris Can Wait”

Transformers: The Last Knight (PG-13) ★ Radio Podcast 🎙


Click Here to listen to Sarah Knight Adamson’s Hollywood 360 Radio Podcast:

Transformers: The Last Knight (PG-13) ★

Chaotic Mess, Do Not Take Kids

Aside from the typical scantily clad sexy female lead introduction in Transformer films, my viewing experience started with high hopes as main star Laura Haddock as Vivian Wembley is introduced as an esteemed working professor wearing glasses, a blouse, and a mid-length pencil skirt, with her hair pulled back in a “library bun” in the latest installment. Sadly, soon enough, that glimmer of hope changed as she magically leaves one scene in a black blouse and pants and is kidnapped, thrown into the trunk of a car, and shows up wearing an out-of-character tight-fitting, cleavage-bearing cocktail dress. When Cade, Mark Wahlberg, sees her new change of clothes, as a put-down, he says, “So you’re now wearing a stripper dress?” Yes, that’s an actual line in the movie. Not, “You’re wearing that?” Nope, let’s just call it out: “You’re wearing a stripper dress!”

Laura Haddock as Professor Vivian Wembley Photo Credit: On set

Laura Haddock and Bumblebee film Transformers in central London.  Credit: WENN.com

The framework for a Transformer film requires sexy shots of females, explosions, ear-piercing metal screeching sounds, blazing fire, a fragmented script, blatant product placement, and for those of you that haven’t seen all five films, believe it or not, the female lead—whether it be Megan Fox, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, or Laura Haddock— routinely has a scene with her long hair blowing in the wind. Of course, while reviewing the fifth film, you’d look for that. To my astonishment, about two hours into the film, the cheesy “hair blowing scene” does occur, but this time, not only does Haddock’s hair look like she’s being bombarded with several off-screen industrial fans and getting ready for takeoff as Sally Fields in the Flying Nun—I kid you not, Mark Wahlberg’s hair is also blowing in the same scene as they are standing awkwardly next to each other, gazing up to the heavens. All of these trademarks occur in The Last Knight with the addition of, as I call it, “location whiplash effect” as the film’s location changes at warp speed; I kept count of at least 15 different cities, planets, countries in the first hour before I just gave up.

Read more ›

Cars 3 (G) ★★★

Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) faces new challenges in Cars 3
Image credit: Disney•Pixar

The Cars franchise is back on track. KA-CHOW! 

I know exactly when I achieved the pinnacle of parenting. Yes, my son was only three at the time, but I’m confident that I will never top what I did for him that day: I took him to meet Lightning McQueen.

The proof is in this picture taken at Cars Land in Disney’s California Adventure in 2015—if you zoom in, you will see the definition of pure joy on my son’s face. Lightning is REAL!

Image credit: Erika Olson

I had seen Cars before I had kids and loved it, so it wasn’t solely my son’s obsession with the film that endeared me to the inhabitants of Radiator Springs. But now that I have watched the movie countless times and can recite every word by heart, it has earned a truly special place in my heart. It’s yet another Pixar creation that holds up well over multiple viewings and the passage of time.

But we shall not speak of Cars 2 . . . no, we shall not. Except to say that whoever thought it was appropriate to have these beloved characters shooting at each other and talking about killing each other (on top of Mater’s disastrous cultural insensitivity) should never work on a children’s animated film again.

Needless to say I was nervous about Cars 3. Thankfully there was no reason to be. This installment strongly harkens back to the original, even going so far as having the climactic finale revolve around an important lesson Lightning (Owen Wilson) learned from his mentor Doc Hudson (the late Paul Newman) about helping others. (Doc has a fairly significant presence in the film thanks to unused dialogue and outtakes from the original.)

The set-up this time is that Lightning McQueen finds himself blindsided by a rookie racecar—Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer)—and other high-tech “next generation” cars like him. These sleek racing machines train in state-of-the-art facilities and reach speeds over 200 mph, and Lightning just can’t compete.

Read more ›

The Hero (R) ★★½

Sam Elliott, Laura Prepon, Krysten Ritter, Nick Offerman, and Katherine Ross star in “The Hero.” Photo Credit: The Orchard.

The Hero Cannot Save the Day  

The pursuit of professional success often comes with a cost. This is a lesson that many people only realize when they look back on their lives and realize too much time was spent pursuing “success” to the detriment of the most important relationships in their life. This experience can ring especially true in show business where fame is fleeting and public and personal lives often overlap. Brett Haley’s latest drama, The Hero, is much like The Wrestler and Crazy Heart, focusing on one man’s examination of his life and career after the fame diminishes along with his desire to leave behind a legacy. 

The story opens with Lee Hayden, an aging actor with a golden voice, (played by Sam Elliott, Grandma, 2015) in a recording studio, repeating the same line for a producer. Although Lee made a living by playing cowboys in Western firms, he is now reduced to performing voiceovers for a steak sauce commercial. Afterwards, Lee calls his agent to see if there are any meaningful roles for him. There are no open roles, but his agent does inform him that he has won a lifetime achievement award for his work in Western films, a ceremony Lee declines to attend. Lee later stops by the doctor’s office, where his doctor relays the upsetting news about a recent biopsy stating that he has prostate cancer. The action then cuts to a scene from Lee’s most famous movie, The Hero, which is the basis for this title. Throughout this film, there are cuts to scenes from his original film, but they don’t advance the story or provide context. More than anything, the cuts serve as a break in the action.

Read more ›

Follow Sarah’s Backstage Pass:

Click here for affiliates including Brussels, Belgium.

Hollywood 360
Broadcast Saturday Night
10:06pm-10:25pm CST Reviews
11:06pm-11:14pm CST Interviews

Celebrity Photos & Events