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.

Dunkirk (PG-13) ★★★★ Radio Podcast

‘Dunkirk’ Copyright: © 2017 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Radio podcast will post after airing on Hollywood 360 Radio Network. Stay Tuned!🎙

The Big Sick 😷 (R) ★★★★ Radio Podcast

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

Stay tuned, review coming soon!

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

Radio Podcast will post after airdate on Hollywood 360 Radio Network. Stay Tuned.

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

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.

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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) ★★★

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

Diane Lane and Arnaud Viard. Sony Classic Pictures

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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


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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 ›

Wonder Woman (PG-13) ★★★★ Radio Review

Gal Gadot stars as “Wonder Woman.” Patty Jenkins directs. Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

My quick take🎬: So much to love about ⚔Wonder Woman!⚔

Director Patty Jenkins of Monster (2003), fame brings us another stellar film. Gal Gadot’s performance is fantastic to watch, she not only carries the entire film, but she also brings strength, intelligence, compassion and beauty to her role. Chris Pine is fun to watch as he takes a back seat, he brings humor and light-heartedness to the darkness of their wartime situation. If you ever thought you might want to see a superhero movie, then this is the one to go and see! I loved it! Radio Review coming soon! Stay Tuned!

Radio Reviews air on H360 Radio Network on Saturday nights, ✔️ out a station near you!  The podcast will post after the review airs. Stay tuned.

Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story ★★★★ Radio Podcast

Directed by Daniel Raim. Photo Credit: Adama Films

Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story is a documentary that’s based on a true story. Storyboard artist Harold Michelson and his wife, a film researcher, Lillian Michelson are two nameless heroes of Hollywood’s greatest films.

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

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (PG-13) ★★

Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Image credit: Walt Disney

Only for diehard franchise fans.

A month ago, Disneyland guests on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride were treated to a cool surprise when Johnny Depp popped up on the attraction in place of the animatronic Captain Jack Sparrow. If you didn’t see clips of it already, I recommend looking them up online—it was pretty hilarious.

Unfortunately, that little stunt was more entertaining than the majority of the film Depp was at the park to promote: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (or POTC5 as I will call it from here on out).

So, yeah… any time we’re talking about the FIFTH film in a franchise, I feel like most people’s expectations are going to be pretty low, and mine certainly were. The bad news is that POTC5 failed to recapture the original film’s spark, and a lot of its story felt recycled. And clearly nothing is going to be able to recreate the weird mix of confusion and delight most felt when seeing Depp as Sparrow for the first time in 2003. But I will say that POTC5 is at least much better than the last two installments in the franchise.

It opens with a great flashback of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann’s (Keira Knightley) young son Henry sneaking out in the middle of the night, reconnecting with his cursed father under the sea and promising him that he’ll find the trident of Poseidon in order to break the spell. At this point I thought that perhaps the totally new writing and directing team (Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg as co-directors and Jeff Nathanson in charge of the screenplay) was going to breathe new life into the franchise.

Then we move ahead nine years and see a grown Henry (Brenton Thwaites) trying to warn his shipmates against sailing into the dangerous Devil’s Triangle—but they of course don’t listen and incur the wrath of a zombie crew of pirates and their leader, Salazar (Javier Bardem). Henry learns that Salazar wants revenge on Sparrow for leading his ship into the Triangle decades ago, and Henry promises to deliver that warning to the perpetually drunk Captain. Eventually, Sparrow’s old nemesis Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) shows up and says he’ll help Salazar track down Captain Jack.

Read more ›

Alien: Covenant (R) ★★½

Katherine Waterston stars in Alien: Covenant.
Image credit: 20th Century Fox

Alien: Covenant < Prometheus. Yeah, I said it.

I was thoroughly frustrated by Alien: Covenant and was actually mad when I left the theater. Aside from Michael Fassbender in dual roles and the cast itself, there was absolutely nothing new about this sixth installment (and second prequel) of the nearly forty-year-old Alien franchise. I am usually one of those people who never sees a film’s twists coming. With Alien: Covenant, I not only predicted every single thing that was going to happen, but I was also bored out of my mind.

A cool prologue involving trillionaire CEO Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) and the synthetic from Prometheus, David (Fassbender), gave me hope at the very beginning that Ridley Scott was going to pull off an Alien trifecta (Covenant is the third film he’s directed after the original two). But it was not to be.

We flash forward to ten years after the events of Prometheus and are aboard the Covenant, whose crewmembers are all deep-dozing in pods as they travel on a years-long mission to colonize a distant planet. But their on-board upgraded synthetic, Walter (also Fassbender), gives them a harsh wake-up call after the ship’s systems start going haywire. The captain is killed during this emergency, and the moment we find out who the captain was, I was immediately taken out of the film. All I’ll say is that it’s a well-known, goofy actor whose presence in flashbacks was as a huge distraction and served no purpose other than making the new captain Oram (Billy Crudup) have a weak reason to constantly seem unsure of himself.

Now that the entire crew is awake, they decide to investigate a human transmission coming from a nearby planet and see if that planet is a better bet for colonization than the one they were supposed to reach in seven more years. Spoiler alert: IT’S NOT.

Read more ›

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (PG-13) ★★½

Charlie Hunnam stars in King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

To take on the legend of Excalibur, Guy Ritchie sticks with his usual love-it-or-hate-it style.

The Knights of the Round Table. The Sword in the Stone. The Lady of the Lake. Merlin. Ah, I just love the King Arthur legend. But I usually do not love director Guy Ritchie’s signature filmmaking style—one infamous for quick cuts, stylized slo-mo scenes, and brutal, fast action sequences heavy on hand-to-hand combat.

So there’s good news and bad news about this latest spin on the Excalibur tale. For some, it will be very bad news that Ritchie (who co-wrote King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword with Joby Harold and Lionel Wigram) stays in his lane with this film; if you didn’t enjoy the look and pace and overall vibe of other Ritchie movies, such as Snatch or Sherlock Holmes, then you might feel that his often jarring and visually exhausting style could overpower the strong performances from a great cast.

The good news is that if—like me—you love everything having to do with Arthurian mythology, you’ll likely be able to tolerate Ritchie’s dramatic flair and will appreciate a fresh look at the epic story.

In fact, there are parts where the film actually benefits from the crackling pace—the first being near the beginning, where we’re treated to a montage that shows Arthur growing up on the streets of Londinium, after having been pushed down the river in a boat as a toddler by his soon-to-be-murdered father Uther (Eric Bana). We later see how the grown Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) accumulated his group of friends—including Bedivere (Djimon Hounsou) and Goosefat Bill (Game of Thrones fan favorite Aidan Gillen)—who will eventually back him in his fight against his power-hungry uncle, Vortigern (Jude Law, at his slimiest). Read more ›

Snatched (R) ★★★ Radio Podcast

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Happy Mother’s Day Weekend! Here’s my quick take on the film:

I laughed the entire 90 minutes of the film. Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn are both funny, but the supporting cast; Wanda Sykes, Joan Cusack and Ike Barinholtz (who plays the paranoid brother) are hysterical. The Mom and Daughter are held captive for like…2 minutes, and the rest of the film is slapstick comedy. It did remind me of the shenanigans in the “The Hangover Part 2” similar to the guys running around in Thailand except no fingers were cut off…in Ecuador, Amy has a disgusting tapeworm that is hand extracted, and a bad guy gets stabbed with a harpoon. I also loved seeing Goldie Hawn back on the big screen, even with a somewhat compromised performance…she took the back seat in this film.

Sarah Knight Adamson© May 12, 2017

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (PG-13) Radio Podcast ★★½

Charlie Hunnum, King Arthur and Jude Law star as rivals for the crown.

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