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

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

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 ›

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

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

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!

Mudbound (R) ★★★★

Jason Mitchell (Ronsel Jackson),Garrett Hedlund, (Jamie McAllan) “Mudbound” Photo Credit: Netflix

Epic Southern Drama is an Intimate Portrait of Racism

Mudbound is a period-piece drama that takes place before, during, and after WWII on a cotton farm in Mississippi. It’s based on the novel written by Hillary Jordan, with themes of poverty, racism, violence, and a divided America. With stellar direction by Dee Rees, we follow six main characters as they navigate their lives under horrific circumstances in a film that looks like a beautiful piece of literature projected on the big screen. This graceful, disturbing film gives us an intimate portrait of that time. Get ready to be immersed in character, choices, and consequences.

Two poor families farm the same area: one white, owners, and one black, sharecroppers. They are forced to follow Jim Crow segregation laws due to the social climate of their Deep South locale and the fear of the violent Ku Klux Klan. Both families farm the same patch of land in the hard times; the often muddy Mississippi Delta is an unsympathetic place where dreams simply die or are diluted in the mud.

Jason Clarke, as landowner Henry McAllan, gives a cold, unbending performance in his outstanding portrayal of an unsympathetic character. He leaves the comforts of his Tennessee home with his new bride, the obliging, soft-spoken Laura (Carey Mulligan), to farm a plot of land with extremely harsh conditions. Ten minutes into Laura’s new circumstances, we are horrified to see her shockingly primitive living conditions. Mulligan gives an outstanding performance as well, as she transforms from her initially docile persona by blossoming into a fighter and a strategic problem solver, all while protecting herself and her children. And what a difficult situation to contend with. Not only is the dreary mud-soaked farm a challenge, Laura’s father-in-law, Pappy (Jonathan Banks, from Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul), is a mean-spirited bully and an angry racist who also lives with the family.

Henry’s younger brother, Jamie (Garrett Hedlund), stars as a handsome, outgoing WWII overseas fighter pilot who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to his service in the war. Read more ›

Wonder (PG) ★★★ Radio Podcast 🎙

Podcast will post after radio review has aired. Stay tuned!

Wonder is a drama/comedy based on R.J. Palacio’s best selling book of the same name. The film as the book, tells the story of August (Auggie) Pullman, played by Jacob Tremblay, a good-natured, funny and smart, 10-year-old boy, who was born with noticeable facial deformities — a “craniofacial difference” caused by a variance in his DNA.

The director is Stephen Chbosky author and writer of Perks of Being a Wallflower 2012 and written by Steve Conrad. I interviewed Chbosky for his work on Perks in October of 2012.

Julia Roberts, an avid fan of Palacio’s book stars as Auggie’s mom, Isabel and Owen Wilson stars as the dad, Nate. Auggie’s been in and out of hospitals for years, enduring 27 surgeries allowing him to breathe, see, and hear without a hearing aid. As a result, he’s been home-schooled by his mom all his life; the film picks up just as the family is making the transition to sending him to elementary school. After all, Auggie has had to endure, we see him face his toughest battles yet. With encouragement from mom, dad, and his sister, we see the difficulties he has adjusting due to his facial looks. This, in turn, leads to bullying, which for Auggie is a constant struggle.

The story is told through individual narratives of the main characters through their voiceover; this builds the story by adding their inner thoughts.

Jacob’s prosthetic makeup was designed and created by Arjen Tuiten, which took over an hour to apply. He’s wearing a skull cap with prosthetic ears attached, a facial prosthetic that covers his face, and a wig. He’s barely recognizable as the little guy who won us over with is screen presence in the film, Room (2015).

The Bottom-Line? A must-see beautiful, graceful film for all ages—you can’t help but be touched by Auggie’s courage and the courage of his family. You will shed a tear or two, as this inspirable story tugs at all the right heartstrings. There are plenty of comical moments to lighten the heavy script and the inspirational quotes through out are good reminders for everyone.

Julia Roberts is lovely to watch as Auggie’s mom, you feel her pain, and sense of heartbreak and you’ll see her joy.

Here are a few quotes from the film:
“Here’s what I think: the only reason I’m not ordinary is that no one else sees me that way.”

“I wish every day could be Halloween. We could all wear masks all the time. Then we could walk around and get to know each other before we got to see what we looked like under the masks.”

“I think there should be a rule that everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their lives.”

“Courage. Kindness. Friendship. Character. These are the qualities that define us as human beings, and propel us, on occasion, to greatness.”

Cast: Jacob Tremblay, August (Auggie) Pullman, Julia Roberts, Isabella Pullman, Owen Wilson, Nate Pullman, Isabel Vidovic, Via, Noah Jupe, Jack Will, Mandy Patinkin, Mr. Tushman, Daveed Diggs, Mr. Browne

Credits: Director, Stephen Chbosky, writer, Steve Conrad

Studio: Lionsgate

Run Time: 1 hour 53 minutes

Mudbound (R) ★★★★ Radio Podcast 🎙


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

Justice League (PG-13) ★★★

“Justice League” Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Studio

Justice League is the latest chapter in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) series, which thankfully finds its footing with a great ensemble cast.

The film picks up just after the events from the prior films, Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Wonder Woman; a new threat named Steppenwolf—not the 60s Canadian rock band—think alien/demigod wants to destroy Earth. Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciaran Hinds) is a powerful supervillain; he’s searching for three mystical boxes — when combined they will wreak havoc by creating a unstopable force allowing him to dominate the world.

Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) recruits aid to stop Steppenwolf as he’s not strong enough on his own. Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), is aware of the danger, and agrees that they need more help. Wayne enlists Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller) and Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher), together they launch the Justice League. Each super hero has their unique idiosyncrasies, their dialogue is enjoyable to view as they provide an up-lift to a series that is known for somewhat of a dark tone. Playing off of each other, adds to their camaraderie, lightening the mood.

The best of the bunch has to be ‘hands down’ Barry Allen/The Flash he steals the film as did Spiderman in the Marvel composite film. His actions and nuances are comical; he’s also the most relatable.

So why is Clark Kent/Superman in the previews and advertising for Justice League if he’s supposed to be dead? Well, simple, he’s brought back to life with the help of Batman, Aquaman, and The Flash.
Speaking of Aquaman, played splendidly by Momoa, the relatively new superhero is from an Atlantean origin, exhibiting a large 6’ 4” presence as the ocean-dwelling super-human with an amphibious nature. His super-powers are numerous including enhanced sight, hearing, smell, superhuman strength, marine telepathy (the ability to communicate directly with sea life), and more. He wears a non-stop scowl through the film as his guise is very serious. He’s a unique and welcomed addition to the group.

Victor Stone/Cyborg, (Fisher), garners the most sympathy as his new super condition has his own body parts intermixed with advanced mechanical parts, granting him superhuman strength, speed, stamina, and flight. His internal computer system can also interface with external computers. Fisher’s performance was spot-on, with a wide range of emotions.

And what about my favorite superhero Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman? Her performance is like ‘a breath of fresh air’ just as in her successful film, Wonder Woman, she’s one of the best actresses to ever tap into the superhero role — her presence alone elevates the film with her beauty, strength, compassion, and intelligence. She’s a joy to view in all of her scenes.

The score by Danny Elfman’s hits the right notes garnering a feeling of urgency with strong orchestra overtures. You’ll also hear pop songs along with some rock songs; I especially enjoyed the fantastic Gary Clark Jr. & Junkie XL rendition of the Beatles song, Come Together. It was placed appropriately in the film just before the big battle.

I actually enjoyed Justice League more that I thought I would as the prior films, excluding Wonder Woman have a dark and brooding in tone, this one seemed to be lifted upwards perhaps by the addition of Josh Whedon’s directing and editing during post-production. He stepped in when Zach Snyder left the film due to a family tragedy. It should be noted that it’s been confirmed in interviews that perhaps only 10-15 percent of the film could have been affected. Even so, I still enjoyed the upbeat tone.

The Bottom-Line: Ben Affleck as Batman is perfect in my universe; he’s a strong, confident leader for the group, with just the right amount of arrogance as Tony Stark’s Iron Man. There are an abundance of elements to cheer about in the film as it has a lightened tone, which I enjoyed, the production design was solid, and the cast interconnected well together. I’m looking forward to further adventures with this series and these awesome characters.

Director: Zack Snyder

Writers: Story by Zack Snyder & Chris Terrio, Screenplay by Chris Terrio
Based on characters from DC Entertainment, Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster

Studio: Warner Bros.

Running Time: 2 Hours 1 minute

Sarah Knight Adamson© November 23, 2017

“BIG TIME” Architecture Documentary, Stars Bjarke Ingels ★★★★ by Kathrine LeBlanc

“BIG TIME” documentary stars Bjarke Ingels. 

Star Architect Bjarke Ingels is Uniquely Changing City Skylines

BIG TIME, directed by Kaspar Astrup Schröder, is an inspirational documentary film that captures influential architect Bjarke Ingles through his journey of changing our built environment by designing never-before-seen building concepts. He’s solving some of the most significant problems in new ways with his fast-growing architecture firm BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group).

The Wall Street Journal has stated that Bjarke Ingels “has rapidly become one of the design world’s biggest stars” and his name recently appeared in Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” article. If you’re not familiar with Bjarke Ingels’s firm BIG’s architectural prowess, lay your eyes on just a few of their cool buildings below:

VIA 57 WEST is part of the 57 WEST residential superblock in Manhattan, New York

Current design by BIG company for World Trade Center 2.

For certain, this is not your typical “talking heads” documentary style, but rather a “fly on the wall” approach in which viewers are immersed in an architect’s personal life and work. Yep, the prize at the end of the day is that bright shiny new building that changes the landscape of a city—but what about the battles that are fought along the way? What about the pressures of making sure the plans work? Read more ›

Murder on the Orient Express (PG-13) ★★★ Radio Podcast 🎙

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

Murder on the Orient Express is based on the classic mystery novel by Agatha Christie that was written in 1934; it certainly could be the most notable or familiar mystery novel in the world. Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) is on board during the crime and begins his detective work by interrogating thirteen passengers or so that he deems as suspects. He is somewhat under the gun, as the likelihood of the murderer striking again is a real possibility. The premise is similar to the board game clue in which clues are sorted out; eliminations are made as red flags become brighter in pointing to the criminal.

The original book has been adapted many times, most notably by director Sidney Lumet in 1974’s Murder on the Orient Express film, (Ingrid Bergman won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, and Albert Finney was a Best Actor nominee). In 1989 the Agatha Christie’s Poirot television series had a long run with David Suchet as the detective in 13 series and 70 episodes. Agatha Christie’s Poirot: “Murder on the Orient Express” (2010), was welcomed with great reviews.

So do we really need a re-make of this film? I’d say, why not—especially after viewing the elegantly stylish cinematography and spot-on set design—with a spectacular all-star cast. Wouldn’t you go and see a movie that has an all-star cast with Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Willem Dafoe, Penélope Cruz, Kenneth Branagh, Leslie Odom Jr. , Judi Dench, Daisy Ridley and Josh Gad costumed in lavish period pieces aboard the enticing Orient Express?

The Bottom-Line? I’m in, even though Branagh’s super-sized wide mustache steals the show, he gives a genuine performance, which I found gratifying. The cast is terrific, each adding their own nuances that touch on the premise that each passenger has a motive for murder. When the big reveal finally happens, it is played out in grandiose bravura that most of us crave in a big production such as this. I enjoyed the old-school feel and appreciated the attention to detail and styling. You know, sorry for the cliché, but I’ve got to say it, “They just don’t make them like this anymore.”

Cast: Daisy Ridley (Mary Debenham), Johnny Depp (Ratchett), Michelle Pfeiffer (Mrs. Hubbard), Penélope Cruz (Pilar Estravados), Kenneth Branagh (Hercule Poirot), Judi Dench (Princess Dragomiroff), Josh Gad (Hector MacQueen), Leslie Odom Jr. (Dr. Arbuthnot)

Credits: Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Written by Michael Green

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Run Time: 1 hour 54 minutes

Thor: Ragnarok (PG-13) ★★★½ Radio Podcast🎙


Thor: Ragnarok

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

This is the third in its series, with Thor premiering in 2011 and Thor: The Dark World in 2013. Chris Hemsworth stars in all three films.

In Ragnarok Thor is imprisoned on the other side of the universe without the strength of his magical hammer. His main purpose is to get back to Asgard to stop Ragnarok, which will cause the destruction of his home and its entire civilization.

Who knew that Thor’s older sister, the exiled Hela played by black-antlered thorn wearing (Cate Blanchett) would return to Asgard. Let alone that she plans to take over the nine realms and destroy the universe. She’s excellent in all her evilness and fun to watch.

I enjoyed the banter between The Hulk/Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and Chris Hemsworth. Their scenes together really make this movie great.

The action scenes are impressive, although loyal viewers are finding these super-charged scenes a bit boring as it’s all been done previously. The savior here is in the story-lines of Thor and his rival brother Loki and the friendship (bromance) between Thor and The Hulk. 

The Bottom-Line? I’m in, the script is great due to the creative comedy that’s been added in all the right places. This isn’t Deadpool, but close. It is the perfect popcorn movie that’s full of entertainment and great special effects…if you still care about those.

New Zealand director Taika Waititi is at the helm, with screen writer Michael Green. Together they are a winning combination for sure!

Cast: Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Cate Blanchett (Hela), Idris Elba (Heimdall), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner / Hulk), Anthony Hopkins (Odin), Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange)

Credits: Directed by Taika Waititi. Written by Michael Green.

Studio: Walt Disney Pictures

Run Time: 2 hours 10 mins

Only the Brave (PG-13) ★★★½ Radio Podcast🎙

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Only the Brave

Is based on the true heroic story of the Granite Mountain Hotshot Firefighters in Yarnell, Arizona and on the GQ article “No Exit” by Sean Flynn. You will learn about the events that happened to 19 firefighters who died in 2013 while fighting a fire that’s one of the worst in our nation’s history. The film is a dedication to their memory.

Josh Brolin stars as Eric Marsh, the ‘supe’ of the crew, (in an outstanding performance) he’s a long-standing member of the Prescott fire department in Arizona who has been trying for quite some time to acquire an elite ‘Hotshot’ classification for his crew of wild-land firefighters. The ranking will allow him and his crew to fight on the front lines of the fire. We see his frustration, as this is not an easy task. We are also privy to the strain it causes in his marriage to his wife Amanda, (Jennifer Connelly), whom also gives a tremendous emotional performance.

We see Brolin dream of the fires he fights, letting us know that he’s in tune with the fires he and his crew battles. He speaks to them in a low whisper as if the enemy, trying to decipher their next move.

Supe is also a father figure to the new hire Brendan McDonough played by Miles Teller nick-named ‘doughnut’ a recovering drug addict and soon to be father.

The Bottom-Line? I’m in, this is the story of true heroes at work in a grueling job with insane hours. The cinematography is so realistic as times you will be uneasy as the fire appears to be so close to the actors.  Outstanding performances by Brolin, Connelly and Teller.

Cast: Josh Brolin (Eric Marsh), Miles Teller (Brendan McDonough), Jeff Bridges (Duane Steinbrink), Jennifer Connelly (Amanda Marsh)

Credits: Directed by Joseph Kosinski. Written by Ken Nolan and Eric Warren Singer

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Run Time: 2 hours 14 mins

Marshall (PG-13) ★★★

Chadwick Boseman, Josh Gad, Kate Hudson, Dan Stevens, Sterling K. Brown and James Cromwell star in “Marshall.” Photo Credit: Open Road Films.

Marshall: Educational & Entertaining

Fast-rising actor, Chadwick Boseman (Captain America: Civil War, 2017), sure has his historical portrayals down. After playing baseball great, Jackie Robinson in 42 (2013) and musician James Brown in Get on Up (2014), he takes on the role of the first NAACP lawyer and African-American Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall. Not surprisingly, he is naturally convincing in this role as well.

In the historical drama, Marshall, directed by Reginal Hudlin and written by father-son team Michael and Jacob Koskoff, the plot centers on the true story of the 1941 courtroom drama that is not widely known, but proved to be incredibly influential in the legal world during such a segregated time in society. Marshall, the thirty-three-year-old lawyer, fights to defend Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown, This is Us, 2017), an African-American chauffer who is accused of raping his employer’s wife, Eleanor Strubing (Kate Hudson, Deepwater Horizon, 2016). Given Strubing’s high social standing in a conservative Connecticut community, the case quickly grows into a tabloid sensation and eventually increases tensions towards the end of the Jim Crow era.

Marshall’s relatively unfamiliar story puts director Hudlin at an advantage as he can keep most viewers in suspense among the twists and turns of the trial itself, without having to do anything extraordinary. Hudlin’s directing style is less stylish and more straightforward, which could bore some audiences, but entertain those thirsty for a heavy historical drama. While Marshall is well-told, I kept waiting for the film to build up and eventually match its powerful historical significance, but it falls just short.

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Goodbye Christopher Robin (PG-13) ★★★½ Radio Podcast 🎙

Will Tilston, Domhnall Gleeson and Margot Robbie in the film GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN. Photo by David Appleby. © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

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Goodbye Christopher Robin

This Historical Drama gives us the backstory surrounding writer A.A. Milne “Winnie-the-Pooh” and “The House at Pooh Corner,” these books were published 1926 &1928.

Suffering from PTSD after the war, Milne decides to move his family from London and live in the countryside. While there, he found solace in his son and began to write about their afternoons of imaginary play with his son’s stuffed animals.

Milne and his family became instant celebrities, while the books brought hope and comfort to the rest of postwar England.

The Bottom-Line? I enjoyed this enchanting film and the backstory surrounding A.A.Milne and his family. The film is for ages nine years old and up, as it does have some war scenes.

Cast: Domhnall Gleeson as the father and writer, Will Tilston as Christopher Robin, Margot Robbie, as the mother and Kelly McDonald as the nanny.

Credits: Directed by Simon Curtis, screenplay by Frank Cottrell Boyce and Simon Vaughan

Studio: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Run Time: 1 hour 47 minutes

 

Victoria and Abdul (PG-13) ★★★ Radio Podcast 🎙

Judi Dench and Ali Fazal star in ‘Victoria and Abdul.’  Photo Credit: Focus Features

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Victoria and Abdul is historical fiction that’s based on the book of the same name.

In 1887 a young Indian clerk named Abdul Karim played by Ali Fazal becomes an unlikely friend to Queen Victoria who’s played by Judi Dench. He becomes her teacher, her spiritual advisor, and her devoted friend.

As their friendship deepens, the Queen begins to see the world through new eyes and joyfully reclaims her compassion.

The Bottom-Line? Judi Dench is fabulous as Queen Victoria! She’s the reason to see this film. It’s funny, entertaining all sprinkled with bits of history throughout. I thoroughly enjoyed the natural chemistry between the Queen and Abdul.

It’s always ambitious for characters to age in a film, and you’ll see outstanding examples here.

Cast: Judi Dench (Queen Victoria), Ali Fazal (Abdul Karim)

Credits: Directed by Stephen Frears and written by Lee Hall.

Studio: Focus Features

Run Time: 1 hour 52 minutes

 

Stronger (R) ★★★★ Radio Podcast 🎙


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Stronger is the true story of Jeff Bauman, who lost both his legs during the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. The film is based on his memoir of the same name. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Bauman and Tatiana Maslany plays his girlfriend and future wife.

We see Jeff as he struggles with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and the challenging physical effects he faces in learning to adjust to his new life.

Miranda Richardson plays Bauman’s caring yet over-bearing mom.

The Bottom Line? Talk about a winner! Jake Gyllenhaal’s gritty, multifaceted Oscar worthy performance gives us a realistic and profound sense of what it means to be a true hero.

You’ll be surprised by other circumstances that surround Bauman, namely a new baby and the story of the man that saved him.

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal as Jeff Bauman, Tatiana Maslany as Erin Hurley, Clancy Brown as Jeff Bauman Sr., Miranda Richardson as Patty Bauman, Frankie Shaw as Gail Hurley, Danny McCarthy as Kevin Horst, Carlos Sanz as Carlos Arredondo, Karen Scalia as Lori Hurley, Jimmy LeBlanc as Larry

Credits: Director David Gordon Green, Writer (based on the book “Stronger” by) Bret Witter, Jeff Bauman, Writer John Pollono, Cinematographer Sean Bobbitt

Studio: Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions Films

Run Time: 2 hours

The Kingsman: The Golden Circle (R) ★★★ Radio Podcast 🎙

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The Kingsman: The Golden Circle (British Secret Service Comedy)

This is the sequel to The Kingsman: Secret Service (2014) A year has passed since Eggsy Unwin (Taron Egerton) and the spy organization Kingsman saved the world, yet lost his mentor Harry Hart (Colin Firth) to a gunshot. The opening scene is worth the price of admission as Charlie Hesketh, a former Kingsman trainee who lost his arm and vocal chords in the prior film, ambushes Eggsy. This insane hand to cybernetic hand combat scene takes place in the back seat of a black cab with the completion in Hyde Park Lake all while Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” blares in the background.

Poppy Adams, (Julianne Moore) the world’s largest drug cartel queen, broadcasts a message telling the world about a toxin she laced within every recreational drug available.

Statesman, a secret American organization posing as a Bourbon whiskey distillery in Kentucky introduces us to Jeff Bridges as Agent Champagne and Channing Tatum as Tequila they wear Stetsons and carry electrified lassos to play off the English Bowlers and weaponized umbrellas.

The Bottom-line: This is a wacky film with a fight scene in the Cambodia jungle, inside a 1950s red and white “Diner” set that uses a giant donut (think Randy’s Donuts) for a shield. Elton John is dressed in a peacock feathered suit while he’s kicking some bad guys around while “Saturday (Wednesday) Night’s Alright for Fighting” blares. The zaniness won me over by the film’s endless parade of creative ridiculous gadgets and weapons.

Cast: Taron Egerton as Gary ‘Eggsy’ Unwin ,Colin Firth as Harry Hart, Julianne Moore as Poppy, Mark Strong as Merlin, Pedro Pascal as Agent Whiskey, Sophie Cookson as Roxy Morton, Halle Berry as Ginger, Channing Tatum as Agent Tequila, Jeff Bridges as Agent Champagne, Poppy Delevingne as Clara, Elton John as himself.

Credits: Director Matthew Vaughn, Writer (comic book The Secret Service) Mark Millar, Dave Gibbons, Writer Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn, Cinematographer George Richmond, Editor Eddie Hamilton, Composers Henry Jackman, Matthew Margeson.

Run Time: 2 hours and 21 minutes

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Home Again (PG-13) ★★★ Radio Podcast 🎙

Reese Witherspoon stars in “Home Again” Directed by Hallie Meyers-Shyer, the daughter of Nancy Meyers. Nancy Meyers is the writer and producer of many films such as “It’s Complicated”, “Father of the Bride”, and “Private Benjamin”.

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Staring Reese Witherspoon (Alice) she’s a recently separated mom who moves back to her hometown of LA with her two young daughters. Austen her husband played by Michael Sheen lives in NY.

Candace Bergen, Alice’s mother, suggests that Alice should help out three filmmakers she recently met as they need a place to stay. They end up living in her guesthouse. When a romantic involvement starts with one of them the film takes a serious shift.

The Bottom Line: This is a fantastic romantic comedy with plenty of laughs and old fashion family fun, they just don’t make them like this anymore. It’s pleasantly entertaining as well. I especially enjoyed seeing Candace Bergen back on the big screen!

Cast: Nat Wolff (Teddy), Reese Witherspoon (Alice Kinney), Candace Bergen (Alice’s Mom), Lake Bell (Zoey), Michael Sheen (Austen)

Credits: Directed and written by Hallie Meyers-Shyer.

Studio: Open Road Films

Run Time: 1 hour 37 minutes

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