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.

Deadpool (R) ★★★

“Deadpool 2” Stars Ryan Reynolds. Credit: Twentieth Century Fox

To begin, I’m strongly advising you see Deadpool starring Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson, before attempting to view Deadpool 2. The original highly successful R rated film is the first of it’s kind in the comic book genre to present a snarky, foul-mouthed anti-hero of sorts with a cynical attitude. Reynolds hit the jackpot with this role, and fans just can’t get enough. So how do you follow up an R-rated comic book film that grossed more than any other R-rated comic book film in history with over $750 million (US) in box-office receipts, and one that came in second of all time, behind The Passion of the Christ? This is a tough question; thankfully, Deadpool 2 doesn’t veer too far from the original, nor does it try to ‘out do’ the original.

Reynolds stepped up to the plate to safeguard his ‘breakout’ character—yes, he has screenplay writing credits. If you’re a fan of the snarky, one-liner, potty-mouthed, red latex bodysuit, invincible guy—then you’ll most likely be entertained by Deadpool 2, as I was—it’s outrageous adult ‘raunchy fun,’ but also darker than the original. The screenplay written by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, and Reynolds is directed by David Leitch of John Wick (2014) and Atomic Blonde (2017).

An obvious fact, but one that needs to be stated, is that Deadpool 2 is the meta-Deadpool, a movie about the first movie’s wild success, and focuses on the likely hurdles that a sequel presents. In fact, it’s so mindful of the situation it blatantly proclaims, “Sequels are unimaginative cash-grabs.” near the opening.

“Deadpool 2” Stars Ryan Reynolds. Credit: Twentieth Century Fox

Creative license soars to new heights in Deadpool 2, the opening credits are child-like crayon drawings that introduce the film, they’re all a farce; as in the director card stating: ‘Directed by the guy who killed the dog in John Wick’ as the funniest. Eccentric in tone, the sequences feel as though they’ve been spread out on to a desktop and patched together like a quilt; these random storylines could easily be interchangeable. However, that’s precisely why the film stands out. Writers Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, and Ryan Reynolds want their comic book character to have above all uniqueness, Deadpool is filled with over-the-top non-conformance.
The entire film references other comic book films, and pop culture mentions, typically by making fun of them in some way; Green Lantern, joke in the credits, Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice’s silly mommy moment, Hawkeye’s lack of powers, Josh Brolin’s Thanos’s two-timing as a character in Avengers: Infinity of War less than three weeks ago, at one point Wade simply calls Brolin’s (Cable), “Thanos,” Logan’s gags you’ll need to see for yourself. Look for chatter of Disney’s Frozen movie soundtrack, and let’s not forget Canadian Ryan Reynolds ode to fellow Canadian star singer Céline Dion. Read more ›

Book Club (PG-13) ★★★½

Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen, Jane Fonda, Mary Steenburgen all star in “Book Club” Credit: Paramount Pictures 2018

Book Club, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Wine Bottle

For those of us that are currently in a ‘book club’ or those of us who’ve been in one in the past, we are undeniably privy to the fact that the book is never the star of  ‘book club’ it’s the wine and the sisterhood. I’m pleased to say; in the film, Book Club director/writer Bill Holderman and writer Erin Simms got this right for their debut rom/com. 

Mary Steenburgen, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Diane Keaton, all star in “Book Club” premeire Credit: Getty Images

The collective star power cast, Jane Fonda (Vivian), Diane Keaton, (Diane), Candice Bergen (Sharon), and Mary Steenburgen (Carol) all friends since college gather monthly for their book club. Vivian decides to spice things up by choosing Fifty Shades of Grey, the trilogy. As stated, the film doesn’t center on the book or books; it’s about using them as vehicles to generate conversations that will seep over into their romantic lives, or possibly lack thereof.  So call your friends, choose a theater serving wine as Book Club has so much to say about older women and the realization that we should all be living our best fulfilling life, despite what society may proclaim.

This wildly comical, smart film shows older female characters taking risks in order to find their voices; thus unleashing dormant mindsets. In Hollywood’s blatantly under-served market, the ‘star power female foursome’ of Bergen, Fonda, Keaton, and Steenburgen are a fresh respite; these seasoned actors could all go toe to toe with the Sex and the City girls. The film gives encouraging notice to the younger crowd of what the third act in life should look like, by providing an understanding that life isn’t over just because you’re a certain age.

(L-R) Don Johnson, Jane Fonda in the film, BOOK CLUB, by Paramount Pictures

Book Club explores individually, the four women’s romantic lives, and their attempts to either spice up the game, be open to love again, or in two of the women’s situations get back in the game. Here’s the great news, the film also takes a more in-depth look at ageism in our society, a smack dab, in-your-face interpretation. What behavior is acceptable to an older woman? Shouldn’t knowledge and wisdom count for something? After viewing this empowering film, I’m here to tell you that Hallmark’s card and party section of “Over the Hill” black party themes is yesterday’s news! Growing older should be a celebration of a continued journey filled with knowledge, growth, risk-taking, facing your fears all-leading to self-actualization—that aha moment of realizing your true self. 

Mary Steenburgen in the film, BOOK CLUB, by Paramount Pictures

Steenburgen the musically talented singer and dancer plays her role as sweet as honey, yet there’s a twist, she’s an underhanded schemer, although happily married to Bruce (Craig T. Nelson), she longs of igniting the fire that has since burned out of their love life. With the help of her friends and the racy Fifty Shades books she devises several covert plans, puts them into action while we see the hilarious or not so comical results.

Jane Fonda in the film, BOOK CLUB, by Paramount Pictures

The sassy successful, real estate mogul Fonda has dated most of her life but has built up walls to protect herself, thus avoiding intimacy; she’s missing an emotional attachment. When a past boyfriend played by the ever handsome Arthur (Don Johnson) circles back into her life, she’s willing to give love a second chance. Her journey is poignant as she faces the challenge of being emotionally vulnerable and hurt.

Diane Keaton in the film, BOOK CLUB, by Paramount Pictures

Keaton plays her typical insecure, pleaser role as a recent widow after 40 years of marriage and is reluctant to get back into a romantic situation, especially as her grown kids discourage any male friends. Her life heats up when she meets the suave and unwavering Mitchel (Andy Garcia). Their magnetic chemistry shows on screen, as their improv scenes are natural; recalling their fantastic performances in The Godfather Part Three, (1990) the last time they worked together. 

(L-R) Candice Bergen, Diane Keaton in the film, BOOK CLUB, by Paramount Pictures

Bergen is a workaholic single federal judge who’s lost her belief in herself.  Her obstacle is her own self-worth; a palpable victim of how she views society judges her: That a woman of her age is no longer pertinent, is no longer sexy, and should no longer be in a physical relationship. She’s closed that door, living a dedicated life to her career; of being a very successful, powerful federal judge and after all, she does have a cat for company. Married for many years to a bland guy, (Ed Begley, Jr.) salt is added to her wounded spirit, he’s engaged to a younger woman less than half her age whom he met on a dating website. Again, with the help of her sisterhood, she gets back in the game, (look for a hysterical dressing room Spanx scene), her first date is none other than tax attorney (right up her alley) Einstein (Richard Dreyfuss). Incidentally, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Dreyfuss; he’s a no filter kind of guy, all around. Screenplay writer Erin Simms shared with me that he told her, “I think if there’s going to be a Book Club 2 that I should have a part in that, I absolutely want to work with Candice Bergen again.” Simms, grabbed her notebook, with pen in hand and documented his statement and replied, “Duly noted Mr. Dryfuss!”

(L-R) Richard Dreyfuss, Candice Bergen in the film, BOOK CLUB, by Paramount Pictures

The gloves aren’t off here, or the clothes, but the filters are, which adds to the believability of the older age comedic situations, in this Chardonnay sipping tale. All four award-winning women have nothing to prove anymore career-wise, they are clearly working because they choose too. Does it mean they’ve simply dialed in their performances? No, never, not these actresses, they offer their esteemed professionalism to the highest degree of their craft. These are women to be admired for their years of hard work and dedication in an industry that has typically undervalued women. Each has paid her dues and paved the way for generations to come. They should be applauded! 

(L-R) Diane Keaton, Andy Garcia in the film, BOOK CLUB, by Paramount Pictures

The Bottom line: Book Club is smart, funny, deeply rooted, all while giving the world a mirror to how ‘old age’ should appear.

Cast: Jane Fonda (Vivian), Diane Keaton, (Diane), Candice Bergen (Sharon), and Mary Steenburgen (Carol), Andy Garcia (Mitchel), Don Johnson (Arthur), Richard Dreyfuss (Einstein), Ed Begley, Jr. (Tom).

Credits: Director, writer Bill Holderman, writer Erin Simms

Studio: Paramount Pictures

Run Time: 1 hour 44 minutes 

Check out my interviews with Bill Holderman and Erin Simms https://www.sarahsbackstagepass.com/bill-holderman-and-erin-simms-interview-book-club/

Sarah Knight Adamson© May 17, 2018

Solo: A Star Wars Story (PG-13) ★★★½

“Solo: A Star Wars Story” Credit: Disney Studios-2018

Younger Hans Solo Has Grit and Drive

Solo: A Star Wars Story is a fun-filled, entertaining prequel; mostly due to its lead and co-stars. Alden Ehrenreich (Hans Solo) first caught my attention in the romantic gothic fantasy film Beautiful Creatures (2014) he plays a love-struck teen who dreams of leaving his oppressive small town of narrow-minded people. The two roles have similar elements; Han’s in love with Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) as he also schemes to escape— whereas here, he’s an indentured teen slave. There’s something about the twinkle in Ehrenreich’s eyes, the cocked-head and roguish half smile, this guy’s a charmer all right—one who’s usually up to mischief and grand plans. In Solo, his master plan is to pilot a spaceship. Flying is non-negotiable for him and when we ultimately view him in the cockpit—I guarantee you’ll be thinking—sweet!

“Solo: A Star Wars Story” Credit: Disney Studios-2018

Director Ron Howard, got on board after two of the former directors, Chris Lord and Phil Miller were let go over creative differences. George Lucas dreamed up Star Wars in 1977, due to the fact that he couldn’t get the rights to Flash Gordon—and the rest is history. Howard picked up the pieces and re-shot most of what was in place, adding his own touches, the goal was to keep the same story-line, just create a stand-alone unique film. And that it is. Father and son screenplay writers Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan, weave the back-story of a young Han Solo, fighting for his survival in the crime-ridden mean streets of the industrial shipbuilding planet Corellia.

Ron Howard Directs “Solo: A Star Wars Story” Credit: Disney Studios-2018

From the get-go, Han is determined to get in the pilot’s seat, he eventually meets a heist boss, a strong-minded Beckett (Woody Harrelson) who’s assembling a team of rouges to perform risky heists that garner sky-rocket profit margins. In a mud-soaked scene, Han meets up with Chewbacca, (Joonas Suotamo), and when he discovers his name, he says irksomely, “I’m not saying that every time, I’ll call you Chewie.” Suotamo began his Star Wars journey in 2015 when he first appeared as Chewbacca in Star Wars: Episode VII. As a former 6’11” professional basketball player, he played basketball at Penn State, graduated in three and a half years with honors studying film and video. During the Red Carpet premiere of Solo: A Star Wars Story, he was asked to ‘Wookiee roar’ on cue he then said his thank you’s to screenwriters Lawrence and Jonathan Kasda, “I especially love the line where I say, (makes Wookiee utterance).” He was also quoted as saying, “Thanks for giving me all of that dialogue.” Read more ›

Always At the Carlyle (Documentary) ★★

Check in For an Impressive Guest List, Check out due to Tattletaling

I’ve always maintained that The Carlyle Hotel is a captivating art enthusiast destination in New York City due to the paintings of Ludwig Bemelman that adorn the walls of Bemelman’s Bar. For those who haven’t seen the murals, they are worth the trip—you’ll see whimsical drawings of New York City in all four seasons by the famous ‘Madeline’ book artist. I’ve visited there a few times over the years to enjoy the ambiance of the cozy place while sipping a cocktail. Truth be told, I never had much interest in actually staying at the swanky Carlyle Hotel, but may now after viewing the documentary, although not sure that justify’s the hotel’s high prices. I had no idea the hotel is typically full of celebrities, who knew that George Clooney is actually a regular, (he’s checked in for three months in the past) as well as Anthony Bourdain, Harrison Ford, Vera Wang, George Clooney, Naomi Campbell, Sofia Coppola, Harrison Ford, Angelica Huston, Lenny Kravitz, and Wes Anderson, to name a few. Name-dropping is what this doc is all about—from JFK to Princess Diana—the staff will acknowledge that certain celebrities have stayed in the hotel. Unfortunately aside from name-dropping—not much else worthy of noting is divulged in this somewhat drab, thinly scripted doc, that’s mainly stuffed with talking heads.

Director Matthew Miele is on a roll, with his recent films that center on similar upscale establishments as Tiffany’s, Crazy About Tiffany’s (2013) and Bergdorf Goodman, Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s (2013) the docu-style tone is similar in its advertorial nature. However, before you get too excited—check out the price for a one-night stay. The film is a long list of celebrity interviewees anchored by devoted Carlyle Hotel staffers, who serve them. Unfortunately tonally, the film feels two-faced—yes, the Carlyle Hotel, known for its discretion on guests’ details or gossip, (made clear from the beginning of the film)—has a catch-22—the core celebrity factor along with name-dropping depends on those stories, without them, there is no film. Given the pristine reputation of the Carlyle, these stories—unless told by the guests feel like a betrayal.


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Life of the Party (PG-13)★★★ Radio Podcast

Melissa McCarthy stars in “Life of the Party” Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

McCarthy’s Sweet Mom-Com Has a Ginormous Heart

Undeniably, Melissa McCarthy is one of the funniest women working in Hollywood to date. After her break-out role in Bridesmaids (2011), the female version of The Hangover, McCarthy continues to cross over into typical guy-dominated roles: buddy cops in The Heat, world reconnaissance in Spy, and exterminating ghosts in Ghostbusters. Here she’s reinventing the manboy character as in Rodney Dangerfield’s Back to School and Will Ferrell’s Old School in creating a sweet, unassuming mom role in Life of the Party. Truly a winner, as the smart script offers a variety of relatable themes—mom-daughter bonds, single parenting, facing your fears, and becoming your best self—all while boasting several laugh-out-loud moments. The audience I screened the film with applauded and cheered at the ending.

Melissa McCarthy as Deanna, in “Life of the Party” Photo Credit Warner Bros.

She teams up yet again with her husband Ben Falcone, as co-writer, director, and actor (he plays the Uber driver whom McCarthy voices her sob story). McCarthy plays Deanna, a be-dazzled sweatshirted mom who’s dropping her college-senior daughter Maddie (Molly Gordon) at school and saying her good-byes. Their relationship is open, respectful and loving. All her annoyingly cheap dad, Dan, (Matt Walsh), can say is that ‘he’s looking forward to the day her tuition payments are over.’ While driving away, he basically tells Deanna he’s in love with another woman, (the local real estate agent Marcie (Julie Bowen), he is selling their house and wants a divorce. Deanna’s reaction is hurt, followed by anger; she kicks the car, stomps off and dials Uber. Read more ›

Tully (R) ★★★½ Written Review and Radio Podcast🎙

Charlize Theron stars as Tully. Photo Credit: Focus Features

Authentic Portrayal of Motherhood, Uniting Humor and Love at its Core

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

Tully is a female character driven movie from the heart, which mothers universally will champion and applaud for its realism—to be clear, it is not the flawlessly staged Mommy Blog Instagram photos that display angelic children with posed smiles and lovely stain-free attire. Native Chicago suburban writer Diablo Cody, known for her Academy Award winning screenplay of Juno (2007) along with director Jason Reitman brings us their third film together. Tully’s tone feels like the grownup version of Juno; she’s now in mid-life crises mode, heading smack dab into postpartum depression. But, don’t let that scare you off, this quick-witted dark comedy, had me laughing out loud. Tully is a film for all to see, to clearly appreciate that motherhood, like old age, is not for sissies. If anything, you’ll gain an empathic view of the never-ending duties and responsibilities of merely being a mom.

To begin, we are introduced to 40-year-old Marlo (Charlize Theron) in her last days of pregnancy; a mother of two who’s expecting her third and, alas surprise baby. It’s the nightly bedtime routine as Marlo gently therapeutically brushes the skin of her 5-year-old son, Jonah (Asher Miles Fallica), as he has dramatic, anxiety-driven episodes, undiagnosed at this point, but labeled “quirky.” Marlo’s husband Drew (Ron Livingston) doesn’t interact much with the kids; he travels and tunes out by playing video-games when he is home. To be fair, Drew loves Marlo and their children, he’s taken on more responsibility in his job, which yields a higher paycheck, but as a result, he’s stressed out. Quickly, we surmise Margo’s challenging situation—this is all before the baby is born.

In capturing the actual essence of the birth experience, I must say, this is one of the most genuine I’ve seen on screen. Edited to perfection—the real deal. Not the drawn-out wailing, ear-piercing screams—here the focus is on the nonnegotiable exhaustion from hours of labor. Theron’s performance is astonishing, she, along with the clever script and sharp direction bring the movie to life. Ah, yes, a new baby, Mia, is her name, all those hopes, and dreams. Yet, there’s constant sleeplessness, non-stop nursing, piled-up laundry, that over-flowing Diaper Genie, atypical outbursts from Jonah, lack of co-parenting, unfamiliar body image, etc. We see the helplessness of the situation and come to realize that even in a wanted pregnancy that has support, motherhood is a tough job.

Charlize Theron stars as Marlo in Jason Reitman’s TULLY, a Focus Features release.

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Beirut (R) ★★★½

A Triller with John Hamm Leading the Way

Beirut once known as the Paris of the Middle East hasn’t seen those days of glory since the 1975 Civil War, the 1982 Lebanon War with Israel, the 2006 Israeli conflict and the current continuing terrorist attacks. The film begins in 1972 exploring the origins of the city’s downfall in a gripping spy thriller anchored by an outstanding performance by Jon Hamm.

U.S. academic Mason Skiles’s (Jon Hamm) entire life changes in a flash. During a raid his wife is killed in the crossfire as Palestinian terrorists kidnap a teen boy, Karim Abou Rajal (Idir Chender-older version) that’s been staying with them as a family member—the boy’s older brother Abu Rajal (Hicham Ouraqa), a notorious Palestinian terrorist is linked to the recent Summer Olympics massacre in Munich.

Fast-forward ten years, Skiles an expert labor negotiator who is drowning in grief by the death of his wife while routinely hitting the booze, has sleepless nights that leave him in a weary state. U.S. intelligence agents soon entice Skiles back to Beirut when a his former friend, a spy is kidnapped.

The last place Skiles wants to revisit is Beirut, as that’s where his life fell apart in a matter of minutes. However, he sees a chance to save his friend and discover the truth about the teen refugee, Karim, who lied to him about being orphaned when in fact he has a terrorist brother. Read more ›

Avengers: Infinity War (PG-13) ★★½ by S. Knight Adamson

Both Exciting and Exhausting, the Underwhelming Supervillain Further Bogs Down the Overwhelming Amount of Characters and Scope

Avengers: Infinity War is part one of a ten-year Marvel finale, that includes 18 movies starting in 2008 with Iron Man and the comic book superheroes that began in 1941. Truly an unparalleled cinematic feat, in not only scope—but also the pure number of characters and universes—good luck keeping track of it all! The film advances through insane pacing—in and out of universes; Earth, Knowhere, Vormir, Zen-Whoberi, Titan, and Nidavellir all while a gazillion characters dart in and out.

Unfortunately, the prolonged storyline leaves little time for character development, which creates merely a celebrity cameo effect. Good luck keeping track of the 34+ characters; I had a difficult time, and I’ve seen all 18 films. This being said, my main objection to the film is the dark-tone played out through torture, violence, beatings, and deaths. Yes, there’s humor, especially when Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Spiderman (Tom Holland), and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) are joking around, although it happens in short spurts. I secretly rejoiced when the Guardians of the Galaxy’s, Chris Pratt’s (Star-Lord) first appears on screen to the blaring catchy tune Rubberband Man. He’s always comical while natural in his role.

Josh Brolin as Thanos-Avengers: Infinity War (2018) Disney Studios

At the center of the storyline is the villain Thanos, who aspires to be a god and bring balance to the universe. He can achieve this by collecting all of the infinity stones that will grant him unparalleled power in the universe. Make no mistake, the ginormous Thanos (Josh Brolin), who’s leather-clad face and a bulging rectangle lined chin—has a sole intention—kill half of the world. He proclaims, “kill away” in the opening scene before the title card. The problem—he doesn’t look like a scary psycho-death fiend. More like the ogre in the Jack and the Beanstalk fairy tale. When comparing the comic art drawings to the CGI movie depiction, his face is ultra frightening in the comic art; a dark purple color with menacing tiny glowing eyes, and huge teeth. Here, his face is flesh-colored, with a closed mouth and squinty, yet, somewhat normal eyes.

Thanos Marvel Comic Book Art

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Avengers: Infinity War (PG-13) ★★★½ by J. Aymond

Robert Downey Jr. stars in “Avengers: Infinity War.” Photo Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / Marvel Studios

Avengers: Infinity Wars Sets New Bar for Superhero Spectacles

To call the film, Avengers: Infinity War a blockbuster movie is frankly an understatement at this point. The movie reportedly cost $300 million to make, which ranks it as the second-most expensive film, ever. The cast is an embarrassment of riches as its loaded with Hollywood stars. The film itself is the 19th century in the Marvel Universe franchise and is the culmination of all the preceding films, which include big movie franchises (Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Spiderman, The Hulk, Guardians of the Galaxy, and the recent smash, Black Panther). Clearly, with that budget, cast, and back story to build off, the expectations for this movie are sky high.   Fortunately, for the fans (and the studio), the Russo brothers, who directed this film, did not disappoint with this undertaking. Although the film has its weak spots, it’s a hugely entertaining movie and will undoubtedly be a massive hit film for the largest franchise in Hollywood.       

As described, Infinity War is the culmination of many previous Marvel films. While it’s too difficult to go into detail about all that has transpired in the previous 18 movies to get to this point, the audience just needs to know that the unifying thread is the rise of a powerful and evil being named Thanos (Josh Brolin, Only the Brave, 2017). Thanos, who is a giant, bluish-purple being from the planet Titan (Iron Man cleverly calls him “Grimace”), is seeking six mystical Infinity Stones that are scattered across the universe. The Infinity Stones grant unique abilities over mind, soul, space, power, time and reality. In the previous films, these stones have been protected or held by different heroes of the Marvel Universe and Thanos has been hunting the stones down in the background.

The action of this film takes place literally after the final scenes of Thor: Ragnorak, which came out last summer. Thor (Chris Hemsworth, 12 Strong, 2017) and his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston, Early Man, 2017), who are flying their people through space to find a new home, come under attack by Thanos, who now has the Power Stone. Thanos wants the Space Stone that Loki is hiding. The Guardians of the Galaxy led by Peter Quill (Chris Pratt, Passengers, 2016) hear Thor’s distress call and arrive on the scene to help, although it’s too late as Thanos has taken the Space Stone already. After some hilarious banter, Thor and the Guardians of the Galaxy eventually align to fight Thanos as he seeks two more stones in outer space. Meanwhile, Thanos sends his minions to Earth for the remaining two stones.

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Blockers (R) ★★★½

“Blockers” Universal Pictures

Hysterical “Blockers” Boasts Great Cast

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

The film Blockers main premise is most parents’ worst nightmare−the discovery your teen has made a haphazard life-altering decision. A parent’s glimmer of hope−they just may be able to “block” the dumb choice. Here, three teens decide to lose their virginity on prom night; with two of those teens’ solely in for the shared experience between friends. Do they quickly choose random classmates to fulfill their desire? Yes. Are we shocked? No, not really, most teens often time make snap decisions. More importantly, is Blockers funny? Happy to say yes!

Leslie Man, (How to be Single 2016) John Cera, (Trainwreck 2015) & Ike Barinholtz (Snatched 2017) are the parent blockers of three teen girls; Kayla, Julie, and Sam. In a comical scene after the prom pre-party Leslie Mann notices texts messages on her daughter’s computer, together the parents decipher the emoji’s that have sexual meaning such as the purple eggplant, amongst others. Upon the discovery, Mann and Cera kick into high gear, and hunter tries to stop them.

Chicago Second City alumue, screenwriter and producer Kay Cannon makes her directing debut. The rest of the movie has us following the duo in ‘progressive party’ mode from house to house, and finally house to hotel. Along the way, it’s apparent that both have their own reason for their group crazed intervention. Mitchell clearly has issues with any boy that Kayla shows any interest in, yes he’s in denial that his little girl is becoming a woman. Mann, a single mom, had hopes of Julie attending college near their home, she’s devastated at the thought of her going so far from home. Hunter’s motives are driven by guilt as he’s been an absent father during the family’s unfriendly separation. We do find that later in the film Hunter’s distance is somewhat warranted as untruths unfold and he and Sam reconnect. Dad also suspects that his daughter is gay, and her choice in the ‘prom sex pact’ will only end in regret. Read more ›

A Quiet Place (PG-13) Written Review and Podcast ★★★½ 🎙

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Shh…Don’t Say a Word

Sci-fi giant spider-like creatures can’t see you—so no need to hide—except, if they hear you—they’ll kill you instantly. That’s the premise of this tightly edited, spine-tingling sci-fi horror film. Be prepared for 95 minutes of suspense building, nerve-wracking drama as a family attempts to survive in a dystopian world where making a sound means certain death.

John Krasinski stars as dad Lee Abbott, he’s also co-writer and director with Emily Blunt his real-life wife, playing his wife, Evelyn. Their two pre-teen children Marcus (Noah Jupe) and (Regan) Millicent Simmonds live in the year 2020; yet, in an upstate New York rural dystopian setting. All know, if you speak, you die.

Upon our first meeting of the Abbott family, we see two pre-teens and a younger brother Beau (Cade Woodward) around four years of age. They are tiptoeing while barefoot in a ramshackle pharmacy while mom Evelyn looks for medicine for Marcus. Beau finds a battery-powered toy spaceship and wants to keep it. A concerned dad, signs the word, “No,” then signs, “It will be too loud.” As he’s signing, words appear on the screen as captions. And wouldn’t you know it, before we can comprehend the gravity of the situation; big sis, gives Beau the toy while dad and mom aren’t looking? Very quickly, the film grabs hold of you and lets you know it’s playing for keeps as Beau meets a tragic end, all due to the eerie noise of an innocent toy. Read more ›

Ready Player One Radio Podcast and Transcript (PG-13) ★★★½🎙

Plot revolves around losing yourself in fantasy worlds, it zip-lines at hyper speed and changes environments just as quickly, jam-packed action with numerous pop-culture nostalgia. Yep, it’s fun!

Director Steven Spielberg’s latest movie is based on Ernest Cline’s 2011 book of the same name. Centering on a virtual world called ‘Oasis’ gamers spend much of their time due to the harsh everyday reality of a futuristic 2045.
Click Here to listen to Sarah Knight Adamson’s Hollywood 360 Radio Podcast:

Orphan Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan, Apocalypse 2016) escapes his bleak daily routine by immersing himself in Oasis. He lives in a trailer nearby while his aunt and her abusive boyfriend live a few trailers away.

Let’s Take a Listen: “People come to the Oasis because all of the things they can do, they stay because all the things they can be. “Can you feel this?”

“Yes, it’s the only place where I feel like I mean anything,” says Sheridan.

With much of the world in dire straights, the majority of humans waste their days in the Oasis. Designed by the late billionaire tech genius James Donovan Halliday (Mark Rylance), who appears in flashbacks wearing an‘Einstein fashioned’ wig. Halliday, a tech genius similar to a Steve Jobs of the future, created simulations in his world where you can fight King Kong, ski pyramids, hang out with Batman, go to a cool disco with a chic, stylish girl, and—better yet—you’ll have impressive dance moves. Read more ›

Isle of Dogs (PG-13) ★★★

“Isle of Dogs” stars (the voices of) Bryan Cranston, Liev Schreiber, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Scarlett Johansson, Jeff Goldblum, Courtney B. Vance and Greta Gerwig
Photo Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Isle of Dogs is a Treat for Audiences 

When people go to see a Wes Anderson film there are a few things they come to expect – clever dialogue, ornate sets, and scenes, and…at some point, Bill Murray. With his latest film, Isle of Dogs, his second stop-motion animation movie, Anderson checks all three boxes. The tale is set in a dystopian Japan and focuses on a group of dogs who are living on an island / garbage dump after the government banished them from the cities. The numerous dogs in the film are voiced by some Wes Anderson veterans (Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum) and some newcomers (Bryan Cranston, Liev Schreiber, Scarlett Johannsson), while the humans are mostly voiced by Japanese actors and are subtitled. The film is humorous and inventive, but the over-the-top depiction of Japanese culture and somewhat dark undertone may not appeal to everyone.

The movie opens with a narrator (Courtney B. Vance, The Mummy, 2016), describing (via flashbacks) a war battle between dogs and humans that resulted in the domestication of all dogs. Eventually, the long-standing peace between pet and master crumbles after all of the dogs succumb to a new, mysterious dog flu and allegedly pose a threat to the humans.  Although scientists are working on a cure, a new authoritarian government, led by Mayor Kobayashi (whose ancestor was killed in the dog-human battles), assumes control. Kobayashi sends all of the dogs to a landfill island where they are now forced to fend for themselves. To prove the seriousness of his law, Mayor Kobayashi sends a dog from his own house to the landfill first.

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All I Wish (R) ★★★

Sharon Stone Still Rocks

Should a 60-yr-old actress permanently be typecast as a mom or a grandma? Sharon Stone can answer that question—the answer—an emphatic no way! When first-time director Susan Walter took a chance on a major script change from Stone, she opened the anti-ageism floodgates for all females. You see, Walter sent the script to Stone inquiring if she’d play the lead’s mom—Stone replied back that it would be more interesting to play the lead daughter role, not to mention it’s a storyline viewers haven’t seen before. What’s fascinating is Walter’s rely, that the character she had in mind wears a bikini, plays beach volleyball, smokes pot, dances in bars, drinks shots, doesn’t want marriage and has casual sex. Stone’s message, “Don’t change a thing other than the age.”

Together they have finally broken through the ‘old’ Hollywood stigma (pun intended) by creating a contemporary character in which women can truly relate. Just because you’re approaching 50 doesn’t mean you can’t be intelligent, sexy, single, desirable, playful and still have dreams of an exciting career. We’ve seen many films with a lead guy in this position—sometimes it’s called; for lack of a better term—‘The Peter Pan’ syndrome. And now, frankly that I look at the situation through a female’s eyes, I see that label as antiquated. At age 50, is it so important that we (men and women) have everything figured out, especially those whoppers—love life and career?

Stone plays Senna a struggling fashion designer whose emotional state could be a character in the film; it indeed structures the tone, her actions, and the reactions of the cast. One minute she’s happy, the next—not so much. One thing we do know for sure, she doesn’t need a man to define her, nor does she need one simply to please her mom and friends. Her world does turn upside down when she falls in love with Adam (Tony Goldwyn), as he has plans of his own. Read more ›

Pacific Rim: Uprising (PG-13) ★★

Pacific Rim: Uprising

Action Sequences Mirror Transformer Films

The sequel to Pacific Rim continues the ten years after the setting of the original film, the year is now 2035 in a science fiction world where monsters are at war with earth. These monsters named giant Kaiju’s are aliens that arrived via a breach in the Pacific Rim. They are unstoppable with the established weaponry. Only giant robotic warriors called Jaegers—piloted by humans connected, typically as a duo, as their minds are drifted together to double the strength and operate the Jaegers from within.

So, should you go and see it? In my opinion, I’d wait for the DVD or streaming format. In full disclosure, I was very excited about the first film—giving it a glowing review. The creative world of Kaiju’s and Jaegers was epic. The original ideas presented were thought provoking especially when it came to big screen action. “Pacific Rim: Uprising” lacks the newness factor, the wow factor, and the engaging storyline factor. Its tone is more of a ‘Transformers’ film, (loud, crunchy, whip-lash filming, somewhat teen-centered and wait, let’s not forget those continued earsplitting explosions. Read more ›

I Kill Giants (PG-13) ★★½

I Kill Giants

Pre-teen Struggles with Family Trauma

I Kill Giants is based on the graphic comic book series of the same name written in 2008 by the famous comic book writer Joe Kelly, of Deadpool, and Uncanny X-Men fame with artist J. M. Ken Niimura. Danish filmmaker Anders Walter directs in his debut feature. If you’ve read all seven issues of the graphic novels, it would seem conceivable to adapt the book into a feature film, as the work is astonishing. The undertaking would be no easy feat – as the casting, as well as the narrative for the main star absolutely, has to be spot on. Here, the casting of the pre-teen is perfect.

 

If you take away anything from this review, know that Madison Wolfe who plays Barbara a 12-year old troubled middle school girl, is outstanding in the role. What I found distracting to the core themes of the film which are trauma, mental illness, and recovery; was the violence of the repeated bullying; we’re talking fist punches to the face, knock down drag out fighting. Also, the vulgar dialogue that appears in the novels as well as the film that serve little purpose in moving the story forward, and generate a creepy tone. An example is Karen (Imogen Poots) the older sister yelling at her brother after she’s finished serving he and his friends’ dinner, “ Dave, I busted my ass on that.” Dave, “Yeah, it smells like you put your ass in that!” This scene is near the beginning of the book and the film; we are scratching our heads wondering where in the world are their parents. Regrettably, we don’t find out until two-thirds of the film is over. Which, by the way is another problem in the script.

So where do the giants come into play? They are in a magical-realist world as Barbara retreats deeper and deeper into an emotionally distressed state. Similar in theme to A Monster Calls (2016). We view them in plain sight, they communicate with Barbara, and she tries her best to handle her demons, on her own. The monsters become the center of Barbara’s life, yep, all-consuming. Kelly doesn’t want us to know the trauma until much later in the story−I will not ruin the surprise− so no revel here. Read more ›

The Fencer ★★★ ½ Foreign Language Film

The Fencer

Estonia Gains a Hero

This inspiring universally themed fictionalized story of Endel Nelis (Märt Avandi) an Estonian fencing champion who becomes a role model and mentor to students in his homeland is my kind of film. It can be categorized as an underdog sports drama, a political thriller, a history lesson in the Russian government of the 50s, but most importantly it centers on the teacher/coach/student relationship and the close bonds that are formed.

Directed by Finnish filmmaker Klaus Härö, it’s the winner of the Jussi Award (Finland’s Oscar) for Best Film and Best Cinematography, a Best Foreign Language Film nominee for the 2016 Golden Globes and Finland’s official selection for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film. It will be released in DVD and VOD March 27.

The Soviets arrived in Estonia in 1940; they drove out the Nazis and then annexed the country. The Estonian men who had been forced to join the German army were then persecuted, executed or sent to Siberia by the Russian police. Families were broken, leaving many children without fathers or grandfathers. When Nelis shows up in the small village, he’s in hiding, as his forced German past is in question. Used to the life of a fencing champion, the big city of Leningrad, his friends and family, he now has the challenge to carve out a new life for himself. Read more ›

Journey’s End (R) ★★★½ Radio Review and Transcript🎙

WWI Drama Shows Courage and Heart

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

When one reflects back to WWI, images of soldiers fighting in trenches come to mind. Journey’s End, is a riveting account of those claustrophobic tight quarters along with the emotional tension soldiers and officers endured. With a setting near northern France, during a four-day period in March of 1918, C-company 12 men (2 officers and ten soldiers) await their orders to be called up to the front-line in those trenches awaiting the Germans to attack.

With an all-star super cast, Asa Butterfield, Sam Claflin, Paul Bettany, Stephen Graham, Toby Jones and Tom Sturridge director Saul Dibb gives the film a sense of authenticity, with stellar performances.
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Tomb Raider (PG-13) ★★½ Radio Podcast and Transcript 🎙

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

Yes, it’s a Non-stop Video-game with Little Pizazz

Tomb Raider (PG-13) stars Swedish actress Alicia Vikander it’s the remake of Laura Croft -Tomb Raider that starred Angelia Jolie in 2001. Both are based on a popular video game.

In the new version, Croft hasn’t accepted any of her wealthy father’s (Dominic West) inheritance after his 7-year disappearance, as that would mean she has acknowledged his death. She works as a bicycle delivery courier in London’s East Side, however, the film starts in a warehouse gym where’s she’s kickboxing an ultra-strong opponent. We view her training and know that she can fight if she had too.

Audio Clip, Let’s Take a Listen: Dad speaking, “Hello Sprout, if you’re listening to this then I must be dead. I found something a tomb called the Mother of Death. If Trinity succeeds, our world is in danger. Promise me you will stop them.” Lara replies to softly go herself, “I promise.”

Upon hearing this tape, Lara swings into action, and before she can pack her backpack, she’s off to Hong Kong. The film would not be worth watching without Vikander, who darts, leaps, and thrashes her way through this lack-luster re-boot with engaging fierceness. You just wish she had been matched up with a villain that displayed a fourth of her action skills.
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Thoroughbreds (R) ★★★

Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy appear in Thoroughbred by Cory Finley.

Thoroughbreds R

We all know teens do get into trouble, but how about murder? The awful step-dad, Mark (Paul Sparks) just ‘has’ to vanish from existence, and upper-class Lily’s (Anya Taylor-Joy) reconnection with her childhood friend Amanda (Olivia Cooke) is the perfect ticket. Amanda is full of devious plans and dark ideas; she blackmails a drug dealer Tim (the late, Anton Yelchin, of Star Trek fame who passed away shortly after making this film) to do the deed. You’ll certainly appreciate the excellent acting by all here with the addition of a shrewd, sharp, witty script.

This dark comedy, powers through a quickly paced narrative and is very engaging; although somewhat difficult to view as the teen’s conversations are psychopathically twisted. Both teens are troubled and find solace in their new re-acquaintance. Amanda states she doesn’t feel any emotions anymore, the girls explore the whys along with the idea of − is it really that big of a problem? Apparently not to them, because it’s very clear that the problem is step-dad Mark.

Director Cory Finley, in his first film, gives us a tense an evenly based film with light-hearted moments and chilling terror. Tone is a huge component here; the toggling between dark humor and psychotic is no easy feat. Finley shows remarkable promise as a filmmaker. Read more ›

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