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.

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

Podcast will post after the film review has aired. Stay tuned!

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

Radio Podcast will be posted after the review has aired. Stay tuned! 

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

The radio podcast will post after the review has aired. Stay Tuned.

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

It (R) ★★★

Stephen King’s novel “It” comes to the big screen in an updated adaptation. Andy Muschietti is the director.

Review coming soon!🎈

Tulip Fever (R) ★★½ Radio Podcast 🎙

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The setting is Amsterdam in 1634 and tells the story of tulip mania, aristocrats, servants, orphans, portrait painters, deception, betrayal, and consequences. Based on the best selling book by the bestselling book by author Deborah Moggach, I found the book both engaging and captivating.

A wealthy elderly man—two-time Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz—Cornelius Sandvoort, known as “the King of Peppercorns,” clad in an enormous “Dutch Master” frilly collar, sashays into an orphanage with the sole intent of purchasing a teen orphan that will become his bride. His end-game is to impregnate his child-bride in order to conceive a son that will serve as heir to his fortune.

Cornelius pays for a beautiful teen, age fifteen, Sophia played by 2016 Academy Award winner Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl). She’s told by the Abbess, “You have been an orphan girl on a stormy sea. Marriage is a safe harbor. Love, honor, and obey.” Cornelius takes her to his home as if he’s purchased a new puppy.

Cornelius decides to have their portrait painted, so people will at least know that even though he and his wife could have no children, he can at least have people think he was a “lucky old dog” to have such a beautiful young wife. Sophia’s not so sure about the idea but is intrigued from the get-go when she meets the young artist Jan Van Loos, played by Dane DeHaan. He, too, is intrigued with her luminousness beauty. An affair starts between Jan and Sophia begin an affair and the film takes many twists and turns from there. 

The Bottom Line: Having read the book, I found it both engaging and captivating. Unfortunately, the film adaption never reaches full bloom, but rather wilts, due to a diluted (over-watered) script with extensively over-pruned scenes—with — no rays of sunshine on the horizon.

Credits: Directed by Justin Chadwick Screenplay, Deborah Moggach, and Tom Stoppard

Cast: Christoph Waltz as Cornelius Sandvoort. Alicia Vikander as Sophia Sandvoort, Cornelius’s wife. Dane DeHaan as Jan Van Loos. Jack O’Connell as William. Zach Galifianakis as Gerrit. Judi Dench as The Abbess of St. Ursula, Holliday Grainger as Maria. Matthew Morrison as Mattheus.

 Studio: Weinstein Studios

 Running Time: 1 hour 47 minutes

* Author’s note, Tulip Fever has been a troubled film since its delayed release going back to 2014. No film critics, including me, were able to pre-screen the film. We were also under an embargo with an exact time Friday, September 1st at 8:00AM ET and 5:00AM PT of when we could write anything about this film. Strangely, all of the promotion quotes for the film are from book authors.

Sarah Knight Adamson© September 2, 2017

 

Tulip Fever (R) ★★½

Christoph Waltz and Alicia Vikander star in “Tulip Fever” Photo Credit: The Weinstein Company

🌷Tulip Fever Never Blooms

Amsterdam in the 17th century (1634) is the setting for this historical fiction film that tells the story of tulip mania, aristocrats, servants, orphans, portrait painters, deception, betrayal, and consequences. Having read the bestselling book by author Deborah Moggach, I found the book both engaging and captivating. Unfortunately, the film adaption never reaches full bloom, but rather wilts, due to a diluted (over-watered) script with extensively over-pruned scenes—and alas—no rays of sunshine on the horizon.

The stellar slice of the film is the set design and costuming of 1634 Amsterdam with its bustling canals, ships, pubs, and carnival-type atmosphere along with the drama of tulip back-room mania. One does feel as though they’ve been transported back to that era, which is a major achievement. Unfortunately, with all of Holland’s beauty, there isn’t one wide shot of the tulip fields in full bloom. Talk about a missed opportunity.

To be fair, the story is overly depressing. A wealthy elderly man—two-time Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz—Cornelius Sandvoort, known as “the King of Peppercorns,” clad in an enormous “Dutch Master” frilly collar, sashays into an orphanage with the sole intent of purchasing a teen orphan that will become his bride. His end-game is to impregnate his child-bride in order to conceive a son that will serve as heir to his fortune. Read more ›

The Trip to Spain ★★★ Radio Review Podcast 🎙

Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan star. Photo Credit:IFC Films

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The Trip to Spain is based on the British sitcom, The Trip (2010). It’s the third film in the series, the second, The Trip to Italy (2014). Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Marta Barrio and Claire Keelan all return in this film.

Coogan and Brydon have shown us the rolling countryside of Northern England, Italy, and now Spain with the addition of their local food and drink.

The Bottom-Line? Watching Coogan and Brydon bounce off each other is great. The pair has a perfect combination of ease and playful desire for one-upmanship.

Cast: Steve Coogan (Steve), Rob Brydon (Rob), Marta Barrio (Yolanda), Claire Keelan (Emma)

Credits: Directed by Michael Winterbottom.

Studio: IFC Films

Run Time: 1 hour and 47 minutes

The Hitman’s Bodyguard (R) ★★★ Radio Podcast🎙

Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds star. Summit Entertainment

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Ryan Reynolds is the world’s top protection agent he’s hired to deliver his number one enemy, hitman Samuel L. Jackson to testify in a high profile murder trial.

The Bottom-Line? The film worked for me due to the chemistry between Jackson and Reynolds. There’s nonstop action along with laugh-out-loud scenes. I also enjoyed Jackson’s outrageous speed boat driving scene in the Amsterdam canals.

Cast: Ryan Reynolds (Michael Bryce), Samuel L. Jackson (Darius Kincaid), Gary Oldman (Vladislav Dukhovich), Salma Hayek (Sonia Kincaid), Elodie Yung (Amelia Roussel)

Credits: Directed by Patrick Hughers. Written by Tom O’Connor

Studio: Summit Entertainment

Run Time: 1 hour and 51 minutes

Logan Lucky (PG-13) ★★★½ Radio Podcast 🎙

Channing Tatum, Riley Keough and Adam Driver star. Director Steven Soderbergh. Photo Credit: Fingerprint Releasing / Bleecker Street

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Jimmy (Channing Tatum) recruits his brother (Adam Driver), his sister (Riley Key-o) and a jailbird, (Daniel Craig) for a heist during a NASCAR race in North Carolina.

Bottom-line? A smart comedy that hits the mark! It’s down-home rip-roaring fun with knee-slappin’ jokes.

Cast: Katherine Waterston (Sylvia Harrison), Daniel Craig (Joe Bang), Channing Tatum (Jimmy Logan), Hilary Swank (Sarah Grayson), Adam Driver (Clyde Logan), Seth MacFarlane (Max Chilblain), Katie Holmes (Bobbie Jo Logan Chapman)

Credits: Directed by Steven Soderbergh. Written by Rebecca Blunt

Studio: Fingerprint Releasing / Bleecker Street

The Glass Castle (R) ★★ Radio Podcast 🎙

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

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Is a true story based on the best selling memoir by Jeannette Walls. It’s a tale of a deeply dysfunctional father, he’s a dreamer and a drunk, played by Woody Harrelson. He routinely uproots his family of four kids − running from the law and bill collectors. The mentally unstable mother, played by Naomie Watts, works on her paintings while her kids are starving.

The Bottom-Line? I did read the book and enjoyed it just as I’m sure many of you did. Unfortunately the film is very tough to watch, a child suffers horrifying burns in the first 15 minutes of movie as she tries to cook a hot dog because the mother is ignoring her hunger. The tone is flat. We are subjected to one heart-wrenching scene after another. And−it’s too long, over 2 hours.

Cast: Brie Larson (Jeannette), Woody Harrelson (Rex), Naomi Watts (Rose Mary), Max Greenfield (David), Sarah Snook (Lori)

Credits: Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton. Written by Destin Daniel Cretton and Andrew Lanham

Studio: Lionsgate

Run Time: 2 hours 7 minutes

Detroit (R) ★★★

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

Detroit: When 1967 Meets 2017

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

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

Read more ›

Atomic Blonde (R) ★★★ Radio Podcast 🎙


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Charlize Theron stars as a British M-6 agent in the 80s who is dispatched to Berlin to receive her new assignment. She’s informed that a fellow agent in Berlin was killed and it is believed he had a file with the secret identities of the British spy network around the world. Her task is to recover the List and assassinate Satchel, a double agent who has sold intelligence to the Soviets for years and who also betrayed Gascoigne.

Bottom Line: Atomic Blonde is an entertaining summer film that spotlights Charlize Theron’s remarkable acting as an action star. The highlight of the film is the choreography and filing techniques.

Credits: Written by Kurt Johnstad; Directed by David Leitch

Cast: Charlize Theron (Lorraine Broughton), James McAvoy (David Percival), John Goodman (Emmett Kurzfeld), Til Schweiger (the Watchmaker), Eddie Marsan (The Spyglass), Sofia Boutella (Delphine Lasalle), Toby Jones Barnard (Eric Gray), Bill Skarsgard (Merkel), and Sam Hargrave (James Gascoigne)

Studio: Focus Features

Running Time: 115 minutes

Atomic Blonde (R) ★★★

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

Atomic Blonde Provides Explosive Action This Summer

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

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

Dunkirk (R) ★★★★ Radio Podcast 🎙

Warner Bros. Pictures

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Dunkirk takes place during WWII based on historical facts. Written and Directed by Christopher Nolan it tells the story of the evacuation of Allied troops from the French city of Dunkirk. Stars Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh and Mark Rye-lance with a sweeping musical score by Hans Zimmer. Nolan has been quoted as saying, ”We want to put people on the beach at Dunkirk, on the deck of the Moonstone boat and in the cockpit of a Spitfire plane. We want to take the audience on a very intense ride.”

Bottom Line: Dunkirk is one of the best films of 2017 and will be nominated for several Oscars. One word: Outstanding! It’s very intense and realistic from start to finish. By land, sea and air…you’ll experience firsthand what it was like to actually be there. It’s the ultimate life-or-death race against time. I loved it! 

Credits: Written and directed by Christopher Nolan

Cast: Mark Rylance (Mr. Dawson), Tom Hardy (Farrier), Fionn Whitehead (Tommy), Tom Glynn-Garter (Peter), Harry Styles (Alex), Aneurin Barnard (Gibson), Kenneth Branagh (Commander Bolton), Cillian Murphy (shivering soldier)

Studio: Warner Brothers

Running Time: 106 minutes

Dunkirk (PG-13) ★★★★

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

A Masterpiece on All Fronts

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

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

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

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

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

The Big Sick is based on the real-life courtship between Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon; it’s the story of Pakistan-born comedian Kumail (Nanjiani), who connects with grad student Emily (Kazan) after one of his stand-up sets. When Emily contracts a serious illness, it forces Kumail to navigate the medical crisis with her parents, Beth and Terry (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano) who he’s never met, while dealing with the emotional tug-of-war between his family and his heart.

Bottom Line: The story is a new twist on romantic comedies and one of the best I’ve seen in a long time.

Credits: Directed by Michael Showalter; Written by Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon

Cast: Kumail Nanjiani (Kumail), Zoe Kazan (Emily), Holly Hunter (Beth), Ray Romano (Terry), Adeel Akhtar (Naveed), Zenobia Shroff (Sharmeen), Anupam Kher (Azmat)

Studio: Amazon Studios / Lions Gate

Running Time: 124 

The Big Sick (R) ★★★★

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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