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.

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…

Posted in Movies 2017, Reviews

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

Posted in Film Review Podcast Archives, Hollywood 360, Movies 2017, Radio Podcasts, Reviews

Mudbound (R) ★★★★ Radio Podcast 🎙

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

Posted in Film Review Podcast Archives, Hollywood 360, Movies 2017, Radio Podcasts, Reviews

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

Posted in Movies 2017, Reviews

“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…

Posted in Movies 2017, Reviews

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

Posted in Film Review Podcast Archives, Hollywood 360, Movies 2017, Radio Podcasts, Reviews

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