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.

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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Posted in Film Review Podcast Archives, Hollywood 360, Movies 2018, Radio Podcasts, Reviews

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…

Posted in Movies 2018, Reviews

Chicago Film Critics 6th Annual Film Festival May 4-10 2018 Music Box Theater

(Chicago, IL) — The Chicago Film Critics Association (CFCA), (of which I’ve been a member since 2009), the Chicago-area print, online and broadcast critics group that celebrates the art of film and film criticism Film Festival is finally here. The complete lineup, schedule and special guests expected for the sixth annual Chicago Critics Film Festival, May 4-10 at the Music Box Theatre can be found in this article.

Opening Night on Friday, May 4 features the Midwest premiere of Fast Color, starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw (A Wrinkle in Time) as a woman whose superhero powers send her on the run; Mbatha-Raw and the film’s co-writer and producer, Jordan Horowitz (La La Land), will be in Chicago for the occasion. More information on the complete schedule and special guests is below and online; festival passes and individual tickets are also available online here

Highlights of this highly-curated, week-long festival include:

  • First Reformed, starring Ethan Hawke as a rural pastor whose life spirals out of control after an encounter with an environmental activist and his pregnant wife; filmmaker Paul Schrader is scheduled to attend the festival
  • Searching, starring John Cho (Columbus) as a father investigating his daughter’s disappearance through the digital footprint she’s left behind; filmmaker Aneesh Chaganty and co-writer/producer Sev Ohanian are scheduled to attend the festival 
  • Leave No Trace, Debra Granik’s story of a single father (Ben Foster) and his daughter living off the grid until a single mistake derails their idyllic existence. 
  • On Chesil Beach, Saoirse Ronan’s first film since the runaway success of Lady Bird, based on the Ian McEwan novel about sexual politics and freedom in 1962 England
  • A 25th anniversary screening of Steven Spielberg’s classic Jurassic Park on 35mm, celebrating the launch of one of the most successful franchises in cinema
  • Damsel, starring Robert Pattinson as a well-off pioneer who ventures West to marry the woman he loves, told with the off-kilter humor and unpredictability of directing duo David and Nathan Zellner, who are both scheduled to attend the festival
  • Bodied, a satire set in the world of competitive battle rap produced by Eminem; filmmaker Joseph Kahn is scheduled to attend the festival

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Posted in Film Festivals, Red Carpet and Events, Red Carpet and Events

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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Posted in Movies 2018, Reviews

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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Posted in Movies 2018, Reviews

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…

Posted in Movies 2018, Radio Podcasts, Reviews

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