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.

GHOSTBUSTERS (PG-13) ★★★½

"Ghostbusters" stars Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones. Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures.

“Ghostbusters” stars Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones. Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures.

Undeniable Ghoul Power In The Latest Installment of “Ghostbusters”

When the cast was announced for the long-awaited next film in the Ghostbusters franchise, some short-sighted fans were upset that the Ghostbuster team would not star the original cast but would be played by female actors in what seemed like a gimmick. All of these criticisms were entirely speculative however, as director Paul Feig and the hilarious female cast deliver a comical and unique spin on a beloved franchise, yet still manage to pay the appropriate respect to the original films without it feeling like a copy.

Ghostbusters opens in an old Manhattan mansion, where a guide (Zach Woods, Silicon Valley, 2016) is leading a tour through the house and describing the history including how the owner’s daughter had murdered a number of people in their sleep. After the tour concludes, he is startled by strange sounds and movements in the basement. When he goes to investigate, he is ultimately attacked by the girl’s ghost.

The house’s owner pays a visit to Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig, Martian, 2015) a physics professor at Columbia University, who had written a book earlier in her career stating her belief in ghosts and her scientific theories regarding paranormal activity. Erin, who is trying to hide her interest in paranormal activity from the faculty as she is up for tenure, first denies that she wrote the book, but ultimately cannot hide that her face is on the dust jacket. She discovers that the book is now appearing online again despite her attempts to remove any trace of it. Erin heads over to the run-down laboratory of her old friend and the book’s co-author Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy, The Boss, 2016) who she believes is responsible for the book remerging.

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Posted in Movies 2016, Reviews

Life Animated (Documentary) ★★★½

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Image caption: Owen Suskind in Life, Animated. Photo credit: The Orchard/A&E IndieFilms

An inspiring, hopeful documentary about one family’s experience with autism.

I knew what Life, Animated was about before I saw the film, and so I was not surprised to find my eyes welling up only five minutes in. This documentary is based on journalist Ron Suskind’s memoir about his autistic son Owen, and it details how Ron’s family learned to communicate with the once-silent Owen through Disney movies. Now Owen is 23 and preparing to move into an apartment of his own in an assisted-living complex. To tell the story of how Owen made it to this point, director Roger Ross Williams switches between present-day interviews and scenes of the family getting ready for their big transition, old family footage of when Owen and his brother Walt were young boys, and fantastic animated sequences (by visual effects company Mac Guff) that bring Owen’s thoughts and stories to life.

As a parent, my heart broke for Ron and Cornelia Suskind when they recounted Owen’s early years. At age three, he completely stopped talking—Ron described it as if Owen had been “kidnapped.” For a full year, he did not say anything intelligible. One day when he was four and continually wanted to replay part of The Little Mermaid, Cornelia realized that a jumbled phrase Owen always repeated was actually a line of dialogue from the film.

They rushed to Owen’s doctors with news of the breakthrough, only to have their hopes crushed again. They were told that this sort of mimicking (termed “echolalia”) was common with autistic children. Read more…

Posted in Movies 2016, Reviews

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (R) ★★½

"Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates" stars Zac Efron, Adam Devine, Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza. Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox.

“Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” stars Zac Efron, Adam Devine, Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza. Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox.

No Need to RSVP to the Theater

Two girls tricking two brothers into taking them to a Hawaiian wedding sounds like an attempt to create a female version of Wedding Crashers. Oddly enough, however, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, is inspired by a true story where two brothers went on Craigslist and TV to look for dates for their younger sister’s wedding. Of course, finding dates in this manner is not without its risks, and in this light-hearted summer comedy, the brothers definitely get more than what they bargained for.

Directed by Jake Szymanski (7 Days in Hell, 2015), Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates tells the story of two immature and co-dependent brothers, Dave and Mike Stangle, played by Zac Efron (Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, 2016) and Adam Devine (Pitch Perfect 2, 2015). With a history of misbehaving at family functions, their sister, who is getting married in Hawaii, along with their father have mandated that they need to find dates with the hopes that having arm candy will curb their mischievousness.

Although Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates will have the audience laughing particularly at certain scenes, the movie falls a few laughs short of being a must-see comedy. Nearly all of the truly humorous scenes are a result of Adam Devine’s comedic chops. He excels at playing the over-the-top immature moron, which he has played in both Pitch Perfect movies as well as his Workaholics persona, a TV show in which he co-created and stars. Zac Efron does a solid effort of keeping up with Adam Devine’s hilarity as he builds his comedic resume. Unfortunately, their roles are marred by the performance of Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza. While both actors have shined in other comedic roles, their attempts to act crassly alongside Adam Devine and Zac Efron seemed forced and unnatural, and these roles do not suit their talents.  Read more…

Posted in Movies 2016, Reviews

The Secret Life of Pets (PG) ★★★½

“The Secret Life of Pets” is a Pet Lovers Delight

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Jameson the French Bully, searches for puppy videos while his parents are working. Photo Credit: Erica Nolda

The Secret Life of Pets is an amusing, animated tale that centers on the curiosity of what pets do and think about all day while their owners are not around. The answer can be quite a lot as the same creative team behind Despicable Me (2010) unveils a delightful summer movie that should appeal to the whole family and boasts a fun cast of actors voicing a large crew of lovable animals.

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Still from ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

*Update! *Important note to our viewers on “The Secret Life of Pets.” We are now strongly suggesting and will be adding to our review that children be at least 10-years-old. Read more at the end of this review.

The story begins with an adorable Jack Russell Terrier named Max, voiced by comedian, Louis C.K. (Trumbo, 2015) who lives a happy, comfortable life with his owner Katie (Ellie Kemper, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, 2016), in a New York apartment building.  Every day when Katie heads to work, Max will spend hours staring at the door until she returns but also kills time by visiting with other pet friends in the building, including a Dachshund named Buddy (Hannibal Buress, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, 2016), a Pug named Mel (Bobby Moynihan, Sisters, 2015), a lazy, fat cat named Chloe (Lake Bell, Million Dollar Arm, 2014) and a Pomeranian named Gidget (Jenny Slate, The Obvious Child, 2015) who harbors a secret crush on Max.

Jameson The French Bull Dog poses for National Pet Day. Photo Credit: Erica Nolda.

Jameson The French Bull Dog practices his poses  for National Pet Day. Photo Credit: Erica Nolda.

While Max enjoys visiting his friends, the best part of his day is still undoubtedly when Katie comes home from work. One day, when she returns, Max is horrified to find out that Katie is not alone and introduces Max to his new “brother,” a massive Newfoundland named Duke (Eric Stonestreet, Modern Family, 2016). Max, who is very possessive of Katie, does not take kindly to the change in the living situation and lets Katie know his feelings (although she only hears him barking). Duke, who initially tried to befriend Max, overhears this attempt to get rid of him and responds by throwing his weight around literally – pushing Max from his bed and eating all his food. The two continue to quarrel at the dog park the next day and their feuding causes both dogs to lose their collars and become separated from their aloof dog walker. To make matters worse, they have a run-in with an army of stray alley cats, then two workers from Animal Control and finally a band of wild animals calling themselves the “Flushed Pets.” The gang is led by a violent white bunny, Snowball (Kevin Hart, Ride Along 2, 2016) who is plotting against the humans that rejected them as pets. Meanwhile back at the apartment building, Gidget, who has a crush on Max, notices that Max and Duke did not come back from the walk and convinces the rest of the pets at the apartment building to go looking for their friend. The rest of the story is based on whether Max and Duke can work together to return to their home and friends while avoiding Animal Control and the army of “Flushed Pets.”

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Posted in Movies 2016, Reviews

The BFG (PG) ★★★½

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‘The BFG’ Photo Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

The BFG, Fantasy Story with a Big Heart

Thankfully, Spielberg’s The BFG stays faithful to the treasured Roald Dahl young adult novel with old-fashioned storytelling of the love between a wise older giant and an eight-year-old English girl. Set against the backdrop of a magical land outside of London, the story focuses on a giant who is both kind and friendly. Spielberg’s quoted as saying, “This is a story of the love between grandparents and their grandchildren.” It’s paced slowly, similar to a dream-like fantasy, an appreciated slowness for sure. And, fortunately, you’ll find no racing action scenes that are typical of children’s film these days; ones in which characters are whizzing by in cars, trains, or those monotonous sledding scenes as in the Ice Age movies.

The story is told through the eyes of a precocious child, “Sophie,” played by newcomer Ruby Barnhill, who is befriended by the BFG (Big Friendly Giant), Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies 2015). They have grandiose adventures together and ultimately devise a plan, one of which involves asking the Queen of England to rid the land of all the child-eating giants. Read more…

Posted in Movies 2016, Reviews

Zootopia DVD Review ★★★★

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Zootopia Blu-ray DVD and Digital Bonus Features

Zootopia is one of Disney’s best films to date and my favorite film of the year so far. It’s family friendly and teaches kids so many great life lessons. It’s now available on DVD and digital formats. I’ve looked at all of the bonus features and can highly recommend adding Zootopia to your personal library.

Be in the know in less than 2 minutes! Take a listen to my 4-star review:

Zootopia (PG) ★★★★

Bonus Features:

“Try Everything” Music Video by Shakira. Video includes scenes from the movie, focusing on the lyrics. This is my favorite bonus feature, as the song is catchy, uplifting, and has a great message for kids. The run time: 3:21 seconds. Here’s a sample of some of the lyrics. Read more…

Posted in Movies 2016, Reviews, TV/DVD, What's New on DVD

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