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.

Finding Dory (PG) ★★★½

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‘Finding Dory’ stars Ellen Degeneres (Dory), Albert Brooks (Marlin), Hayden Rolence (Nemo), Ed O’Neill (Hank), Ty Burrell (Bailey), Diane Keaton (Jenny), Eugene Levy (Charlie). Photo Credit: Disney Studio.

Finding Dory is a whopper of a film that’s part comedic ‘fish tale’ but mostly life lessons for kids. Sensitivity to disabilities is front and center with the added bonus of parenting advice.

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Hayden Rolence (voice) of Nemo in “Finding Dory” Photo Credit: Sarah Knight Adamson

 * Extra Bonus: I interviewed the voice of Nemo, Hayden Rolence, a Chicago-land resident, for Naperville Magazine. My article under the “Dream Job” section will be in print and online August 1, 2016. I’ve included some extra quotes from the interview in this review.

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Sarah Knight Adamson and Hayden Rolence (voice of Nemo) Finding Dory, 2016, Photo Credit: Marlene Rolence

Ellen DeGeneres is back as the voice of the beloved regal blue tang fish Dory, who struggles with short-term memory loss. It’s the sequel to the Academy Award-winning Pixar-animated Disney film, Finding Nemo (2003). The question at hand comes down to whether or not Dory’s story is compelling enough to warrant a sequel. I’m here to say—absolutely. The more that people, especially children, are exposed to the traits of mental and physical disabilities, the better our world will be. Along that same note, the song “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong near the end of the film seems perfect.

finding-dory-wall-decals-and-wall-stickers (1) Read more…

Posted in Movies 2016, Reviews

Genius (PG-13) ★★★

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Colin Firth and Jude Law hard at work in ‘Genius.’ Image credit: Marc Brenner/Roadside Attractions

If anyone can make the editing process interesting, it’s Colin Firth and Jude Law.

I love it when a film can expose me to something—a historical figure, a place, an idea, an event—that I would have had no idea about otherwise. That’s exactly what Genius did. It focuses on the relationship between Max Perkins (Colin Firth)—“editor to the literary stars,” if you will—and his full-of-life client, the somewhat eccentric author Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law). Although I’m slightly embarrassed to admit this, I feel it’s important to note that if, like me, you’ve never read Wolfe’s novels, you won’t be at a disadvantage; the point of the film is how much the two men needed each other in very different ways. Wolfe was verbose, poetic, wild and rambling… whereas Perkins, was… well… let’s just say that Firth was the perfect actor to portray such a stuffy, serious and kinda boring devotee to the art of editing.

Perkins reins Wolfe’s writing in and helps him publish two highly lauded literary masterpieces. It’s impressive that first-time director Michael Grandage and his leading men somehow manage to make the not-at-all-exciting process of editing actually compelling in a few key sequences, including one that shows how Perkins pushed Wolfe to cut down pages of descriptive text into just three standout sentences. In return, Wolfe shows Perkins how to loosen up and enjoy life more. While the film is set in the dreary 1930s and is dominated by damp gray and brown tones, Law plays Wolfe as the desperate burst of color Perkins (and the world?) needs in order to reexamine both his family life and his career. In the opening scene of the film, first-time director Grandage depicts this quite literally, with a bustling Manhattan in black and white—until Wolfe appears. Read more…

Posted in Movies 2016, Reviews

Brandon Stacy Interview Actor ‘Roots’ ‘Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II’ and ‘Mena’ by Alexi Rabin

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Brandon Stacy actor in ‘Roots’, ‘The Big Short,’ ‘Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II’ and ‘Mena’ Photo Credit: JALISCO J

Exploring Brandon Stacy’s Roots

Brandon Stacy might have lost 25 pounds for his role in Roots, but he gained plenty of knowledge about American history.

Along with Roots, Stacy also had roles in films and televison such as The Big Short and Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II. He will star in an upcoming film titled Mena, along with Tom Cruise.

I spoke with Brandon Stacy via phone at 10 am CST. Brandon lives in Los Angeles. While I was talking to him from Chicago, he was very nice, calm, and extremely willing to share information with me about his past and upcoming roles.

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Brandon Stacy actor Photo Credit: JALISCO J

Sarah’s Backstage Pass® : Did you watch the original Roots in 1977?

Brandon Stacy: Well, I didn’t watch it then, but I did watch it growing up several times, and even parts of it in school. So there was certainly a lot to live up to, but I think we definitely hit our marks and reached a new generation with this material.

SBP: What were your first thoughts when you heard the History Channel would be doing a remake?

BS: Well, a great thing about the History Channel is that so many people watch it and trust it. So right away, I knew that obviously it’s a big deal if they’re going to back it and put their faith into it. I knew that I could be proud of reaching so many people with this message. And of course, in my work, I try to do things that reach a lot of people with a positive message. We all hope people take a positive message out of this. I think there are people who can use the past to divide us, but the point is to use the past to unite us and that’s what this [Roots] does.

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Brandon Stacy actor in ‘Roots’ Photo Credit: JALISCO J

When I asked Stacy what he did to get into character, he explained that he lost 25 pounds from the audition process to wrapping the project. He also told me that there was a “deeper path” of his character that did not make it into the film. When describing his costume, which was made of wool, he paused and laughed because he said it was “extremely hot” while filming.

SBP: I found it interesting how there were so many generations represented in the show. How do you think that played a role in understanding how slavery changed throughout the years?

BS: As far as the descendants of Kunta Kinte, when you’re following the lineage of one person, you can see how things change from generation to generation. We kind of lose a piece of us each time, given the surroundings that we’re in. And the surroundings we’re in play a part in who we are. My character, Clingman, is a product of his environment and the teachings of his family and traditions. He is an honorable man as far as the army, but he’s on the wrong side of humanity, based on what’s right and wrong. Ultimately, he’s pretty dangerous in those ideals. Had his environment been different, he probably could have been a different person. If we’re raising our children in an environment that we can be proud of, then hopefully, we can pass the good things on to them.

Overall, Stacy seemed very strong in his belief that knowing our history is the first step in uniting us. He explained that we should want to build a future that not only we can be proud of, but our ancestors as well.

In 2015, Stacy played the role of Christian Bale’s father in the Oscar-winning film The Big Short, and he was very pleased with the results of that project.

SBP: How did you react when you first learned that The Big Short was nominated for an Oscar? Read more…

Posted in Celebrity Interviews, Interview Archives, Interviews

Now You See Me 2 (PG-13) ★½

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Dave Franco, Lizzy Caplan, Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson have lost their magic. Photo Credit: Summit Entertainment, Jay Maidment

It’s extra sad when a sequel about magicians delivers absolutely nothing magical.

The 2013 “heist… with magicians!” film Now You See Me had plots issues, sure, but overall I found it to be a whole lotta fun. Plus, I liked its characters. And when I’m having a whole lotta fun at a movie and become vested in its characters, I can usually forgive its other problems.

Unfortunately, Now You See Me 2 is no fun at all, and that means that all of its (many) problems stare you straight in the face—for more than TWO HOURS. It’s the first film in a long time that made me so angry to have completely wasted 129 minutes of my life that I left the theater seething. Perhaps the fact that I enjoyed the first film made the failure of its sequel that much worse.

This time around, we learn that the Horsemen (Jesse Eisenberg’s Atlas, Woody Harrelson’s Merritt, Dave Franco’s Jack, plus Lizzy Caplan as the bubbly Lula after Isla Fisher dropped out) have been in hiding for a few years, but finally have a shot at starting over on the other side of the world in Macau if they can steal “the stick”—an all-powerful computer chip… or something like that—and deliver it to the dastardly tech guru Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe) so that he could do evil things with it. You know, the usual: stealing everyone’s information, invading everyone’s privacy, blah blah blah. Read more…

Posted in Movies 2016, Reviews

Me Before You (PG-13) ★★★

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Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin star in “Me Before You” Photo Credit: New Line Cinema and Metro Golden Mayer.

An Inspiring Love Story

Let’s get something out of the way from the get-go: you will, I repeat, you will need to bring a box of Kleenex to the theater while viewing the film Me Before You. For those of you familiar with the bestselling treasured fictional drama love story of the same name by Jojo Moyes, you’ll be pleased to know that she also wrote the screenplay. You’ll also be pleased to know that the film doesn’t venture far from the book, gives spot-on performances by two engaging actors, shows an unpretentious love story, wows with beautiful cinematography, and forces questions about choices, all while tugging at our heartstrings just as strongly as the book.

For those not familiar with the book, it takes place in the English countryside near a castle in modern day times. A wealthy young businessman (Sam Clafin, Snow White and the Huntsman 2012), Will Traynor, becomes paralyzed after a motorcycle hits him on a very rainy day in London. Fast-forward two years, we see a cynical person who has lost his will to live.

Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones 2011-2016) plays Lou Clark, a bubbly, off-beat, fashion-loving, naïve girl in her mid-twenties who’s in need of a new job after being let go from the local Buttered Bun Café, where she not only served tea, but also sympathy to the elderly village seniors and to some tourists who visited the nearby castle. Lou decides to answer an ad to be Will’s caregiver, as her family is in dire need of her financial help. Read more…

Posted in Movies 2016, Reviews

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (R) ★★★

Andy Samberg co-writes and stars in "Popstar: Never Stop Stopping."

Andy Samberg co-writes and stars in “Popstar: Never Stop Stopping.” Photo Credit: Universal Pictures.

Popstar Successfully Skewers Modern Pop Music

The movie This Is Spinal Tap (1984) was a groundbreaking comedy that introduced many to the mockumentary style of filmmaking and focused on the ridiculousness of 70s heavy metal bands. Andy Samberg and his comedy team Lonely Island, continues this tradition with a funny send-up of today’s current pop stars in their new film, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.

This comedy is amusing and does a respectable job of parodying today’s pop music world. The antics and behavior of the characters don’t actually seem far off what pop stars like Justin Bieber, Mariah Cyrus, and young rappers would do to steal headlines. Today’s pop music scenes is ripe for satire, especially for a writing team that mastered their craft after years as writers and performers at Saturday Night Life (SNL) including creating many famous digital shorts. The movie is far from perfect though as the story’s overall plot is fairly predictable, some of the jokes are too childish and it has a fairly short running time of less than 90 minutes.

Read more…

Posted in Movies 2016, Reviews

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