Critics Consensus

First Man Is Certified Fresh

Plus, Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween is disappointingly formulaic, Titans makes an impressive debut, and The Haunting of Hill House and Bad Times at the El Royale are also Certified Fresh.

by | October 11, 2018 | Comments

This weekend at the movies, we’ve got one giant leap (First Man, starring Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy), one supernatural sequel (Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween, starring Wendy McLendon-Covey and Madison Iseman), and one wild night (Bad Tmies at the El Royale, starring Jeff Bridges and Chris Hemsworth). What are the critics saying?

First Man (2018) 86%

Sending people into space easily ranks among the most impressive achievements we’ve ever pulled off as a species, so it only stands to reason that our first manned flight to the moon remains a persistent subject of fascination for filmmakers. In fact, it’s inspired enough feats of cinema that a director would have to be blessed with a lot of moxie to try and add to the list — which is why it’s extra fortunate that this weekend’s First Man is being brought to us by the award-winning duo of Damien Chazelle and Ryan Gosling. Chazelle, who most recently directed Gosling in the acclaimed hit musical La La Land, reunites here with his leading man to tell the story of Neil Armstrong, the Apollo 11 astronaut who became the — wait for it — first man to walk on the moon. They’re obviously telling a very different type of story, but critics say their respective strengths are well served by this biopic, which foregoes a fair bit of the expected sweeping space vistas and epic narrative grandeur in favor of a more intimately focused drama that pulls back the curtain on Armstrong’s occasionally quite arduous personal journey. As an inspiring example of what we’re capable of when we work together or a gripping piece of solidly crafted entertainment that’s further elevated by stellar cinematography and an outstanding supporting performance by Claire Foy, First Man looks like a fittingly successful voyage.

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween (2018) 47%

Hollywood famously pumps out mediocre horror sequels as if it were controlled by an occult hand. But while it was probably inevitable that the delightful Goosebumps would get a part two, critics say Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween is too slavishly devoted to the original template to take any — ahem — spook-tacular risks. Once again, a group of youngsters must stop the evil machinations of Slappy the Dummy, who escapes from the pages of an enchanted book; this time out, Slappy’s got a gang of monsters to help sow chaos in the small town of Wardenclyffe. The pundits say that kids will probably like this new Goosebumps just fine, but their parents or guardians are likely to wonder what happened to the wit and energy of its predecessor.

Bad Times at the El Royale (2018) 75%

In his feature debut The Cabin in the Woods, director Drew Goddard demonstrated an almost preternatural knack for wringing fresh surprises out of well-worn genre cliches. Now he’s back in the director’s chair with the Tarantino-inspired thriller Bad Times at the El Royale, and critics say Goddard and his cast are in top form. El Royale is the story of seven strangers (whose ranks include Jeff Bridges, Chris Hemsworth, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, and Cynthia Erivo) who congregate at the titular motel and find out what happens when things start to get surreal. The pundits say the cast is terrific, the plot is deliciously twisty, and the production design is impeccable, and even if it doesn’t deliver all that it promises, the Certified Fresh El Royale is definitely worth a visit.

What’s New on TV

The Haunting of Hill House: Miniseries (2018) 93%

The Haunting of Hill House is an effective ghost story whose steadily mounting anticipation is just as satisfying as its chilling payoff.

Titans: Season 1 (2018) 80%

Despite a few tonal growing pains, Titans does justice to its source material and truly shines when its titular ensemble finally assembles.

Also Opening This Week In Limited Release

  • Liyana (2018) , an animated adventure combining African tradition and actual events, is at 100%.
  • All Square (2018) , in which a small-town bookie comes up with a decidedly unorthodox way of fixing his failing business, is at 100%.
  • Over the Limit (2018) , a documentary look at the controversial system for training Russian Olympic athletes, is at 100%.
  • After Everything (Shotgun) (2018) , starring Maika Monroe and Jeremy Allen White as a young couple whose budding romance is threatened by some fateful news, is at 92%.
  • The Sentence (2018) , a documentary unspooling the aftermath of a woman’s imprisonment for crimes committed by her ex-boyfriend, is at 91%.
  • Sadie (2018) , a drama about a teen’s increasing determination to keep her mother from striking up a new relationship in her father’s absence, is at 86%.
  • B&B (2018) , a thriller about the unhappily memorable stay awaiting two men who sue for the right to book a room at a Christian lodge, is at 83%.
  • 22 July (2018) , a Paul Greengrass-directed dramatization of the events surrounding Norway’s deadliest terrorist attack, is Certified Fresh at 80%.
  • The Oath (2018) , a political comedy looking for dark humor in divided times, is at 77%.
  • The Happy Prince (2018) , a look at Oscar Wilde’s final years directed, written by, and starring Rupert Everett, is Certified Fresh at 72%.
  • Apostle (2018) , a period drama starring Dan Stevens as a man determined to wrest his sister from the clutches of a cult, is at 72%.
  • Beautiful Boy (2018) , an adaptation of the bestselling addiction memoir starring Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet, is at 67%.
  • Stella's Last Weekend (2018) , in which a family reunites to say goodbye to their dog, only for two brothers to end up embroiled in a love triangle, is at 63%.

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