Critics Consensus

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Is a Ghoulish Good Time

Plus, Dora is solid, The Kitchen is bare, Brian Banks is mildly inspirational, and The Art of Racing in the Rain is middle-of-the-road.

by | August 8, 2019 | Comments

This weekend at the movies, we’ve got a whopping five new wide releases, including a big-screen adaptations of our childhood nightmares (Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, starring Zoe Margaret Colletti and Michael Garza), a childhood favorite (Dora and the Lost City of Gold, starring Isabela Moner and Eugenio Derbez), a graphic novel (The Kitchen, starring Melissa McCarthy and Tiffany Haddish), a dramatic true story (Brian Banks, starring Aldis Hodge and Greg Kinnear), and a talking-dog novel (The Art of Racing in the Rain, starring Milo Ventimiglia and the voice of Kevin Costner). What are the critics saying?

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019) 78%

Though he’s not behind the camera for this film, Guillermo del Toro inspired a lot of interest in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark from fans of his work who felt the property was a perfect fit for him. Those fans will have to settle for del Toro in the producer role, however, as directing duties fell to André Øvredal, the Norwegian filmmaker behind the 2010 cult favorite Trollhunter, the TV spinoff of which is also produced by del Toro. Based on a series of horror-themed short story collections for young adults with famously terrifying illustrations, Scary Stories follows a similar narrative path as its gentler kin, 2015’s Goosebumps: a group of kids discover a cursed book full of tales of frightening monsters and inadvertently bring those monsters to life in the real world. And like the first Goosebumps movie, this one has so far largely resonated well with critics, who concede that its plot elements are familiar, but praise the film for the authentic performances by its young cast, the effective visuals, and the wicked sense of fun at its core. Is it essentially Goosebumps for an older crowd? Sure. But is it an entertaining, worthwhile ride? As far as the critics are concerned, it would appear so.

Dora and the Lost City of Gold (2019) 85%

For a certain subset of the moviegoing audience, the animated Nickelodeon series Dora the Explorer was a childhood TV staple. Originally created in 1999, the show released a new season every other year or so, for a total of eight seasons, and continues in syndication to this day. So it was always going to be a bit of a risk to adapt it into a live-action adventure on the big screen, but that didn’t stop Nickelodeon and Paramount from doing it anyway. Fortunately, it would seem that they mostly succeeded. In Dora and the Lost City of Gold, Isabela Moner plays an ever-so-slightly older Dora, a bright, cheerful, home-schooled teen who spent most of her childhood creeping through jungles with her professor/explorer parents (Michael Peña and Eva Longoria). She’s sent to California for a more traditional high school experience, but when her parents go missing in South America during a search for a mythical Incan city, she sets out to find them herself. Critics say Moner is all sunshine and joy as the backpacked heroine, and even if the film has some difficulty effectively applying the blockbuster formula to a decidedly small-screen character, it still retains its wholesome roots to deliver a decent family-friendly adventure.

The Kitchen (2019) 24%

It’s probably safe to say that we as a culture should feel free to move beyond the idea that good movies can’t come from comic books and graphic novels, what with the success of the MCU, Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, and less conventional fare like Ghost World, Persepolis, and Blue is the Warmest Color. This week, though, we get one example of a big-screen comic adaptation that proves the process is every bit a mixed bag as it used to be. Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, and Elisabeth Moss star in The Kitchen as three women in 1970s New York (specifically Hell’s Kitchen, hence the title) whose criminal husbands are thrown in jail, leaving them to fend for themselves. Struggling to make ends meet, they decide to take over their husbands’ illegal enterprises and discover they have a knack for it, much to the chagrin of their competition. This is the feature directorial debut of Andrea Berloff, who earned an Oscar nomination as co-writer on Straight Outta Compton, and with that cast, which includes supporting turns from Domhnall Gleeson, Bill Camp, Common, and character actress Margo Martindale, you’d think it would be a recipe for success. Not so much, say the critics, who call the film an unfortunate mish-mash of mobster movie cliches that suffers from tonal inconsistencies and makes misguided superficial attempts to deliver a feminist message. That said, most everyone seems to think the three leads help elevate the material, and if there’s any reason to see the film, it’s their performances.

Brian Banks (2019) 63%

It’s often difficult to make a film based on true events — particularly tragic true events — and walk the delicate line between earnest dramatic retelling and outright misfortune porn. The story of Brian Banks, subject of this week’s appropriately titled Brian Banks, is sad but ultimately hopeful, and critics say it mostly works. Banks, played in the film by Aldis Hodge, was a rising football star from Long Beach, CA who was committed to attend USC when a classmate falsely accused him of rape during his junior year of high school. Banks ended up serving six years in prison for a crime he did not commit before he was released, the film recounts how he worked with the California Innocence Project to secure his freedom and restore his honor. While the story itself is infuriating and unbelievable, critics say Brian Banks could have delved a little deeper into the complex issues that ultimately lay at the heart of Banks’ conviction, and it never quite reaches the inspirational heights it aims for. But it is a thoughtful portrayal that nevertheless sheds some light on a serious topic and offers some hope in the process.

The Art of Racing in the Rain (2019) 43%

If you were wondering, “Gee, I wonder when we’ll get our next talking-dog movie,” then wonder no more, fair citizen, for this week brings us The Art of Racing in the Rain. Based on the best-selling novel (aren’t they all?) of the same name, this drama assigns the disembodied voice of Kevin Costner to a dog named Enzo, the furry BFF of an F1 driver named Denny (Milo Ventigmlia). Enzo serves as the film’s narrator, dispensing observational wisdom as Denny experiences the ups and downs of life with his wife (Amanda Seyfried) and daughter (Ryan Kiera Armstrong). Racing in the Rain hasn’t exactly been a hit with critics, but to its credit, it’s not doing terrible either; the reviews are split between those who feel the film is predictably schmaltzy and unapologetically manipulative, and those who think it’s a pleasant diversion that manages to avoid some of the more juvenile hijinks of its contemporaries. Go in with muted expectations, and you may find yourself smiling at the end.

Also Opening This Week In Limited Release

  • The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019) , starring Shia LaBeouf and Dakota Johnson in a drama about a young man with Down syndrome who escapes his nursing home in pursuit of his dream to become a professional wrestler, is at 100%.
  • Vision Portraits (2019) , a documentary exploring the work and processes of four artists — a photographer, dancer, writer, and filmmaker — who are visually impaired, is at 100%.
  • One Child Nation (2019) , a documentary about the ramifications of China’s former population control policy, is at 97%.
  • Socrates (2019) , a drama about a São Paulo teen who’s left on his own when his mother suddenly dies, is at 88%.
  • Light of My life (2019) , starring Casey Affleck in a post-apocalyptic drama about a father trying to protect his daughter from threats as they live off the grid, is at 71%.
  • After the Wedding (2019) , starring Michelle Williams and Julianne Moore in a drama about an orphanage director in Calcutta who travels to New York to meet a mysterious benefactor, is at 46%.
  • Nekrotronic (2019) , a horror-comedy about a sewage disposal man who becomes humanity’s last hope against soul-sucking, internet-savvy demons, is at 29%.

Like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get more features, news, and guides in your inbox every week.

Tag Cloud

cars Schedule Peacock sitcom aliens Oscars documentary Awards Tour ratings Apple Showtime finale vampires The Academy CBS All Access Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Fall TV Comic Book Fantasy twilight Emmy Nominations Shudder 99% supernatural Sneak Peek south america historical drama Grammys romantic comedy First Look TCA Awards nbcuniversal technology The Walking Dead dc Extras Tomatazos Discovery Channel Syfy films Amazon Prime X-Men laika Awards TCA medical drama BBC GIFs Comics on TV Spring TV canceled TV shows Starz Paramount Network BET Awards Black Mirror Polls and Games batman versus Crunchyroll Ovation canceled discovery serial killer Reality Competition 2015 CMT series miniseries Comedy Pet Sematary Election VICE Set visit name the review Tubi Disney teaser werewolf adventure Tumblr movies Thanksgiving Drama TBS a nightmare on elm street HBO Pixar Disney Plus First Reviews See It Skip It Mary Poppins Returns Endgame best Animation boxing directors VH1 Reality CW Seed MSNBC Nat Geo universal monsters 2018 YA spain crime thriller Lionsgate American Society of Cinematographers politics worst movies Apple TV+ rt archives zombies Cannes award winner chucky 4/20 franchise cancelled Apple TV Plus Fox Searchlight cancelled TV series slashers Travel Channel comics halloween tv Amazon true crime festivals ABC Family Trivia dark festival USA Network dceu 45 zero dark thirty cats Family Sony Pictures HBO Go IFC halloween Binge Guide Horror Music transformers DirecTV cooking FXX football El Rey Turner facebook sag awards mission: impossible Disney+ Disney Plus biography USA The CW Red Carpet Masterpiece PlayStation spinoff disaster Certified Fresh criterion BET game show Action Tarantino Film Festival MTV natural history TV psychological thriller Rock hist ITV Chernobyl mockumentary obituary OWN Sundance Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Anna Paquin jamie lee curtis TCA Winter 2020 Emmys strong female leads Mystery TV Land casting breaking bad animated Logo Quiz Star Wars Biopics Toys satire HBO Max Calendar streaming Comedy Central deadpool Mary Tyler Moore crossover Hallmark NBC reboot Food Network Teen Sundance Now french spanish language scary movies Pop foreign SDCC Pride Month Elton John comic books black Year in Review anthology Nickelodeon video asian-american binge emmy awards Captain marvel New York Comic Con toy story Rocketman Dark Horse Comics The Witch Lifetime Holidays The Arrangement Funimation harry potter Musical sequel History Interview Avengers based on movie singing competition green book blockbuster WarnerMedia free movies rotten movies we love superhero Podcast james bond TCM Mindy Kaling christmas movies Amazon Studios President Pop TV die hard period drama Christmas 24 frames IFC Films blaxploitation sports cancelled television spanish Stephen King TNT 71st Emmy Awards FX on Hulu Spike comiccon Pirates E! Winners Creative Arts Emmys Shondaland Disney Channel independent archives Character Guide Sundance TV dramedy space DC streaming service tv talk cinemax war Turner Classic Movies Cosplay E3 anime Mudbound Walt Disney Pictures Fox News 2019 dragons Infographic CNN Premiere Dates dogs Country WGN Academy Awards Baby Yoda reviews Martial Arts Best and Worst TV renewals docudrama 20th Century Fox PaleyFest Star Trek travel Arrowverse Hulu DC Universe LGBT Musicals romance renewed TV shows science fiction A24 ghosts Hear Us Out nature stop motion mutant latino 21st Century Fox MCU Warner Bros. classics Holiday political drama fast and furious Ellie Kemper TCA 2017 OneApp unscripted Paramount japanese zombie golden globes RT History Photos SXSW Heroines The Purge Freeform stoner 2016 video on demand Lifetime Christmas movies Television Academy Super Bowl Vudu all-time movie YouTube Red FX GLAAD Kids & Family Valentine's Day Trailer BBC America Netflix cops news Rom-Com DGA Black History Month 007 ABC 72 Emmy Awards composers NYCC hispanic 2017 Film GoT BBC One crime drama television child's play Acorn TV Superheroe Crackle Winter TV Song of Ice and Fire AMC ESPN A&E quibi TIFF Video Games comedies boxoffice remakes worst Epix joker YouTube Premium Cartoon Network APB italian Ghostbusters spider-man Adult Swim SundanceTV revenge Marathons Alien kids adaptation BAFTA Netflix Christmas movies National Geographic Summer richard e. Grant social media Women's History Month Marvel Studios Superheroes documentaries screen actors guild DC Comics FOX indie Lucasfilm cults parents Countdown robots Spectrum Originals justice league theme song Bravo Classic Film Television Critics Association Universal game of thrones scorecard psycho Columbia Pictures comic spy thriller Nominations Rocky Hallmark Christmas movies YouTube doctor who australia cartoon VOD RT21 Disney streaming service Opinion Esquire TruTV LGBTQ sequels police drama San Diego Comic-Con Britbox concert talk show nfl Amazon Prime Video Western Marvel Sci-Fi Mary poppins indiana jones hollywood Writers Guild of America crime venice children's TV TLC fresh Marvel Television 2020 CBS elevated horror critics diversity Brie Larson thriller PBS screenings Trophy Talk Watching Series stand-up comedy rotten cancelled TV shows toronto ID book Box Office witnail what to watch