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) 44%

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

dragons Hear Us Out dc comic adenture Quiz Pacific Islander award winner zombie FXX CMT Masterpiece Logo San Diego Comic-Con reboot nbcuniversal Tarantino rotten movies we love sports directors Classic Film ViacomCBS streaming PBS Polls and Games Superheroes Ghostbusters basketball indiana jones CW Seed comiccon New York Comic Con versus cinemax popular Tokyo Olympics Tubi australia 1990s Image Comics DGA concert finale jurassic park scary movies elevated horror Hulu king kong natural history streaming movies VH1 See It Skip It Set visit dramedy Anna Paquin Mary poppins Spike cults HBO Go diversity mockumentary Grammys crossover TV movies Netflix Podcast YouTube Red Comedy Central spain blaxploitation boxing Calendar Hallmark Christmas movies Netflix Christmas movies Writers Guild of America what to watch monster movies series dceu Winners Pop TV political drama TLC Oscars Premiere Dates deadpool BET Awards biography Television Academy FOX know your critic technology USA BBC America Awards historical drama period drama sequels stand-up comedy nature international psycho Disney Plus Western 71st Emmy Awards asian-american doctor who live action latino Epix Trophy Talk Exclusive Video fresh Mary Tyler Moore scorecard thriller Nominations Reality HBO Max olympics Reality Competition NYCC anthology ghosts Amazon justice league Rocketman comedies 2019 politics remakes Vudu independent Black Mirror Endgame Box Office Emmy Nominations Women's History Month king arthur festival 2016 disaster dogs green book space dark Opinion strong female leads classics A24 Film game of thrones ESPN DirecTV Discovery Channel Trailer Heroines Cartoon Network Spectrum Originals Biopics Holidays scene in color LGBT ITV docuseries Ellie Kemper Christmas Wes Anderson Arrowverse cancelled facebook Disney Channel movies Comic Book cooking sitcom DC Universe singing competition NBC Musical Nickelodeon PlayStation 2021 TCA joker Sci-Fi free movies Crackle Elton John james bond Disney+ Disney Plus NBA Star Trek hist Shondaland suspense The Academy halloween tv Tomatazos franchise Character Guide 99% worst movies south america GoT Certified Fresh name the review revenge hollywood binge American Society of Cinematographers die hard crime 90s Teen Columbia Pictures heist movie Pop french IFC venice Academy Awards miniseries Winter TV HBO WarnerMedia kids Creative Arts Emmys TNT casting nfl cars CBS All Access The CW hispanic Alien OneApp 45 SXSW teaser mission: impossible Hallmark Paramount Network medical drama TV One tv talk spider-man mutant animated Fox Searchlight video christmas movies Watching Series kaiju Film Festival video on demand golden globe awards Animation 2018 Food Network toy story robots Shudder DC Comics Lucasfilm satire boxoffice jamie lee curtis Comedy Lifetime Christmas movies Apple documentaries blockbuster Martial Arts Star Wars cops sequel composers The Walking Dead romantic comedy SundanceTV Awards Tour unscripted Fox News saw high school anime rotten The Witch theme song travel Adult Swim book new york Broadway cats war best Sundance batman Horror parents USA Network YouTube Premium ratings news spanish golden globes Chernobyl Rom-Com Apple TV Plus Interview universal monsters Cosplay telelvision werewolf target Video Games new zealand Valentine's Day renewed TV shows obituary vampires MCU spy thriller game show 2015 History rom-coms 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Action Television Critics Association toronto Syfy Marvel Studios ABC Signature Year in Review archives Comic-Con@Home 2021 Best and Worst TruTV Universal Photos Turner Classic Movies The Arrangement Lifetime razzies superhero stoner Musicals talk show lord of the rings Legendary The Walt Disney Company japan Binge Guide OWN Rocky Fantasy pirates of the caribbean TV Land GIFs wonder woman 72 Emmy Awards Walt Disney Pictures marvel cinematic universe comics TCA 2017 Travel Channel Funimation Country Fall TV Tumblr book adaptation ID serial killer WGN VOD festivals spanish language Trivia YouTube President aapi chucky TCA Awards Family Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Showtime japanese CBS Amazon Prime Video Superheroe Britbox X-Men FX on Hulu zero dark thirty Brie Larson Mystery Election canceled cancelled TV series Toys Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 24 frames children's TV Kids & Family BAFTA Sony Pictures Starz films IFC Films TV renewals legend Mudbound El Rey Ovation adventure E3 Mary Poppins Returns MTV Music twilight slashers Black History Month Spring TV Sneak Peek Pixar Pet Sematary football Nat Geo discovery Crunchyroll Lionsgate FX cartoon science fiction Captain marvel fast and furious canceled TV shows Esquire Emmys indie kong documentary National Geographic BBC criterion VICE spinoff 2017 Dark Horse Comics 4/20 true crime rt archives YA docudrama based on movie women Acorn TV Pride Month 2020 comic books prank Paramount Paramount Plus APB Turner supernatural TIFF godzilla ABC Family screen actors guild Song of Ice and Fire Freeform cancelled TV shows Pirates BBC One Marvel Television 007 all-time social media Schedule emmy awards Comics on TV TBS Cannes aliens Thanksgiving new star wars movies SDCC psychological thriller Amazon Studios breaking bad Marvel halloween Countdown RT21 The Purge Sundance TV screenings RT History Avengers GLAAD transformers Extras TCA Winter 2020 LGBTQ Mindy Kaling superman a nightmare on elm street BET 21st Century Fox witnail Drama worst police drama TCM Summer TV Sundance Now cancelled television Holiday movie First Look A&E PaleyFest Rock Peacock Baby Yoda E! Infographic Amazon Prime Apple TV+ black romance 20th Century Fox 93rd Oscars Stephen King quibi zombies richard e. Grant Bravo ABC foreign reviews blockbusters stop motion Red Carpet CNN DC streaming service critics Warner Bros. First Reviews adaptation hidden camera Disney Super Bowl crime thriller trailers television crime drama laika child's play MSNBC AMC Marathons Disney streaming service sag awards harry potter italian