Critics Consensus

The House with a Clock in Its Walls Ticks Along Tolerably

Plus, Life Itself is ineffective, Fahrenheit 11/9 is suitably provocative, Assassination Nation is a genre treat, and The Sisters Brothers and Netflix's Maniac are Certified Fresh.

by | September 20, 2018 | Comments

This weekend at the movies, we have a home with an inconveniently located timepiece (The House with a Clock in Its Walls, starring Jack Black and Cate Blanchett), an invitation to cry in the dark with some strangers (Life Itself, starring Oscar Isaac and Olivia Wilde), a documentary destined to be excluded from the current administration’s presidential library (Fahrenheit 11/9, starring Michael Moore), and gun-toting girls out for vengeance (Assassination Nation, starring Odessa Young and Suki Waterhouse). What are the critics saying?


The House with a Clock in Its Walls (2018) 66%

Whether it’s because the world has become a scarier place, parents have gotten too clingy, or something in between, there tends to be a pretty distinct line between kids’ entertainment and everything else today — far more than there was decades ago, when all manner of unpleasantness and adult themes regularly surfaced in ostensibly family-friendly fare. A return to that era in spirit if not quite in form, The House with a Clock in Its Walls finds horror director Eli Roth keeping his more disturbing impulses in check to adapt the classic YA story about an orphan (Owen Vaccaro) who moves in with his warlock uncle (Jack Black) and — in the process of trying to impress a local kid (Sunny Suljic) — ends up unleashing undead mayhem. It’s a setup with the sort of creepy, dangerous overtones that made hits like Gremlins and The Goonies so much fun, and although The House with a Clock in Its Walls never ends up reaching the high bar set by either, critics say it’s still a reasonably good time for the younger set. While reviews describe a funny, faintly creepy picture enlivened by a solid supporting cast (particularly a game Cate Blanchett), it also struggles to reconcile its various elements, and the end result may tend more toward kids’ stuff than truly all-ages fare. Still, if you’re looking to give your young ones a mildly spine-tingling night at the movies this weekend, these Walls seem sturdy enough.


Life Itself (2018) 14%

No matter how blurry the line gets between television and cinema, there’s always going to be a fundamental difference between the mediums, and the critical response to Life Itself might be the most forceful reminder of that divide that we’ve seen in some time. An ensemble drama tracing a family’s (very, very) emotional journey, this picture’s brought to us by writer-director Dan Fogelman, who — as fans of his acclaimed and award-winning NBC hit This Is Us will readily attest — has proven himself a pretty deft hand at telling this type of story over a series of episodes. But films don’t have those extra hours to pull the audience in, so a generational weepie has to work harder to fight the tide of melodrama — and critics say that’s a fight Fogelman roundly loses with Life Itself. Described as simultaneously overwrought and underwhelming, the movie aims for profundity while lunging for the audience’s heartstrings, and it’s being clubbed pretty thoroughly by the pundits as a result. If you just can’t resist the urge to watch attractive New Yorkers deal with a lot, go ahead and invest in a ticket; otherwise, to pinch and twist a phrase from Thomas Hobbes, you may find Life Itself to be poor, nasty, brutish and not short enough.


Fahrenheit 11/9 (2018) 81%

With 1989’s Roger & Me, Michael Moore pioneered a uniquely humorous style of guerrilla documentary — one that helped pave the way for a new breed of political filmmaking while launching Moore’s own consistently acclaimed career in the process. He’s had his hits and misses along the way, but like a lot of documentarians, Moore’s most edifying and entertaining when he’s ticked off about something — and in these wildly partisan times, there’s certainly no shortage of targets for him to hit. With Fahrenheit 11/9, he makes an argument that won’t be surprising to his fans or his detractors — specifically, that the Trump administration is a danger to democracy for a variety of reasons — but critics say he identifies an array of culprits that may catch some viewers off guard, pointing the finger at the Democratic establishment as well as America’s right wing. Aside from a postmortem on the 2016 election, critics say 11/9‘s true value lies in Moore’s urgent call to action for voters, presented as a blueprint for civic engagement designed to leave audiences inspired. Like pretty much any politically fueled picture in 2018, this one will probably end up preaching to a specific choir, but for anyone who’s enjoyed Moore’s filmography, this looks like another worthy chapter.


Assassination Nation (2018) 73%

In 1984, then-former Styx guitarist Tommy Shaw titled his first solo album Girls with Guns, and although the provocative imagery conjured by the name didn’t translate to much in the way of sales, it’s still a fairly attention-grabbing idea — as evidenced by this weekend’s Assassination Nation, a cheerfully violent black comedy whose marketing materials echo the same promise made by Shaw’s LP. Starring an eclectic ensemble cast rounded out by Odessa Young, Anika Noni Rose, Maude Apatow, and Joel McHale, the story follows the bloody fallout incurred by a devious hacker’s intrusion into the party-fueled lifestyle of a group of high school seniors. It’s a premise with all sorts of fun possibilities, and critics say the end results deliver enough of them to recommend; although the characters are regrettably somewhat thinly conceived, the action is frenetic and visually stylish enough to carry audiences along. If you’re in the mood for some above-average action, Assassination Nation looks just high-caliber enough to recommend.


What’s New on TV

Sorry for Your Loss: Season 1 (2018) 94%

Thoroughly honest and insightful, Sorry For Your Loss tackles a sensitive theme, but with a witty touch.


Maniac: Miniseries (2018) 85%

Maniac enthralls with its dazzling visuals, adventurous narrative, and striking performances from both Emma Stone and Jonah Hill.


Also Opening This Week In Limited Release

Tag Cloud

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