Critics Consensus

Aquaman Is See-Worthy

Plus, Mary Poppins Returns, Bumblebee, The Favourite, and Vanity Fair are Certified Fresh, but Second Act and Welcome to Marwen disappoint.

by | December 20, 2018 | Comments

This weekend at the movies, we’ve got an origin story (Aquaman, starring Jason Momoa and Amber Heard), a magical visitor (Mary Poppins Returns, starring Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda), a bug’s life (Bumblebee, starring Hailee Steinfeld and John Cena), an ad maven (Second Act, starring Jennifer Lopez and Leah Remini), a fantasy artist (Welcome to Marwen, starring Steve Carell and Leslie Mann), a royal rivalry (The Favourite, starring Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz), and another royal rivalry (Mary Queen of Scots, starring Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie). What are the critics saying?


Aquaman (2018) 65%

Aquaman may not be the coolest or most popular DC Comics character to find his way to the big screen, but if Jason Momoa has any say in the matter, the chracter’s reputation is about to change. In his first solo outing, the half human, half Atlantean prince must contend with not only a threat of war from his home kingdom but also an adversary with a personal vendetta. It’s a swirl of special effects and blockbuster action that critics say is appropriately super-sized and a welcome continuation of the fun, lighter tone of Wonder Woman, and it’s aided by a stellar cast that includes Amber Heard, Nicole Kidman, Willem Dafoe, and Patrick Wilson. That said, Aquaman‘s over-the-top antics may not be for everyone, and those in search of a decidedly less CGI-driven movie will almost certainly want to look elsewhere.


Mary Poppins Returns (2018) 80%

How do you follow up a celebrated classic movie musical featuring one of Hollywood’s favorite stars with over half a century’s worth of adoration lavished up on it? It certainly doesn’t hurt if you cast someone of, say, Emily Blunt’s caliber in the central role and recruit multiple Tony Award-winner Lin-Manuel Miranda to bring life to some of the big song-and-dance numbers. In Mary Poppins Returns, Blunt plays the magical nanny, who pays a visit to now grown-up Banks children Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane (Emily Mortimer) in order to impart a few more life lessons to Michael’s own three children. While it’s near impossible not to invite comparisons to the 1964 Julie Andrews original, critics say Emily Blunt is charming in the role, and Mary Poppins Returns succeeds in channeling its predecessor’s familiar magic to deliver a satisfying, whimsical adventure for the whole family.


Bumblebee (2018) 90%

The films of the Transformers franchise have never been critical darlings (the first is the highest-rated at 57%), but they’ve consistently made boatloads of money, so it wasn’t altogether surprising that, after five installments, Paramount decided it was time for a spinoff. The result is this week’s Bumblebee, a prequel story set in 1987 that recounts the fan-favorite sidekick’s first days on Earth as an Autobot scout tasked with setting up a base of operations. His efforts are thwarted by a pair of Decepticons, and suffering from amnesia, he befriends a teenager (Hailee Steinfeld) who helps him get his groove back. Directed by Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings), Bumblebee has drawn the best reviews of the franchise from critics who say its focus on a smaller-scale story, its revamped retro character designs, and its emphasis on genuine emotion make it a series standout, and it’s already Certified Fresh.


Second Act (2018) 43%

If there’s any time of the year best-suited for wish fulfillment, it’s the holiday season, and if there’s any actress best-suited to play a working woman who overcomes unlikely odds on the way to success, it might be Jennifer Lopez. In Second Act, Lopez plays struggling retail manager Maya, who is mistakenly hired as a high-level marketing consultant and uses the opportunity to turn her life around. Unfortunately, while critics say Lopez is clearly committed to her role and the film aims for the heart with its feelgood message, it’s also suffers from unusual tonal shifts, an unfocused narrative, and shopworn platitudes. That said, it works as a bit of counterprogramming against the big-budget fare opening this week and might serve as a pleasant enough diversion for anyone who knows what they’re getting into.


Welcome to Marwen (2018) 34%

In 2000, a man named Mark Hogancamp was severely beaten outside of a bar and suffered a nine-day coma that left him with partial brain damage. Unable to recall much of his life before the incident, he found comfort in crafting a miniature World War II-era town in his back yard as a form of therapy. Hogancamp’s story came to public attention with the help of a photographer who discovered his work and the acclaimed 2010 documentary Marwencol, but this week, it gets the biopic treatment courtesy of director Robert Zemeckis and star Steve Carell, who plays Hogancamp himself. Mixing live-action with fantastical recreations of Hogancamp’s unique art, Welcome to Marwen follows the tragic events that resulted in Hogancamp’s condition and explores his relationships to the powerful women he depicts in his work. Unfortunately, critics say the film largely fails to comprehend why Hogancamp’s journey is so remarkable, choosing instead to lather on phony sentimentality and focus more on showcasing its spectacular effects than the human story at its core.


The Favourite (2018) 93%

In the first of two films based on true stories about regal squabbling that are expanding into wide release this week, we have Yorgos LanthimosThe Favourite. The film stars Olivia Colman as 18th century British monarch Queen Anne, Rachel Weisz as the Queen’s advisor and secret lover Sarah Churchill, and Emma Stone as Abigail Hill, the younger cousin of Sarah who schemes to repair her tarnished reputation by replacing Sarah as the Queen’s “favourite.” Critics say the performances from all three stars, as well as the razor-sharp writing from Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, are stellar, and Lanthimos’ wry sense of humor fits perfectly into the perdiod setting and darkly comic history being depicted. It’s already won a number of awards heading into Oscar season, so don’t be surprised to see it when the nominations are announced.


Mary Queen of Scots (2018) 62%

Two weeks ago, when there were no new films opening in wide release, we chose to lead with a period drama that was only hitting 4 theaters. So of course it had choose the week when we had 6 other wide releases to expand. For those of you who missed it last time, Academy Award nominees Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie co-star as Mary Stuart and Queen Elizabeth I, respectively, in Mary Queen of Scots, which focuses on the former’s return to the Scottish throne and her challenge to the latter’s claim over Scotland. Critical reaction to the film has waned quite a bit since its initial release, but most still agree that its two celebrated young stars are consistently compelling to watch, even if it all doesn’t quite add up to the sum of its impressive parts. If you read about Mary Queen of Scots here two weeks ago and lamented the fact that it wasn’t playing near you, go and check again, and you may find yourself spending an evening with Ronan and Robbie.


What’s New on TV

Vanity Fair: Miniseries (2018) 89%

Olivia Cooke‘s brilliant portrayal of the feisty and scheming Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair makes this adaptation of Thackeray’s classic novel more relatable for a 21st century audience.


Also Opening This Week In Limited Release

  • Cold War (2018)Pawel Pawlikowski‘s romantic drama about a singer and a jazz musician living in 1950s Poland who fall in love and find their relationship tested by Cold War politics, is Certified Fresh at 93%.

Tag Cloud

batman hist concert anime PBS mockumentary Syfy heist movie USA Network 99% Comedy Central 71st Emmy Awards blaxploitation diversity cancelled television Hallmark Tubi TCA Winter 2020 Black Mirror revenge Acorn TV hollywood Rom-Com zombies Sony Pictures finale Quiz latino Avengers kong Marvel GoT comic book movie animated Classic Film Character Guide Television Academy scorecard Columbia Pictures zombie Song of Ice and Fire dramedy based on movie strong female leads The CW Turner Classic Movies indiana jones Tomatazos emmy awards Mystery romantic comedy Nat Geo Cartoon Network Academy Awards Ellie Kemper slasher reviews Superheroe golden globe awards WGN Trivia scary movies new zealand VICE Best and Worst First Reviews international biography The Purge Fantasy venice Marathons Travel Channel hidden camera NBC cartoon unscripted anthology Film Festival war festival streaming Animation asian-american documentary Amazon Prime Video telelvision rt labs critics edition nfl classics discovery golden globes Martial Arts fast and furious Star Wars VH1 Rock DC streaming service cars Fox Searchlight mcc American Society of Cinematographers DGA spanish saw Podcast CBS All Access laika sports king kong Awards ratings TLC Endgame prank thriller HBO Go docuseries suspense President parents Emmys Paramount Network zero dark thirty BAFTA franchise boxing justice league Apple TV Plus Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Interview See It Skip It kaiju Pacific Islander Disney Star Trek obituary San Diego Comic-Con live action dc pirates of the caribbean E3 italian Sci-Fi all-time hispanic Logo Peacock TBS Adult Swim Walt Disney Pictures A&E festivals Chernobyl Spectrum Originals Sundance TV Tumblr streaming movies MCU Mindy Kaling TruTV 90s Box Office Family feel good GIFs green book 45 adenture free movies dragons Esquire talk show films marvel comics royal family action-comedy disaster transformers SundanceTV NYCC Image Comics casting Nickelodeon A24 Universal OWN mutant CW Seed Oscars 2016 Wes Anderson series HBO boxoffice 24 frames MSNBC Shondaland TV BET dark criterion Comic-Con@Home 2021 Film Captain marvel serial killer psychological thriller spider-man GLAAD jurassic park Alien james bond Pride Month mission: impossible Music History BBC One Country south america Disney Plus DC Universe TCA stop motion Pixar 2021 Crunchyroll composers Holidays satire gangster Binge Guide halloween Turner politics 20th Century Fox Baby Yoda joker Trophy Talk TCM Drama OneApp new york women Bravo news Winners universal monsters Television Critics Association Hulu political drama Paramount BET Awards cancelled child's play dogs critic resources APB travel worst FXX The Walking Dead 1990s directors Biopics IFC Films japan superman australia Hear Us Out scene in color independent game of thrones natural history king arthur comiccon Apple japanese cults christmas movies docudrama elevated horror Disney Channel trailers FX on Hulu Fox News a nightmare on elm street ESPN TV renewals monster movies Trailer cancelled TV series werewolf teaser Horror Showtime Paramount Plus CMT Broadway Funimation canceled TV shows Comic Book YouTube adventure Apple TV+ Marvel Studios Comedy Shudder slashers black WarnerMedia olympics Fall TV Christmas ID Spring TV NBA Rocky YouTube Red Disney+ Disney Plus witnail jamie lee curtis hispanic heritage month TNT documentaries crossover cinemax crime thriller television TV One new star wars movies comic book movies debate children's TV IFC space canceled Writers Guild of America 2018 2020 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards quibi archives best Election fresh PlayStation blockbusters know your critic book New York Comic Con ViacomCBS Pet Sematary aapi richard e. Grant Epix football TIFF stand-up comedy ABC Family Legendary ghosts wonder woman book adaptation Mudbound french National Geographic toronto Valentine's Day Schedule video on demand science fiction nature doctor who Spike X-Men Vudu die hard ABC Signature harry potter adaptation Western Reality Competition blockbuster Warner Bros. vampires worst movies Thanksgiving Calendar SDCC rotten kids YouTube Premium medical drama AMC Pirates video remakes movie 73rd Emmy Awards high school Tokyo Olympics Mary poppins Anna Paquin VOD Arrowverse spain Women's History Month Emmy Nominations miniseries Red Carpet Crackle award winner basketball Netflix Christmas movies police drama lord of the rings rom-coms aliens Certified Fresh Nominations USA Heroines psycho Amazon toy story Amazon Studios Stephen King Holiday Lifetime binge Food Network 2019 target Infographic Mary Tyler Moore FX tv talk Countdown cats ABC marvel cinematic universe Super Bowl twilight RT21 The Walt Disney Company cooking posters comic CNN young adult 2017 CBS Cosplay Exclusive Video RT History Tarantino Polls and Games Watching Series ITV Musical Hallmark Christmas movies Freeform Masterpiece crime nbcuniversal Winter TV cops rt labs Action 21st Century Fox Summer Premiere Dates crime drama cancelled TV shows Brie Larson Elton John LGBT El Rey halloween tv sequel HBO Max Ovation robots 2015 Set visit Rocketman indie Netflix rt archives stoner Ghostbusters romance godzilla supernatural PaleyFest dexter superhero Musicals Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Dark Horse Comics foreign sag awards DirecTV Sneak Peek true crime Lifetime Christmas movies First Look Photos Disney streaming service comics 007 razzies Opinion game show Comics on TV Sundance The Witch TCA 2017 MTV E! Video Games The Academy spinoff chucky dceu Sundance Now 93rd Oscars Marvel Television renewed TV shows Cannes spy thriller screen actors guild Superheroes theme song sitcom SXSW Kids & Family comic books name the review legend sequels biopic Lucasfilm Pop screenings TV Land movies The Arrangement 72 Emmy Awards rotten movies we love reboot period drama Discovery Channel BBC America what to watch Year in Review TCA Awards historical drama YA FOX comedies 4/20 critics singing competition Extras Amazon Prime social media facebook spanish language Black History Month TV movies Grammys Teen DC Comics Creative Arts Emmys Reality Awards Tour versus Pop TV LGBTQ BBC Britbox popular breaking bad Toys Starz deadpool Mary Poppins Returns technology Lionsgate