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) 62%

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

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