Critics Consensus

1917 and Just Mercy Are Certified Fresh

Plus, Underwater is well-crafted but derivative, and Like A Boss is a missed opportunity.

by | January 9, 2020 | Comments

This week at the movies, we’ve got a perilous mission (1917, featuring the voices of George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman), a battle for justice (Just Mercy, starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx), undersea danger (Underwater, starring Kristen Stewart and Vincent Cassel), and a corporate rivalry (Like a Boss, starring Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrne). What are the critics saying?

1917 (2020) 89%

Fresh off a couple of surprise Golden Globe wins for Best Director and Best Motion Picture – Drama, 1917 expands into wide release this week to afford broader audiences the opportunity to see writer-director Sam Mendes’ ambitious spectacle on the big screen. Ingeniously crafted from several long takes to spin its narrative as a single, unbroken shot, the story follows a pair of British soldiers in World War I (played by George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman) who are tasked with delivering an urgent message to a battalion behind enemy lines in order to prevent a massive ambush. It’s the most anticipated film opening this month by a wide margin, according to our fans on social media, and it’s already won heaps of awards (particularly for its stunning cinematography, courtesy of the legendary Roger Deakins) en route to what will likely be a strong showing at the Oscars in February. It’s also Certified Fresh, with critics calling it an immersive and visceral journey that is, of course, technically impressive, but also grounded in a moving tribute to the sacrifices made by the soldiers engaged in the war.

Just Mercy (2020) 83%

Another film expanding into more theaters this week after a limited release back in December is Destin Daniel Cretton’s Just Mercy, which has already earned star Jamie Foxx a SAG Award nomination. Based on a true story, the film chronicles the efforts of a Harvard-educated attorney named Bryan Stevenson (played by Michael B. Jordan) to exonerate Walter McMillian (Foxx), who was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of a teenager in 1987. It was a landmark case for Stevenson, who had set out to represent those he believed were wrongly accused of the crimes they were sent to prison for, and it spanned several years as he battled the systemic racism that allowed McMillian’s conviction in the first place. Just Mercy also impressed the critics enough to earn the Certified Fresh distinction, with reviews praising its timely, timeless themes and its outstanding performances. Though it skirts the edges of feeling overly earnest, it manages to overcome its less than subtle messaging with enough nuance and compelling drama to make it well worth a watch.

Underwater (2020) 48%

Former Twilight star Kristen Stewart has, by all accounts, done an excellent job carving out a unique path in Hollywood, starring in a number of acclaimed indie films and earning rave reviews for her performances. But she still makes time for genre fare every once in a while; last year, it was the Charlie’s Angels reboot, and this week, it’s a deep-sea thriller called, appropriately, Underwater. Stewart stars alongside Vincent Cassell, T.J. Miller, Jessica Henwick, Mamoudou Athie, and John Gallagher Jr., who together comprise a research crew stationed at a facility seven miles below the surface of the ocean. When an unseen force rips their vessel to shreds, the surviving members must figure out a way to get to safety… and avoid whatever it was that did the damage. Critics are fairly split on Underwater, with some crying foul at its all-too-familiar setup and reliance on horror cliches, while others call it a competently crafted thriller that, yes, wears its inspirations on its sleeve, but also mimics them quite effectively. In other words, your mileage may vary here, but if you’re looking for something scary at the theaters this weekend, this is probably at least better than last week’s The Grudge.

Like a Boss (2020) 21%

Tiffany Haddish has been a comedy queen since her breakout role in 2017’s Girls Trip, and Rose Byrne has proven her own chops in several projects, most notably in 2011’s Bridesmaids. Throw in a scenery-chewing Salma Hayek, and you’d be forgiven for assuming the result would be a surefire hit. The reviews for Like a Boss, however, would indicate otherwise. Haddish and Byrne play Mia and Mel, a pair of odd-couple BFFs who run a modest cosmetics company together but are deep in debt. When they decide to sell 51% of their company to Hayek’s makeup mogul Claire Luna and their business begins to tank, Mel and Mia find themselves at odds with each other, even as they must work together to take Claire down and save their brand. Like a Boss isn’t without its share of laughs, with its heavy dose of physical humor and raunchy jokes, but critics say the film doesn’t explore Mel and Mia’s relationship deeply enough to make their redemptive turnaround feel earned. Plus, thanks to a repetitive series of clashes and reconciliations and a story whose turns are stale and predictable, it feels longer than its 83-minute runtime. Haddish and Byrne have solid chemistry, and they and Hayek appear to be having fun, but that’s one of the few bright spots Like a Boss offers, so if you aren’t a particularly big fan of any of the stars, you may find yourself counting the ways in which it could have been a better movie.

Also Opening This Week In Limited Release

  • The Woman Who Loves Giraffes (2020) , a documentary about naturalist Anne Innis Dagg’s groundbreaking studies on wild giraffes in the 1950s, is at 100%.
  • VHYes (2020) , a coming-of-age film shot in the style of a VHS camcorder, with faux 1980s TV content peppered throughout, is at 100%.
  • Les Misérables (2020) , a drama about a trio of cops assigned to an impoverished Paris neighborhood who encounter unexpected trouble during an arrest, is at 84%.
  • Inherit the Viper (2020) , a crime thriller about a pair of opioid-dealing siblings who encounter resistance when they try to leave the business, is at 57%.
  • The Sonata (2020) , a horror film about a violinist who discovers a possibly cursed piece of music that her late father composed, is at 57%.
  • The Informer (2020) , starring Joel Kinnaman and Rosamund Pike in a thriller about a former soldier in jail who becomes wrapped up in a messy FBI operation, is at 54%.
  • Three Christs (2020) , starring Peter Dinklage and Richard Gere in a based-on-true-events drama about three men at a mental hospital who all believe they are Jesus Christ, is at 54%.

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

Tag Cloud

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