Critics Consensus

Countdown Is a Mediocre Time-Killer

Plus, Black and Blue feels half-baked, The Current War: Director's Cut is solid but a little flat, and The Lighthouse is Certified Fresh.

by | October 24, 2019 | Comments

This week at the movies, we’ve got a killer app (Countdown, starring Elizabeth Lail and Jordan Calloway), corrupt cops (Black and Blue, starring Naomie Harris and Tyrese Gibson), a corporate feud (The Current War: Director’s Cut, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Shannon), and kooky keepers (The Lighthouse, starring Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe). What are the critics saying?


Countdown (2019) 26%

Every great accomplishment begins with a small idea, something that sparks the imagination or inspires a flurry of creative impulses, but sometimes small ideas stay small ideas. They may get gussied up in the trappings of larger ideas, but they remain small ideas. That appears to be what happened with Countdown, a high-concept horror flick that asks and answers the question, “What if there was a mobile phone app that could predict the exact moment of my death?” Elizabeth Lail stars as Quinn, a young nurse who, along with her colleagues, downloads the titular app out of morbid curiosity after an unusual encounter with a patient and discovers, much to her chagrin, that she may only have days before her time is up. And what happens to those who attempt to side-step their digitally predestined fate? It still comes to pass, of course, albeit under… spookier circumstances. Critics say Countdown is a derivative thriller that reinterprets familiar ideas into a just-different-enough hodgepodge of jump scares and unnecessary subplots in order to stretch its central conceit to feature length. That said, most also agree that Lail and co-star Jordan Calloway are both likable leads, and it’s a fairly short run to the finish line, so if you’re just looking to get the heart rate up for a little bit, it may do the trick.


Black and Blue (2019) 51%

If a film is marketed as a “cop thriller,” there’s a pretty good chance that corrupt officers are going to figure into the plot at some point. Maybe they shake down local gangsters for cash, maybe they pilfer from the evidence room, maybe they’re secretly involved in organized crime. Whatever the case, it’s kind of refreshing when the film puts that bit of bad business front and center right from the jump, and that’s what we get in Black and Blue. Naomie Harris (a.k.a. the James Bond franchise’s current Moneypenny) stars as a rookie cop who catches an officer-involved shooting — one that she wasn’t supposed to see — on her body cam and has to dodge both the corrupt officers involved and the distrustful members of the surrounding community as she hoofs it back to the station. Critics say Harris contributes a committed performance, and that helps elevate the material, but the film struggles to find a balance between its heady themes and more visceral thrills. Taken as a pure action thriller, it’s decent, if familiar, and taken as a commentary on the current state of community policing, it’s a little thin and simple. Go into it expecting a strong treatment of both angles, and you may be disappointed.


The Current War: Director's Cut (2019) 61%

It’s got an impressive A-list cast, a turn-of-the-20th-century period setting, and a basis in historical fact, and it’s executive produced by Martin Scorsese, all of which would seem to make The Current War a solid awards season contender. Strange, then, that it’s been sitting on a shelf since 2017. The story here is that the film — which recounts the corporate rivalry that erupted between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse (together with his partner Nikola Tesla) over the supply of electricity as a utility — originally premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival two years ago in September, and was set to be distributed by The Weinstein Company that same November. Then, of course, the allegations against Harvey Weinstein came out, TWC sold off the rights to the film, and it sat in limbo until 101 Studios picked up the distribution rights and scheduled for release, well, this weekend. This gave director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon some extra time to retool the movie after its lukewarm reception at TIFF in 2017, and here we are. For what its worth, critics who have seen the Director’s Cut say it’s marginally better than what was shown in Toronto, but it still suffers from the same fundamental problem: despite its star power and some well-crafted costumes and production design, the drama falls a little flat. That said, the performances are all ace, and everything really does look beautiful here, so if you just want to spend some time in a historical setting with the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Shannon, Nicholas Hoult, Katherine Waterston, and Tom Holland, you won’t be disappointed.


The Lighthouse (2019) 90%

If director Robert Eggers‘ debut feature, 2016’s The Witch, was divisive, audiences should now at least have some idea what they’re in for if they decide to see The Lighthouse. And since the film is expanding to several hundred more theaters this week, there will certainly be more audiences who see it. Robert Pattinson stars as a young lighthouse keeper who accompanies a grizzled veteran keeper played by Willem Dafoe as they relieve another pair of keepers on an isolated island, where they’ll learn to work together over the course of a few months. As time passes, the isolation winds its way through their psyches and they begin to lose their grip on reality… or do they? Critics say The Lighthouse is beautifully shot — it’s photographed on black and white film, in an unconventional aspect ratio — and impeccably acted by both of its leads, who endured a famously grueling shoot. You may not be able to decipher all the mysteries hidden within the film — and perhaps that is as Eggers intended — but it should be a fascinating journey to undertake if you can stomach a bit of weirdness.

 


Also Opening This Week In Limited Release


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

Tag Cloud

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