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) 82%

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

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