When the late, great website The Dissolve ended operations, its commenting community had The Solute to call home, but the staff and writers of The Dissolve have been scattered to the winds of the Internet. With Dissolve On, we collect some of the essential film writing being done by these essential film writers. Because there’s always a Dissolver writing something notable about the movies somewhere on the Internet.
These folks are talented and prolific, so if we missed a piece, share it with us in the comments!
Kate Erbland on Folk Hero & Funny Guy for IndieWire:
“As childhood friends who have taken wildly divergent paths in life — Karpovsky’s Paul is a struggling standup comedian who just ended an engagement, Russell’s Jason is a mildly successful folk singer who is having a hell of a time traveling the country and jamming out, with groupies to spare — the pair have a lived-in, believable chemistry that hinges equally on their affection for and disappointment in each other. When Jason swings through town while on his fun (but decidedly no frills) tour, the differences in their lives become even more sharp, as a sad-eyed Paul is still reeling from bombing one of his few-and-far-between sets while Jason might as well walk into every room screaming, “Woo! Party!” “
Kate Erbland on Snatched for IndieWire:
“Lauded actress and boundary-busting comedian Goldie Hawn hasn’t appeared in a film in over a decade, let alone starred in one, so her return to the big screen should be considered a very big deal. Too bad that the Oscar-winning actress’ first project in 15 years isn’t just a misfire, but one that commits the unforgivable sin of not allowing Hawn to inhabit her stature as a great comedic performer. Jonathan Levine’s “Snatched” has bigger problems than just that one, but the decision to cast Hawn as a worrywart mother saddled with a woefully immature daughter (Amy Schumer) on a trip from hell is indicative of many of this limp action-comedy’s biggest sins. And there are so many.”
Scott Tobias on Snatched for Uproxx:
“The main problem with Snatched, however, is that it mostly stops being funny the moment the kidnapping premise kicks in. Before then, Schumer works the fallout from a breakup into mercilessly self-deprecating comedy, turning the pain and humiliation of getting dumped into a comment on her character’s Instagram narcissism and flailing desperation. Schumer stars as Emily, who experiences two life-changing setbacks in short succession when she loses her job at a clothing store and loses a rock-star boyfriend (Randall Park) whose musical fortunes have, in his reckoning, given him access to a wider array of vaginas. Before the split, the two had planned a resort getaway to Ecuador and now she can’t find anyone to take the extra ticket, mainly on account of her odious personality.”
Sam Adams on Alien: Covenant for Slate:
“There’s only one character Covenant is interested in, and that’s Fassbender’s David, who has spent the 10 years since Prometheus growing out his blond locks and working on the best way to emerge out of the darkness while wearing a hooded cape. Like Walter, his double, David is a human creation, but he’s a little too human. The relationship between these two Fassbenders is at the heart of Alien: Covenant, and it’s one of the few things that really entertain on a level beyond the technical. Prometheus was nigh on a visual masterpiece, especially in 3-D, but it was hollow at its core. Covenant is a more by-the-numbers exercise in giving the people what they want, right down to a climax that feels like it’s cobbled together from the ends of Alien and Aliens, but at least it’s got some tender Fassbender-on-Fassbender action, including a scene where David teaches Walter to play a primitive flute and offers, “I’ll do the fingering.” “
Matt Singer on Alien: Covenant for Screencrush:
“Scott delivers on his end of the bargain, barely, in a way that feels a little obligatory; a concession made to appease his congregation so he can also explore the stuff that really interests him. Those topics include religion and the nature of existence, along with the one holdover character from Prometheus, an android named David, played by Michael Fassbender. David’s choices in Alien: Covenant don’t always seem to fit with his previous actions in Prometheus. But then what god doesn’t behave inconsistently?”
Keith Phipps on The Wall for Uproxx:
“Director Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow, The Bourne Identity) brings, as always, stylistic flair to the movie. But apart from the earliest scenes, the tension mostly comes from Isaac’s conversations with the sniper, who taunts him as he tries to draw out details of his life (shades of Phone Booth).
The problem: It’s never quite enough tension. Johnson, who’s been the dull center of a lot films, gives an intense performance as Isaac. He makes his wounded, parched character seem desperate enough to try almost anything to get out the fix he’s in. But as the film progresses his conversations with the sniper start to feel more scripted than felt, particularly when Juba draws out a pained back story that could have come from virtually any war movie since John Wayne stormed Iwo Jima.”
Scott Tobias on The Wall for NPR:
“Through the premise of a U.S. spotter trapped by an Iraqi sniper, trying to improvise a third option beyond bleeding out and instant death, The Wall lands on a powerful metaphor for the Iraq War itself, particularly at that point in time. We know now that the end of the war was not, in fact, the end of the war— and that the end, a full decade later, still isn’t in sight. But the unofficial skirmish that happens in the film strands an American soldier in a metaphorical no man’s land between full engagement and pulling out completely. As politicians and defense officials are mired in their own strategic conundrum thousands of miles away, they’re represented by a man stuck in one place, taking fire without end.”
Scott Tobias on The Wizard of Lies for The Washington Post:
“So how does a filmmaker set about creating a man out of a monster? How do you find the human qualities of a shameless con artist without minimizing the wretchedness of his deeds? For Barry Levinson, director of the new biopic “The Wizard of Lies,” which will premiere Saturday night on HBO, humanizing Madoff wasn’t the goal so much as coming to grips with his actions and their consequences, particularly for his family, which reached Shakespearean proportions. After all, it was his sons, Andrew and Mark, who alerted federal authorities of the scheme, but were themselves so heavily scorned that Mark committed suicide precisely two years after his father’s arrest.”
David Ehrlich on King Arthur: Legend of the Sword for IndieWire:
“Taking one of the foundational stories of the Western world and somehow rendering it borderline unintelligible, the film tries to reconcile the gothic splendor of “Dark Souls” with the revolutionary zeal of “Les Misérables” and the bawdiness of a London crime saga (with a little “Ocean’s Eleven” thrown in for good measure), but Ritchie fails to meaningfully alchemize any of the disparate ingredients he lumps into his cauldron. It’s easy enough to appreciate the revisionist spectacle that the director might have had in mind, the compelling new take that he might have conjured atop the bones of this time-old tale, but Richie’s film is savagely quartered to death by the influences from which it’s drawn.”
Matt Singer on King Arthur: Legend of the Sword for Screencrush:
“Ritchie takes more liberties, unless I’m mistaken and the real Arthur’s dad fought elephants the size of mountains and wielded a sword that could slow time. His film draws inspiration from superhero stories and medieval fantasy shows. The target audience for his film appears to be people who wish Game of Thrones was less complicated and didn’t have any sex or nudity.
Its version of Arthur, played by Charlie Hunnam, is a Moses-esque (or Superman-esque) orphan raised in a brothel after his parents (including Eric Bana as King Uther Pendragon) are slaughtered in a coup engineered by Arthur’s power-mad uncle Vortigern (Jude Law). A frantic montage speeds us through Arthur’s next decade learning to survive on the mean streets of Londinium with the help of (who else?) a random kung-fu master (Tom Wu).”
Keith Phipps on 10 Arthurian adaptations over the years for The Week:
“4. George Romero’s Knightriders (1981)
Riding high from the international success of his Dawn of the Dead, grindhouse auteur George Romero poured his heart (and his wallet) into an offbeat passion-project: a socially relevant drama about a troupe of motorcycle-riding traveling performers, fighting to preserve a code of chivalry in a materialistic modern world. Borrowing liberally from the mythologies of King Arthur and Robin Hood, Romero delivered one of his best movies, illustrating how, from generation to generation, mundane betrayals and raging human emotions ultimately tarnish every golden age.”
David Ehrlich reflects on Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette for IndieWire:
“[…][I]n 2006, her “Marie Antoinette” received a very mixed reaction for how it gently humanized one of the most famous (and famously ill-fated) monarchs in French history. But time has been as kind to Coppola’s most opulent film, which continues to seem less like a gaudy outlier than it does an opulent expression of its maker’s singular genius. It may not match the tenderness of “Lost in Translation” or “Somewhere,” but none of Coppola’s other movies so vividly illustrate how location is her most evocative means of exploring dislocation.”
Nathan Rabin on The Brothers Grimsby in his for-real this time final entry for My World of Flops:
“Grimsby has the audacity to ask us to feel for the sad, family-craving little boy inside the white-trash joke of a man who seems to spend much of his adult life with a firecracker jammed up his ass. It wants us to be emotionally invested in the brothers’ relationship but also to laugh at their endless humiliation. It wants to make us laugh and to make us feel, and fails decisively on both counts.
The English hooligan angle undoubtedly limited the film’s commercial potential internationally. It’s easy to see why a film that set out to amuse the blokes who enjoy a pint at the pub with their mates, and pretty much only those people, failed to catch on with international audiences the way Borat! did. Like so much of Cohen’s earlier, better work, Grimsby is fascinated by the comic possibilities presented by men who identify as heterosexual finding themselves, through an unlikely series of events, suddenly faced with a pair of testicles in their face, or a giant penis, or something foreign in their rear.”
Nathan Rabin on The Klansman for This Looks Terrible! :
“While Sam Fuller is credited as co-writing the screenplay, apparently his work bears very little resemblance to what ended up onscreen. So while The Klansman explores such Fuller-friendly topics as race, sex, death, power, violence, terror and the seedy underbelly of the American dream, the movie fatally lacks the assurance, audacity and point of view that made Fuller such a force.
Instead of benefitting from Fuller’s clear, bold vision the film substitutes the muddled, compromised sensibility of the kind of international co-production where filmmakers and actors from around the world join forces to create something combines the worst of every country’s cinema. Shot in the American south with a British director and a Welsh star, The Klansman feels about as authentically American as Troll 2. The bad over-dubbing certainly does not help.”
Nathan Rabin on The Do-Over for Control Nathan Rabin:
“The Do-Over is substantially different than many of Sandler’s late-period films. The pacing is almost perversely slow and meandering and the tone is oddly sad and curdled.
The movie reminded me of Touchstone movies like Captain Ron or Outrageous Fortune but with the bright colors, snappy editing and busy pop soundtrack replaced by a weirdly muted visual scheme, weirdly poky pacing and a strangely reserved score and soundtrack. But, like pretty much all of Sandler’s late-period vehicles, yes, even The Cobbler, the movie is absolutely dreadful.”
Nathan Rabin on Suicide Squad for Lukewarm Takes:
“So of course Suicide Squad saddles Davis with some of the worst dialogue ever committed to film, most notably, “And have you heard of the Pyrokinetic home boy?” which is the film’s exquisitely clumsy way of introducing El Diablo, a character who may be one-dimensional and hokey but at least has the advantage of also being pretty racist (more on that later). It says a lot about the surreally terrible dialogue the film saddles Davis with that when she says, ““I have the witch’s heart” (Suicide Squad’s plot centers on an all-powerful witch’s heart that may be the single stupidest MacGuffin ever committed to film) it’s actually one of her more dignified lines.”
Kate Erbland’s obituary on Michael Parks following his passing for IndieWire:
“The actor quickly went from being one of the most sought after actors in the industry to not finding acting work for four years after Bronson’s abrupt cancellation. Parks claimed: ‘If you don’t play the game, you don’t work.’ During the 70s and 80s, he could only muster sporadic appearances in independent films.”
Yet Parks persevered, and his career eventually hit a major upswing after years of creative and independent choices. In 1986, he directed himself as Josey Wales in the “The Return of Josey Wales,” his only directorial credit. Parks’ robust television career continued long into the ’80s and ’90s, most notably with a role on the “Dynasty” spinoff “The Colbys” and a second-season stint on “Twin Peaks.” “
Kate Erbland on female filmmaker statistics for IndieWire’s Girl Talk:
“This year’s Cannes Film Festival comes with a statistic that’s inspiring and disheartening in equal measure: The competition lineup includes more work from female filmmakers than almost any other year of the aughts… but that still shakes out to under 16% of the total competition slate. This year’s 19-film competition lineup includes just three female filmmakers, all of whom have screened their work at the festival before, putting Palme d’Or contenders at a 15.8% female-directed rate.”
Tasha Robinson interviews Jamie Clayton and Freema Agyeman on Sense8 for The Verge:
“Did they want to draw on your personal experience to create your character?
JC: No. No, no, no, no. It has nothing to do with us. Not at all.
FA: My first audition, I was with a casting director in the UK, and we had a great time, playing around. I’d never been to an audition where there were props, and she was just grabbing books off a shelf, going, “Let’s just use this and that,” The second audition was the chemistry test, and the third was a Skype meeting with Lana and Lilly. I had just gotten really close to getting a pilot, but they messed me around with the paperwork and the visas. I got so close, and in the end, I didn’t get it, down to paperwork. So I came back with such a heavy heart. So I was so frank with the Wachowskis. They really have an ability to make you feel utterly relaxed in their company. They’re so interested in what you have to say and who you are as a human being that you forget any inhibitions you might have. You’re not really thinking about what you’re saying, because they just seem to be so into everything you’re saying. [Laughs]”
Charles Bramesco interviews Evan Peters for Nylon:
“Prior to joining this project, was Somali representation in media an issue you were aware of?
Other than what I was shown in Black Hawk Down and Captain Phillips, I didn’t know much at all. But this film was intended as a sort of corrective to that. I definitely have more compassion now for the Somali struggle; it’s unbelievable that all that is going on right now. The [International Rescue Committee] is an organization that the film is working with to combat the famine crisis over there, the immigration crisis, the refugees. It’s insane to me. We’re here talking about a film, and children are dying.”
Charles Bramesco interviews Cate Blanchett and Julien Rosefeldt for Nylon:
“Do you consider Manifesto to be a work of video art, then?
JR: I don’t think it’s very interesting to even think about that distinction. But the industry that is behind movie releasing demands categorization. Everything either has to be a feature film, a short film, or a documentary. That’s why they’ll show this work with the machinery of narrative film and in an art film context. It narrows the world. But I see it as equally interesting to do an opera, or an endless performance or something.
CB: It does shake up an audience to see something that has a very different ambition than the majority of things they consume, or rather, that are served up to them. I recently saw Scorsese’s Silence, and I was struck by several moments that require a very particular type of attendance to them. I bemoan the fact that most audiences are either too restless or perceive themselves to be too time-poor to attend to a masterwork like that. There were many, many, moments in that when I thought, I could watch this on loop in an art gallery. The works that have left-field ambitions, works that break new ground, the distributors and exhibitors have very little patience for them.”
Keith Phipps interviews John Waters for Uproxx:
“I find it kind of interesting that one of the characters goes through a weird relationship with violence in this film from really being obsessed with screen violence to being repulsed when she encounters real life violence.
That’s me. I never would watch … When they had that newscaster [Christine Chubbuck] that killed herself, I would never look at that footage. I would never look at those girls that eat puke. I don’t want to ever see real violence ever, but I have not the slightest problem with watching porn torture movies. Because I know it’s fake and so does the audience.
What do you think is the appeal of screen violence in that case?
Oh, its appeal. Certainly it’s exciting and it’s better if it didn’t happen to you but happens to somebody else. Everybody, in a way, feels like killing people. They just don’t. That’s what Serial Mom is about.”
Matt Singer on “The Potentially Fatal Flaw in Hollywood’s Business Model” for Screencrush:
“When television first gained popularity in the early 1950s, movies responded by offering the public something TV couldn’t: Mind-boggling visuals. Screens got bigger, aspect ratios got wider, and a third dimension was added to the experience. Hollywood’s response to the rise of prestige TV has been much the same: Go big or stay home. While television’s storytelling has grown more sophisticated, improvements in its imagery have mostly lagged behind, leaving a relatively untapped market available to cinema. If you want dense, serialized storytelling, you watch TV. If you want jaw-dropping extravaganzas, you go to the movie theater.
At least that’s how it went for a while. Now TV shows are getting more visually sophisticated (See: The Handmaid’s Tale, Game of Thrones, Bosch, and many more.) Meanwhile, for all their supposed superiority in the field of presentation, the movies with truly special effects seem rarer and rarer. What was the last movie that people went out of their way to see in the theater specifically because the visuals were supposed to be so incredible that you had to watch them on the big screen? Maybe the multidimensional tripping of Doctor Strange? How about the last one before that? Maybe the long-takes-in-outer-space of Gravity? That movie came out almost four years ago.”
Keith Phipps with Mike Ryan on Terminator: Salvation for the Random Movie Night podcast:
Ryan: […][McG] goes for it in this; I think he is trying to make a great Terminator movie:
Phipps: “Yes, and I think part of the problem is, with this: in the previous Terminator films[…], the glimpses we get into the future in those are always the most chilling scenes. And you’re just like, “Wow, that is as dark as you can get in terms of what’s going to happen to humanity once the machines take control.” I think the problem is, doing a whole movie like that is just too much. It’s like, all whipped cream on your ice cream sundae or something; all just the good parts, but it’s too much of it or something…”
Ryan: “Well, the other thing: it takes place next year.”
Phipps: “[…]This is one of those movies. It’s ok. I don’t think it’s as bad its detractors suggest it is, but beyond what we’ve been talking about, beyond the production design of the terminators and a few action scenes, there’s nothing really remarkable about it, and it feels like another film where you’re filling in the gaps of a story that doesn’t need to be filled in. It’s not a prequel, but it kind of feels like a prequel. Like, we all know that Kyle Reese goes back in time, and now we get to see the story of how it happened. So it’s a weird thing where it’s a prequel that takes place after the original film.”
David Ehrlich joins Amy Nicholson on Shakespeare in Love for The Canon podcast:
Nicholson: “I want to touch on a word that you talked about, which is the word ‘middlebrow’. I think we use the word ‘middlebrow’ as an insult, but is that even fair?”
Ehrlich: “[…]I think when there are movies that play around there well and intelligently and have high-minded goals, I think a lot of the themes that we’ve already touched upon, in regards to Shakespeare in Love and several of those that you feel echoed in La-La-Land: even if they are packaged in a way that I think has mass appeal, they are big ideas. They are ideas that I think resonate in Shakespeare’s work, and this film — among its other things, in restoring the human element to these works that are sort of taken for granted, that preceded all of us, that have always been part of the firmament of our lives — it makes the case that Shakespeare’s plays were — and this is something you hear in high school all the time, but didn’t really register until I saw this movie — were sort of the middlebrow entertainment of their day, as well. And I think that one of the smartest things about the movie and part of why it works so well is that it traffics in all of the same appeal that Shakespeare’s plays had for the audience of their day.”
Scott Tobias joins this week’s Filmspotting podcast on Something Wild and its director Jonathan Demme’s Top 5 Moments – the minutes are:
0:00-4:42 – Billboard
4:42-32:23 – Blindspotting: “Something Wild”
David Byrne, “Loco de Amor”
34:06-53:41 – Notes / Massacre Theatre
Talking Heads, “Once in a Lifetime”
54:32-1:39:10 – Top 5: Demme Moments
1:39:10-1:42:12 – Close