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 Strange Weather for IndieWire:
“In her first feature since 2009’s “Motherhood,” Dieckmann’s film is the kind of showcase that many actresses over 40 would kill to get — but Hunter is made for it. Joined by recent Emmy nominee Carrie Coon as Byrd, her best friend, neighbor, and co-worker, “Strange Weather” is the sort of film that passes the Bechdel Test 20 times over, while also proving why the metric is so important in the first place. Made by and about women, offering space for Hunter and Coon to prove why they’re some of our best working actresses, films like this are rare and worth the fight they require to be made.”
Genevieve Koski on The Incredible Jessica James for Vox:
“[…][I]n Williams’s hands, Jessica James becomes a diamond-sharp protagonist, and the only defining feature of an otherwise formless movie.
Thankfully, The Incredible Jessica James seems to know where its strengths lie, and doesn’t attempt to expand beyond its protagonist’s immediate perspective. Not only does this prevent the svelte 85-minute movie from overstaying its welcome (something many modern comedies could stand to emulate), but it keeps the focus on Williams, who is pretty much the only thing animating writer-director James Strouse’s otherwise stagnant tale of personal and professional growth.”
Tasha Robinson on Brigsby Bear for The Verge:
“The best way to see Dave McCary’s terrific directorial debut Brigsby Bear is without knowing anything whatsoever about the story. The specific way it unfolds invites a lot of “What’s going on, and what does it mean?” conjecture from the audience. It’s more fun to watch than to read about.
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to discuss the exact reasons the film works without getting into the plot. So for the spoiler-averse, here’s the detail-free summary: Brigsby Bear, starring Saturday Night Live’s Kyle Mooney (who co-scripted with first-time screenwriter Kevin Costello), is an endlessly surprising little charmer of a film that makes sincerity and sweetness into a cinematic virtue again. It’s a deliberately small movie about social malfunction, bad parenting, good parenting, creativity, and fandom, and it doesn’t hit a single cynical note.”
Charles Bramesco on Girls Trip for Little White Lies:
“Lee proudly celebrates black women along with the bonds between them, and while he makes zero effort to pander or otherwise nod to viewers not meeting those two specifications, everyone can bask in the glow of this film’s radiant positivity.
The film rests on the quartet of besties who make up the core cast: there’s Regina Hall’s fun-loving Ryan, who has the dream husband (Mike Colter) to complete her perfect life; Queen Latifah’s journalist turned celebrity gossipmonger Sasha; Jada Pinkett Smith’s buttoned-up Lisa, who hasn’t gotten any D since her divorce two years earlier; and Haddish’s Dina, a whirling hurricane of good times.”
Scott Tobias on Atomic Blonde for NPR:
“For the spies of Atomic Blonde, the purpose of chasing a MacGuffin called “The List” has been vastly diminished by world events, but they keep on fighting regardless. That’s who they are.
The degree to which Atomic Blonde takes any of this business seriously is an open question, given how little time is spent on political and existential chin-stroking and how much is devoted to fetishizing the era-specific fashion, interior design, and New Wave music. Yet it does explain why the film’s hollowness is a feature rather than a flaw, reflecting the mindset of kick-ass pulp heroine who submerges herself in an ice bath every night, as much to numb her conscience as to salve her wounds. She doesn’t know who to trust. She doesn’t know what she’s fighting for anymore. But nevertheless, she persists.”
David Ehrlich on Logan Lucky for IndieWire:
“A silly movie by a serious man who’s refused to become a self-important artist, “Logan Lucky” wants you to think of it as minor Soderbergh (or at least it would if Soderbergh was even the slightest bit concerned about how you contextualize his work). The premise alone, so obviously a Trump country riff on Soderbergh’s biggest film that one character straight up uses the phrase “Ocean’s 7-11,” is enough to position this low-key heist comedy as little more than a joy ride around a familiar track. But if “Logan Lucky” begs you not to take it seriously, that doesn’t mean it lacks real soul.”
Mike D’Angelo on The Last Face for The A.V. Club:
“Penn’s intentions with The Last Face are honorable, and very much in line with his frequent real-life political activism. He wants to call attention to the plight of innocent victims in war-torn African nations (Wren delivers a climactic speech to this effect, scolding the West for its apathy), and he also wants to honor the foreigners who put their lives at risk to help those victims. Somehow, though, it never occurred to him that foregrounding an on/off love story between two gorgeous movie stars—while a sound strategy to sell more tickets—inevitably trivializes the carnage that surrounds them. This is a film in which anonymous black bodies, riddled with bullets and shrapnel, function merely as obstacles in the path of white people’s personal fulfillment.”
David Ehrlich on Detroit on IndieWire:
“[T]here’s something broadly instructive about a major director choosing this moment to make a movie about this episode in the fraught history of American race relations. With Ferguson still so close in the rearview mirror, with Eric Garner still so fresh in so many minds, not even the whitest of viewers (or filmmakers) can look at Detroit and pretend that we ever really left. “Detroit” is extremely powerful when its wandering eye is trained on the moment at hand, when it’s performing a bracingly direct meditation on white violence and black fear. The film only runs into trouble when it clumsily attempts to contextualize the events of its horrific second act, as Bigelow and her “Zero Dark Thirty” screenwriter Mark Boal struggle to frame a tragic incident that was shaped by centuries of context.”
Mike D’Angelo on The Land of the Moon for The A.V. Club:
“The original title is the French phrase for kidney stones, which play a role in the narrative, but which someone apparently deemed insufficiently alluring for U.S. audiences. (To be fair, the French don’t include the word “kidney” in their phrase, which means “evil of stones.”) Instead, we’re getting this film as From The Land Of The Moon—a title that’s somehow at once generic and nonsensical, and seems vaguely meant to suggest a flight of fancy, or something. Fair enough, as the target audience is people who believe that romantic obsession founded upon nothing whatsoever, single-mindedly and self-destructively pursued, indicates an admirably passionate spirit and not, you know, a lunatic.”
Charles Bramesco on The Emoji Movie for The Guardian:
“[…]👎[…]💩 corporate clickbait exercise[…]
Children should not be allowed to watch The Emoji Movie. Their impressionable brains simply aren’t set up to sift through the thick haze of corporate subterfuge clouding every scene of this sponsored-content post masquerading as a feature film. Adults know enough to snort derisively when, say, an anthropomorphic high-five drops a reference to popular smartphone game Just Dance Now (available for purchase in the App Store, kids!), but young children especially are more innocent and more vulnerable.”
Matt Singer on The Emoji Movie for Screencrush:
“Trying to follow the film’s story is a fool’s errand; the inner-workings of this phone have no consistency or logic, which means characters have to constantly explain what they’re doing and why. Here’s the VIP section, that’s where the favored emoji hang out, now here’s a piracy app, where you find internet trolls and hackers for some reason, now here’s a firewall that requires a password that will be incredibly difficult for the characters to figure out but immediately obvious to every single person in the audience. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ never shows up, because this is The Emoji Movie and not The Emoticon Movie, but his spirit hovers over every frame.”
David Ehrlich on The Emoji Movie for IndieWire:
” 🙁 🙁 🙁
[…]This is a film about the power of self-expression, and yet it exists to advertise a limited visual language that people don’t have the power to expand upon or customize. It tells kids that they can be whatever they want to be, as long as they want to be something that Apple thought to include in their latest update. What do you want to be when you grow up? The choices are airplane pilot, Santa Claus, and Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie. Jailbreak laments the fact that, for a long time, the only female emoji was a princess. Great news: There are now like four other options.”
Noel Murray on Menashe for The A.V. Club:
“Menashe Lustig brings warmth and a lumpen charisma to Menashe’s lead role, giving life to a film based in part on his own experiences. Lustig too is a widowed father from a deeply religious community, where everyone minds everyone else’s business. In the fictionalized version of his life (written by the non-Yiddish-speaking Weinstein with help from Alex Lipschultz and Musa Syeed), he finds himself fighting for custody of his son Rieven (Ruben Niborski), who lives part time with Menashe’s brother-in-law Eizik (Yoel Weisshaus). While the dad works as a clerk in a grocery store, his late wife’s brother is a well-to-do real estate broker, who agrees with their rabbi’s judgment that Menasce needs to remarry and give Rieven a mother before the boy can come home to stay.”
David Ehrlich on Escapes for IndieWire:
” “Escapes” prefers to approach its star in a roundabout fashion, immediately launching into one of Fancher’s slippery and rambling monologues about his wandering days as a charmed lothario. Backdropped by a busy montage of clips from his acting gigs, Fancher’s voice leads us through an endless story about his relationship with Teri Garr; he talks about how uncomfortable it made him that she was making a small fortune while he was digging ditches, and he wraps the whole thing around the night he paid a visit to Garr’s ex-boyfriend. This, Almereyda insists, is the real Hampton Fancher. He’s a whirlwind, and Wikipedia could never do him justice.”
Nathan Rabin on The M Word for Control Nathan Rabin:
“Jaglom is a true auteur. His films are utterly distinctive. Unfortunately, one of the things that distinguishes them, hell, the main thing that distinguishes them, is that they’re half-assed and not very good. The M Word is no exception. In fact, it’s just as bad and as cheap as many of Feldman’s earlier films but in a substantially different, more arthouse kind of way.
The sets, for example, are so cheap, plain and grubby that they might as well have shot the film on leftover sets from National Lampoon’s Last Resort or Busted without anyone have cleaned up or painted in the intervening decades. The movie takes place in a Los Angeles local television station but the production values are sub-local access.”
Nathan Rabin on Rock n’ Roll High School Forever (1991) for Squeakquels! :
“[T]he appeal of Rock ‘n’ Roll High School Forever is not only Corey Feldman, but the music and dancing of Corey Feldman specifically.
Nobody wants to see that, as I will learn on Sunday when I go pay money to see Corey Feldman sing and dance live here in Atlanta as the climax of Corey Feldman month. Yet Rock ‘n’ Roll High School Forever, in an adorable fit of optimism, somehow imagined that Feldman would be appealing enough as both a rocker and an actor that he could fill the roles of Joey Ramone and P.J Soles simultaneously as the movie’s primary rocker and its scruffy, irreverent protagonist.”
Kate Erbland interviews Jessica Williams for IndieWire’s Girl Talk:
” “My hair would be falling out,” Williams said when asked what it would have been like if she was hosting “The Daily Show” during such a tumultuous time in American history. “I would have like no time to do anything for me. I just couldn’t imagine, no. Because this, right now, is so bizarre and so upsetting, that I’m really — I loved my time at the show, but I left the show to do this movie. And so, I really have no regrets.”
Williams credits the first inklings of “Jessica James” to her strong relationship with Strouse, a bond built during the creation of “People Places Things.”
“Jim was like, ‘I loved working with you, I cannot wait until somebody writes a movie for you,’” she remembered. “And then he said he was thinking, ‘Oh, my God! I can write that movie for her!’ “
Kate Erbland interviews Kyle Mooney and Dave McCary for IndieWire:
“While it wasn’t Mooney’s original intention to write a movie that’s as much about friendship as it is about the creative process – sound familiar? – “Brigsby Bear” eventually came to reflect Mooney and McCary’s own experiences in a charming way. “Towards the end of the scripting process, but definitely during the shooting of it, it felt like, ‘Oh, we’re mirroring our own experiences,’” Mooney said. “When were shooting scenes of the characters in the movie shooting scenes, it was like, ‘This is exactly what we’ve been doing for the past decade.’”
McCary added, “It was the energy that we were hoping to recreate of how it felt for us when we were just scrambling around, stealing shots at locations that we obviously didn’t have permits at, just making due with whatever we had, and not having money.” “
Tasha Robinson with Natt Garun and Adi Robertson on the possibility of creating a real-life Big Market from Valerian and the Title of a Thousand Words for The Verge:
“Tasha: Watching this movie, the first thing that occurred to me is “Oh, we could probably make one of those.” It would require a lot of buy-in from existing stores to get their stock scanned for VR presentation and get virtual stores designed, but Amazon has gradually achieved a similar level of digital buy-in from a lot of previously brick-and-mortar stores that want to keep competing in the market. The biggest usage barrier I see is that to use the Market, you’d have to have VR gear. The film solves that by having the Big Marketeers loan VR gear to anyone who comes to a designated wandering-around space. But am I getting ahead of myself here?”
Charles Bramesco on Valerian as “the ultimate argument in favor of CGI” for The Verge:
“During the press tour for The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams loved mentioning how much of the new universe was built with blood, sweat, and tears. Likewise, George Miller scored an Oscar nod for how much he was able to pull off with Mad Max: Fury Road; those gonzo polecats were live stuntmen strapped into real cars in the actual Namib Desert. But while CGI isn’t a substitute for reality, Besson proudly reminds us that neither form is inherently superior to the other, and that CGI has its own separate value.”
Kate Erbland and David Ehrlich with Jude Dry and Chris O’Falt on “the Future of Female-Led Action Movies” for IndieWire:
“DAVID EHRLICH: […]I think we’re finally living in the present of female-driven action movies. They’re here, and they’re everywhere. The patriarchy is being smashed from inside the house. “Wonder Woman” was such a watershed moment because Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot were breaking into a very particular, very influential, very gender-stratified genre, but Diana Prince is hardly the only game in town.
KATE ERBLAND: This summer has unquestionably proven the appetite for action films led by ass-kicking women — “Wonder Woman” alone proved that, and now here comes “Atomic Blonde” to really drive the point home with a swift kick to the, well, wherever — but I have to echo the sentiment that what will really be the next big step are more films that don’t just substitute a woman in a traditionally male role, instead expanding out the genre and adding new dimension to it.”
Kate Erbland on franchise-starters vs. standalones at the box office for IndieWire:
“This past weekend was won by a pair of original projects that couldn’t be more different: Christopher Nolan’s World War II epic “Dunkirk” and Malcolm D. Lee’s uproarious girls-gone-wild comedy “Girls Trip.” Meanwhile “Valerian” debuted in a dismal fifth place (remember, this is the film that reportedly cost over $200 million to make and market) and “The Mummy” continued to limp behind the pack (it’s yet to break $80 million in domestic returns after seven weeks at the box office).
Still, Hollywood’s sequel obsession has been on full display this year — of the current top 25 films, a staggering 20 are part of some kind of franchise — but the year’s most unexpected hits have come care of brand-new, wholly original properties. And all-new franchises just don’t seem to be taking off, particularly ones obviously engineered to kickstart new series.”
Sam Adams asks “Does It Really Matter How You See Dunkirk?” for Slate:
“On that huge screen, nearly as tall as it is wide, every moment looms larger than life, and every image is as sharp as if you were standing there yourself. Forget counting helmets: You could count the hairs in Kenneth Branagh’s eyebrows. But seeing Dunkirk for the third time in that most deluxe of formats, I started to wonder if I really wanted quite so much clarity. Although the sharpness of 70 mm Imax film is not the same as the sharpness of high-definition video, it has some of the same feeling of overkill. Does it really need to be quite that big or quite that loud?”
Tasha Robinson, Genevieve Koski, and Scott Tobias on Carnival of Souls and A Ghost Story for episodes 86 and 87 of The Next Picture Show podcast:
Robinson: “[…]You’ve said that what horrifies you in horror films, what turns you off in horror films is jump scares, and there are a fair number of jumps here.”
Koski: “There are, but basically, black-and-white horror is easier in general for me, just because you can disengage to a certain extent: something like Psycho is fine for me. But I think this movie — and A Ghost Story, for that matter — are what I like about horror films, which is eeriness. I like being in an odd, unsettling space without necessarily being anxious about being startled. […]So this is my first experience with it, and it’s a strange film, but it’s really engrossing for all its strangeness.”
Robinson (to Koski): “Wait, wait, wait, you were excited to watch someone eat a whole pie?”
Koski: “Well, yes.”
Tobias: “You could go to pie-eating contests…”
Robinson: “I’m not saying it’s impossible…” Tobias: “It’s a spectator sport.”
Koski: “I was curious. I was curious to see how it worked[…]She doesn’t eat that whole pie! She leaves the whole crust. Anyone can eat the filling of a pie; the crust is the hard part.”
Robinson: “Wait, take me back to that one again: anyone can eat the filling of a whole pie?”
Koski: “I mean, I can.”
Tobias: “Yeah, it was a pumpkin pie, it looked like?”
Robinson: “I think it was a chocolate vegan pie.”