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.
Tasha Robinson on 1922 for The Verge:
“[…][V]irtually all of 2017’s King adaptations[…]aren’t out to tell simple, direct stories. It is the first half of a two-film package, Dark Tower was planned as one installment in a sprawling film-and-TV cinematic universe, and Mr. Mercedes is in a position to continue its stories if the ratings justify the expense. (So was The Mist, but Spike TV eventually cancelled it.) Which is why 2017’s latest King adaptation, Netflix’s feature film 1922, comes as such a comparative relief. It isn’t trying to lay the foundations for a grand, cosmic universe. It isn’t trying to build characters who can sell their own merch and carry their own spin-offs down the road. It’s just a simple, single self-contained horror story.”
Sheila O’Malley on Maya Dardel for RogerEbert.com:
“She has no family, no husband, no children. All that matters is her work. Self-pity is not in her makeup, one of her most startling characteristics. Maya Dardel is played by the great Lena Olin, an actress of enormous power and intelligence, and her presence—prickly, intimidating, unpredictable, frankly sexual—is justification alone for the film’s existence. Where “Maya Dardel” really works is when it sticks to being a character study. No matter what else happens (and quite a bit happens), it is Olin—and the questions her character provokes (“Who is she? What does she want? Did she really just say that??”)—that lets this film off its pretty short self-imposed leash.”
Charles Bramesco on Geostorm in 4DX for Vulture:
“Regal Cinemas’ notion of what the fourth dimension will be like ends up landing pretty close to a theme park ride, ostensibly immersing the audience in the film by simulating its physical conditions with seat-rumbling and other assorted shenanigans. There’s already been some fine writing about the format’s weird theoretical mechanisms, how it autocratically forces the audience to identify with what’s happening onscreen, but I had not schlepped to the Union Square multiplex to tap into a wellspring of empathy. I had come for Geostorm.
Little did I know, I would get both — and neither.”
Charles Bramesco on Thank You for Your Service for The Guardian:
“Jason Hall’s directorial debut Thank You For Your Service doesn’t suss out any truths not already covered by such forebears as All Quiet on the Western Front and The Best Years of Our Lives. To cite a more recent example, Hall trains his focus on three men not unlike Chris Kyle, the subject of American Sniper (which Hall scripted). That film grew to an unlikely hit for its political charge, daring the audience to pick a side in the most polarizing American overseas conflict since Vietnam. It set itself apart from the herd through specificity, passing judgment not just on capital-W War, but that war. His latest effort, conversely, loses impact by drifting away from its time and place.”
David Ehrlich on Thank You for Your Service for IndieWire:
“That acute, pervasive sense of personal responsibility is part of what separates Jason Hall’s “Thank You for Your Service” from so many of the other recent stories about the after-war (including “American Sniper,” which Hall scripted for the screen). True and trite in almost equal measure, this is a very clunky movie, rife with the sort of contrivances that genre classics like “The Deer Hunter,” “The Best Days of Our Lives” and even the profoundly demented “Jacob’s Ladder” rise well above.
But Hall’s directorial debut, adapted from David Finkel’s non-fiction book of the same name, hums with a furious helplessness that’s been missing from so many of the narrative films about soldiers returning from Iraq (or Afghanistan, for that matter). “
David Ehrlich on The Divine Order for IndieWire:
“Tempering its folksy charm with a sober sense of what’s at stake (imagine a cross between “Chocolat” and “Norma Rae”), Petra Volpe’s “The Divine Order” is a classically told crowdpleaser about a remote skirmish in the ongoing fight for gender equality. Set in the months leading up to the 1971 election, during which the right to vote was on the federal ballot, the film tells the fictional and unabashedly formulaic story about how one woman’s political awakening inspires an entire village into action.”
Scott Tobias on Tulipani: Love, Honor and a Bicycle for Variety:
“The generous take on the broad whimsy of Mike van Diem’s “Tulipani: Love, Honor and a Bicycle” is that the director is playing with national iconography, bringing the floral majesty of the Netherlands into a storybook Italian village where only fedora-donning gangsters stand in the way of communal bliss. Yet Van Diem, who collected a foreign language film Oscar for “Character” in 1998, has constructed this movie as a Matryoshka doll of sickly sweet clichés, with nested stories that burst forth with familiar tropes about romance, revenge and family entanglements, and feature a touristy feel for the Apulian locale.”
David Ehrlich on All I See Is You for IndieWire:
“Needless to say, the movie boasts nearly infinite capacity for embarrassment. A humorless director whose reach tends to exceed his grasp, an under-appreciated actress who’s never found her niche, a premise that seems plenty overripe even before the story veers towards melodrama with the reckless conviction of someone trying to avoid a deer on a highway… it’s a perfect storm of potential crap. And yet, it works. It works because Forster and Sean Conway’s original script never loses sight of why James and Gina’s relationship is on such shaky ground, and all of the film’s various eccentricities are in service to his emasculation, her emancipation, or both.”
David Ehrlich on The Man Who Invented Christmas for IndieWire:
“Coyne’s script can’t seem to decide if Dickens’ writing process should dovetail with Scrooge’s story or if it should be used as a layer of irony to distance us from it, resulting in a very busy film that’s suspended between two different ideas, bound together only by the shared belief that capitalism is a cancer.
It’s a confusing message for a movie that’s trying to sell us on the idea that “A Christmas Carol” changed the world for the better, a movie that chastises Dickens for being too wrapped up in his work but exists to celebrate the work that he only finished by ignoring everything about his family save for the inspiration they gave him.”
Mike D’Angelo on Félicité for The A.V. Club:
“What’s remarkable about Félicité, an offbeat character study made by the Franco-Senegalese director Alain Gomis, is that it devotes its entire second half to exploring what happens when the title character fails to achieve her goal. It’s as if Seven’s bleak conclusion had been that film’s midpoint and Morgan Freeman’s detective, rather than muttering “I’ll be around,” had proceeded to have a complete nervous breakdown. Indeed, Félicité itself seems to lose its bearings, in the best possible way, once its ostensible plot has collapsed.”
Mike D’Angelo on Novitiate for The A.V. Club:
“The 1960s were a confusing time to be a Catholic. […]These reforms weren’t welcomed by everybody, and Novitiate, written and directed by Maggie Betts, dramatizes their impact on a fictional convent, the Order Of The Sisters Of Blessed Rose. But the film also seeks to depict one particular young nun’s crisis of faith, which really has little to do with Vatican II, except insofar as the fallout emboldened many priests and nuns to abandon their callings altogether. Betts appears to have started out with a rather mundane idea and then stumbled, over the course of her research, onto something much more fruitful. The result is as intriguing and frustrating as that suggests.”
Keith Phipps on The Square for Uproxx:
“Is it better to be an insensitive jerk or a virtuous dupe?
The film never answers that question because Christian is a bit of both, and it’s Östlund’s eagerness to show both sides of his personality and Bang’s deft performance that give its satire an extra dimension. The humanity behind The Square‘s jabs save it from seeming nihilistic but they also implicate everyone watching. The film seems less nasty for having such a well-developed protagonist, but also that much more squirm-inducing for anyone who recognizes a bit too much of themselves in Christian’s unexamined attitudes.“
Mike D’Angelo on Suburbicon for Las Vegas Weekly:
“Generally speaking, when a screenplay written by known talent goes unproduced for many years, there’s a good reason. That certainly seems to be the case with the Coen brothers, who’ve now had two of their mustier scripts filmed by other directors, to decidedly underwhelming effect. Almost nobody saw the 2012 remake of Gambit they penned (more than a decade earlier), despite stars Colin Firth and Cameron Diaz. Nobody missed anything, either. Suburbicon, helmed by regular Coen collaborator George Clooney, will almost certainly fare better at the box office, and it isn’t nearly as painful a misfire. Despite a substantial rewrite by Clooney and Grant Heslov, however, this awkward mix of black-comic noir and social satire feels like a project that spent a long time sitting in a drawer, not quite ready.”
Matt Singer on Too Funny to Fail: The Life & Death of the Dana Carvey Show for ScreenCrush:
“The doc, Too Funny to Fail: The Life & Death of the Dana Carvey Show, is a funny overview of why a show starring one of the hottest comedians on the planet, featuring a cast and creative team that would go on to dominate television and film comedy over the next two decades, didn’t even survive two months on network TV. If, like the overwhelmingly vast majority of human beings on this planet, you missed The Dana Carvey Show during its run on television, and you’ve only read about it since, this is a great opportunity to discover and watch one of the most brilliant, bizarre shows ever on network TV.”
Nathan Rabin on The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day (2009) for This Looks Terrible! :
“Our heroes are lured out of hiding when someone frames the brothers for the murder of a beloved Priest using the patented murder methods and rituals that helped make the bros/brothers folk heroes for their mind-blowing coolness.
Like many protagonists of lesser action films of the aughts, the McManus brothers spend much of their time cos-playing as Neo (and, in this case, Neo’s equally cool brother) with live ammo, blowing people away in stylized slow motion to the familiar throb of bad techno music. It’s John Woo for kindergartners, the cinema of cool at its infantile worst.”
Nathan Rabin revisits Overnight (2003) for Exploiting the Archive:
“[…][W]hen Weinstein took his time developing The Boondock Saints after first praising the script to the heavens, Duffy started talking shit about Harvey Weinstein all around town and the alleged serial rapist and sex criminal instantly and predictably went from Troy Duffy’s best friend and guardian angel to Troy Duffy’s worst enemy.
Normally, it’s soul-crushing to watch Weinstein use his awful, awful power to crush a young filmmaker’s spirits. That’s not the case here. Overnight invites us to take no small amount of pleasure in watching the ultimate Hollywood bully bully a much smaller, more insignificant bully but I suspect that Overnight will make for a much different, much darker viewing now.”
Nathan Rabin on Freddy vs. Jason (2003) for Control Nathan Rabin:
“[…][I]n order for Freddy vs. Jason to insult even the intelligence of undiscriminating horror buffs for the sorriest team-up this side of Gingerdead Man vs. Evil Bong, Freddy first needs to spend the first few minutes of the films straight-up reintroducing himself and everything that has happened to him over the course of the previous sixty-seven Nightmare on Elm Street movies.
This is no mere narration. No, Freddy looks at the camera on some Zack Morris Saved by the Bell freezing time cartoon sitcom bullshit. The filmmakers could not conceive of a way to bring these antithetical icons together that did not involve Freddy Krueger chatting away with the audiences for minutes at a time like they’re old pals catching up after years apart, yet that somehow did not keep the film from getting made.”
Charles Bramesco on Resevoir Dogs (1992) for Mic:
“Tarantino synthesized an eclectic array of his own pet obsessions — the two-fisted gun-fu freakouts of Hong Kong’s John Woo, French New Wave master Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samouraï — into a pop-art collage of badassery signifiers that would enrapture movie nerds just as those earlier films had transported him. It’s all right there on display in Reservoir Dogs’ instant-classic credit sequence, as our collected crooks stride down an alley to the strains of George Baker Selection’s 1969 bop “Little Green Bag” — sunglasses, skinny ties, cigarettes, slow-mo.”
Nathan Rabin on Invasion USA (1985) for Cannontober:
“[…]Invasion USA[…] asks how American society would respond if a group of evil, culturally diverse terrorists were to sweep into our country under cover of night to sow discord and anarchy and pave the way for a foreign takeover of the United States government.
That would be a bold and provocative premise for a movie with any kind of ambition or social consciousness. Needless to say, the Golan and Globus-produced Chuck Norris vehicle Invasion USA is not that movie. It asks a provocative and juicy question, only to answer, “Chuck Norris would kill all the terrorists and also a bunch of stuff will get blown up.” “
Kate Erbland interviews Melissa Leo for IndieWire:
” “Novitiate” first introduces a starry-eyed pack of young postulants, including Margaret Qualley and Liana Liberto, before focusing in on Reverend Mother and her own dramas.
[…]When asked about the character’s ambition – one that seems obvious, given her clear delight in heading up the convent and her frustration when her duties are reduced – Leo balks. Ambition? That’s not in her Reverend Mother.
“Reverend Mother would argue with you,” Leo said with a laugh. “That’s putting her in this place that I do not see her in. Ambition. We don’t tell the [origin] story of Reverend Mother, we don’t know what that progression was. Ambition? Or wisdom? We don’t know.” “
Kate Erbland interviews Desiree Akhavan for IndieWire’s Girl Talk:
“For “Appropriate Behavior” filmmaker and star Desiree Akhavan, the realization that her status as a festival darling wasn’t going to automatically translate into a huge Hollywood career came hard. Good thing she didn’t really want that anyway.
“Because I had only made one feature and I was a woman, I didn’t have the best opportunities,” Akhavan told IndieWire. “It’s crazy when I think of men who premiere a first film at Sundance and then get offered franchises. That was not happening to me, I was not being offered anything of that ilk. Myself and my contemporaries were not having the Colin Trevorrow moment.” “
Tasha Robinson interviews Yoshiashi Nishimura and Hiromasa Yonebayashi for The Verge:
“What was the process like of bringing Studio Ponoc together?
Yoshiaki Nishimura: This was a very difficult, tough three years for us. We were at Studio Ghibli until the end of 2014. And then two and a half years later, we had to complete a feature film, starting from zero, basically. And the two main difficulties were that we didn’t have the Studio Ghibli brand name, because our new studio was not known, and so trying to collect the financing was difficult
[…]Are you taking this as a chance to try new animation techniques?
Hiromasa Yonebayashi: I think it depends on what we want to convey through the film, the kind of methods we use, and the kinds of technologies we use. There are different methods of expression. My basic thought is that hand-drawn animation is very good at expressing characters’ emotions and movements. But I’ve also added 3D and CG effects to enhance the experience for the viewer. This is what I learned, being an animator for 20 years at Studio Ghibli.”
Kate Erbland interviews Kevin Feige for IndieWire:
” “There are a lot of discussions, they all focus on the post-Phase Three, ‘Avengers’ 4 film, so nothing that we’ll get into publicly,” he recently said in an interview with IndieWire. “We’re really focusing on ‘Captain Marvel’ and the work that Anna and Ryan are doing. It’s going to be a big part of heading towards this epic conclusion and epic finale of 22 movies over the course of 10 years. That is focus for the next six movies we have to finish and get out.” “
Sheila O’Malley on Catherine Deneuve for her birthday for The Sheila Variations:
“She was great right out of the gate. One of the unique things about her career (and she has few peers here) is that she has regularly been regaled as one of the most beautiful women in the world, and her beauty is something she uses and works with and understands, but her interests do not lie in exploiting her looks. Or, she doesn’t “trade” on her looks. The looks exist, and she understands them. She does not fight against them in order to be taken seriously. The looks are in service to HER, as opposed to the other way around.”
Sheila O’Malley on Teresa Wright in The Best Years of Our Lives for her birthday for The Sheila Variations:
“She’s going to do something GREAT, and she is going to HELP a man who is trapped with the wrong woman. She and he NEED to be together, and now she has a PLAN to save him. In the context of the film, she does not seem delusional or cruel. She seems loving and damn near patriotic. He must be saved. And she will do it.
It’s a crazy hat-trick of tone/mood/casting, and I’m just not sure a similar thing could happen today. In a lot of ways, story-tellers were more bold back then. Perhaps because cynicism/pessimism were not in style, and so they had more freedom with certain story elements. They didn’t need to undercut things with the ironic wink.”
Matt Singer connects Marvel Studio’s evolution with Tony Stark’s evolution for ScreenCrush:
“He returned two years later in Iron Man 2, which earned a lot of money, but was considered a bit of a sophomore slump by fans, who routinely rank it at or near the bottom of lists of their favorite MCU movies. Ironically, the movie is about Tony having a bit of a sophomore slump. He’s now an established superhero, but he faces a whole new batch of problems, mostly from copycats and imitators who want to replace him or render him obsolete. Whiplash (Mickey Rourke) wields similar energy technology and uses it to enact a grudge against Stark Industries, while Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), a rival weapons manufacturer, tries to create his own army of knockoff Iron Men, a direct parallel to every studio around Hollywood trying to pattern their own material to mimic Iron Man’s surprise success.”
Robinson: “For me, the Burke moment where he kind of raises his eyebrows: I don’t see an admiration there; I see him desperately trying to figure out what his play is. Because he’s really out of options here, and when he comes up with the “Well, uh, this is just sad,” it’s a really weak play. I don’t know, though, how much you guys have played social games like Werewolf, or Mafia, or all of their new modern equivalents — Avalon, and The Resistance, and stuff like that — but there’s a look that you get on people’s faces sometimes — Secret Hitler is another one — when you figure out what somebody’s up to and accuse them directly to their face, like, “Here’s all the evidence, you’re lying, I can prove it,” you sometimes get that moment of, “Uhhhh…” before they launch into whatever their defense is, and that’s what I’m seeing here.”