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.
Kate Erbland on The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) for IndieWire:
“Sandler came out early with the Oscar buzz after the film bowed at Cannes, and it’s understandable why: he’s great. […]So is Stiller, who continues to save his most nuanced performances for Baumbach and their continued collaborations.
But the power of “The Meyerowitz Stories” rests on Hoffman’s patriarch, who anchors the Meyerowitz children who project their hopes and dreams on him, including Elizabeth Marvel’s restrained Jean (who gets one big scene among the many shared by her male counterparts) and Van Patten as his creative successor. That’s when the heartbreak happens.”
Sam Adams on The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) for Slate:
“Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) has been living one kind of artistic life since it debuted at Cannes in May. But the story of an elderly sculptor (Dustin Hoffman) whose adult children are still nursing the wounds of his narcissistic parenting has the fortune, whether good or ill, to arrive in theaters and on Netflix at the end of a week in which the question of whether a creative person’s contributions to the world can outweigh his personal failings, and how shifting assessments can affect that calculation’s result. As one of Harold Meyerowitz’s children puts it, “If he isn’t a great artist, then he was just a prick.” “
Kate Erbland on Happy Death Day for IndieWire:
“Christopher B. Landon’s “Happy Death Day” doesn’t break out its first “Groundhog Day” joke until well into its third act, but the Jason Blum-produced horror film wears its cinematic pedigree with seeming pride. You can practically hear the pitch that sold the film: it’s the classic Bill Murray comedy, but as a horror film — and centered on a bratty co-ed who gets brutally murdered every night, and is forced to relive the whole thing the next day.
Even the most basic of building blocks are in place, from an initially unlikable protagonist to a generous serving of montages and even an overarching message about the power of being a good person (at one point, a character screams, “love is love!” and it’s both totally endearing and hilariously out of place).”
Noel Murray on Bad Blood: The Movie for the Los Angeles Times:
“A wacky idea and one amazing set do a lot for writer-director Tim Reis’ “Bad Blood: The Movie,” a retro monster picture about the curse of a “werefrog.” There’s barely enough plot here to fill a feature, but this energetic throwback’s DIY effects and general looniness should appeal to horror mavens.
Mary Malloy stars as Victoria, a college student who one night drives into a gas station run by an unnamed mad scientist (Vikas Adam). Victoria gets infected with a virus that turns humans into murderous amphibious beasts. After her abusive stepdad hires a private detective to bring her home, she embarks on a suburban kill-spree.”
Noel Murray on Haze for the Los Angeles Times:
“The physical and psychological torture of fraternity hazing has been dramatized in movies as silly as “Animal House” and as harrowing as “Goat.” Writer-director David Burkman’s “Haze” takes a somewhat different approach, mixing melodrama and docudrama — doing a lot better with the latter than the former.
[…]Burkman’s fast-paced editing whips “Haze” between overwrought scenes of cartoonishly mean upperclassmen and realistic shots of teenagers abusing each other and partying until they puke.”
Matt Singer on The Foreigner for ScreenCrush:
“The first thing that seems strange about The Foreigner is its title. Sure, Jackie Chan’s character is Chinese and he lives in London. But no one ever calls him “the foreigner.” Instead, most of the characters refer to him as “The Chinaman”; they call him that so much, in fact, that it feels like that could be the title, and would have been in an earlier age.
Sure enough, the end credits reveal the film is based on a novel called The Chinaman by Stephen Leather, and a quick Google search will tell you that this novel came out in 1992, information that makes some sense out of this puzzling thriller. It feels dated because it is dated, and its central drama is so bafflingly complicated because a real-world conflict from 25 years ago has been uncomfortable updated to the present day.”
Keith Phipps on The Foreigner for Uproxx:
“There are two sorts of plot at work in The Foreigner, a new thriller from Martin Campbell (Casino Royale, Green Lantern). One is labyrinthine, a tale of subterranean political intrigue and terrorism with a new twist in every scene. The other is straight as a bullet from a gun, a single-minded tale of revenge driven by one man’s passion to punish those who have harmed him. We’re used to seeing one or the other, but seldom both at once and that meeting of sub-genres helps keep the film unpredictable. Even if neither half would be wholly successful on its own, the chocolate-meets-peanut butter combination sets it apart.“
David Ehrlich on The Foreigner for IndieWire:
“On paper, it almost makes sense why someone would try to sandwich these very different storylines together — immigrants, so often assumed to be the perpetrators of domestic terrorism, are often the most overlooked of its casualties. […]On screen, however, it’s like someone closed their eyes, grabbed two random DVDs off the bargain rack at a gas station, and cut them together into a reasonably coherent 114-minute whatever. The two plot strands are ostensibly linked by an act of indiscriminate violence, but they’re so clumsily threaded together that it just calls attention to the stitch-work.”
Kate Erbland on The Rider for IndieWire:
“You can’t fake “The Rider.” Chloe Zhao’s lyrical docudrama blends fact and fiction into an intimate portrait of American masculinity at large and a solitary cowboy trying to find his way back to the only life he’s known. Utilizing a cast of non-actors — most of whom are tasked with playing versions of themselves, in a story pulled from their lives — Zhao’s film derives its power from the truth that both drives it and inspires it, and the final result is a wholly unique slice-of-life drama.”
Scott Tobias on Breathe for NPR:
“The sound recedes as the weeks, months, and years progress, and the film recedes in kind, yielding to impulses of a hero who considered the hospital a prison and did everything he could to insist on a better life. Breathe posits itself as an inspirational tale, but shies away from the difficult day-to-day realities of a polio-stricken man who was paralyzed from the neck down and depended on family and friends — to say nothing of reliable medical equipment and a steady electrical current — to survive for as long as he did. It feels distant from his experience, like a bedside visitor who steps away whenever the curtain is drawn.”
David Ehrlich on Marshall for IndieWire:
“The clear-eyed and immensely charismatic Boseman plays Marshall as a 32-year-old lion who pals around with the likes of Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston when he’s not busy dragging America out of its dark past; forget Black Panther, he’s Tony Stark with a better heart, on the cusp of a greatness that he can only achieve if sufficiently challenged.
That’s a great place to start, but the Koskoffs’ script is all too happy to leave him there, relegating him to the background while Sam Friedman takes the spotlight. A soft and sweaty Josh Gad type, Friedman is a Russian-American Jew who’s just trying to keep his head down and be subsumed by white society.”
Sheila O’Malley on Thy Father’s Chair for RogerEbert.com:
“The camera stays close to the identical faces of Avraham and Shraga. There’s a gentle intimacy to the approach. The film could have felt voyeuristic, or, worse, mean-spirited. Neither man has an explanation for why they let the house get like this. It’s probably a host of intersecting factors, with unmanaged mental illness and alcoholism (the house is littered with empty wine bottles) the primary candidates. It’s interesting to note that even with all of the chaos in the house, the brothers’ religious books are lined up neatly on a shelf, easily accessible to them.
Hoarding as a recognized “thing” went mainstream with A&E’s hit series “Hoarders” airing in 2009, although we’ve all probably known a hoarder or two in our lives.”
Noel Murray on Human Flow for The A.V. Club:
“[…]Ai [Weiwei] is deeply invested in the idea that ordinary people should have the right to reject oppressive and unstable regimes, to travel wherever they want, and to settle wherever they can. That’s the case he makes with Human Flow, which is split between intimate portraits of the displaced and despairing illustrations of how the system’s stacked against anyone compelled to leave home.
But because he’s a visual artist as well as an activist, Ai makes sure that his documentary is expressively cinematic—sometimes to a fault. There have been a number of gripping “you are there” films about refugees over the past few years, but Human Flow distinguishes itself from the pack with how handsome it looks.”
Mike D’Angelo on 78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene for The A.V. Club:
“Alexandre O. Philippe’s documentary 78/52 devotes 92 minutes to analyzing those 45 horrifying seconds—a ratio of two minutes per second! Yet somehow it still seems overly breezy and insufficiently detailed, just skimming the surface.
Maybe the title is partially to blame. 78/52 refers to the number of camera setups (78) and the number of cuts (52, not counting the unseen cuts made by the butcher’s knife) that constitute the shower scene. That’s wonky enough to suggest a very close formal analysis, focusing on elements of craft—and this is a scene that would absolutely benefit from that sort of close look. Instead, one could easily assume, after watching just a few minutes of the movie, that its title refers to 78 anecdotes relayed by 52 talking heads.”
Matt Singer on The House (2017) for ScreenCrush:
“A.O. Scott’s review was right on the money; without succumbing to despair, The House speaks to a feeling in the air in America that times are hard and getting harder, that everyone is out for themselves, that our country is fractured and angry and sick. The scene where Will Ferrell gets horrifically bathed in another man’s blood after he accidentally chops off his finger is an incredible piece of physical comedy. It’s also suggests that the only way to get ahead in 2017 is to literally take an axe to the people standing in your way.”
Nathan Rabin on Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (2014) in the first entry for his new column Cannontober:
“Electric Boogaloo takes just a little too much glee in mocking the delusions and pretensions of an inveterate vulgarian like Golan, and the bargain-basement special effects and egregiously cut corners that were as much staples of Cannon-brand cinema as large breasted women in various states of undress and muscular, laconic men with large weapons in various states of use.
The movie is a glibly enjoyable act in both schadenfreude and ironic appreciation that relentlessly focuses on the places where Cannon came up short, where its seams showed in ways that made them seem less like Roger Corman-like exploitation moguls than rank amateurs whose movies were defined in part by their exuberant awfulness.”
Nathan Rabin on Purple People Eater (1988) for Control Nathan Rabin:
“Purple looks like trash but he’s just as awful, personality-wise. When Purple sees Billy playing an instrument, he admonishes him, “You play with your hands? Play with your heart, like this.” What a condescending fuck!
E.T took great pains to hide its titular space alien from the prying, judging eyes of the public except on Halloween, when weird, freaky sights are commonplace. Purple People Eater is too lazy for that. The first time Purple gets freaky with the horn in public it’s at a mall where there are other costumed characters around to make Purple seem less conspicuous.”
Charles Bramesco interviews Ruben Östlund for Nylon:
“My favorite scene in The Square was the bungled statue removal. How did you manage that shot?
We did that with computers. But it’s funny—that statue is of the first king of the House of Bernadotte, which rules Sweden right now. That’s the family the current king is related to. And the movie takes place in a parallel Sweden where the monarchy has been abolished, so at first, I was thinking we should just remove the statue and lift it away. But when we checked with the king to see if we could shoot in the real castle, after a long discussion of almost two years, he said no. So I was a little angry and thought, Yeah, why not just chop the head off?”
Kate Erbland interviews Rebecca Hall for IndieWire:
“The British actress, who is currently promoting this week’s new release “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women,” was also honest about her own experiences with the ousted TWC founder. While she was never assaulted by Weinstein, she was aware of the rumors surrounding his behavior with women.
“The truth is, there have been rumors circulating forever, I’ve known about them,” Hall said. “I’ve certainly been quietly protected, without really ever being told why. I certainly was never allowed near a meeting with him on my own, and anything like that. In retrospect, I understand why, even if my representatives weren’t explicitly telling me.” “
Tasha Robinson interviews Angela Robinson (no confirmed relation) for The Verge:
“What was most important to bring across about each of the characters in order to shape the story you wanted to tell?
What was most important about Marston was, I became very obsessed with his ideas and DISC theory, which I feel like was his main jam. I really honed in on that. Every scene in the movie kind of revolves around “Dominance, Inducement, Submission, Compliance.” And the question of “Is he a feminist, or like, an exploitative pervert?” [Laughs] I thought, “I just don’t know about this guy! So in order to figure him out, I felt I had to figure out Elizabeth.”
Kate Erbland interviews Angela Robinson, Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall, and Bella Heathcote for IndieWire:
” “She was created as a feminist icon before feminism was popular, by a man who believed in equality,” Heathcote said of the superhero character. “These three people, in their actions, in their lives, in the things they created and contributed to, were putting a forth of message of peace, love, and acceptance.”
That all sounds great on paper, but it took Robinson ages to get the story to the screen.
[…]“It’s crazy, because everyone is complimenting me on my perfect timing, and I’m like, ‘I’m an independent filmmaker, I’ve been trying to make this movie for like four years!,’” Robinson said. “The convergence of these two movies within months of each other is hilarious to me. As if I designed it!” “
Kate Erbland interviews Natalia Leite for IndieWire’s Girl Talk:
” “I felt like I had to do it, I was terrified of shooting the rape scene, I was terrified of having to talk about me having my own personal experience with it,” she said. “The whole thing just freaked me out. ‘What will this mean? Am I welcoming this [back] into my life that I tried to hard to push away and pretend like it didn’t happen?’ But I knew that if I’m doing something that really terrifies me, I should just go ahead and do it. I just started taking baby steps.”
David Ehrlich interviews Noah Baumbach for IndieWire:
” “All my films really do feel equally personal to me,” Baumbach insisted, hunched over in a hotel suite overlooking Central Park. “But I was aware that this one would draw some connections to ‘The Squid and the Whale,’ just because of the kind of family it is, and the impact that divorce has on them.” Always a bit more sincere and subdued than his hyper-neurotic characters might have you imagine, Baumbach went on to explain that at least some of the Meyerowitz stories have been kicking around since the days of Walt Berkman, who resulted from the writer-director’s aborted attempts to explore the effects of divorce on adult children.”
Charles Bramesco interviews Pierce Brosnan for The Guardian:
“I ask him about his stance on vaping mostly as a lark, mentioning that he played a constantly vaporizing drug baron in last year’s offbeat thriller Urge, and still he manages a typically flowery, grandiloquent response.
“It’s nauseating, a disgusting habit, completely ridiculous,” Brosnan tells me on the phone. “Young men and women sitting in their cars, with this billowing titanic bulge of fake smoke spilling out of their mouth. I guess it’s of the time. It’ll go down in the history books as one of the crazier things people have done. You can vape yourself to sleep now, I’ve read.” “
Matt Singer briefly interviews Karl Urban for ScreenCrush:
“[…][W]hen I had the chance to talk to Karl Urban this week in conjunction with his new movie Thor: Ragnarok (he plays Skurge, an Asgardian warrior aligned with Cate Blanchett’s Hela), I had to ask: What happened to Star Trek 4? Are there any updates?
Here’s what he told me:
You know as much as I do, my friend. [laughs] Listen, we’d all love to make another Star Trek movie. That’s absolutely certain. But if we don’t get that opportunity then I’m really happy to have ended on such a good note. We had such a wonderful time shooting Star Trek Beyond.”
Kate Erbland’s “Call to Arms: Here’s How We Can Take Back Our Community After Abuse” for IndieWire:
“With the recent firing of both Signore and Weinstein from companies they built (complete with cultures they surely helped create), real-world consequences are finally a part of the kind of equation that for so long pushed victims and survivors of sexual assault and harassment to keep quiet.
That’s a huge jump forward, but it’s hardly the last one that needs to take place.
So what’s next for an industry in desperate need of reshaping? And how best can women in film take back their own community, one still reeling from allegations that have emerged after decades of abuse? We’ve got some ideas.”
Matthew Dessem’s “Brief History of Hollywood Being Shocked to Rediscover That “Casting Couch” Abuse Still Exists” for Slate:
“On July 14, 1956, Picturegoer, a British fan magazine, published the first chapter of an explosive four-part exposé about the casting couch that is simultaneously revelatory and depressing. It reveals that Weinstein’s playbook for allegedly abusing women would have been right at home in the 1950s. It also reveals, not for the first time or the last, the ways that reporters’ internalized biases and tendency to sensationalize can lead them to report a story in the least helpful way possible. And sadly, it reveals how little some things have changed: Between the lines of the article, women are trying desperately to sound an alarm, and no one is listening.”
Charles Bramesco asks, “Five Years Later, Did ‘Argo’ Deserve to Win Best Picture?” for ScreenCrush:
“Argo is instead destined to be the Chester A. Arthur of the Oscars, unmemorable save for one distinguishing detail. Where America’s 21st President had his robust muttonchops-mustache combo, Argo has Ben Affleck. Devoid of any arrestingly personal material that might closely endear it to viewers, the film exists now primarily as a peak in the currently nosediving roller coaster that is Affleck’s life. It’s more of a case study or teachable moment than entertainment, useful more for clinical observation than enjoyment.”