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 Pitch Perfect 3 for IndieWire:
” “Pitch Perfect 3” leans into its nostalgia from the very first needle drop: Director Trish Sie’s debut entry into the unlikely franchise kicks off with the Bellas – no more “Barden” attached to that moniker, because college is but a distant, sparkling memory to these a capella nerds now – working their way through an energetic and increasingly desperate rendition of Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” This desperation happens to make sense in context, but it’s a feeling that will only spread throughout the rest this mostly limp, tone-deaf entry in this musical series.”
Sheila O’Malley on Downsizing for RogerEbert.com:
“Alexander Payne’s “Downsizing” starts with an intriguing “What if?…”, the launch pad of all good sci-fi stories, and very quickly devolves into a bland story about a nondescript khaki-wearing guy who learns to care about the less fortunate. It’s the least interesting way to go with what is a pretty interesting premise. The Nebraska born-and-raised Payne has always been interested in the Everyman, the regular guy caught up in extraordinary circumstances, but in “Downsizing,” the possibilities of the imaginative scenario are mostly abandoned for this other totally banal theme.”
Sheila O’Malley on The Greatest Showman for RogerEbert.com:
” “The Greatest Showman,” directed with verve and panache by Michael Gracey, is an unabashed piece of pure entertainment, punctuated by 11 memorable songs composed by Oscar- and Tony-winning duo Benj Paseka and Justin Paul, who composed the songs for “La La Land,” as well as the current Broadway hit Dear Evan Hansen. The film is made for the whole family to enjoy, and so it leaves out many of the darker elements (explored in the 1980 Broadway musical Barnum, music by Cy Coleman). This is a difficult tightrope to walk, but credit is due to Gracey, a perfectly cast Hugh Jackman, and the entire cast, who play this story in the spirit in which it was written (by Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon).”
David Ehrlich on The Greatest Showman for IndieWire:
“Consider it Barnum’s narcissistic genius at work: He’s not just the greatest showman, he’s also the star of the show. As well he should be. Jackman made an indelible Wolverine, but Barnum is the role he was born to play. A stage veteran with such refined charm that it can’t help but invite a certain degree of suspicion, Jackman has already proven that he can sell audiences on a lovable flimflam man (he does it twice over in “The Prestige” alone), but here he gets to combine his strengths with a part that allows him to hoodwink us and act the hero at the same time.”
Charles Bramesco on The Greatest Showman for Mic:
“Everything in Barnum’s life was bunkum and gimcrackery. There’s dissent as to whether he was the cad posterity has made him out to be, but deception was still the man’s stock-in-trade. He filled his famous circus with less-than-bona-fide “freaks” who were often people with physical deformities, gussied up with some showbiz smoke and mirrors. He pulled a fast one on his wife, according to the newspapers that crowed about his torrid affair with singer Jenny Lind. And in his new biopic, the big-shiny-happy new musical The Greatest Showman, the con is more insidious than ever.”
Sam Adams on The Greatest Showman for Slate:
“When the entire cast belts out “THIS IS THE GREATEST SHOW” a minute into your movie, the film itself had better live up to it. The Greatest Showman—how shall I put this?—doesn’t. Something feels off right from the beginning, as we see Hugh Jackman’s P.T. Barnum making his way through the space behind the circus bleachers in silhouette, pounding his cane to the rhythm of crashing drums. We’re meant to be thrilled, our appetites instantly whetted, especially since the movie will shortly skip back to the beginning of Barnum’s life and drag us through several scenes of an adorable moppet dreaming big dreams that will someday come true.”
Scott Tobias on Phantom Thread for NPR:
“Phantom Thread is a romance of sorts and it’s a comedy, too, laced with humor that pings against its brittle surface like a spoon cracking a soft-boiled egg. It’s also an unmistakably personal film about an artist whose obsessions have grown narrow and confining, placing limits on his professional growth and his ability to sustain a healthy relationship. There are hints of past Anderson films in the character of Reynolds Woodcock, who’s dictatorial and high-strung, like a cross between Daniel Day-Lewis’ oil tycoon in There Will Be Blood and Adam Sandler’s raging man-child in Punch-Drunk Love.”
David Ehrlich on Bright for IndieWire:
“A $90 million blockbuster that boasts all the production value of an episode of “Charmed,” Netflix’s first mega-budget film effort starts with a potentially compelling premise that never gets off the ground. The elevator pitch is easy enough to understand, even if it requires some further explanation: “Bright” is essentially “Training Day” meets “The Lord of the Rings,” but much dumber than that sounds. Imagine, if you will, that the war for Middle Earth was a seismic event on our timeline, and that all of the various fantasy creatures who participated in the fight simply went their separate ways once it was over.”
Matt Singer on Bright for ScreenCrush:
“It’s easy to see what about this pitch appealed to Netflix executives (the screenplay is by Max Landis): It’s a classic genre with a dash of modern flavor, and if the mythology was rich enough, you could spin it off into sequels or even a TV series (Netflix has reportedly already started work on a Bright 2.) But I am here to tell you: The mythology is not rich enough. Neither are the characters or the story. Also, the makeup effects are ugly, and the action scenes, such as there are, are minimal and unexciting.”
Mike D’Angelo on In The Fade for The A.V. Club:
“Set in present-day Hamburg, In The Fade stars Diane Kruger (in a rare German-language role—the first since 2009’s Inglourious Basterds) as Katja, who’s seen at the outset marrying a Kurdish prisoner, Nuri (Numan Acar), right there in the jail.
[…]It’s after the verdict is handed down that In The Fade goes off the rails. Director Fatih Akin, who co-wrote the screenplay with veteran actor (and Fassbinder regular) Hark Bohm, has never been one for subtlety.”
Mike D’Angelo on Darkest Hour for Las Vegas Weekly:
“The film craftily stays out of Churchill’s head, for the most part, deflecting his feelings onto supporting characters; it’s a powerful moment when his secretary (Lily James) can’t initially bring herself to type the last few words of an order he’s dictating, which will almost surely result in numerous British soldiers being killed (in order to save many more).
Sadly, screenwriter Anthony McCarten betrays history in the home stretch, inventing a ludicrous sequence in which Churchill takes the London underground and crowdsources his final decision regarding possible peace talks with Germany.”
Matt Singer on All the Money in the World for ScreenCrush:
“Spacey’s replacement, Christopher Plummer, is the most interesting part of the finished film, and the way in which it was shot and cut just weeks before All the Money in the World’s scheduled release date gives the film a curiosity factor and marketing hook that wasn’t there otherwise. In fact, it’s a much more compelling story— the fall of one of the biggest movie and television stars of his generation and the mad dash to replace him in one of his last projects — than the film it’s selling.”
Nathan Rabin on The Last Jedi for Scalding Hot Takes:
“The Last Jedi feels more clued into the free-floating anxiety and despair of the current socio-political climate than The Force Awakens.
[…]I liked The Last Jedi but walking out I had a weirdly bifurcated, contradictory response. I thought that while I enjoyed the film on the whole and thought some of it was quite powerful, I could not see myself watching it again, particularly with that running time. As a dad and freelancer and website (I’m not a website man, I’m a website, man!), time is of the essence.”
Nathan Rabin on Pottersville for Scalding Hot Takes:
“Pottersville is a Furry themed Bigfoot Christmas sex comedy starring Michael Shannon that’s also an elaborate tribute to Frank Capra and It’s a Wonderful Life. That sounds more like a Madlib or a random jumble of words than the premise for an actual movie. Yet I can wearily attest that Pottersville is all too real and, astonishingly, is even more misbegotten and ill-thought-out than it first appears.
[…]Who thought taking the piss out of the Crocodile Hunter and Jaws was a good idea in a Bigfoot-themed 2017 piece of Capra-Crap?”
Nathan Rabin on Hell and Back (2015) for This Looks Terrible! :
“When I read that a stop-motion animated supernatural comedy featuring Bob Odenkirk as the devil and a voice cast that includes Paul F. Tompkins, Maria Bamford, Mila Kunis, Susan Sarandon, H Jon Benjamin, Danny McBride, Rob Riggle, Jennifer Coolidge and Kumail Nanjiani in addition to pretty much every comedian in Los Angeles had flopped on a historical level, I thought the movie couldn’t possibly be as bad as its reception suggested.
I was wrong. Oh, but how I was wrong!”
Matt Singer on Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007) for its 10th anniversary for ScreenCrush:
“The lacerating screenplay is good, but the key to Walk Hard’s success is Reilly. The surreal comedy subgenre known as the spoof is associated with non-stop jokes and absurd digressions of plot and character. But like all the best spoofs (Airplane!, The Naked Gun), Walk Hard has a protagonist you genuinely care about; a good-hearted idiot to root for amidst all the silliness. Dewey Cox may be a womanizing, pill-popping, brother-murdering egomaniac, but he’s also a broken soul searching for peace and acceptance (and his sense of smell; he lost his sense of smell when Nate died).”
If you're looking for more WALK HARD 10th anniversary #content, it was a Movie of the Week at The Dissolve. My keynote is here (https://t.co/IZCojC3tsi), and you can find other features from there. P.S. The wrong kid died.
— Scott Tobias (@scott_tobias) December 21, 2017
Kate Erbland interviews Hong Chau for IndieWire:
“She’s got a nose for good filmmakers, she actually sniffed out the “Downsizing” role herself. Chau first heard about the film when she read that Payne, one of her favorite directors, was gearing up to make a “sci-fi satire.” The combo sounded too weird and too good to miss, even just as a fan.
“I didn’t think there was a role in it for me, I just wanted to read it out of curiosity,” she said. “I was completely taken by surprise when, come page 35, there was this character for an Asian female. Not only that she was Asian and female, but she was complex and exciting and unlike any character I’ve seen in a movie.” “
Kate Erbland interviews Karen Gillan for IndieWire:
“Gillan gets why people assumed the worst when that first peek at the film arrived, especially because so many films are guilty of kitting out their actresses in skimpy clothes that have little bearing on actual plot. “To be honest, I can understand people’s reactions. To look at that picture out of context, it does look like completely ridiculous,” Gillan said. “It was a fair response to the picture on its own.”
But inside the world of “Welcome to the Jungle,” the costume choice makes sense, and Gillan and her co-stars have a lot of fun when it comes to mixing up expectations.”
Charles Bramesco interviews Rosamund Pike on Hostiles for Vulture:
“In your performance, what was your thought process as you transition from heaving grief into the stunned numbness that follows?
You’re dealing with someone who’s been so deeply traumatized that she’s entered total denial. That’s the first stage of grief. Every part of your brain is trying to reject a single outcome. I tried to imitate her breathing, how she’d be blowing on the baby trying to keep him alive. That’s what she’d have been doing at that point, massaging the hands of her girls to stave off rigor mortis. It was torture to think through all this. Whether that can be picked up by an audience, who knows.”
Matt Singer interviews Mark Mangini for ScreenCrush:
“What are the responsibilities of a sound editor on a film like Blade Runner?
My job is to be in charge of everything that you hear, other than the music. All sound, exept for music, is under my purview, including dialogue, sound effects, sounds of things you’ve never heard before, atmospheric sounds, foley … literally everything that creates the sound of the environment that the film takes place in. And for a film like Blade Runner, we must create it all from scratch — We call it “world building.” We have to create sounds that no one’s ever heard before and present them to the audience in a way that is believable.”
Jen Chaney on Holly Hunter’s performance in Broadcast News for Vulture:
“Of all the vital elements in the movie, though, the most vital is Hunter’s character, the gifted network news producer Jane Craig, both because of the way Brooks wrote her and the way Hunter brings her to life. At a moment when women have become more vocal about the issues they face in the workplace — in terms of sexual harassment and other ways they feel marginalized — it is particularly fascinating to relook at that role.
Jane Craig is a feminist heroine in a way that few female romantic-comedy protagonists since have been, even the ones we consider strong and independent.”
Jen Chaney, with Jackson McHenry and Tara Abell, on “The Highs and Lows of A Christmas Story Live!” for Vulture:
“HIGH: Ambitious camera work
Staying true to the ambitions it set out with in Grease Live!, Fox filled A Christmas Story will all sorts of swoops and daring quick changes. If the show itself wasn’t always the most alert, at least you could distract yourself by imagining the energy the editing room spent on keeping it all together.
LOW: Too much camera spinning!
Maybe in the next live musical, we don’t need to include a nausea-inducing spin over the Warner Bros. backlot in every single scene.”
Charles Bramesco on “the female antiheroes” of 2017 for Mic:
“Just as Molly’s Game goes through Bloom’s entire life with a fine-toothed comb, Craig Gillespie’s I, Tonya attempts to suss out the content of figure skating icon Tonya Harding’s character, and Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri, likewise sifts through the soul of a supremely pissed-off grieving mother named Mildred (portrayed by Frances McDormand).
All three movies weigh these women’s faults against their virtues, and their wrongdoings against their good deeds.”
Noel Murray asks if Molly’s Game and The Post are “too obviously about 2017” for The Week:
“Those few seconds of screen-time are sweet, and well-earned. But decades from now they’re going to mark this film as very much a product of the late 2010s — when American popular culture became uncommonly preoccupied with the issue of feminine empowerment.
Maybe that’s okay.
[…]Aaron Sorkin’s Molly’s Game (in limited release on Christmas day, before going wide Jan. 5) still touches on a lot of the same themes as The Post, in terms of how it depicts what some powerful men expect of women.”
Sheila O’Malley on “The guy behind me at The Last Jedi” for The Sheila Variations:
“Sitting behind me in the theatre for the packed matinee of The Last Jedi was a guy whose voice was very loud. (I peeked at him after the film as he got up and left. He was over 6 feet tall and built like a linebacker.) He kept up a running commentary through the previews – and I wondered if maybe I should move. I don’t need sacral silence in a movie theatre, especially not The Last Jedi, but I also don’t want constant chatter in my ears. I am so glad I stayed put because his commentary – spontaneous, unabashed – was such a huge part of my experience of the movie.”
Sam Adams on the “Laughable” Villains of Star Wars: The Last Jedi for Slate:
“This article contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
[…]This kind of modestly self-aware humor should be familiar to Star Wars fans as much than anyone, since George Lucas’ original movie cemented it as a part of the sci-fi/fantasy lexicon. The “holding for General Hux” bit is in some ways a mere remix of Han Solo’s desperate “Everything is under control” improvisation on the Death Star, and it extends the kind of wry in-genre critique that Carrie Fisher brought to the original trilogy.”
Matt Singer on the differences between The Last Jedi and its predecessor for ScreenCrush:
“The following post contains SPOILERS for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
[…]This is one of the stranger aspects of modern Star Wars fandom: They want Lucasfilm to hire distinctive directors like Gareth Edwards (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) and Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Solo: A Star Wars Story). Then, when those directors get sidelined or fired during production, they throw up their hands and say that Lucasfilm isn’t respecting filmmakers, and the producers have too much power, and they’re making all the movies look and feel the same.”
David Ehrlich on “How ‘The Last Jedi’ Liberates Star Wars from its Past and Provides a New Hope for Blockbuster Cinema” for IndieWire:
“Spoiler Warning: This article discusses the major plot points of “The Last Jedi.”
At a time when mainstream cinema is typified by the coddling safety of episodic superhero movies, makeshift “Jumanji” sequels, and whatever the hell you call “The Emoji Movie,” Star Wars is pretty much the the last place you’d expect to find someone try to shoot the moon. And yet, that’s exactly what Rian Johnson did with his first foray into a galaxy far, far away.”
— Tasha Robinson (@TashaRobinson) December 21, 2017
Tasha Robinson joins this week’s Filmspotting episode — the minutes are:
0:00-1:58 – Intro
4:01-48:51 – Top 10: Outliers
Daniel Hart, “Little Notes” (A Ghost Story)
50:45-54:40 – Notes
54:40-1:02:17 – Poll: Best of 2017
1:02:17-1:37:56 – Top 10: Outliers cont.
1:37:56-1:43:36 – Close
Nathan Rabin with Clint Worthington and special guest Alfonso Duralde in Episode 4 of Nathan Rabin’s Happy Cast — the minutes are:
3:38 – Scalding Hot Takes: Star Wars: The Last Jedi
18:39 – Our Top 10 Movies of 2017
44:42 – The Zeroes: Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas
57:38 – Control Nathan and Clint: Pottersville
1:12:24 – What Happened to Rachel Dolezal?
1:22:48 – Mailbag
1:26:10 – Happy Places