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!
David Ehrlich GOT MARRIED 💕🤵👰💒💕:
our wedding was everything we dreamed it would be and sooo much more. endless love to everyone who made it possible. https://t.co/RUZfQhjeSR
— david ehrlich (@davidehrlich) June 11, 2017
my friends and i formed a band for my wedding night & i’m still drunk enough to share evidence.
— david ehrlich (@davidehrlich) June 11, 2017
Kate Erbland on Once Upon a Time in Venice for IndieWire:
“Bruce Willis has been creeping up on Nicolas Cage’s bread and butter — C-level action movies that pass through the multiplex with little in the way of fanfare and less in the way of actual audience interest — for a few years now, turning in roles in mostly underseen films like “Fire With Fire,” “Precious Cargo,” and “Vice” with startling regularity (while, somehow, still landing genuinely exciting parts in films like the upcoming “Death Wish” remake and the long-hyped “Glass”). But Mark Cullen’s ruthlessly boring and decidedly dismal “Once Upon a Time in Venice” marks a new low in Willis’ still-trucking action career, one that even Cage would likely flinch at, even if it does feature an entire sequence dedicated to naked skateboarding.”
Genevieve Koski on Rough Night for Vox:
“Put simply: There’s little in Rough Night’s plotting or pacing that will surprise viewers familiar with the conventions it embraces; if you’ve seen The Hangover or, especially, the 1998 dark comedy Very Bad Things, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll be able to predict every element of Rough Night’s narrative.
And yet Rough Night manages to surprise again and again, in its go-for-broke comedic approach (which shares a lot of DNA with that of Comedy Central’s Broad City, which Rough Night director and co-writer Lucia Aniello helped shape from behind the scenes); in the attention the film pays to its characters’ emotions and motivations; and, most of all, in its performances, which range from serviceably funny (Scarlett Johansson) to scene-stealing (Kate McKinnon).”
Keith Phipps on Rough Night for Uproxx:
“Director Lucia Aniello, a veteran of Broad City, doesn’t play the scene for laughs and the panic that sets in on Jess and her friends makes it seem as if what’s up to this point been a fairly light comedy is about to take a turn for the noir. It’s more scary than funny and threatens to transform Rough Night into an entirely different sort of movie. This doesn’t last for long, however, which sort of encapsulates what makes Rough Night uneven but also what makes it so compelling. It’s all over the place, but it’s always willing to take chances. The movie goes for it.”
Scott Tobias on Rough Night for NPR:
“There are some twists and turns of the plot in Rough Night — twists and turns lifted from all of its predecessors, especially the accidental-killing-of-a-stripper gambit of Very Bad Things — but it’s mostly a frantic accumulation of jokes, staked on group chemistry and seat-of-the-pants audacity. In that, it mirrors the crazy, spontaneous progression of the bachelorette party itself, which aims for nonstop euphoria but occasionally strays into regrettable moments when it goes too far or stumbles into awkward patches. Casting a non-Australian to be Australian for no essential reason is the first clue that Rough Night will be going after laughs at whatever random place it can find them. “Fasten your seatbelts,” as Bette Davis would say.”
Kate Erbland on All Eyez on Me for IndieWire:
“Opening with a political urgency that belies a very different project, Boom’s film (penned by Jeremy Haft, Eddie Gonzalez, and Steven Bagatourian) initially reads as a timely rallying cry around Shakur’s legacy, before devolving into a paint-by-the-numbers biopic that unspools with as much energy as a Wikipedia entry. Framed in the most uninspiring way possible — with Hill Harper playing a journalist who visits Tupac in prison to reflect on his life and legacy — the film is hobbled by exposition-heavy voiceover and an ill-conceived decision to flip back to the jailhouse interview just as things are really kicking up.”
Charles Bramesco on 47 Meters Down for Metro:
“For every “Armageddon,” there is a “Deep Impact”; for every “A Bug’s Life,” an “Antz.” Last summer saw the release of “The Shallows,” a bare-bones survival thriller stranding Blake Lively on an outcropping of rock with a hungry predator in the surrounding surf. Now “47 Meters Down” has emerged as that shark tale’s “A Shark Tale.” But whereas last year’s edition of the Great White vs. Passable Caucasian showdown enlivened Lively’s deadly dilemma with creative camerawork and even pacing, its spiritual successor waters down an already watery premise.”
Scott Tobias on Kill Switch for Variety:
“In 2009, a pair of young filmmakers from the Netherlands, Tim Smit and Steven Roeters, made “What’s in the Box?,” a 10-minute science-fiction short that wedded the first-person camera of video games like “Half-Life” with astonishing cut-rate special effects — all at a reported cost of €150. For his debut feature “Kill Switch,” Smit has expanded the short into a full feature, with rising star Dan Stevens in the lead role, and the effects are again incredibly resourceful on a limited budget, from futuristic security drones and weaponry to “Robocop”-esque graphic interfaces and an alternate Earth. Had Smit developed his themes as scrupulously as his visual effects, “Kill Switch” might have been the next “Primer” or “District 9,” but instead it feels like a demo reel for a game that nobody can play.”
Sam Adams on Cars 3 for Slate:
“Cars 3 is the Cars sequel for people who hate Cars 2.
The retread at least has some thematic heft. Cars 3 is a pass-the-torch sequel, of the kind that’s usually designed to let franchises continue after their leads have aged out of the role. (That’s true behind the camera as well: Pixar head John Lasseter cedes the director’s chair to storyboard artist Brian Fee.) Animation knows no such restraints—cartoons can go on living long after the actors who created their voices—but the specter of mortality haunts the movie all the same. Lightning is drifting into middle age, whatever that is in automobile years, and a new generation of younger, faster cars are nipping at his fenders.”
Matt Singer on Cars 3 for Screencrush:
“One gets the sense, reading pieces like the ones above, that a segment of viewers consider Pixar a little washed up, at least creatively. How appropriate, then, that Cars 3 is about exactly that: How someone responds when they’re considered over the hill. And while this movie may not reach the heights of Pixar’s finest achievements, it certainly stands as not only the best Cars, but the most mature one as well. That’s not a typo; this movie about sentient cars that sometimes use the toilet is surprisingly moving. Go figure.”
Nathan Rabin on Ghostbusters (2016) for Lukewarm Takes:
“In 2016, however, the movie was cursed to be seen by a large contingent of sour adults eager to take to social media with their complaints about the movie, both to warn off potential moviegoers and to punish Paul Feig and his collaborators for changing something that was important to them as a child. To be fair, the new Ghostbusters is ragingly imperfect, but then so was the original, and that has been elevated to a place of importance and significance in our society wildly disproportionate to its quality.”
Nathan Rabin on The Associate (1996) for Trumpterpiece Theater:
“Laurel begins the film understandably frustrated that no matter how hard she works, or how successful her ideas are, her status as an African-American woman will keep her from getting the attention, praise, and promotions she deserves. So in a fit of desperation, she decides to create a create a fictional male partner for herself that the misogynists of the business world will be able to admire for having a penis (like them) and also for not being a black woman.
And because The Associate is dumber than a bag of rocks, it reverently recycles one of my favorite idiotic comic tropes: When Laurel first comes up with the idea of creating a front man (literally) for her business endeavors, she does not have a name for him, so in a gag older than vaudeville, she looks at a bottle of Cutty Sark and decides that the mystery man whose genius has all of Wall Street talking will be named Richard P. Cutty.”
Nathan Rabin on Santa with Muscles for Control Nathan Rabin:
“As an actor, Hogan tries harder in Santa with Muscles than he ever has before. He consequently fails harder than he ever has before as well. Santa with Muscles first asks Hogan to engage in broad comic self-deprecation as a wealthy, powerful mass of muscles desperately in love with himself.
Unlike Arnold Schwarzenegger, the man Hogan and his people clearly modeled his film career after (Santa with Muscles is very cynically and transparently an attempt to reproduce the Yuletide magic of the Austrian Oak’s all-time holiday classic Jingle All Da Vey), Hogan is not a smart, savvy natural-born movie star with a flair for self-deprecation and self-parody. He has no apparent sense of humor so his idea of comic self-parody involves shouting all his lines in a voice more effeminate than the one he usually employs.”
Rachel Handler tests whether Pureflix movies can increase her purity for MTV:
“I’m Not Ashamed even goes as far as to air real news and security-camera footage from Columbine to make its point, which is that there was a discernible and solvable “reason for the violence” — something the Christian right has insisted upon for years. But this time, the culprit isn’t video games, or trench coats, or Marilyn Manson, or a “lack of gentlemanliness.” Instead, I’m Not Ashamed draws a straight line from Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris’s brutal murders of their classmates to the fact that their school taught them about evolution instead of creationism and that they refused to accept Jesus’s love. […]
Moral Lessons Imparted:
• Jumping into a pool with all of your clothes on with your friends is impure, but jumping into a lake with all of your clothes on with your Christian cousins is pure. […]
Am I Pure Yet?: No, this movie infuriated me and anger is a sin.”
Craig J. Clark/Hooded Justice begins the Transformers phase of Michael Bay’s career in “Michael Baywatch Part III: Transform and Roll in the Dough (2007-2011)” for Crooked Scoreboard:
” Dark of the Moon, incidentally, marked my only previous brush with Bay’s oeuvre — outside of the occasional movie trailer or Meat Loaf video. It happened about five years ago at a pizza place where I went with a couple of friends to grab a quick bite. While we waited for our slices, I noticed the television mounted on the wall was showing one of the Transformers movies, so I made a point of sitting with my back to it so I wouldn’t be tempted to look at it. The whole time we were there, all I heard for minutes on end was people shouting, intermittent gunfire, things exploding, and glass breaking. It wasn’t until I watched Dark of the Moon recently that I recognized those sounds and saw the sequence Bay and his effects crew likely spent weeks shooting and compositing his actors into: the collapse of a Chicago office building with the film’s heroes inside. Impressive as it is — and it is spectacular in every sense of the word — it is also spectacularly hollow, which pretty much sums up my attitude toward the franchise as a whole. ”
Kate Erbland interviews Lucia Aniello and Paul W. Downs for IndieWire:
“Both agree that the television landscape is friendlier to female creators, if only because it can move more quickly than its movie brethren.
But the film world offered them the chance to really get down and dirty, and the raunchy, wild, and occasionally violent feature they’ve crafted embraces its rating with gusto. (Officially, the MPAA gave the film its rating for “crude sexual content, language throughout, drug use and brief bloody images,” which is about the sum of it.)
“It’s hard-R,” Aniello said. “It’s a capital R, it’s a beautiful capital R.”
[…]“Rough Night,” while also built around funny women in unique situations, is certainly different than their previous work. It’s just as character-driven, but less shaggy, and it boasts a tight script that’s as smart as it amusing. They’re quick to deflect praise to their starry cast, however.”
Tasha Robinson interviews Elena Anaya for The Verge:
“How did you approach playing Dr. Maru?
It was very tricky for me to take on the evil of this character, and to live up to Wonder Woman, the strongest female character ever written in a comic book. Dr. Maru loves rage and enjoys people’s pain. She’s creating terrible weapons, and her purpose in life is to kill as many people as possible, and provoke as much pain as possible. When you read a comic book script and then you’re responsible for approaching a character like this, you think, “Well, how is it possible that somebody invented a character like this?” And then unfortunately, I realized that more than ever, there are evil people in real life. They are on television, they are very powerful people, and they don’t wear masks like Dr. Maru wears. These people are villains in real life, hurting a lot of people, and they’re doing a lot of damage to mankind. So that’s one answer.”
Charles Bramesco interviews Connie Britton for Nylon:
“Your character in Beatriz at Dinner walks a fine moral line. What’s your read on her?
I really love the character, because I feel that there’s some of all of us in her. She really is well-intentioned. She’s trying very hard to be her version of the best possible person she can be, in all caps. And that’s genuine. I try not to comment on characters I’m playing, try not to judge them. Then this is made more complicated by the fact that Beatriz literally saved her daughter’s life, so, in a very real way, Cathy feels beholden to Beatriz. She wants to repay her for the great gift of her daughter’s life. What’s interesting to me is that she reflects many of our sincere desires to help and to be a good citizen, but then we get to see her limitations. She lives a very comfortable life, and she is limited by her own comfort. Being friends with Beatriz is her version of looking outside of herself. Her relationship with Beatriz is very little about Beatriz, and mostly about Cathy.”
Sam Adams interviews Michael McKean for Slate:
“But as a viewer, one assumes there has to be some major rift coming. It would feel like a cheat to imply that Chuck and Jimmy were hanging out all through Breaking Bad and the show just never got around to showing it.
Well, Rhea Seehorn has had a similar problem. She’s had people come up and say, “Kim’s dead, right?” It’s just a weird assumption that people have, and it comes from focusing narrowly on something. Can you tell me who the mayor of Albuquerque was during Breaking Bad? The mayor’s never mentioned. Was he dead? No, there was a mayor, it just didn’t come up. It’s the same thing. Kim might have gotten wise and said, “You know what? Screw it, I’m going to go live in New York. I’m going to be the 30th best lawyer in New York rather than the second best lawyer in Albuquerque.” “
Keith Phipps interviews Rodney Ascher for Uproxx:
“So I guess the big question behind Primal Screen is do you have some sort of grand theory as to what effect these things that scare us as a child have on us as an adult?
The biggest idea is that it’s not incidental. It is more than trivial that we make mountains out of molehills, might be the way to say it. I know some of the things I’ve actually been surprised by in a lot of these projects is… People have told me that some of these things really affected their lives dramatically, things they never told their parents about, things they never told other members of their families about, that they suffered in silence. And although being frightened of a TV commercial is in no way as significant as genuine, like, trauma or abuse, it takes up a fair amount of real estate in people’s heads, and sometimes informs decisions that they make. Or maybe in a slightly more abstract way, just teaches them respective lessons and colors the way that they understand the world.”
Tasha Robinson on why Tom Cruise should have turned evil in The Mummy for The Verge:
“Spoilers ahead for the 2017 version of The Mummy — including end spoilers.
[…]Consider the first decisions made by Nick Morton, Tom Cruise’s hapless antihero character in the misbegotten Universal Studios franchise-launcher The Mummy. The movie starts with him going AWOL from the Army to loot an ancient tomb. He nearly gets himself and a buddy killed with his lack of planning and basic observational skills. Out of sheer impatience, he deliberately vandalizes the protections around an ancient sarcophagus. And in the process, he unleashes the monstrous undead princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), kicking the plot into motion. Before the first act is over, he’s established himself as a reckless, greedy, amoral ass.”
Kate Erbland on Scarlett Johansson’s best comedic performances for IndieWire:
“Johansson doesn’t have a huge part in the Coen Brothers’ under-appreciated send-up of Hollywood in its gilded heyday, but she does manage to make every single moment of her screen time absolutely sing — even though no one would want her DeeAnna Moran to sing, well, probably anything. Taking place just as the long-essential studio system was undergoing massive changes, the film positions Johansson’s gravelly-voiced synchronized swimming star as emblematic of a system still woefully stuck in the past. Talkies were in! Swimming was not!
The initial laugh-out-loud force of hearing DeeAnna’s actual voice — a solid “dammit” if there ever was one — is amusing enough, but following it up with a longer conversation with Josh Brolin’s Eddie Mannix only further drives home Johansson’s obviously fun schtick.”
Nathan Rabin on remembering the deceased for Writers and Ghouls:
“I feel like a bit of a ghoul seeing a possible paycheck in the death of every great filmmaker, musician or actor, like a hearse-chasing opportunist trying to benefit financially from the deaths of my heroes. Truth be told, obituaries were always something I dreaded back in my days at The A.V. Club and The Dissolve. They were always something I did because I had to, or felt I must, not because I wanted to. It’s impossible to do justice to the complexity and richness of someone’s life in an article you throw together in an hour and a half to beat the rush of other sites running similar tributes, but it’s also necessary to at least try.”
Scott Tobias, Tasha Robinson, Keith Phipps, and Genevieve Koski on Paths of Glory and Wonder Woman for episodes 80 and 81 of The Next Picture Show podcast:
Tobias: “[…]Paths of Glory is probably my favorite Stanley Kubrick movie. So, I hope everyone else liked it, and I’ll ask you that preface: did you like the film[…]?”
Koski: “I really liked it, and I admit, I wasn’t expecting to not like it, but I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I did just because, as I think I’ve established on here before, war movies are generally not my bag. But boy, this was a really engaging and kind of infuriating watch.”
Robinson: “Yeah, ‘infuriating’ is the right word for it. It’s so emotionally effective. It’s so moving. It’s so well-crafted in that cold, classic Kubrick way, as a machine to make you feel what he wants you to feel. But it’s so effective, and that’s always just what I come out of it with. It’s impossible, I think, to watch this film and not be moved in a bunch of different directions. I think he just does such an amazing job setting up with very small movements the humanity of the soldiers, and the situations under which you’re going to feel empathy for them, and then the callousness and heartlessness of the people above them[…]”
Phipps: “I think it’d be very easy to do a Wonder Woman who has no connection to humanity whatsoever. And that is not what Gal Gadot’s performance is at all. It’s a wonderfully humane performance. And just as someone who would like more good superhero movies instead of fewer, it’s nice to see DC kind of getting its act together for this movie[…]”
Koski: “My actual favorite scene in the whole film is not an action scene. It’s the scene with her and Steve Trevor on the boat leaving Themyscira and just talking and getting to know each other, and it’s when she reveals that she’s read all 12 volumes of Clio’s Treatise on Passion[…], and she’s not a babe in the woods. She is wise, she does know stuff, she’s just from a very different world, and I loved seeing the interaction of those two worlds coming together.”
Saraiya: “[…]It’s kind of this Cold War spy thriller that happened 10 years too late, and as it turns out, a little bit too early, maybe, for it to be really a period piece like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy or another John le Carré adaptation. It sort of seems like it’s capitalizing on Cold War nostalgia, but it did it at a weird time, not the right moment for that.”
Phipps: “Yeah, I think that’s fair. And now, I think some of those concerns are less evident watching it now. It’s mostly just a pretty compelling spy–I think some sections are more compelling than others. I’m not sure that the present day stuff really works that well, and I found quite a bit of the action there kind of confusing.”