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!
Tasha Robinson has been promoted on the Verge, from Adweek:
“Tasha Robinson, who has been film critic at The Verge, will now be its film and television editor. “Tasha has already taken the lead on much of our movie and television coverage, and she’ll be focused on expanding that coverage with big Verge angles around distribution, tools, and the people who use them,” wrote Patel.”
Keith Phipps on The Beguiled (2017) for Uproxx:
“The opening moments of The Beguiled, the latest film from Sofia Coppola, play like a dream of the vanished South of romantic memory. A mist hangs over a path that stretches almost to the vanishing point, running beneath an arch of drooping trees. Beneath them walks a girl clad all in white, an idealized vision of Southern girlhood (or at least white Southern girlhood). It looks like a scene from the most artful Southern Comfort label ever made. But the soundtrack tells another story. Almost buried beneath the buzz of crickets is the faint booming of cannons. This is an idyll under siege, and one that can’t last forever.”
Scott Tobias on The Bad Batch for Uproxx:
“Amirpour sets the stage for an unlikely love story between Arlen and Miami Man, who may partake of human flesh, but… when in Rome, you know? But The Bad Batch doesn’t explicate their mysterious connection or much of anything else, and Amirpour’s rapturous images don’t fill in the gaps. For a full two hours, the film follows Arlen as she meanders passively through this terrain, but the connective tissue between one scene and the next is so thin that it’s hard to guess that’s motivating her or what threats might present themselves. We can only speculate about how “the bad batch” society developed and how it operates, much less what that might say about human nature or patriarchal power or social justice or any other relevant theme.”
Craig J. Clark/Hooded Justice on Transformers: The Last Knight for Crooked Scoreboard:
“Sliced and diced to within a frame of its life by no fewer than six editors (a franchise record), The Last Knight continues the noble traditions of undisguised product placement (Cade’s light beer of choice hasn’t changed) and rampant anti-intellectualism. (The latter is exemplified by Tony Hale’s thankless role as a Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineer who’s the first to recognize the Cybertronian threat and the first to get hysterical about it.) It also gives Bay another ticking clock to have his characters fret about and the latitude to harp on one’s extended sexual dry spell.“
Sam Adams on Transformers: The Last Knight for Slate:
“To borrow a phrase from the critic Robert Warshow via Roger Ebert: A man goes to the movies, and the critic must be honest enough to admit he is that man. Sometimes, that man must also be honest enough to admit that he loved Transformers: The Last Knight.
Perhaps “loved” is too strong a word, but nothing else accurately describes the sound of pure, incredulous joy that escaped my mouth when, after two incessantly clangorous hours of Mark Wahlberg doing battle with world-threatening robots, the piece of animate metal coiled around his swollen bicep magically transformed itself into a giant sword. I don’t say “magically” lightly, either. This is a movie about giant robots in which Merlin, played by a bearded Stanley Tucci, plays a pivotal role.”
Matt Singer on Transformers: The Last Knight for Screencrush:
“[…][T]he film follows a bunch of human subplots, almost all of them terrible. Everyone’s favorite inventor from the Boston part of Texas, Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), now lives off the grid in a junkyard with his Autobot buddies, who are wanted by the government. Cade claims to be an inventor, but he never invents anything and appears to be a moron. He doesn’t talk to his daughter because he’s worried government voice-recognition software will spot him and lead the authorities to his hiding spot. Also he claims his Transformers can’t be found in his junkyard because they’re surrounded by junk and talking robots that can transform into luxury sports cars seamlessly blend in with junk? Either way, it doesn’t matter because the government knew where Cade was the entire time. Keep up the good work, dude.”
Scott Tobias on In Pursuit of Silence for NPR:
“Patrick Shen’s documentary In Pursuit of Silence include Cage’s work in a spectrum of other sounds, from the quiet of a Kyoto tea ceremony to the decibel-bursting street noise of Mumbai during its three-month festival season. Its central purpose is the same as Cage’s: To make the viewer aware of the sounds they accept without thinking and the ones they’re not attuned to hearing at all. Shen makes his case through a globetrotting survey of different soundscapes and interviews with doctors, theologians, scientists, and others who proselytize about the virtues of quiet and solitude.”
Nathan Rabin on Doctor Strange for Lukewarm Takes:
“Doctor Strange is Marvel on drugs and while the film doesn’t shy away from its psychedelic aspects, it also does not fully embrace them. This is a potential tentpole blockbuster with a specific role to play within a larger, insanely lucrative mythology, not a head film. This is not Jodorowsky or David Lynch’s Doctor Strange. It’s a commercial movie that’s occasionally trippy, not the psyche-scrambling mind-fuck leading me straight into the radiant center of God-consciousness I had hoped for.”
Nathan Rabin on Popstar: Never Stop Stopping for Rotten Tomatoes:
“The embarrassment of riches extends to its use of music. Popstar gallops along at such a pace that we only get to hear little snippets of the brilliant, funny, and weird songs delivered via elaborate production numbers. I’m speaking of tunes like “Mona Lisa”, which is at once a much-needed response to Da Vinci-extolling numbers by the likes of Nat King Cole and a devastating lampoon of Americans who travel the world expecting it to be as endlessly and easily stimulating and familiar as their Facebook or Twitter feeds. And, let’s face it, to 21st century eyes, Mona Lisa ain’t exactly Scarlett Johannson. It’s about time a truth-teller like Conner dispelled the poisonous myth of her attractiveness.”
Nathan Rabin on Norbit for Control Nathan Rabin:
“Norbit is morbidly fascinating in part because it is so clearly a personal project for the often mercenary Murphy. This is not a movie Murphy reluctantly signed onto because there was a 20 million dollar payday for a few months work. No, this is one of the only films in Murphy’s filmography in which he shares both a screenwriting a story credit. As if that weren’t personal enough, Murphy co-wrote the story, and collaborated on the screenplay, with his brother Charlie, who recently died after enjoying a robust second life as Chappelle’s Show’s resident storyteller.”
Nathan Rabin on (500) Days of Summer for Dream Girls:
“(500) Days of Summer would like to be a different kind of romantic comedy, and a different kind of love story, and a different kind of movie about Manic Pixie Dream Girls and the strange, fraught, impossible place they occupy in the minds of sensitive, lonely young men with vague literary ambitions and sensibilities, and on some level it is. Yet it can’t quite figure out what it wants to say. (500) Days of Summer sets out to be the ultimate romantic comedy and the ultimate anti-romantic comedy and ends up as a fascinatingly confused, if intermittently inspired example of both beasts.”
Kate Erbland on Jaws for its 42nd anniversary for IndieWire:
“[…][T]he film was bolstered by a modern, forward-thinking marketing campaign that still influences the way movies are sold today. Universal spent nearly $2 million to market the movie, plenty of which went to utilizing television marketing in its earliest stages, using a slew of prime-time network spots that introduced the film to a huge audience in nifty 30-second blocks. Ads played up the John Williams score and the now iconic imagery of Jaws emerging from the water. There were talk show tours (including appearances that dated more than eight months before the film hit theaters) and marketing tie-ins, a big push towards readership of the original novel (including a brand new cover art that reflected the poster and other stills) and a number of exceedingly well-received test screenings.”
Nathan Rabin on Lawnmower Man for Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place:
“The 141 minute Director’s Cut of The Lawnmower Man, which I watched because I love you, even begins by assuring us that by the turn of the century (that would be the long-ago days of the the late 90s and the once spiffily futuristic 2000) virtual reality will have changed everything. And while it is true that between the release of The Lawnmower Man and now the internet really has changed everything in ways even the most deliriously optimistic of cyber-utopians couldn’t have envisioned, virtual reality has somehow remained in some weird primitive holding pattern, locked forever in a weird world of nerds in dorky helmets or glasses wearing Tron light-up bodysuits and walking down corridors or floating through chintzily kaleidoscopic computer-generated worlds.”
Rachel Handler interviews Zoe Kazan for MTV:
“You told Vulture that you thought it’d be “stupid” if you weren’t cast in this role. Why?
Zoe Kazan: Well, it’s the kind of thing that you say and you’re like, Oh, I never should have said that in print. [Laughs] Because it sounds so terribly egotistical. You know, it only happens a handful of times in your career, where you walk out of an audition feeling like all the stars aligned, my preparation paid off, something magical happened in the room. I’ve gotten really lucky and I’ve gotten to work a lot, and I would say it’s only happened, like, two or three times, where I’ve walked out and been like, This was the right thing and the right choice and they should just cast me.”
Kate Erbland on why Scarlett Johansson should star in a Black Widow film for IndieWire:
“Johansson’s chops as an action star are unparalleled — from her turns as Black Widow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to the awesome money-making power of “Lucy,” she’s made tons of money and earned big accolades when she’s stepped into starry, ass-kicking roles — and setting her as the lead of such an action-driven property clearly seemed like a good idea at the time. But flat ticket sales and uniformly lackluster reviews (the film sits at a 45% Rotten on Rotten Tomatoes) told a different story.”
Kate Erbland on “The Han Solo Movie We Will Never Get to See” for IndieWire:
“When they started working on the Han Solo film, Lord and Miller struck a tone consistent with expectations from these distinctive storytellers. “We promise to take risks, to give the audience a fresh experience, and we pledge ourselves to be faithful stewards of these characters who mean so much to us,” they said in a statement at the time. “This is a dream come true for us. And not the kind of dream where you’re late for work and all your clothes are made of pudding, but the kind of dream where you get to make a film with some of the greatest characters ever, in a film franchise you’ve loved since before you can remember having dreams at all.” “
Kate Erbland on Kathleen Kennedy’s career ascent for IndieWire’s Girl Talk:
“As the head of a massive studio and a high-powered producer with a slew of huge credits under her belt (“Indiana Jones” to “Star Wars,” “Lincoln” to “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” and that’s only scraping the top of a stuffed resume), Kennedy is in a rarefied position. That she’s a woman is even more unique, a gate-crasher who has earned her stripes over decades in the business, only to emerge as the principal brain behind the world’s biggest franchise.
[…][F]rom the start, Kennedy had a lot of compelling ideas, and Spielberg eventually brought her on as a producer. Just two years after their initial introduction, Kennedy co-founded Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment alongside her future husband Frank Marshall. Kennedy’s intelligence was remarkable, and so were her leadership skills, and she was soon named president of Amblin.”
Craig J. Clark/Hooded Justice reaches the most recent phase of Michael Bay’s career, leading up to 13 Hours, in “Michael Baywatch Part IV: Gains and Losses (2013-2016)” for Crooked Scoreboard:
“Pain & Gain wouldn’t be a proper Michael Bay film if there wasn’t a lot of American flag imagery, culminating in the one Daniel sees through a barbed-wire fence after he’s been sent to prison. Before that happens, though, Bay documents Paul’s descent into cocaine-fueled madness, which Johnson plays to the hilt. Wahlberg’s right there with him, too, particularly in the scene where, having accidentally killed the second sleaze they try to extort, Daniel pauses to “get some pumps” while Paul eggs him on. He is, after all, a man who believes in fitness. As for Bay, he’s not a director who believes in subtlety or good taste, but Pain & Gain is the lone entry in his filmography that unabashedly benefits from his lack of restraint.“
Charles Bramesco on Stephen King’s Hollywood presence for The Guardian:
“As a source of adaptation fodder, King is a studio executive’s godsend, because his work is trend-proof. Scan the long, long list of King adaptations and the standout quality will be the steadfastness of it all; ebb and flow as the cultural tides may, King’s work has never lost its luster or lucre. And its eclecticism is the key to King’s perennial popularity; his style never falls out of fashion because King has never defined it to mean one thing in particular.”
Nathan Rabin reflects on “My World of Flops” for Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place:
“I had faith in my ability to create new columns like My World of Flops I could throw myself into at my new job. It didn’t take me long to develop a stable of new columns that caught on with readers, like Forgotbusters. But when I got fired from The Dissolve I understandably had no interest in continuing any of those columns. It was just too goddamn painful.
I needed to make money, however, not having a job, but having a six month old baby, and all, so I asked The A.V Club if I could resume writing My World of Flops and they said yes. For close to two years, that seemed to have worked out okay.”
Charles Bramesco and other critics “Pick the Worst Movies They’ve Ever Reviewed” for IndieWire:
“Charles Bramesco (@intothecrevasse), Freelance for Nylon, Vulture, the Guardian
This is a tough one, because for a while there, it seemed like “abjectly terrible movies” was my specific beat. Back during the brief, glorious tenure of The Dissolve, I was something of a junior staff trash compactor, gobbling up all the assignments everyone else didn’t want.[…]But we must sink even lower to scrape the bottom of the barrel. I’ve made mention of the film on the e-pages of this survey once before, but I reviewed a motion picture called “What Now” not too long ago. It is not a good film. The less said about it, the better, mostly because I believe that its creator does not even deserve notoriety (his film is bad in an unimaginative, joyless, hateful way). Living through that made me the man who stands before you today.”
Matt Singer previews Michael Giacchino’s Spider-Man: Homecoming score for Screencrush:
“There have been five Spider-Man movies to date, and more than that many Spider-Man composers. Danny Elfman wrote the music for Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2, and Christopher Young built on his themes for Spider-Man 3. Marc Webb brought in James Horner to score The Amazing Spider-Man and Hans Zimmer and the “Magnificent Six,” a supergroup that included Pharrell, Johnny Marr, and Junkie XL, for The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
For Spider-Man: Homecoming, director Jon Watts simplified things a little bit and brought in Michael Giacchino, the composer of Up, Star Trek, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and Inside Out, to write his music.”
Keith Phipps with Mike Ryan on Oh God! You Devil for episode 13 of the Random Movie Night podcast:
Phipps: “[…]I don’t think this is a great movie–cards on the table–it’s okay; it’s fine[…]”
Ryan: “I liked it more than I thought I would.”
Phipps: “But he[George Burns]’s great. There’s no one else with quite that sort of wry delivery. He knows how to sell a joke with just pauses and extended glances, and he’s a total professional.”