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 on The Mummy (2017) for The Verge:
“Turning Tom Cruise, one of the world’s most famous action stars, into a swooning victim of a much older, stronger, and more capable force — one that routinely beats the ever-living crap out of him throughout the film — is an unusual narrative choice. And it’s one of several that pushes The Mummy away from the most standard action beats of a modern action film.
But most of those choices — including the curtailed ending and the extensive focus on Prodigium — point toward Universal’s efforts to make The Mummy a “welcome to a world” prelude rather than a stand-alone adventure. Nick, Chris, and Jenny are all frustratingly thin characters, and Kurtzman’s story doesn’t seem to care about any of the details around them.”
Sam Adams on The Mummy (2017) for Slate:
“[…][G]iven the movie’s incoherence, remote-control acting might have been the best if not the only course. The Mummy is the intended launch pad for Universal’s “Dark Universe,” a series of planned monster-movie revamps that includes Bride of Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, and, depending on whom you ask, everything from Dracula to The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. But it’s a rickety foundation at best, cobbled together from a script with six credited writers whose tone veers wildly from scene to scene. One moment, it’s oozing horror, with Russell Crowe’s Henry Jekyll (yes, that one) narrating as we see Ahmanet’s face bathed in an infant’s arterial spray. The next, Cruise and Jake Johnson, as his sidekick, Chris Vail, are cracking wise like Indy and Sallah. Universal might have found more tonal consistency if it just straight-up remade Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.”
Matt Singer on The Mummy (2017) for Screencrush:
“Even with all the time The Mummy’s second act wastes on establishing this group and its mission (supposedly Prodigium will be the thread that connects every Dark Universe film), the group hardly makes any sense. As you are no doubt aware, Dr. Jekyll has a violent alter ego, which he keeps in check in this film with regular injections of a mysterious serum. Which raises a question: Who would put a sociopath with literature’s most famous case of multiple personality disorder in charge of the group that supposedly protects mankind from evil? This seems like a very misguided choice.”
David Ehrlich on The Mummy (2017) for IndieWire:
“Inheriting a production that was abandoned by “Underworld” mastermind Len Wiseman but still feels embalmed by the soulless CG and dank blue pallor that defines his movies, Kurtzman steps behind the camera like a man trying to drive a train that has already derailed. The opening scenes in the Middle East have a glint of fun about them, but the film appears understandably insecure about dwelling on the exoticism that has always been endemic to Mummy movies — one of the many reasons that no one has been clamoring for a gritty, modern reboot of this particular monster — but Kurtzman is all too eager to forfeit the deserts of Iraq for the visually exasperating sewers of London.”
Scott Tobias on The Mummy (2017) for NPR:
“After taking a mulligan on Dracula Untold, a middling attempt to do gothic on a budget, the studio has now officially launched its “Dark Universe” cycle with The Mummy, sparing no expense in casting Tom Cruise, the world’s most bankable action star, in the lead role. And with Russell Crowe making an appearance here as Dr. Jekyll, the brand integration is already firmly on track.
To watch The Mummy is to witness all that boardroom calculation come to life. There’s no prevailing notion for how this monster-movie revival is going to work 85 years after Boris Karloff donned the rags, so the director, Alex Kurtzman, and a team of seasoned screenwriters have made an all-purpose entertainment, an action/adventure/horror/comedy that flails and thrashes and desperately cajoles.”
David Ehrlich on Megan Leavey for IndieWire:
“Beginning with an expository voiceover that never returns — always, always a sign of an bumpy narrative — “Megan Leavey” introduces its namesake (a compellingly naturalistic Kate Mara) as she slumps along a bus stop near her hometown in upstate New York. The year is 2001, though it looks the recession has already swept through the area, and Megan is completely aimless. She’s frustrated with her mom (Edie Falco in a thankless role), she’s got no patience for the man who’s auditioning to be her new stepfather (Will Patton), and she misses her best friend, who died of a drug overdose when they were in high school. Megan isn’t a menace, she’s not a troublemaker or a burnout, she’s just lost. And maybe a little difficult. “You don’t really connect with people very well,” a woman says while firing Megan from her job hosting kids’ birthday parties.”
Keith Phipps on The Hero for Uproxx:
“[Sam Elliot] might still have a great Western in his future — filmmakers looking for ideas, take note — but he’s equally effective acting as a man out of time.
Brett Haley, who directs The Hero and co-wrote the script with Marc Basch, gets that. And for his second film he set out to tailor a film to Elliott’s strengths, and maybe push him a bit further than usual. Elliott plays Lee Hayden, a septuagenarian cowboy star whose steadiest employment comes from voiceover commercial work trading on his on-screen past. As the film opens, we hear him espousing the virtues of Lone Star barbecue sauce (“the perfect partner for your chicken”) before we see him — and the barely contained frustration on his face as he goes through take after take.”
Mike D’Angelo on The Hero for The A.V. Club:
“His delivery is perfect, yet the offscreen director keeps asking him to try it again, without offering any feedback; when Lee, after four or five attempts, reasonably asks if he should be doing something different, he’s simply told to repeat it once more. And then once more. It’s an amusing portrait of frustration that inadvertently epitomizes The Hero, a film that generously gives Elliott one of the few lead roles of his lengthy career, but mostly asks him to embody clichés, without providing any sense of how he might improve upon them.”
Scott Tobias on Middle Man for Variety:
“As Jerry on NBC’s “Parks & Recreation,” Jim O’Heir was the butt of every joke, a lumpen Midwesterner who absorbed ridicule with a genial earnestness that only invited more of it. If Jerry had a dark side, the show never saw fit to explore it. The dark indie comedy “Middle Man” again casts O’Heir as a pitiable figure, shifting small towns from the fictional Pawnee, Ind., to Peoria, Ill., but otherwise keeping the “Kick me” sign pinned to his back. It’s a smart strategy for writer-director Ned Crowley to coax O’Heir into discovering a more sinister side of himself and the world, adding an extra dimension to an actor known for playing the same note to hilarious effect. Yet Crowley’s thinly conceived debut feature only has one big joke, and everything around it is either long-winded setup or deflating letdown.”
David Ehrlich on Dawson City: Frozen Time for IndieWire:
“The reason you’ve never heard of Dawson City before is the same reason you’re hearing of it now: It’s way the hell out there, on the fringes of the map. So far as silent film distributors were concerned, it was literally the end of the line, and the owners of Dawson’s City cinema were told that it was cheaper to destroy the prints than to send them back. Most of them were ditched into the river. Some of them spontaneously burst into flames, destroying theaters and killing civilians. Others wound up underneath a hockey rink. Now, we get to see them.”
Keith Phipps on Dawson City: Frozen Time for Uproxx:
“While many films ended up getting thrown out with the rest of the town’s garbage — which was set on ice floes and allowed to float downstream — some remained stored in the town’s library then, later, used to fill in a disused swimming pool. And there they remained for decades until uncovered by a backhoe as part of a construction project, preserved beneath permafrost that helped keep their volatile nitrate from combusting.
It’s a fascinating story, one that would easily lend itself to a fine traditional documentary. And while director Bill Morrison bookends Dawson City: Frozen Time by talking to those who made the discovery and laying out what it means, he has ambitions for the film that make it far more compelling than a more traditional approach could — while remaining just as informative.”
Nathan Rabin on King Solomon’s Mines (1985) for Stuff I Got For Free:
“Richard Chamberlain lends his fading star-power to the lead role of Allan Quatermain, an adventurer for hire who hooks up with an insufferable daughter of privilege played by Sharon Stone. Now this is a Cannon production, so the stories behind the scenes are guaranteed to be more entertaining and crazy than the often entertaining craziness onscreen.
According to b-movie lore, the future star of Basic Instinct ended up in King Solomon’s Mines, and its filmed-at-the-same-time sequel Allan Quatermain And The Lost City of Gold, because Menahem Golan angrily demanded “that Stone woman” for the female lead in his Indiana Jones knock-off.
He reportedly was referring to Kathleen Turner, star of Romancing The Stone, a much better, much more successful Indiana Jones knock-off but Turner was too busy at the time being a huge star and way out of Cannon’s price range to be available, so the production got themselves a woman named Stone, albeit not the one Golan wanted.”
Charles Bramesco on Funeral Parade of Roses for Little White Lies:
“Any viewer recognises the humanity in this anatomy, but the gendered specifics have been stripped away to leave something simultaneously foreign and familiar – until a moment later, when a woman’s head enters the frame to gingerly caress this anonymous torso. Behold Matsumoto’s all-but-lost treasure in miniature: he deconstructs gender, rendering the alien known and the known alien, then uses passion as a vessel to give his confounding semiotic tinkering shape. Funeral Parade of Roses is a film of dense, often conflicting ideas about gender, sexuality, and how identity is forged through the delicate interplay between the two, but the extremes of lust betray it as a work both cerebral and primally felt.”
Craig J. Clark/Hooded Justice on Bubba the Redneck Werewolf for Werewolf News:
“Long in the works and nearly as long making it to home video after its first public screening three years ago, the big-screen adaptation of Mitch Hyman’s cult comic book Bubba the Redneck Werewolf is finally available to be seen by all manner of lycanthrope lovers. It must be said, however, that it will be most appreciated by those with a high tolerance for bad jokes, puns, and sight gags. In fact, viewers will know right away whether Bubba is the werewolf for them based on its bouncy, countrified theme song, which plays over the opening credits.
“His teeth are long, his claws are sharp, he’s a beast in moon and sun,” goes one lyric. “If this defies your precious science, well, you might wanna cut and run.” “
Nathan Rabin on 50 Shades of Black for Control Nathan Rabin:
“Watching the film’s intense discomfort involving pretty much all forms of sex, but particularly anything remotely kinky or transgressive, I found myself wondering if I was watching what might be the first ever heterosexual straight panic comedy. I’ve written extensively about American comedy’s insanely ubiquitous obsession with gay panic comedy rooted in a heterosexual audience’s discomfort and awkwardness at seeing straight characters forced by circumstances to engage in sexual practices historically associated with homosexuals.”
Nathan Rabin on Deadpool for Lukewarm Takes:
“I’ll stop now because otherwise I could easily devote this entire column to all of the superhero conventions Deadpool serves up relatively straight despite its reputation for stylistic and thematic audacity. That the movie was received so rapturously says more about the safe, tradition-bound nature of superhero movies than it does about the film itself, which is mildly innovative in some ways but in many others is just like every other superhero movie, only a little bit more so, and with a little more in-your-face attitude.”
Noel Murray on Pandora: The World of Avatar at Disneyworld for Screencrush:
“I confess that the phenomenon of “movie rides” had largely passed me by. I’ve never lived near any of the bigger theme parks, and my wife and kids and I don’t take many vacations. So my week at the four Orlando Disney parks — plus Universal Studios — gave me a crash course in the different ways Hollywood and ride-designers have collaborated to drop thrill-seekers into the middle of a motion picture.
What I learned is that movie rides can be divided into sub-genres, ranging from a simple “4D” cinema experience — where guests put on 3D glasses and sit in theaters equipped with rumbling seats and a variety of fans, misters, odor-spritzers, and flame-thrower — to indoor rollercoasters that use screens and 4D effects to enhance all the drops and turns.“
Kate Erbland interviews Trey Edward Shults for IndieWire:
” “What was really important for me with this, from casting to shooting the movie, was trying to build that creative family,” Shults said. “Even though it was a much bigger crew, I wanted everyone to just be happy to be there. If you’re just stuck outside with a sandbag, holding the boards or something, I hope those people felt good about what they were doing too.”
With backing from A24 and a budget of nearly $5 million, Shults was able to expand both his creative family and his vision, including snagging a starry cast of indie stalwarts like Edgerton, Riley Keough, and Abbott and breakouts like Harrison. But even those decisions remained rooted in Shults’ desire to assemble like-minded artists to deliver on his vision.”
Tasha Robinson interviews Trey Edward Shults for The Verge:
“[It Comes At Night] is extremely cynical about people, and about human nature. Is that just an isolated case around this story, or is it your larger commentary on humanity?
It’s probably both. Even if the movie does feel cynical, I also hope you feel love in the movie, that you feel love amongst characters. With this particular film and where it stems from, with my dad — I’ve been reading books on genocide, and thinking about people and our time on this world. Thinking about families, and how they’re like their own tribes, and how people put their tribe first. I think there’s a lot in how we live, where family always comes first. And if we think that way in any circumstance, we’re just going to end up destroying ourselves. It’s inevitable.”
Kate Erbland interviews Rachel Weisz for IndieWire’s Girl Talk:
“Audiences will have to draw their own conclusions about the eponymous character at the center of Roger Michell’s “My Cousin Rachel” — that’s the whole point of the tricky Gothic thriller, after all — but star Rachel Weisz has no time for such speculations. As the mysterious woman at the center of the Roger Michell film, based on the 1951 Daphne du Maurier novel of the same name, Weisz made an early decision about Rachel’s motivations, and used that concealed knowledge to fuel her performance in the purposely deceptive film. It’s a perfect fit for a film that’s all about a woman bent on being unabashedly herself in a world that’s unwelcoming to such desires.
“It’s a really vivid, interesting role for a woman,” Weisz said in a recent interview. “She’s definitely very contradictory, and I like characters that have contradictions. I love looking at female sexuality and female desire. It’s a really good cocktail of elements.” “
Charles Bramesco interviews Daniel Clowes for Little White Lies:
“The writer landed a suitable fill-in with director Craig Johnson and the infinitely lovable star Woody Harrelson, who jointly accentuate the honest affection in Wilson that can scan as wry sarcasm on the page. We sat down with Clowes in New York to discuss dog ownership and the “overheated emotion” of Douglas Sirk.[…]
LWLies: Unlike most of your work, Wilson is set up as a series of short strips rather than one continued narrative.
Clowes: Originally, I just started out drawing individual strips of ‘Wilson’ with no real sense of it being a narrative. But I had hundreds of ’em. Then I started to see the vestiges of a narrative running through, so I got rid of the ones that weren’t part of that. It was the first time I’ve pared away to find a story instead of adding to it. It was like forming a sculpture out of a marble block.”
“Squier and Weber’s frank, funny discussion of male fragility in the film business and beyond is still all too relevant in 2017. Weber, one of the best-known directors of the teens, made hundreds of movies over the course of her career; fewer than 50 survive. The interview originally ran in the Atlanta Constitution on April 17, 1921, shortly after Weber’s distribution deal with Paramount was canceled by executives scandalized at an advance screening of her film What Do Men Want? —Matthew Dessem”
“[…]She was not the least bit vindictive about the way her pet brainchild had been manhandled. It seems to me that she stands outside of herself looking on at life, not as a participant, but as a spectator. She does not believe that anything is worth grieving terribly for; she thinks that loss of poise destroys one’s sense of values.
“They said to me after seeing the picture,”—she always refers to it as “the” picture—“It shows that a woman made this.”
“I said to them: ‘Yes, it does show that a woman made it. And it also shows that men are afraid to see themselves as they really are.’ ” “
Matt Singer eulogizes Adam West and remembers his Batman for Screencrush:
“[…][T]his morning, for the very first time, I showed her the old show’s opening credits.
She watched it with her eyes wide, mouth agape. Each time it ended she immediately yelled “More! More!” We replayed it four times. She would have watched it more if I had let her. She was hooked.
A few hours later, I read that Adam West had died.
The timing was surreal and sad, but it also took a little of the sting out of losing my favorite childhood Batman. Adam West will live forever. As long as kids like superheroes, people will be watching his Batman.”
Kate Erbland on where Wonder Woman succeeds for IndieWire:
“Not familiar with the mythology of Wonder Woman? You don’t have to be to enjoy Jenkins’ film (though audiences who have long loved the superhero will find plenty of nods to her long and rich history to savor). As we wrote in our review, “Allan Heinberg’s script (with story credits for both Zack Snyder and franchise newbie Jason Fuchs) provides a compelling backstory for the Amazons and Diana that pulls from various incarnations of the classic character,” and much of the film’s first act focuses on her early years on Themyscira.”
Craig J. Clark/Hooded Justice continues his first look at Michael Bay’s filmography in “Michael Baywatch Part II: Sneak Attacks (2001-2005)” for Crooked Scoreboard:
“[…]Pearl Harbor’s true model isn’t war movies like From Here to Eternity or Tora! Tora! Tora!, but rather James Cameron’s Titanic, substituting the Japanese strike force for the iceberg. (Imagine if Cameron had had the Titanic’s survivors regroup and launch an attack on the iceberg that sank them.) However, as spectacularly as Bay stages the December 7 attack — a sequence that takes up half an hour of screen time — it wasn’t enough to entice viewers to return to the multiplex a second or third (or fourth or fifth) time. As a result, Pearl Harbor didn’t do Titanic business, and it even struggled to match Armageddon’s domestic take. In response, Bay returned to the scene of his first cinematic success, bringing detectives Marcus Burnett and Mike Lowrey into the 21st century with 2003’s Bad Boys II, the bigger, badder, and marginally better sequel to their maiden adventure.“
Keith Phipps and Charles Bramesco with Bill Hanstock on “The 10 Best Sci-Fi Movies On Netflix Right Now” for Uproxx:
“2. World Of Tomorrow (2015)
The latest release from animation genius Don Hertzfeldt, World Of Tomorrow leaps across millennia, creates clones of clones of clones, waxes poetic on the tragic ephemerality of memory, falls in and out love a few times, and very nearly locates the meaning of life. All of this takes place in 16 minutes. Over the course of a discursive conversation between a three-year-old girl and an adult clone of herself from the future (it makes more sense when you watch it [the third time]), Hertzfeldt crafts deeply moving monuments to sadness and salvation, and splashes it all against gorgeous expressionist abstractions. This is the sort of movie whose dialogue you get tattooed on yourself, or use as a criterion on first dates. A tremendous work of emotional power, World Of Tomorrow affirms the brutal loneliness of common life as a necessary counterbalance that creates joy. It’s really something.”
Phipps: “This movie, I think would be more effective if it didn’t try to undercut it with a little bit of sentiment. It does try to sweeten things: John Ritter tries to be a good dad, and there’s a little bit of–there’s some earnestness when he bonds with Junior, and that to me kind of throws the rest of the movie out the window because this is not a movie with any kind of honest emotions. This is a movie in which a 7-year-old idolizes a serial killer played by Michael Richards.”