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!
Scott Tobias on Girls Trip for NPR:
“Among the four stars of Girls Trip — the third and funniest summer comedy about hard-partying women in trouble, following Snatched and Rough Night — Tiffany Haddish is the least well-known, having bounced around in minor roles on film and television before landing a spot as a series regular on The Carmichael Show. All that stands to change overnight. As Dina, a pleasure-seeker of unapologetic, bull-in-a-china-shop relentlessness, Haddish is so incandescently filthy that a new ratings system should be developed to accommodate her. Comedies like Girls Trip trade in shock value, but Haddish laces her raunchy tirades with a distinct, infectious joy, often prefaced by a naughty curl of the lips as she gets ready to go off.”
Sam Adams on Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets for Slate:
“Once the stuff of drugstore paperbacks and B-movies, science fiction has become the stuff of battleship-sized blockbusters and brow-furrowing indies, with precious little occupying the middle ground. With a reported budget of $180 million, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is decidedly of the battleship variety, but this Luc Besson movie, about a cocksure 25th-century government agent (Dane DeHaan) and his sharp-tongued partner Laureline (Cara Delevingne) following the trail of an intergalactic conspiracy, resolutely refuses the leaden seriousness that tends to be woven into most modern sci-fi. It’s a movie in which the fates of both an entire world and the human race hang in the balance, but it’s also one in which the path to enlightenment runs through a jellyfish’s asshole.”
Matt Singer on Dunkirk for Screencrush:
“It follows three different groups involved in the Allied evacuation of Dunkirk during World War II; time flows at a different pace for each of the three storylines, which are blended together to interesting narrative effect. Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) spends an entire week waiting for rescue on the beaches of Dunkirk. After the British government orders private ships to assist in the evacuation, a father (Mark Rylance) and son (Tom Glynn-Carney) and his friend (Barry Keoghan) spend a tumultuous day crossing the English Channel on their way to France. Meanwhile, in the skies above, a fighter pilot (Tom Hardy) and two wingmen spend just one hour providing air support for the evacuation, carefully monitoring their fuel supplies while shooting down German planes.”
David Ehrlich on Dunkirk for IndieWire:
“On the rare occasions when the Axis fighters make themselves known (as they do in the haunted and startling prologue), their bullets whistle towards us like the wind, materializing from nowhere and visible only for the destruction they leave behind. Out of sight, however, is most definitely not out of mind. On the contrary, Nolan makes it impossible to think about anything else. His unshakeable account of Britain’s darkest hour — and the miraculous dawn that followed — dissolves Hitler’s army into a primarily existential threat. The opening text refers to them as just “the enemy.” They are as vague and violent as the dream projections in “Inception,” less of a literal force than a deadly abstraction that lives under our skin, feeds on our fears, and erodes our shared purpose.”
Charles Bramesco on Dunkirk for Polygon:
“Nolan’s gargantuan new war drama Dunkirk deafeningly reasserts why the director has been able to hang in against Hollywood’s money-powered meat grinder. The man has a peerless skill for reconciling the demands of big-scale filmmaking with his personal whims as an orchestrator of action and emotion. He bent the Batman franchise to his will by refashioning it as a severe moral drama whose main character happened to be a superhero, and then he sold the American people a bill of goods called Interstellar, which looked like Matthew McConaughey’s Space Adventure but turned out to be a ponderous perspective on the elasticity of time and space.”
Mike D’Angelo on Kékszakállú for The A.V. Club:
“Kékszakállú works best as pure cinema, mostly divorced from narrative; some of its most memorable moments don’t even really contribute to the vague theme that gradually emerges. Solnicki just seems to have shot a ton of random material, Terrence Malick-style, and given a home to anything that’s worth looking at for its own sake. This makes for a slightly frustrating experience, even at just 72 minutes, but only because the film feints at being something more than a collage of quiet rapture. On that level, it works beautifully.”
Keith Phipps on Killing Ground for Uproxx:
“The grindhouses closed a long time ago, driven out by adventurous viewers’ ability to feed their seedier tastes at home. But the grindhouse spirit lives on, often assuming some complex, thoughtful shapes even while delivering on a promise of lurid thrills. It seems to have found a particularly welcoming home in Australia of late, based on the appearance of Hounds of Love earlier this year and now Killing Ground, an impressive and unsettling first feature from Damien Power set in a remote patch of Australian wilderness that becomes a, well, check the title.”
Nathan Rabin on Tom and Jerry: Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory for Control Nathan Rabin:
“[…][B]y focusing on Charlie and Tom and Jerry, the movie ends up downplaying and evading both the awfulness of the children surrounding Charlie and Wonka’s own malevolence as a hypocritical misanthrope and secret moralist who seems to despise the miniature people who purchase his products and for good reason.
Ah, but what of Tom and Jerry, you ask? Good question! Once inside the fantastical Chocolate factory, Tom and Jerry join forces with Tuffy, a talking mouse with ambitions of someday growing tall enough to be an Oompah Loompa to take down Slugsworth, a malevolent competitor of Wonka’s who promises Charlie a life of luxury if he’ll just give him a single everlasting gobstopper from Wonka’s factory.”
Mike D’Angelo on Amnesia for The A.V. Club:
“Subtext isn’t exactly Barbet Schroeder’s primary concern in Amnesia, his first dramatic feature since 2008’s poorly received Inju: The Beast In The Shadow (which never even got a U.S. release). It’s one thing to give your movie a title that spells out its theme—in this case, the willful refusal to contend with past horrors, as practiced by Germans of a certain age. It’s quite another, though, to construct the narrative for such a project around a nightclub that’s actually called Amnesia. This is a real place, as it happens—you can find it in Ibiza, where Amnesia is set, and it was founded well before 1990, when most of the film’s action takes place—but that’s no excuse.”
Nathan Rabin on Collateral Beauty for My World of Flops:
“When Smith is writhing in pain, Collateral Beauty is a leaden, painfully earnest melodrama of loss and redemption. When Smith is offscreen, the movie becomes a slick New York comedy-drama so featherweight and unconvincing that not even the impending death of Pena’s character can give it the faintest hint of depth or substance.
What Howard’s coworkers do to him is nothing short of monstrous. It’s illegal, it’s immoral and it sure as shit is unethical, but the movie needs us to like all these characters, despite giving us no reason to do so, so the central scheme is portrayed as a morally sketchy but fundamentally good-hearted attempt to help a man who seems beyond help, and maybe make a lot of money in the process.”
Nathan Rabin on Busted (1997) for This Looks Terrible! :
“Busted deserves credit on some level for even having the ambition to attempt jokes, even if it doesn’t seem to understand what jokes are. For example in an early scene Feldman’s colorful kook is chastised for sleeping in his squad car and he explains that like a ninja, his senses are heightened. This leads to a cutaway shot of a ninja seemingly designed to illustrate to slow-witted audiences what ninjas look and act like, because heaven knows there’s no joke there. Later, a hooker calls a pair of cops nuts, immediately followed by a cut-away shot of cashews in tiny police man uniforms. Because, dear reader, “nuts” is a slang term for crazy but it also refers to food and Busted was having a fun with that fact.”
Craig J. Clark/Hooded Justice on Alone in the Dark (1982) in remembrance of Martin Landau for LiveJournal:
“At the time, I doubt I recognized Martin Landau as the man at the door, but I’ve never forgotten his unsettling grin — the kind a crazy person would plaster on their face to put someone else at ease without realizing just how strongly they’re broadcasting their lunacy.
The first horror film produced by New Line Pictures, which was about to hit pay dirt with A Nightmare on Elm Street, Alone in the Dark was written and directed by future Elm Street 2 helmer Jack Sholder, who concocted the story with New Line honcho Robert Shaye and Michael Harrpster. Briefly, it’s about four dangerous mental patients who have it in for their new psychiatrist, who they mistakenly believe murdered his predecessor and took his place.”
Jen Chaney on the cassette tape’s pop culture resurgence for Vulture:
“The cassette tape has been showing up lately in a lot of major motion pictures and TV shows, and not just in films like Atomic Blonde or series like Snowfall that are set in the 1980s, the heyday for TDK. What’s unusual is how often they’re appearing in stories about the present as well.
[…][A]t the movies this summer, Star Lord continues to demonstrate his cassette fixation in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. The music-obsessed getaway master played by Ansel Elgort in Baby Driver maintains his own significant collection of mixtapes, in addition to plenty of vinyl and iPod playlists. Even in Despicable Me 3, the villainous Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker), a former ’80s child star who never mentally graduated from that decade, uses cassettes to provide the soundtrack to his dastardly behavior.”
Kate Erbland on how the current Planet of the Apes series could continue for IndieWire:
“With last week’s “War for the Planet of the Apes” opening at the number one spot at the box office amidst a slew of stellar reviews, it’s only understandable that fans are eager for more adventures within the world. And while the third film in the trilogy could easily function as the final chapter in the story, there’s plenty more to tell. Here’s how.
Some spoilers for “War for the Planet of the Apes” ahead.
[…][D]irector Matt Reeves has long expressed his wish for the films to meet up with the original series of films, which first hit theaters in 1968. And while “War” leaves the apes with a big, bright new future to explore and build, our final glimpse at them is a far cry from the advanced civilization that’s portrayed in the first franchise.”
Charles Bramesco asks “Can binge-releasing franchise movies a month apart work at the box office?” for The Guardian:
“As recently as five years ago, the precariousness of this strategy would have been apparent, but TV’s growth into a dominant industry (at least in terms of social impact, if not hard dollars and cents) and Marvel’s runaway success have clouded matters. The dependable Hollywood wisdom that audiences will return for a similar version of something they liked the first time has been misconstrued and irresponsibly repurposed, and now the major studios may have to learn the hard way that there are limits to the extent that movies can be made and sold like TV.”
Kate Erbland on two upcoming lab opportunities for female writers for IndieWire:
“Added Franklin Leonard, Founder and CEO of The Black List, “We’re incredibly excited to expand our work with Women In Film to include feature screenwriters. It’s important for organizations like the Black List to hold space for all women in the film and television industry.”
The Black List and WIF will select six female writers to participate in this first Feature Lab. The lab, a weeklong residential program, will consist of one-on-one mentoring with established screenwriters and peer workshopping sessions. Additionally, participants will attend a series of events and screenings that will further expose them to the realities of a life as a professional screenwriter.”
Kate Erbland on why “Not Every Film Has to Pass the Bechdel Test (And Some Shouldn’t Even Try)” for IndieWire’s Girl Talk:
“No one is more aware of the necessary boundaries of the test than Bechdel herself. When I spoke to her in 2014 on the occasion of her winning a MacArthur Genius Grant, she was open about the test and its limitations. She even ticked off a handful of films she had enjoyed recently that don’t past her own metrics (“Jackie Brown,” “About Time,” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel”).
“I’m not a stickler about the Test — if I were, I wouldn’t see many movies,” she said at the time. And while the number of films that don’t meet the test – user-generated stats at BechdelTest.com hold it at about 42% – is in dire need of change, that still doesn’t mean that its application needs to be a requirement for every film.”
Keith Phipps remembers George Romero for Uproxx:
“When filmmaker George Romero died this past Sunday at the age of 77, John Carpenter posted a tweet praising him as no less than the “father of modern horror movies.” Coming from Carpenter, no stranger to changing the landscape of horror, that means a lot. The claim checks out, too. Romero’s been widely, and rightly, praised for the way his films wove social observation and political commentary into horror stories, but on a more basic level he helped drag horror movies into the modern world by ignoring gothic trappings, atomic giants, and familiar monsters and telling stories that unfolded in the humble, everyday, mostly working class surroundings of late 20th century America, most often his native Pittsburgh and the surrounding areas.”
Sam Adams remembers George Romero for Slate:
“Romero later said he felt that Night “gets too much credit for a lot of things,” but if that movie’s social commentary was in part inadvertent, it became a more deliberate part of Romero’s later movies. Night’s sequel, 1978’s Dawn of the Dead, took on a more comic and self-aware edge, with zombies wandering through a besieged shopping mall like mindless consumers. With Vietnam-era disillusion at its peak, 1973’s The Crazies followed protestors’ urging to bring the war home, with a madness-causing virus prompting the U.S. military to, in effect, act as an occupying army within its own country.”
Matt Singer remembers George Romero for Screencrush:
“Though Romero was best known as a horror director, the reason his movies resonated as widely as they did were the ideas and theme underpinning the gore. The image of a zombie, shuffling aimlessly but unstoppably toward living flesh, was terrifying, but the issues Romero’s films explored like race, class, paranoia, capitalism were what has made the subject of endless admiration and study. He didn’t just make the scariest movies about America; he made some of the smartest movies about America as well.”
Matthew Dessem remembers Martin Landau for Slate:
“Landau, a native of Brooklyn, began his career as a cartoonist at the New York Daily News before training at the Actors Studio. After debuting in Pork Chop Hill, Landau gained attention for a scene-stealing role as gay henchman Leonard in Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest. That got him a larger role in Cleopatra, though much of his part was cut when the financially disastrous epic finally limped its way on screen in 1963. Landau had better luck in television, where he played master of disguise Rollin Hand on Mission: Impossible co-starring with his then-wife, actress Barbara Bain.”
Matthew Dessem remembers John Heard for Slate:
“In the 1980s, Heard had memorable roles in Cat People, Big, Beaches, and The Milagro Beanfield War, while also finding time to play the lead in cannibalistic-humanoid-underground-dweller extravaganza C.H.U.D. (though he wisely skipped the sequel). But he was perhaps best known to the public for his role as Macaulay Culkin’s character’s father in Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost In New York. He transitioned from lead to supporting roles as the years went on, but gave a blistering late-career performance as crooked cop Vin Makazian on The Sopranos, for which he earned an Emmy nomination.”