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 The Dark Tower (2017) for IndieWire:
“Saddled with a staggering amount of material (over 4,000 pages from the novels alone), Nikolaj Arcel’s film attempts the unenviable task of wrangling the material through a double-barreled approach to screenwriting, including a streamlined script from Arcel, producer Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, and Anders Thomas Jensen that results in the rare studio tentpole feature that clocks in under 100 minutes. That’s the first sign of trouble: This unwieldy premise was never readymade to be stuffed into a nimble feature-length running time, and now we know why.”
Wait, there could have been 12 ANIMAL GUARDIANS IN THIS MOVIE? I am more angry now. https://t.co/Xa3uwJdCeX
— Kate Erbland (@katerbland) August 3, 2017
Tasha Robinson on The Dark Tower for The Verge:
“The film, which emerged from a well-publicized, troubled process of studio-switching development, reshoots, and delays, feels like it’s perpetually at war with itself. It’s alternately aimed at newcomers to the series, who presumably need hand-holding through the story beats, and insiders who can fill in the narrative gaps for themselves, and feel the weight of significance on things given little gravity in the film. But the struggle to appeal to both halves of its presumed audience has left the film conflicted and erratic, a puzzling mix of highly specific details and frustratingly broad fantasy strokes.”
Matt Singer on The Dark Tower for Screencrush:
“To a novice viewer (i.e. me), it was equally baffling and frustrating; it was never entirely clear who Elba’s Roland Deschain was or why he was important, or how he came to be trapped in this apparently endless war with the man he calls Walter, and others call the Man in Black, played by Matthew McConaughey. It’s unclear because even though Elba makes an incredibly charismatic vigilante, he’s mostly a side character in the story of a deeply uninteresting kid named Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), who lives in New York City and suffers from recurring nightmares about Roland and the Man in Black and a mysterious tower in the sky.”
Charles Bramesco on The Dark Tower for The Guardian:
“The script amalgamates story elements from across the seven-installment series into one bowl of reheated Joseph Campbell’s soup, a transparent bid to be the next Lord of the Rings that can’t back up its sense of portentousness with the required epic sweep.
[…]There is a scant handful of moments during which the film threatens to become marginally interesting; they all pass. Narrative turns flit through the story without rhyme or reason, betraying the seams of behind-the-scenes meddling that have already commanded headlines in the trade papers. It’s rare that a film so convoluted also manages to be so determinedly boring.”
Sam Adams on The Dark Tower for Slate:
“Although The Dark Tower has hints of the science fiction, fantasy, and western genres, to name only a few, Arcel doesn’t have a particular feel for any of them. The cinematography, from Rasmus Videbaek, is flat and colorless, and it makes the sets look cheap and flimsy. At a trim 95 minutes, the movie is always in a hurry to get somewhere, but we never linger long enough to get a real sense of place, even though some of its locations[…]. The story is a journey at heart, but the movie keeps rushing to the next destination.”
Kate Erbland on Columbus for IndieWire:
“There was never any question that when lauded video essayist Kogonada finally turned his attention to a full-length feature, the finished product would be visually stunning and impeccably framed. The real surprise — and a satisfying one at that — is how the newly-minted filmmaker has used his debut effort “Columbus” to layer visual flair with deep emotional nuance, delivered care of two of the year’s best performances.
Set in the small city of Columbus, Indiana, an American mini-metropolis that’s home to a number of Modernist structures from such giants of architecture as Eero Saarinen, I.M. Pei, and Richard Meier, “Columbus” is a feast for the eyes, but its more lasting impression is on the heart.”
Keith Phipps on Columbus for Uproxx:
“That may sound like the sort of film you’ve seen before, and in some respects it is. Kogonada is less concerned with creative a dynamic narrative than pushing his protagonists, inch by stubborn inch, to meaningful realizations about their lives — often through earnest, late-night conversations — that we see coming long before they do. One needs to get out. The other needs to let the significance of the place sink in. It’s the stuff Sundance movies are made of.
But Columbus defies expectations in virtually every other sense.”
Mike D’Angelo on 4 Days in France for The A.V. Club:
“What makes 4 Days In France special, though, is that it’s far more expansive than its basic premise would suggest. Pierre and Paul remain separated, with zero direct contact, for most of the film’s nearly two-and-a-half hours; while their relationship is the narrative’s beating heart, writer-director Jérôme Reybaud is more interested in exploring veins and arteries. Over the course of Pierre’s journey across France, which eventually leads him to the Italian border, he encounters a broad, eccentric cross-section of the population, taking each person in stride.”
David Ehrlich on Kidnap for IndieWire:
“Screeching into theaters towards the end of an unusually strong summer movie season, “Kidnap” is here to remind a nation of spoiled filmgoers that yes, movies really can be this bad. “The Emoji Movie” might have been a boring and brazenly cynical piece of corporate propaganda, but at least it had the courtesy to be offensive. “Kidnap,” on the other hand, doesn’t have the the courtesy to be much of anything.
[…]“Kidnap” runs approximately 82 minutes, at least five of which are spent on company logos during the opening credits; it doesn’t typically require a dozen different production companies to fund a $20 million trash fire, but the implosion of Relativity Media proved to be a major pothole for this film, which was shot all the way back in 2014.”
Scott Tobias on 68 Kill for NPR:
“Nearly a de facto remake of After Hours, writer-director Trent Haaga’s lively trailer-park thriller 68 Kill keeps the hostility and loses the self-deprecation, which turns it into an example of misogyny rather than an examination of it. Winner of the Audience Award in the Midnighters section at this year’s SXSW, the film is another night-in-the-life scenario about a passive guy confronted by dangerous and irrational women, but it doesn’t reflect on its premise for a second: the notion that women are crazy goes largely unchallenged. The takeaway is that good men should get wise to that fact and stand up for themselves.”
David Ehrlich on The Only Living Boy in New York for IndieWire:
“The film shares the egocentrism of its hero, it echoes his inclination towards awing at the girls in his life instead of listening to them. Loeb thinks it’s cute that Thomas doesn’t know how to solve the fairer sex, but it never concedes that people like Mimi and Johanna might be more than puzzles. Loeb, whose resumé has become a damning indictment of the same privilege that his latest screenplay tries to redeem, must have forgotten how Charlie Kaufman’s “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” mercy killed this screenwriting trope for all the other men who can’t help but default to it (“Too many guys think I’m a concept, or I complete them… But I’m just a fucked-up girl who’s lookin’ for my own peace of mind; don’t assign me yours”).”
Noel Murray on Icarus for The A.V. Club:
“Bryan Fogel’s Netflix documentary Icarus tells such an eye-opening story that it almost doesn’t matter when the storytelling itself gets a little sloppy. An actor and playwright best known for the comedy Jewtopia, Fogel is trying his hand at feature-length non-fiction filmmaking for the first time with Icarus, and he just happened to stumble onto the kind of relevant, ripped-from-the-headlines scandal that investigative journalists spend years trying to dig up. What starts out as a Super Size Me-esque stunt—with Fogel injecting himself with performance-enhancing drugs to compete in an amateur cycling race—becomes a wider-ranging exposé of doping in organized sports.”
Mike D’Angelo on An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power for Las Vegas Weekly:
“Well aware that An Inconvenient Truth helped sound the alarm, Gore now returns with An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, in which he once again attempts to convey just how urgent the situation is. By this time, though, almost anyone who’s persuadable has long since been persuaded. Making a follow-up doc is a bit like someone pressing the elevator button again in the hope that doing so will somehow speed things along.”
Nathan Rabin on Frank McKlusky, C.I. (2002) for This Looks Terrible! :
“It does not reflect well upon Sheridan that the movie peaks in the five minutes before he first appears not because it’s funny (it’s not), but rather because it is so weird and so inexplicably star-studded despite being a crap vehicle for a dude who’d never carried a movie before and would never carry one again.
The inexplicably star-studded nature of the cast begins with the casting of Oscar nominee/world class wacko Randy Quaid and American treasure Dolly Parton as McKlusky parents, “Madman” McKlusky, an Evel Knievel-style stuntman and his wife, a foul-mouthed misanthrope who becomes the world’s most over-protective mother out of fear that her son will end up in a terrible accident.”
Nathan Rabin on Youtuber-movies for Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place:
“Fred: The Movie was successful enough to spawn two sequels but that’s the only rubric by which it could be deemed a success. The film served a useful purpose in establishing a tough-to-beat nadir for Youtube movies. From this point forward, Youtubers who failed to become movie stars could take comfort in knowing that their movies might be bad, but they couldn’t be Fred: The Movie terrible.
[…]Smosh: The Movie is pitched unmistakably to cultists for whom the resurrection of a Pokemon parody song popular in Smosh’s Youtube videos is a cultural milestone on the level of Jimi Hendrix’s “Star Spangled Banner” at Woodstock. Smosh: The Movie is genially mediocre, which may be the most we can hope for in a Youtube-spawned motion picture.”
Nathan Rabin on Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and big-budget sci-fi flops in his debut at The Guardian:
“From a commercial standpoint, Valerian shares a problem with the aforementioned films that, creatively, at least, should be a virtue: it’s too original. In a world of cookie-cutter entertainment, it makes the mistake of straying from formula, and paid a steep price for its deviation.
These oddball science fiction flops are original in sometimes perversely derivative ways. Chappie, for example, is morbidly fascinating in part because it doesn’t borrow so much as it steals shamelessly from the earlier blockbusters Short Circuit and Robocop as well as the mythology and stage personas of the highly theatrical South African rap duo Die Antwoord, who unwisely star as fictionalized version of themselves.”
Kate Erbland interviews Nikolaj Arcel for IndieWire:
“But that hasn’t stopped Arcel and company from working on the planned series, one designed to fill in the gaps between the new film — crafted as a sequel of sorts to King’s original books, and an “introduction” to non-fans — and the cyclical battles between Elba’s Roland Deschain and McConaughey’s Man in Black.
[…]“It’s being written,” Arcel said of the long-gestating series. “I was part of writing the pilot, like the first season ideas and the pilot and the second episode. It’s gonna be awesome. What was exciting about that, whereas with the film, we were really trying to create an introduction and make a standalone film that could sort of live in itself, but what was also exciting, working on the TV show at the same time, is that is totally canon.” “
Charles Bramesco interviews Jessica Williams for Nylon:
“When you’re playing a character that’s similar to yourself, do you ever have trouble with people conflating the two of you?
We didn’t change the character’s first name, so people are like, “How much of it is you?” There are similarities—we really wanted her to sound 25, somebody who was young and wanted to make it in Brooklyn, so that was me. But she’s a lot more forthright than I am, [she’s] not afraid of confrontation.
That sounds pretty freeing.
In a way, it is, yeah. It felt good to do the scenes where she’s laying it out and letting people know what she thinks. I was like, “Yeah, that felt good,” even though it was just acting. Because I’m a very conflict-avoidant person. I’d rather let things fester until they explode.”
Kate Erbland interviews John Boyega for IndieWire:
” “The biggest role of my career so far has been in ‘Detroit.’”
Yes, he’s counting “Star Wars.”
Boyega still has plenty of affection for the series — he’s particularly excited about this year’s “The Last Jedi,” and spoke in glowing terms about director Rian Johnson — but he’s passionate about how “Detroit” has opened him up to a new world of possibilities. “I really felt a shift and transition with this project, just in terms of the kind of roles now that I feel I’m ready for, through this,” Boyega said. “It’s now exposed to me to several different things in my mind. It’s just huge to me. Very, very big to me.” “
Scott Tobias interviews director David Leitch on Atomic Blonde‘s action sequences for Rolling Stone:
“1. Upon arriving in Berlin, Lorraine gets picked up by the wrong chaperones, leading to a three-way fight scene inside a fast-moving car – with one high-heeled red shoe serving as an improvised weapon.
“It’s funny. Coming from an action background, I always approach the action sequences in any script as kind of placeholders. When I originally got the script, that [scene] was a fight in an elevator at the airport, in the terminal. Doing this movie with the budgetary constraints we had … it was really done independently. We did it like John Wick. But we still wanted to find ways to expand the action, so I came up with: ‘Why don’t we do a fight scene in a car?’ It’s still contained, but we can have some driving shots. Something a little more exciting, but you still get that confined, mano-a-mano experience.”
Sam Adams’s obituary for Jeanne Moreau for Slate:
“Moreau’s career preceded the nouvelle vague, in movies like Jacques Becker’s 1954 Touchez Pas au Grisbi, and it lasted long after—her last of more than 100 screen roles came in 2015’s My Friends’ Talents. But her smoldering intelligence and flinty inscrutability made her an indelible presence in New Wave touchstones like François Truffaut’s Jules and Jim and drew the attention of directors like Orson Welles, Luis Buñuel, Michelangelo Antonioni, and John Frankenheimer.”
Kate Erbland’s obituary for Sam Shepard for IndieWire:
“Shepard was already an established name in the theater when he began appearing in movies, and he first major credited role was as The Farmer in Terrence Malick’s 1978 opus “Days of Heaven.” While always remaining steadfast in his affection for the stage, he went on to star in such films as “Resurrection,” “Country,” “Baby Boom,” and “Steel Magnolias.” “
Matt Singer’s obituary for Sam Shepard for Screencrush:
“Several of his plays later became movies, and Shepard also wrote a few screenplays, including Wim Wenders’ beloved indie Paris, Texas. Onscreen, though, Shepard was much more well-known as an actor. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for playing Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff.”
Kate Erbland on the Sundance documentary Step‘s film campaign for IndieWire’s Girl Talk:
“The film, Lipitz’s first, centers on a girls-only step team from inner city Baltimore, and chronicles their senior year as they attempt to win one last big competition, prepare for their future, and face personal hurdles. Even in January, it was clear that the film was poised to be one of the year’s biggest crowdpleasers. Lipitz wants that crowd.
“One of the big things that I really wanted to do is make sure that every student and school group, college counselors, churches Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, whatever, could see the film,” Lipitz said in a recent interview. “But I wanted them to see it in a movie theater. I really, really want to make sure that kids saw the movie in movie theaters. They got popcorn, it was like actually seeing someone on the big screen.” “
Kate Erbland on the Kickstarter to preserve In the Soup for IndieWire:
“For its twenty-fifth anniversary, Alexandre Rockwell’s 1992 Sundance winner “In the Soup” is asking for a big gift — but a necessary one. Indie distributor Factory 25 has now launched a crowdfunding campaign to finance the repair and preservation of the film, aiming to make it available digitally and on Blu-ray for the first time.
[…]“‘In the Soup’ really encapsulates early ‘90’s filmmaking and the thriving New York indie scene of that time,” said Grady in an official statement. “Because of the way it was shot, on a black-and-white Kodak stock that doesn’t even exist anymore, and the fact that the only archival print we have is so damaged, it can’t be replicated at this point, it’s literally at risk of disappearing forever.” “
Matt Singer remembers the soon-to-be-closed Great Movie Ride for Screencrush:
“From the outside, the ride does not look particularly haunted. An impressive recreation of Los Angeles’ Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, the Great Movie Ride is adorned with beloved props and artifacts from throughout film history, along with a courtyard filled, like the original Chinese, with handprints of famous celebrities (the roster of legends includes George Lucas, Michael Jackson, and, uh, the Rocketeer). Once guests make their way inside, they arrive at a boarding area cleverly designed to look like an auditorium, with a large screen playing a loop of classic movie highlights narrated, like the ride to follow, by Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne.”
Tobias: “I think it is one of the best films of this young century, and I think it’s probably my favorite film that Spike Lee ever directed, so I’m solidly on board with it. I think there’s a lot of reasons for that, which we’ll get into, but one that comes immediately to mind is the incorporation of 9/11 into the fabric of the film. Because when you think about Spike Lee as a New York filmmaker, there were so many other films that were being made in New York around that time that were doing everything they could to get the Twin Towers–to literally scrub it out of the picture so people aren’t reminded of what happened, and Spike Lee instead just makes it an important part of the film, and documents this period of time in a way that nobody else did.”
Matt Singer joins David Chen from Slashfilm in a podcast review of The Dark Tower:
Singer: “I was boggled that the movie takes so long to introduce Idris Elba. The very first scene, first of all, felt like it was the third act of another movie.
The Idris Elba character is introduced in the least exciting, dramatic–it’s not like he’s unveiled with this incredible flourish. You talk the history of great movie introductions: this is at the very bottom of the list.[…]It’s literally two guys standing in a forest with so much fog that it made you go, ‘Did they just film this in a park next to the studio, because…why is there so much fog?'”