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!
Update from last week re: Rachel Handler:
so on Monday I'm starting as @vulture's movies editor! very excited to assign 17 pieces on Mandy Patinkin each morning 😎
— rachel handler (@rachel_handler) July 14, 2017
Kate Erbland on To the Bone for IndieWire:
“Loosely based on her own experiences with eating disorders, Noxon’s film follows young anorexic Ellen (Lily Collins) on a bumpy road to wellness that has tremendous stakes: if she doesn’t get “better” (and “better” in this space is very much a relative term), she’s going to die. When we first meet Ellen, she’s skating through yet another turn at a live-in facility, and it’s clear from both her sunken body and bad attitude that it’s not working. Again. “There’s no point in blaming anybody. Live with it,” Ellen says during a group therapy session, before holding up an arts-and-crafts sign that declares, “Suck my skinny balls.” A feel-good Lifetime movie this is not, and the material is all the better for it.”
Scott Tobias on To the Bone for NPR:
“Fans of Noxon’s work on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the first season of UnREAL — the second, without Noxon, went catastrophically bad — will recognize the tart, slashing wit and emotional volatility of her voice in To the Bone. Her expertise with group dynamics pays off in a house where sarcasm and gallows humor form the default mode, only occasionally punctured by moments of harrowing crisis. That was the prevailing mood on Buffy, too, where jokes were the best shield against a relentless onslaught of supernatural terror. For much of the way, Noxon’s instincts as an entertainer make a difficult subject more accessible without minimizing its seriousness.”
Kate Erbland on Girls Trip for IndieWire:
“Lee’s film will inevitably draw comparisons to this summer’s other girls-gone-wild comedy, “Rough Night,” thanks to its similar subject matter and shared spirit, but “Girls Trip” benefits from a beefier storyline and better chemistry between its leads, though both are solid entries in the comedy sub-genre. Like “Rough Night,” the film follows a tight-knit group of pals from college who embark on one wild trip in the hopes of re-sparking their fading friendships, though “Girls Trip” leans more firmly into the emotional ties between its leading ladies, versus offing a male stripper within its first act and running with it.
That’s not to say that “Girls Trip” doesn’t offer up its fair share of raunchy comedy, and thanks to its two-hour-plus runtime, there’s more than enough time for heart-breaking reveals to exist next to jaw-dropping gags that run the gamut from scatological to possibly illegal.”
Matt Singer on War for the Planet of the Apes for Screencrush:
“This is a Planet of the Apes movie, perhaps the most soul-crushingly bleak franchise in the history of Hollywood, so maybe don’t expect a happy answer to that question — or a happy ending to Caesar’s story. But War for the Planet of the Apes, directed and co-written by Matt Reeves, offers some fleeting glimpses of hope amidst its bloodshed and brutality. Most of them can be found in the remarkable faces of its ape characters, which have grown so sophisticated that it’s sometimes hard to believe they aren’t real. Reeves films these characters in long, lingering extreme close-ups, letting us pore over their faces, and study their sad, soulful eyes. Much more often than not, there are no visible seams.”
David Ehrlich on Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets for IndieWire:
“Based on the Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières’ graphic novel series “Valérian and Laureline,” Besson’s latest brain-scrambler is exactly the movie you’d think might result from giving the director of “Lucy” the GDP of a small country and sending him into the stratosphere with complete creative control. In fact, it’s so unapologetically idiosyncratic that its hackneyed opening cue — David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” playing over the image of two spaceships docking in orbit — almost feels like a cheeky joke at the expense of our expectations. “This is the tedious, overly familiar shit you’ve seen a zillion times; now buckle up so we can warp into the future.” “
Keith Phipps on Lady Macbeth for Uproxx:
“[…][T]here’s a lot going on under the surface of William Oldroyd’s first feature, an adaptation of Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, an 1865 novel by Russian writer Nikolai Leskov. Like its heroine, the film uses quietness and stillness to disarm viewers as it slowly works its way to one shocking twist after another.
Often busy elsewhere, Boris and Alexander leave Katherine alone for long stretches. Though told she should keep to the house, she uses the time to explore the countryside, wandering the fields and woods and, one day, stumbling on some field workers enjoying a bit of mischief. She chastises them, singling out Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis) for a particularly stern rebuke. But there’s a spark between them and when Sebastian turns up at her room one night, Katherine puts up a half-hearted protest before taking him as a lover.”
David Ehrlich on Blind for IndieWire:
“Nobody is more virile than a blind man in a bad movie. From Army Ranger Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade in “Scent of a Woman” to Virgil Adamson in “At First Sight,” these characters are cartoons of masculinity, using their dicks like antennae as they help guide the sighted people in their lives towards some kind of personal growth. While blind women are often rendered as pretty, pitiable things in desperate need of assistance (a trope that Charlie Chaplin inadvertently helped cement in “City Lights,” and that Lars von Trier very deliberately weaponized in “Dancer in the Dark”), their male counterparts are seen as horny, feral animals who compensate for their sightlessness with bat-like sonar and a bloodhound’s sense of smell.”
David Ehrlich The Villainess (Fantasia 2017) for IndieWire:
“If “The Villainess” sounds like derivative junk, that’s because it is — but rarely is derivative junk executed with such panache and personality. Kim Ok-bin, who spills even more blood here than she did in “Thirst,” stars as Sook-hee, who is eventually captured after her rampage and imprisoned in a mysterious underground facility. Waking up to find that Korea’s finest plastic surgeons have given her a beautiful new face, Sook-hee discovers that she’s the newest recruit at a top secret training center for government assassins. It’s not like she needs anyone to teach her how to take a life, but there’s a lot more to it than that.”
Nathan Rabin on La La Land for Lukewarm Takes:
“La La Land opens big and broad and brassy, with an exuberant production number on a freeway as a bunch of Hollywood dreamers share their fantasies and ambitions through song and dance.
I was overcome with emotions! And what are musicals if not explosions of emotions? I felt entertained. I felt deeply nostalgic for the world the movie treats with such incredible deference and affection. I was surprised at how nakedly, boldly, almost comically sincere this opening was but I felt some less positive emotions as well. I felt dread. I felt embarrassment. I felt shock at how unbelievably bland and straight-down-the-middle the singing and dancing felt.”
David Ehrlich on Funny People for IndieWire:
“If “The Great Gatsby” is preoccupied with the decline of the American Dream, with the tenuous dynamic between progress and excess, “Funny People” refocuses those same undercurrents into a study of the uneasy balance between adolescence and adulthood.
[…]It’s a strikingly confessional gambit, the movie going out of its way to conflate Sandler with George Simmons from the very start. And the self-ashamed implications of that association soon become obvious to anyone who’s even remotely familiar with Sandler’s work: Both men have more money than they could ever hope to spend in one lifetime, and both men have earned that money by sacrificing their comic genius at the altar of soulless Hollywood dreck.”
Nathan Rabin on the Daredevil (2003) Director’s Cut (2004) and Elektra for Control Nathan Rabin:
“As a product launch, Elektra’s introduction in Daredevil ranked right up there with New Coke and the XFL. Elektra’s arctic critical and commercial reception, meanwhile, ensured that Affleck would not strap on the red fetish gear as Daredevil again despite the film’s decent box-office gross.
So when an underworld figure early in Elektra begins describing Jennifer Garner’s assassin in appropriately mythical terms, less as a mere woman than the very spirit of vengeance, a peerless killer singularly skilled in the dark arts of murder for hire it’s hard not to scoff after having just spent 133 minutes being incredibly underwhelmed by her as Elektra in the Director’s Cut of Daredevil. Elektra needs to continually keep telling us how badass Elektra is because it sure isn’t showing us.”
Nathan Rabin on Dream a Little Dream 2 for This Looks Terrible! :
“In 1989 Feldman & Haim had the juice to costar alongside heavyweights like Jason Robards and Harry Dean Stanton in a theatrically released body-switch comedy that arrived at the tail end of a wave that brought the world Big, Vice Versa and 18 Again. By the time of the 1995, however, the duo were strictly direct-to-video.
The direct to video sequel to Dream A Little Dream kicks off with the spiritual seeker Jason Robards played in Dream A Little Dream but that he most assuredly does not play here, sending Bobby (Corey Feldman) and Dinger (Corey Feldman) a pair of magical sunglasses, along with an all-important note from the spirit world informing them of what they are to do with them.”
Charles Bramesco on Alice in Wonderland: An X-Rated Musical Fantasy (1976) for Bright Wall/Dark Room:
“Working with greater budgets and scoring distribution from the big-dog studios, skin flicks became acceptable topics of conversation in the public arena, worthy even of praise from such cultural gatekeepers as Roger Ebert. […]In his mixed-to-positive two-and-a-half-star review, Ebert remarked that the film “actually has some wit and style to it” and that “maybe because I went with low expectations, I found the film a pleasant surprise.” Relatively faint praise, to be sure, though I can’t say mine would be much stronger. To provide my update to the words of that late dean of American film critics: Alice in Wonderland actually has some profoundly upsetting cognitive dissonances to it, and maybe because I went in expecting a porno, I was surprised to encounter a swirling torrent of psychosexual terror.”
Craig J. Clark/Hooded Justice on Wolf Guy: Enraged Lycanthrope (1975) for Werewolf News:
“Based on a popular manga series by Kazumasa Hirai, Wolf Guy: Enraged Lycanthrope follows the adventures of Akira Inugami, the lone survivor of a clan of werewolves slaughtered during the opening credits who grows up to be a reporter played by action star Sonny Chiba. After witnessing the grisly demise of a man in a white suit (all the better to show off his red, red blood) frantically fleeing from a phantom tiger that corners him and claws him to death, Akira is grilled by the police, but soon released when the autopsy report comes back. “A human being wouldn’t be able to slash a body like that,” one cop says, “and not in such a short time either.” Little do they know…”
Tasha Robinson interviews David Lowery for The Verge:
“The future sequence certainly has that epic feeling. How did you approach designing your future world?
A lot of it’s based on Dallas, where I live, which has a very “Blade Runner in the Southwest” feel. Initially, I wanted to try and shoot that sequence practically. I knew we would augment the city itself, to make it look more futuristic, but I wanted to accomplish it in a practical sense. So we went up on the top of the tallest building we could get access to, and tried to shoot that entire sequence for real. But it just didn’t work. It turns out it’s really hard to shoot on top of a skyscraper, because it’s very windy. The sheet just wouldn’t behave.”
Charles Bramesco interviews Riley Keough for Little White Lies:
“Her latest film, It Comes at Night, is writer/director Trey Edward Shults’ genre-defying follow-up to his 2015 breakout feature Krisha. In it she plays a woman who seeks refuge from an unseen threat, along with her husband and young son, in a secluded cabin in the woods. Here she tells LWLies how the production was a far cry from the pressure cooker environment depicted in the film, and how she keeps growing in confidence as an actor.
“A lot of things are really appealing about working on a scale like this. I haven’t done many films which have been this contained — probably two movies that take place in a single house — and I like it. It’s about how personal it can be, nothing but these four people, working together.” “
Kate Erbland on a toxic rom-com trend for IndieWire’s Girl Talk:
“[…]Even with films like “Rough Night” and “Girls Trip” hitting the multiplex with a welcome dose of girl power, it seems that even this summer isn’t immune from the most tired and toxic of lady-centric comedy tropes: the dicks before chicks sub-genre. “The Layover,” bafflingly directed by William H. Macy (and penned by two men), will close out the season when it hits DirecTV on August 3 and theaters on September 1, packing a played out and retrograde plotline that aims to reduce female friendships as nothing more than way stations on the way to something much, much better.”
This sub-genre of the rom-com is my least favorite by a mile, murderous rage territory, pure hatred. TESTES BEFORE BESTIES??
— Kate Erbland (@katerbland) July 13, 2017
Noel Murray on the successes of the original Planet of the Apes series for The A.V. Club:
“[…][C]ritics and newspaper columnists in 1968 knew what was up with this film. It’s thematically rich—and intentionally so. Schaffner’s team wanted people to walk away thinking about what makes us human, and about whether we treat others as we know we should.
They then wrapped the whole package up with an image so memorable and searingly ironic that, in retrospect, trying to proceed any further in the story seems foolhardy, and destined to failure. That Fox went on to produce four more thoughtfully made, unusually profitable Apes pictures is something of a minor Hollywood miracle.”
Charles Bramesco on the successes of the recent Planet of the Apes trilogy for The Guardian:
“The new trilogy frames the conflict between apes and humans as a ready analogue to any dynamic in which a technologically advanced culture encroaches on a smaller but peaceable settlement. For one, humankind’s hostile, imperialist spirit and its contrast with the ape doctrine of nature-worship and pacifism echoes the clash between European pilgrims and Native Americans. If nothing else, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes represents the closest thing we have to a Roland Emmerich remake of Terrence Malick’s The New World, and that’s intended as a compliment. Here, the collision between man and primate assumes a more universal significance, embodying the eternal struggle between the old world and the invasive new.”
Tasha Robinson with Kwame Opam and Chaim Gartenberg on Spider-Man: Homecoming‘s place in the MCU for The Verge:
“Here, our staff looks into what that comparatively minor scale does to the film’s scope and story, and we address other group questions about how Homecoming operates, and how we reacted to it.
[…]Tasha: […]it feels more realistic for a 15-year-old to be struggling to manage crime in his own borough rather than taking on planet-smashers. I absolutely love the idea of Spider-Man dedicating himself to giving people directions. That seems like something that might actually happen in the real world, among the “real-life superhero” movement. And it says so much about Peter’s humility and his eagerness to help people.”
Kate Erbland on the lessons to be learned from Spider-Man: Homecoming for IndieWire:
“Spidey is back, and based on his blockbuster first weekend and plans for a sequel, he’s not going anywhere. So how did Sony and Marvel re-re-boot the comic book kid into something fresh and new? And what can other superhero movies learn from the success of the franchise that just wouldn’t quit? We’ve got some ideas.
Some spoilers for “Spider-Man: Homecoming” ahead.
[…]One of the most compelling elements of “Homecoming” is its primary villain, Michael Keaton’s The Vulture, who ranks as one of the most grounded and believable baddies in recent superhero memory. We meet him early on, thanks to a nifty bit of retconning that places him squarely in the midst of the early days of The Avengers, as a desperate contractor eager to clean up after the messy Battle of New York.”
David Ehrlich on indie films and ticket prices for IndieWire:
“Over the weekend, “Morris From America” director Chad Hartigan posed an intriguing question on Twitter: “Why do all movies cost the same to see?” Specifically, Hartigan was curious if lowering the ticket price for certain indies might incentivize people to be a little bolder at the multiplex, if it might inspire casual moviegoers to check out a Sundance sensation rather than the latest superhero spectacle.
“Why can’t I to to a Regal and pay $15 for ‘Spider-Man’ or $7.50 for ‘A Ghost Story?’” he asked into the void. In other words: Not all movies cost the same to make, so why should all movies cost the same to see?”
Kate Erbland with Anne Thompson and Eric Kohn on the upcoming Scarface remake for IndieWire:
“KATE ERBLAND: I’m excited to see Ayer try his hand at something new (or at least more original) with “Bright” and abandoning a long-gestating remake of a remake as a result of his commitments to the former. And this new take on “Scarface” has seemed ill-fated from the start. Given what Universal just endured with “The Mummy” and its attempt to launch their own “Monster-Verse,” it’s reasonable to assume the worst — that executives want to turn “Scarface” into a franchise — which makes the concept even less appealing.
The last thing Ayer needs is to be trapped inside yet another series that would likely only lean on the more bombastic and “dark” tendencies, a la the worst bits of “Suicide Squad” (another franchise entry that he is, tellingly, not returning to for its planned sequel).”
David Ehrlich on Jaume Collet-Serra and Suicide Squad 2 for IndieWire:
“Once upon a time, hiring Jaume Collet-Serra to direct “Suicide Squad 2” would have seemed like a brilliant gambit, but now it just feels like WB is threatening to take his talents off the board. Remember when you were excited to see Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s Han Solo movie? Rookie mistake.
This is all a very longwinded way of addressing a simple question: Are we still at a point where we still want talented filmmakers to direct franchise blockbusters? Has the situation become so grim that we’d rather deny low-key artisans like Collet-Serra a shot at the big time and wait for every studio to grow their own David Yates, a reliable foreman who who can live on the lot, supervise the assembly line, and subsist on the bucket of fish-heads that’s brought to set twice a week?”
Sam Adams on why “Comparing Donald Trump Jr. to Fredo Corleone Is Grossly Unfair. To Fredo.” for Slate:
“[…][P]art of what makes Fredo Corleone such a great and enduring character is that he just wants, at heart, to be respected and, in the case of his brother, loved. He’s not a hateful or violent man, just desperate and sad. Donald Trump Jr. killed a baby elephant for sport and posed with its severed tail; when assassins made an attempt on his father’s life, Fredo was too flustered to even hold a revolver. Don Jr. has been Donald Trump’s hatchet man, doing the dirty work that his father was too smart to sully his hands with. Fredo is a puppy dog; Don Jr. is an attack dog.”
Matthew Dessem on artistic expression and Strong Bad for Slate:
“There are many causes for our ever-accelerating cultural decline—slashed education budgets, structural inequality, avocado toast—but there’s only one solution, at least on the individual level: buckling down and building the skills necessary to express oneself artistically, no matter what structural or cultural obstacles are thrown in the way by those who would bar the temple door from fear or ignorance.
To that end, here is a new video from the guys behind Homestar Runner in which Strong Bad teaches you how to draw a ham sandwich made from the entire head of a pig named “Oinkers”:
No sbemail yet. But maybe an art lesson will tide you guys over! pic.twitter.com/c7qApcKsnB
— Strangled Badly (@StrongBadActual) July 13, 2017
Genevieve Koski, Scott Tobias, and Keith Phipps on Babe and Okja for episodes 84 and 85 of The Next Picture Show podcast:
Koski: “One thing we haven’t touched on that I think is a really big part of that is the Greek chorus of mice, which is such a cute little note to add to it, and it doesn’t need to be there, it’s just a little touch of whimsy.
[…]Phipps: “It was a late addition, actually. It was added when they realized that kids couldn’t read the titlecards, so they put the mice in there to read them.”
Koski: “Ohhh, see, that’s smart.”
Tobias: “You almost don’t need the titlecards, either, right?”
Koski: “But the titlecards contribute to the sense that it is a storybook and they are chapters, you know? And also, maybe for younger viewers, it provides sort of a guidebook to watching the movie, and then tracking the emotional arc of the film.”
Phipps: “For all my protestations, [Netflix]’s probably the future.”
Koski: “Now there’s a pull-quote for ya.”
Phipps: “And I think everyone’s gonna be very happy when the next Martin Scorsese movie comes out on Netflix first.”
Tobias: “No–no–no–okay, well now, you’ve gone too far, Keith.”
Sam Adams interviewed about his Conspiracy Thrillers Movie Club podcast for WNYC:
Adams: “The ‘thriller’ part is probably more important to me than the ‘conspiracy thriller’ as far as what’s in and what’s out. The thriller is just a great structure for the gradual accumulation of information and accompanying threat that swells the closer you get to the truth, and the conspiracy, the uncovering of a great conspiracy, just kind of goes hand-in-hand at that.”