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 Nut Job 2 for IndieWire:
““So much for peaceful protests!,” an animated squirrel announces during the first act of “The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature,” before forcefully attacking an intruding bulldozer with his tiny squirrel teeth. It’s likely the year’s most unexpected endorsement of violent disobedience — and one that, at least temporarily, pays off in the context of the animated sequel — but it’s also par for the course for a series that’s already rooted in political discourse, as explained by the machinations of some clever squirrels. Tackling heady issues in the guise of a kids’ movie is nothing new for the burgeoning “Nut Job” franchise, which memorably took on (and took down) the virtues of socialism in the first film, but “The Nut Job 2” goes full throttle on the timely stuff, resulting in a (slightly) more thoughtful and entertaining outing.”
David Ehrlich on In This Corner of the World for IndieWire:
“A lushly animated historical drama about a young woman who comes of age during the tumult of World War II, Sunao Katabuchi’s “In this Corner of the World” is scattered and emotionally disjointed from start to finish, but few films have done so much to convey the everyday heroism of getting out of bed in the morning — not just surviving in the shadow of death, but living in it as well. Adapted from a manga by Fumiyo Kōno and telling a fictional story that’s shaped by rich period detail, the action begins in December 1933. A buoyant girl named Suzu (Non) ventures into downtown Hiroshima on a quest to find some treats for her siblings. “They’ve always called me a daydreamer,” she tells us in the first lines of the voiceover track that’s often substitutes for more coherent storytelling, but Katabuchi does a fine job of drawing out her overactive imagination.”
Scott Tobias on The Glass Castle for NPR:
“As the unifying idea for a memoir, the glass castle has a certain elegance, because the broad truth of it is supported by specific memories that bring depth and dimensionality to the Walls family. But in the journey from page to screen, it’s merely the largest in a series of metaphors that have the effect of spoon-feeding insights rather than evoking them. It’s one thing for a father to hand his daughter a knife to “fight demons,” but another for him to specify that they’re inner demons. Cretton falls in love with these writerly totems of turmoil and dysfunction, which have the effect of tidying up the tortured, contradictory emotions that define the bond between father and daughter.”
Mike D’Angelo on The Glass Castle for Las Vegas Weekly:
“Nothing inspires easier sympathy than children in peril, especially when their parents are the primary threat. Give The Glass Castle credit, then, for making a sincere (if not always successful) effort to complicate its tale of four kids growing up with a flighty, irresponsible mom and an alcoholic dreamer of a dad. Adapted from former gossip columnist Jeannette Walls’ 2005 memoir and directed by Destin Daniel Cretton (Short Term 12), the film focuses primarily on the turbulent relationship between Jeannette and her father, and takes pains to emphasize their tender, loving highs just as much as their destructive lows. There’s enough emotional truth here to compensate for the occasional lapses into Hollywood phoniness.”
David Ehrlich on After Love for IndieWire:
“As sharp and savage as any breakup drama this side of “A Separation,” Joachim LaFosse’s “After Love” is the story of two people who are forced to live in the rubble of their 15-year relationship. By the time the film begins, the affection between Marie Barrault (“The Artist” star Bérénice Bejo) and Boris Marker (“Wild Life” director Cédric Kahn) has already curdled into something toxic; whatever wounds they’ve inflicted on each other have already begun to scab over and scar. They keep to separate areas of the sun-dappled house they share with their pre-teen daughters, Jade and Margaux (played by sisters Jade and Margaux Soentjens), both parents doing what little they can to hide their hatred for one another.”
Mike D’Angelo on Planetarium for The A.V. Club:
“Numerous potentially interesting ideas orbit one another in Planetarium, but none boasts sufficient gravity to merit a landing, it seems. Set in 1930s France, the film begins intriguingly enough, introducing Laura (Natalie Portman) and her much younger sister, Kate (Lily-Rose Depp), as they perform a public séance for a large paying audience. Kate makes contact with the spirits, while Laura orchestrates the human drama (accompanied by a bongo drummer, for some reason); initially, it’s unclear whether they’re con artists or we’re meant to accept Kate’s gift at face value.”
Mike D’Angelo on Naked (2017) for The A.V. Club:
“In theory, resetting that loop hourly rather than daily provides comic opportunities that are distinct from Groundhog Day’s; as the film progresses, and our hero cycles through those 60 minutes perhaps thousands of times—like Bill Murray’s Phil, Rob eventually becomes more or less omniscient, able to predict every action to the millisecond—he has to cram more and more activity into that brief window, hoping to say “I do” before the bell chimes and he’s whisked back to the elevator yet again. Unfortunately, Naked is so tickled by the very idea of public nudity (XY division—in movies with a reductive understanding of gender, which is most of them, nude women are invariably sexy, while nude men are reliably ridiculous) that it squanders much of its energy on Rob’s efforts to find clothes.”
Noel Murray on Whose Streets? for The A.V. Club:
“Sabaah Folayan’s documentary Whose Streets? focuses more on what was awakened in Ferguson than on the despair that so many felt back then—both in Missouri and among those watching around the world. Proceeding roughly chronologically from the day of the shooting, Folayan and her co-director, Damon Davis, use home video, news footage, and their own original reporting to track the growth of a grassroots protest movement, day by day. The film jumps ahead occasionally for interviews with some of the men and women who were active in organizing public action, revealing what their private lives have been like since they took to the streets.”
Keith Phipps on Whose Streets? for Uproxx:
“Some of the images in this section are extraordinary, benefitting from street-level, crowdsourced footage that never made it to the news, like a police officer sending a woman back into the riots to take the long way to her car, and many scenes giving credence to the notion that the arrival of militarized squads of police did more to escalate the situation than defuse it. Others are disturbing. Looking at the streets of Ferguson from the perspective of a protester, it’s hard to see it as anything but the site of a confrontation between residents and a hostile invading force.”
David Ehrlich on Machines (2017) for IndieWire:
“A spare and unflinching documentary about the true cost of cheap textiles, “Machines” doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know about the inhumane work conditions in countries like India, but it forces us to become palpably familiar with the awful facts of the matter. Applying a hyper-visceral vérité approach to a subject that might sound better suited to an infomercial, Rahul Jain’s debut feature is engineered to demolish the barrier between empathy and action, to narrow the distance between slaves and consumers.
This is a film that targets your heart, but works its way there through your senses rather than your sentiments.”
Noel Murray on The Farthest for The Los Angeles Times:
“Reynolds takes a thorough and direct approach to the Voyager story, weaving together insightful and unexpectedly poetic interviews with several of the people who worked on the project, illustrated with a mix of archival footage and artfully shot re-creations.
At just over two hours, “The Farthest” could’ve used more context, getting more into the history and future of space exploration, and there’s a surprising lack of explanation of the astrophysics. But it seems ungenerous to complain about what’s missing when “The Farthest” contains such a wealth of fascinating detail about Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 — from the amazing pictures the two probes have sent back over the years to the planning and work that went into the “golden records” of human civilization that were stowed on the crafts.”
Matt Singer on I Needed Color for Screencrush:
“This short film is called I Needed Color, and it gives you a brief (about six minute) glimpse into [Jim] Carrey’s newfound life as a painter. Carrey’s own voiceover details how he began exploring his new art (like so many things in life, it grew out of a romantic disappointment). It got to the point, he says, where there was no room left in his house because everything was paintings. He was even eating on the paintings. (That sounds … unsanitary.)
I’m not an art critic, but Carrey sure looks talented to me. His paintings are striking; if I saw some of these pieces hanging in a museum without any clue who made them I would stop and look them over for sure.”
Nathan Rabin on Larry Gaye: Male Flight Attendant (2015) for Control Nathan Rabin! :
“My name is Nathan Rabin and I have a shameful confession to make: for the most part, I enjoyed Larry Gaye, Renegade Flight Attendant, a film I chose specifically because it looked like it couldn’t possibly be enjoyable.
[…]Early in the film, for example, there’s a breezy scene where the epically self-absorbed Gaye tries to sell an “unauthorized autobiography” of his life that he hasn’t actually written yet, one of several problems with it, from a commercial standpoint, to a publishing house. Stanley Tucci plays the publishing executive he’s pitching to. The humor in scenes like these generally comes from the ridiculousness and absurdity of the pitch, and the unselfconscious arrogance with which it is delivered.”
Nathan Rabin on Absolutely Anything for My World of Flops:
“The film’s premise involves an assemblage of very unpleasant aliens, voiced by the surviving members of Monty Python, who go through the galaxy destroying civilizations for being primitive and unworthy.
[…]Earth ends up on the evil alien’s radar so to test whether or not earthlings are good or bad the aliens give ultimate power to bumbling everyman Neil Clarke (Simon Pegg) to see whether the planet’s worth saving or should be zapped like all the others. Pegg is an incredibly talented writer and character actor who is fantastic in the films of Edgar Wright and entertaining in the Star Trek and Mission Impossible franchises but when the material is bad, he comes off less like a lovable everyman than a schmuck.”
Craig J. Clark/Hooded Justice on Skinwalkers (2006) for Werewolf News:
“Directed by the late Jim Isaac, whose previous genre effort was Jason X, Skinwalkers features decent-looking creature effects by Stan Winston Studio, but all too often they’re obscured by flash cuts and camera-speed trickery that was probably intended to make the action scenes seem more exciting, but all it really does is detract from them. Its effectiveness is also blunted by how much it was whittled down from its original 110-minute R-rated cut to the leaner (but definitely not meaner) 92-minute PG-13.
The plot is centered around a boy named Tim Talbot (I wonder which of the three credited screenwriters came up with that name) born of a human mother and a skinwalker (which is a fancy Navajo term for werewolf) father who is on the cusp of his thirteenth birthday, when legend says he will be able to break the curse of lycanthropy — that is if he lives that long.”
Nathan Rabin on Ed Wood (1994) for Rotten Tomatoes’ The Simpsons Decade:
“Ed Wood is a film that threatens to give hagiography a good name, one that transforms Wood’s often sad life into an upbeat crowd-pleaser with a whole lot of sugar, star power, and Hollywood magic. Wood died broke, drunk, and relatively unknown, a flamboyant, joyous weirdo who spent his career on the sordid fringes of the film business. The movie that bears his name, on the other hand, was helmed by one of the top directors of the day at the height of his creative powers (Tim Burton), received great reviews, won a fervent cult following, and deservedly earned one of the highest honors in film when Martin Landau, who recently passed away at 89, won Best Supporting Actor for his heartbreaking, career-defining performance as Bela Lugosi.”
Jen Chaney with Matt Zoller Seitz on Princess Diana documentaries for Vulture:
“Jen Chaney: With the anniversary of Princess Diana’s death approaching, we are, not surprisingly, being bombarded with documentaries about her life and legacy. HBO already has aired Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy, which is largely presented from the perspective of her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry. ABC has the two-night special The Story of Diana airing this week, and there are also additional documentaries on the horizon this month as well. It feels like too much, and yet as I look at the different angles from which these specials explore her story, I also feel like they’re coming from different perspectives that makes each one feel necessary. It’s hard not to find at least some of this a bit exploitative, though, which, sadly, is a media/Princess Diana tradition that won’t ever fade.”
“This Q&A includes spoilers for Ingrid Goes West.[…]Where did the germ of this idea come from? Are Ingrid and Taylor based on real people you know?
Matt Spicer: We didn’t base it on anyone in particular. Dave and I were having lunch one day in L.A., just talking about our own experiences with social media, Instagram in particular. We love it, but it draws out our dark side, too, and makes us feel like we’re not cool enough, or we’re not going on enough cool vacations, or we’re not dressed cool, or whatever. It just brings up these feelings of insecurity. I think it maybe started as, “Wouldn’t it be funny/cool to do Single White Female or a Talented Mr. Ripley, but with social media?” And it sort of grew into something different.”
Kate Erbland interviews Dee Rees for IndieWire:
” “Mudbound,” already hailed as an awards contender, was actually brought to her, thanks to producer Cassian Elwes, who came to Rees with an offer already on the table.
“It wasn’t like a meeting, it wasn’t contingent [on anything],” Rees said. “It was Cassian saying, ‘I want you to do this film if you want to do it.’ That was the first time that happened. That felt like a step, to get the offer up front, for someone to want you without having to jump through hoops, doing the dog and pony show. Hopefully, it opens the door to me to keep being able to work that way.” “
Tasha Robinson with other members of The Verge staff on what it would take for them “to sign up for a new streaming entertainment service” for The Verge:
“Tasha Robinson, film / TV editor
My knee-jerk response was that I’m not joining a new streaming service until it comes with a bundle that also gives me an extra four hours of free time a day, to actually watch the new content. But that isn’t entirely true. What I really want is a service designed first and foremost to meet consumer needs instead of studio needs. For me, that would mean opting into, and paying for, only the specific shows I want to watch, instead of getting inundated with thousands of titles I don’t want or need. It’s exactly what home viewers have wanted since cable TV was introduced: a way to pay for the channels they want, instead of supporting a non-optional bundle of hundreds of channels they don’t care about.”
Kate Erbland on the financial success of recent female-directed films for IndieWire’s Girl Talk:
“The last female-directed film to cross the billion-dollar mark on its own was the animated hit “Frozen,” which topped out at $1.2 billion back in 2013, and was co-directed by Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck (with a sequel to come in 2019). Jenkins’ boundary-breaking success is a still an outlier, but it may pave the way for other massive blockbusters to hire female directors.
Still, there are other female success stories to find in this crowded summer, ones that offer more proof that the tide is turning for female directors. In addition to “Wonder Woman,” Warner Bros. should also revel in the success of Stella Meghie’s YA adaptation “Everything, Everything.” “
David Ehrlich on “Why the Coen Brothers’ Netflix Series Could Be Good News for the Film Industry” for IndieWire:
“In the forever war between cinema and television, a conflict that was exhausting long before streaming content started to redraw the battle lines on a daily basis, the Coen brothers seemed like the latest in a recent line of key defectors. It’s one thing when rising young directors forfeits their indies to Netflix for financial reasons, or when a newly minted iconoclast squeezes in an Amazon series after winning Best Picture, but it’s quite another when major auteurs like Woody Allen, David Lynch, and Jane Campion give the small screen a shot, or when Martin Scorsese decides that his next $100 million gangster epic will open in living rooms instead of movie theaters.”
Kate Erbland with Eric Kohn on the potential The Dark Tower film franchise for IndieWire:
“KATE: […]As someone who has not read the books but has done her darnedest to bone up on the broad strokes of the series, even I was baffled by the film’s entry point and insistence on telling the story through Jake’s eyes. It’s an idea that likely sounded better on paper: How best to introduce such a strange world? How about through the eyes of a someone just as surprised by it? But it turns at least the first half of the film into been-there, done-that YA material. Jake may be mystified by what he sees, but the limited perspective this narrative device brings to “The Dark Tower” keeps the sense of magic and wonder at bay.”
Charles Bramesco on The Dark Tower (2017) versus the books for The Verge:
“The troubles with the limp new Idris Elba/Matthew McConaughey vehicle go deeper than the elision of the colorful details that endeared the series to a few generations of readers. (Sorry, no android bears, vampires, or mentally splintered civil-rights activists to be found.) The methods by which the screenwriting brain trust of Arcel, Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, and Anders Thomas Jensen reinterpret and compress several universes’ worth of mythology into 95 slim minutes don’t let any of the original text’s adherence to the Western, fantasy, science-fiction, and horror-literature traditions shine through. The Dark Tower is a genre movie that’s afraid of its own genres, a would-be cult classic intent on instead failing as a straight-up-the-middle blockbuster.”
Jen Chaney’s “Salute to Mitch, the Can of Vegetables From Wet Hot American Summer” for Vulture:
“Spoilers ahead for Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later.
Before the movie Wet Hot American Summer came along, it was rare to see a can of mixed vegetables in a major role in a motion picture. But Mitch – known simply in that 2001 movie as “Can of Vegetables” — changed that forever.
Actually, that’s not true. It’s still pretty rare to see cans of vegetables getting cast in movies or TV shows. But let’s keep this focused on Mitch, a true pioneer in a field of one. When he made his debut in Wet Hot American Summer, I must admit that I was not initially won over by his work.”
Matthew Dessem on the Guardians Inferno music video, plus a hidden message, for Slate:
“In a move that will surely HELP home video sales for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, Marvel just released this surreal little disco-themed music video for “Guardians’ Inferno,” which I’M thrilled to present to Slate readers. With hilarious 1970s choreography (and video effects), a dancing robot, and David Hasselhoff BEING silly, it’s just the latest in a long line of examples of the very high standards Marvel has always HELD itself to. Even as other studios—D.C., we’re looking at you—treat superhero fans like a CAPTIVE audience, the brilliant minds behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe keep changing the game BY broadening the very possibilities of cinema itself.”
Genevieve Koski, Keith Phipps, and Scott Tobias on Planet of the Apes (1968) and War for the Planet of the Apes for episodes 88 and 89 of The Next Picture Show podcast:
Koski: “[…]Funny story: apparently the time I had seen this previously, I had not seen the prologue where he’s recording his message before going into hypersleep. So that part of it was new to me; everything else I had seen before.”
Phipps: “It’s kind of essential though, kind of to establish who he is and his view of humanity.”
Koski: “It is, but also, realizing that I hadn’t seen it before made me think about what the movie would be like without it, and I also kind of like the idea of it just starting with the crash landing and learning about these characters as they walk through the Forbidden Zone, and their characters being established that way.”
Tobias: “I thought it was the strongest and most resonant of the three new ones. It’s exquisitely directed, and the effects are incredible, and there’s a whole lot to think about. I was shocked at the degree to which[…] your sympathies lie entirely with the non-humans, and I thought it was a great payoff, and watching it with Planet of the Apes and seeing how it kind of leads into it in its way just made it all the better for me. So I just loved it.”
Tasha Robinson joins the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast to discuss Stephen King’s legacy:
Robinson: “Well, in the eighties, there was this run of, I want to say, really successful (both conceptually and as adaptation) films–Cujo, Christine, and Firestarter–, and I saw none of those in the 1980s. I was also afraid of horror at that point in my life. So, I came to them late, and I suspect if I’d seen them back when they first came out, I would have processed them as just schlock. But there’s a schlocky element to Stephen King that I think is one of the reasons he’s so successful, and I think we’ll get into that in a little bit. But I think that those three films actually pretty well nail the humanism of some of his work, the way that characters work with each other, and what’s actually scary about the story. They’re all very low-key, dialed-down films in a way.”