Tag Archives: The Dissolve

Cut to Black: The Dissolve, 2013-2015

Godfather funeralI just got home from attending a two-week criticism institute, wherein I was one of 14 working arts journalists, aged twentysomething to fiftysomething, to benefit from the instruction of critics for The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, The Guardian, and other influential publications. That’s where I was on Wednesday morning when I got a mass e-mail from Scott Tobias indicating that The Dissolve was shutting down, effective immediately. In its two years of life, that site had firmly established itself as the best place on the web to find smart, enthusiastic, formally inventive writing about movies new and old, famous and obscure. I’d declined a review assignment from Scott only days before, citing my wall-to-wall schedule during the institute.

Scott’s e-mail came just as I was heading into a session on restaurant reviewing conducted by Sam Sifton, the Times’ food editor. I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder about food coverage. I don’t usually read it, and I often find it precious and/or pretentious when I do. To me at least, it’s obvious that food is not art. Yes, it’s an important component of culture. Yes, cooking is an admirable skill. But a meal cannot express emotion. An entree cannot communicate an idea. There are sad songs and sad paintings, but there are no sad foods, unless you’re buying your dinner at a 7-Eleven. Continue reading

Two-and-a-Half Stars: 7 Minutes, reviewed.

Luke Mitchell has a mask and a gun, but not a plan, in "7 Minutes."I like Michael Mann and I love Heat in particular, and I love Wes Anderson. But 7 Minutes, a nicely-shot hybrid of Heat and Bottle Rocket, Anderson’s debut, is less than the sum of its influences. I reviewed it for The Dissolve.

Waves of Regret: Dawn Patrol, reviewed.

Annex - Flynn, Errol (Dawn Patrol, The)_04I reviewed a movie called Dawn Patrol for The Dissolve. Not the Howard Hawks one from 1930. Or its Errol Flynn-Basil Rathbone-David Niven-starring remake from 1938. This one is a grimy little indie revenge drama that was shot two years ago in Ventura and Oxnard, Calif., the beautiful seaside region where I lived for four-and-a-half years in the very early aughts. It was directed by the writer of Beverly Hills Cop and stars Clint Eastwoodson, better known to the world as Scott Eastwood. Here’s the review.

(Dis)honesty: The Truth About Lies, reviewed.

Dan Ariely_2My review of (Dis)honesty: The Truth About Lies, a new documentary based on the research of “behavioral economist” Dan Airely, is up on The Dissolve today.



The Ongoing Failure of the PG-13: The Movie

In perhaps the strangest milestone of my I-guess-you-could-call-it-a-career, The Dissolve has adapted an essay of mine that they published back in December into a very clever two-and-a-half-minute animated short. Keith Phipps, who edited the original essay, wrote the script.

I’m honored. The original piece is here. Please note that it cites Guardians of the Galaxy as the top-grossing picture of 2014 in the U.S., which it was at the time of publication; Guardians was subsequently out-earned by The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 and American Sniper. Anyway, my thanks to Keith and to animators Mack Williams and Benji Williams and their team for doing such a beautiful job with this. I’ve embedded the video above, but please go watch it on The Dissolve, where it’s accompanied by a behind-the-scenes video wherein Mack Williams pulls back the curtain on how he turned a script into a cartoon.

The Dissolve Podcast #32: The “Ecstatic Truth” Just Means “Lie” Edition

ex-machina-fembotI was honored to be invited to join Tasha Robinson and Keith Phipps to discuss The State of Science Fiction in the movies on this week’s episode of The Dissolve podcast. The also includes a discussion of documentaries and is thus named for a Werner Herzog phrase I love. A lot of ums from me, a lot of insight from Tasha and Keith. Listen here.

Night Moves: Run All Night, reviewed.

Liam Neeson and Joel Kinnaman in "Run All Night." (Myles Aronowitz/Warner Bros.)Run All Night, the latest bloody genuflection in the Stations of the Cross of Liam Neeson, isn’t great, just better than you think. With its steaming manhole covers and rumbling el trains, its fatherly lessons administered in the sweaty confines of a boxing gym, and its pervasive air of grim fatalism, it reminded me of Frank Miller’s noir-inflected early 80s run on the Marvel comic Daredevil – which has already been adapted into two crappy movies, and it about to become a Netflix series. Continue reading

Prose and Retcons, or Don’t Fear the Rewind, or Mulligans’ Wake

“Well, everyone knows Ripley died on Fiornia-161. What this ALIEN movie presupposes is… maybe she didn’t?”

I have a long, long “Exposition” essay up at The Dissolve today inspired by (uncertain) reports that District 9 director Neill Blomkamp’s upcoming Alien movie may be a ret-con scenario that undoes the events of 1992’s Alien-little-three, or Alien Cubed – anyway, the one where Ripley died. The piece is about retconning in fiction in general, and why it doesn’t much impair my ability or inclination to suspend my disbelief at all.

If you’re quite comfortable in your chair, and you’re stout of heart and nerdy of temperament… Onward!

Enter the Drag: Kung Fu Elliot, reviewed.

Elliot Scott, Blake Zwicker, and Linda Lum in "Kung Fu Elliot," a documentary by Matthew Bauckman & Jaret Belliveau.


Kung Fu Elliot, a documentary about a man who aspires to be the Canadian Chuck Norris, turns nasty enough quickly enough to calls its makers’ intentions into question. I reviewed the 2014 Slamdance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize-winner for Documentary Feature for The Dissolve.

Gas Giant: Jupiter Ascending, reviewed.

Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis (Murray Close / Warner Bros.)

Sorry, you guys: Mercury Rising Jupiter Ascending, the Wachowskis’ latest sci-fi epic, is neither the trainwreck you want nor the home run you need. My review, for The Dissolve.

American-Chinese-Canadian Bacon: Outcast, reviewed.

Nicholas Cage & Hayden Christensen in "Outcast."

“You’re not the man you once were,” says the star of Star Wars II and III, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.

“None of us are,” growls the Oscar winner for Leaving Las Vegas.

My review of Outcast is up at The Dissolve.

The Best Movies of the Half-Decade, 2010-4: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Ralph Fiennes and Tony Revolori in Wes Anderson's "The Grand Budapest Hotel."And here’re Nos. 25-1 on the poll of the best films of 2010-4, as chosen by The Dissolve’s staff and contributors. I wrote the entry for The Grand Budapest Hotel. As with every Wes Anderson movie save for The Darjeeling Limited, I’ve loved it more each time I’ve seen it.

The Best Movies of the Half-Decade, 2010-4: Inherent Vice

IV POSTERThe Dissolve invited a bunch of its contributors to join its staff in selected the 50 best films made so far this decade. I ran out of time to submit my ballot, but I still did writeups for a couple of the winning films that I agreed belonged in the half-decade’s top 50. The first half of the list – or the bottom half – was posted today.

The one I wrote up for this part, Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Inherent Vice,came in at No. 48.

Race Bore: Supremacy, reviewed.

Joe Anderson plays a violent bigot in Deon Taylor's "Supremacy." My review of Supremacy, Deon Taylor‘s dreary thriller marketed under that meaningless, catnip-for-dim-people phrase, Based on Actual Events, is on The Dissolve today. It’s a deeply unpleasant genre movie that’s convinced it’s saying something bold about Race in America. I had to resort to quoting the film’s press notes. I don’t feel good about it, but if you read them you’ll see I had no choice.

This Could Be the Beginning of a Beautiful Marriage: We’ll Never Have Paris, reviewed.

Writer/codirector/star Simon Helberg and Melanie Lynskey in "We'll Never Have Paris.".My review of Simon Helberg’s autobiographical romantic comedy – hey there, Buddy, are you sure you want to do this? – We’ll Never Have Paris is on The Dissolve today.


The Long Warm-Up to Heat

Heat opens with a botched heist, but it unlike every other crime picture that came out in the five years after Pulp Fiction, it's not a black comedy. I think that's Val Kilmer under the hockey mask.Michael Mann’s Heat, one of my favorite films, is The Dissolve‘s Movie of the Week this week. I contributed this essay about the sprawling crime picture’s many progenitors, including the short-lived-but-great late-80s TV series Crime Story.  Continue reading

It’s a Straight: Poker Night, reviewed.

Beau Mirchoff in "Poker Night."

I don’t know anything about poker, but I gave writer/director Greg Francis’ feature debut Poker Night 2.5 out of a possible five starts for The Dissolve. Which according to this ranking of various hands in poker, makes it the equivalent of a straight.

Sorry about the gross photo. I didn’t have many choices.

Won’t Someone Please Think of the ‘Tweens? The PG-13 at 30.

Amrish Puri rips out the heart of mainstream cinema in 1984's "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom."
To wrap up The Dissolve‘s Movie of the Week examination of Joe Dante’s Gremlins, Keith Phipps asked me to write a reflection on the PG-13, the lukewarm rating introduced in the summer of 1984 in response to the outcry that greeted the PG-rated Gremlins’ violence and darkness, as well as that of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, released two weeks earlier. I was honored to oblige. Continue reading

Every Day I Write the Book: Reach Me, reviewed.

Kevin Connolly and Tom Berenger in John Herzfeld's "Reach Me."

It’s no Jack Reacher, this star-studded, tone-deaf ensemble drama. Reviewed for The Dissolve.

Raised by Wolves!


I wish I could report that Wolves, the silly horror film I review for The Dissolve this week, is an ante-upping James Cameron sequel to Wolf, the Mike Nichols-Elaine May-Jack Nicholson-Michelle Pfeiffer-James Spader expose of lycanthropy in the publishing industry from 20 years ago I’d vaguely wanted to revisit even before this Grantland exegesis ran last summer.

It is not.