The Salesman (2016, Directed by Asghar Farhadi) Farsi 8

Starring Shahab Hosseini, Taraneh Alidoosti, Babak Karimi, Farid Sajadhosseini

Reigning master of the domestic drama, Asghar Farhadi crafts another tense, thrilling work with premier performances following A Separation and The Past. This one features a married couple, Emad and Rana, actors currently performing Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. One night, alone, the wife is attacked by an intruder, and left reeling from the invasion. The husband desperately seeks revenge setting up a superb climactic scene, and a troubling end. Its use of Arthur Miller’s play about the American dream remains a mystery to me, but not one that detracts from the film; one that encourages another viewing. Meanwhile,  Emad and Rana’s story shows how an attack on a woman quickly becomes not about her, but about the husband, and his need for revenge.

The Eyes of Laura Mars (1978, Directed by Irwin Kershner) English 6

Starring Faye Dunawaye, Tommy Lee Jones, Brad Dourif, Raúl Juliá, René Auberjonois

Stylish, sordid thriller about a controversial fashion photographer who’s having horrific visions of murders before they take place. Although initially skeptical, a cop, Lieutenant John Neville (Jones), teams up with her to track the serial killer down. Written by John Carpenter, there’s a lot here that entertains. I love schlock, and Laura Mars is highly polished schlock. The mystery aspect is disappointing though, and I think the movie would have benefited from being played for scares more so than its rushed romance between Laura and the cop. The director would move on to colossal heights in his next movie, The Empire Strikes Back (1980).

The Edge of Seventeen (2016, Directed by Kelly Fremon Craig) English 7

Starring Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgwick, Blake Jenner, Hayden Szeto, Haley Lu Richardson

An emotionally fragile, verbal assassin of a teenage girl has her life ruined when her best and only friend starts dating her gets-whatever-he-wants brother. She finds nobody to turn to, so she begins talking with her surly, sarcastic history teacher (Harrelson). Captures well the drama of being a teenager, while delivering a memorable rom-com in the process. Fantastic lead performances.

Questions with DREADPIRATESITE: The Last Jedi

It is never too early for me to be thinking about the next Star Wars movie. Any guesses on when the first trailer will drop? I’m predicting it will come out with Guardians of the Galaxy volume 2 which means a week before that May 5th release, people will be circulating a leaked version, if I’m correct. The point is that the powers that be over at Disney have centered there marketing campaign on a cloak and dagger-like operation of doling out info, and it works. They give people merely the subtitle of their film, The Last Jedi, and the internet blows up. So at this stage, any Star Wars discussion is going to be pure speculation. Nonetheless, I consulted with Edward Peeler, author behind the DreadPiratesite blog, and, I say this with affection, the nerdiest person I have ever met, about the numerous possibilities that lay open to the Star Wars franchise.

  1. The first film in the new trilogy stuck pretty close to the original’s formula. Where would you like to see the second installment kind of veer off and form its own formula?
    EP: Pretty much anywhere.  I don’t want to be a stick in the mud or a film snob.  I’m looking forward to the next film as much as anybody and I’m hoping I’ll enjoy it.  But if this movies is blatantly the Empire Strikes Back in a new package, I will be a little disappointed. The fans are there. The audience is there.  I think Rogue One is proof that there is room to experiment.  I would like to see a little more world hopping.  Maybe see some worlds from the Expanded Universe that have never been in a film yet or maybe something new and totally alien from what we’ve seen in Star Wars up till now.  A couple of years ago I picked up the original Knights Of The Old Republic Games and this year I picked up the Darth Forces/Jedi Academy games, so any references to those stories would be cool.  If there was a reference to Revan in one of the new movies I would totally fan boy out. Since I’m probably not going to see that, I would like to see Rey, Finn, Poe, Luke, and Chewie bopping from planet to planet, going on an adventure and following up on the plot from Force Awakens.  I don’t really care too much about some of the mysteries they’ve tried to establish.  I don’t really care about Rey’s parents.  Don’t really care about Snoke.  If they’re going to focus on that though I would hope that they continue to draw elements from Heir To The Empire and make this new trilogy about that.  I would confirm that Rey and Kylo are Han and Leia’s Jedi kids and either make this a newer version of that story or explain that those events did occur in Luke, Leia, and Hans’ history.  Either way it would be a great excuse to introduce Grand Admiral Thran into the movie universe and maybe even Mara Jade.
  2. 2. Do you have any ideas for locations that you would like to see featured in the Star Wars universe?
    EP: As I mentioned above anything from Knights Of The Old Republic games or the Dark Forces/Jedi Academy games.  That or stuff we’ve never seen before.  It’s a big universe out there and the Star Trek fan in me wants to see the Jedi do some exploration of strange new worlds.  And while I’m thinking about it, the nerdy whore in me would love to see them go to the Marvel Universe and the Star Trek Universe which they don’t have the rights to!  But it would be awesome!
  3. How much screen time are you anticipating Luke Skywalker getting in the Last Jedi? Do you see him following the Yoda or Obi-Wan character model at all?
    EP: He better have some screen time after that bullshit in the Force Awakens.  Easiest paycheck the man has ever received.  That’s the type of role modern day Bruce Willis lives for.  Show up for a day, do nothing, make millions of dollars, piss off Kevin Smith and Stallone!   I think he’s going to play a prominent role in this film.  He has to.  I think he will follow in the Yoda/Obi-Wan model.  I expect he will be mentoring Rey and teaching her about the force and how to be a Jedi.  I just hope he doesn’t completely follow down that path and wind up dead by the end of the film.  Not only is it because Luke is a beloved character and I don’t want to see him die but I think also at this point it would be cliché.  The Jedi master/mentor character always dies.  Han Solo died this last movie.  Do something different this time.  Throw us a curve ball and don’t kill the mentor character.  Also, if you kill off a character you can’t bring them back for other films and other adventures.  So hopefully he’ll stick around.
  4. The subtitle, The Last Jedi, is rather ominous. It sounds more like the last of a trilogy. Care to speculate on who the title is referring to?
    EP: I think it might refer to Rey.  I think she’s going to become a full Jedi after training with Luke.  This may also confirm my concerns above that they are going to kill Luke off.  Although it might refer to both of them.  At this point, Luke may be the last Jedi in existence until he trains Rey and then she will be the last.
  5. Is Kylo Ren being setup to for a future moment of redemption similar to Vader in Return of the Jedi?
    Yeah, probably.  It’s like Lucas said, “It’s like poetry.  It rhymes.”  They copied the first movie in plot and theme pretty hard so it wouldn’t be surprising if that’s where they went with Kylo.  It’s already been set up with him being a wayward son of Han and Leia.  Han literally died trying to bring his son back from the dark side, and as sympathetic Sith often do he may be experiencing regret or “conflict” with his past choices.  Also, I believe similar themes were explored in Heir To The Empire so the quest for the salvation of the Skywalker kids is probably going to be a big theme in these upcoming films.
  6. What would you like to see happen with Finn? He was seen more as comic relief in the first film.
    I want Finn to pop the fuck out of that coma in the first five minutes of the film and save everybody’s ass.  I thought he was a great fun new character in the Star Wars Universe.  He worked well with whoever he teamed up with whether it was Rey, Poe, BB8, or Han and Chewie.  He was a cool guy to go on adventure with and I want more of him.  I would love to see a possible romance explored with him and Rey or…..maybe him and Poe.  There is  a big push online to make those two a gay couple and although I’m not saying that’s necessarily where they should go, if the writing sells me on it, why not?  It would be a nice nod to Gene Roddenberry who went on record saying if he could have gotten away with making Kirk and Spock gay, he would have done it.  But whether Finn porks Rey or Poe or both, somebody should get laid in the Star Wars Universe.  I am in full agreement with Red Letter Media on this.  Star Wars needs more sex, more passion.  Lucas…..tried to give us a love story in the prequels and failed miserably.  We have never had anything comparable to Han and Leia’s relationship or even the triangle between them and Luke for a long time.  The closest thing we have gotten has been from the Expanded Universe.  Mara Jade and Luke, Revan and Bastila, Kit Fisto and Aayla Secura, all of their romances were explored in video games, novels, and comics.  And I’m sure I’m forgetting others.  Point is we don’t see enough romance in the movies only in other media which says to me it’s worth exploring.  One things for sure whether they make them gay or not, I do want to see more of the bromance between Finn and Poe.  Finn’s the Jay to Poe’s Silent Bob.  The Sam to his Frodo.  The Kirk to his Spock.  Finn and Poe versus the world man!!
  7. Poe Dameron? He didn’t feel as fleshed out as he should have been. Any thoughts on where to go with him?
    Bestest friend of, or boy-toy to, Finn, as noted above.  Aside from that Poe seems like a cool adventurer and ally that we should see more of.  I think we should see him more as a main character, running around, being a part of the team in this next movie and the character will blossom from there.  Beyond that Poe is a great character to explore the Rogue Squadron characters and series with.  We could see adventures specifically with him doing space combat missions in his x-wing with references to Wedge Antilles and the other Rogue Squadron characters.  X-wing and Rogue Squadron are beloved sub-franchise of Star Wars and it would cool to see them come full circle and maybe get their own movie.
  8. The death of Han Solo leaves a large void to be filled. I felt he was still the driving force in terms of charisma in The Force Awakens. Do you see anyone filling that void?
    Luke.  I have a feeling this is going to be Luke’s movie.  If not Luke, we might see more of Chewie.  For my money Chewbacca got the best development in Force Awakens.  When Han died I was right there with him angrily and mournfully blasting Kylo Ren.  He lost his best friend to his friend’s son who he helped raise like his own son.  Also, apparently he had some kind of romance with a Gollum alien with buttholes for eyes which is interesting.  Of course, I’ve always insisted that the Star Wars Holiday Special is canon so I’m just wondering whatever happened to Mala and Lumpy.
  9. Yoda was introduced in The Empire Strikes Back. A successful sequel needs a fresh character to fall in love with. Have you heard about anyone joining the cast that has you excited?
    I kind of try to put myself in sensory deprivation when it comes to new movies I’m excited about.  I like to be surprised.  I did this for Star Trek: Into Darkness and I enjoyed the movie more so because of it.  Apparently I was the only person who didn’t realize Khan was going to be in that movie so when he showed up I was surprised and thrilled. I’ve tried to stay away from learning too much about the new Star Wars movies.  So for me, I’m just going to wait and see and let the movie wow me.  It would be great to see characters from the Expanded Universe that have never had a movie before show up or more classic movie characters.  Or see something cool and totally new.  The one thing I’m really not excited about is Snoke.  He was ok but it feels like the movie really super wanted me to think he was the new awesome mysterious villain, but I haven’t taken the bait, largely because it was blatantly clear that’s what the movie was trying to do.  But who knows maybe they’ll make him awesome in this next film and I’ll think he’s the best ever.
  10. Finally, how do you feel about the tie-ins/spin-off films in between each installment? Did you like Rogue One and are you excited about young Han Solo?
    I love the tie-ins and spin-offs, and I’m excited for more.  I adored Rogue One as can seen in my review of it on my blog here at https://dreadpiratesite.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/star-wars-rogue-one-review/
    Read it.  Enjoy it.  Love it.
    To reiterate some points I made in that blog, as a fan of various franchises, it kind of annoys me that we have to wait years for a new installment in our favorite film franchise only for them to come out and they’re not that good.  Prime example was Ghostbuster 2016 but you could point to others as well.  The Terminator movies come to mind.  It’s frustrating because the audience is there for any number of properties but it feels like the only way you can get Hollywood to make a new movie for an old property is to reboot it.  For example, I liked Kong:  Skull Island but there’s always going to be a part of me that is annoyed that it’s yet another reboot.  And we’re getting tons of movies this year that are remakes and re-imaginings of properties that have come before.  Off the top of my head we have Power Rangers, a new Stephen King’s It, and a live action Ghost In The Shell.  Ghost In The Shell originally WAS A FUCKING MOVIE but it was an anime movie so apparently that doesn’t count.  Now I’m not saying these movies are going to be bad or that it’s bad that we are getting a bunch of reboots in this way.  What annoys me is that the reboot needs to be done in the first place because the audience is there.  It’s always been there.  There are people that love this stuff and will eat it up.  So why haven’t we had more movies in these franchise up until now?  Why hasn’t Hollywood been marketing to us?  So many opportunities and money has been lost by not taking advantage of the fact that many of these series have large and loyal fan-bases.  So personally I like the Marvel method.  I like the fact that Disney and Marvel make their movies like comic books.  They make them good, they have more than one a year, and they tie into each other.  And I like that they are doing this with Star Wars.  Now, like I said in my review a lot of people notably the Red Letter Media guys do not like this method and they seem to feel like it’s becoming a factory and that somehow diminishes the artist quality of filmmaking and these movies will become boring eventually.  I thoroughly disagree, especially since I’ve seen what the alternative is which is the Lucas Prequel era.  No thank you.  Also, I am a firm believer in the Harlem Renaissance method:  there is no reason why art and business can’t work hand in hand with each other.  If done right, you can have a great work of art and a great product at the same time.  The only issue is quality control.  Also, long running series and regular annual movie going experiences have proven to work time and time again.  All you have to do is take a look at the 80s slasher movies.  Every year in the 80s you would get a Nightmare on Elm Street or a
    Friday the 13th or a Halloween and it was something audiences grew to expect and look forward to.  We saw this again more recently with the Saw films.  Now in my personal opinion the Saw films should have never made it past the 3rd chapter but they kept right on trucking every couple of years with four more sequels.  We’re getting an 8th one this year.  Someone’s seeing these things.  Paranormal Activity has the same story.  It works, it’s a proven formula, and as a fan I love it.  Disney, as long as you make them good, keep the Star Wars movies coming.  Give me a Han Solo movie, a Poe Dameron adventure, a crossover with the Avengers that ties into Infinity War somehow. I’m down for it.  I’m excited.  Keep these great movies coming.

You can read more from Edward “Dreadpirate” Peeler at his site http://www.dreadpiratesite.wordpress.com

 

Night of the Comet (1984, Directed by Thom Eberhardt) English 6

Starring Catherine May Stewart, Kelli Maroney, Robert Beltran, Sharon Farrell, Mary Woronov

Girl power. Hispanic love interest. Awesome doomsday scenario. This is an extremely entertaining, no budget ’80s movie about sisters who find themselves rare survivors of a comet-induced apocalypse. They meet Hector, and the trio are forced to contend with nature, zombies, raiders, and nefarious scientists.

Slums of Beverley Hills (1998, Directed by Tamara Jenkins) English 7

Starring Natasha Lyonne, Alan Arkin, Carl Reiner, Marisa Tomei, David Krumholtz, Jessica Walter, Rita Moreno

Tough comedy set in the ’70s about a teenage girl drifting with her family from one motel to another as she copes with puberty. Alan Arkin is terrific as the single father; deeply flawed, funny, sad. All the actors are excellent. Plenty of laughs. Also some uncomfortable moments. Ultimately a satisfying film.

Grace of Monaco (2014, Directed by Olivier Dahan) English 5

Starring Nicole Kidman, Tim Roth, Frank Langella, Parker Posey, Paz Vega, Derek Jacobi, Geraldine Somerville

Big, dumb “biopic” about a rough period in former movie star turned princess of Monaco, Grace Kelly. Charles De Gaulle is overtaxing her country. The people haven’t embraced her. Her husband is belittling. There’s a spy in her midst. All the stuff of a Lifetime movie, and, alas, the film ended up premiering on Lifetime. Despite a cast of Oscar winners and Oscar nominees, this film is pretty silly. Outside of Moulin Rouge, which I don’t even like, Nicole Kidman has always struggled to combine her glamour roles with substantial film acting; it’s either one or the other. Princess Grace’s descendants have publicly disowned the film, and each scene feels like a fairy tale. That being said, entertaining is a virtue, and it is entertaining. Not a bad or difficult watch despite its 11% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.