I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Preston Barta // Editor
From the hellish underground world of the Big Apple to a movie set run by an eccentric man with an obscure vision, A24 continues to chisel their way into the cinematic time capsule with their unique film repertoire.
If their earlier titles such as last year’s Academy Award-winning MOONLIGHT or this year’s A GHOST STORY didn’t make an impression, just wait until you see what the film distribution company has in store for us this fall.
Though the film has already released in some markets, it’s expanding over the weeks and lands in our neck of the woods next Friday. Perhaps you saw its trailer back in May and thought, “Did I just see Robert Pattinson with bleach-blonde hair?” If you did a double-check, no need to Google. The actor is so far, far his days of donning sparkles and fangs in TWILIGHT. He has really fashioned himself into one of the must-see performers of his generation.
GOOD TIME sees the unrecognizable Pattinson as Constantine “Connie” Nikas, a bank robber who’s racing against the clock to spring his mentally handicapped brother (Benny Safdie, also one of the film’s directors) from jail. It all takes place during one frantic evening, loaded with drama and violence.
After its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, word of its invaluable quality ignited discussion on entertainment website threads. With A24 behind it, Pattinson in front of it, and a gritty story with the same blood of Martin Scorsese flowing through its veins, GOOD TIME is set to live up to its name.
MENASHE is a big deal for several reasons. Not only is it the first foreign film to be put out by A24, but according to multiple sources, it’s the first movie in over 70 years to be performed almost entirely in Yiddish.
Set within Brooklyn’s Hasidic community, the film follows Menashe (Menashe Lustig), a grocery store clerk who’s trying to maintain a relationship with his son (Ruben Niborski) after the untimely death of his wife. However, because they live in a community with strict traditions, Menashe’s culture requires a mother present in every home for children to thrive in a responsible living environment. This custom forces the titular character to find himself a new spouse.
MENASHE is the narrative debut for documentarian Joshua Z Weinstein. From the looks of the film’s trailer, Weinstein’s film combines the emotional realism of a documentary with a subtle narrative structure. And while I may be biased for being interested in this title because of a Yiddish literature course I took in college, this film is sure to school culture, send tears streaming and pour love into your heart through the story of its devoted characters.
This movie looks bonkers in the best way possible. Its trailer showcases a series of images that are as picturesque as they are unsettling. Given that it stars Kirsten Dunst, who is no stranger to bold material (i.e. MELANCHOLIA), you can look forward to WOODSHOCK frying your nerves and leaving you in a daze for days.
The visionary film debut from fashion designers Kate and Laura Mulleavey features Dunst as Theresa, a young woman who loses touch with reality in the wake of great loss. Throw in some paranoia and deadly drugs, and you got a doozy on your hands.
Ever since Sean Baker’s 2004 film TAKE OUT, it’s apparent the filmmaker has been steering clear of the Hollywood factory to create intimate and daring stories. His new outing, THE FLORIDA PROJECT, also fits into that column.
The story centers around the summer adventures of two six-year-old girls (Brooklyn Prince and Valeria Cotto) living in a budget motel not too far from Disney World. Decorated with vibrant colors and comedy beats, THE FLORIDA PROJECT stars Willem Dafoe as the manager of the motel. His grizzly outward appearance may hint at a hopeless story, but underneath, he has a compassionate heart seeking a better life for the neglected girls.
It’s not supernatural for audiences to stick with happy movies, especially with all the scary stuff hitting news headlines this week, but sometimes good things come out of devastating experiences. Baker’s films provide that and nudge you to look at your surroundings in a new light. I believe THE FLORIDA PROJECT holds that same power.
If you saw Yorgos Lanthimos’ THE LOBSTER, there’s a good chance you still haven’t been able to shake it. The Colin Farrell-starring film got so under my skin that I’ve probably talked about it more than any movie ever.
Farrell reteams with Lanthimos for THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER, a paralyzing film about a Cincinnati surgeon with some skeletons in his closet. When our protagonist, Steven, unexpectedly reconvenes with the teenage son (Barry Keoghan) of a man he once lost on the operating table, some sinister events of biblical proportions happen. No one in Steven’s family (Nicole Kidman, Raffey Cassidy and Sunny Suljic) is safe, and it drives the doctor toward the unthinkable.
Even if you ignore its terror-filled plot description, twisted trailer (complete with a haunting use of Ellie Goulding’s pop hit “Burn”) and base everything on its metaphorical title alone, this film may just live underneath your skin. I expect nothing less than unforgettable. (I’ll let you know next month after its regional premiere at Fantastic Fest in Austin.)
James Franco’s directing-works always have me skeptical. With THE DISASTER ARTIST (a film about the making of the 2003 disasterpiece THE ROOM with Tommy Wiseau), Franco delicately balances the film as a funny and poignant tribute about perseverance and friendship, utilizing its packed cast (including brother Dave Franco and usual co-star Seth Rogen) for good.
The film premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival in March (where I saw it), and I’m going to go out on a whim here and say you may see “Oscar” and “Franco” used in the same sentence come next year’s Academy Awards.
Also, look out for LADY BIRD, Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut. It will release on Nov. 10 in New York and Los Angeles, and will expand in theaters in the following weeks. For more information on A24 films, visit a24films.com.