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
BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD: The Complete Set
Not rated (series), PG-13 (movie), approximately 1041 minutes.
Creator: Mike Judge
Cast: Mike Judge, Dale Revo, Tracy Grandstaff, Bruce Willis (movie) and Demi Moore (movie)
Available Tuesday on DVD.
Before Seth Rogen reintroduced the stoner laugh to this generation, it was Beavis and Butt-Head who showed us what sucked and what was cool about the world in their own “huh-huh, huh-huh” way.
In the ’90s, creator Mike Judge’s sofa spuds became the acute commentators on television. For half of their 30-minute episodes, they sat on the couch and spat truth about our culture through music videos. (You know, when MTV actually lived up to its name.) Now, for the first time ever, BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD is being packaged as a 12-disc DVD set, including all four volumes of the TV series and the Special Collector’s Edition of 1996’s BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD DO AMERICA.
Whether you’re watching the movie or the series, BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD requires a certain tolerance level to appreciate. It’s admittedly difficult to watch the duo for a long period of time — especially as a critic reviewing this entire collection — with their constant giggles and debauchery. However, at the same time, it’s smart television and an accurate representation of everything that is repulsive about adolescence.
Watching the BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD collection today, when the age of the internet is in full swing, brings forth an enlightening perspective about where the world is heading. It provides viewers with a lot of questions about the life of a teenager, such as: Do they need relief from the pressure life puts on them?
Through all these characters’ nonsense, there is intelligence beyond the surface. It may require some patience to get through the entire collection due to its repetitive nature at times, but it’s worthwhile.
QUARRY: Season 1
TV-MA, about 8 hours.
Creator: Michael D. Fuller and Graham Gordy
Cast: Logan Marshall-Green, Jodi Balfour, Damon Herriman, Edoardo Ballerini, Nikki Amuka-Bird and Peter Mullan
Available Tuesday on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD.
Speaking of patience, Cinemax’s new series QUARRY also requires some of that. It may not be as slow as Tom Hardy’s TABOO series (if you watch that bizarre show on FX), but it takes some time for it to really to get its wheels turning and the viewer invested.
The dramatic series sees a disillusioned Vietnam War vet (a great Logan Marshall-Green) returning home to Memphis in 1972. However, upon his return he finds himself shunned by everyone he loves. As he struggles to cope with his horrific wartime experiences, he is drawn into the world of corruption and a network of killing.
It’s a common flaw with series today to stretch out little material for the duration of an entire season. When you can’t get a story put on the big screen, many find that television is the solution. And because television is getting bigger and more shows are being produced each year, it’s hard to start another — especially when that show doesn’t put the hook in you right away. That’s why it’s hard to recommend a series that demands so much of your time before you start going gaga over it. But if you don’t mind letting the clock run, you can’t go wrong with QUARRY.
Extras: Over 3 hours of bonus features, including behind-the-scenes interviews, audio commentaries, music videos, deleted scenes, and a series of featurettes that dive into the central character’s past and run during the harrowing Vietnam era.
Twilight Time releases
Available today on Blu-ray on twilighttimemovies.com.
December’s Twilight Time (a retro movie restoration company) releases includes 1944’s THE KEYS OF THE KINGDOM (a not-so emotionally draining and lighter version of Martin Scorsese’s SILENCE, where Gregory Peck plays a Catholic priest who goes to China to spread the word of God), 1954’s THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA (Humphrey Bogart sure knows how to win over women with his words, and such is the case with Ava Gardner’s character in this crime-drama about a Spanish dancer who becomes an international movie star), 1975’s THE BULLET TRAIN (think of SPEED but on a train, though a little more obscure), and 2002’s NICHOLAS NICKLEBY (this vibrant and entertaining Charles Dickens’ adaptation stars Charlie Hunnam as a sensitive man trying to save his loved ones from the clutches of an uncle with the wrong intentions).
Extras: Each film comes with audio commentaries by various film historians and talent, isolated score tracks and original theatrical trailers.
Filmmaker Denis Villeneuve (SICARIO, and upcoming BLADE RUNNER 2049) pulls off a rare feat by creating a genre movie event that is both epic in scale and cerebral in depth.
Based on Ted Chiang’s 1998 novella STORY OF YOUR LIFE, the intellectual sci-fi drama centers on Amy Adams’ Dr. Louise Banks, a linguistics professor who is recruited by the government to decipher an extraterrestrial language when a dozen alien pods descend from the skies. Joined by a stern army colonel (Forest Whitaker) and a wisecracking physicist (Jeremy Renner), Dr. Banks must race against the clock before things get scary. Villeneuve shoots for the stars and falls a little short, but ARRIVAL’s slow-burning intensity and Adams’ leading performance are enough to invade our thoughts.
Extras: Over 80 minutes of riveting special features, including a breakdown of the story and the editorial process with Oscar-nominated screenwriter Eric Heisserer (LIGHTS OUT), along with a look into the development of the musical score and sound design.
BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK
Rated R, 113 minutes.
Director: Ang Lee
Cast: Joe Alwyn, Garrett Hedlund, Makenzie Leigh, Vin Diesel, Kristen Stewart, Chris Tucker and Steve Martin
Available Tuesday on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD.
It’s unfortunate when an Ang Lee film (BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, LIFE OF PI) goes quiet after a week in theaters. So much hype was built up over the fact that it was the first feature ever to be shot at 120 frames per second (the standard being 24), while also being presented in 3-D at 4K HD resolution.
That’s a lot of technical wizardry for such a humdrum and manipulative war film about a young soldier (Joe Alwyn) who is brought home for a victory tour after a traumatic Iraq battle. What could have been a moving and informative, perhaps, short film about the contrasting realities of war with America’s perceptions is bogged down with disingenuous storytelling.
Extras: Deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes look at the story and recreating the halftime show, and featurettes involving the cast and the training they had to go through to prepare for their roles.
THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN
Rated R, 105 minutes.
Director: Kelly Fremon Craig
Cast: Hailee Steinfeld, Haley Lu Richardson, Blake Jenner, Hayden Szeto, Kyra Sedgwick and Woody Harrelson
Available Tuesday on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD.
Coming-of-age dramas can be some of cinema’s best offerings. The manner in which they examine the young mind and how often it’s at odds with the world is enriching to see. THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN continues this trend. It follows high school student named Nadine (a very good Hailee Steinfeld) as she struggles to fit in and accept her popular brother (Blake Jenner) dating her best friend (Haley Lu Richardson). Funny and touching to the core, this should be mandatory viewing for adolescents.
Extras: A gag reel and deleted scenes.