Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.
Preston Barta // Editor
As conventional as Marvel Studios films have become, they can still deliver thoroughly exciting big screen entertainment, and DOCTOR STRANGE continues Marvel’s victorious streak with wondrous central character and top-tier visuals.
Benedict Cumberbatch hangs up his Sherlock Holmes duster and deerstalker cap to sport a fancy red cape (a character of its own) and garner skills too incredible to fully comprehend. In Strange’s origin story, director Scott Derrickson (SINISTER) explores the genesis of the titular former neurosurgeon and how he grows to literally bend time and space.
While Doctor Strange suffers from a few typical superhero cliches, what remains works so well and is so invigorating that it’s easy to look past some of these minor issues and enjoy this vivid spectacle.
Extras: DOCTOR STRANGE, like all Disney’s home releases, comes with a slew of extras, tackling the stunning visuals, character concepts and the score. It also includes deleted scenes, a gag reel, and audio commentary with director Scott Derrickson, and a special look at the team behind the upcoming Thor sequel.
Carefully directed by Barry Jenkins, MOONLIGHT is divided into three parts, chronicling the struggles of a young man named Chiron (played by Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes). Never has a film been so bold to explore the notion of sexual identity and black life outside the times of slavery or civil rights, yet MOONLIGHT dares to go the distance and give us the hauntingly beautiful story that America needs.
Extras: A highly informative audio commentary with Jenkins on his filmmaking process and choices throughout production, a 20-minute making-of, a 9-minute examination of the musical score, and a special featurette on filming in Miami.
Considering the magnitude and long-lasting effects of the Second World War, there are millions of different stories waiting to be told. This week, we have Robert Zemeckis’ ALLIED — a romantic drama about an intelligence officer (a stiffer-than-normal Brad Pitt) and a French Resistance fighter (Marion Cotillard) who become entangled in a romance and possible treason. It’s one of those “who can you really trust?” type of movies, but set against a Nazi backdrop to arouse curiosity. The story is admittedly compelling and Cotillard gives a heartfelt performance, but Zemeckis holds the film back from its award-worthy potential by embracing an overly Hollywood approach.
Extras: The combo pack contains more than an hour of bonus content, focusing on all areas of the production — including the story, production design, direction, costumes, cast, visual effects, music and overall look.
Hollywood legend Warren Beatty takes on the later years of Howard Hughes (remember Leo from THE AVIATOR?) and inserts a fictional love story involving a contract actress (Lily Collins) and her driver (Alden Ehrenreich). This ’50s-set comedic drama explores the right areas (conflicting sects and the mythology of Hughes), but Beatty doesn’t deepen our understanding or present the film in the most skillful manner. The worst film editing of 2016 doesn’t do it many favors either.
Extras: A making-of, music video (“The Rules Don’t Apply,” performed by Lily Collins) and photo gallery.
Also available on DVD and streaming: ALL WE HAD, CONTRACT TO KILL, OFFICER DOWNE (read Courtney Howard’s review) and SHUT IN.