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
It’s common for black-and-white classics like IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE and HOLIDAY INN to get modern facelifts through digital colorization. The reverse, a celebrated contemporary film going monochrome, is much rarer.
As we learned a few months ago, director George Miller believes the Black & Chrome cut is the “best version” of last year’s MAD MAX: FURY ROAD. After he saw some footage of 1981’s ROAD WARRIOR, black and white seemed like the right fit for the world of the mad, and for the most part it is.
Some of you are probably wondering why you should purchase a black-and-white version of a movie you may already own, when all you have to do is adjust the saturation levels on your television. As simple as it sounds to mess with your settings, what we can do at home bears little resemblance to what filmmakers can do with color in postproduction. There’s a certain glow and rich texture that can be absorbed in this particular cut.
Between the two versions, there isn’t a version that’s superior to the other. Some things are enhanced with the original’s vibrant colors, while more set details are brought forth through Black & Chrome.
Whatever your preference, there’s no denying that FURY ROAD is a nonstop concerto of clanking iron, spattering blood and broken bones.
Extras: All-new introduction to the Black & Chrome Edition by Miller and the same special features that can be found on the previous release (deleted scenes, a making-of and behind-the scenes).
Many of us who own pets have often wondered what our cats and dogs do all day when we leave for work. What kind of life do they really lead?
THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS sniffs a few of these possibilities out and offers some sweet observations about our pets and our projections onto them.
The animated tale centers on a spoiled terrier named Max (voiced by Louis C.K.) whose life is upended when his owner (Ellie Kemper) takes in a stray (Eric Stonestreet). And while this may seem like something straight out of Pixar’s handbook, it manages to beat the animation juggernaut to the punch, while also giving its film a more kid-friendly touch of cartoon antics.
SECRET LIFE doesn’t compare to Disney-Pixar’s storytelling magic or stunning visuals, but it’s a lighthearted and satisfying piece of animated entertainment for children and pet owners to chow down on.
Extras: Three mini-movies and many fun featurettes (including “All About the Pets,” “Animals Can Talk: Meet the Actors,” “Hairstylist to the Dogs” and “The Best of Snowball”).
It’s been nine years since Matt Damon dove into the river and out of the series. And because studios favor resurfacing the old in order to be new, we forge ahead with the plainly titled JASON BOURNE, a suspenseful but ultimately unnecessary retread that does little to push the narrative boundaries of its predecessors or deepen our relationship with the titular character.
What was supposed to be an exciting, fresh addition to the series sticks to its conspiracy formula: Heinous actions bring Bourne (an alias for the untrendy David Webb) out of the shadows. An alphabet soup of government agencies lose their cool upon learning he’s back on the grid. The usual foot chases, hand-to-hand combat and acts of espionage ensue.
Extras: A slew of featurettes that consist of bringing back Damon as Bourne, bare-knuckle boxing, close quarters combat, underground rumble, the Athens escape, convention chaos and shutting down the Las Vegas strip.
Mike Birbiglia’s latest comedy-drama is very much about how unromantic the life of a dreamer can be. It centers on the crushing world of improv comedy and features a handful of comedic talents including Keegan-Michael Key (KEANU), Gillian Jacobs (COMMUNITY) and Birbiglia (ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK).
It’s a film that, of course, makes you laugh, but it also cuts deep and serves as a wake-up call to those still trying to find out what they’re doing with their lives.
Extras: Deleted scenes, a featurette on the creative team behind the film and story, the art of improv and a story on the commune.
This sci-fi horror/political satire stars a terrific Mary Elizabeth Winstead (10 CLOVERFIELD LANE) as a struggling documentary filmmaker who takes a job working for her senator brother (Danny Pino), but soon discovers there’s something eating Washington: Alien bugs replace the brains of several key members of Congress.
Now, before you stop reading this because of the show’s absurdity, this is a pretty fascinating and hilarious concept: What if aliens were behind the minds of the people in the big house?
As silly as it sounds, there are some relevant themes explored here that elevate the series beyond its seemingly surface-level material. It never takes itself too seriously and knows how to have fun and leave your imagination running wild.
Extras: Three making-of/behind-the-scenes features (story, characters and politics) and a gag reel.
Also available on DVD and streaming: FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK, HEART OF A DOG: Criterion Collection, THE HOLLARS, IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE (our review), MAD MAX: HIGH OCTANE COLLECTION (all four MAD MAX films).