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
PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE (2002): The Criterion Collection
Rated R, 95 minutes.
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Cast: Adam Sandler, Emily Watson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Luis Guzmán, Mary Lynn Rajskub and Robert Smigel
November tends to be a big month for buying movies. Not only is it the dawn of Christmas shopping and eating turkey, but it’s also when the Criterion Collection releases some of their most anticipated classic and contemporary film titles.
It really was only a matter of time before the Criterion Collection started picking up filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson’s work. His films — including BOOGIE NIGHTS, MAGNOLIA and THERE WILL BE BLOOD — are unique and get us thinking about the world differently. They seamlessly represent the kind of material that makes Criterion the great home entertainment distribution company they are.
His 2002 romantic oddball PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE is a complicated narrative about messed-up, lonely people, living in suburban Los Angeles. It’s such a strange, oftentimes dark and comical, love story that drips with so much emotion and legitimacy you nearly feel its characters have been plucked off the streets.
In the film, Anderson pairs a unexpectedly sincere Adam Sandler with the ever-endearing Emily Watson (WAR HORSE) for a film about a troubled novelty and toilet plunger supplier who finds love in a hopeless place with an English woman, all the while being harassed by his evil sisters and a mattress salesman (quotable-genius Philip Seymour Hoffman) who runs an extortionist phone-sex operation on the side.
PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE is that rare romance that comes along that doesn’t cover itself in Hollywood’s wrapping. It aptly captures the bravery of falling love, and the strength and struggles that follow. So if you favor stories from honest places and appreciate collector’s editions that come loaded with bonus features, this is the way to go.
Extras: Criterion’s edition includes deleted scenes, hilarious “Mattress Man” commercials, an essay by Miranda July, interviews with composer Jon Brion (ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND), and Anderson’s fascinating 12-minute souvenir piece (“Blossoms & Blood”).
The Pixar team always fashions funny, poignant stories to match its lush animated images. Whether it’s toys with feelings, monsters with feelings, or even feelings with feelings, they have a knack for taking the most mundane topics and shaping them into cinematic gold.
FINDING DORY picks up a year after the events of FINDING NEMO, where we find our friendly-but-forgetful blue tang fish Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) on a journey to reunite with her family. And while other sequels like this year’s ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS have already dipped their toes in this particular pond, DORY dives to greater depths.
Original favorites Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (now voiced by Hayden Rolence) are back as well, along with director Andrew Stanton, who helmed the first film and other greats like WALL-E and A BUG’S LIFE.
While the film feels more manufactured and emotionally manipulative than its predecessor, DORY still remains a wondrous, fun-filled voyage with a heart the size of the ocean it’s set in.
Extras: An all-new short (“Marine Life Interviews”) that kids will eat up, the adorable “Piper” short (hopefully it has the Academy Award in the bag), the story of creating one of Pixar’s most acclaimed characters (Hank the Octopus), deleted scenes and much more.
At 75, what hasn’t been said about CITIZEN KANE — one of cinema’s greatest milestones? It truly remains a triumph of style and a grand achievement in filmmaking. (Any film student would know this.)
The film centers on reporters assigned to decipher newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane’s (Orson Welles, also director) dying words. Through their investigation, they uncover the truth of a complex man who rose from nothing to staggering heights.
Extras: Audio commentaries with film critic Roger Ebert and filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich (THE LAST PICTURE SHOW), interviews with actress Ruth Warrick and editor Robert Wise, and still photography with more commentary by Ebert.
Twilight Time: October Collection
Like Criterion, Twilight Time restores old films for new eyes. These are films that would otherwise sit on shelves to collect dust and never been seen by our new generation of cinephiles. And while they don’t actually release their titles in bundles, each month they put out a handful of films worthy of purchase.
Last month’s films — available today exclusively on twilighttimemovies.com — includes 1972’s BOXCAR BERTHA (a well-made Martin Scorsese-directed story of doomed lovers and train robberies set in the Depression-era), 1964’s HUSH… HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE (a Bette Davis-starring gothic frump-o-rama about an elderly woman haunted by her past), 1985’s RUNAWAY TRAIN (a terrifyingly good action film about two escaped convicts and a female railway worker who are trapped on a train with no brakes), and lastly, 1964’s simply titled THE TRAIN (an exciting WWII adventure-thriller that follows a resistance team who must stop a train filled with French art treasures).
Extras: Each film comes with audio commentaries by various film historians and talent, isolated score tracks and original theatrical trailers.