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
Film has played to our historical senses since the beginning of cinema. It has resulted is some of the finest and highest-grossing movies of all time, including TITANIC, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and GLADIATOR, to name a few. These historical dramas captured some of the most tragic events of our time on the big screen.
What makes Clint Eastwood’s towering SULLY different and a story worth telling on the big screen is the fact that it didn’t turn into tragedy. It was, as the film says, the best news New York had seen in a while, especially involving an airplane.
The true story took place seven years ago: Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger successfully (an excellent Tom Hanks) executed an emergency water landing of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River off Manhattan, after it was disabled by a flock of birds that struck the engine.
Comparisons to 2012’s FLIGHT are inevitable. However, unlike the Denzel Washington-starring vehicle, SULLY doesn’t frontload its movement and action. Eastwood keeps the film flying lean at its 96-minute run time by sprinkling its moments of intrigue all throughout to keep us locked in.
There’s nothing that lags or feels out of place (an Oscar nod for Blu Murray’s film editing is in order); each scene supports the next and is cut together in a way that bears a resemblance to the work of Aaron Sorkin (THE SOCIAL NETWORK).
While Todd Komarnicki’s script may not hold the same water to Sorkin’s ink or narrative structure — suffering from some minor turbulence due to over-sentimentality — but nothing takes a long enough detour to keep this powerful journey from landing safely into our hearts.
Extras: Two spectacular featurettes (“The Man Behind the Miracle, Moment by Moment: Averting Disaster on the Hudson”) with the real-life heroes, who take us through their feelings and actions on the day they had to land Flight 1549 in the Hudson; and a vivid breakdown (“Neck Deep in the Hudson: Shooting SULLY”) of how Eastwood and his producers captured the terrifying splashdown on film.
Based on Brad Land’s 2004 memoir of the same name, GOAT follows 19-year-old Brad (Ben Schnetzer) as he enrolls in college with his brother Brett (Nick Jonas). After a party leads to Brad being assaulted by two strangers he offered to give a ride, his brother encourages him to pledge his fraternity (Phi Sigma Mu) in an effort to prove his manhood after his beating. However, what follows will rattle your comfort zone: a week of hell, where the stakes grow with a breakneck intensity as way of violence, humiliation and torture.
GOAT is a grueling yet fascinating hour-and-a-half observation. It features standout performances, especially from on-screen brothers Schnetzer (SNOWDEN) and Jonas (who’s making an impressive effort to break out of the Disney mold).
Not everyone will be able to stomach the film. If, however, you’re a fan of cautionary tales and want to see a horrifyingly true story that could have come from our own backyard, then you’ll benefit from seeing this riveting film. It’ll crawl up your skin and leave you with much to think and talk about.
THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN
Rated R, 133 minutes.
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Cast: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Haley Bennett, Matt Bomer and Peter Sarsgaard
Directed by Antoine Fuqua (TRAINING DAY, OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN), this retelling of the original 1960 THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN has new thrills and an all-star cast of its own, including Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt and Ethan Hawke, among many others.
In the film, a group of gunslingers and westerners are tasked with defending a small town by any means necessary, which, as you could probably expect, involves a rainstorm of lead.
There’s nothing particularly special or groundbreaking about Fuqua’s update. The sun rises and sets, bullets fly and actors ham it up in old school Western fashion (especially Peter Sarsgaard as the film’s tasty villain). It’s an action movie made to entertain, and that it does, if you can accept it at surface level.
Extras: Behind-the-scenes featurettes of Fuqua’s direction, the film’s characters and the late James Horner’s final musical score; deleted scenes; and a “vengeance mode,” where the cast and filmmakers walk us through how they accomplished some of the film’s biggest scenes.
Rated PG, 87 minutes.
Director: Nicholas Stoller and Doug Sweetland
Cast: Andy Samberg, Katie Crown, Kelsey Grammer, Jennifer Aniston, Ty Burrell, Anton Starkman, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele and Danny Trejo
This Warner Bros. animated tale follows the story of repurposed workforce of birds (voiced by talents such as Andy Samberg, Jennifer Aniston and Kelsey Grammer) who used to deliver babies to families across the globe, but now deliver for a major online retailer.
STORKS may be more engineered for the likes of younger children compared to the year’s top notch animated features (ZOOTOPIA, MOANA), but it contains an eye-opening message about consumer culture and many fun characters to cherish. Plus, it has a hysterical bit involving a pack of shape-shifting wolves that will paint a smile on anyone.
Extras: An all-new hilarious animated short, titled Storks: Guide to Your New Baby; The Master: A LEGO® Ninjago™ short; deleted scenes; and a music video for Jason Derulo’s song “Kiss the Sky” and more.
Also available on DVD and streaming: 31, DAD’S ARMY, THE DISAPPOINTMENTS ROOM, DOLLY PARTON’S CHRISTMAS OF MANY COLORS: CIRCLE OF LOVE, ESPN 30 FOR 30: Season 2, GREATER, HILLSONG: LET HOPE RISE, HITCHCOCK/TRUFFAUT, IT HAD TO BE YOU, MAXIMUM RIDE, and OASIS: SUPERSONIC (James Cole Clay’s review here).