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
It may be a little early to call THE FORCE AWAKENS the DVD/Blu-ray movie of the year, but it unquestionably deserves a spot in your home collection.
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS | 135 min | PG-13
Director: J.J. Abrams
Cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Harrison Ford, Peter Mayhew, Carrie Fisher, Domhnall Gleeson, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis and Mark Hamill
I’m not saying the artistic quality of the movie will top other titles releasing on disc in 2016. I’m talking about the wow factor — a movie that will rock your house, whether you’re watching it on a high-end home theater system or on your laptop screen.
Vividly directed by J.J. Abrams, this seventh installment in the STAR WARS franchise goes darker and emotionally deeper than its predecessors, as the story picks up 30 years after the events portrayed in RETURN OF THE JEDI.
The Empire has returned in the form of the First Order, and it’s up to the Resistance and its allies to restore balance to the galaxy.
Abrams has piloted many sci-fi vessels, directing both the revival of STAR TREK and the Spielbergian SUPER 8. With THE FORCE AWAKENS, he strikes a careful balance, tipping his hat to Star Wars creator George Lucas while also never overstepping his bounds.
It’s a movie you watch multiple times and still smile as much as the first viewing, all while yelling “Whoa!” as you white-knuckle your couch. It’s a nonstop thrill ride with a beating heart that will have original fans salivating and newcomers on their toes. It’s what we’ve been waiting for, and now, we must play a new waiting game for EPISODE VIII in December of next year.
Extras: The extras included with the film all depends on where you purchase it.
Target, Best Buy and the Disney store each have their exclusivities, but all feature the incredibly vivid feature-length documentary on the cinematic journey of bringing STAR WARS back to the big screen, a reflection on the first time the cast and crew came together to read the movie’s script, a featurette on the creation of its characters, deleted scenes (you will especially love this) and insights with celebrated composer John Williams. The package deal here doesn’t get much better than this.
It’s likely you’ve never heard of this movie, which is a shame because it deserved more attention than it received in its limited theatrical run.
On the other hand, there’s nothing quite like discovering a film you’ve never heard of but wholeheartedly appreciate right off the bat.
TUMBLEDOWN tells the story of Hannah (Rebecca Hall), a widow struggling to move on after the death of her acclaimed folk-singing husband.
But when a pushy writer from New York, Andrew McDonnell (Jason Sudeikis), arrives to her neck of the woods, Hannah is forced to confront her loss and the equivocal nature of her husband’s death.
This film may seem overly dramatic on paper, but trust me when I say there’s a certain warmth, wit and mystery to TUMBLEDOWN that makes it far superior than it appears to be. What makes it rise above average quality is the chemistry among its talent, most notably Hall and Sudeikis at the center. What so easily could have been a forgettable unlikely-romance story winds up being a bittersweet film to get lost in.
Marking his sophomore directing effort, Academy Award-winner William Monahan (THE DEPARTED) brings together the likes of Garrett Hedlund (TRON: LEGACY) and Oscar Isaac (THE FORCE AWAKENS) for a movie that’s so glaringly self-indulgent you can’t wait to eject the disc and toss it in the trash.
The film follows the story of a suicidal artist (Hedlund) who goes off in the desert to clear his conscience, Jim Morrison-style, but runs into a drifter (Isaac) who makes his life a living hell. While the plot may sound somewhat enticing, the ponderous script and weak characterization will have you furious from beginning to end.
Also on DVD and streaming:
400 DAYS, BANSHEE: SEASON 3, CASUAL: SEASON 1, CHERRY TREE, COUNTDOWN, DOCTOR WHO: SEASON 9, EPISODES: SEASON 4, THE EXPANSE: SEASON 1, THE HALLOW, HEARTLAND: SEASON 6, #HORROR, HOUSE OF LIES: SEASON 4, IDENTICALS, THE ODD COUPLE: SEASON 1, RIOT and VETERAN.