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
Given that we like to observe holidays early — putting up Christmas lights and the tree the moment after we’ve inhaled our Thanksgiving feast — it’s a good rule of thumb to not mention Christmas until November. However, Christmas comes early for horror movie fans.
KRAMPUS – Every year around Christmas, we get a load of schmaltzy holiday movies that are as bad as a stocking full of coal. However, KRAMPUS is not one of them. In the tradition of GREMLINS, we have a holiday horror film that makes you wonder what’s coming down the chimney.
From the writer and director of TRICK ‘R TREAT, Krampus tells the story of the bizarro Santa Claus known as Krampus, who comes to wreak havoc on a family (Adam Scott, Toni Collette and others) after accidentally being summoned by a boy (Emjay Anthony) on Christmas Eve.
KRAMPUS has the desired ingredients — the scares, great sense of dread and atmosphere – while also tossing in an ample amount of chuckles for good measure.
One of the film’s most frightening yet humorous moments comes from one of Krampus’ minions, who just so happens to be a gingerbread man. So that should give you a taste of what you’re in for and how twisted this movie really is.
The film may not be as thorough as some of filmmaker Michael Dougherty’s past films, but if you’re ever looking to take your kids out of the Christmas spirit (wouldn’t recommend it), or seeking an alternative to Elf on the Shelf, this is a solid enough movie to pop in your DVD player around the holidays. Rated PG-13, 98 minutes.
Extras: Alternate ending, deleted and extended scenes, gag reel, “meet the cast” featurette and commentary with the filmmakers.
RIDE ALONG 2 – Did you enjoy the first RIDE ALONG? Do you mind if its sequel follows the exact same game plan? Well, then sit back, feel your brain cell count diminish and enjoy this retread.
Picking up a year after our heroes’ last trip, RIDE ALONG 2 sees Ben Barber (Kevin Hart) and his soon-to-be brother-in-law, James Payton (Ice Cube), venturing to Miami to bring down a drug dealer who’s supplying some dealers with product.
The action goes bigger, the jokes are more of the same, and the characters are thrown into more ridiculous scenarios.
RIDE ALONG 2 scrapes the bottom of the barrel, wasting both the time of its talent and audience. Rated PG-13, 102 minutes.
Extras: A recruitment video that’s funnier than the movie, deleted scenes and a gag reel.
SON OF SAUL – Placing the lens closer on the Holocaust than ever before, SON OF SAUL makes audiences active participants in the story of a prisoner (Géza Röhrig) who is forced to dispose of his own people, all while preserving the body of a boy he takes for his son.
László Nemes is the type of filmmaker who is not afraid to expose everything and take you to dark, often uncomfortable places.
With its 4:3 aspect ratio and limited cuts, Nemes makes Son of Saul so riveting that even when you want to look away, especially scenes that showcase the Jews being rushed into pits or shower rooms, you cannot take your eyes off the screen.
It’s a real work of art that deserved its Oscar win for best foreign film. Rated R, 107 minutes.
Also on DVD and streaming: BACKTRACK, BRIEF ENCOUNTER (1945): Criterion Collection, BURNING BODHI, JANE GOT A GUN, THE KENNEDY FILMS OF ROBERT DREW & ASSOCIATES (1960-1964): Criterion Collection, THE LAST MAN ON THE MOON, and PHOENIX (2014): Criterion Collection.