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
Jeff Nichols has become one of those filmmakers who makes you stand up and take notice with each new feature. Writing and directing three great and thought provoking films before — SHOTGUN STORIES, TAKE SHELTER and MUD — there’s no denying my ears perked up when word got out he was releasing a fourth, and a studio film nonetheless.
His latest, MIDNIGHT SPECIAL, brings together an impressive ensemble including Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton and Kirsten Dunst. It tells the story of a young boy (Jaeden Lieberher) with a mysterious otherworldly power who’s on the run with his father (Shannon) to escape the government (which believes he’s a threat) and the church (which thinks he’s the next messiah).
Nichols is an unquestionably talented filmmaker. He has a gift for bringing the best out of his actors and taking simple stories and layering them with rich complexity. MIDNIGHT SPECIAL has his signature slow-burn structure and constant allure. However, after the film pulls you along through its mystery and setups, you arrive at an ending that feels rather hollow.
The film poses so many interesting questions and never really finds a way to clarify or present them in a way that causes you to wrestle with it in a healthy manner. There are great mysteries out there drenched in curiosity that leave audiences with more questions than they had going in. But there’s a difference between a film that tells a good, puzzling story to discuss than one with mere plot holes.
Extras: Because the movie doesn’t give you as much depth as you want with the characters, leave it to the extras to provide that with a collection of “origin” features that focus on each of the characters.
MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 2 | 94 min | PG-13
Director: Kirk Jones
Cast: Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, Michael Constantine, Elena Kampouris, Lainie Kazan, Andrea Martin, Joey Fatone, Alex Wolff and Bess Meisler
With a loaded title like MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING, no one really expected the first film to be as much of a hit as it was. It was that kind of film that played on airplanes between destinations, but surprisingly made the trip more bearable. (I know this, because that’s how I experienced this film for the first time.)
The original went on to land an Academy Award nomination (best original screenplay), a ton of money, and a sequel 14 years later. And because all that time has past, the filmmakers are probably looking to capitalize on older audiences who loved the first film.
As fun as an idea that is on paper, catching up the now-middle aged Portokalos family and how they’re all still Greek and crazy winds up rather lackluster, serving us a plate full of staler jokes and little reason to exist.
Extras: Gag reel, a roundtable retrospective shot inside the now famous Portokalos family restaurant, and a making-of.
You’re either on board with Sacha Baron Cohen’s crazy antics or you’re not. Personally, I like most of what he has done. Whether it’s ridiculous characters like Ali G, Borat or Bruno, he tends to have a bigger message hidden underneath his buffoonery.
Unfortunately, this is not the case with his latest comedy, THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY.
The movie sees the story of a dimwitted English football hooligan (Cohen) reuniting with his secret agent brother (Mark Strong) during a time of global terrorism.
And while this is a decent enough setting for Cohen to run wild with his signature rauch, his sharp satire is nowhere to be found.
Extras: A line-o-rama, blooper reel, making-of, and deleted and extended scenes.
Also available on DVD and streaming: ANESTHESIA, DEAD IN TOMBSTONE, EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT, FANTASTIC PLANET (1973): Criterion Collection, THE HOLLOW CROWN: THE WARS OF THE ROSES, HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER: Season 2, KNIGHT OF CUPS, THE WAVE, and WORKAHOLICS: Season 6.