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
This week’s DVD releases sees adored characters from our past resurfacing for a new generation.
We live in an age where studios love to keep beloved characters alive solely to have them active in pop culture. Sometimes they’re made with good intentions, while other times it’s merely more coin for big business. Thankfully, the filmmakers behind THE PEANUTS MOVIE take the legacy of these characters earnestly, resulting in a gentle and charming animated tale to cherish.
The story centers around two romances. One is Snoopy (voiced using archival recordings of the late Bill Melendez, the voice of Snoopy from 1965) embarking on a great fantasy adventure to win the heart of an alluring poodle named Fifi (Kristin Chenoweth). The other plot line follows a determined Charlie Brown (Noah Schnapp) who wants to reinvent himself to capture the attention of his new neighbor, the Little Red-Haired Girl (Francesca Capaldi).
Undeniably funny and true to the source material, THE PEANUTS MOVIE may be too mild-mannered to win over new audiences, especially with more attention-grabbing children’s films out there. However, it’s sure to please people who are already fond of the original property.
Extras: A character drawing lesson, a behind-the-scenes featurette and Meghan Trainor music video.
Director Ron Howard has shown much strength as a filmmaker when it comes to movies based on true stories. The power of his films, however, heavily depends on force of their scripts. While Howard has had much luck in that department with movies such as APOLLO 13 and RUSH, his latest, IN THE HEART OF THE SEA, is a watered-down narrative that leaves him lost at sea.
Set in 1820, the film is a recounting of a whaling ship’s sinking by a giant sperm whale — an experience that later inspired the novel Moby-Dick.
Through all its visual splendor, In the Heart of the Sea could have done with — ironically — some more heart. Howard wants his film to be so much more than a mere battle between men and a giant fish, and at times you can feel him getting that across. Unfortunately, the characters, surface-level plot and sense of danger lack wind in the sails.
Extras: Deleted scenes and a story on the real-life sequel to Moby Dick.
German filmmaker Sebastian Schipper managed to pull off a rare: work out the logistics of shooting an entire film in a single take. His English and German powerhouse of a film, VICTORIA, follows a runaway party girl, Victoria (an intoxicating Laia Costa), who joins a friendly quartet of men (Frederick Lau, Franz Rogowski, Burak Yigit and Max Mauff) on a journey around Berlin.
To no one’s surprise, the cinematography is daring and audacious. It’s a stunning achievement that wildly contributes toward constructing a naturalistic atmosphere. And while the finished product may not equal the sum of its parts, VICTORIA knows that. It unfolds in real-time and hits life’s imperfections and meandering beats along the way, transcending the crime drama genre into something of rare beauty.
Extras: A feature commentary with the film’s director and look at the magic behind the one-take approach.
The world of Shakespeare can be tough waters to navigate, especially if you are not well-versed in his language. The same can be said of filmmakers who’ve struggled through the years to capture MACBETH, a tale of a newly-appointed king (Michael Fassbender) who must cover his sinful tracks that won him the throne. However, Australian director Justin Kurzel (upcoming ASSASSIN’s CREED) proves his worth with a rousing interpretation that beats down the doors of fine art and pulls the beloved rhymester into the light of modern day.
Extras: A making-of featurette and Q&A with Fassbender.
Also on DVD/Blu-ray and streaming: THE BENEFACTOR, COMMUNITY: SEASON 6, THE FORBIDDEN ROOM, GREASE LIVE!, OPEN SEASON: SCARED SILLY, SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN: EXTENDED EDITION, THE TRIBE and VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN.