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
Whether it’s the clash between superheroes in BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE or the mystery of 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE, there’s plenty to keep you busy at the movie theater in March. However, if you’re looking to enjoy a few winning films in the comfort of your home, there are some great titles to offer, starting this week with a few Oscar-nominated films.
Sylvester Stallone won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Oscar for his reprisal of boxer Rocky Balboa, who is now training the son (an excellent Michael B. Jordan) of Rocky’s old rival-turned-ally, Apollo Creed.
CREED is the first of the series since ROCKY III to feel more like a successor than a clone. It shows confidence and promise, even in the opening shot as the camera travels through a juvenile detention hall into the room where a young Creed learns that he is the son of the late Apollo, who was killed in a boxing match. It’s a scene that sets the tone for the whole movie, letting audiences know they are in for something with more quality and less cheese.
It’s the fights and Stallone’s scenes that rise to the occasion. Now that he’s wearing an extra decade since we last saw him, Stallone’s seventh outing as Rocky makes for a wise mentor who’s reluctant to get back in the game. This is, of course, followed by the expected series of scenes involving doubt, training and cocky champions.
While the film seems to resemble typical fare, the conflict between these two men — who’s fighting for whom? — clears the smoke. In the end, it’s the audience who wins. CREED is an engaging presentation of an adrenaline-pumping, powerful tale loaded with grit and determination.
Extras: A conversation with the cast and crew on the challenges of building on the ROCKY franchise; A featurette on how star Michael B. Jordan became Adonis Creed, and deleted scenes.
Eddie Redmayne follows up his Oscar-winning performance in THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING with another award-worthy performance as Einar Wegener, a real-life artist in 1920s Copenhagen who, with the help of his wife, Gerda (a riveting and now Oscar-winning Alicia Vikander), transforms himself into the early transgender pioneer Lili Elbe.
Nominated for four Oscars, including best actor and supporting actress, Tom Hooper’s (THE KING’S SPEECH, LES MISERABLES) latest period drama is at its most affecting in the film’s second half, when Gerda and Lili seek out professional medical guidance and learn to accept each other’s wishes. The pain they endure is so heartbreakingly real, it’s as if we are invading the couple’s privacy.
The misguided direction may keep the film from excelling to its full potential, but its performances and poignancy keep us invested throughout. Rated R, 120 minutes.
Extras: A making-of featurette.
Adapted from the 2010 novel of the same name by Emma Donoghue (also serving as the screenwriter), ROOM tells the story of a kidnapped young woman (Brie Larson) who tries to create a normal life for her 5-year-old son (Jacob Tremblay) while being held captive inside a windowless room.
Even if you saw the film’s spoiling trailer and/or read the book to know the story’s outcome, that doesn’t release you from the grip filmmaker Lenny Abrahamson (FRANK) has you in. ROOM is a powerful story of hope and possibility. Sure, your stomach may be in knots and you may bite your nails down to the quick, but it’ll also fill your heart with as much nourishment, courage and love. Rated R, 118 minutes.
Also on Blu-ray, DVD and streaming: ALL ROADS LEAD TO ROME, THE BOY (2015), CHILDHOOD’S END, DON VERDEAN, THE FALL: SERIES 1 and 2, LIFE (2015), JAMES WHITE, MISS YOU ALREADY, LEGEND (2015), NARCOPOLIS, THE NIGHT BEFORE, SUNSHINE SUPERMAN, TAXI (2015), WEAPONIZED and YOUTH.