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
This week’s releases includes a pulse-pounding thriller that tackles the horrors of the U.S.-Mexico border, the beauty of achieving the impossible and some good old fashioned blood baths.
CAPTIVE is the true story of Brian Nichols (David Oyelowo), a deeply troubled man who is about to be sentenced to a lengthy stint up river by a Georgia judge until he murders three and is now at large after escaping from a county courthouse. His story intersects with Ashley Smith (Kate Mara), a recovering meth addict who is trying to get back into her daughter’s life.
There is a limit to how far CAPTIVE can go with the deep-rooted tension that goes a long with the story and the inevitability does hold the narrative back to a certain extent. Knowing that this is a story about over coming odds and having faith in God promises a happy ending, but there are lessons to be learned here. The penmanship from screenwriter Brian Bird developed from Smith’s book UNLIKELY ANGEL isn’t going to force you to subscribe to the theology of the film, but it opens the doors for a new type of storytelling.
CAPTIVE won’t dazzle you in the way the masters of mystery will, but the uncannily consistent work from Oyelowo and its positive outlook will indeed keep you captivated (read our full review here).
– James Cole Clay
Every now and then, it’s a good feeling to go into a movie blind, not knowing any detail or criticisms, and finding a gem. Such is the case with EXPERIMENTER, a story revolving around the social psychologist Stanley Milgram (Peter Sarsgaard) and his obedience experiments. The purpose was to figure out why people would obey someone, even though it went against their moral fiber.
The film is very focused on the science and motive above all else, mirroring the mentality of its protagonist. Anchored by a terrific performance from Sarsgaard, fast-paced dialogue, and some brave direction by Michael Almereyda, and you have one of the best surprises of the year.
– Jared McMillan
Hollywood loves to churn out zombie movies like cinematic sausage. Audiences love to slop them with relish and eat them up. However, for every good zombie film, there are the bad. Sadly, director Christopher Landon’s SCOUTS GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE falls into that latter category. Wanting badly to be as smart, charming and genuinely funny as SHAUN OF THE DEAD and ZOMBIELAND, the raunch-zom-com falls far short of a film with any modicum of brains (read our full review here).
– Courtney Howard
There are some movies that, no matter how hard they try, just don’t work. All the elements are there for audiences to make a cinematic connection – yet the result is far less than engaging. It’s sorta like fitting a square peg into a round hole. That’s how I describe director Mikael Håfström’s SHANGHAI.
The espionage-tinged romantic melodrama was shot back in 2010 and, for one mysterious reason or another, wound up being shelved for the past five years. While it doesn’t have a tangible stale feeling, it lacks genuine thrills and refreshing genre twists to make this ordinary feature extraordinary (read our full review).
– Courtney Howard
When it came to film experiences this year, none were more visceral than SICARIO. It’s sheer intensity and pulse-pounding energy gives your heart its full day’s work. Taylor Sheridan’s script doesn’t miss a beat either, never sidestepping anything. He frees the material from beaten movie conventions, and does so in a very skilled manner.
There’s just something about Denis Villenueve’s films (PRISONERS, ENEMY)– he’s just makes them so damn exciting. He assembles strange vehicles for actors to come together on, while simultaneously taking on a genre that may feel familiar and injecting it with new life (read our full review here).
– Preston Barta
M. Night Shyamalan was once known for his great films such as THE SIXTH SENSE, UNBREAKABLE, and SIGNS. Unfortunately, his more recent projects have subjected us to some underwhelming, pieces of crap like THE HAPPENING and AFTER EARTH. Well folks, I’m pleased to say that Shyamalan’s latest film, THE VISIT, succeeds as a highly entertaining horror-comedy.
Shyamalan has not only redeemed himself as a filmmaker, but he has also brought originality to the found-footage/mockumentary genre. His combination of humor and terror will have audiences uncomfortably laughing while still on the edge of their seats as they nervously anticipate what’s to come (read our full review here).
– Susan Kamyab
If you don’t know the history by now, I won’t go into too much detail. I will just say that on August 7, 1974, a French high-wire artist named Philippe Petit (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) connected a steel cable from one corner of the North Tower to one corner of the South Tower at the World Trade Center. His goal? To walk it like a tightrope without any safety features. It was a more daring feat due to the fact that the Twin Towers were newly built and barely open to the public. What would possess a man to commit such acts of foolishness? Most people would call it brave, but it’s not brave when you put yourself in a situation for your own personal gain. I can’t really empathize with someone who I feel is so stubborn to defy logic– or so I thought.
THE WALK is a fantastic sight to behold. I wasn’t alive to see Philippe on his wire, but this recreation gave me the feel of a spectator watching from the street below. By the final shot, as Philippe says his last words, we realize that this wasn’t just a story, but a love letter, a remembrance of better days. And, to quote Charles Lindbergh, love needs no logic for its mission (read our full review here).
– Jared McMillan
- CLOSE RANGE
- FLESH AND BONE
- GREEN INFERNO
- INFINITELY POLAR BEAR
- JOE DIRT 2: BEAUTIFUL LOSER
- LOVE 3D
- PARTNERS IN CRIME
- TRUE DETECTIVE: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON