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
Melissa McCarthy is a national treasure and one of the funniest comedians working in Hollywood. Whether it’s her unforgettable turns in BRIDESMAIDS, THE HEAT and SPY, she’s always more than enough reason to see a movie she’s in.
But whenever she isn’t directed by Paul Feig (who directed all the films listed above, along with the new GHOSTBUSTERS), she can’t seem to produce a cohesive enough character to enjoy and laugh with.
You would think teaming up with your husband would lead to satisfying results, because there is that built-in chemistry and trust. However, for McCarthy and Ben Falcone, it proves otherwise.
The outcome of THE BOSS is just as much a hit-and-miss as their previous effort, 2014’s TAMMY, if not worse.
In THE BOSS, McCarthy plays Michelle Darnell, the “47th wealthiest woman in the world” and an industry titan whom no one cries over when she’s sent to prison for insider trading. But as a way to earn respect and climb back to the top, she forms a brownie-selling biz with her former assistant (Kristen Bell).
McCarthy created this character over 15 years ago when she was a member of the Los Angeles improv troupe the Groundlings. There’s even a spectacular bonus feature attached to the Blu-ray that concentrates on this and is far more fascinating than the movie itself.
So there’s no doubt McCarthy knows and wears the role well. It’s just unfortunate that the film’s crude gags (spray tanning your genitals, anyone?) and one-note nature pulls it comedic punches.
Extras: Alternate ending, deleted and extended scenes, gag reel, the original sketch and origin story of how Michelle Darnell was created, Peter Dinklage (who plays the villain, so to speak) showcases his eclectic hairstyle and comedic chops, and an inside look at Kristen Bell’s character.
- Movie Review: THE BOSS goes for broke and ends up penniless (review by James Cole Clay)
- Interview: Kristen Bell on brownies and being the comedic straight-woman in THE BOSS
- Interview: Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone aim for the jugular with THE BOSS
When you have the star power of Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman and Tommy Lee Jones (who all appear in JFK together), it’s hard to believe you’ll wind of with a ho-hum movie like CRIMINAL.
This science fiction-tinged action film that can be best described as mix between FACE/OFF and last year’s SELF/LESS. While there is no slash in the film’s title, it still focuses on the concept of swapping bodies and minds in a present-day surrounding.
There’s nothing truly special about CRIMINAL, however, but it’s not all bad if you can get past dialogue like “You hurt me and I’ll hurt you worse.” It’s fairly entertaining, but it plays it too safe and wastes the talents of its all-star cast.
Extras: “Criminal Intent” (arguably the best featurette to explore mind transfer), director’s notes, deleted scenes and Madsonik’s “Drift and Fall Again” music video.
- Interview: Kevin Costner and director Ariel Vromen on being CRIMINAL-ly unapologetic
- Interview: Screenwriter David Weisberg on creating a clever CRIMINAL mind-bender
One thing writer-director John Carney (ONCE, BEGIN AGAIN) has always been great about in his films is exploring music as a means of expression and connection.
He carries this sentiment over to the completely lovable SING STREET by winding back the clock to the ’80s and glam rock.
The film follows a Dublin teenager, Conor (a terrific Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), as he forms a rock ’n’ roll band to win the heart of an aspiring model (Lucy Boynton) and escape his broken home.
With its energetic cast (most notably Jack Reynor as Conor’s brother) and lively tunes (including tracks from the Cure and Duran Duran), SING STREET is a ballad that audiences are sure to jam on repeat.
Extras: A brief making-of, audition reel, and a heartfelt chat with writer-director John Carney and Adam Levine.
HARDCORE HENRY is a film that doesn’t give its audience much of a breath. Replete with grenade tossing and unhinged combat, this remarkable technical exercise puts viewers in the eyes (literally) of a human-robot hybrid who goes on a bloody rampage to save his spouse (Haley Bennett) from a raging psychopath (Danila Kozlovsky).
It may not be the easiest watch, with all its exploding bodies and nauseating first-person perspective camerawork, but it’s all part of this film’s unique experience.
Extras: Deleted scenes, audio commentary and a fan chat.
- SXSW Review: HARDCORE HENRY hits like a shot of adrenaline to the head (review by Courtney Howard)
- Video Interview: Sharlto Copley and ‘HARDCORE HENRY’ filmmakers on the magic of their POV splatterfest
Also available on DVD and streaming: BARBERSHOP: THE NEXT CUT (check out our video interview with Ice Cube and Lamorne Morris here), JACK IRISH (show and movies), THE INVITATION (our review here), THE NEW WORLD (2005): The Criterion Collection, and RIVER (2015).