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 DVD releases range from the good, the bad and the ugly.
THE HATEFUL EIGHT | 168 min | R
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Demian Bichir, Bruce Dern and Channing Tatum
When it comes to raising hell at the multiplex, no one can do it better than Quentin Tarantino (PULP FICTION). He’s a master of his craft, writing profane poetry that’s hot to the touch. From characters vomiting blood to strange sexual implications, Tarantino never lets his audience out easy. But he can sure take the most uninteresting ideas and turn them into fully layered and complex thrill rides.
THE HATEFUL EIGHT takes Tarantino back to his roots of minimal yet effective filmmaking. Set during a Wyoming blizzard at a frontier way station, a group of bounty hunters, ex-soldiers and mysteriosos (Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson and Jennifer Jason Leigh, among others) shack up for a cold night of deception and betrayal. Bullets are fired, coffee is poisoned and blood is spilt. Who will be the last one standing?
The story is deftly handled by Tarantino and becomes, like many of his films, a genre mash-up (in this case, a mixture of Western, comedy and mystery). At nearly three hours, it’s aptly paced with an undeniable flow across the narrative.
If you can suspend disbelief and roll with the punches, THE HATEFUL EIGHT is a patient firecracker that’s deliciously infectious. It may not sizzle like his previous work, but it’ll have you eager in seat, lost in dialogue and amazed by its ensemble cast.
Extras: A behind-the-scenes look at the “hateful eight” and an informative guide to 70mm film with Jackson. Available also in various digital formats.
As it turns out, hard-hitting sports such as football, where players take repeated blows to the head, can lead to brain damage. Who knew? The NFL surely did when neuropathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith) discovered and documented a degenerative brain disease he dubbed CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). However, the truth may be that the NFL knew about it much earlier. This is the idea director Peter Landesman (KILL THE MESSENGER), a former investigative journalist, touches on.
When it comes to criticizing the NFL, Landesman pulls no punches. Through Smith’s Omalu, he explores the ugly side of fame and the repercussions of going head-to-head in football. It’s a worthwhile discussion of an issue that is crippling the beloved sport. Concussions are still top-of-mind in the NFL and could ultimately lead to its undoing.
“God did not intend for us to play football,” says Omalu. The facts and science behind the film raise important questions that should concern anyone whose child runs the gridiron. It’s a fascinating subject that made for a great Frontline documentary two years ago. However, as a narrative film, CONCUSSION fumbles from an over-the-head, cliched script that detracts from the film’s ultimate implications.
Extras: Feature commentary, deleted scenes, making-of and an “inside the true story” featurette.
Despite how goofy the 1991 film POINT BREAK starring Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze was, it’s still a pretty cool flick. I mean, it’s a movie about a FBI agent who infiltrates a group of criminal surfers. It’s so entertaining in its own ridiculous way that remaking it seems like a case of diminishing returns.
Well, they remade it, and it sucks every ounce of fun out of the story with its bland characters, nonsensical plot and painfully forced bromance between leads Edgar Ramirez (JOY) and Luke Bracey (THE BEST OF ME).
Extras: Deleted scenes and an inside look at the stunts.
Also on DVD and streaming: ARCHER: SEASON 6, BICYCLE THIEVES (Criterion Collection), EXPOSED, FORSAKEN, HERO QUEST, THE HIDDEN FORTRESS (Criterion Collection) and HUMANS (2015).