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 space odyssey about a man left for dead and fighting for survival, a psychological experiment that pushes one to their limits, and some good (not so good) scares.
After over a half century of movie making, Woody Allen is still holding true to his one picture per year quota that has gone on as far as the early 80s. Even though Allen has been under fire from the shame culture that affects our society, he still remains one of the great minds and provocateurs in cinema today. Being able to separate art from life is impossible as art is influenced by life, and to me that is why his latest IRRATIONAL MAN succeeds as one of his stranger entries in recent memory.
IRRATIONAL MAN calls back to some of Allen’s better and more thought provoking films, such as CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS or MATCH POINT. It has the alchemy of his earlier work. Even though the characters are uneven at times, especially Stone who is a fine actor in her own right, Allen’s dialogue is a bit sticky when it comes from her.
It’s funny when you talk about a Woody Allen picture. We always find ourselves comparing it to his halcyon years as a filmmaker. Allen has never cared about reviews, which in a way makes his work either that much more romantic or cynical, but that just depends on which side of the coin you land.
IRRATIONAL MAN is a complex film that deserves to be seen by any Allen fan. And suffice to say, Phoenix meshes well with the material. While it’s difficult to get inside Phoenix’s character’s head and understand his internal arguments, that makes this jaunt all the more engrossing (read our full review here).
– James Cole Clay
Extra Features: N/A
This Matt Damon-starring space epic is about an astronaut who is left behind and forced to survive on the isolated planet of Mars with limited supplies.
From a technical standpoint, THE MARTIAN is a marvel of scientific accuracy. From the shockingly realistic spacecraft Hermes, to equipment that looks half-a-step away from functional, to (I kid you not) actual hexadecimal coding on the computer screens, Scott (GLADIATOR) has single-handedly fended off a whole host of the worst Hollywood sci-fi clichés. Instead, the film delivers an accessible, relatable story that does the precise opposite of insulting your intelligence.
THE MARTIAN features a healthy mixture of the new and the old from other movies about realistic space travel. The grandiose visuals and sense of immense challenge from INTERSTELLAR comingle with the unbeatable sense of optimism in the face of adversity from the classic APOLLO 13. Space is hard, THE MARTIAN says, but it is worth the effort and humanity is up for the challenge (read our full review here).
– Teddy Yan
- Signal Acquired: Writing and Direction
- Occupy Mars: Casting and Costumes
- 5 Theatrical In-World Pieces:
- Ares III: Farewell
- The Right Stuff
- Ares: Our Greatest Adventure
- Leave Your Mark
- Bring Him Home
- Ares III: Refocused
- Gag Reel
- Production Gallery
Hacking and technological scares are not new to the world of television and film. It’s a subject that has been covered countless times. However, how computers and technology are depicted in the two mediums remains a problem. Most shows completely overstate the capabilities, or they’re just plain irrational. Very rarely is it ever taken remotely serious. Enter MR. ROBOT, USA Networks’ now Golden Globe-winning series that hits all the right keystrokes.
Inviting audiences to journey down the cyber rabbit hole, we follow a cyber-security engineer named Elliot (an excellent Rami Malek) who spends his nights hacking into people’s personal accounts, exposing their hidden crimes. He’s like the Robin Hood of the Internet, and you’ll see how much truth is in that statement as the show progresses.
There’s something strikingly magnetic about MR. ROBOT: It immerses you into a mood and atmosphere without feeling the need to ground that mood in anything but itself, and it looks great doing it in the process (especially with its gorgeous cinematography and pulsing music throughout). The aesthetics are well balanced by the engaging performances and poetic, Aaron Sorkin-like dialogue from creator/executive producer Sam Esmail.
MR. ROBOT is a great new show for audiences to eat up in a post-BREAKING BAD world. Esmail crafts a thriller that presents hacking in a non-ridiculous manner. And after the greatness of this season, let’s see what more comes from his genius pen.
– Preston Barta
- Deleted Scenes
- Gag Reel
The final chapter in the low-budget jumpscare franchise, THE GHOST DIMENSION, adds nothing new to the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY series. In fact, the best thing about it is it’s over and it finished what it set out to do.
The first three parts of franchise were not too bad, with the first chapter, obviously, being the best, mainly due to the fact that it took us by surprise and showed us that good films can be made on a dime and they don’t need star power. Simple is effective.
The biggest problem with the latter half of the franchise is it tries to do too much. What started as an uncomplicated story of ghosts and demon-latching turned to a whirlwind of witches, cults and time jumping. It really is something out of AMERICAN HORROR STORY, where it’s merely a melting pot of horror sub-genres.
THE GHOST DIMENSION stirs all these elements up but doesn’t know when to take it out of the oven, and let’s just say, it should have been long ago.
– Preston Barta
Extra Features: N/A
More often than not, these sequels are meant to expand on the cinematic universe through either a hero or villain, and/or see if it can be made into a franchise commodity. When SINISTER came on the scene in 2012, it provided something with promise. It had a new take on the Boogeyman villain and pushed the “creepy kid” horror trope to dark places by making the children actual killers. Also, it incorporated the use of Super 8 film as the portal to which Mr. Boogie, or Bughuul, could corrupt his prey, giving the film subtext with an angle of the media corrupting our children.
Could SINISTER 2 maintain the intrigue of its predecessor, especially when focusing on an entirely new family unit? Well, much like how the movie mixes its narratives, my emotions were mixed after seeing it. And I was slightly disappointed at a missed marketing opportunity of SINISTER 2: ELECTRIC BUGHUULOO, but I digress (read our full review here).
– Jared McMillan
- Deleted Scenes
- Time to Watch Another: The Making of SINISTER 2
- Feature Commentary with Director Ciarán Foy
- Blu-ray Exclusive: Extended Kill Films
Perhaps you remember reading about the Stanford Prison Experiment that happened in 1971, in which some student volunteers played the role of prisoners and others acted as guards. It was a one of the most famous social-science experiments in history. Designed to last two weeks, things got ugly, and quick.
The rest is history, and for you to see in this tightly-wound thriller that is equal parts horrifying and captivating. Director Kyle Patrick Alvarez (view our interview Alvarez here) goes above and beyond what most filmmakers would go with the material. It so easily could have veered off into melodramatic ground, but Alvarez keeps this story as twisted as it really was, where guards pushed aside their morals and took advantage of their power.
Not everyone will be able to stomach THE STANFORD PRISON EXPERIMENT. If, however, you are a fan of the cautionary tales of history or faithfully adapted stories and want to see a horrifyingly true story from our own backyard, then you’ll benefit from seeing this remarkable film. It’ll crawl up your skin and leave you with a lot to talk and think about (read our full review here).
– Preston Barta
Extra Features: N/A
Also available for home viewing:
- CONTRACTED: PHASE II
- HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2
- MEMORIES OF THE SWORD
- THE LOOK OF SILENCE
- SHERLOCK: THE ABOMINABLE BRIDE