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
This week for home viewing, we’ve got Michael Bay crushing dreams again (TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES), another dystopian young adult novel adaptation (THE MAZE RUNNER), Woody Allen’s latest ‘wtf’ film (MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT), and a couple of dramedies about dysfunctional families (THE SKELTON TWINS, THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU). But the only ones worth a damn are as follows:
Based on the best-selling young adult novel of the same name, THE MAZE RUNNER is the latest, and one of the largest adaptations to arrive in cinemas yet. Inevitably comparable to the likes of THE HUNGER GAMES and/or any other young adult adapted series, it’s in fairly good chances to be the next big franchise, and deservedly so.
Much like THE LORD OF THE FLIES or an episode of LOST, we are much a part of the journey as the characters are, as the film opens with a young man (Dylan O’Brien) waking up in an elevator that goes to the surface of an enclosed area (“the glade”) filled with 60 other teen boys. How did he get there? Why is he there? The answers will come, once they see a path out of the labyrinth that surrounds them.
As far as adaptations of young adult series go, THE MAZE RUNNER may be one of the finest first installments out of the gate. Director Wes Ball keeps things engaging and the pace at full tilt. So you should not walk away dissatisfied.
Our interview with Dylan O’Brien, Will Poulter and Kaya Scodelario:
The Blu-ray Combo Pack extras will include:
- 24-Page Prequel Comic Book
- Deleted Scenes with Commentary from Wes Ball
- Navigating The Maze: The Making of THE MAZE RUNNER – A Five Part Documentary that includes: The Maze is Born, Creating the World, Finding the Gang, The Movie Inside the Maze, and The Digital Details
- The “Chuck Diaries”
- Gag Reel
- Visual Effects Reels
- Ruin – Wes Ball Short Film in 2D and 3D with Commentary from Wes Ball
- Audio Commentary by Wes Ball and T.S. Nowlin
It is difficult to make a movie that can go from laughter to the depths of anguish and remain entertaining or even believable, but THE SKELETON TWINS manages it very well. This is greatly due to the spark that is generated by the pairing of Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig.
The film tells of two estranged twins (Wiig and Hader) who reunite to mend their relationship after coincidentally cheating death on the same day.
When you think about SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE veterans Hader (SUPERBAD) and Wiig (BRIDESMAIDS) teaming up for a movie, a realistic and hard-hitting drama seems far away from what you would expect. However, thankfully THE SKELETON TWINS is distant from their usual schtick, because it’s one of the finest films of the year.
Hader gives his best performance as a gay wannabe actor named Milo. Even though, Hader’s flamboyantly gay Stefon was a favorite on SNL, do not expect a stereotype with Milo. Hader makes Milo human and not a joke.
Wiig also showcases a first-rate performance as Milo’s twin, Maggie, who has stayed in the small town where they grew up. Maggie is a flawed character, and both her and Milo are scarred by their unsmiling childhood. But how they eventually come to depend on each other is a striking aspect, and one of the reasons why you should not miss this film. It’s movie therapy.
The Blu-ray and DVD Combo Pack extras will include:
- Gag Reel
- Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Craig Johnson
- To Whom It May Concern: Making THE SKELETON TWINS featurette
- Sweet Moves featurette
- Audio Feature Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Craig Johnson, Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader
- Audio Feature Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Craig Johnson, Co-Writer Mark Heyman and
Producer/Editor Jennifer Lee
THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU | 103 min. | Rated R | Director: Shawn Levy | Stars: Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, Corey Stoll, Kathryn Hahn, Connie Britton, Timothy Olyphant and Dax Shepard
An all-star cast is usually the harbinger of a doomed movie, but Shawn Levy’s film adaptation of Jonathan Tropper’s novel, THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU is one of the few exceptions. While it is full of tropes and you know exactly where it is heading, the impressive cast and the storyline are just irresistible and lovely.
THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU chronicles the foibles of the dysfunctional Altman family, forced to spend a week together following the death of the family patriarch.
Yeah, this film is hastily constructed and leaves us with questions about the family’s relationship with their deceased father. However, there are many points in the film that really hit home. For instance, in one great scene, Kathyrn Hahn, who play’s the wife of one of Altman sibilings (Corey Stoll), is frustrated that she cannot have a child with her husband. She’s been desperately trying everything that she can, and you can see that it is taking a toll on her. But in the scene, she apologizes for sneaking down to the basement to fool around with her husband’s brother (Jason Bateman), who she used to date, due to her inability to get pregnant. But Bateman’s character explains how much easier it is to have a baby than to find a love as strong as the one she has. It is moments such as this that really rise above the film’s contrived scenes.
There are so many takeaways and bits throughout this movie that it is tough to be cynical, like most critics have been towards this movie. Like THE FAMILY STONE or HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, you need movies like this, as they warm your heart and remind you just how important family is, as well as your time with them.
The Blu-ray and DVD Combo Pack extras will include:
- The Gospel According To Rabbi Boner
- Points Of Departure
- Deleted Scene
- The Narrative Voice