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 // Features Editor
GHOST IN THE SHELL
Rated PG-13, 106 minutes.
Director: Rupert Sanders
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Juliet Binoche, Michael Pitt, Takeshi Kitano and Pilou Asbæk
Available Tuesday on Blu-ray, DVD, 4K Ultra HD and Digital HD.
Based on the popular ’80s manga, GHOST IN THE SHELL is set in a futuristic world where cybernetic technology has made it possible to take one’s consciousness and place it into an entirely new body. Though it’s a common concept explored in titles involving artificial intelligence, this story goes further by pushing the notion of people being vulnerable to being hijacked and implanted with false memories. Not to mention humans’ appetite for replacing their organs with bionic body parts to intensify their way of life.
Scarlett Johansson plays Major, a cyber-enhanced human soul devoted to an elite task force that takes down the most dangerous criminals. Her skills are put to the ultimate test when terrorism reaches new heights and a mysterious cyborg (a very good Michael Pitt) begins to hack into people’s minds to control them. But as she prepares to face this new enemy, the truth of her past slowly unravels.
All of these plot points are fascinating to watch unfold, especially in a big-budget property that can afford the computer-generated effects to back up its engaging ideals. But GHOST IN THE SHELL is a visual wonder with an identity crisis. Fans of the source material will appreciate its attempt to capture the deep-rooted cult appeal, but newbies may find more nuts than bolts.
Extras: The Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment Blu-ray combo pack includes a making-of and two special featurettes (“Section 9: Cyber Defenders” and “Man & Machine: The Ghost Philosophy”).
LOST IN AMERICA (1985)
Rated R, 91 minutes.
Director: Albert Brooks
Cast: Albert Brooks, Julie Hagerty, Garry Marshall, Michael Greene, Charles Boswell and Maggie Roswell
Available Tuesday on Blu-ray and DVD through the Criterion Collection.
Road trip films make up a well-traveled subgenre. Then again, there’s nothing quite like watching a movie about individuals who are fed up with their 9-to-5 jobs and hit the road in search of themselves, which is practically what happens in the hysterical Albert Brooks-directed LOST IN AMERICA.
In the newly restored Criterion Collection release of the 1985 film, Brooks and Julie Hagerty (AIRPLANE!) play a married couple in their 30s who quit their jobs to go cross country a la Easy Rider. But instead of riding a pair of motorcycles, they venture through the states in a Winnebago.
Take Brooks’ quick wit and knack for situational comedy, add Hagerty’s gentle heart and charm, and you arrive at a lovable destination. Not to mention that LOST IN AMERICA also showcases the best scene of someone getting fired and quitting their job at the same time.
Extras: The Criterion Collection release includes new conversations with Brooks and filmmaker Robert Weide (CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM); new interviews with Hagerty, executive producer Herb Nanas and filmmaker and screenwriter James L. Brooks; a trailer; and an essay by critic Scott Tobias.
Also available this week: BATMAN: MASK OF THE PHANTASM, BLACK BUTTERFLY, THE BOSS BABY, THE FINAL MASTER, GIFTED and UNFORGETTABLE.