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
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2
Before we were introduced to our intrepid quintet of misfits three summers ago, many were certain GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY would fail. The premise was certainly far-fetched: A gun-toting raccoon, a dancing tree, a likable human man-child, an oblivious muscleman and a scrappy green warrior face off against a mad blue alien who wants a powerful stone to do bad things.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY was an astonishing achievement. However, what happens when you remove the element of surprise, desperately attempt to recapture the charm of the original and crank the absurdity level up to near distortion?
You arrive at GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2.
Director James Gunn’s second venture into space features the motley crew ― Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (David Bautista), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) ― seeking out the agenda of Ego (Kurt Russell), a charismatic godlike figure that claims to be Quill’s father.
While supplied with more stellar visuals juxtaposed with fun dad-rock tunes, VOL. 2 suffers from many of the same issues as sequels tend to do these days: over familiarity, a lack of urgency and foolish antics. Gunn simultaneously does too much and too little, resulting in one of the least impressive sequels to come out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Extras: The Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Home Entertainment release includes a four-part making-of, a director’s intro, “Guardians Inferno Music Video” (featuring David Hasselhoff), a lackluster gag reel (it’s cut to be funny, but not much is), four deleted scenes and an audio commentary with Gunn.
SID & NANCY [The Criterion Collection]
With the number of biopics out there about musicians who lose their grip on life, it’s difficult to tune in for them all. As much as we may love a particular artist’s music and fashion choices, there’s a delicate balance needed while delving into this genre.
1986’s SID & NANCY enters the Criterion Collection on Tuesday, and it may more difficult to get through than you may remember. It centers on the relationship between Sid Vicious (Gary Oldman), the bassist for the British punk group the Sex Pistols, and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen (Chloe Webb), all before their love ends in bloodshed.
Extras: The Criterion Collection release includes two audio commentaries (one from 1994 and another from 2001), a 2016 interview with writer-director Alex Cox, a 1987 documentary about the making of the film (“England’s Glory”), several different interviews (with the Sex Pistols, Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen) in different formats, excerpts from documentaries about the talent and the punk rock scene, and an essay about the making of the film.
WHALE RIDER [15th Anniversary Edition]
Rated PG-13, 101 minutes.
Director: Niki Caro
Cast: Keisha Castle-Hughes, Rawiri Paratene, Vicky Haughton, Cliff Curtis and Rachel House
Available Tuesday on Blu-ray and DVD exclusively through shoutfactory.com.
This was the film that sparked the careers of filmmaker Niki Caro (THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE) and star Keisha Castle-Hughes (GAME OF THRONES). Their film, the endearing WHALE RIDER, landed in theaters 15 years ago. It tells the touching story of an 11-year-old Maori girl (Castle-Hughes) who longs to become the chief of her people, but her grandfather (Rawiri Paratene) refuses to recognize her destiny.
Thanks to Shout Factory’s Shout Select series, this deeply moving title will have new life in the Blu-ray format. It’s a film for all ages to enjoy. It has such an universal appeal that families will appreciate. The positive way in which it portrays a society and its people warms your heart.
Extras: The Shout Select release includes a director’s commentary, “Te Waka: Building the Canoe” featurette, a behind-the-scenes look at the film, deleted scenes with optional commentary, poster art, a photo gallery and digital code of the film.
Also available this week: ASH VS. EVIL DEAD: Season 2, BLUE BLOODS: SEASON 7, BROOKLYN NINE-NINE: SEASON 4, DAREDEVIL: SEASON 2, JESSICA JONES: SEASON 1, KILL SWITCH, LA POISON (1951): The Criterion Collection, LUCIFER: SEASON 2, NCIS: LOS ANGELES – SEASON 8, SUPERGIRL: SEASON 2 and THE WALKING DEAD: SEASON 7.