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
Lately I’ve been really getting into Jean-Claude Van Damme movies. They were a little before my time, but with BLACK EAGLE, CYBORG and LIONHEART all receiving collector’s editions this year, I’ve been having a blast kicking it with JCVD.
The MVD Rewind Collection delivers another knockout release with 1990’s LIONHEART. Co-written by Van Damme, the film centers on a French Foreign Legion deserter (Van Damme) who’s trying to get home to his seriously injured brother. Along the way, Van Damme’s character joins an underground fighting circuit to raise the money he needs to help out his brother’s family.
LIONHEART is very much of its time, with goofy dialogue and sound effects that sound like they were recorded in a tin can. But it’s difficult to complain when Van Damme is roundhousing a dude bloody and unconscious. While it may not pack the brains, it has a beating heart that will pick a battle with your emotions.
(Also listen to my review of the film on my genre podcast, My Bloody Podcast – Ep. 10.)
Extras: The MVD Rewind Collection release (available today through mvdshop.com) comes with a one-of-a-kind retro slipcover, an extended cut of the film (110 minutes), an audio commentary, a 48-minute inside story (featuring interviews with the stars and filmmakers), a 26-minute documentary, a special on the fights, archival interviews, TV clips, an original trailer, photo gallery and collectible mini poster.
Based on the novella by Adelaida Garcia Morales, 1983’s EL SUR is a tender Spanish-language film about the young Estrella (Sonsoles Aranguren at 8 and Iciar Bollain at 15) who lives in awe of her mysterious and magical father, played with sincerity by Omero Antonutti. What starts as mere intrigue grows to obsession when Estrella discovers her father has a secret.
From a visual, writing and acting standpoint, this new Criterion Collection release is captivating. We become as absorbed in the story as the characters themselves. It’s one of those rare gems that has imagery that never leaves your mind — such as a simple scene of a father and his daughter sitting across from each other at an old cafe while listening to pasodoble music from a nearby wedding, bringing up memories of simpler times.
Extras: The Criterion Collection release includes archival interviews, an hourlong episode of a show in which film critics discuss the film, and an essay by novelist and critic Elvira Lindo with a new edition of the novella the film is based on.
I’m as sick of seeing zombie movies as the next person. But sometimes you will get one that doesn’t eat its own brains and has more cooking than the undead chasing after poor humans.
Scream Factory is releasing THE CURED, one of the most innovative features about the subject yet. Starring Ellen Page, the story is set after an epidemic has happened and a cure has healed most of the world’s population. Where it gets fascinating is when we learn that all the previously-infected can remember what they did when they were feasting on human flesh.
The transition back into human life after a zombie apocalypse hasn’t been done before, and its creativity doesn’t stop in the plot description. It also deals with themes of a divided nation, rebellion and trust. It’s a sly wonder of a film.
Extras: Available through shoutfactory.com/shop, the release includes a behind-the-scene featurette and a theatrical trailer.