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 // 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.