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 // Editor
ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY
Rated PG-13, 133 min.
Director: Gareth Edwards
Cast: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, Ben Mendelsohn, Forest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelsen and Jimmy Smits
After the travesty of the PHANTOM MENACE and the other two child-pandering, politically heavy prequels in the STAR WARS saga, it’s understandable to be a little worried about any new additions. But if the latest films in the STAR WARS franchise have taught us anything, it’s that good ones can still be made.
In ROGUE ONE — set just before the events of 1977’s A NEW HOPE — we follow a wayward band of Rebel fighters (Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen and Wen Jiang) who convene to carry out a daring mission: to steal the plans for the Death Star before it is used to enforce the Imperial reign and destroy all that is good in the galaxy.
In all, there are things ROGUE ONE misses (that sense of adventure and lovable characters all around), but there’s a whole lot more it hits right on target. The pace may be more slow-cooked and its tone may be bleaker than we’re used to, but the film’s nostalgic images, Michael Giacchino’s vigorous musical score and director Gareth Edwards’ impressive action set-pieces (especially one involving Darth Vader, which will go down as one of the saga’s most iconic scenes) make the force strong with this one.
Extras: Sadly, there’s not a commentary track for the film. However, signs point toward the possibility of re-release down the line, like Lucasfilm did with THE FORCE AWAKENS. For now, there’s still plenty to admire: an hourlong behind-the-scenes that gives in-depth character analysis and a slew of featurettes that showcase the film’s Easter eggs.
- Movie Review: ‘ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY’ – Rebels with a cause (by Preston Barta)
- 12 fundamental fun facts learned at the ROGUE ONE press conference (by Courtney Howard)
- Why ROGUE ONE’s Orson Krennic rules and Jyn Erso drools (by Courtney Howard)
OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY
Rated R, 105 minutes.
Director: Josh Gordon and Will Speck
Cast: Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, T.J. Miller, Jennifer Aniston, Kate McKinnon, Courtney B. Vance, Jillian Bell, Rob Corddry, Vanessa Bayer, Randall Park, Sam Richardson, Karan Soni and Fortune Feimster
Jennifer Aniston plays Carol Vanstone, the CEO of a data storage company called Zenotek. Her hard-partying brother, Clay (a very funny T.J. Miller), runs a branch in Chicago. But because their numbers are down, Carol is threatening to shut down the branch, unless Clay and his chief technical officer (Jason Bateman) impress a potential client (Courtney B. Vance) with an office party and close the sale to save all of their butts.
OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY may not be the laugh-a-minute holiday comedy that the trailers sell it as, but it’s the kind of movie you might play in the background in the company of friends, while you cook dinner and have conversation, to occasionally tune in for the good chuckles.
Extras: Includes the unrated and theatrical cut, a commentary with the directors, outtakes, behind the scenes and deleted scenes.
- Movie Review: ‘OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY’ comes bearing gifts and lumps of coal (by Jared McMillan)
The film’s DVD art makes it seem like a dark comedy much like LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE. While there are plenty of moments that are both dark and funny, this is a classic case of an original premise (a 79-year-old father wants to take a road trip to Oregon to be legally euthanized) loaded with detours.
There are some good themes within and touching moments with its star-studded cast (Frank Langella, Billy Crudup and Christina Applegate), but it runs out of gas far too quickly.
There are many recognizable names in this thriller, including the late Anton Yelchin (who is very good here in one of his last performances), but its unconventional structure and twisty nature twist too far. Perhaps it’s best that its story of a dysfunctional family with secrets be kept a secret itself.
Also available this week: DON’T KILL IT, PATERSON (James Cole Clay’s review) and WE GO ON.