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
DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS [Collector’s Edition] (1988)
This 1988 comedy classic is one of my all-time favorites. I never grow tired of watching Sir Michael Caine and Steve Martin trying to one-up each other in a competition of wits. Each of them brings his own unique charm that slaps a big smile on your face and makes you laugh like you’ll never quit. It’s never raunchy and it never goes for cheap laughs; it creates genuine humor that has stood the test of time.
Directed by Frank Oz (you know, the voice of Yoda), DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS centers on two con men (Caine and Martin) who make a deal to settle their rivalry by betting on who can swindle a young woman out of $50,000 first.
Shout Factory (available for preorder through shoutfactory.com/shop) restores the near three-decade-old film and makes it fresh as new paint. The brand-new 2K scan of the film is sharp and looks exquisite if you have a 4K player to upscale it. Shout Factory also provides the film with a fancy cardboard slipcover and reversible cover art for collectors who like to show off their movie collection. The cherries on top are a new interview with the great screenwriter Dale Launer (MY COUSIN VINNY), an audio commentary with Oz, a special featurette and trailers.
Film Grade: A
Video/Audio Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B-
- Mastered from a brand-new 2K scan of the film
- NEW interview with writer Dale Launer
- Audio commentary with director Frank Oz
Twilight Time – Jan. releases
To round off this week of great releases from the cinema vault, one of my favorite classic movie restoration companies is releasing movies of different genres and from different decades. It’ll hit all the different tastes of a household. You have romances, an epic and a Western.
Rated R, 139 minutes.
Director: John Schlesinger
Cast: Richard Gere, Lisa Eichhorn, Vanessa Redgrave, William Devane, Chick Vennera, Wendy Morgan, Rachel Roberts and Tony Melody
Perhaps the title that is most likely to capture your eye, YANKS stars Richard Gere and William Devane as a pair of U.S. soldiers who are stationed in England during World War II. They both begin affairs with British women (Lisa Eichhorn and Vanessa Redgrave); however, later they find out these women already are involved with local men who have left for the front. YANKS is a romantic gem that was unfairly overlooked in its day, but now that Twilight Time has restored it for modern consumption, it deserves another life. Pure joy.
Extras: Available for preorder through twilighttimemovies.com (only 3,000 units available), the film includes an isolated music track (with some effects) and an audio commentary with actor Chick Vennera and film historians Julie Kirgo and the late-and-great Nick Redman.
Not rated, 111 minutes.
Director: Henry King
Cast: Tyrone Power, Susan Hayward, Richard Egan, John Justin, Agnes Moorehead and Rita Moreno
Aiming to be a sprawling romance in the same vein as GONE WITH THE WIND, UNTAMED is trying to do too much of everything and doesn’t provide enough good drama. It reminded me a lot of the 2008 film AUSTRALIA, starring Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman: It looks good and it has its moments when it has the power to move, but really, it’s a dull film that’s wrapped up in pretty packaging. So, if you want to watch something that’ll pop on your home screen, but don’t necessarily want to invest in it completely, here’s your movie. It’s one for laundry folding.
Extras: Available for preorder through twilighttimemovies.com (only 3,000 units available), the film includes an isolated music track and an original theatrical trailer.
BEAT THE DEVIL (1953)
Not rated, 94 minutes.
Director: John Huston
Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Jennifer Jones, Gina Lollobrigida, Robert Morley and Peter Lorre
Humphrey Bogart leads a terrific cast in this black-and-white stunner about a group of tricksters who are out to covertly purchase African lands that are rich with uranium. However, this movie is not pure deceit. It has its romantic moments and quite a few funny ones. Anchored by performances from bombshell Gina Lollobrigida, Jennifer Jones and Marco Tulli, among many notable others, BEAT THE DEVIL is a wickedly entertaining flick that is worthy of repeat viewings.
Extras: Available for preorder through twilighttimemovies.com (only 3,000 units available), the film includes an audio commentary with film historians Lem Dobbs, Julie Kirgo, and Nick Redman; Alexander Cockburn ‘Beat the Devil’; and an original theatrical trailer.
THE RETURN OF FRANK JAMES (1940)
Not rated, 93 minutes.
Director: Fritz Lang
Cast: Henry Fonda, Gene Tierney, Jackie Cooper, Henry Hull, John Carradine, J. Edward Bromberg and Donald Meek
More of a fun Western than a lesson in history, THE RETURN OF FRANK JAMES is a bang-up good revenge tale. Starring Henry Fonda, Gene Tierney and Jackie Cooper, the movie is about its titular character getting revenge on the Ford brothers for their cowardly killing of his brother Jesse. Its depiction of the railroad industry and the age of carpetbaggers are fascinating, and its photography in Technicolor leaves one’s jaw on the floor.
Extras: Available for preorder through twilighttimemovies.com (only 3,000 units available), the film includes doesn’t include any features.
Also available this week: 10 TO MIDNIGHT (1983, a Shout Factory release); 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS AND 2 DAYS (2007, a Criterion Collection release); BEST F(R)IENDS: VOLUME 1 + 2; COBRA (1986, a Shout Factory release); THE HATE U GIVE; JOHNNY ENGLISH STRIKES AGAIN; and MIKEY AND NICKY (1976, a Criterion Collection release).
PRESTON BARTA is a member of the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @PrestonBarta.