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
THE PRINCESS BRIDE (1987)
Rated PG, 98 minutes.
Director: Rob Reiner
Cast: Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, Wallace Shawn, André the Giant, Fred Savage and Peter Falk
Available today on Blu-ray and DVD through the Criterion Collection.
THE PRINCESS BRIDE is welcomed into the Criterion Collection just after its 30th anniversary. It’s the classic fantasy movie that taught the true value of friendship, the nature of love and how difficult it is to hold your breath during the “rodents of unusual size” scene.
Rob Reiner’s best film (sorry, STAND BY ME and SPINAL TAP fans) is a marvelous blend of action, suspense, comedy and romance, all inside one unforgettable cinematic package.
The 4K digital restoration of the movie is as razor sharp as Inigo Montoya’s blade. The colors are vibrant and everything is crystal clear. For those of us who grew up with the VHS copies [raises hand], this Criterion is a revelation. It should have seemed obvious that even in the darker moments of the film (like the ending inside the castle or the rodent scene) we were supposed to be able to see what’s going on all around us (and we could), but now we can what is going on in every shadow.
Even though the film is over three decades old, the humor and all the sly jokes are just as stinging as they were when I was a kid. You know you’re watching a timeless movie when you hear Mandy Patinkin’s Inigo Montoya give the “You killed my father. Prepare to die!” speech or Cary Elwes “To the Pain” speech at the film’s close. And now Criterion has given THE PRINCESS BRIDE the happily-ever-after ending it deserves.
Extras: The best thing about this release is that it assembles everything from previous releases (countless interviews, an audio commentary, an audiobook reading of the script, five behind-the-scenes featurettes and a trailer) and puts them on one disc. There aren’t any new special features, other than new programs about William Goldman’s screenplay. But there is an immaculate cover design by Angela Rizza, made to appear like a classic storybook. The clothbound cover has a purple background with a yellow design that features Westley and Buttercup (Robin Wright), while the inside includes an essay by author Sloane Crosley and an introduction to Goldman’s script from his collection and illustrations.
- New 4K digital restoration, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- Audio commentary from 1996 featuring director Rob Reiner, screenwriter William Goldman, producer Andrew Scheinman, and actors Billy Crystal and Peter Falk
- Edited 1987 audiobook reading of Goldman’s novel THE PRINCESS BRIDE by Reiner
- New program about Goldman’s screenplay
- New program about Goldman’s tapestry based on his novel
- Archival interviews with Reiner, Goldman, and actors Crystal, Cary Elwes, Christopher Guest, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Fred Savage and Robin Wright
- New interview with art director Richard Holland
- Programs about makeup, fencing, and fairy tales
- On-set video diary filmed and narrated by Elwes
- Five behind-the-scenes videos with commentaries from 1996 by Reiner, Scheinman, and Crystal
- PLUS: An essay by author Sloane Crosley and, for the Blu-ray edition, Goldman’s introduction to his PRINCESS BRIDE script from his collection Four Screenplays, in a lavishly illustrated, clothbound book
INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956)
Not rated, 80 minutes.
Director: Don Siegel
Cast: Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, Larry Gates, King Donovan, Carolyn Jones, Jean Willes and Virginia Christine
Available today on Blu-ray and DVD through Olive Films.
Note: INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS is currently out of stock on Olive Films’ website; however, there are still copies available through Amazon. Check out Olive Films’ website for other exciting releases.
Though this film has been remade a few times, I stand by the original 1956 film being the most infectious. The idea of an alien race slowly turning the human population into soulless beings is downright scary and fuel for our nightmares. The people you look up to or trust the most could very well be imposters or, as they’re known here, pod people.
There’s a lot of meat on this film’s bone, such as the story being a Cold War allegory (the pod people representing the threat of communism). The multiple analyses and interpretations found on this particular release (from Olive Films) form a profound lesson in storytelling. Filmmakers such as Joe Dante (director of GREMLINS) and Larry Cohen (writer-director of GOD TOLD ME TO) discuss the sense of fear within, while film historians such as Richard Harland Smith and Matthew Bernstein provide their informed thoughts.
INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERSis a stunning release (Olive Films’ cover art and packaging, especially) and a paranoid fantasy worth picking up.
Extras: This cover design is as equally as unique as THE PRINCESS BRIDE’s. The Olive Films release (available for purchase through olivefilms.com) comes with two audio commentaries (one with film historian Richard Harland Smith and the other with two cast members and filmmaker Joe Dante), five featurettes (numerous historians and filmmakers dish about the film’s influence on cinema) a 1985 interview with Kevin McCarthy, a featurette on the film’s location and title, a gallery, an essay and original theatrical trailer.
- New High-Definition digital restoration
- Audio Commentary by film historian Richard Harland Smith
- Audio Commentary by actors Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter, and filmmaker Joe Dante
- “The Stranger in Your Lover’s Eyes” – A two-part visual essay with actor and son of director Don Siegel, Kristoffer Tabori, reading from his father’s book A Siegel Film
- “The Fear is Real” – Filmmakers Larry Cohen and Joe Dante on the film’s cultural significance
- “I No Longer Belong: The Rise and Fall of Walter Wanger” – Film scholar and author Matthew Bernstein discusses the life and career of the film’s producer
- “Sleep No More: Invasion of the Body Snatchers Revisited” – An appreciation of the film featuring actors Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter, along with comments from film directors and fans, John Landis, Mick Garris, and Stuart Gordon
- “The Fear and the Fiction: The Body Snatchers Phenomenon” – Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter, along with film directors John Landis, Mick Garris and Stuart Gordon, discuss the making of the film, its place in history, and its meaning
- 1985 archival interview with Kevin McCarthy hosted by Tom Hatten
- “Return to Santa Mira” – An exploration of the film’s locations
- “What’s In a Name?” – On the film’s title
- Gallery of rare documents detailing aspects of the film’s production including the never-produced opening narration to have been read by Orson Welles
- Essay by author and film programmer Kier-La Janisse
- Original theatrical trailer