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
The ‘70s had a number of groundbreaking shows. It’s when television really pushed the limits of what could be shown. Series like All in the Family and The Jeffersons changed the game by including social commentary in between roars of laughter.
The Love Boat (1977-87) was a different, lighter kind of show. It was an hour-long dramatic sitcom with an added laugh track that featured storylines that most of the time didn’t even involve the regular cast members. Think of an anthology series but with a few captains, if you will, to keep the guest stars in line while they play check-yes-or-no around the deck.
Watching it now — in particular, its 27-episode third season — is just fun fluff, where viewers can experience the pristine aspects of being on a cruise ship. Every day is sun-drenched, sunsets are frame-worthy and every night is a clear sky full of stars. Love is always in the air.
The stories in Season 3, like all episodes in the series, are simple and, for the most part, uplifting. The big drawback of them, however, is each episode is as dramatic as a moody teenager. Plus, they’re pretty repetitive to boot. So if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.
Extras: The Love Boat’s third season is sold in two volumes. They include special features such as “Home and Family: Come Aboard” as well as promotional footage for select episodes throughout the season.
In October, CBS released a special colorized version of I Love Lucy on DVD for children of all ages to appreciate with an all-new vintage look. Now the second Superstar Special is hitting store shelves.
The two-parter follows Lucy and her friends, Ethel and Fred Mertz (Vivian Vance and William Frawley), as they stumble upon a loose cement slab with John Wayne’s bootprints and signature on it. After they take it home and soon find themselves waist deep in trouble, they go through a series of comedic errors that involve getting the Duke to replicate the original slab.
These episodes are not quite the laugh-a-minute material we saw in the first Superstar Special. Nor does it have the best coloring (nighttime still looks like daytime and police officers’ blue uniforms look like turtlenecks in color). Despite its faults, it still features the great, timeless situational humor the show has always showcased.
Extras: Includes both the colorized and original black-and-white versions of the episodes.
One thing that is great about January for active movie watchers is it allows us to cleanse our palates with the occasional good trash. After you watch so many depressing award-worthy titles, there’s nothing quite like shutting your brain off and giggling at absurdity.
Thankfully, Keeping Up with the Joneses is just what the doctor ordered: It contains a non-complex plot about a suburban family getting caught up with their international spy neighbors, a handful of stars (Zach Galifianakis, Isla Fisher, Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot) and enough one-liners to keep you grinning from ear to ear.
Extras: Deleted scenes, a photo gallery, “Spy Game” (a behind-the-scenes with interviews) and “Keeping Up with Georgia” (a promotional piece on Atlanta).
Based on Paula Hawkins’ immensely popular novel, this mystery has all the parts needed to be a true nail-biter: It has a super-focused plot centered on an alcoholic train passenger (a captivating Emily Blunt) who fantasizes about a couple (Haley Bennett and Luke Evans) she has spent years watching. Unfortunately, this action gets her caught in a web surrounding the disappearance of one of them.
The performances are worthy of note — as each actor gives it their all — but Tate Taylor’s direction goes off the rails, robbing the narrative of its true impact.
Extras: An audio commentary with Tate Taylor, deleted and extended scenes, and two featurettes (“The Woman Behind the Girl” and “On Board the Train”).
Also available on DVD and streaming: 12 Monkeys: Season 2, Come and Find Me, Death Race 2050, Fox and His Friends (1975): Criterion Collection, The Hollow Point, Long Way North, Resident Evil franchise re-releases, Ouija: Origin of Evil (our review here), Something Wild (1961): Criterion Collection, Train to Busan, and The Whole Truth.