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 weather’s getting slightly cooler, pumpkin spice is in lattes, and fall movies are populating theaters and home televisions. And this weekend has plenty of movie options for you to take in the season, including an Oscar Isaac card-playing flick and a new creep show from James Wan. But if you’re looking for a slice of drama punched up the fun energy of song and dance, there are two musicals to get your toes tapping. So, whether you want to twirl around your living room or bounce up and down in a theater seat, here are two delights to get your weekend started with a smile.
COME FROM AWAY
TV-14, 106 minutes.
Director: Christopher Ashley
Cast: Petrina Bromley, Jenn Colella, De’Lon Grant, Joel Hatch, Tony LePage, Caesar Samayoa, Q. Smith, Astrid Van Wieren, Emily Walton, Jim Walton, Sharon Wheatley and Paul Whitty
Commemorating the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and filmed live before an audience of survivors and first responders is the dazzling, funny and absolutely heartfelt COME FROM AWAY.
The award-winning Broadway show is a bittersweet telling of the 7,000 passengers who landed in the small town of Gander, Newfoundland, after all flights were grounded on September 11, 2001. As the townsfolk graciously welcomed the “come from aways” into their community in the aftermath, the passengers and locals came together to process what happened while finding love, laughter and hope in the unlikely and lasting bonds they forged.
Directed with class by Christopher Ashley and shot with visual splendor by Tobias A. Schliessler (2017’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST), COME FROM AWAY is a full bottle of lighting that preserves the stage musical’s lavish production. The catchy tunes, clever storytelling and astounding performances (portrayed by talents who take on multiple parts) are simply a treat.
As record scratching as it may sound to filter the events of 9/11 through a musical packed with comedy, there’s a delicate balance pulled off here by writers and composers Irene Sankoff and David Hein. The comedy isn’t delivered in a fashion that feels inappropriate or distasteful. Instead, the story makes the right dramatic and comedic pivots without losing control of its tone. As a result, you’ll laugh yourself red at characters making a fuss over food and misreading each other, and you’ll feel your heart grow heavier during scenes of family phone calls and selfless human acts.
With this recorded musical, you get a front-row seat that allows you to witness every micro-expression, quivering lip and bead of sweat. It’s clear a lot of hard work and thought went into this production, and you’ll soak up every ounce of its well-polished complexity. Sometimes good people work together under unprecedented circumstances, and it’s during those times you can witness true miracles, like love, friendship and hope blossom. COME FROM AWAY is a warm reminder of that.
Now available to stream exclusively on Apple TV+.
Our interview with ‘COME FROM AWAY’ writers and composers Irene Sankoff & David Hein:
EVERYBODY’S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE
Rated PG-13, 115 minutes.
Director: Jonathan Butterell
Cast: Max Harwood, Lauren Patel, Richard E. Grant, Sharon Horgan, Sarah Lancashire, Shobna Gulati, Samuel Bottomley, and Ralph Ineson
EVERYBODY’S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE, the film adaptation of the popular West End musical, crackles with an innovative vitality all on its own. It makes narrative leaps that are as joyful as they are tuneful. You’ll adore its huggable characters and feel your eyes widen in amazement over its dance numbers. Look out for a black-and-white sequence and a trip through a character’s memory to strike your fancy and tug at your heartstrings.
Inspired by a 2011 BBC documentary, this journey follows Jamie New (an excellent Max Harwood), a Sheffield teen with big dreams of being a drag queen. With the help of his mother (Sarah Lancashire), best friend (Lauren Patel) and a local drag-shop owner (a terrific Richard E. Grant), perhaps everyone will be talking about Jamie.
While the story may not be the freshest narrative on the street (even though it’s based on truth), the character beats, musical swings, and the mother-child relationship at its center all give it some flair. The production design and lighting are the biggest takeaways.
So, expect it to charm you, fill you with courage, and make you want to have meaningful talks with your loved ones and friends.
Now playing in select theaters. Available September 17 to stream on Amazon Prime Video.