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
While we may post about movies like CAROL, which is opening in New York and Los Angeles today, here are some good titles that are available to watch on the big screen in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex.
Whether judged by tissues used or pulses quickened, we love a good romance movie, especially when they burn their ways into our hearts like BROOKLYN does. Set in 1950s New York, a young Irish immigrant (Saoirse Ronan) falls for a strapping Italian plumber (an excellent Emory Cohen), but later confronts temptation from another man (Domhnall Gleeson) when she returns to her homeland for a visit. While classic in its storytelling, this film is simply adorable and a perfect date movie.
– Preston Barta
Playing at the Landmark Magnolia and Angelika Plano.
Marriage isn’t all sunshine, rainbows and champagne. Besides marital bliss, it can also filled with struggle, jealousy and heartache. Writer-director-star Angelina Jolie Pitt spotlights the two alternating sides in BY THE SEA. It may not be reflective of everyone’s marital disenchantments, but it understands the ebbs and flows of the changing tide of love within a marriage. And, just like marriage, it can be brutal and punishing.
– Courtney Howard
Playing at Angelika Dallas and Cinemark West Plano.
Character actor Jackie Earle Haley has made some interesting career choices, such as donning the frightening sweater of Freddie Kruger in 2010’s remake of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, but perhaps his most interesting one thus far is trying his hand in directing– and what a great move it is. CRIMINAL ACTIVITIES assembles a talented cast in a story about a group of men who make a dangerous investment that puts them in deep with the mob. Resembling Quentin Tarantino in his prime, the film acts like the opening scene of PULP FICTION, and it does so with much style and wit.
Playing at AMC Grapevine Mills.
Every now and then, it’s a good feeling to go into a movie blind, not knowing any detail or criticisms, and finding a gem. Such is the case with EXPERIMENTER, a story revolving around the social psychologist Stanley Milgram (Peter Sarsgaard) and his obedience experiments. The purpose was to figure out why people would obey someone, even though it went against their moral fiber. The film is very focused on the science and motive above all else, mirroring the mentality of its protagonist. Anchored by a terrific performance from Sarsgaard, fast-paced dialogue, and some brave direction by Michael Almereyda, and you have one of the best surprises of the year.
– Jared McMillan
Playing at the Fort Worth Museum of Modern Art.
If you favored the gladiatorial action of the first two HUNGER GAMES and disliked MOCKINGJAY – PART 1 for its lack thereof, the odds are you might not appreciate PART 2‘s politically-charged human drama and grim tone. While PART 2 may weigh more heavily on the side of smart than entertaining — aside from a frighteningly tasty tunnel sequence — it largely improves on PART 1 and competes to be one of the better installments in the series.
Sometimes the families we choose are as essential as the ones we’re born into. The bond between friends requires constant binding and a renewal in ways blood doesn’t— a notion brought upon by THE NIGHT BEFORE. This gift-wrapped raunchfest brings together Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen and Anthony Mackie for a hunt for the world’s best Christmas party. Through a night of drugs and debauchery, this trippy ode is a stocking stuffer filled with laughs and smiles to cherish.
Rom-coms are a hard sale when it comes to gentlemen, but like the title suggests, it’s time to man up and watch MAN UP, a surprisingly great little movie that could. After a woman (a terrific Lake Bell) is mistaken for a blind date partner due to a mix up at a railway stations, she goes along with it and perhaps finds her perfect boyfriend (Simon Pegg). This is a very British style of comedy, chock full of wacky and likable characters. And yes, while it may be a cliché-ridden tale, it’ll leave you with a smile as big as the film’s heart.
Playing at AMC Mesquite.
There’s nothing better than a good thriller, something that strings you along until the final moments give the audience as much respite as the main character(s). SECRET IN THEIR EYES shoots for that same kind of payoff, but is somewhat benign prior to the third act. The narrative revolves around three former colleagues, Ray (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Jess (Julia Roberts), and Claire (Nicole Kidman) as they try to solve a 13-yr old cold case. Distracted by a would-be romance between Ray and Claire, the impact of going back-and-forth between the beginning of the case and the present gets suppressed. That said, the movie makes some nice moves in the end, and Julia Roberts’ fantastic portrayal of a grieving mother raises the film from boredom to entertainment.
– Jared McMillan
Films that plunge deep into Hollywood’s golden era are the stuff cinephiles love. Modern actors reviving the iconic figures of the silver screen is genuinely a sight to experience. Director Jay Roach’s TRUMBO gifts us with that for the most part by giving us a story about artists and screenwriters being jailed and blacklisted for their political beliefs. However, sometimes when you go to the movies you’re looking for one or maybe two needs to be met. Above all the film should be entertaining, but also make you feel good, like the time spent was well worth it. While TRUMBO satiates those needs, it only gives us just enough to get by, when it should have blown us away.
Playing at Landmark Magnolia and Angelika Plano.