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 // Editor
We’re at the halfway point for the Dallas International Film Festival, which concludes on Sunday. While there have been plenty of great films that have screened thus far, there is still plenty to discover. However, here are a few quick thoughts on some of the features that screened at the festival over the weekend, ranked from best to worst.
One thing writer-director John Carney (ONCE, BEGIN AGAIN) has always been great about in his films is exploring music as a means of expression and connection. He carries this sentiment over to the completely lovable SING STREET by winding back the clock to the glamorous ‘80s rock scene.
The film follows a Dublin teenager, Conor (a terrific Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), as he forms a rock ‘n’ roll band to win the heart of an aspiring model (Lucy Boynton) and escape his broken home.
With its energetic cast (most notably Jack Reynor as Conor’s brother) and lively tunes (including tracks from The Cure and Duran Duran), SING STREET is a ballad that audiences are sure to jam on repeat.
Rated PG-13, 105 min.
SING STREET opens at the Angelika Dallas and Plano on Friday.
Natalie Portman’s love letter to Israel may be more dark than it is loving, but it’s a visceral experience and an amiable directorial debut for Portman.
Based on the youth of celebrated Israeli writer Amos Oz, A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS is an intimate family drama set against the backdrop of a war-torn Jerusalem in post-World War II.
Elevated by the elegant performances from Portman and newcomer Amir Tessler, the film overcomes its flaws and loose areas by honing in on the unbreakable bond between a mother and her child.
Not rated, 95 minutes.
A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS opens in August TBA.
After a rocky start, this Dallas-set gem collects its footing and races across the finish line with flying colors and big smiles.
The film centers on the story of an Occupier named Beau Baker (Gene Gallerano) who leaves his tent in Zuccotti Park in New York to return to Texas to take care of his sisters (Lorelei Linklater and Catherine ‘Cappy’ Elvir) when he learns of his parents’ untimely death.
The film’s material may sound too emotional for the masses on the surface, but the script penned by Gallerano is one of the more fully-realized and truthful narratives to come out of Dallas film circuit in quite sometime. But what ultimately makes it worthy of note is its strong sense of overcoming family obstacles.
Noted rated, 95 minutes.
OCCUPY, TEXAS’ release is TBA.
As cool as it is to see a zombie film set in Dallas, DAYLIGHT’S END casts a shadow on its more promising ideas to instead give audiences a movie that’s all click-click without much bang-bang.
What starts as a wicked crossbreed of MAD MAX and DAWN OF THE DEAD – of a rogue drifter (Johnny Strong) who stumbles across a band of survivors – quickly descends into a noise-infected string of sequences without the proper weight of drama to sink our teeth into.
Not rated, 106 minutes.
DAYLIGHT’S END’s release is TBA.
One film that is sure to divide audiences is Ben Wheatley’s highly ostentatious HIGH-RISE, starring everyone’s favorite dancing Brit, Tom Hiddleston.
The film takes place in 1975, where a shocking breakdown of class and social structures within a brand new, state of the art apartment building unfolds. After things take a drastic turn due to system malfunctions and otherwise, the inhabitants, including the detached Doctor Robert Laing (Hiddleston), slowly start to give into their animalistic impulses.
HIGH-RISE is a great sensory experience, especially as you follow the characters through each level of the tower block. The visual style that Wheatley illustrates is commendable, whether it’s a slow-motion technique or hypnotizing alcoholic trips. However, after intrigue kicks out after the first half-hour, the film gets repetitive and cashes in too much on its style and concept than providing audiences with something of real substance.
Rated R, 119 minutes.
HIGH-RISE screens at the Angelika Dallas on Friday at 7:30 p.m., and opens in limited release on May 13.
For all information on the Dallas International Film Festival, which ends on Sunday (4/24), visit diff2016.dallasfilm.org