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
AMERICAN SNIPER is Clint Eastwood’s harrowing and shattering take on the life of Chris Kyle and his service in the Navy as a SEAL sniper (over 160 confirmed kills). The story is deeply emotional, but depicts Kyle’s life in a very honorable way. It doesn’t show him as an invincible legend, but more as a mere man with a heart and soul that are clearly broken due to his sacrifice for his country.
While Eastwood doesn’t break any ground with direction here, I do believe he was a perfect candidate to tell Kyle’s story, and he did an incredible job of that, without putting politics on the screen. AMERICAN SNIPER is a rough story to watch no matter your political views, as war is hell on all sides.
The film gives us a frightening look into the world that many of us are unfamiliar with. Many of us don’t know death like this. We don’t know what it is like to face the mental and physical obstacles that our troops face during combat. Eastwood and his filmmaking crew give us a small glimpse into that world and what our troops face overseas and stateside.
On top of Eastwood’s story achievements, there is Bradley Cooper’s astonishing performance as Kyle. Cooper bulked up and took on a very difficult role. Along with capturing Kyle’s appearance, Cooper’s mannerisms, Texas strut and accent are down to the proper detail. With his hat on backwards, a big dip of Copenhagen in his mouth, and a Marvel’s Punisher symbol painted on his armor, there is almost a superhero-like quality to the film. And why not? Kyle was a real man who saved lives and was the best at what he did, and he did it all for truth and the American way.
THE IMITATION GAME | 124 min. | Rated PG | Director: Morten Tyldum | Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Mark Strong, Rory Kinnear, Allen Leech, Tuppence Middleton and Charles Dance
Director Morten Tyldum and screenwriter Graham Moore have created something tragically beautiful with THE IMITATION GAME. Amidst some incredible scenes and performances, this remarkably true story of a mathematician who helps crack the Enigma code during World War II is one of the year’s finest.
Benedict Cumberbatch continues to climb the ladder as one of the best working actors today. After his impressive turns in 12 YEARS A SLAVE, AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY, and THE HOBBIT (voice work as Smaug), his role as Alan Turing will be remembered, even if it doesn’t come with a statue. Cumberbatch hones in on all Turing’s character flaws and good qualities that make him human.
In all, THE IMITATION GAME is wonderfully crafted, immensely lush and moving film that shows, above all, how storytelling can both heal and destroy.
Our interview with screenwriter Graham Moore:
Angelina Jolie’s second go-around in the director’s chair, UNBROKEN, may be a little too polished and safe in its telling, but it gives its audience plenty to admire. It’s an uplifting yet daunting experience that tells the story of a man, Louis Zamerini, who fought against impossible odds to survive.
Jolie has a firm hand on what’s happening on screen. You can really tell that she cares deeply for the material and story of Zamperini. While I haven’t seen Jolie’s first film, IN THE LAND OF BLOOD AND HONEY, she surprised me with her storytelling capabilities here, especially because she doesn’t shy away from the brutality of the story.
With Jolie’s diligence, Roger Deakin’s always-keen eye as the cinematographer, and Jack O’Connell’s (STARRED UP) star-making breakout performance as Zamperini, the appropriately titled UNBROKEN is an engrossing deconstruction of man beaten to his core. It’s a therapeutic experience that sends reminders of the important things in life, such as family and faith.
All three films open Thursday, Dec. 25.