Preston Barta // Editor

morris-from-americaMORRIS FROM AMERICA (★★★)
Rated R, 91 minutes.
Director: Chad Hartigan
Cast: Markees Christmas, Craig Robinson, Carla Juri and Lina Keller

A24, the studio behind films such as ROOM and EX MACHINA, has yet to make a false step in their cinematic athleticism. However, this only comes from their films that are released theatrically. Their DirecTV exclusive titles are not quite built to run. MORRIS FROM AMERICA is an occasionally moving tale about a father (Craig Robinson) who moves from the U.S. to Germany with his rap-loving 13-year-old son (Markess Christmas). It’s a culture clash film that builds a promising ground, but along the way it suffers from a few narrative cracks.

Opens in limited release on Friday (Dallas, at Texas Theatre), and is now available on VOD.

a-tale-of-love-and-darkness-natalie-portman-photo-1A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS (★★★½)
Rated PG-13, 95 minutes.
Director: Natalie Portman
Cast: Amir TesslerNatalie Portman and Gilad Kahana

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 homing in on the unbreakable bond between a mother and her child.

Opens in limited release on Friday.

zoom-trailer-2ZOOM (★★★½)
Not rated, 96 minutes.
Director: Pedro Morelli
Cast: Alison PillGael García BernalTyler Labine and Jason Priestley

Alison Pill (SCOTT PILGRIM vs. THE WORLD) stars as Emma, a life-size doll maker who creates a comic book strip about a filmmaker (Gael García Bernal) who tries to express his art instead of making big budget action films. Part live-action and part rotoscope animation, ZOOM is an extremely funny and wholly original gem that was nearly swept underneath the rug.

Opens in limited release on Friday (Dallas, at AMC Grapevine Mills), and on VOD.

About author

Preston Barta

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.