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
AMC is known for their slow burn series. Just look at MAD MEN, BREAKING BAD, and even THE WALKING DEAD as examples. They each take their time introducing us to their characters and unique situations, which in turn, immerses us further into their world.
The acclaimed network’s latest effort, THE NIGHT MANAGER, embraces this style to spectacular effect.
Based on John le Carré’s 1993 novel, the six-part mini-series centers on the story of Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston), an English ex-soldier managing a hotel in Cairo during the late hours of the night. After an encounter with a well-connected guest (Aure Atika), Pine finds himself sucked into the vacuum of a dangerous billionaire arms dealer named Richard Onslow Roper (Hugh Laurie).
This leads to a high stakes cat-and-mouse game, in which Pine decides to infiltrate Roper’s inner circle to pass along information to an intelligence officer (Olivia Colman).
Slow burn storylines are difficult to pull off with grace. Often times they can be far too front loaded with exposition and cause viewers to tune out early, which the first two episodes of THE NIGHT MANAGER exemplifies. But if enough of the fascinating elements seep through the cracks to keep you invested, the payoff of this show is more than worthwhile for the patient viewer.
THE NIGHT MANAGER may embark upon familiar cloak-and-dagger ground, but it kicks enough dust up with its stylish visuals, slick direction and commanding performances (most notably Laurie) to leave you pleased that you checked-in for its six-hour stay.
It’s quite an accomplishment that a show that’s been on for well over a decade still manages to be thrilling and fresh, even with a revolving door of cast members and its case-of-the-week structure.
Compared to all the variations of CSI, CRIMINAL MINDS has always been a different animal. It doesn’t feature David Caruso slyly taking off his sunglasses before muttering some diary-filled line, while The Who plays faintly in the background. There’s more depth and brains to this series than meets the eye.
Entering its 12th hoorah next month, CRIMINAL MINDS’ 11th season hits the streets on Tuesday in a six-disc set that contains all 22 episodes, along with a handful of special features that focus on the events that unfold this season.
Some major happenings go down in Season 11 that put our elite team of criminal profilers (including Thomas Gibson, Joe Mantegna and Matthew Gray Gubler) on edge. Serial killers are out for blood — sometimes even making it personal, like we’ve seen in the past with Gibson’s role as team leader Aaron Hotchner.
While each episode, for the most part, is a new case, there are breadcrumbs sprinkled throughout the season that tie the individual pieces together. The seed of this notion comes from the Dirty Dozen (a ring of hitmen that are after Kirsten Vangsness’ Penelope Garcia) and an ongoing attack on the life of Derek Morgan (Shemar Moore).
This is what ultimately sets CRIMINAL MINDS apart from other crime shows like it. It’s clear the series writers care about the characters, the overall arc of the show, and, most importantly, its audience.
If you’re a fan of the CRIMINAL MINDS, picking up Season 11 should be a purchase made without question. It’s one of the series’ best outings and it sets up major obstacles for our team in the future.
Key episodes: “The Job” (Ep. 1), “Entropy” (Ep. 11, featuring a guest spot by a never-better Aubrey Plaza) and “A Beautiful Disaster” (Ep. 18, a bittersweet farewell to Moore).
Extras: “The Dirty Eleven” — cast and crew discuss the events leading up to the series’ twelfth season; “To Derek, with Love” — a look into Moore’s final episode, directed by Matthew Gray Gubler; “The Good Doctor” — Aisha Tyler (Friends) talks about her role as Dr. Tara Lewis; Criminology — a glimpse into the season’s most jaw-dropping crime stories; audio commentary; deleted scenes; and a gag reel.
Also available on DVD and streaming: ARROW: SEASON 4, CHICAGO FIRE: SEASON 4, CHICAGO MED: SEASON 1, CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT (1965): Criterion Collection, CITIZEN SOLDIER, THE COMMITMENTS (1991): 25th Anniversary Edition, DESTINY (1921), GREY’S ANATOMY: SEASON 12, THE IMMORTAL STORY (1968): Criterion Collection, THE JUNGLE BOOK (our review), ME BEFORE YOU, MISS FISHER’S MURDER MYSTERIES: Series 1-3, MOM: SEASON 3, NCIS – LOS ANGELES: SEASON 7, THE PHENOM (our review), SHAMELESS: SEASON 6, STAR WARS REBELS: SEASON 2, and TOP GEAR USA: SEASON 5.