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
When you revisit horror films from the past, they can really surprise you.
What’s perhaps the most surprising aspect about CHILD’S PLAY is how well it connects the dots and doesn’t leave you with too many head scratching moments. Just when you think they don’t make sense of a mother (Catherine Hicks) buying a murderous doll for her son (Alex Vincent), each character goes about each step in a logical fashion.
For instance, the film gives a clever backstory to the red-haired, freckled faced doll we know as Chucky (voiced by Brad Dourif). Before he took the form of a child’s plaything, he was Charles Lee Ray, otherwise known as the “Lakeside Strangler.”
He was a notorious serial killer and his fun-time clock was running out, due to the determination of detective Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon). After the officer pops Charles with a few pieces of lead, Charles employs his voodoo knowledge to insert his spirit in a doll at a nearby toy store. As silly as it sounds, it actually works quite well.
However, you can find the missteps of the film in the intelligence of Chucky’s victims. This is a common flaw of horror movies: audiences shout suggestions at the screen and the characters do every dumb thing in the book, like “why would a mother leave her child in a room with the doll that was just trying to kill them?”
Not everything holds up to today’s standards, but if you’re fascinated by how horror effects were achieved back in the day before Hollywood was overrun with CGI and enjoy solid thrills, Shout! Factory’s release of CHILD’S PLAY is worth toying with.
CHILD’S PLAY is available through ShoutFactory.com and other retailers.
Extras: Just like last week’s release of THE THING (our review), Shout! Factory makes even the most questionable movies worth buying with their long list of fascinating extras. This edition includes four different commentary tracks (one of which includes Chucky himself — it’s hilarious), a behind-the-scenes of effects footage, a special interview with Ed Gale (who was the life behind the mask of Chucky), and a collection of more interviews and vintage featurettes.
The movie stills and poster hinted at a movie about vampires, but alas, we get more zombies.
WHAT WE BECOME is a Danish flesh-eating narrative about, get this, a mysterious plague that causes people to turn into zombies and attack a small town.
When you venture into a tired genre, it’s all about bringing something new to the table. Much of WHAT WE BECOME evokes similar concepts explored in the past — such as its focused story, taking place primarily in one neighborhood — but where it departs the familiar is in its details. Whether its character traits or how each person reacts to the situation, the film remains a fair exploration.
WHAT WE BECOME is available through ShoutFactory.com and other retailers.
Following the events of Tim Burton’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND (2010), this next adventure finds Alice (Mia Wasikowska) returning to the magical world of her childhood to help locate the family of her friend, the Hatter (Johnny Depp), before their absence leads to his demise.
While admittedly flawed (coherency being the prime suspect), what truly makes ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS far better than expected is its intense sense of imagination and strong-willed cast, exemplified by Wasikowska portraying one of the more accomplished heroines to be found in recent blockbusters. She is enjoyable to watch and her story is touching.
Extras: A making-of, a look at how Academy Award-winning costume designer Colleen Atwood created the characters’ wardrobes, a whimsical interview with Sacha Baron Cohen (who plays the villainous Time), an exploration of the characters in “Underland,” an audio commentary, deleted scenes and a music video featuring P!nk.
- Interview: Anne Hathaway, Mia Wasikowska & ‘ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS’ filmmakers talk defiant feminism
- Go Ask Alice About P!NK’s Cover Song in ‘ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS’
Also available on DVD and streaming: BATES MOTEL: SEASON 4, CAFE SOCIETY (our review here), INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE (our review here), OUR KIND OF TRAITOR (our review here), PAN’S LABYRINTH (2006): Criterion Collection (buy this!) and SHORT CUTS (1993): Criterion Collection.