Aging "Cars" and chasing cars

By Tom Von Malder | Nov 09, 2017
Photo by: Pixar Animation Lightning McQueen is caught in a muddy situation during the Thunder Hallow Crazy 8 race.

Owls Head — Cars 3 (Disney/Pixar, Blu-ray or standard DVD, G, 102 min.). "Cars 3" more than likely is the end of the main series, although there may be more spinoffs, such as "Airplanes." In the film, racing car Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) comes to grips with the fact that he is aging and, despite trying to stage a comeback, he graciously passes the "baton" on to a younger racer, who just happens to be female, giving the film a female empowerment angle as well.

The film opens with a montage of races, with McQueen winning some and good-naturedly losing others. Big Tex and Cal, in particular, are friendly rivals. Then, rookie Jackson Storm (voiced by Armie Hammer) shows up with super speed, the leading racer of a new breed who train and have equipment based on the best technology. In the final race of the season, McQueen has an accident that throws his future in doubt. Four months later, and only two weeks before the start of the new race season, McQueen finally decides to race again and take advantage of the new Rusteze's Racing Center, built by businesscar Sterling (voiced by Nathan Fillion). The center has virtual reality and a race simulator, which McQueen is in a rush to use, but instead, training car Cruz Ramirez (voiced by Cristela Alonzo in a very good performance) has McQueen working on treadmills. Some of this training footage -- such as throwing bugs at one car on a treadmill -- are among the film's funniest scenes.

It turns out that Ramirez once aspired to be a racer herself, but struggles with her confidence prevented her from reaching her goal. The impatient McQueen brings their training to a beach and then to the hilarious Thunder Hallow Crazy 8 race, which turns out to be a demolition derby race of sorts. Throughout the film, there are flashbacks to McQueen's mentor and inspiration, Doc Hudson Hornet (still voiced by the late Paul Newman). These scenes give the film some extra heart. In general, this is a more somber film, with adult themes of aging and moving on to the next chapter in one's life, with less humor. Nonetheless, children will enjoy the colorful cars and the racing action that bookends the film. There also are three songs and a wonderful Randy Newman score.

The feature film comes with extras, including audio commentary by director Brian Fee, producer Kevin Reher, co-producer Andrea Warren and creative director Jay Ward, who point out that many of the background graphics are displayed during the closing credits so they can be seen and appreciated. There also is a marvelous mini-movie, "Lou" (6:43) that should be a contender for an Academy Award for animated short. Its story about a school bully getting a comeuppance that that leads him to appreciate others is both very inventive and emotional. In addition, there is a TV ad for Miss Fritter's Racing Skoool (2:48); an extensive look at the development of the Ramirez character (7:46); and a fun visit with 19-year-old real-life car racer William Byron, a 4-year-veteran (5:40).

Then there is a whole second Blu-ray disc of extras, including a five-part, behind-the scenes look that covers development of the story and its themes (11:20), a closer look at making the Thunder Hollow race sequence (7:41), a look at the toy cars (5:41), the filmmakers' study of the origins of car making (11:22) and a look at the logos and make-believe brands used in the film (5:30). There also are quick flythroughs of three of the film's environments (about 3 min.); cast and crew discussing their first cars (about 5:20); five deleted scenes (26:17) with option introductions by Fee; and promos. Grade: film and extras 3.75 stars

Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it

Kidnap (Universal, Blu-ray or standard DVD, R, 81 min.). This tight, lean film is an adrenaline rush as a panicked mother (Halle Berry as Karla Dyson) jumps into her car and races after the couple who have kidnapped her son (Sage Correa as 6-year-old Frankie), refusing to ever give up, despite all the mayhem along the way. What director Luis Prieto ("Pusher") does so effectively is present nearly all of the chase from a view inside the car, so the audience feels like it is in the car and subject to all the bumps and bruises. The music score even mimics a heartbeat at one point, heightening the thrill reaction.

Single mom Karla has taken Frankie to the city park, which is more like an amusement park, , when she gets a phone call from probably her lawyer, stating her ex-husband is seeking primary custody of their son.  Karla is only a waitress, so she feels really threatened by this; however, while she has stepped away so she could hear the call, Frankie disappears. After a short, frantic search, she sees Frankie being forced into a car and Karla gives chase, first on foot and then in her own van. A dangerous , high-speed chase on the interstate follows, with several other vehicles on the road becoming collateral damage.

The film moves so fast, there is little time for character development. It is a rush, one well worth taking. On the other hand, the brief "look inside' extra (3:13) is nothing more than clips from the film, with very short interview bits. Grade: film 3.5 stars; extra dog

The Limehouse Golem (RLJ, Blu-ray or standard DVD, NR 108 min.). This Victorian London thriller, based on the novel "Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem" by Peter Ackroyd, takes a while to get going, but all its intricate pieces eventually fit and the final half hour is very good. The screenplay is by Jane Goldman ("Kingsmen," "The Woman in Black") and the director is Juan Carlos Medina ("Painless").

The year is 1880 and a series of murders -- of a prostitute, then a scholar and finally of a family of five -- in the poor Limehouse section of the city has everyone on edge and the press out for blood as well. It seems the murders mirrored similar killings some 70 years previously. Scotland Yard Inspector Kildare (Bill Nighy, the best thing about the film) is given the case, as the higher-ups are looking for a scapegoat and Kildare has been pushed aside due to rumors that he is homosexual . Kildare is assigned Constable John Flood (Daniel Mays) as an assistant.

Kildare early on feels there is a connection between the death of failed playwright John Cree (Sam Reid) and the Limehouse murders. Charged in the poisoning death of Cree is his wife Lizzie (Olivia Cooke of TV's "Bates Motel"), whose story takes up more of the film than the murders. Through multiple flashbacks, we are shown Lizzie's life -- some early and late abuse and the desire that made her one of the best music hall performers in the city, along with fellow star Dan Leno (Douglas Booth), who mostly performs as a woman. Kildare becomes nearly obsessed with trying to save Lizzie from the hangman's noose.

Extras include a making-of featurette with the writer, director and stars (6:26); a look at the cast (2:45); discussion of the film's look (2:41) and locations (2:30); and a photo gallery. Grade: film 2.5 stars; extras 2 stars

The Center of My World (Germany, Altered Innocence/TLA Releasing DVD, NR, 115 min.). This is a coming-of-age drama of a young man who is combating long-held family secrets, while also falling in love for the first time. Writer/director Jakob M. Erwa adopted Andreas Steinhofel's novel, whose title more accurately translates to "The Center of the World."

The young man is Phil (Louis Hofmann of "Land of Mine"), who narrates the film. Still in high school, Phil has returned home after three weeks at a language camp to find his single mom (Sabine Timoteo as Glass) and his twin sister (Ada Philine Stappenbeck as Dianne) are no longer speaking to each other. Neither will open up about the situation. Phil quickly re-connects with his best friend (Svenja Jung as Kat), who tells him there is a cute new boy who has moved back to town. Phil is open about his attraction for males and has a lesbian couple among his close friends.

When the new boy (Jannik Schumann as Nicholas, who is a hunk in the young Tom Wellman mode; see "Smallville") is introduced in class, Phil falls instantly in love. He even believes Nicholas is the boy he bumped into outside a store when he was very young. (This scene is just one of numerous flashbacks to the twins' childhood.) Phil starts hanging out in the stands as Nicholas does his run training. Nicholas notices and approaches Phil after the one day Phil was absent at the track. This leads to Phil's first love affair. Many of the flashbacks deal with Glass' inability to sustain relationships with her boyfriends, including the mystery of who the twins' father is, something Phil dearly wants to know. There are no DVD extras. Grade: film 3 stars

Also released:

Harry Potter films on 4K. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has just released the first four Harry Potter films -- "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" and "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" -- on Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Packs. Additionally, all eight films are available in 4K HDR as a set, the other four films having been released in 4K earlier this year. At the same time, a separate set of all eight Harry Potter films and "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" is available on Blu-ray and DVD.

Ancient Aliens: Season 10 Vol. 1 (History/Lionsgate, 2 DVDs, NR, 5 hours 44 min.). The long-running series explores new evidence of extraterrestrial intervention on Earth, including an aluminum object that resembles the foot of a lunar lander, but dates to more than 40,000 years ago. Also, in India, a thousand-year-old mask is discovered that looks identical to the face of a gray alien. Newly uncovered records from Russia indicate that in 1948, an ancient rocket was discovered in Kiev. The set includes eight episodes.

Lady Macbeth (Lionsgate DVD, R, 90 min.). Florence Pugh plays a young woman in a loveless marriage who embarks on a passionate and forbidden affair that unleashes an unquenchable thirst for power within her. It is the debut film of theater director William Oldroyd, written by Alice Birch and adapted from Nikolai Leskov's 1865 novel, "Lady Macbeth of Mtsenk." It has been compared to "Alfred Hitchcock directing 'Wuthering Heights'" by Indiewire. The setting is rural England in 1865, with Katherine (Pugh) married to a bitter man twice her age. She begins an affair with a young worker on her husband's estate. Extras include a behind-the-scenes look and a photo gallery.

Where's the Money (Lionsgate DVD, R, 86 min.). This comedy stars Andrew "King Bach" Bachelor ("Meet the Blacks") as a scrappy young man from South Central Los Angeles who plots to become the first black member of an all-white college fraternity in order to recover a stash of stolen money hidden in the flophouse-turned-frat house before his crazy, gun-wielding uncle gets there first. The cast includes Kat Graham (TV's "The Vampire Diaries"), YouTube sensation Logan Paul ("The Space Between Us"), Allen Maldonado ("Straight Outta Compton, TV's "Black-ish"), Josh Brener ("The Internship, HBO's "Silicon Valley") and Method Man ("Keanu"), along with Mike Epps ("Girls Trip," "Meet the Blacks") and Terry Crews "The Expendables 3," TV's "Brooklyn Nine-Nine"). Crews plays the uncle, while Epps is the still-in-prison father of Del (Bachelor). Method Man plays a local gangster, also out for the money. The film comes with video commentary by actors Bachelor, Brener and Devon Werkheiser and director/co-writer Scott Zabielski; a making-of featurette; a blooper reel; and deleted scenes.

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