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  • Cars 3 (2017) Blu-ray Review

    Cars 3 (2017)

    Director: Brian Fee

    Starring: Owen Wilson, Cristela Alonzo, Chris Cooper, Nathan Fillion, Larry the Cable Guy, Armie Hammer, Bonnie Hunt & Kerry Washington

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Riding high as renowned champion for years, Cars 3 finds racing legend Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson, Midnight in Paris) being pushed out of the limelight by a new generation of hotshot racers.  Recognizing times are a-changin’, McQueen teams with an enthusiastic trainer, Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo, Cristela), to prove he still has what it takes to go the distance.

    Reverting back to the bluegrass roots of its originator, Cars 3 comes full circle as Lightning McQueen, the once arrogant rookie turned lovable champ, becomes the aging pro to face his biggest and most emotional challenge yet.  Continuing to enjoy a successful winning streak and unanimous respect amongst his peers, McQueen and others of his breed are quickly sideswiped by a new crop of determined and technologically superior vehicles with their eyes on racing glory.  Rattled by the speed and cockiness of his new foe, Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer, The Lone Ranger), and the retirements of longtime pals, McQueen begins to feel his time may also be up after suffering a near fatal wreck.  Recovering in Radiator Springs and longing for guidance from his late mentor Doc Hudson, McQueen’s spirits are lifted by his Route 66 family and his determination renewed by new Rust-eze owner, Sterling (Nathan Fillion, Castle).  Teamed with spunky motivational trainer Cruz Ramirez, McQueen, through soul-searching and additional support from Doc Hudson’s mentor Smokey (Chris Cooper, The Muppets), navigates his way through the evolving world of racing while learning to see a future beyond just his own career.  

    Ditching the sillier espionage hijinks of its predecessor, Cars 3 is a leaps and bounds improvement, reverting the spotlight back onto Lightning McQueen in a tale that resonates with an aging audience who have grown much since happening upon Radiator Springs a decade ago.  While humor is in noticeably shorter supply with franchise mainstays such as, McQueen bestie Mater (Larry the Cable Guy, Jingle All the Way 2) surprisingly regulated to background decoration, the third installment recaptures the small-town charms and big city dreams that was sorely lacking in its internationally sprawling and mindlessly mundane sequel.  Taking over directorial duties from John Lasseter, longtime Pixar storyboard artist Brian Fee (Cars, WALL-E) paints a picturesque installment with photorealistic animation including, the most devastatingly heart wrenching sequence of the series and a tender core that reaffirms audiences deep-rooted love for these chatty cars.  Incorporating flashback sequences and previously recorded dialogue from Paul Newman as the Fabulous Hudson Hornet, Cars 3 is a lightning fast return to form for the series that, in its presumable last lap, whizzes past the finishing line as the best effort since its 2006 debut.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Cars 3 with a pristine 1080p transfer, fitted in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio.  Sparkling from start to finish, the wide spectrum of unique car colors burst off the screen while finer details appearing in rust and asphalt boast equal levels of crisp quality.  Matching its glorious high-definition picture, the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 excels during high-speed races and heart-pounding wrecks with dialogue exchanges rightly prioritized for ideal listening.  Sprawled across two discs, special features on Disc 1 include, an in-depth Audio Commentary with Director Brian Fee, Co-Producer Andrea Warren and Creative Director Jay Ward, Lou (6:43), Pixar’s latest short film about a schoolyard’s magical lost-and-found bin and Miss Fritter’s Racing Sckoool (5:40), an exclusive new mini-movie/commercial attracting cars on how to get their mojo back.  Furthermore, Ready for the Race (5:40) sits down with actual race car driver William Byron on his passion for the sport and Cruz Ramirez: The Yellow Car That Could (7:46) takes a deeper look into the evolution and vocal talent attached to Lightning McQueen’s new coach.  Lastly, Sneak Peeks at Disney Movie Rewards (0:20), Descendants 2 (0:32), Dolphins (1:16), Coco (1:37), Olaf’s Frozen Adventure (1:34) and The Walt Disney Signature Collection (1:33) are also provided.  

    Meanwhile, Disc 2 kicks off with an extensive five-part Behind the Scenes featurette including, Generations: The Story of Cars 3 (11:20), Let’s. Get. Crazy (7:41), Cars to Die(cast) For (5:21), Legendary (11:22) and World’s Fastest Billboard (5:30) that explores the film’s tricky development, new and returning characters, the making of the toys based on the film and the many logos and faux brands implemented in the sequel.  Furthermore, Fly Throughs puts viewers in the driver seat for some of the film’s digital environments including, Thomasville (1:10), Florida International Speedway (0:37) and Rust-Eze Racing Center (0:56).  My First Car finds cast and crew participants discussing their very own first ride in A Green Car on the Red Carpet with Kerry Washington (1:53), Old Blue (1:21) and Still in the Family (2:16).  Also included, Deleted Scenes (26:17) with optional director introduction, Trailers featuring Crash - North American Teaser (0:56), Icon - North American Trailer (2:33), Theatrical Payoff - Japan Trailer (2:02), All New - International Teaser (0:31) and Rivalry - Global Trailer (2:10).  Finally, Promos for Cars D’Oeuvres (4:27) and Cars Reveals spotlighting the characters of Lightning McQueen (0:39), Cruz Ramirez (0:41) and Jackson Storm (0:39) close out the on-disc supplemental content while a DVD edition and Digital HD Code are also included.

    Speeding onto home video as Pixar’s next anticipated effort lights up theaters, Cars 3 is a true return to form for the franchise once thought to be left in the dust.  An endearing tale about the trials of aging gracefully, Lightning McQueen’s last lap is one that sends viewers off into the sunset with warm memories of the residents of Radiator Springs.  Unsurprisingly, Disney has once again ensured an extravagant audio and visual presentation while its bonus content covers considerable ground for fans of behind the scenes happenings.  

    RATING: 4/5

    Available November 7th from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Cars 3 can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Zootopia (2016) Blu-ray Review

    Zootopia (2016)

    Director(s): Byron Howard, Rich Moore & Jared Bush

    Starring: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, Nate Torrence, Bonnie Hunt, Don Lake, Tommy Chong, J.K. Simmons, Octavia Spencer, Alan Tudyk & Shakira

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In a metropolis populated by animals, Zootopia centers on Officer Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin, Once Upon a Time), the first bunny on its force, as she seeks to prove her place by cracking her first case.  Confronted with overwhelming odds and minimal support, Judy must team up with scamming fox Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman, Horrible Bosses) to solve the mystery behind what’s reverting residents back to their savage ways.  

    In Disney’s most creatively designed animated feature in recent memory, Zootopia’s buddy cop dynamic demonstrates exemplary levels of laughs and conflicting personalities that send its furry, mismatched protagonists on an adventure-filled journey of animalistic proportions.  Ginnifer Goodwin’s spunky energy infused into Judy Hopps is excellently matched with the dry wit of Jason Bateman’s conniving fox, setting the tone for a feature about the big city, overcoming social prejudices and making a positive difference in a very turbulent world.  With the exception of a knee-slapping sequence set in Zootopia’s DMV offices, Disney’s animated feature announced itself with a mediocre marketing campaign leaving viewers in the dark of its true potential.  Strongly encouraged by overwhelming word of mouth feedback, Zootopia continues the success of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ most recent hits with heart-filled characters, impressive moments of action and peril (most notably when Judy and Nick infiltrate a hidden underground laboratory responsible for targeting the predators of Zootopia) and the always charming touches of saccharine that Disney has perfected.  While Zootopia’s many merits can be simply identified by its comedic touches and dazzling animation, perhaps its greatest strength is its not-so subtle message that true changes of understanding can only come from us.  In a heated political season where targeting the differences between our fellow man is a source of vile negativity, Zootopia’s message of acceptance and embracement of the various critters that compile our own animal kingdom is a lesson that all audiences, particularly ones of a more mature generation, can forever benefit from.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Zootopia with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.39:1 aspect ratio.  Bursting with never-ending colors that leap off the screen, detail is immaculate with impressive clarity picking up delicate animal furs and razor-thin whiskers.  In addition, the unique boroughs of Zootopia’s diverse city are all excellently captured while nighttime sequences are perfectly inky and free of any digital artifacts.  As strong and memorable as its narrative, Zootopia’s high-definition transfer is as perfect as one can get.  Equipped with a flawless DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix that prioritizes dialogue and gives rise to Composer Michael Giacchino’s (Inside Out) eclectic score, special features include, Research: A True-Life Adventure (9:58) where the filmmakers dive into their characters real worlds for invaluable inspiration, The Origin Story of An Animal Tale (9:15) allows the makers to discuss the evolving changes made to the film and Zoology: The Roundtables (18:23), introduced by Ginnifer Goodwin, these three featurettes center on the characters, environments and animation of the film.  Furthermore, Scoretopia (4:59) dances on the wild side as Composer Michael Giaccino crafts the film’s score while Z.P.D. Forensic Files (8:23) investigates the film’s hidden easter eggs.  Lastly, the “Try Everything” Music Video by Shakira (3:21), Deleted Characters (3:16), Deleted Scenes (28:03), Sneak Peeks at Disney Movie Rewards (0:20), the Disney Store (0:32), Girl Meets World (0:32) and Finding Dory (1:43) are also included alongside a DVD edition and a Digital HD Code.

    Eclipsing Frozen’s opening weekend returns at the domestic box-office, Zootopia would ultimately exceed $1 billion from worldwide grosses and be hailed by audiences and critics alike.  Warm, funny and offering an important lesson to embrace all the unique personalities that comprise our world, Zootopia is yet another glowing chapter in Disney’s tradition of timeless tales.  In addition, the Mouse House’s phenomenal high-definition presentation is nothing short of reference quality while, its supplements are nicely stocked and varied offering well-rounded insight into the film’s making.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Zootopia can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.