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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.

  • Mickey and the Roadster Racers DVD Review

    Mickey and the Roadster Racers

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Bret Iwan, Russi Taylor, Bill Farmer, Daniel Ross, Tress MacNeille & Nika Futterman

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Less educationally-minded than the preschool geared Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Mickey and the Roadster Racers whizzes into the fast lane of fun for a delightful serving of after school entertainment.  Set in the racer-loving community of Hot Dog Hills, Mickey Mouse and pals Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy and Pluto compete in the pedal-pushing sport while finding themselves in a series of adventures at home and abroad.  Presenting two tales per episode, the gang sees their vehicles go loony after filling up with Goofy’s experimental gasoline while, Minnie and Daisy, as the Happy Helpers, find their petsitting duties go haywire and their search and rescue of an escaped ape from the zoo be anything but easy.  Also facing off against the infamously unfair Piston Pietro at an international race in Rome, Mickey and friends’ colorful new exploits are a blast from start to finish and ones that young viewers will be glad they took the ride with.  Collecting the program’s first three episodes and featuring appearances from beloved favorites such as, Chip and Dale, Pete, Clarabelle Cow and introducing racing emcee Billy Beagle (voiced by Jay Leno), Mickey and the Roadster Racers is a wildly fun return for the characters where their vibrant personalities and engagement in humorous scenarios takes first place.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents episodes of Mickey and the Roadster Racers in their widescreen (1.78:1) format.  While target viewers may be less enthused by the release’s technical merits than the quality of the show itself, Disney Junior’s latest boasts a colorful vibrancy throughout that makes the computer-generated animation shine nicely.  Likewise, the Dolby Digital 2.0 mixes make for easy dialogue delivery and heightened sound effects, offering more than acceptable listening enjoyment.  Special features include, a Bonus Episode: “Mickey’s Perfecto Day!” / “Running of the Roadsters!” (the show’s fifth), Music Videos for the “Mickey and the Roadster Racers” Theme Song (1:15) and the “Happy Helpers” Theme Song (1:30) plus, Sneak Peeks at Disney Movie Rewards (0:20), Tangled: The Series (0:18), Elena of Avalor (0:48), Born in China (1:16) and Cars 3 (0:59).  Lastly, a customizable Metal License Plate is included inside the disc’s packaging.  Screeching into high-gear with plenty of laughs, Mickey and the Roadster Racers is tailor-made for tikes looking to join Disney’s golden characters on a track course built on fast speeds and hearty good times.

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

  • Tomboy (1985) Blu-ray Review

    Tomboy (1985)

    Director: Herb Freed
    Starring: Betsy Russell, Jerry Dinome, Kristi Somers, Richard Erdman & Philip Sterling
    Released by: Scorpion Releasing

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Scorpion Releasing has always been a label with a devotion to diversity.  In recent years, they’ve struck major popularity with fans thanks to their Katarina’s Nightmare Theater line where spirited host Katarina Leigh Waters has been viewers’ guide to such horror gems as The House on Sorority Row, Humongous, Final Exam and more.  Sticking with Waters as host, Scorpion Releasing has been spreading their wings to different flicks that also have a cult appeal such as Second Time Lucky, Ator: The Fighting Eagle, Rentadick plus many more.  While the greater majority of Scorpion’s output has been DVD only, the Blu-ray future for the label looks bright and one of their most recent efforts is definitely in need of an inspection.  Grab your tools and style your best 80s perm because we’re about to get greased up with 1985’s Tomboy

    Tomboy stars Betsy Russell (Private School, Saw) as a young tomboy named Tommy (of course) who’s handy under the hood of a car and prefers to play basketball and ride motorcycles than style her hair.  While working as a mechanic at a local garage, a client and young racing entrepreneur, Junior Leeds (the late Eric Douglas, son of Kirk and brother of Michael) comes into the shop with race car driver Randy Starr (Gerard Christopher of “The Adventures of Superboy” fame).  Before you know it, sparks fly between Tommy and Randy but will a competitive racing competition between the two foil this relationship before it can get into second gear?

    MOVIE:
    Tomboy is definitely an oddbird as far as 80s flicks go.  One of the most common complaints I read about this film is that there’s really no plot.  I’d argue that there is a plot, albeit a very paper thin one but it’s definitely there.  The enjoyment factor of this film relies almost entirely on the performances from the young actors and thankfully they manage to deliver.  I couldn’t help but crack up at most of the exchanges these characters would have with one another and the settings and situations they would find themselves in.  Tomboy is certainly not going to be written in history books about how revolutionary it was but riddle me this, how many films do you know have a boxing match scene that turns into a sex scene?  I’ll give you some time… I’ve got plenty.  Moving forward, while Russell is as gorgeous as ever in this film she definitely plays the straight role while the performances of Eric Douglas, who is just so great at being a hilarious 80s scumbag and her best friend played by Kristi Somers practically steal every scene they appear in.  Somers has an unforgettable choreographed dance number that had me rolling on the floor followed up by a comical shower scene that almost makes you question at this point who the lead in the film is supposed to be.  Another memorable moment has Russell and Somers insulting two grease balls in a bar before a chase scene ensues.  As if there was any doubt, our tomboy of this film knows how to handle a motorcycle.  The romance between Russell and Christopher is meant to be the thread that ties the film together but it’s the humorous exchanges between the cast and the over the top parties at Douglas’ mansion that make this film the enjoyable treat it is.  If you have a weakness for 1980s teen flicks then Tomboy easily earns a spot on your shelf.  I had a hoot with this film and now I don’t think I can eat doughnuts again without giggling just a little.
    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:
    Tomboy is presented in a brand new (1.78:1) HD anamorphic master from the original camera negatives.  The film looks beautiful with grain structure looking natural and clear.  I noticed just a few instances of minor dirt and debris over the Crown International Pictures logo screen and during the final race scene.  These instances were so minor that if you blinked, you would miss them.  Beyond that, this transfer is near perfect and quite possibly the best presentation a film like Tomboy could ever receive.  Well done!
    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:
    While the video presentation was a gorgeous sight, the audio is slightly more problematic.  The film is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio which actually sounds really nice.  The music soundtrack comes across loud and clear while the intensity of roaring engines definitely come across great.  The audio during dialogue is clear for the most part but I just couldn’t help notice that having my TV too loud resulted in a sharpness anytime people would talk.  There was also the trouble of muffling during dialogue scenes which probably just added fire to the flame of the sharpness I mentioned.  The audio is in no way a terrible presentation, far from it in fact.  It just became a slight bother to constantly adjust the volume to ensure you were picking up each line of dialogue.  Overall, this is a serviceable audio presentation for such a low-budget flick.
    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:
    Scorpion Releasing delivers a nice handful of special features.  In addition, the reverse side of the Blu-ray sleeve has a rare photo gallery for the film.

    - Kat’s Meow: Katarina Leigh Waters is your host in this optional feature as she introduces you to the presentation of the film in a pit crew costume.  I’ve always found Waters to be a charming presence to Scorpion’s titles because she manages to not only be a pretty face but gives the viewer very useful information about the film and maybe a quick laugh or two.  I would have completely forgotten that Herb Freed directed the 1981 slasher Graduation Day before taking on Tomboy.  You learn something new everyday.  Waters also sticks around after the credits to close off her Kat’s Meow segment.

    - On Camera Interview with Star Betsy Russell: This candid interview is more like a career retrospective on Star Betsy Russell who discusses her early beginnings in commercials before moving onto films like Private School, Tomboy, Avenging Angel, Out of Control and Delta Heat.  Russell also discusses humorous moments on filming locations as well as working with veteran actors and her newfound success with the Saw franchise.  The interview is very informative and laid back which adds a nice atmosphere.

    - Theatrical Trailer

    - TV Spot

    - Scorpion Releasing Trailers: A nice selection of trailers for Deathship (available now on DVD and Blu-ray), Horror on Snape Island, Grizzly, The Pom Pom Girls, Day of the Animals and The House on Sorority Row.

    RATING: 4/5

    OVERALL:
    Tomboy is a fun slice of 1980s teen-cheese flicks that bolsters a wonderful young cast, over the top party scenes that only that decade could provide and a catchy theme song that you’ll have stuck in your head.  Tomboy isn’t groundbreaking by any means but a hilarious dance scene, plenty of skin from various ladies in the film including a quick appearance from cult icon Michelle Bauer and race car driving make this flick fun for the collection.  While Scorpion Releasing’s audio presentation isn’t perfect, the video quality is pretty remarkable and the special features are nicely done.  It’s a joy to see an independent label like Scorpion Releasing embrace Blu-ray as much as they are because we are in for a bunch of treats in the near future that include Girly, The Unseen, The Pom Pom Girls, The Monster Club and much more all in glorious HD!  For fans that are not Blu-ray equipped yet, Tomboy is also available in a DVD only edition.
    RATING: 4/5