‘Cars 3’ Review

Director: Brian Fee

Writers: Kiel Murray, Bob Peterson and Mike Rich

Voice Cast: Owen Wilson, Cristela Alonzo, Armie Hammer, Larry the Cable Guy, Bonnie Hunt, Nathan Fillion, Margo Martindale, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Kerry Washington and Chris Cooper

Synopsis: Lighting McQueen sets out to prove to a new generation of racers that he’s still the best race car in the world.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

The Cars series is arguably the one series that isn’t beloved by fans. Whatever reason you have, Cars didn’t click with many and maybe it was because some knew the series was a lovechild of Pixar head John Lasseter. Personally, I didn’t mind the first Cars, but it definitely isn’t one of favorites, and Cars 2 was panned by not only critics but by fans as well – I didn’t see it. So I’ll admit that was a little reluctant to even watch Cars 3, but the first teaser that teased a potential darker film, of course not too dark since it’s a kids movie, peaked my curiosity. So, is Cars 3 worth driving out to see? Let’s dive in and find out.

Cars 3 follows Lighting McQueen (Owen Wilson) who is happily winning race after race and becoming a champion. However, when a new, and a more technologically advanced, racer in Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) comes into the scene and beats him in a race, everyone starts to question McQueen’s capability to be the star he once was. McQueen defiant in that idea pushes himself too far and crashes leaving his future in question, leaving Storm to take in all the glory. Lighting recovers and wants to get back into the scene leading him to trainer Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo). Together they train to find Lighting’s confidence back, and even teach Cruz a thing or two as well.

Again, not having seen Cars 2, but knowing the film followed Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) rather than Lighting, it’s nice to see Lighting get the spotlight since he’s was the main character in the first film. Also, the story itself leads to a story we’ve seen before. It’s not just redemption that Lighting is looking for, but also where his legacy will leave him. Will he be the old timer among the technologically advanced race cars? Or will he overcome and show them that the old car still has some tricks?

Of course this leads to one of the other themes of the film that working together can lead to potentially great things. It doesn’t matter that technology can improve your performance – which Storm represents – and give you an edge, leaving the old ways behind isn’t always best thing to do, and doesn’t mean you’ll always win. It’s a nice message for a kids movie, especially nowadays, but it’s pretty safe messaged compared to other Pixar films. I’m not saying it doesn’t work, but again, it’s something that Pixar has somewhat touched on before.

The voice cast is fine, it’s hard to judge voice casting for me to be honest, but Armie Hammer does bring the passive-aggressive Jackson Storm to life. But the highlight could be Cristela Alonzo’s Cruz Ramirez. She brings a certain life to it all with her perky but tough attitude when she’s training other racers and then solely Lighting. However, her story does get fleshed out as the film goes on and for the better. One more voice casting I want to point out is Chris Cooper as Smokey, someone Lighting looks for since he trained his mentor Doc Hudson (Paul Newman). Cooper fills the void of the wise mentor well. Of course, Paul Newman sadly passed away, but his character plays an important role in Lighting’s journey in this film making the scene where people are talking about him resonate even more because it makes you think about Newman himself. Those scenes are probably my favorite because they are so touching.

All in all, I didn’t mind Cars 3 and was somewhat surprised especially since I’m not the biggest fan of the first film. Is the movie trying to sell toys? Yeah, probably, but some of the bigger and touching scenes do work very well. Lighting and Cruz’s story is what keeps the film driving – no pun intended – forward and it is something you are invested in until the end. Will Cars 3 change your mind about the series, I don’t know, but it is something you should be willing to try.

Cars 3

3.5 out of 5

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furious_seven

Dir: James Wan

Writer(s): Chris Morgan

Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Dwayne Johnson, Nathalie Emmanuel, Djimon Hounsou, Tony Jaa, Jordana Brewster, and Kurt Russell

Synopsis: Deckard Shaw seeks revenge against Dominic Toretto and his family for the death of his brother.

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

 

It’s hard to believe that a series about street racers has become so beloved and able to change itself with every film that precedes it. It’s gone from the streets of L.A to Miami, to Tokyo, back to L.A to Rio de Janeiro, then to London and Spain, and all the way back to L.A. Needless to say, the series has gone all over the globe and has connected to fans in such a way that the filmmakers want to keep upping the ante. Furious 7 continues the tradition, but at the end of the day, this installment serves as a fitting goodbye to not only a favorite and original character, but one their actors.

 

Furious 7 starts rather unusually for a Fast & Furious movie. They usually start with the main characters and a possibly car race/chase. However, Furious 7 beings by showing us Deckard Shaw (Statham) finding out about his brothers and showing just how dangerous he is, it’s a rather great opening too. Deckard then ends up in a DSS building with Hobbs to get information on the group that took out his brother Owen in Furious 6. The two get into a major brawl, which ends up with Hobbs (Dwayne) getting seriously hurt and Deckard getting away with the information he needs.

 

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We switch over to see Brian (Walker) and how he is adjusting –somewhat– to domestic life like: living in a house, taking his son Jake to school, and not dodging bullets, which he misses according to Mia (Brewster). Dom (Diesel) visits Brian and Mia, when Dom gets a phone call from Tokyo from Deckard Shaw saying he’s going to get to know him, and sets off an explosion in the Toretto home. No one gets killed, but this leads Dom to go into revenge mode and try to figure out what the hell is going on.

 

All of this leads into Hobbs telling Dom who is responsible and Dom ends up working in a government official named Mr. Nobody (Russell) promising him he can get him Deckard, only if he can get him something the government wants. Mr. Nobody puts Dom and his crew of Brian, Letty (Rodriguez), Tej (Ludacris), and Roman (Gibson) to rescue Ramsay (Emmanuel) in a great mountain side sequence (which is heavily promoted in the ads). Ramsay created something called the “God’s Eye” I won’t get too into the details behind “God’s Eye” but let’s just say it’s the NSA’s wet dream.

 

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Everyone knows that the Fast & Furious films are known for their crazy car scenes, and like I wrote earlier, Furious 7 has a good chuck of them. Obviously the cars dropping from a plane which leads to a great mountain side road sequence, you also have the car jumping from The Sky Towers in Abu Dhabi, and the great final sequence that is a bit tone down from the past final sequence like the bank vault in Fast Five and the tarmac sequence in Furious Six, but is still great to enjoy as it rolls on. There are also some pretty descent fight scenes, including one with Rodriguez and Ronda Rousey’s body guard character.

 

New director to the series, James Wan, fit perfectly into an already established franchise taking over for Justin Lin, who directed the series since Tokyo Drift. Wan does some great stuff with the camera and certain angles that are pretty unique to the series and fit right in. Wan definitely had a hard job taking over the reins from Lin, but he holds his own with the ensemble cast.

 

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The cast itself is as great as always. One of the themes in the series is Family, and that is nothing but at the forefront here. Not only as the characters, but of course, saying goodbye to Paul Walker (I’ll get to that in a bit). Walker and Vin Diesel do their usual thing, while Ludacris and Tyrese continue to play off each other very well with their comedy chops. Michelle Rodriguez’s Letty keeps going with her arc from the previous film, although here it has more of a payoff than it did in the last film. Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbs is great as always with his one-liners and overall manliness.

 

The new cast members also hold their own against the original cast. Jason Statham is a worthy villain to the team as a whole and is deadly in every way possible. Djimon Hounsou, who is left out of the promotional material for some reason, plays Jakande, a mercenary who has Ramsay hostage, and while it is nice to see Hounsou among the cast the character doesn’t really do much and they could have gotten anyone else. There is also Tony Jaa’s Kiet who gets into some fights with Brian – which being nitpicky for a second, I had to really suspend disbelief that Walker, and obviously no disrespect to him, could go toe-to-toe with Jaa in a fight. Game of Thrones actress Nathalie Emmanuel’s Ramsay fits right into the cast and even has a scene essentially telling us who the members of the group are, ie: Roman being the “Joker” of the group.

 

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Finally, Kurt Russell plays government agent simply known as Mr. Nobody. Russell is a great addition to the cast and seems to be enjoying himself very well. He also has a descent amount of screen time which kind of surprised me to be honest, but it was welcomed. Also, early reports suggested that Russell’s role could lead to a bigger role in the sequel, which I can totally see.

 

There are some great surprises in the film and some revelations that really add more depth to the series and film itself. With all those revelations, Furious 7 feels like at times it is a close to the series and also open ended for another sequel (which they already sort of announced, but not really confirmed). However, Furious 7 is also a tribute and dedicated to the late Paul Walker.

 

There is a very bittersweet tribute to Walker and his character Brian at the end of the film. I won’t go into detail about it, but like I wrote, it is very bittersweet. It’s a touching and tear-jerking tribute that I’ll admit, I started to tear up watching it. Walker had completed most of the role, and going back to the family theme, Walker’s brothers Cody and Caleb came in to help out, by acting as body doubles. The crew also had help with the use of CGI, which was more obvious at the end and using used footage from earlier films. It’s really hard to tell, again until the end, where they used it, so you won’t really be distracted trying to figure out if where they used it.

 

All in all, Furious 7 brings us back to the characters and world that we have fell in love with. The action is still over-the-top at times and the cast is as great as always. While the film isn’t perfect, it feels long even though it’s literally a few minutes longer than the last film. However, at the end of the day Furious 7 is a great ride to behold and the tribute to Paul Walker at the end is beautiful.

 

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R.I.P Paul Walker

 

Furious 7

4.5 out of 5