Film Review: ‘Cars 3’ steers a welcome if imperfect gender shift
shows Lightning McQueen, voiced by Owen Wilson (right) and Cruz Ramirez,
voiced by Cristela Alonzo in a scene from “Cars 3.” (Disney-Pixar via AP)
New York (AP) - Three films in,
it’s time to ask some hard questions about the world of “Cars.”
What are their interiors like? Brains
and a heart or plush leather seating and cup holders? Do they pay life or
car insurance? And where, good God, have all the people gone? Are they, as
I fear, hidden away in the trunks?
While the cycle of life and death is
movingly detailed in most every Pixar movie, particularly in the “Toy Story”
series, the aluminum-thin world of “Cars” has always been the exception.
The movies and their windshield-eyed cars have none of the existential soul
of “Inside Out” or “Finding Nemo.” They’re fun enough — and still
dazzlingly animated — but they’re Pixar on cruise control.
Yet kids — boys especially — love them,
and so Pixar keeps making them, even while reproduction, itself, remains a
foggy issue in “Cars”-land. Thankfully, after the wayward European trip of
the scattershot “Cars 2,” there’s more under the hood of “Cars 3.” But
despite all the colorful shine, this is still the used-car lot of Pixar’s
high-octane fleet. Lacking the magic of Pixar’s more tender touchstones,
“Cars 3” mostly makes you pine for the halcyon summers of “Ratatouille” or
“WALL-E,” an era that unfortunately continues to recede in the rearview.
Previous “Cars” director and Pixar
chief John Lasseter cedes the directing to veteran Pixar storyboard artist
Brian Fee for “Cars 3,” which finds an aging Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson)
getting outraced by a new pack of metrics-optimized young racers like the
arrogant Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer). With retirement suddenly looming
after a bad crash, McQueen endeavors to train his way back to the top, ala
This is, at first, a fairly unpleasant
ride. The movie is almost as loud as a NASCAR race; Wilson’s McQueen — a
confident winner, not a humble underdog — remains the most uninteresting of
Pixar protagonists; and the whole thing, like previous installments, is
nauseatingly male, without a female racecar in sight. (The first “Cars”
film, while full of charming Route 66 nostalgia, sunk low enough to have
twin girl cars “flash” McQueen with their high-beams.)
But redemption is belatedly,
imperfectly at hand. After McQueen’s old sponsor, Rust-eze is bought by a
tasteful billionaire named Sterling (Nathan Fillion), he’s assigned a
trainer, Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo), who works him out like a
motivation-shouting spin-class instructor.
This, at first, begs an eye roll from
wiper to wiper. Cruz is blandly yellow, over-eager and named like a
celebrity baby. But as “Cars 3” chugs along, her story fuses with McQueen’s
and eventually speeds away. Her latent, untapped racing dreams emerge just
as McQueen is making peace with getting older.
Pixar, a high-tech digital animator
predicated on old-school storytelling, has long made calibrating progress
with tradition its grand mission. Think of WALL-E and the newer,
iPhone-like model, Eve; the threat of Buzz Lightyear to a rootin’-tootin’
cowboy; or the fear Riley experiences moving from rural Minnesota to San
Now it’s Lightning McQueen’s turn to
face a new chapter in life. “Cars 3” is at its best, narratively and
visually, when the story brings McQueen to a long forgotten dirt track in
what appears to be the Smokey Mountains. There, he encounters a handful of
old veteran racing legends (Chris Cooper, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Junior
Johnson, Margo Martindale) who school McQueen not just on racing but on the
joys of mentorship. They are old friends of Doc Hudson (Paul Newman), whose
posthumous Obi-wan-like presence still steers McQueen.
“Cars” (2006) was Newman’s last movie,
and one of the best things about this sequel is hearing the actor’s
majestically gravelly voice again. His words from the original are called
back numerous times, and they lend a gravity these movies otherwise lack.
Still, I’m not sold on Cruz’s story
line, which ultimately depends less on her own drive than the permission of
the males around her. And even while rooting for her, I wished she was a
more dynamic character, defined by more than her insecurity.
Yet the left-hand, gender-flipping turn
that “Cars 3” takes is the most welcome and surprising twist yet in the
“Cars” movies. Pixar, as ever, has some moves left and fuel in the tank.
“Cars 3,” a Walt Disney Co. release, is
rated G by the Motion Picture Association of America. Running time: 109
minutes. Two stars out of four.
Vanity Fair stands by Angelina Jolie cover story
Jolie. (AP Photo)
Los Angeles (AP) — Vanity
Fair is standing by its description of the casting
process used for Angelina Jolie’s forthcoming Netflix film, “First They
Killed My Father.”
The magazine wrote in a statement that
it has reviewed transcripts and audio recordings from interviews with Jolie
that were used to produce its September cover story about the actress.
The article described a “game” used to
find the child star of Jolie’s film about the Khmer Rouge regime in
Cambodia. It said casting directors presented money to impoverished
children only to take it away from them as an acting exercise.
Jolie said last week that the
suggestion that real money was taken from children during the auditions is
“false and upsetting.” She also said parents and guardians were present
throughout the audition process.
“First They Killed My Father” is set to
premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. Jolie
co-wrote and directed the adaptation of Loung Ung’s 2000 memoir about
growing up under the brutal reign of Pol Pot.
Robert Hardy, Cornelius Fudge
in ‘Harry Potter’, dies at 91
Hardy, star of All Creatures Great and Small and the Harry Potter films is
shown in this Oct. 29, 2015 file photo. (Nick Ansell/PA File via AP)
London (AP) — Robert Hardy, a
veteran British stage and screen actor who played Minister for Magic
Cornelius Fudge in the “Harry Potter” movies, died last week. He was 91.
His family said Hardy died August 3
after “a tremendous life: a giant career in theater, television and film
spanning more than 70 years.”
Born in 1925, Hardy served in the Royal
Air Force during World War II and studied at Oxford University, where he
became friends with another aspiring actor, Richard Burton.
He began his career after the war in
Shakespearean roles onstage in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Between 1978 and 1990, Hardy played the
eccentric veterinarian Siegfried Farnon in “All Creatures Great and Small,”
a popular TV series based on James Herriot’s books about rural life in the
Hardy played British Prime Minister
Winston Churchill in at least half a dozen films and TV series, including
the miniseries “Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years” and “War and
Remembrance.” He also played U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt,
Churchill’s wartime ally, in both British and French TV series.
In a statement, Hardy’s family said he
was also “a meticulous linguist, a fine artist, a lover of music and a
champion of literature, as well a highly respected historian, and a leading
specialist on the longbow.”
They said he was part of the team that
raised the Tudor warship the Mary Rose, which sank off England’s south coast
“Gruff, elegant, twinkly and always
dignified, he is celebrated by all who knew him and loved him, and everyone
who enjoyed his work,” the family said.
Jenna Coleman: Casting a female ‘Doctor Who’ is ‘genius’
Jenna Coleman. (Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP)
Beverly Hills, Calif. (AP) —
Jenna Coleman, a former “Doctor Who” companion, says casting a female as the
lead of the long-running sci-fi series is “genius.”
“Oh, I love it,” the actress said during a recent
Television Critics Association panel about her Masterpiece series,
Last month, Jodie Whittaker was announced as the 13th
official incarnation of the galaxy-hopping Time Lord who travels in a time
machine shaped like an old-fashioned British police telephone booth.
Coleman added that she thinks Whittaker is “brilliant
and lovely” and she “can’t wait to hear” Whittaker’s voice as the character.
“It’s very exciting times,” she said.
On the BBC’s “Doctor Who,” the main character can
regenerate into new bodies, allowing for endless recasting possibilities.
Coleman played a “Doctor Who” companion from 2012 to
Film Review: In ‘Atomic Blonde,’ Theron heats up the Cold War
shows Charlize Theron in a scene from “Atomic Blonde.” (Jonathan Prime/Focus
Features via AP)
Los Angeles (AP) -
People don’t usually move very fast in Cold War thrillers. Mostly, the only
time anyone runs is right before they get shot in the back. Most of the
“action” happens in a film cabinet, down a back alley or with a silencer.
The classic Cold War tale — which is to say a John le Carre one — is
characterized by a deathly stillness: grave faces meeting under gray clouds.
This is not quite so in
“Atomic Blonde,” a post-war thriller set in the final moments of the Cold
War (1989 Berlin) starring Charlize Theron as the MI6 spy Lorraine
Broughton. She’s not your traditional European operator. Let’s just say
that if Theron’s Broughton turned up in “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” the old
boys would’ve soiled their trench coats.
Broughton is black and
blue at the opening of David Leitch’s “Atomic Blonde,” and the first thought
is that Theron must be licking her wounds from playing Furiosa in “Mad Max:
Fury Road.” If that film didn’t prove that Theron is today’s most badass
action star, “Atomic Blonde” — while not anywhere near the kinetic explosion
of “Fury Road” — will certainly make it official.
The bruises turn out to
be from the story she soon relates. Broughton spends the movie in a testy
interrogation with her MI6 boss (Toby Jones) and a CIA chief (John
Goodman). The mission she recounts is her dispatching to West Berlin to
assist the station chief there, David Percival (a zany James McAvoy), in
recovering a missing list with the names of every British asset — something
the Russians are rather keen to obtain.
So far, that might
sound somewhat le Carre-like. But it’s not minutes after being picked up
from the airport that Lorraine finds herself jabbing an assailant with her
heel, pushing him out of a moving car, and forcing the driver into flipping
the car over.
Leitch is a veteran
stuntman who co-directed the action hit “John Wick,” in which Keanu Reeves
wrecks endless vengeance on those who killed his dog. The backdrop is more
lavish in “Atomic Blonde,” but the hand-to-hand combat is no less primary.
Whereas another spy thriller might gradually go deeper into its complex
networks of allegiances, “Atomic Blonde,” based on Antony Johnston’s graphic
novel “The Coldest City,” stays on the surface, keeps the body count
increasing and the ’80s score blaring.
And, man, does it
blare. The soundtrack, especially early in the film, is bludgeoningly
prominent. The combination of violence with ’80s pop hits is, to Leitch, an
inexhaustible cleverness. So if you want to see someone fatally beaten with
a skateboard to the tune of Nena’s “99 Luftballons” or a stabbing set to
‘Til Tuesday’s “Voices Carry,” you have finally found your film.
“Atomic Blonde” is
largely a vacant, hyper-stylistic romp that trades on the thick Cold War
atmosphere of far better films (not to mention “The Americans”). It’s all
dagger, no cloak. But it has two things going for it.
One is Leitch’s
facility with an action scene. The film, technically speaking, gets off to
a rough start when a body is sent flying by a ramming car in the kind of
blatantly unrealistic CGI fling that ruins movies. But he later goes for a
much more bravura scene in a seemingly uncut sequence in which Broughton
takes on a number of assailants on a stairwell in a fight that eventually
spills out into the streets.
It’s easy to see that
Leitch is aiming for a more acrobatic version of the famous corridor scene
from Park Chan-wook’s “Oldboy.” And there’s no doubt it will have some fans
cheering for its audacious seamlessness. But the virtuosity on display is
spoiled by its own showoff-y self-awareness. The sequence, a hermetic burst
of filmmaking finesse, has nothing to do with the rest of film; it’s just a
calling card for a filmmakers’ highlight reel.
But the other asset of
“Atomic Blonde” is altogether more formidable. Theron doesn’t so much as
dominate “Atomic Blonde” as steadily subjugate every other soul in the film
— and those in the audience — into her complete command. Like her more
timid le Carre forebearers, there’s no pleasure in her victories. There’s
only ruthless survival in a grim game.
She is most definitely
atomic, but I’d try to do better than calling her a blonde.
“Atomic Blonde,” a
Focus Features release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of
America for “sequences of strong violence, language throughout and some
sexuality/nudity.” Running time: 114 minutes. Two stars out of four.
Dead heavy metal icon Ronnie James Dio to tour as hologram
James Dio. (AP Photo)
New York (AP) -
Late heavy metal icon Ronnie James Dio is set to tour again in hologram
reports the “Dio Returns” world tour kicks off in Helsinki on Nov. 30.
Dio’s widow, Wendy, says the hologram “gives the fans that saw Ronnie
perform an opportunity to see him again and new fans that never got to
see him a chance to see him for the first time.”
Dio died of stomach cancer in 2010
at the age of 67.
In addition to his self-titled
band, Dio fronted Black Sabbath for a time.
Dio isn’t the first dead performer
to return to the stage as a hologram. Holograms of Michael Jackson,
Tupac Shakur and Eazy-E have been showcased in recent years.
Last duet: Kenny, Dolly announce final performance together
Kenny Rogers (left) and Dolly Parton are shown in
this combination photo. (Photos by Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP)
Kristin M. Hall
(AP) - Two of country music’s biggest stars,
Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, whose onstage chemistry spawned hit duets
like “Islands in the Stream” and “Real Love,” will be making their final
performance together this year.
Rogers, who is
retiring from touring, says his final performance with Parton will be
part of an all-star farewell show to be held at Nashville’s Bridgestone
Arena on Oct. 25. The two have been performing together for more than
30 years since “Islands in the Stream,” written by the Bee Gees, became
a pop crossover platinum hit in 1983.
for the farewell show are Little Big Town, Flaming Lips, Idina Menzel,
Elle King, Jamey Johnson and Alison Krauss, with more names to be
Rogers, 78, said
it’s been more than a decade since he performed with Parton for a CMT
“I think we owe it
to her to let her go on with her career, but we owe it to me to do it
one more time, and we’re going to do that,” Rogers said after the press
In his 60-year
career, Rogers has had several successful duet partners, including
Dottie West, Kim Carnes, Sheena Easton and Linda Davis, but Parton’s
star power made their collaborations a tour de force.
“We can go three
years without talking to each other and when we get together, it’s like
we were together yesterday,” Rogers said. “We both feel that comfort.”
Kenny for the last time ever on October 25 is going to be emotional for
both of us, but it’s also going to be very special,” Parton said in a
statement. “Even though Kenny may be retiring, as he fades from the
stage, our love for each other will never fade away.”
The actor, singer
and photographer with hits like “The Gambler,” ‘’Lady” and “Lucille,”
announced in 2015 he would do a final farewell tour before retiring to
spend more time with his family.
Rogers said he and
Parton would definitely sing “Islands in the Stream,” but beyond that,
he wasn’t sure yet.
“Whether we do
something else, I don’t know,” Rogers said. “That would require a
rehearsal and I don’t know that Dolly or I, either one, are up for