Friday, December 23, 2011

Cars 2 3D / 2D Blu-ray Review

The film features an all-star vocal cast including Owen Wilson who reprises his role as hotshot race-car Lightning McQueen.  Larry the Cable Guy provides the voice of Mater (proprietor of Tow Mater Towing and Salvage), Lightning McQueen’s best friend and the heart and soul of Radiator Springs.  Bonnie Hunt is back as Sally, the baby-blue Porsche 911 Carrera whose motor races for Lightning.  Acclaimed actor Michael Caine makes his Pixar debut as Finn McMissile, a top British spy who mistakes Mater for an undercover American agent with a genius disguise.  Emily Mortimer brings charm, cleverness and cachet as Holley Shiftwell, a rookie field spy who knows every trick in the manual.  Versatile actor John Turturro gives a free-wheeling performance as Francesco Bernoulli, the world-renowned Italian racing champ who is Lightning’s chief rival. Tony Shalhoub, Bruce Campbell, Joe Mantegna, Peter Jacobson, Jason Isaacs, Eddie Izzard, Paul Dooley, Cheech Marin, John Ratzenberger, Franco Nero and Vanessa Redgrave also lend their vocal talents.

Film (4 out of 5 stars) 

The film opens with a sequence that could have started a James Bond movie with British secret service agent Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) in the middle of the ocean looking for some bad guys that are led by the evil Professor Zundapp (Thomas Kretschmann) who specializes as a weapon designer.  When McMissile infiltrates one of the oil derricks where Professor Z is having a meeting, he is discovered and has to make an explosive escape that contains more action in just that sequence than the first movie did in its entirety.
Some time has passed since the events of the first film, with some good and bad changes since then.  “Doc” Hudson is longer with us following the real life death of actor Paul Newman who played him.  Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) has now won four Piston Cups and lives in Radiator Springs although he rarely gets home due to all of his races.  When the movie starts, he’s just returned home and he’s looking forward to spending time with his best friend Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) and his girlfriend Sally (Bonnie Hunt).
When the former oil tycoon Miles Axelrod (Eddie Izzard) announces a World Grand Grand Prix to promote his new bio-fuel called Allinol, when Mater gets McQueen involved in the race when he defends him against the taunts of the Italian formula one car Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro).  Sally convinces McQueen to take Mater with him on the worldwide race which McQueen reluctantly does much to his later regret.  Once they are in Japan, Mater continually embarrasses McQueen with his fish out of water antics.
Unbeknownst to McQueen and the other races, there’s a plot in motion that will not only put them in danger but will will also change how the world views bio-fuel and which version they are dependent on.  That conspiracy includes a collection of “lemon” cars that are looking for revenge because of their unwanted status.  To fight that plot, McMissile and his junior agent Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) travel to Tokyo get information from American agent Rod “Torque” Redline (Bruce Campbell!) but he is captured and killed before they can meet him.  Fortunately Redline was able to pass on his info to an unsuspecting Mater before he was captured which leads McMissile and Shiftwell to mistakenly believe that Mater is their American contact.
The rest of the movie involves Mater being thought of as an American secret agent by the British agents while he tries to prove that he is more than just the ignorant fool everyone believes he is.  In the meantime, McQueen is continuing to race since he believes that Mater returned home to Radiator Springs.  The race itself is getting more and more dangerous since cars are blowing up during the race which many mistakenly blame on the Allinol fuel.  In actuality, Professor Z’s men are shooting a weapon at the cars that makes the Allinol fuel to explode.  It’s up to Mater to save the day which will save McQueen’s life and prove that there’s more to him that meets the eye.
Cars 2 is a fun and gorgeous looking film that is quite a bit different than the first film.  The first film’s message was to stop and smell the roses and McQueen learned to slow down and enjoy life.  In this film, it’s non-stop action which is preferable in my book since the middle part of the first movie kind of dragged for me.  A lot of people weren’t happy that Mater is the focus of this movie which is understandable since a little Mater goes a long way.  The movie is far more convoluted than it needed to be with an ending that was pretty far-fetched.  After watching the special features, I was amazed at how much detail and passion was put into this movie which only helped me appreciate it more.

Video (5 out of 5 stars) 

In my past reviews of Disney movies, I’ve marveled at the 3D versions as they’ve always been beautiful, but I’ve never actually recommended that people should watch the 3D version over the 2D one.  That is until now.  This stunning 1080p (2.40:1) 3D transfer is the best they’ve done and is so good that you should throw the 2D disc away.  Scenes of the cars racing or Finn McMissile escaping from the oil platform, or the neon lit city-scape of Tokyo, it all looks real and positively amazing!  This 3D movie not only adds so much depth that you feel as if you are inside the movie, but it also has a bunch of fun with the 3D by having the cars swing in front of the viewers and having tires thrown at them as well.  Much of the movie takes place in the dark, especially the Bond-like opening of the movie, which you would think would cause issues for the 3D transfer but it doesn’t.  Ghosting isn’t really an issue here and the variety of colors on display is just dazzling especially with all of the brilliant colors in Tokyo.  Both versions of the film offer a tremendous amount of detail that will take your breath away.  Textures are also laser sharp and I was very impressed with just how real it all looks.  This is Disney’s finest 3D effort to date and it’s now the only way that I plan to watch the movie from here on.  It’s just that good!

Audio (5 out of 5 stars) 

Disney offers another perfect DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track that puts the pedal to the metal!  This is another amazing lossless mix that offers crystal clear dialogue and an enveloping sound field that puts the viewer in the center of the action.  Every explosion, engine roar, and gunshot is convincing and all around you.  The LFE channel is given a constant workout as it’s a constant force.  The rear speakers do a masterful job in delivering a powerful atmosphere that adds complete immersion.  Directional effects are all over the place and so accurate, you can’t help but feel like you are right there.   This full-throttle mix is flawless and represents another reference quality surround track from Disney!

Special Features (5 out of 5 stars) 

Much like the previous five disc 3D combo pack of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides 3D, the bulk of the extras are only to be found on the five disc 3D edition of the movie.  Like before, if you want all of the special features, you will need to buy the slightly more expensive 3D edition to get it all.  The upside to that will be that not only will you get everything but if you don’t currently have a 3D TV and player right now, it will be there when you do.  In the meantime, you can watch the excellent 2D disc that’s included in the 3D set.  All of the extras are in high definition.  There’s at least four easter eggs to be found that are associated with The Pacific, London, Paris, Prague, and Tokyo.
  • Sneak Peek: The Nuts & Bolts of Cars Land – A short tour led by John Ratzenberger of the upcoming new Cars Land coming Summer 2012.  We see the land in various stages of being built and it looks like it’s going to be really cool once it’s done.
  • Audio Commentary - The film’s directors John Lasseter and Brad Lewis talk about the genesis of the film and what they wanted to accomplish with it and they cover just about every aspect of the movie’s production.  As always, Lasseter is a genial and interesting host and he takes up the lion’s share of the discussion.  It’s very clear how passionate Lasster is about this series and his enthusiasm for it is contagious!
  • Hawaiian Vacation – This bonus cartoon was a set highlight for my son and me since we love the Toy Storyseries.  Picking up after the events of Toy Story 3, we see the gang prepare to take it easy after Bonnie and her family go on vacation.  When they find out that Ken and Barbie thought they were going to Hawaii too for a romantic getaway, the gang creates an impromptu Hawaiian set to make them feel like they didn’t miss anything.  This is a great cartoon and all of the original voice actors returned for this which just makes it even better.  This may be my favorite extra!
  • Air Mater - This is a new episode of “Mater’s Tall Tales,” a series where Mater embellishes a story from his past that usually involves highly improbable events and a rescue by Lightning McQueen.  In this one, Mater tells a tale about becoming a pilot and joining the Flying Hornet Squadron.  This cartoon also sets up the upcoming spin-off movie by Pixar called Planes.
  • Radiator Springs – From here you can watch an four-minute alternate opening labeled as a “Tall Tale Deleted Scene” (it’s not really one of Mater’s Tall Tales), an “Origins of Cars 2″ featurette, a fully rendered “Radiator Springs Set Exploration,” and an art slideshow.
  • The Pacific – In this section we learn about the reasons for the film’s opening scene in “Somewhere in the Pacific,” discovering how the villains were selected in “Making Lemon-Aides,” an opportunity to view the “Oil Derrick Set Exploration” section, and another art slideshow.
  • London – In this section, the “Brawl at Big Bentley” goes into detail about the film’s climactic third act, “Spyified” takes a look the spy aspect of the film , “Spy Training: London” is a missing scene from the movie, “Big Bentley, Tower Bridge, London Eye and Buckingham Palace Set Explorations” show off the fully rendered sets, and a trailer created for England, and another slideshow.
  • Paris – In this section, we see the “Paris Race Deleted Scene,” the production crew talk about their love for Paris and its locations in the “Streets of Paris” featurette, there’s another “Spy Training” short, a look at the “Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower and Paris Market Set Explorations,” and another art slideshow.
  • Munich – In this section, there’s a “Germany Deleted Scene,” a fun but cut “Oktoberfest Deleted Scene,” a “Mater-Hosen” scene, a German trailer and an art slideshow.
  • Prague – In this section, there’s an “Alternate Prague Chase Opening” which shows a special agent getting chased and captured, and an art slideshow.
  • Porta Costa – In this section, we hear from the crew again about their visit to Italy and what inspired them in the following extras: there’s a “Finding Porta Costa” production featurette, a “Heart of Italy” featurette, an “International Insurance” short, another chance to visit the “Porta Costa and Uncle Topolino’s Square Set Explorations,” and another art slideshow.
  • Tokyo – In this section, you can view a “Tokyo Race Extended Scene” with optional filmmaker commentary, a “Mater Takes Tokyo” where we see Mater experiencing culture shock, a “Many Nations, One Race” World Grand Prix story featurette that talks about bringing all of the world’s best racers together, another “Spy Training” short, a “Museum Set Exploration,” a Japanese theatrical trailer, and an art slideshow.
  • Emeryville – In this section, we get to see one of the annual Pixar car shows in “Motorama,” a look behind-the-scenes on how a Finn McMissile toy  is conceived and made in “He Lives! Making the Finn McMissile Toy,” we see a gallery of character animations in “Animation Pit Stop,” and the American teaser and theatrical trailers.
  • Final Thoughts (5 out of 5 stars) 

    Cars 2 was a lot more enjoyable for me over the first film.  It’s got a lot more action, the cars and the weaponry are cool, and the addition of new cast including Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Bruce Campbell, and John Turturro only make it better.  It doesn’t hurt that this is an absolutely gorgeous looking Blu-ray with such good sound quality that you will feel as if you are on the racetrack.  Not to mention that this is also Disney’s most amazing 3D release to date that’s so good that you should use the 2D disc as a coaster.
    Order your copy today!

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