On DVD & Blu-Ray: November 7, 2017

I could not have been less excited about the prospect of a third Cars movie. Most would say it is fair to classify this now trilogy as the weakest link in the ever-growing Pixar brand, but I don't bring this up to quickly cut down the third installment in this franchise that has borne nothing more than extended or unnecessary narratives, but rather to commend it for stepping up its game with what is likely the last chapter largely featuring Lightning McQueen if not the beginning of a new generation of Cars films as Cars 3 actively attempts to correct much of what has dragged these films down to sub-par Pixar levels from the beginning. In 2006, an idea such as a world filled with talking vehicles and a story that paid homage to the racing world, where it'd been, and where it might be going was an inspired enough one especially considering the combination of Disney and Pixar had yet to fail to meet if not surpass expectations. There seemed so much energy and so much enthusiasm for this first endeavor and while, having re-watched that first film recently, Cars is certainly a fine enough experience it didn't transcend the genre of animated movies in the way many of its predecessors had. Rather, Cars was more along the lines of an animated movie made strictly for the kiddos rather than one that had the ability to both appeal to the children in the crowd as well as emotionally resonate with their parents. That isn't to say it didn't try, but it is in the same kind of middle area where the purpose is present yet the payoff doesn't totally work that we find Cars 3. Many will agree Cars 2 was a total misstep and deviated from what at least made the first film charming and even if the Cars movies didn't make them buttloads of cash via merchandising it would seem Pixar might be intent on course correcting for the sake of artistic credibility as Cars 3 makes a genuine attempt to steer this franchise back into the arms of what inspired it in the first place-the good ole open road. While we are eleven years down the road from the first Cars in the future the dynamic will be rather jarring as the original Cars and Cars 3 more or less bookend the career of McQueen; chronicling both how he learned to be the racer he always aspired to be as well as helping him cope with the passing of time, the passing of the baton, and understanding there might be more to life than crossing the finish line first. Full review here. B-

Writer/director Matt Spicer and his feature directorial debut, Ingrid Goes West, nail it. For a long time. For most of the runtime, actually, Spicer and his film nail exactly what he and it are going for. In every detail the script supplies or that drips from Aubrey Plaza's inherently mocking facade into what the actress applies to the titular character Ingrid Goes West is as sharp as it needs to be in order to achieve this kind of sardonic satire it's going for in each of every one of those aforementioned details. That Spicer and co-writer David Branson Smith are able to craft an interesting narrative from the seemingly simple idea of exposing those who live their lives striving to create the appearance of another kind of life on social media is encouraging first and foremost, but that through this they are able to utilize that premise to support and point out all the obvious and sometimes dangerous/creepy aspects most might not consider when posting to Instagram makes the mockery that much funnier due to the fact it's so true. As with many an inspired tales, Ingrid Goes West begins strong by highlighting some of these little truths to what is not necessarily an exaggerated effect, but maybe more frightening is the depiction of Plaza's Ingrid trying to figure out the best phrasing for an Instagram comment is so accurate they need not be exaggerated, but more just held up in front of us in order to realize how trivial and silly it all really seems. Ingrid Goes West understands this semblance of effortless cool is indeed serious business to some though and with that it doesn't so much talk down to the intended audience it desires to simultaneously mock and enlighten, but rather Spicer and Smith's screenplay comes around to the inevitable (yet encouraging) conclusion that to be your own cool is the coolest cool there is. This is exemplified through a particularly hilarious and exceptionally performed character named Dan Pinto (O'Shea Jackson Jr.) who comes into Ingrid's life at a crucial time and provides the kind of real, tangible, human interaction her life and being so badly craves-even if Ingrid herself doesn't realize this for much of the film. That it takes Ingrid so long to understand the simple epiphany the film eventually has would be rather testing did the majority of the movie not land so precisely on how exhausting it can be to keep up these kinds of fronts that feel obvious in their fraudulence, but are so convincing in their execution they may as well explicitly state that one should feel inferior. That Ingrid Goes West ultimately lands on the non-revelation it does gives this hard and fast social commentary an otherwise disappointing last act. Full review here. B-

Endearing. Endearing is the word to describe what quality and feeling writer/director Geremy Jasper captures in his feature directorial debut after spending the past seven or so years in the world of narrative shorts and music videos (Selena Gomez and Florence + the Machine among his subjects). Unsurprising then is the fact that Jasper's first feature-length effort, that he's also the sole writer on, deals heavily with the worlds of music, ambition, and the stark difference in those that live to make music and those who make music for a living. This has always been something of a fascinating area for artists to find themselves in-this kind of gorge where either side seems a steep slope that could easily threaten their ultimate goals in one way or another. On the one hand, there's fame and all that comes with it including both the many positives and the mountain of sacrifices while on the other hand it's hard to imagine trying to make a living doing something else while having your true passion be relegated to little more than a hobby. If you've ever chased a dream involving music then Patti Cake$ is wholly identifiable no matter the genre specialized in, but even if you have not a single, musically-inclined bone in your body the film still stands as a testament to anyone who has ever had odds stacked against them. I won't get too hyperbolic here given that, at the end of the day, this is a movie that does well to accomplish what it sets out to, but never comes across as something truly transcendent in what topics it's touching on or exceptional in how it conveys or delivers those ideas. Patti Cake$ has enough going on in its brain though, and is brought to life through such humbling albeit misguided shells that they do indeed come to be endearing thanks largely in part to the captivating performances from each of the members of this eclectic cast. Through the course of events in which we follow these engaging characters Jasper also begins to explore not only the inner turmoil of the titular Patti (a revelatory Danielle Macdonald), but he also takes on the culture that has bred her, that has groomed her into this personality that, strangely enough, defies the conventions of what a young, poor female would take from societal cues. Jasper addresses this blending of cultures and where the line is drawn or if there is a line at all. Patti Cake$, while charmingly performed, is most notable for digging into these ideas of our present, Instagram-obsessed society that is ironically full of people who don't seem to know themselves at all. Full review here. B+

Short Term 12 was one of my favorite films of 2012 and made me take more notice of Brie Larson's undeniable magnetism than 21 Jump Street already had the year before. With this adaptation of Jeannette Walls' memoir Larson reunited with Short Term 12 director, Destin Cretton, to relay the story of a young girl who comes of age in a dysfunctional family of nonconformist nomads with a mother who's an eccentric artist and an alcoholic father who would stir the children's imagination with hope as a distraction to their poverty. With the likes of Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts playing the disillusioned parents and Larson at the forefront as the daughter who must learn to grow up faster than she should only to eventually abandon her parents in favor of a more traditional lifestyle, I was said to miss The Glass Castle when it opened in theaters in early August. Very clearly a period piece the film looked to have a lush color palette with the more posh costume designs that Larson gets to sport really showing a style of the film I didn't necessarily expect. That said, one of the more intriguing aspects of The Glass Castle was that of the fact that story-wise as well as with the inclusion of several red-headed children was the fact there were shades of last year's Captain Fantastic at play (The Glass Castle even stars Shree Crooks and Charlie Shotwell who played brother and sister in Captain Fantastic) and while I found that film interesting I also found it somewhat hypocritical. With a terrific cast, a writer/director whose debut feature made my top ten list of that respective year, and an engaging if not exactly fresh story I'm happy to know I can now catch up with Cretton's follow-up to his feature debut anytime I like.

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