CARS 3 [G] B-
All movie franchises face the same challenge during their third installment. How do you create a satisfying “conclusion” for a trilogy, while potentially leaving the door open for more (if the box office receipts deem that there might be more gas in the tank)? “Cars 3” confronts this notion head-on in the story of Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson), the hotheaded race car who transitioned into a champion and now finds himself nearing the end of his career. McQueen wants to go out on his own terms, but a new crop of sleek racers trained in off-road facilities make old school techniques seem like junk. There’s a nice lesson here about passing the torch and the power of mentorship that doesn’t come across like a crass attempt at keeping this franchise on the road past its prime, which is a welcome sign that Pixar might be ready to make way for a new line.
ROUGH NIGHT [R] B-
Aretha Franklin and Annie Lennox told us back in the day that “Sistas Are Doing It For Themselves,” but proof of that statement feels real now, watching Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, Zoë Kravitz, Ilana Glazer and Jillian Bell embark on a crazy bachelorette party that goes horribly awry reminiscent to Peter Berg’s “Very Bad Things.” Women can headline raunchy comedies with pitch-black shifts in tone just like men. I would even go so far as to argue that with a game performer like McKinnon, you can elevate this kind of juvenile romp to the level of a raucous small crowd pleaser. Just don’t expect it to achieve “Bridesmaids” heights.
47 METERS DOWN [PG-13] D-
Shark tales always remind me of the cultural divide in society – the split between people willing to risk life and limb in pursuit of natural thrills and those of us who shake our heads at such shenanigans. Watching Mandy Moore play the staid sister who, while on a rebound vacation, lets her carefree younger sister (Claire Holt) talk her into entering a rickety shark cage for a chance to get up close and personal with a couple of great whites, is a sign that some people really don’t have a lick of sense. On a more charitable and critical note, “47 Meters Down” lacks the white-knuckle intensity of “The Shallows” because I thoroughly bought into the idea of Blake Lively’s surfer character being in that situation and trusted her instinctive reactions. “47 Meters Down” anchored me with one unbelievably dumb choice after another with no hope of rescue.