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The Spiritual Message of Mentorship behind Cars 3

In the long list of Pixar classics, Cars has always been something of an outsider. The first film encouraged audiences to slow down and appreciate life, but still leaned heavily towards marketing toys. Cars 2 was a transparent cash-grab which regularly falls at the bottom of every “Top Pixar Movies” list. Now Cars 3 has finally rolled into theaters, and viewers are a little unsure of what to make of it. While the film retreads plenty of familiar ground, it also delivers a remarkably sage story about growing older and the importance of mentoring the next generation. It’s a parable which could speak directly to a modern church in crisis.

As a millennial, I’ve had a front-row seat to the ongoing conflict between young and old believers within the Church. Elderly Christians will frequently accuse the next generation of being lazy, entitled, and uncommitted to solid Biblical truths. Meanwhile, young believers see the current leadership as ignorant, unloving, and deeply hypocritical. The result has been a massive, invisible schism which has only served to weaken both sides. Millennial Christians now find themselves to be spiritually rootless, while the older generation grows increasingly embattled while trying to navigate modern issues.

Viewers witness a similar struggle unfold in Cars 3. After suffering a humiliating defeat by up-and-coming rookie, Jackson Storm, Lightning McQueen is determined to reclaim his former glory on the racetrack. Though a gifted trainer named Cruz Ramirez offers to help, it’s obvious that Lightning doesn’t think much of this young upstart. He scoffs at Cruz’s high-tech gadgets and logistical training methods, what does a veteran like him have to learn from someone like her? At the same time, Cruz regularly treats Lightning as a problem to be fixed, even going so far as to dub him, “her senior project”. There’s no acknowledgment of his accomplishments or experience, just a demand that he get with the times.

Many Christians overlook how scripture emphasizes the need for committed, mutually-respectful mentorship. Older believers have always been responsible for shepherding the next wave of Christians into maturity (Hebrews 13:7). At the same time, they are also responsible for providing the younger generation with positive role models (Titus 2:3-4) and not exasperating them in their teachings (Ephesians 6:4). This mentorship helps weave the two sides together, with elder Christians passing on their wisdom as the younger ones adapt to a changing world. It is, as the scriptures say, iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17).

Forgive the pun, but Cars 3 really drives this message home. Audiences see how after their initial disagreement Lightning becomes a valuable guide for Cruz. He teaches her the fundamentals of racing, and helps her discover the contender she never believed she could be. Meanwhile, Cruz encourages Lightning to stop fretting over a changing world, and instead create a legacy he can be proud of. When the Church operates in a similar manner, the Kingdom of God not only stands, it thrives.

So let’s take a lesson from Pixar and Lightning McQueen. There will always be disagreements between one generation and the next, but when we pursue God together, we become the champions Christ first called us to be.

(Image Credit: Pixar)

*Published 6/19/2017

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Edinburgh 2017: Cars 3 review

In what is a marked improvement on its predecessor, Cars 3 – the final part of Pixar’s series about anthropomorphic automobiles – delivers dazzling visuals and an entertaining story, despite a spoon-feeding approach to communicating the usual family-friendly messages.

Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) has been racing for years, winning time after time. That is until new car Jackson Storm takes the world by storm, taking over McQueen’s place on top and leading him to a fatal crash that takes him out of action. Left down on his luck and feeling like this may be the end of his career, McQueen retires to Radiator Springs, where it’s up to his old pal Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) to convince him that it isn’t the end.

Put back into training with the latest in high-tech software to track speed and power, McQueen tries to adapt to new techniques. But it’s only when him and new mentor Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo) take a detour towards the comeback race in Florida that McQueen starts to believe in his chances. First-time director Brian Lee, who has worked behind-the-scenes on a number of previous Pixar films, takes the Cars series back to its roots, with the script placing focus back on beloved character McQueen, voiced with enthusiasm as always by Wilson.

The stakes here aren’t particularly high, but the arc for McQueen is more personal and therefore more relatable to audiences, especially adults; those of a certain age starting to look back on their lives. It’s perhaps the most mature instalment of the series in that respect. The addition of Ramirez, too, adds a new, female angle to the world of racing; hers an arc that rivals in how refreshing it is. Alonzo is a wonderful voice actress; bright and bubbly, but with a sadness there that reflects Ramirez’s struggle to be accepted in a male-focused environment.

As mature as it is in comparison to the previous entries, Cars 3 is firmly aimed at kids, with plenty of humour, colour and physical comedy thrown in to keep them entertained. The visuals stand-out considerably also, the animators taking a step up from what they’ve done. It’s captivating to watch the races unfold, and one particular montage in which McQueen drives across America, through many states in all types of weather, is a real wonder to watch.

Pixar have for many years now been considered the animation studio to beat. And while the Cars series reflects the low end of the scale in terms of the studios output, Cars 3 has to be recognised in how much it attempts to shrug off the obvious pitfalls of Cars 2 and return to what made Cars better than many critics initially dubbed it. It’s a fun film set in a vivid world with not one but two characters who, by the end, have learnt some real lessons and had some fun along the way.

The Edinburgh International Film Festival runs from June 21-1 July

Jamie Neish | @JamieNeish

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2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio review: It’s hard to make an SUV look this … Cars is your go-to resource for coverage of local car news, events, and reviews. In the market for a car or truck? Check out our new car specials and used car specials curated by our local dealer network.

Alfa Romeo continues to expand its lineup in the U.S. with the all-new Stelvio. The company may be known for producing fun, sporty cars, but it can’t turn its back on the booming SUV market. The Stelvio combines the utility of an SUV with the exceptional driving characteristics of the beloved Italian brand.

Founded in Milan, Italy, in 1910, Alfa Romeo has a rich history of building dynamic, inspiring cars. Those cars disappeared from the U.S. market for nearly 20 years, but now they’re back with a three-car lineup: The 4C Coupe and 4C Spider, the Giulia sports sedan, and, now, the Stelvio SUV.

A large part of an Alfa Romeo’s appeal is its style. These cars are beautiful and fun to drive, and the Stelvio is no exception. It’s hard to make an SUV that looks sexy – they’re essentially big metal boxes – but the Stelvio is easy on the eyes. It’s long and wide, mimicking the style of the Giulia, only with the higher height and larger cargo capacity that make SUVs so popular.

Elegant Interior: Rich leather with appealing wood accents. —Alfa Romeo USA

The interior reinforces that first impression with 10-way power adjustable leather seats that include four-way lumbar support. They’re heavily bolstered and hug your body when you take tight corners. There’s a leather-wrapped steering wheel, ambient lighting, and plenty of soft-touch surfaces. Opt for higher trim levels, and you’ll find aluminum sport pedals, steering column-mounted paddle shifters, heated seats, and elegant wood trims. Put simply, the Stelvio interior is a balance of sports car simplicity and luxury car elegance.

Seating is comfortable and supportive with adjustability designed to give even the shortest of drivers a commanding view of the road. Backseat passengers also benefit from comfortable seating with room for three, although it’s a snug fit across the shoulders. There’s good headroom and legroom, and even with the front seats all the way back, second-row passengers won’t have their knees pressed against the front seats. That second row split-folds 40/20/40 to offer plenty of flexibility for cargo. Leave the seats up for 18.5 cubic feet or increase that number to 56.5 cubic feet when you fold the seats flat.

The Stelvio and Stelvio Ti have a 2.0-liter direct injected, turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 280 horsepower and 306 pound-feet of torque paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission. There will be a more powerful engine with 505 horsepower available on the Stelvio Quadrifoglio, but it won’t be arriving until early next year. All-wheel drive is standard across the lineup so you can drive with confidence when the snow flies.

Our test drive took us through the rambling countryside near Nashville, Tenn. This isn’t a small vehicle, but handling was surprisingly nimble along twisting country roads. Steering was tight and responsive without being tiring, and the transmission shifts were smooth, making good use of the Stelvio’s power. Flip the gear shift to manual mode, and the optional paddle shifters give you complete control over transmission shifts and make the drive even more fun.

Further tailor your drive experience by choosing from dynamic, natural, or advanced efficiency to adjust throttle response, boost pressure, and suspension settings. While the best fuel economy comes from leaving it in advanced efficiency mode, this takes a lot of the fun out of the Stelvio. Switch to natural and it gets better, or flip it to dynamic for the sportiest drive experience. With a 0-60 time of 5.4 seconds and top speed of 144 miles per hour, it’s hard not to have fun no matter which drive mode you choose.

Infotainment comes from a standard 6.5-inch widescreen color display with Bluetooth connectivity. It’s controlled by a rotary dial on the center console and is easy to operate without causing distraction. There are also four USB ports eliminating fights to charge your phone. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will be available later this year, but take note that early models will unfortunately not be able to add these features as a software update.

Standard safety features include hill descent control, hill start assist, integrated brake system, rear park-assist sensors, rear backup camera with dynamic gridlines, and front seatbelt pre-tensioners. Optional features include lane departure warning, front park-assist sensors, rear cross path detection, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot monitoring.

Pricing for the Stelvio starts at $41,995 for the base model and goes up to $46,495 for the Stelvio Ti Lusso. Alfa Romeo’s new SUV is arriving in dealerships now.

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All-new 2018 Toyota Camry: A best-selling sedan gets a welcome upgrade

The Toyota Camry has been the bestselling car in America for the last 15 years. That’s a long time at the top, so Toyota didn’t hold back when it came time to introduce the all-new 2018 Toyota Camry. It truly is all-new with an updated design inside and out, three new powertrains, and the latest in safety technologies standard across the Camry lineup.

It all starts with what Toyota calls “TNGA,” or Toyota New Global Architecture. The idea behind this design strategy is to continue the brand’s reputation for building quality vehicles while making them more fun and more appealing. The Camry was always a great car and did the job, but it wasn’t exactly exciting. Some might have called it boring, but the new Camry works hard to shatter that image.

Take a look at it and you immediately see how hard they worked to shed its reputation as a staid, unexciting sedan. There’s more sculpting to the sheet metal, especially on the hood, and the car is longer, lower, and wider. These are the hallmarks of a sports car, which is exactly the excitement Toyota is aiming for with the Camry.

The interior gets a beautiful upgrade with available leather seats and new colors including a brilliant Cockpit Red that’s anything but boring. Gauges are angled in the driver’s direction, and the center console is redesigned with higher quality materials and an eye toward creating a more open, welcoming space for all passengers.

Toyota worked on ergonomics, positioning the driver’s seat for optimum comfort and better road visibility. The rear seats are also redesigned to provide a nicer ride. The new seating is comfortable and supportive with minimal bolstering so larger occupants won’t feel squished up front. Though not plush, the Camry’s seats were well-suited to a full day of driving.

There’s a choice of three new powertrains starting with a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder with 203 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. The sporty XSE trim gets an extra three horsepower and two pound-feet of torque from the same engine. It’s paired to a new eight-speed automatic transmission and gets an EPA estimated miles per gallon of 28/39 city/highway. The four-cylinder is available in all five trim levels — L, LE, SE, XSE, and XLE — and gets a slight boost in fuel economy to 29/41 in the base trim.

It had plenty of power and easily accelerated up to highway speeds. It was equally responsive when pressed for passing in heavy traffic, making it fun to drive. Yes, it’s the good, ol’ reliable Camry, but the handling and ride are much better than the last generation.

A wrong turn that was a wonderful mistake took us up the side of a mountain, and the switchbacks were no challenge at all. It’s still a sedan, not a sports sedan, but Toyota delivers on the promise of a Camry that’s finally fun. The ride is complemented by a quiet cabin with minimal road and wind noise.

Cockpit red is a vibrant new interior color choice. —Image provided by Toyota

Move up to the 3.5-liter V6, and you have 301 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque paired to the same eight-speed automatic transmission. It’s available only on the XSE and XLE models and provides its extra horsepower at the price of fuel economy. EPA estimates are 22/33 for the XLE and 22/32 for the XSE. You get the same great driving characteristics as with the smaller engine, but with an even better response to a heavy foot on the gas pedal.

Hybrid fans have a Camry, too. It features a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine with 176 horsepower and 163 pound-feet of torque paired with an 88-kilowatt electric motor with a continuously variable transmission. If you’re considering the hybrid, then you’re limited to three trim choices. The SE and XLE have an EPA-estimated 44/47 city/highway while the LE is the superstar with 51/53.

The hybrid doesn’t have quite the handling of its gas-powered cousins. The ride is heavier, and it doesn’t slink through corners with quite the same vibrancy, but that’s not to say it’s no fun. It’s different and not quite as sporty, but still a noticeable improvement over the last generation hybrid.

The 2018 Camry has Toyota’s latest Entune 3.0 infotainment system along with App Suite Connect and navigation as standard features. There’s a seven-inch touchscreen along with a six-speaker stereo system, but audiophiles will want the upgraded version. This adds a JBL audio system with nine speakers and offers a noticeable sound improvement over the base system. Siri Eyes Free, USB port, Bluetooth wireless connectivity, and an auxiliary audio jack are also standard on every Camry.

Along with new powertrains and a new look, the Camry also boasts the latest in safety technologies standard across the vehicle lineup. This includes Toyota Safety Sense with pre-collision and pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, automatic high beams, and dynamic radar cruise control. Often these features are either unavailable or pricey add-ons for lower trims. Toyota deserves kudos for putting them on every Camry, no matter the trim level.

The base Toyota Camry L has a starting price of $23,495 with the top XSE V6 coming in at $34,950. Hybrid models run $27,800 up to $32,250. Competitive pricing is a large part of what makes the Camry such a big seller for Toyota. With its updated styling, improved drive, and exceptional standard safety features, the Camry continues to be a leader in its segment.

Nicole Wakelin is a contributor to and; she can be reached on Twitter @NicoleWakelin.

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Cars 3: Driven to Win Review | The Nerd Stash

Title: Cars 3: Driven to Win

Available On: Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, PS3, Nintendo Switch, Wii U

Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Developer: Avalanche Software

Genre: Racing

Official Site: Cars 3 Game 

Release Date: June 13, 2017 

Where To Buy It: Retail, XBox Games Store, Playstation Store, Nintendo eShop

In movie tie-in games it can sometimes be a stretch to capture the feel of the film in the video game since a character or film plot does not always neatly transfer from one media to the other (I’m looking at you Cliffhanger!).  That case can’t be made with Disney and Pixar’s Cars franchise as the first and third films are all about car racing, a genre that has received considerable attention in the video game world.  With that in mind, it only seems natural that a video game would be released in conjunction with the Cars 3 film.   Enter Cars 3: Driven to Win a racing title that lets gamers control many of the beloved characters from the movies on tracks inspired from the setpieces of the films.

The actual racing in Cars 3: Driven to Win is surprisingly responsive with tight controls for an arcade racer.  Drifting and finding the most efficient route in courses is a must in order to compete with the highly capable AI drivers.  The racing also requires liberal use of nitro boosts throughout to keep up with the crowd.  Nitro can be gained during the race by driving on two wheels, backward or with mid-air spins. Unfortunately, gamers will soon learn that they almost have to continuously race this way as there is always a need for more nitro to stay ahead of what can feel like some rubber-band AI.  It can get a little tiring at times in the game not allowing you to just drive for a while without the gimmicky tricks. This detracts from some solid racing mechanics that benefit from courses that have multiple paths, shortcuts and impressive elevation changes that instill some level of strategy to the racing and rewards the serious study of each level’s intricacies.

There are multiple types of races gamers can partake in from a standard first past the finish line race to a battle race (think Mario Kart), to a stunt showcase.  The variety is nice as you can try to for podium finishes in each of the five race types on each course.  This turns out to be a fair bit of content that needs to be conquered.  The stunt showcase has your car going through the standard levels but spins and flips for points are the key to success, not speed.  It was encouraging that even though the available stunt options were rather limited that there was still some challenge to always landing and I found this mode to be the most enjoyable in the game.  A close second is the battle races with a wonderful amount of armaments that can be picked up and fired at the other racers.  Most weapons are in the vein of missiles, bombs and machine guns which seem to not quite fit with the kid-friendly subject matter of the Cars 3 characters.  A little more imagination with weapons that would make sense in the Cars 3 world would have been a more organic tie-in to the film and a better fit.

While Cars 3: Driven to Win is a capable driving title I was especially interested to see how well the game captured the flavor of the franchise and the characters.  After all, in what other driving games out there are the characters and the cars you drive one in the same. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to infuse some of the creativity, wit, and humor that Pixar had painstakingly crafted into their films and apply that to the racing genre.  Unfortunately, for the most part, this was a bit of an overall missed opportunity with the game.  The overall narrative of the career mode or Cup Series consists of a lot of on-air commentating by Chick Hicks about how old and rundown Lightning McQueen is. This long running joke falls flat pretty quick and there are few other instances where the true personalities of the cars are on display. There are some canned phrases throughout races but they are far from memorable.  They are also further hampered by some “sound-alike” voice actors of varying quality.  The actor doing his best Owen Wilson Lighting McQueen impression is passable as times but most of the others are a far cry from the actual actors in the films. I am completely perplexed as to what the actor portraying Cheech Marin’s Ramone was trying to do.

Story and characters aside, I found myself developing my own narrative as I focused my attention on landing ole Lightning into the Hall of Fame.  The premise is beautiful in its depth and simplicity.  There are 136 tasks that need to be completed to get into the Hall of Fame. These tasks can be completed during Cup Series or other races and range from everything from “Simultaneously strike 2 opponents with bombs” to “Perform any 4 Air Tricks in a single Air Trick Combo and land successfully”.    I enjoyed revamping my play style in order to try and achieve these tasks and my satisfaction grew more from advancing my progress towards The Hall then in winning individual races.  In a brilliant move, all of the tasks are also not known.  You can unbeknownst achieve some in a race as only a couple of challenges will be made visible to be specifically worked on.

Verdict: Cars 3: Driven to Win is a capable arcade racer with a good variety of modes and tracks.  Completing stunts and finding shortcuts mid-race can be fun but the charm of the Cars franchise never translated fully to the gaming experience.  Instead of relying on well the established characters to differentiate the game from a crowded genre the Hall of Fame list does the heavy lifting to establish some replayability and sense of purpose and progression. 

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DJ Kinsey

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2018 BMW 530d Touring Euro-Spec

Although they are a rare sight in the United States, in Europe, station wagons are a popular part of most manufacturers’ lineups. How that came about, at BMW at least, wasn’t via exhaustive market research but rather an after-hours project. Max Reisböck was the man responsible.

Back in the mid-1980s, Reisböck was a mid-ranking BMW engineer frustrated by the inability of any of the company’s sedans to carry the paraphernalia required by his growing family. With the practicality you’d expect from a German gearhead, he set about building his own wagon, buying an E30 318i sedan that had been involved in a rear-end collision and converting it into his dream longroof transport. The process was carried out in a friend’s garage and took six months, with the finished car impressing his colleagues enough for the company to sign off on a production version.

Every 3-series from the E30 generation onward has offered a station-wagon variant, as has every 5-series since the E34. But despite several attempts to sell Bimmers wearing backpacks to Americans, none has been particularly successful. Lack of demand for the current 3-series Sports Wagon means it likely will be the last sold here. It’s a situation that seems certain to deny us the latest 5-series wagon (Touring, in BMW parlance).

Matters of the Estate

We drove the new 5-series Touring in the United Kingdom, which remains one of BMW’s biggest markets for station wagons—or estate cars, as the Brits say. While pretty much everything forward of the C-pillar is common with the sedan, the Touring’s added practicality and handsome lines make it a particularly compelling proposition.

The latest iteration of the 5-series has grown larger and become more sensible than its predecessor, and that holds true for the Touring even more so than for the sedan. It’s not the largest luxo-hauler on the market, but it makes a case for being the best all-rounder.

Engine choices for the wagon are simplified slightly compared with the European sedan, with three gasoline and three diesel powerplants. The 530i and 540i are mechanically identical to the eponymous U.S. sedans, meaning a 248-hp inline-four and a 335-hp inline-six, both turbocharged. (There is also a four-cylinder 520i in some markets.) But it’s the three diesels that will compose most of the sales volume: an entry-level four-cylinder 187-hp 520d, a 228-hp 525d that uses a turned-up version of the 520d’s turbocharged 2.0-liter, and finally the 530d with BMW’s new B57 turbocharged six-cylinder diesel that’s good for 261 horsepower and 457 lb-ft of torque. That’s the model we drove, equipped with the standard eight-speed automatic gearbox and optional all-wheel drive.

This isn’t quite as refined as the 530d sedan that formed a previous entry in our series on Cars European Automakers Deny Us. The Touring’s open luggage compartment creates more interior volume for harmonic resonances to breed in, and there’s a slight (but noticeable) increase in road noise compared with the hushed sedan. Similarly, the loss of the structure behind the rear seats has almost certainly led to reduced rigidity, and per BMW’s figures the Touring weighs some 200 pounds more.

But such modest changes don’t really diminish the 5-series Touring. The diesel engine is all but inaudible under gentle acceleration, producing a pleasantly muscular hum with firmer throttle applications. The peak torque of 457 lb-ft is on deck and saluting at just 2000 rpm, and the deftness with which the eight-speed auto shuffles its ratios means it doesn’t need to be worked hard for rapid progress. Only in extremis does the engine own up to its diesel origins, as it is reluctant to rev beyond 4500 rpm in response to transmission kickdowns. BMW’s claimed 5.6-second zero-to-62-mph time (with all-wheel drive) is just 0.2 second behind that of the equivalent sedan.

Ride comfort is outstanding, even on the 20-inch wheels of our test car. The standard air-sprung suspension does a fine job of dealing with both large bumps and rough surfaces. Steering remains a mild disappointment; the electrically assisted rack allows no real sensations to get through. And we’d like a manual gearbox, but even Europeans have given up on ordering those. (The base 520d can be specified with a stick in some markets.)

The 5-series isn’t the biggest luxury wagon, but it presents its luggage space beautifully. The 20-cubic-foot capacity with the rear seatbacks up is three cubes less than in the Mercedes-Benz E-class wagon, although it’s fractionally more than you’ll find in the Volvo V90 (all according to Europe-market measurement standards). With the rear seats folded—the three seatbacks collapse individually—volume increases to 60 cubic feet, which is four less than the supersize Benz but six cubic feet up on the Swede. The BMW also has separately opening tailgate glass, like the 3-series wagon, allowing smaller items to be put into the cargo hold without opening the entire liftgate.

Missing Out

While we’ve been told that at least one version of the 5-series diesel will make it across the Atlantic, it seems highly unlikely that the Touring will follow it. Anyone looking for a more practical 5-series will have to make do with the upcoming 6-series Gran Turismo hatchback—or alternatively follow the herd and buy an X5. They don’t know what they’re missing.

Film Fans offer mixed reviews of ‘Cars 3′ | Movies | gwinnettdailypost …

MEET THE LEGENDS — Lightning McQueen comes hood to hood with a group of characters who represent the roots of stock car racing—and provide a link to Lightning’s late coach and mentor, Doc Hudson. From left: River Scott (voice of Isiah Whitlock Jr.), Junior “Midnight” Moon (voice of Robert Glenn “Junior” Johnson), Smokey (voice of Chris Cooper), Louise “Barnstormer” Nash (voice of Margo Martindale), and Lightning himself (voice of Owen Wilson). “Cars 3” opens in U.S. theaters on June 16, 2017. ©2017 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

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‘Cars 3′ Review: A Worthy, By-the-Book Pixar Sequel | Variety

Cars,” back in 2006, was the first Pixar movie that was far more beloved by audiences than critics. That meant something, since Pixar had long been a critical darling. The movie struck many reviewers as being less heady and artful, more insistently conventional, than the “Toy Story” films or “Finding Nemo.” And after it was followed up by the critically revered triple whammy of “Ratatouille,” “WALL-E,” and “Up,” “Cars” languished, in reputation, as a “lesser” Pixar movie. Yet it found a deep place in the hearts of kids (and in many adult kids too), and the critics, in my view, were always too down on its shiny and sentimental off-the-beaten-track-of-Americana appeal.

It was clear that the co-director of “Cars,” the founding Pixar guru John Lasseter, felt close to the film and even protective of it, so five years later, when he made “Cars 2,” you can sort of understand why he shot the works. The sequel, with its globe-trotting chases and Rube-Goldberg-on-STP narrative that wound up spinning, almost deliberately, out of control, was a true Pixar oddball: a piece of candy-colored virtuosity that sent cars flying off in every direction, to the point that you could scarcely keep track of them. It was one of the most visually astonishing films in the Pixar canon and, at the same time, one of the most impersonal. Lasseter had upped the ante on “Cars” by making a work of technological pop art that it was almost impossible to care about. The movie was a commercial success, yet it seemed to leave the legacy of Lightning McQueen lying in the dust of eye-tickling dazzle.

Cars 3,” though, pointedly swings the pendulum back. Lasseter, with “Cars 2,” may have made the movie he wanted to make, but as Pixar’s chief creative officer, he surely registered the mixed reaction to it, and “Cars 3” feels like it has been conceived and directed, with scrupulous love and affection (and a bit of baseline corporate calculation), “for the fans.” It’s the first “Cars” film that Lasseter has handed off to one of his trainee/protégés  — Brian Fee, who has never directed a feature before. Fee honed his chops as a storyboard artist, working on “Ratatouille” and the two previous “Cars” films, and what he’s come up with is an exceedingly sweet and polished fable that unfolds with a kid-friendly, by-the-book emotional directness. The CGI animation has a detailed lush clarity highly reminiscent of “Ratatouille,” and the picture moves at such an amiable pace that even the drawling, dawdling pick-up-truck doofus Tow Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) doesn’t slow it down.

Lightning McQueen, voiced by Owen Wilson with his inimitable scratchy jocularity, is now past his prime — a celebrated stock-car racer who has been doing what he does for so long that he barely realizes the rest of the world has raced him by. The movie poignantly captures the paradox of the high-tech era: that you become ancient simply by staying the same. There is, of course, a new kid on the block, a wide-bodied jet-black sports-mobile named Jackson Storm (voiced with unctuous palsy bravado by Armie Hammer), who casually hits rates of over 200 miles per hour with the use of state-of-the-art numbers-crunching technology. Trying to cruise ahead of this next-generation speed demon, Lightning is all bluff confidence, but really, he doesn’t have a chance. He wipes out, in a spectacular sequence of flipping velocity and crushed metal, and the damage he does to his lollipop shell is the least of it. What he needs to recover is his spirit.

He winds up going on another off-ramp ambling odyssey, though this one is organized by his sponsor: Sterling (Nathan Fillion), who has set up a glassed-in training facility complete with treadmills, wind tunnels, and the mother of all VR racing simulators. He assigns Lightning to a trainer, Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo), who sees him as a fabulous relic (“I call you my senior project!”). But after Lightning has a disastrous session on the simulator, and Sterling reveals that he basically wants to cash in on Lightning’s name to sell Rust-eze mud flaps, it’s time for our hero to get back in touch with his racing roots.

He burns rubber on the beach, and he and Cruz pay a visit, incognito, to Thunder Hollow, a down-home mudslide of a track that turns out to be a demolition derby, ruled over by a drawling schoolbus with fire-spouting devil horns named Miss Fritter (Lea DeLaria). At this point, Lightning starts to seem like Pinocchio as a donkey-eared Lost Boy: He has fallen low, and the humiliation barely seems worth the price. (He doesn’t even win the demolition derby.) There’s only one figure, it seems, who can save him: his old mentor, Doc Hudson, even though Doc has passed on. So he seeks out Doc’s grizzled old repair truck, Smokey (Chris Cooper), who shows him that retired racers never die — they just hang around in bars talking about the glory days.

“Cars 3” is very much a tale of mentorship, of learning how to give up your ego in order to bolster someone else’s. As such, it’s touching in a pleasingly formulaic, pass-the-torch way. It turns out to be a girl-power movie: Cruz Ramirez is a trainer because she never believed in herself as a racer, and it’s up to Lightning to set her straight. Yet even as I was moved by the story, with its gender paradigm shift, that didn’t stop me from wishing that Cruz was a more idiosyncratic character; she should have been wilder and funnier, defined by something other than her self-doubt. And while it’s nice, on some level, to have Doc Hudson back (the presence of the late Paul Newman in the role seems based on a combination of vocal outtakes, which are dandy, and impersonations, which work less well), that dimension of the movie almost can’t help but play as an overly deliberate retread of the original “Cars.”

On the short list of movie sequels that are great (“The Godfather Part II” being the ne plus ultra), both the “Toy Story” sequels loom as brilliant follow-ups that audaciously extend the appeal of the original “Toy Story.” That’s the bar that Pixar set for itself. “Cars 3” is a friendly, rollicking movie made with warmth and dash, and to the extent that it taps our primal affection for this series, it more than gets the job done. Yet in many ways it’s the tasteful version of a straight-to-DVD (or streaming) sequel. Audiences should come out satisfied, and in satisfying numbers, but the upshot is that this year’s Pixar film is a finely executed product rather than an inspiring work of animated artistry.

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Film Fans offer mixed reviews of ‘Cars 3′

MEET THE LEGENDS — Lightning McQueen comes hood to hood with a group of characters who represent the roots of stock car racing—and provide a link to Lightning’s late coach and mentor, Doc Hudson. From left: River Scott (voice of Isiah Whitlock Jr.), Junior “Midnight” Moon (voice of Robert Glenn “Junior” Johnson), Smokey (voice of Chris Cooper), Louise “Barnstormer” Nash (voice of Margo Martindale), and Lightning himself (voice of Owen Wilson). “Cars 3” opens in U.S. theaters on June 16, 2017. ©2017 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

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Is your car under recall? The NSC and FCA want to help you find out

When’s the last time you checked to see if your car had been recalled? The National Safety Council and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles want to make doing so a regular part of every car-owner’s routine. 

It’s an important goal. As you might recall, we recently reported on a study from the University of Michigan Sustainable Worldwide Transportation showing that some U.S. motorists were unlikely to get their recalled cars repaired. Among study participants who’d received recall notices by mail, nearly 13 percent hadn’t taken in their vehicles for service–some because they didn’t see the need, others because they didn’t see doing so as a priority. 

While 13 percent may not sound like a sizable number, given the onslaught of recalls we’ve seen over the past several years, it’s huge. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, roughly 25 percent of vehicles on the road in the U.S. today have an open recall. That works out to some 53 million cars, trucks and SUVs.

Many of those are older vehicles. A different study carried out by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and Global Automakers revealed that completion rates for recalls of newer vehicles was about 83 percent. Among cars between five and ten years old, however, that number plummeted to just 44 percent.

Today, the NSC and FCA have launched a new initiative to get the attention of those vehicles’ owners. Dubbed “Check to Protect”, the awareness campaign encourages motorists to visit, where they can look for open recalls using a vehicle identification number or VIN. The VIN is found on the inside of the driver’s side door, in the lower left corner of the windshield, and on vehicle’s registration paperwork.  

If you’ve never checked your car for recalls, having one go-to website might seem like a groundbreaking development. But in fact, just redirects car owners to NHTSA’s existing nationwide database of vehicles under recall. (If you don’t have your VIN handy, you can also look for recalls on NHTSA’s site using the year, make, and model of your car.)

The innovative part of the NSC/FCA campaign is the easy-to-remember URL. The NSC will launch an advertising campaign next month to boost awareness of the website.

According to NSC’s President and CEO, Deborah A.P. Hersman, the goal of the Check to Protect initiative is to make America a safer place to drive: “When vehicles are in top form, they reduce critical risks. Unfortunately, too many drivers are complacent when it comes to recalls, or they are unsure whether their car is subject to one. Check To Protect should help close that knowledge gap and, by extension, make our roads safer.”

Our take? From where we sit, nearly anything that gets car owners to have their recalled cars repaired is a good thing. And it’s especially nice to see FCA as a lead sponsor–not so long ago, the automaker was accused of dragging its feet on recalls. 

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