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DVD reviews: 'Car 3' steers middle-of-the-road franchise back on track

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Preston Barta

The Cars movies aren't exactly the strongest leg of Pixar Animation. It's the one series where profit seems to be placed above its artistry. That said, at least the franchise's third outing finds a nice middle ground to finally pass inspection.

Cars 3 (3 stars)

Rated G, 102 minutes.

Available Tuesday on DVD, Blu-ray, 4K Ultra HD and Digital HD.

In Cars 3, Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) is faced with the challenge of being the veteran who must race new, younger talent on the speedway. His old customs are making it increasingly more difficult for him to keep up with racers such as the new No. 1 racer Johnny Storm (Armie Hammer). So before McQueen puts this part of his life in the rear view, he wants to win gold and go out on top.

Though lacking in originality, Cars 3 functions best when it shifts its focus from racing and being around the annoying tow truck character Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), and sees McQueen training in Rocky-like fashion alongside new faces.

The most pivotal character of the bunch is Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo), who is hired to help McQueen with all the scientific methods the youngsters are employing these days. Their relationship is the heart of the story and what saves the film from slipping into the pit.

Extras: The Walt Disney Studios Blu-ray combo pack release comes fully loaded, including a number of featurettes about the film's story, characters and design, and also features deleted scenes and an audio commentary with the filmmakers.

Twilight Time: October releases - Films of love, adventure and betrayal are at the center of last month's releases from Twilight Time, a retro movie distribution company.

Wild Bill (3 stars) This 1995 movie is very much a '90s western. It's got a dynamite cast (including Jeff Bridges, Ellen Barkin, John Hurt, David Arquette, Bruce Dern and Christina Applegate) and a goofy filming style that's too messy to be taken seriously. The plot resembles the far superior The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford: A mythic and well-respected gunfighter (Bridges) travels the frontier and makes many enemies along the way. With his fading health, now is a good time as any for someone to bury him 6 feet deep.

Rated R, 98 minutes.

Play Dirty (3.5 stars) The most exciting thing about this 1969 war drama is to see a young Michael Caine play an officer. Set during the Desert War in North Africa, Caine is part of a British outfit who disguise themselves as Italian soldiers to sneak under the enemy's nose and destroy a Nazi oil depot. While Play Dirty is never quite as thrilling as its plot and title suggest, it's consistently fair to its genre and is a solid attempt at recapturing the feel of 1967's The Dirty Dozen.

Rated R, 118 minutes.

The Pirates of Blood River (3.5 stars) 1962's The Pirates of Blood River, starring a young Christopher Lee (The Lord of the Rings), is an odd pirate movie. Instead of setting its story about a group of ruthless pirates trying to acquire gold on the the water, the film mostly takes place on land. This misdirection may have been due to budget restraints, but it sure brings a new element to this tale of swashbucklers. The movie may not amount to anything special by the end, but there's enough fun Jolly Roger dialogue and colorful bearded-characters to keep the ship afloat.

Not rated, 87 minutes.

Captain from Castile (4 stars) Easily the best from October's Twilight Time roster, and the longest, 1947's Captain from Castile plays like a sprawling drama in the same vein as Gone with the Wind. Tyrone Power (The Mark of Zorro) is a nobleman forced to flee his home during the Spanish Inquisition and later becomes swept up in Hernán Cortés' expedition to Mexico. With swordplay, lush set-pieces and an endearing love story, Captain from Castile is lavish entertainment on an epic scale, even to today's standards.

Not rated, 141 minutes.

Extras: The limited edition Twilight Time (available on TwilightTimeMovies.com) releases are sold separately, and include special features such as isolated music tracks, original theatrical trailers, and audio commentaries with filmmakers and film historians.

The Glass Castle (4 stars) The Glass Castle is a personal film. Not only for author and subject Jeannette Walls (played by Brie Larson), who grew up in a dysfunctional family, subsisting on false promises and little money, but for the viewer as well. While you may have not lived under the broken roof as Walls did, almost anyone can relate to the idea of finding love with the world collapsing around you.

Stories of shattered homes and troubled upbringings are common narratives for both page and screen. The depiction not only acts as a cautionary tale for the audience, but a healing balm for the person writing it. This was very much the case for Walls, who details many dispiriting images throughout her life in the story -- such as catching herself on fire while boiling some hot dogs, learning to swim by surviving a toss into the pool, and her father (a very good Woody Harrelson) listlessly allowing a man to take her away to have his way with her. There's so much to unpack in Walls' profound story of healing and love.

Rated PG-13, 127 minutes.

Extras: The Lionsgate Home Entertainment release includes nine deleted scenes, a conversation with author/subject Jeannette Walls, and two featurettes about the music of the film.

Also available this week: The Crown: Season 1, Darkman II: The Return of Durant (available on ShoutFactory.com), Darkman III: Die Darkman (available on ShoutFactory.com), Darkness Rising, Gun Shy, Ingrid Goes West (a recommended title), Into the Night (available on ShoutFactory.com), Killing Ground, Overdrive, Patti Cake$ (largely forgettable), The Philadelphia Story (1940): The Criterion Collection, and Westworld: Season 1.

PRESTON BARTA is a member of the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association. Read his work on FreshFiction.tv. Follow him on Twitter at @PrestonBarta.

FEATURED IMAGE: This image released by Disney shows Lightning McQueen, voiced by Owen Wilson, left, and Cruz Ramirez, voiced by Cristela Alonzo in a scene from "Cars 3." (Disney-Pixar via AP)