Gran Turismo

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 11/7/23;
Sony Pictures;
Drama;
Box Office $44.16 million;
$34.99 DVD, $38.99 Blu-ray, $49.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense action and some strong language.
Stars David Harbour, Orlando Bloom, Archie Madekwe, Darren Barnet, Geri Halliwell Horner, Djimon Hounsou.

Lying at the nexus between video games and sports movies is director Neill Blomkamp’s Gran Turismo, a film with a premise that seems so much like a fantasy that many of the marketing materials have appended the title with “Based on a True Story.”

An adaptation of the racing simulator video game franchise of the same name by way of a biopic of one of its most famous players, Gran Turismo tells the story of Jann Mardenborough (Archie Madekwe), a hardcore gamer recruited to become an actual racecar driver.

While its The Last Starfighter meets Days of Thunder setup invites an unavoidable formulaic approach to the material, the film is nonetheless compelling thanks to its likable characters, engaging performances and thrilling racing scenes.

The film begins with a brief glimpse into the creation of the game, which was conceptualized as a racing simulator so realistic that the player would think they were actually driving at the world’s top tracks.

This leads opportunistic marketing executive Danny Moore (Orlando Bloom) to pose the question: Could the most highly skilled sim racers actually handle themselves on a real track? He organizes the Gran Turismo Academy, which invites the top GT players from around the world to compete for a chance to join the Nissan racing team.

Danny hires former racecar driver Jack Salter (David Harbour) to train the gamers on the ins and outs of real racing. Salter thinks it’s a fool’s errand, as logging hours at a console doesn’t equate to experience in the real world, where drivers can’t just hit the restart button when they crash.

But a few of the recruits prove they have enough skills behind the wheel to get a shot at the racing circuit, with Jann ultimately winning the contract and the chance to fulfill his lifelong dream of racing for real.

However, despite convincing Jack that maybe sim racers can actually drive for real, Jann soon learns that the fierce competition of professional racing is often fraught with tragedy and personal sacrifice.

While the film would have us believe much of this actually happened, most of the scenes inspired by true events have been rearranged to fit a Top Gun -style narrative. For instance, a horrific crash that shakes Jann’s confidence in himself didn’t occur in real life until years after the race that the film depicts as its climax.

Interestingly, the finale is based on the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the race in France likely to be familiar to many viewers who otherwise aren’t racing enthusiasts thanks to being featured in 2019’s Ford v. Ferrari.

That, however, was a period piece set in the 1960s, while Gran Turismo takes place mostly within the past decade. As such, Blomkamp employs all the cinematic tricks at his disposal to depict thrilling, pulse-pounding race action, from drone photography to CGI that takes us into Jann’s head as he parses the real tracks through his gaming experience.

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However, the real capper to how amazing Jann’s story is might be that the real Jann, who is still only in his early 30s, was the principal stunt driver for his own character in the film.

This is all showcased in the behind-the-scenes extras included on the Blu-ray, consisting of five featurettes that total nearly a half-hour of footage: the six-minute “The Plan: The True Story of Jann Mardenborough,” the five-minute “The Engine: Driving the Visuals,” the six-minute

“The Wheels: The Fast-Acting Cast,” the five-and-a-half-minute “The Pit Crew: Action and Stunts,” and the five-minute “The Garage: The Amazing Automobiles.”

There are also five deleted scenes that run a total of 12 minutes.

Digital versions of the film offer additional material, such as a brief “Impossible Dream” promotional video about Jann, and the film’s trailers.

Sony Trumpets Films, Shares Sneak Preview of ‘Gran Turismo’

LAS VEGAS — Sony’s Jan. 4 press conference at the Las Vegas Convention Center on the eve of CES 2023 prominently showcased the company’s movies.

CEO Kenichiro Yoshida took the stage and after a brief introduction in which he touched on satellites, sensors and sustainability, talked up Sony Pictures. “In our film division, we continue to bring to life fascinating stories,” he said against a backdrop of huge posters for Where the Crawdads Sing, Bullet Train, The Woman King and Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile.

“We are particularly proud of films that introduce diverse voices and subjects to audiences,” he added, and then brought out TriStar Pictures president Nicole Brown.

“At Tristar, we want to create incredible cinematic experiences, ones that are noisy, original, director-driven and culturally relevant, and also a lot of fun,” Brown said. She singled out The Woman King and I Wanna Dance with Somebody, the musical Whitney Houston biopic that opened theatrically Dec. 23, 2022.

“We’ve really been collecting filmmakers who are dedicated to the big screen, who want to celebrate cinema, and who have something unique to say and show, and that is a beautiful thing,” she said. “I can’t wait to tell more stories that do that.”

Yoshida then returned to the stage and told the audience — several hundred reporters, analysts and influencers were there in person, while another 14,000 were watching a live stream of the event — that Sony is looking to “continue to explore the potential of our best-loved video game IP as they move from the PlayStation platform to the screen.”

He talked up “The Last of Us,” a series based on the 2013 action-adventure video game published by Sony Computer Entertainment that debuts Jan. 15 on HBO and HBO Max, and noted that Twisted Metal and Gods of War “are being adapted for television, as well.”

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But the highlight of this part of his presentation was a sneak preview of the highly anticipated game-based movie Gran Turismo, slated to open theatrically Aug. 11. The film, directed by Neill Blomkamp, is based on the true story of Jann Mardenborough, a teenage Gran Turismo player whose gaming skills helped him win a series of Nissan competitions and become an actual professional racecar driver.

“Now I’d like to talk about the racing game that created a generation of driving enthusiasts and even professional drivers,” Yoshida said. “Gran Turismo generated excitement in racing and influenced people in both the virtual and the real world, so it made sense to bring the story to the big screen.”

He then brought out director Blomkamp, along with Sanford Panitch, president of Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group, and Asad Qizilbash, head of Product, PlayStation World Wide Studios and PlayStation Productions.

Panitch noted that Sony Pictures Entertainment “has more than 10 projects in development and production with PlayStation Productions between the film and television groups.”

“And with Uncharted surpassing $400 million at the global box office,” he added, “we’re pretty energized about where the genre is heading.”

Quizilbash added, “We’re excited about what’s in store for Gran Turismo. It’s a property that revolutionized the racing game genre by simulating the most authentic driving experience.”

Blomkamp said he’s long been a fan of the video game franchise. “The thing that was immediately captivating about it was the fact that for someone who’s as interested in video games as I am, to read a script that was a true story, that organically connected straight into the video game — the character’s a real person, and it’s a super emotional story, and the game itself is interwoven in way I couldn’t believe,” he said.

“And the second thing is just that I love cars, and it was an opportunity to shoot high-adrenaline car photography in a way that really excited me, so i needed to sign on.”

‘Elysium,’ with Matt Damon and Jodie Foster, to Make 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Debut on Feb. 9

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has announced the Feb. 9, 2021 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray debut of Elysium, a 2013 dystopian science-fiction film written, directed, and co-produced by Neill Blomkamp.

The film stars Matt Damon and Jodie Foster. It was released in both conventional and Imax digital theaters. Set in the year 2154, the film explores the lives of two classes of people: the very wealthy, who live on a pristine man-made space station called Elysium, and the rest, who live on an overpopulated, ruined Earth.

The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and standard Blu-ray Disc combo package includes hours of bonus content, including an extended scene and the following featurettes: “Collaboration: Crafting the Performances in Elysium”; “Engineering Utopia: Creating a Society in the Sky”; “Visions of 2154 — An Interactive Exploration of the Art and Design of Elysium”; “In Support of the Story: The Visual Effects of Elysium”; “The Technology of 2154”; and the three-part documentary “The Journey to Elysium.”

A 4K Ultra HD bonus disc includes more extras, including “Exoskeletons, Explosions and the Action Choreography of Elysium”; “The Hero, The Psychopath and the Characters of Elysium”; “The Art of the Elysium Miniatures”; “Bugatti 2154”; and theatrical trailers.

‘District 9’ Flies to 4K Ultra HD Oct. 13 From Sony

The sci-fi film District 9 will come out on 4K Ultra HD Oct. 13 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

From producer Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy) and director Neill Blomkamp, the film was nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture.

District 9 plunges viewers into a world where aliens have landed — only to be exiled to a slum on the fringes of Johannesburg. One lone human discovers the mysterious secret of the extraterrestrial weapon technology. Hunted and hounded through the bizarre back alleys of an alien shantytown, he discovers what it means to be the ultimate outsider on your own planet.

Bonus materials on 4K include the original theatrical trailers and a “Comic-Con Extravaganza” featurette.

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Archival special features on Blu-ray include deleted scenes; director’s commentary; “The Alien Agenda: A Filmmaker’s Log,” a three-part documentary; “Metamorphosis: The Transformation of Wikus”; “Innovation: Acting and Improvisation”; “Conception and Design: Creating the World of District 9”; Alien Generation: Visual Effects”; and “Joburg from Above,” an interactive map of satellite and schematics of the world of District 9.