Monday, 24 June 2024

‘Gran Turismo’ from game to auto racing; ‘The Swarm’ on CW


A popular racing simulation video game, Gran Turismo spawned what became known as the Nissan GT Academy, which was designed to boost Sony PlayStation racing gamers into becoming professional race car drivers.

“Gran Turismo” tells the story of Jann Mardenborough (Archie Madekwe) who spends most of his time at the console of a Gran Turismo game, much to the dismay of his father (Djimon Hounsou), a retired footballer who wants something better for his son.

Nissan marketer Danny Moore (Orlando Bloom) comes up with the idea of the GT Academy in which gamers will compete for the chance to become actual drivers. Former racer Jack Salter (David Harbour) is brought on board as a coach.

Jann’s aptitude at the console proves that his dream has the earmark of true wish fulfillment, and a professional career beckons, though unevenly at first and not without the resentment of other racers who are arrogantly dismissive of gamers.

As the top candidate gamers take on the challenge of qualifying races, Salter steps into the gruff drill sergeant routine, barking criticisms and insults to toughen up his charges to the realities of an unforgiving race track.

Overcoming the adversity of so many telling him he doesn’t belong on the track, Jann races with determination that is not derailed even after some soul-searching following an accident leading to an unfortunate fatality.

If you ever wondered what became of the girl group the Spice Girls, Geri Halliwell (aka Ginger Spice) plays the mother to Jann, in a cameo role of supportive mother offsetting the skepticism of her husband.

That the racing is staged so brilliantly with actual footage and computer-generated effects should be credited to director Neill Blomkamp (who gained acclaim with science fiction film “District 9”) and cinematographer Jacque Jouffret.

Even though presumably based on a true story, if you are looking for real character development, then expectations for “Gran Turismo” may be dashed. As far as personal interactions are concerned, the circumstances are mostly formulaic.

In truth, the sharpest tension between Jann and his father is palpable and genuine. Having been a professional player now relegated to menial jobs, the father initially fails to see his son’s potential, leading to friction that dissolves once Jann proves him wrong.

While having a rooting interest in Archie Madekwe’s Jann is the driving force, “Gran Turismo” smartly delivers an appealing underdog drama for the novice racer. Still, the exciting swift action on the track supplies concrete racing thrills and the film’s validation.


As of this writing, the actors and writers are still on strike with no end in sight, and come the fall season we are looking at a different picture for television programs. More unscripted and animated series, and a lot of reruns of favorites, are on the horizon.

Networks might have to turn to international programs for new content. That’s the case for the CW Network which has a premiere date of Tuesday, Sept. 12, for the global hit event series “The Swarm,” a title that sounds like it belongs to a B-movie thriller with killer bees.

Launched earlier this year in Germany, the eight-part “The Swarm,” a big budget series based on the Frank Schatzing best-selling novel and executive produced by “Game of Thrones” producer Frank Doelger, is about an unknown enemy that lives deep below the sea.

Around the world, strange happenings are emerging from the oceans. Whales destroy boats, deep sea crabs attack beaches, and mussels block container ships. An unknown ice worm destabilizes continental slopes and triggers tsunamis.

A deadly pathogen spreads into the drinking water. Across the globe, lives are increasingly imperiled, the situation worsening by the day – and yet, nobody can draw a connection between the seemingly random attacks.

Except for a group of scientists who come together through their shared sense that something bigger is at play, namely an intelligent life force, dwelling in the deep and capable of manipulating the ocean, and everything that resides in it.

The mysterious force at the bottom of the ocean has grown weary of humanity’s ostensible destruction of the seas and has decided to declare war on mankind to drive us to extinction.

The findings of the scientists are hardly believed by anyone, and so the group is forced to undertake a life-threatening mission, tracking the collective intelligence within the Arctic Ocean. It is a mission they know may claim their lives.

When lobsters and whales start attacking human beings along the coasts of the world, you know it’s time to seek higher ground as if a tsunami became a global event. No word on whether the dolphins also turn on us.

Apparently, “The Swarm” has already captivated over ten million viewers internationally. That explains the CW bidding to host this series for the American audience. It sounds like a bet that will pay off.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

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