NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Friday, August 18th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.
Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.
Coming next on The World and Everything in It: Arts and culture editor Collin Garbarino with what’s new at the theater this weekend.
COLLIN GARBARINO, REVIEWER: So far this year, box-office sales at movie theaters are up more than 20 percent compared to last year. That’s still down about 15 percent from where it was in 20-19, but the summer’s big hits like Barbie, Oppenheimer, and Sound of Freedom have lured back moviegoers who haven’t been to the theater since before the pandemic.
But what about these last couple of weekends before summer wraps up? Are there any surprises to delight audiences, or is it just more of the same?
JENNY: It’s called the scarab. It was given to my dad when I was a kid. It’s some kind of world-destroying weapon.
In the just-more-of-the-same category, this weekend, DC Studios releases its latest superhero film, Blue Beetle.
The movie stars Xolo Maridueña from Cobra Kai as Jaime Reyes, DC Studios’ first Latino superhero. Jaime is a recent college graduate who comes home to find his close-knit family struggling. His father has had health problems. They’ve lost their business. They’re about to lose their home. Jaime puts his dreams on hold to help the family.
Jaime goes looking for work at Kord Industries, a gigantic weapons manufacturer. Instead of finding a job, he finds a piece of alien technology that fuses with his spine.
JENNY: What is he talking about?
JAIME: I’m talking about this.
BELISSA: I forgot how bad it looks.
RUDY: I’ve seen worse.
RUDY: You don’t want to know.
In addition to giving him a disgusting looking backbone, the scarab gives him superpowers.
But Kord wants the scarab back because it plans to replicate and weaponize it. They target Jaime’s family to flush him out.
JAIME: You said this thing is gonna protect me, right? It’s not going to let me die?
RUDY: No, no. I mean, die—
JAIME: Alright, let’s see if it works.
JENNY and RUDY: No, no, no, no!
The movie’s chock full of jokes, which is a nice change for the usually somber DC franchise. Many of those jokes cater to viewers familiar with Mexican culture. But aside from the jokes, there’s not much to this derivative origin story full of cliches. It feels like a cross between Venom and Spider-Man: Homecoming.
There’s certainly not enough to Blue Beetle to dispel the superhero fatigue audiences are feeling.
In the somewhat delightful category, next weekend, the sports biopic Gran Turismo officially comes out, but many theaters will be showing sneak previews this weekend.
Gran Turismo is based on the true story of race-car driver Jann Mardenborough who went from racing in video games to racing against professionals on some of the most iconic tracks in the world.
In the movie, Jann comes from a working class family in Britain, but he dreams of driving supercars. His dad loves him, but he also thinks Jann needs to get realistic about his future.
STEVE: Listen, son. You think you can play a stupid video game about cars and you’re going to become a race car driver?
While Jann stays busy playing the Gran Turismo racing game, a marketing executive, played by Orlando Bloom, hatches a daring plan to bring Nissan’s racing team some publicity. He starts a contest to find the best Gran Turismo players in the world, and then he gives them a shot at racing real supercars. To get them ready, he enlists the aid of a crotchety trainer played by the always entertaining David Harbour.
JACK: You really think you’re going to take a kid who plays video games in their bedroom—you’re going to strap them to a 200-mile-an-hour rocket. It’ll tear him to pieces.
Jann has to prove he has what it takes to not only drive, but also win.
The plot doesn’t necessarily hold a lot of surprises. It’s like Rocky with race cars. We get the training montages and inspiring talk from the coach.
JACK: You’ve raced it, what? Like a thousand times? Now do it in real life.
Gran Turismo derives a lot of its emotional punch from the fact that it’s based on a true story. But it seems the script plays a little fast and loose with Jann’s accomplishments. However, it’s kind of cool that the real Jann Mardenborough served as a stunt driver during filming.
Gran Turismo doesn’t include many surprises, but it manages to be surprisingly engrossing. At the screening I attended, the crowd actually burst into spontaneous applause three separate times. You don’t have to like video games to find this inspiring story entertaining.
A word of caution: Both Blue Beetle and Gran Turismo are rated PG-13 for action and language, and in both cases pervasive profanities push the boundaries of that PG-13 rating.
While I don’t expect either Blue Beetle or Gran Turismo to draw Barbie-sized crowds, either might do for someone looking for one last popcorn flick before summer ends.
I’m Collin Garbarino.
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