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Blu-ray Review: Gran Torino

Posted on Thursday, June 11th, 2009 11:11 PM. Last Updated on Friday, June 12th, 2009 8:01 AM by Scott Jentsch

Front Cover ArtworkGran Torino
Blu-ray
Warner Home Video
116 Minutes

List Price: $35.99 (Check Price at Amazon.com)

This movie is also available from Amazon on DVD and video on demand (rental or purchase), and from iTunes for rental and purchase.

Available 6/9/2009

Rated R

Click here for additional movie details, including the full plot summary, cast listing, trailers and videos, photos, reviews of the movie, and links to the official movie web site and more.

  TheatricalThis Disc
Video Format:
35mm
1080p VC-1
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 2.40:1
Audio:

Dolby Digital
DTS Digital
SDDS

Dolby TrueHD
Dolby TrueHD 5.1

Other:  

Movie: BD-50 (x1) BD-J
Digital Copy: DVD

Disc Contents

  • Upfront Ads - can be skipped (HD, DD 5.1)
    • Blu-ray Promo (1:43)
  • Movie
  • Special Features (HD, 2 channel, VC-1)
    • The Eastwood Way (19:17)
    • Manning the Wheel (9:23)
    • Gran Torino: More Than a Car (3:57)
  • BD-Live
    • Trailer for Gran Torino
    • Extras
      • Gran Torino Music Video (4:29, SD, VC-1, 56MB)
      • Next Door v2 (15:36, SD, VC-1, 212MB)
    • Trailers
      • "Gran Torino" on DVD and Blu-ray
      • "The Lord of the Rings" on Blu-ray
      • "Nature's Greatest Events" on Blu-ray
      • "Woodstock Ultimate Collector's Edition" on DVD and Blu-ray
      • "Casablanca" on Blu-ray
      • "Troy" on Blu-ray
      • "Viva Las Vegas" on Blu-ray
      • "Jailhouse Rock" on Blu-ray

About the Movie

Clint Eastwood plays Walt Kowalski, a prejudiced, aging widower and Korean War vet that has a general sour demeanor that hasn't improved now that his wife has died. Not only does he have to deal with kids that don't care, his Detroit neighborhood has steadily declined, and is now being occupied by Hmong people, one of the many groups of people for which Walt has complete disdain.

When a gang tries to forcibly recruit the impish boy next door, Walt decides to take him under his wing and show him how to "man-up" and become useful. In the process, Walt finds that he has more in common with these strangers from a strange land than he does with his own flesh and blood.

How Does it Look?

Still from the movie (not an actual screenshot)

The picture quality was good and free of any annoying artifacts or other issues. After becoming accustomed to high definition, it's easy to become complacent about the improvements that the extra resolution over DVD provides, but a movie like this shows that HD just makes the picture look good without screaming "I'm in HD!"

How Does it Sound?

The Dolby TrueHD lossless audio soundtrack is good, but the movie is mostly quiet and dialogue-heavy. As such, it doesn't do much for demo material, but not every movie has to fill that role. The 5.1-channel soundtrack is very front-heavy with very little surround activity. I'm glad to see a lossless soundtrack, as every Blu-ray disc should offer the best audio options possible.

Extras

I like to see the theatrical trailer included with movies, so I was disappointed that one was not included here. Sure, it's in the BD-Live section (more on that later), but that windowboxed, stereo, SD content is a poor substitute.

The Eastwood Way is a featurette that talks about how Clint Eastwood runs a movie production. There's a little bit more gushing than I would care for, but the actors can be forgiven for being a little starstruck by working with a legend in the movie business.

Manning the Wheel gives the cast and crew a chance to talk about what cars mean to them, what their dream car is, and how all that works into the storyline of Gran Torino the movie. The funny thing is, I don't think any of the people interviewed are "real" car guys. There is a mention that Clint Eastwood knows his way around cars, but he's not given very much screen time.

Gran Torino: More Than a Car is a very short piece (only 4 minutes) that features the Woodward Dream Cruise, an annual car event in Detroit, Michigan, which is where Gran Torino is set. This is where the "real" car guys are featured. These guys can break down the engines of their cars on the side of the road, hammer a valve cover out of a discarded license plate, and get back on the road before the cruise is over! If the filmmakers wanted to give us an impression of what the Gran Torino meant to Walt, they should have found some people who own that car and ask them a few questions.

With a legend like Clint Eastwood acting, directing, producing, and singing in this movie (during the end credits only), a commentary track would have been very interesting indeed! If anyone from Warner Bros. is reading this, could you please get Clint into a studio somewhere and record some video of him talking about this movie from his perspective? Please?

BD-Live

The BD-Live section connects to the Warner Bros. BD-Live server pretty quickly, but there was more to see on the release date of this title than with most. Aside from the usual WB content (as well as the "Coming Soon" features that have been coming soon for quite some time), there are two items in the "Extras" section; a music video featuring Jamie Cullum, and a 15-minute featurette titled Next Door v2. The music video is a nice-addon, and the featurette is interesting enough, but it doesn't add much more than the on-disc features already covered. The videos are SD and poor quality (compared to the movie content), but it downloads quickly, so I guess that's something.

Two days after release, the same videos were listed in the Extras section as on release day, so time will tell if it will be expanded into the future.

The "Trailers" section of the BD-Live section contains trailers for a variety of Warner Bros. movies, including one for this movie. Unfortunately, the video and audio quality of most of these downloadable items is poor when compared to the HD content on the disc. The trailer for The Lord of the Rings on Blu-ray did provide the option of downloading the SD or HD version, so that was nice, but only some of the items in the list of 8 had that option. The redeeming feature is that the videos load quickly, so that is something, but you'll experience better quality and a wider variety of content by going online to services like Hulu, Quicktime's site, or so many other web sites that deliver video in a variety of formats and quality settings, including 1080p HD.

The lack of downloadable HD content is disappointing, since HD is the whole purpose of buying Blu-ray discs. If you're going to advertise an HD release on an HD service, wouldn't you make the advertisement also in HD so that you can show off the high quality picture and sound of the format?

All considered, the BD-Live section for this title does little to advance the feature or show off its potential. It appears that we'll be waiting longer for Warner Bros. to innovate in this space.

There is a second disc in the form of a DVD Digital Copy. Fans of the movie might enjoy this, as it would allow you to download the movie and enjoy it many times on your portable device. By inserting the disc into a Windows PC or Mac, you can obtain a digital copy of the movie for playback on your PSP, PC, Mac, or iPod. I didn't explore this option, so I can't comment on the picture or sound quality. The documentation says that the Digital Copy must be redeemed by 6/8/2010.

Other Aspects

This disc is BD-J formatted, and our PlayStation 3 was not able to support auto-resuming the movie. Bookmarking is not supported.

Conclusion

Clint Eastwood has said that this is his last acting performance. If that's true, this movie may be worth owning for that reason alone. Even if it wasn't though, this is a pretty good drama that gets better as we get to know the characters involved and is probably worth pulling out once in a while and watching again and/or sharing with friends. There aren't many extras, which is usually the decision-maker for me on whether a movie is worth owning or not, but some people never watch anything beyond the movie.

I'd like to see Warner Bros. do something more with the BD-Live section over time, which would increase the value of ownership, but I'm thinking that what we are seeing now is all we're going to get. That's too bad, as the extras hint that there was a lot of interesting stuff going on in the background and that Clint Eastwood ran a tight ship while keeping the production enjoyable for cast and crew alike. Maybe someday, we'll see some more depth out of the extras that studios are putting on discs, especially given the dynamic nature of the BD-Live feature.

Recommended Reading

Don't just take our word for it, check out these resources for more reviews of the movie and of the disc.

RentBuy


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