Gravitas Ventures to Release Doc ‘Hood River’ in Theaters and On Demand Sept. 10

Gravitas Ventures has acquired North American distribution rights to the Stick Figure soccer documentary Hood River and will release the film in theaters and on demand Sept. 10.

The documentary follows a high school soccer team in a small Oregon community that strives to overcome class and racial divide in a quest for both individual and team success. While Domingo deals with the deportation of his father to Mexico, and Eric painfully learns how to become a captain and command the respect of his Mexican-American teammates, Coach Riviera struggles to keep the team together amidst the pressure of academics and athletics. Set against the backdrop of a segregated American town, the coming-of-age documentary focuses on the friendship and maturation of these complex and conflicted student athletes.

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Directed by Steven Cantor and Jonathan Field, the film is produced by Steven Cantor and Jamie Schutz and executive produced by Robert Rodriguez in association with the PepsiCo Content Studio and Wavelength.

“Throughout the production, Steven and I felt deeply moved by the social struggles and resolve of the Hood River Valley High School soccer team and we are thrilled to partner with Gravitas in sharing the film with audiences,” Field said in a statement.

“I was thrilled to partner with both Stick Figure and PepsiCo Content Studio in making this timely film that shows how young athletes overcome obstacles both on the field and off,” Rodriguez said in a statement.

“Steven and Jonathan’s film utilizes the contrasting perspectives of its subjects to showcase how individual experience can either divide us or be harnessed to strengthen a team effort,” Tony Piantedosi, VP of acquisitions at Gravitas Ventures, said in a statement. “Their film is a reflection of the ongoing struggles that we face in small towns, in large cities, and as a nation. We look forward to presenting this timely documentary to North American audiences.”

Vizio Updates Free TV Streaming Service

Vizio Aug. 2 updated its free streaming video service, WatchFree+, with a new program guide and an expanded content offerings based on user data.

“WatchFree+ provides audiences with access to the channels and programming you expect with cable, but in a free streaming environment that makes it easy to personalize and customize the entertainment experience,” Katherine Pond, VP of business development, said in a statement.

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To support what it characterizes as a “growing consumer shift” to streaming, Vizio’s WatchFree+ offers 24/7 access to live and local programming, premium content and an ever-expanding library of hundreds of free channels across movies, news, sports, lifestyle, music, kids, family and multicultural content.

The platform includes new navigation features that allow for advanced search and discovery of the latest and best free entertainment. Streamlined search also enables users to access movies, shows and more in fewer steps, serving up content that’s curated around each viewer’s interests.

The program guide supports voice navigation for new SmartCast TVs that come with the latest remote control. Additionally, audiences can use voice navigation through the free SmartCast app for iOS and Android devices.

The latest update leverages Vizio’s “Inscape” viewing data to inform programming preferences with context and is key in the redesign of Vizio’s full-screen program guide and curated channels.

Using first-party viewership data, the program guide now includes custom curated channels, a new “Featured” category with seasonal programming, themed collections, and pop-up channels, including:

  • Fork & Flight: A unique mix of today’s most popular culinary and travel TV shows alongside top digital creators and trendsetters. Fork & Flight will take you to the kitchen, the farm and France — all in one day.
  • Investigation: Unlocks the door to real crime and the unknown, giving viewers a behind-the-scenes look at investigations, as well as in-depth explorations.

Netflix Sponsors NBC’s Tokyo Olympics Medals Count

With Team USA atop of the 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics in total medals at the halfway point, Netflix, a perennial leader on most things subscription streaming video, took a marketing stand.

The streamer was a presenting sponsor on NBC’s Aug. 1 primetime TV broadcast of the medals count of the XXXII Olympiad with the U.S. leading with 61 medals, including 21 gold. The leading tally increased to 64 medals, including 22 gold, through Aug. 2.

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Netflix took the opportunity to market the Aug. 6 release of Vivo, an animated movie featuring songs from Lin-Manuel Miranda, the Tony, Grammy, and Pulitzer Prize-winning creator of Hamilton and In the Heights. Vivo follows kinkajou (a.k.a. a rainforest “honey bear,” voiced by Miranda), who spends his days playing music to the crowds in a lively square with his beloved owner Andrés (Buena Vista Social Club’s Juan de Marcos).

The movie, originally slated for theatrical launch in June, is part of a marketing/production agreement between Netflix and Sony Pictures Animation — the latter responsible for Oscar winner Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and this year’s The Mitchells vs. The Machines currently streaming on Netflix.

The partnership precludes Netflix’s recently announced deal with Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) for exclusive first-pay-window licensing in the U.S. for theatrically released Sony feature films, beginning with the studio’s 2022 film slate.

‘Loki’ Remains Atop Parrot’s Digital Originals Chart

“Loki,” the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe series from Disney+, remained No. 1 on Parrot Analytics’ digital originals U.S. chart the week ended July 30, its second consecutive week in the top spot. The series had 41.5 times the demand of an average series after a 5.8% dip in demand expressions, the proprietary metric Parrot uses to gauge a show’s popularity. “Loki” was No. 7 on Parrot’s list of all TV shows.

Netflix’s perennially popular “Stranger Things” remained No. 2 with 38 times the demand of an average series and a 6.5% drop in demand expressions.

The Apple TV+ comedy “Ted Lasso” climbed to No. 3 on the digital originals chart, pulling in 37.8 times demand for an average series after a 15.5% jump in demand expressions following the July 23 premiere of its second season.

That pushed the Disney+ live-action “Star Wars” series “The Mandalorian” down a spot to No. 4 on the digital originals chart. It garnered 35.5 times the demand of the average show after a 6.6% rise in demand expressions. The week saw the release of a poster of Grogu (aka Baby Yoda) building a lightsaber with the help of Jedi Master Luke Skywalker.

Another Disney+ Marvel series, “WandaVision” dropped to No. 5 on the digital originals chartwith an 8.9% drop in demand expressions, giving it 31.6 times average demand.

The biggest jump into the top 10 for the week was Netflix’s “Masters of the Universe: Revelation,” an animated series that serves as a spiritual sequel to the famed 1980s “He-Man” cartoon. It rose to No. 8 with the premiere of its first five episodes July 23, up from No. 71 the previous week, a 166% spike in demand expressions that pushed it to 27.4 times the demand of the average show. Time will tell if the increase in online impressions is due to genuine interest in the show or the seemingly constant barrage of fans complaining about it for taking the story in a direction they don’t like.

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A “digital original” is Parrot’s term for a multi-episode series in which the most recent season was first made available on a streaming platform such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu or Disney+.

The No. 1 overall TV series in terms of online demand was “SpongeBob SquarePants,” with 73.8 times average demand.

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Media Play News has teamed with Parrot Analytics to provide readers with a weekly top 10 of the most popular digital original TV series in the United States, based on the firm’s proprietary metric called Demand Expressions, which measures demand for TV content in a given market through a wide variety of data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, commenting on fan and critic rating platforms, and downloading and streaming via peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites. Results are expressed as a comparison with the average demand for a TV show of any kind in the market.


The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard


Street Date 8/17/21;
Action Comedy;
Box Office $37.74 million;
$29.96 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $42.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for strong bloody violence throughout, pervasive language, and some sexual content.
Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Salma Hayek, Antonio Banderas, Frank Grillo, Richard E. Grant, Morgan Freeman.

The sequel to 2017’s The HItman’s Bodyguard, like its predecessor, is an affable actioner that coasts on irreverent humor and a solid cast that appears to be having fun with the proceedings.

Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard looks in on disgraced personal bodyguard Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) who is having nightmares about Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), the notorious hitman from the first film he was tasked with protecting against agents of a European despot he was set to testify against.

As a result of those events, Bryce has been refused recertification by the bodyguard licensing agency, and is instructed by a therapist to take a long vacation to put thoughts of violence behind him. His sabbatical to a tropical beach is short-lived, however, when he is recruited by Darius’ wife, Sonia (Salma Hayek, who gets to expand her small role from the first movie) to help rescue her husband from an international cartel.

Extracting him embroils the trio in a larger plot involving a Greek shipping magnate and criminal mastermind (Antonio Banderas) who seeks revenge against the European Union for imposing economic sanctions on Greece.

As pressure on them mounts from the Interpol agent (Frank Grillo) overseeing the operation, Bryce turns to his stepfather (Morgan Freeman) for help, which only gets them into more trouble.

Another subplot involves Sonia and Darius trying to have a baby, but her loyalty is called into question when it turns out she and the tycoon used to be an item.

What the film lacks in subtlety it makes up for with inventive mayhem and bloody action juxtaposed by the odd couple relationship between the Kincaids, who seem to enjoy unleashing casual violence on their enemies, and Bryce, who insists on tackling the mission without killing anyone or even using a gun.

As with the first movie, the breezy attitude of Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard makes it a fun diversion, but it’s unlikely to have much staying power after the credits roll.

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The Blu-ray includes a five-minute gag reel and several good bonus featurettes, including the nine-minute “Ryan, Sam, Salma: One F’d Up Family,” the seven-minute “Gone Soft: The New Michael Bryce,” the eight-minute “#stuntlife” and the four-minute “On the Set of Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard.”

The 4K disc has the same extra content as the regular Blu-ray disc.

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Batman: The Long Halloween — Part Two


Street Date 8/10/21;
$34.98 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for some violence and bloody images.
Voices of Jensen Ackles, Josh Duhamel, Naya Rivera, Billy Burke, Katee Sackhoff, Titus Welliver, David Dastmalchian, Troy Baker, Amy Landecker, Julie Nathanson, Fred Tatasciore, Alastair Duncan.

The second half of The Long Halloween delivers a satisfying conclusion to the animated adaptation of the famed 1990s Batman comic book story.

In Part Two, Gotham’s mob bosses struggle to maintain control of their traditional criminal enterprises as Gotham City continues to be overrun by costumed supervillains in the wake of Batman’s rise as the city’s protector. Picking up from the post-credits scene of Part One, Poison Ivy (Katee Sackhoff) has enthralled Bruce Wayne (Jensen Ackles) into signing over his assets to mafia kingpin Carmine Falcone (Titus Welliver), but the scheme is thwarted by Catwoman (Naya Rivera). Meanwhile, the serial killer known as Holiday continues to wage war on Gotham’s crime families, leading to rampant speculation over the murderer’s true identity.

When suspicion falls upon district attorney Harvey Dent (Josh Duhamel), a surprise attack leaves him physically scarred, transforming him into the villainous Two-Face, and sealing the fate of Gotham’s future once and for all.

Part Two is darker and bloodier than the first half, with graphic animated violence throughout.

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Neither of the Blu-rays for parts one or two includes a featurette about the source material, which is pretty common for the DC Universe animated movies, so perhaps one is being saved for the upcoming 4K Blu-ray that combines both halves into a single longer film, which is slated for next year.

The Part Two Blu-ray does include featurettes about several earlier DC movies, plus a 10-minute preview of the upcoming Injustice animated movie based on the video game about DC heroes fighting each other.

The Blu-ray also includes the excellent two-part “Two-Face” episode depicting the villains origin on “Batman: The Animated Series.”

Also included is the 15-minute DC Showcase animated short Blue Beetle, which is a hilarious homage to the style of superhero cartoons from the 1960s and ’70s, even down to the goofy theme song. The story involves Blue Beetle (Matt Lanter) investigating a villain who uses soda to brainwash people into becoming his henchmen.

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Disney’s ‘Jungle Cruise’ Debuts with $90 Million Theatrical/PVOD Revenue

Disney’s Jungle Cruise debuted atop the Aug. 1 weekend box office and in consumer homes, opening to an estimated total of more than $90 million globally.

That figure includes $34.2 million in domestic box office earnings across 4,310 screens, $27.6 million in international box office revenue, and more than $30 million in Disney+ “Premier Access” consumer spend globally. The movie was available as a $29.99 add-on to Disney+, suggesting 1 million subscribers paid to activate the movie.

The PVOD tally was half the $60 million Disney+ subscribers spent purchasing Marvel Studios’ Black Widow on its opening box office weekend.

 “We remain focused on offering consumer choice during these unprecedented times, and it is clear that fans and families value the ability to make decisions on how they prefer to enjoy Disney’s best-in-class storytelling,” Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution stated.

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Inspired by the famous Disneyland theme park ride, Disney’s Jungle Cruise is an adventure-filled, rollicking thrill-ride down the Amazon with wisecracking skipper Frank Wolff and intrepid researcher Dr. Lily Houghton. Lily travels from London, England to the Amazon jungle and enlists Frank’s questionable services to guide her downriver on La Quila — his ramshackle-but-charming boat. Lily is determined to uncover an ancient tree with unparalleled healing abilities — possessing the power to change the future of medicine. Thrust on this epic quest together, the unlikely duo encounters innumerable dangers and supernatural forces, all lurking in the deceptive beauty of the lush rainforest. But as the secrets of the lost tree unfold, the stakes reach even higher for Lily and Frank and their fate — and mankind’s — hangs in the balance.

Jaume Collet-Serra directs the film, which stars Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Edgar Ramírez and Jack Whitehall, with Jesse Plemons, and Paul Giamatti. The producers are John Davis and John Fox of Davis Entertainment; Dwayne Johnson, Hiram Garcia and Dany Garcia of Seven Bucks Productions; and Beau Flynn of Flynn Picture Co., with Scott Sheldon and Doug Merrifield serving as executive producers. The story is by John Norville & Josh Goldstein and Glenn Ficarra & John Requa, and the screenplay is by Michael Green and Glenn Ficarra & John Requa.

Other new releases included The Green Knight (A24) with $6.8 million across 2,790 screens, and Focus Features’ Stillwater with $5.1 million across 2,531 screens.

Returning releases included Universal Pictures’ M. Night Shyamalan’s horror thriller Old with $6.76 million; Disney/Marvel’s Black Widow with $6.43 million; Space Jam: A New Legacy with an estimated $4.27 million; Paramount Pictures’ Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins with $4 million in ticket sales; Universal’s F9: The Fast Saga with $2.65 million; and Escape Room: Tournament of Champions and The Boss Baby: Family Business, generating a reported $2.2 million and $1.3 million, respectively.