Crackle Plus Streaming Original NASCAR Documentary Series

Crackle Plus, the ad-supported VOD platform owned by Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, June 30 announced the premiere of its original documentary series “Road to Race Day” bowing on July 1.

Executive produced by Peter Berg’s (“Friday Night Lights”) Emmy Award-winning company, Film 45 (“QB1: Beyond the Lights,” “All or Nothing: Manchester City”) and director Cynthia Hill’s Emmy Award-winning company, Markay Media (“A Chef’s Life,” “Somewhere South”) for Complex Networks, the eight-episode series showcases the 2017 season of NASCAR’s Hendrick Motorsports, and features star drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott, and Kasey Kahne, among others. The camera follows the drivers around every turn, both on and off the track, to give the audience unprecedented access to what it takes to drive into the winner’s circle week after week and race after race.

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“Looking at the tremendous success we found with our basketball docu-series ‘On Point,’ we realized we found partners who understood our vision through Film 45, Screen Media Ventures, and Crackle,” said Nick Wang, head of distribution and business development for Complex Networks.

Philippe Guelton, president of Crackle Plus, said viewers have long coveted sports content and the July Fourth weekend is the traditional high-water mark of the NASCAR racing season.

“This series will have viewers on the edge of their seats,” Guelton said.

Hendrick Motorsports has won 12 NASCAR Cup Series championships, the most in history, and holds the all-time records in nearly every major statistical category at the sport’s highest level.

“With Road to Race Day, Cynthia and her team created something truly special,” said Patrick Perkins, VP of marketing for Hendrick Motorsports. “There’s never been another docu-series about our sport that’s anything like it, before or since.”

“Road to Race Day” is distributed worldwide by Screen Media Ventures, a Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment company, and the supplier of exclusive and original content for Crackle Plus.

Crackle is available in the U.S. and can be accessed on 25 devices and services including Amazon FireTV, RokuTV, Apple TV, Smart TVs (Samsung, LG, Vizio), gaming consoles (PS4 and XBoxOne), on Plex, on iOS and Android mobile devices and on desktops at Crackle.com. Crackle is also available in approximately 500,000 hotel rooms in the Marriott Bonvoy chain.”

Days of Thunder

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Paramount;
Drama;
$29.99 Blu-ray, $29.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13.’
Stars Tom Cruise, Robert Duvall, Randy Quaid, Nicole Kidman, Michael Rooker, Cary Elwes, John C. Reilly, Fred Dalton Thompson.

Almost immediately upon its release in 1990, Days of Thunder was labeled by critics as a car racing version of Top Gun, a reputation that isn’t exactly unearned.

Days of Thunder shares the same production team of Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson, the same director in Tony Scott, and also stars Tom Cruise, who plays another hotshot looking to fulfill his need for speed with reckless abandon.

In this case, Cruise’s character is named Cole Trickle, an Indy circuit washout looking to make a name for himself in NASCAR. He takes on the mentorship of a master pit crew chief played by Robert Duvall, but a devastating crash shakes his confidence.

Robert Towne’s screenplay (with Cruise sharing a story credit) throws not one but two rivals at Trickle. First is Michael Rooker’s Rowdy Burns, the top dog of the circuit whose career is cut short in the same wreck that impairs Cole. When they become fast friends due to shared misfortune, Rowdy asks Cole to take over his racing team, setting up the showdown with rival No. 2, another rookie driver named Russ Wheeler, played by Cary Elwes, whose blink-and-you’ll-miss-it introduction obscures a rise through the ranks so unexpectedly rapid that one wonders why the movie isn’t about him.

The requisite love interest, which like with Top Gun comes with professional complications, is Cole’s and Rowdy’s neurologist, played by Nicole Kidman, who was 22 at the time of filming lest anyone wish to question the likelihood of her character’s medical credentials. The swirling rumors of the day suggested Cruise became enamored with Kidman after seeing her in 1989’s Dead Calm and arranged for her to be in Days of Thunder so they could meet. When 1990 began he had been married to Mimi Rogers, but divorced her in February. Cruise and Kidman were married from December 1990, six months after Days of Thunder hit theaters, to 2001.

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For the most part, Days of Thunder comes across as a series of exciting racing scenes and establishing shots of NASCAR speedways strung together with a by-the-numbers plot and some perfunctory dialogue. Duvall is as good as he usually is, while Cole Trickle is such a stock character in the Tom Cruise mold that naming him is more a screenwriting formality than a necessity of the story.

This new edition of Days of Thunder is presented as both a standalone Blu-ray under the “Paramount Presents” label, as well as a 4K Ultra HD disc with digital copy. The 4K version doesn’t come with a separate Blu-ray Disc, which is something of a break from the industry norm of 4K/Blu-ray combo packs, so consumers will have to pick whether they want the higher-definition resolution of the 4K version or the fancy Paramount Presents slipcover with fold-out movie poster. The film looks great either way, particularly because the racing footage is so good.

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The new Days of Thunder Blu-ray seems to have avoided the fate of most of the other titles in the Paramount Presents line, which to this point has offered Blu-ray re-releases with most of the bonus materials from previous editions left out this go-around (it seems anything previously available only in SD got the axe, with maybe a new short retrospective featurette to replace it).  That’s because the previous Days of Thunder Blu-ray from 2008 had zero extras on it aside from the film’s trailer, so anything offered here is a step up. The extras, sparse as they may be, are the same on both the Blu-ray and 4K discs.

The new discs don’t include the trailer, but they do have a seven-minute “Filmmaker Focus” featurette which is essentially a retrospective interview with Bruckheimer interspersed with clips from the movie.

There’s also an isolated audio track containing just Hans Zimmer’s musical score, his first of many collaborations with the Bruckheimer/Simpson team. Zimmer’s music is a highlight of the movie, but compared with the rest of Zimmer’s works it comes across as one of the more generic efforts in a career built on establishing a baseline sound for reliable action cues.

NASCAR Bans Confederate Flag Display at Races

In a surprise move, NASCAR June 10 announced it will no longer permit attendees to display the Confederate flag at sanctioned events. With the sport’s southern heritage, the controversial flag has been unofficially on display at races in support of southern history — not hate, according to backers.

The flag was one of three southern segregationists carried into battle during the Civil War. It is also a reminder to African-Americans of the bitter history of slavery and why the war was fought.

In the aftermath of the Greg Floyd killing by Minneapolis police, national protests against police brutality toward black men and in respect to the sport’s lone African-American driver, Darrell Bubba Wallace Jr., who competes full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series, the sport’s governing body decided to make a change.

“The presence of the confederate flag at NASCAR events runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry,” the organization said in a statement. “Bringing people together around a love for racing and the community that it creates is what makes our fans and sport special. The display of the confederate flag will be prohibited from all NASCAR events and properties.”

Wallace, who is racing June 10 in Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia, called the move a “huge, pivotal moment.”

“Bravo. Props to NASCAR and everybody involved,” Wallace told Fox Sports. “This has been a stressful couple weeks. This is no doubt the biggest race of my career tonight. And it couldn’t be at a more perfect place, where I got my first win in the Truck Series in 2013. Followed it up with that second win in 2014. So I’m excited about tonight. There’s a lot of emotions on the race track and off the race track that are riding with us, but tonight is something special. Today’s been special. Again, hats off to NASCAR.”

The decision comes as renewed calls for the takedown of Confederate statues in cities and government buildings throughout the South grow in volume.

NASCAR Partners With Facebook for New Interactive Fan App

NASCAR June 2 announced a partnership with Facebook for a new iOS and Android app that enables spectators to interact with commentators at live events.

Created by Facebook’s “New Product Experimentation” team, which researches, tests and refines new product experiences, the app dubbed “Venue” aims to offer fans an improved second-screen experience while watching sporting event.

Users will be able to interact with the expert commentators, journalists, current or former athletes or aspiring “fan-analysts,” who will host a venue for each race. During the race, those commentators will provide commentary, pose interactive questions and polls and open up short chats around specific moments of the event. Users will also be able to communicate with each other and enjoy multiple venues during a given race, offering different takes depending on their favorite expert commentary.

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“As NASCAR makes its return to action over the coming weeks, Venue will provide users with a unique and exciting way to connect with fellow race fans from around the globe — all from the safety and comfort of their own homes,” Tim Clark, SVP and chief digital officer at NASCAR, said in a statement. “NASCAR was built on innovation, and we couldn’t be more excited to help a great partner like Facebook’s New Product Experimentation team innovate around new platforms.”

Ime Archibong, head of Facebook’s New Product Experimentation, said the app is a good way to jumpstart live sporting events during a pandemic.

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“Digital spaces can connect us when we can’t be together in person, and Venue is one way to feel the energy of watching live events with other fans,” Archibong said.

Facebook said commentators will be able to create “moments” during the race — short-lived, digital opportunities for fans to connect based on something interesting that happened on the track. Users will be notified when a new “moment” is created so they don’t miss commentary while watching the race and interacting within the app.

Social media personality @nascarcasm will serve as the expert commentator for Sunday’s (June 7) Food City 500, with NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Landon Cassill and Fox Sports NASCAR reporter Alan Cavanna slated to appear in the app in future weeks.

Facebook Watch Bowing New Reality Series Starring Female NASCAR Driver Angela Ruch

Facebook Watch, social media giant’s ad-supported streaming video platform, is launching a reality series featuring Nascar driver Angela Ruch and her unconventional family. Premiering Feb. 4, “The Ruch Life” is an eight-part, unfiltered docuseries featuring Ruch, and her sometimes outrageous and often hilarious husband, Mike.

The series chronicles the day-to-day lives of the Ruch household as they go through highs and lows, triumphs and challenges. From extravagant vacations to family feuding and the adversities and abundance of the adoption process, chaos ensues as Angela’s agent and manager pull her in the opposite direction from her husband, while housekeeper, “Berta,” has her hands full trying to keep up, the series ties in a number of cast members that make up the wild life with the Ruchs.

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“Although unique and eccentric in their own way, ‘The Ruchs’ are that family who have that one member everyone can relate to,” O Lee Solomon III, co-executive producer, said in a statement. “This series is a fun, fresh way for us to add to the diverse lineup of Facebook Watch.”

Executive Producer Jason Sciavicco (creator and showrunner for MTV’s “Two-a-Days,” Esquire’s “Friday Night Tykes,” Showtime’s “A Season With” and Facbook’s “Inside the Madness”) has been a longtime advocate for the show.

“I met the Ruchs years ago and was immediately struck by how wild yet loveable they were,” he said. “Since that day, I knew I had to make this show happen and am thrilled for audiences to meet the family I fell for years ago.”

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“The Ruch Life” schedule on Facebook Watch:

Episode 1 Tuesday, Feb. 4 at 8am EST
Episode 2 Thursday, Feb. 6 at 8am EST
Episode 3 Saturday, Feb. 8 at 8am EST
Episode 4 Tuesday, Feb. 11 at 8am EST
Episode 5 Thursday, Feb. 13 at 8am EST
Episode 6 Tuesday, Feb. 18 at 8am EST
Episode 7 Thursday, Feb. 20 at 8am EST
Episode 8 Saturday, Feb. 22 at 8am EST

Lionsgate Mounts ‘John Wick Road Trip’ to Promote Home Debut of Latest Installment in the Series

Lionsgate will launch a “John Wick Road Trip” Aug. 31 through Sept. 18 displaying the vehicle’s used by the on-the-run hitman in the series, including the Ford Mustang from the first two movies and a Zero DSR motorcycle from John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum.

The tour also features a traveling museum of series memorabilia.

The exhibit will travel across the Midwest and East Coast to visit select Best Buy Stores, NASCAR events, and the Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings NFL game. Fans will have the opportunity to take a photo with the Mustang, escape an army of assassins with a “John Wick” motorcycle green screen and check out real props from the films. They’ll also get a chance to win “John Wick” swag.

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The third chapter in the movie series is available now on digital and arrives on 4K Ultra HD combo pack (plus Blu-ray and digital), Blu-ray combo pack (plus DVD and digital), DVD, and on demand Sept. 10.

Tour stops include:

  • NASCAR Darlington Raceway Series, 8/31 – 9/1, Darlington, S.C.
  • Best Buy, 9/3, Alpharetta, Ga.
  • Best Buy, 9/4, Buford, Ga
  • NASCAR Indianapolis Motor Speedway Series, 9/6 – 9/8, Indianapolis
  • Best Buy, 9/10, Minneapolis
  • Best Buy, 9/12, Burbank, Ill.
  • Best Buy, 9/13, Downers Grove, Ill.
  • NFL: Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings, 9/15, Green Bay, Wis.
  • Best Buy, 9/17, Mayfield Heights, Ohio
  • Best Buy, 9/18, Reynoldsburg, Ohio

Nickelodeon ‘Paw Patrol’ DVD Released as Walmart Exclusive

Paw Patrol: Ready, Race, Rescue, a feature-length episode of the Nickelodeon series, will be released Sept. 2 exclusively at Walmart on DVD along with other series merchandise.

The DVD will be bundled with a digital copy of the 44-minute episode at $14.96.

The preschool series “PAW Patrol” is produced by Spin Master Entertainment. Ready, Race, Rescue follows the 2018 direct-to-video release Paw Patrol: Mighty Pups. In the new adventure, the pups take to the track for the Adventure Bay 500 and need to speed into action when legendary race car driver, The Whoosh, can’t compete.

The Ready, Race, Rescue product assortment will include toys, apparel, accessories, footwear, home, and health and beauty items. Walmart and Viacom Nickelodeon Consumer Products are also partnering on events in 800 stores nationwide the weekend of Sept. 7.

VNCP is also planning race-themed marketing initiatives to celebrate the exclusive collection, starting with a NASCAR sponsorship with partner Spin Master Entertainment. A Ready, Race, Rescue-themed Kids Zone, “Paw Patrol” costumed character appearances and activations will be featured at NASCAR’s event in Richmond, Va., Sept. 21. In the lead up to the event, seven influencers across the country will “Race Across America” and post from various states before “arriving” in Richmond.

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In its sixth season, “Paw Patrol” follows a pack of rescue pups — Chase, Marshall, Rubble, Skye, Rocky, Zuma, Everest and Tracker — who are led by a tech-savvy boy named Ryder. The series features a curriculum that focuses on citizenship, social skills and problem-solving. Nickelodeon recently renewed the series for a seventh season of 26 half-hour episodes.

NASCAR Partners With Amazon for Cloud-Based Archival Video

NASCAR June 4 announced a partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS), that will help the 70-year-old stock car racing organization archive its racing video footage online in the cloud.

Video footage includes historical moments, photo-finishes, classic passes, wrecks and championship-clinching races.

“NASCAR is utilizing the breadth and depth of our cloud services to enhance the way people experience the sport and deliver even more impactful content to fans,” Mike Clayville, VP, worldwide commercial sales at AWS, said in a statement.

The archived footage will be featured on NASCAR.com and titled, “This Moment in NASCAR History powered by AWS.”

Each week, AWS and NASCAR.com will stream a historical moment from the upcoming track’s past for fans.

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“This Moment in NASCAR History” debuts this week and will feature Ernie Irvan’s 1997 comeback win at Michigan International Speedway.

“This relationship underscores our commitment to accelerate innovation and the adoption of cutting-edge technology across our sport,” said Jon Tuck, chief revenue officer at NASCAR.

The auto racing organization will leverage “Amazon Rekognition” — an AWS service that adds image and video analysis to applications — to automatically tag specific video frames with metadata, such as driver, car, race, lap, time, and sponsors so the industry can easily search those tags to surface the most iconic moments from past races.

By using AWS, NASCAR expects to save thousands of hours of manual search time each year, and will be able to easily surface flashbacks like Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s 1987 “Pass in the Grass” or Denny Hamlin’s 2016 Daytona 500 photo finish, and quickly deliver these to fans via video clips on NASCAR.com and social media channels.

“Speed and efficiency are key in racing and business which is why we chose AWS — the cloud with unmatched performance, the most comprehensive set of services, and the fastest pace of innovation — to accelerate our migration to the cloud,” said Craig Neeb, EVP of innovation and development, NASCAR.