Well done documentary, but mostly bland bonus features, brin
Poker Face | Toronto, Canada | 09/11/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Although I thought this was a very well done documentary about NASCAR's fans, drivers, and the overall state of today's NASCAR, it's just not compelling enough to watch more than twice. Although there are some slow parts that cause this 80 minute film to slightly drag at times, it never sinks to the low level that the far inferior NASCAR IMAX film did--which was much too basic and short.
Volume #1 is smoothly narrated by actor J.K. Simmons (he played Ralph Earnhardt in the ESPN movie "3:The Dale Earnhardt Story") and is shown in widescreen. It also sounds very good-it's in 5.1 Dolby stereo surround. There are some stylishly filmed moments, along with many brief and in-depth driver interviews (some include time spent off the track-Jeff Gordon etc.). Darrell Waltrip has some very poignant moments describing the death of Dale Earnhardt (try not to get teary eyed-I dare you), and they also show some actual highlights from the 2001 Daytona 500 (though not Dale's actual final crash into the wall-just some still photos are shown). There are even many highlights shown from the 1979 Daytona 500 and some brief clips from other racing incidents as well. This is still a documentary that features more interviews (with lots of NASCAR print and tv guys, etc.), than race highlights, but they still do a nice job of blending the two together. If you're new to NASCAR, you'll get much more out of this volume than I did, however, I would still recommend it to all NASCAR fans who haven't seen it already.
The bonus features (about 27 minutes in total length) are also all in widescreen format, except for the 'Daytona Infield-1972' short. That one was filmed in 1972 and I believe it's narrated by Ken Squier (sounds like him, anyway). It's only 2 minutes long and is more nostalgic than useful. I'd give it a grade of D.
There is also a 5 minute 'Talladega Night 2006' bonus, that is mostly filmed at night with a hand-held camera, featuring the fans camping out on the infield, about 19 hours or so before the race. There's no narration, just the odd grunts and mumbles from the fans. They show campfires and people sitting around. This is extremely boring--like watching paint dry, and is probably the most worthless Dvd bonus I've ever seen that runs 5 minutes or more. GRADE: F
The 'Evolution of NASCAR on ESPN', runs 3 minutes and 40 seconds and briefly shows some of ESPN's unique racing camera angles and basically explains how important NASCAR was to ESPN. The best part is when they show two separate, but related angry interviews (both brief) between Darrel Waltrip and Davey Allison. Davey certainly had some fire in him. GRADE: B Minus
Finally, there are some extended driver interviews that include some race footage as well. Although, some moments from the interviews are also shown in the main feature, and some are shown in the main features from the other volume's in this series (sold separately) that also aired on ESPN. Jimmie Johnson's interview is 4 minutes, and rates about a C+. There's enough passion and interest in his eyes to keep it just above average. Jeff Gordon, however, keeps it very basic (unlike the much better detailed coverage of him in the main feature), so I'd just give his almost 5 minute interview, a Grade of C. Last but not least, we get Tony Stewart. He gives a very laid back interview, intercut with some of his smart aleck comments and race action. It runs close to 7 minutes in length and is the best of the three. I'd give Tony's, a Grade of B Minus.
So, if you've already seen all of the episodes from this series on ESPN, you can skip buying this Volume #1 Dvd. The bonus features are simply not worth your time unless you're a die-hard fan that has to see everything NASCAR. My 3 star rating could easily be bumped up to 3.5 stars, but I'd prefer better bonuses, like some of the other volumes in this series have. I'll review the other three volumes later."