Television Review: ESPN Films 30 for 30: “Al Davis vs the NFL”

I had only been in Baltimore about a year when it was announced that the NFL”s Baltimore Colts would be moving to Indianapolis. The mood in the city was like a close friend had died. But teams moving was really nothing new in 1984. I grew up in Tampa and I still own t-shirts for the Tampa Bay Giants and the Tampa Bay White Sox, two teams that held their cities ransom with a threat to move in order to get new stadiums built.

In 1980 the Los Angeles Rams moved from L.A. to Anaheim (since then they’ve moved to St. Louis and back to L.A.). Seeing Los Angeles as a prime place to have a team, Oakland Raider managing partner /Al Davis decided to move his team to the empty Los Angeles Coliseum, with the promise of upgraded facilities and, of course, more money. But it wasn’t easy.

Entertaining and informative, “Al Davis vs the NFL” is another feather in the ESPN 30 for 30 cap. The film introduces both Pete Rozelle, who would become NFL commissioner and Davis, who helped found the American Football League (AFL) and soon became the managing partner of the Oakland football team. We see Rozelle in 1963 refusing to comment on a possible merger with the upstart AFL (it happened in 1966) and Davis’ team always running into bad luck, especially against the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers. Glory comes so close for the silver and black, only to be dashed away by Franco Harris’ “Immaculate” Reception one year, and a field of solid ice two years later. Now Davis and Rozelle go head to head in Federal Court to decide where the Raiders will play next.

Told through archival footage, and narrated by reenactors, The film is an amazing look back at a much simpler time in sports. Though quite popular in the mid-1980s, football did not have the amazing impact it has now. As “Just Win, Baby” becomes the phrase of champions, we learn how simple animosity between two men led to a landmark legal decision. We are also reminded of some of the great sportscasters of that decade, including Howard Cosell, Phyllis George, and Curt Gowdy. The legal battle is fun to watch, as neither Rozelle nor Davis want to be the first to throw in the towel.

Of course, if you follow football you know that soon the Browns went to Baltimore and became the Ravens and the Oilers left Houston for Tennessee. Meanwhile, the Raiders returned to Oakland and then, this year, began -playing in their new home city of Las Vegas. You’ve heard the saying “you can’t tell the players without a scorecard?” Well, these days, you can’t tell the NFL without an Atlas!

Just in time for the Super Bowl (go Chiefs!), “Al Davis vs the NFL” airs on ESPN this Thursday, February 4. It will also run on ESPN+ after the broadcast.

Shout! Factory TV Presents The Aquabats! Super Show! Super Marathon Stream Saturday, December 5

A Full-Day Marathon of the Daytime Emmy Award-Winning Comedy Rock Series Hosted by the Aquabats

Aquabats, let’s go! Shout! Factory TV will proudly present The Aquabats! Super Show! Super Marathon on December 5 to celebrate the fan-favorite musical comedy series’ debut on Shout! Factory TV. The marathon will feature every episode of The Aquabats! Super Show!, the unaired pilot episode, specials and music videos.

Fans can hang out with The Aquabats as they answer popular questions from the fans, share never-before-heard trivia and behind-the-scenes tidbits and showcase actual props from the show. One lucky winner will also receive a prize pack including a Fender guitar signed by The Aquabats and a signed, limited edition vinyl copy of the band’s new album Kooky Spooky…in Stereo!

The Aquabats! Super Show! premiered in 2012 on the Hub Network and aired for two seasons and a total of 21 episodes. The series was helmed by Christian Jacobs, Scott Schultz (creators of the series Yo Gabba Gabba!), and director Jason deVilliers. Throughout its run, the show received eight multiple Daytime Emmy nominations and one win. Shout! Factory previously released 

The Aquabats! Super Show!: Season One on DVD in 2013. Based on the superhero mythology of The Aquabats!, a real comedy rock band which series co-creator and lead singer Jacobs formed in 1994, The Aquabats! Super Show! follows the comic adventures of a fictionalized version of the band, a musical group of amateur superheroes, as they haphazardly defend the world from a variety of villains and monsters. Styled similarly to the campy aesthetics of 1960s and 1970s children’s television and Japanese tokusatsu, The Aquabats! Super Show! utilizes various mediums of visual styles and special effects, mixing live-action storylines with cartoon shorts, parody advertisements and musical interludes.

The marathon begins Saturday, December 5 at 9 a.m. PT and will continue all day. The stream can be viewed on ShoutFactoryTV.com; Shout! Factory TV’s Roku, Amazon Fire, Apple TV, and Android apps; and the following digital streaming platforms: Twitch, Pluto TV, Samsung TV Plus, Comcast Xfinity, Xumo, Vizio, Redbox, IMDb TV, STIRR, Sling TV, THETA.tv and Local Now. 

Every episode of The Aquabats! Super Show! is also now available for viewing on demand on ShoutFactoryTV.com; Shout! Factory TV’s Roku, Amazon Fire, Apple TV, and Android apps; and on various Shout! Factory TV branded channels including Tubi, Amazon Prime Channels, and the Roku Channel.

About The Aquabats! The Aquabats!, formed in 1994 in Orange County as a way to have some harmless fun in a music scene that took itself too seriously. Their Paul Frank designed “power belts,” trademark rash guards, black eye masks, “anti-negativity” helmets and onstage antics quickly caught on, earning the group a fiercely loyal following that spans generations. Their line-up and music is continuously evolving, including Blink 182’s Travis Barker as former drummer “Baron Von Tito.” In 2012, the band debuted The Aquabats! Super Show!, a live-action musical action comedy television series which aired on the Hub Network. The show received eight multiple Daytime EMMY nominations and one win. To date, The Aquabats’ music library includes The Return of the Aquabats (1996), The Fury of the Aquabats! (1997), The Aquabats vs. The Floating Eye of Death (1999), Myths, Legends and Other Amazing Adventures, Vol. 2 (2000), Yo! Check Out This Ride! (EP, 2004) Charge!! (2005), Radio Down! (EP, 2010), Hi-Five Soup! (2011), and 2020’s newest addition – full studio album Kooky Spooky… In Stereo! Current members are Christian Jacobs as “The MC Bat Commander” (lead singer), Chad Larson as “Crash McLarson” (bass, vocals), Ian Fowles as “Eaglebones Falconhawk” (guitar), Richard Falomir as “Ricky Fitness” (drums), and James Briggs, as “Jimmy the Robot” (keyboards, woodwinds, vocals). 

About Shout! Factory TV Shout! Factory TV is a digital entertainment streaming service that brings timeless and contemporary cult favorites to pop culture fans. Shout! Factory TV offers an unrivaled blend of original programming and TV shows and movies curated from major studios, independent producers and its own distinctive entertainment library. The Shout! Factory TV family of channels also includes Mystery Science Theater 3000, TokuSHOUTsu™ and Johnny Carson TV, with more to come soon. Shout! Factory TV provides an immersive, high-quality viewing experience across a wide variety of platforms: online at ShoutFactoryTV.com, on smartphone devices, tablets and connected TV, and via apps on the Roku player, Android, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire TV. Shout! Factory TV is also available as a branded channel on Amazon Prime Channels, Comcast Xfinity, IMDb TV, Pluto TV, Redbox, Roku Premium Subscriptions, Samsung TV Plus, STIRR, Tubi, Twitch, Vizio and XUMO, among others. For more information, please visit ShoutFactoryTV.com.   

Film Review: “BELUSHI”

  • BELUSHI
  • Documentary
  • Directed by: R.J. Cutler
  • Rated:  Not Rated
  • Running time:  1 hr 48 mins
  • Passion Pictures

He was the first movie star of MY generation.  Springing almost seemingly from nowhere he appeared on my television one late Saturday night and remained there for five years, giving my friends and I unending laughs and so many catch phrases – “but NO!” – to take us all the way through high school.  He made hit films, inspiring an amazing Toga Party at my house that is still part of Tampa’s legacy.  He is John Belushi, the subject of an incredible new documentary airing this Sunday, November 22, on SHOWTIME.

Told though audio interviews with many of the people who knew him best, ‘Belushi” introduces us to a young man that was seemingly born with a will to succeed.  As a young boy he would entertain his neighbors, had a successful band and was King of his high school prom.  When he and a couple of friends form their own imrov group it isn’t long before they are asked to audition for the prestigious Second City Comedy Troupe.  He becomes the first person to audition for the group and be asked to join the First Stage group, not learn the ropes in the touring company.  This leads to New York, the National Lampoon show “Lemmings” (and their weekly radio show) and, eventually, “Saturday Night Live,” which my friends and I all watched in my living room the night it premiered.    Soon came Hollywood, albums and fame but sadly the demons also came along with them.

John Belushi in his final film, “Neighbors”

The son of Albanian immigrants, John’s father came to America with dreams of becoming a cowboy.  Instead, he settled his family in Wheaton, Illinois and opened a restaurant.  Both of his parents were ashamed of their accents but John and his brothers and sisters loved America and set out to find their dreams.    When he meets Judy Jacklin at high school (their first date is the senior prom) he finds someone who loves him unconditionally.  The film highlights many letters that John sent to Judy throughout his life.  Whether they contained good career news, or his heart breaking words while dealing with his various addictions, the love he has for her is front and center.  Conversations with Judy, and best friend Dan Aykroyd, reveal the John Belushi nobody really knew and the ache in their voices when they explain they did all they could do to save him from his demons  is real.   After the release of their last film together, “Neighbors” – a film that was not loved by critics – Aykroyd describes talking to Belushi and finding him “sad and defeated.”  Aykroyd informs John that he is writing their next project and that it will be a success.  That film was “Ghostbusters.” 

But “Belushi” is also a testament to the man’s talent.  Early performance clips, including his audition tape for “Saturday Night Live,” show a man

Full of love and humor John only wanted to share both with people.  In 1978 John Belushi did something no other entertaining ever did.  In one week he not only starred in the No 1. Show on television – “Saturday Night Live” – but also in the No 1. Film that week, “National Lampoon’s Animal House.” To add to this historic achievement, he also, along with Aykroyd, had the No 1 Album in the country – “Briefcase Full of Blues” – with the Blues Brothers.  Through the audio interviews, we hear from many people that knew John best, from his mother and brother, Jim, through people that worked with him over the years, including Chevy Chase, Harold Ramis, Joe Flaherty, Penny Marshall, Carrie Fisher, Richard Zanuck and Lorne Michaels. It is these performances that are the highlight of the film.  I have always maintained that John Belushi would have had a career similar to Robin Williams.  Both men had unlimited range and talents and I would not have been surprised if Belushi won an Oscar one day.  Sadly, we will never know what joys John Belushi could have given us.  But the ones he left us in a single decade of work are much more than most performers leave in an lifetime. 

SHOUT! FACTORY TV ANNOUNCES NORTH AMERICAN STREAMING ACQUISITION OF THE AQUABATS! SUPER SHOW!

Multi-Year Agreement Grants Shout! Factory TV Streaming Rights to Daytime Emmy Award-Winning Comedy Rock Series
Shout! Factory TV, the multi-platform digital streaming arm of Shout! Factory, and The Aquabats! today announce a distribution alliance to bring the fan-favorite musical comedy television series The Aquabats! Super Show! to streaming entertainment platforms in North America. 

The multi-year alliance provides Shout! Factory TV with SVOD, AVOD and linear streaming digital rights in the U.S. and Canada to all episodes of The Aquabats! Super Show!, including the unaired pilot episode and specials.   

Shout! Factory TV plans a timely rollout of The Aqubats! Super Show!, expected later this year on its streaming service. As excitement builds, Shout! Factory TV, in collaboration with The Aquabats!, will announce additional news and activities in forthcoming months. The Aquabats! Super Show! premiered in 2012 on the Hub Network and aired for two seasons. The series was created by Christian Jacobs,Scott Schultz (creators of the series Yo Gabba Gabba!), and Jason deVilliers. Throughout its run, the show received eight multiple Daytime Emmy nominations and one win. Shout! Factory previously released The Aquabats! Super Show!: Season One on DVD in 2013. 

Based on the superhero mythology of The Aquabats!, a real comedy rock band which series co-creator and lead singer Jacobs formed in 1994, The Aquabats! Super Show! follows the comic adventures of a fictionalized version of the band, a musical group of amateur superheroes, as they haphazardly defend the world from a variety of villains and monsters. Styled similarly to the campy aesthetics of 1960s and 1970s children’s television and Japanese tokusatsu, The Aquabats! Super Show! utilizes various mediums of visual styles and special effects, mixing live-action storylines with cartoon shorts, parody advertisements and musical interludes. 

“The Aquabats! are back at Shout! Factory, and we couldn’t think of a better home for Seasons 1 and 2 of The Aquabats! Super Show!,” said Christian Jacobs (The MC Bat Commander).“Take a look at their catalog and you’ll see a lot of the stuff that inspired Super Show! in the first place. We hope our fans enjoy watching The Aquabats! right alongside some of our all-time faves like Kamen Rider and Ultraman Leo, and we look forward to new folks discovering our wacky rock and roll adventures!” 

“As fans first, we’re thrilled to once again be working with The Aquabats!. The Aquabats! Super Show! has a devoted fanbase that has cemented the show as a pop culture phenom. We look forward to not only making it available for more fans to discover via streaming on Shout! Factory TV, but also taking advantage of the digital medium to give current fans new and unique ways to experience the show,” said Gene Pao, Shout’s SVP of Digital Enterprises. “As we actively expand our reach in streaming and digital platforms, acquisitions like this epitomize the fan-driven content we continually produce and pursue.”
About The Aquabats!
The Aquabats!, formed in 1994 in Orange County as a way to have some harmless fun in a music scene that took itself too seriously. Their Paul Frank designed “power belts,” trademark rash guards, black eye masks, “anti-negativity” helmets and onstage antics quickly caught on, earning the group a fiercely loyal following that spans generations. Their line-up and music is continuously evolving, including Blink 182’s Travis Barker as former drummer “Baron Von Tito.” 

In 2012, the band debuted The Aquabats! Super Show!, a live-action musical action comedy television series which aired on the Hub Network. The show received eight multiple Daytime EMMY nominations and one win. 

To date, The Aquabats’ music library includes The Return of the Aquabats (1996), The Fury of the Aquabats! (1997), The Aquabats vs. The Floating Eye of Death (1999), Myths, Legends and Other Amazing Adventures, Vol. 2 (2000), Yo! Check Out This Ride! (EP, 2004) Charge!! (2005), Radio Down! (EP, 2010), Hi-Five Soup! (2011), and 2020’s newest addition – full studio album Kooky Spooky… In Stereo! 

Current members are Christian Jacobs as “The MC Bat Commander” (lead singer), Chad Larson as “Crash McLarson” (bass, vocals), Ian Fowles as “Eaglebones Falconhawk” (guitar), Richard Falomir as “Ricky Fitness” (drums), and James Briggs, as “Jimmy the Robot” (keyboards, woodwinds, vocals). 

About Shout! Factory TV
Shout! Factory TV is a digital entertainment streaming service that brings timeless and contemporary cult favorites to pop culture fans. Shout! Factory TV offers an unrivaled blend of original programming and TV shows and movies curated from major studios, independent producers and its own distinctive entertainment library. The Shout! Factory TV family of channels also includes Mystery Science Theater 3000 and TokuSHOUTsu™, with more to come soon. Shout! Factory TV provides an immersive, high-quality viewing experience across a wide variety of platforms: online at ShoutFactoryTV.com, on smartphone devices, tablets and connected TV, and via apps on the Roku player, Android, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire TV. Shout! Factory TV is also available as a branded channel on Amazon Prime Channels, Comcast Xfinity, Pluto TV, Redbox, Roku Premium Subscriptions, Samsung TV Plus, STIRR, Tubi, Twitch, Vizio and XUMO among others. For more information, please visit ShoutFactoryTV.com.

“Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Candace Against The Universe” to Premiere Exclusively on Disney+ on Friday, August 28

BURBANK, Calif. (July 2, 2020) — The out-of-this-world animated movie “Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Candace Against the Universe,” from Disney Television Animation, will premiere exclusively on Disney+ Friday, August 28. The soundtrack, from Walt Disney Records, will be available the same day. 

Executive-produced by the creators/executive producers of the Emmy Award-winning “Phineas and Ferb” series, Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh, “Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Candace Against the Universe” is an adventure story that tracks stepbrothers Phineas and Ferb as they set out across the galaxy to rescue their older sister Candace, who after being abducted by aliens, finds utopia in a far-off planet, free of pesky little brothers.  

Voice talent reprising their roles from the original series and movie include: Ashley Tisdale as Candace Flynn; Vincent Martella as Phineas Flynn; Caroline Rhea as their mom, Linda; Dee Bradley Baker as Perry the Platypus; Alyson Stoner as Isabella; Maulik Pancholy as Baljeet; Bobby Gaylor as Buford; Olivia Olson as Vanessa Doofenshmirtz; Tyler Mann as Carl; and Povenmire and Marsh as Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz and Major Monogram, respectively. David Errigo Jr. joins the cast as Ferb Fletcher. 

The movie also stars: Ali Wong (“American Housewife”) as Super Super Big Doctor; Wayne Brady (“Whose Line Is It Anyway?”) as Stapler Fist; Diedrich Bader (“American Housewife”) as Borthos; and Thomas Middleditch (“Silicon Valley”) as Garnoz.

In addition to Povenmire and Marsh, the talented crew includes: director Bob Bowen (“Family Guy”), composer Danny Jacob (“Phineas and Ferb”) and songwriters Karey Kirkpatrick (“Something Rotten!”), Emanuel Kiriakou (Whitney Houston’s “I Look To You”) and Kate Micucci (“Garfunkel and Oates”).

All four seasons of the original animated series “Phineas and Ferb,” along with the Disney Channel Original Movie “Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension,” are also available to stream on Disney+. Beginning Tuesday, August 25, all episodes will be presented on Disney XD leading up to the movie’s premiere.

In addition to the soundtrack for the new movie, brand extensions for the movie will include cross-category product available at Hot Topic, BoxLunch and Amazon this August.

#DisneyPlus

#PhineasandFerbMovie

#CandaceAgainstTheUniverse

About Disney+

Disney+ is the dedicated streaming home for movies and shows from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic, and more. As part of Disney’s Direct-to-Consumer and International (DTCI) segment, Disney+ is available on most internet-connected devices and offers commercial-free programming with a variety of original feature-length films, documentaries, live-action and animated series, and short-form content. Alongside unprecedented access to Disney’s incredible library of film and television entertainment, the service is also the exclusive streaming home for the latest releases from The Walt Disney Studios. Disney+ is available as part of a bundle offer that gives subscribers access to Disney+, Hulu (ad-supported), and ESPN+. Visit DisneyPlus.com to subscribe and/or learn more about the service.

Television/Streaming Review: ESPN 30 for 30 – “Long Gone Summer’

On September 8, 1998 my son Phillip, his friend Bobby and I drove from Kansas City to St. Louis to take in that evening’s Cardinals/Cubs match-up. We witnessed baseball history when J.D. Drew hit his first career home run. I’ve told this story for over two decades.

Most people know Todd MacFarlane as the creator of the popular SPAWN comics and his amazing toys. He is also a huge baseball fan. We learn that as the film begins with McFarlane bidding almost $3 million to purchase a baseball. But not any baseball. This is the ball hit by Mark McGwire for his 70th home run, at the time a new record. The summer of 1998 was a big one for baseball. After the players strike in 1994 caused the cancellation of the World Series for the first time in history, the game began to draw fans back in 1995 when Baltimore Oriole Cal Ripken, Jr. played in his 2131st consecutive game. But the summer of 1998 is the one that drew fans, old and new, to the game. It was the summer McGwire and Chicago Cub Sammy Sosa swung their way into the history books.

“Long Gone Summer” not only chronicles both players assault on Roger Maris’ then-record of 61 home runs in a season, but the effect the challenge had on America. People that had sworn off baseball after the strike left a bitter taste in their mouth began to pay attention to the game again, while people who had never shown interest began to watch. Having been in Camden Yards when Ripken set his milestone I was already a fan so I followed the exploits of McGwire and Sosa daily, ensuring that ESPN’s SPORTCENTER was a must-see every night.

As the film follows McGwire, Sosa and, for a time, Ken Griffey, Jr, it also talks with some baseball fans who are household names, among them Bob Costas and George Will. Also interviewed are Roger Maris’ sons, as well as Cardinal’s broadcasters Jack Buck (though archival footage) and Mike Shannon. The race had a personal feel to Shannon, who had been a Cardinal teammate of Roger Maris in the mid 1960s.

But the big voices here belong to the two players themselves. McGwire explains his lifelong desire to hit the ball far while Sosa talks about the fun he had. What they don’t talk about are the accusations that both were using performance enhancing drugs. In fact, in a show that runs almost 1 3/4 hours, PED’s are not mentioned until the 45 minute mark, when a container of Androstenedione is spotted in McGwire’s locker. He brushes the questions off, noting that Andro is available over the counter. It’s almost another 45 minutes before the subject comes up again.

Of the two players, McGwire comes off the best. He is insightful in looking back at what he describes as both the best, and worst, time of his life. Sosa, speaking perfect English – when he testified before Congress he had to have his attorney read his statement, as he felt his English wasn’t strong -is more concerned with relaying the fun times he had that summer. Archival interviews with both – again with Sosa speaking English like a native – gives a look into the love and respect Big Mac and Slammin’ Sammy had for each other. As the season ends, McGwire finishes with 70 home runs, Sosa with 66. Sosa would hit 63 the next year and Baroid Bonds would hit 73 in 2001. By then, the PED cat was out of the bag and, in the almost 20 years since Bonds, no one has hit 60 home runs in a season.

Given an opportunity to confirm whether or not he juiced, Sosa will only say that “Everybody was doing them.” After years of denial, in 2010 McGwire admitted to using PED’s. His admission and apology seemed sincere to me. So much so that I can tell you that, on September 8, 1998, my son Phillip, his friend Bobby and I drove from Kansas City to St. Louis to take in that evening’s Cardinals/Cubs match-up. We witnessed baseball history when Mark McGwire hit his 62nd home run of the season over the left field fence, directly below where we were sitting. No disrespect to J.D. Drew, but this story is more exciting.

“Long Gone Summer” airs this Sunday night at 8:00 pm EST on ESPN and will stream directly afterwards on ESPN+.

Television/Streaming Review: ESPN 30 for 30: BE WATER

I’m old enough to remember watching Bruce Lee as Kato on television’s “The Green Hornet” when it originally aired on ABC. T o me he was just a cool guy who wore a mask and kicked ass. But there was a lot more to Lee, as both an actor and a person, and those remarkable qualities are revealed in the latest ESPN 30 for 30 documentary, BE WATER.

We first meet Lee as he is completing a screen test in 1964. He is quite and soft spoken but, when he is asked to demonstrate some of his martial arts skills, he is a tornado. Even in these few minutes of film, you can see the legend that lie ahead.

Born in San Francisco (his father was a popular Chinese actor and opera performer), Lee’s family returned to Hong Kong shortly after his birth. Like most children, Lee had a mischievous side and his father allowed him to begin acting in films as a child in hopes of curbing his rambunctious attitudes. Finding his idea unsuccessful, his father sends him to Seattle to attend college. It is there that he begins the journey that most fans know. But there is also a lot they don’t and that is revealed here in Lee’s own words. Using archival interviews and quoting his letters, read by his daughter, Shannon, we learn that Lee was a very philosophical man who yearned to bridge the racial prejudice felt in America. He wanted to be able to share and express his culture and was tired of seeing such actors as Mickey Rooney, Marlon Brando and John Wayne portraying Asian characters on screen, usually in ridiculous make up.

Lee’s short-lived small screen stardom begins to fade and he is hopeful for the lead in an upcoming program to be called “Kung Fu.” When he is passed over for the role in favor of David Carradine – we hear the show’s producer proclaim that he could not find an Asian actor he felt could handle the role, he takes his family to Hong Kong,, where he will soon make film history.

BE WATER gets it’s title from a philosophy that Lee often shared in interviews. Water, he notes, is the softest substance on Earth, yet it is strong enough to penetrate rock. It takes the shape of whatever vessel it finds itself in. The film is full of amazing archival footage and the story is told through conversations with not only Lee’s daughter and widow, Linda, but various friends and former students, including Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

On July 20, 1973, Bruce Lee died. 10 days later, “Enter the Dragon” was released, making him an international superstar, ironically a term Lee disliked. His impact on pop culture and racial acceptance is still being felt today. With the current situation the nation, and the world, finds itself in, we could use a man like him today.

BE WATER airs this Sunday night at 9:00 pm EST on ESPN. It will stream afterwards on ESPN+. Don’t miss it!

Television/Streaming Review: ESPN 30 for 30 – LANCE

In 2008 I was driving through downtown Kansas City when I was amazed at the sight of a seven-story banner of Lance Armstrong hanging from the building where my wife worked.  I called her and asked about it and she informed me that her company – an investment management firm – had partnered with Armstrong to promote his LIVESTRONG investments.  Hearing this, I asked her “and what happens when it finally comes out that he was a cheater?”  “Hopefully that isn’t true,” she replied.

LANCE, the latest episode in ESPN’s brilliant “30 for 30” documentary series, is a two part look at the rise and the fall of one of the most celebrated athletes in American history.  Episode one begins with Armstrong telling director Marina Zenovich how he knows there are many people that, upon seeing him, just want to scream out “F**k you, Lance,” but seldom do.  He also recounts how, once when a group heading into a restaurant did just that, he called the restaurant, informed the manager that he would pay for their dinner and asked the manager to inform the party that “Lance loves you.”  Unfortunately, Lance also loves himself.

We are introduced to the young man that would go on to “win” seven consecutive Tour de France bicycle races, the most prestigious race in the world.  He played several sports as a kid but didn’t excel in any of them.  He tried swimming and developed a passion.  Entering triathlons introduced him to competitive cycling, which is where he found his calling.  Then, his life was dealt a blow when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer.  Beating major odds, Armstrong not only survived his ordeal but returned to competitive cycling.  He also returned to a dark secret he had been hiding – taking performance enhancing doses of such banned (in competitive sports) substances as EPO and Andrial.  He admits this rather non-chalantly, falling back often on the old “everyone else was doing it” excuse.

However, in Episode two, which airs this Sunday night on ESPN (and will be available afterwards on ESPN+) the true Armstrong comes through.  Like many athletes, Armstrong was set on winning at any cost, allegedly going so far as to inform the anti-doping agency that a rival cyclist was juicing.  Like many people in denial, Armstrong was like a pit bull in his defense of his reputation.  Whether using his cancer as a sympathy ploy or slandering his accusers (while testifying in an inquiry he calls one woman who filed a deposition alleging his cheating a whore) or using his status and power to destroy other riders, he comes off as a man who still feels that he’s done nothing wrong.

Part two also looks at Armstrong’s effect on those close to him.  His son, who played college football, is asked if he would ever use performance drugs.  His reply – that he only wants to succeed through his own hard work – is heartfelt and honest.  That’s what all athletes want to do.  Asked if he still considers himself relevant, Armstrong declares, “I AM relevant.”  He also refers to former U.S. Postal Service team mate Floyd Landis – who was the rider that finally outed Armstrong’s doping – as a “piece of s**t.”  Other team members relate that Lance was fine with them as long as they kept his secret but, at the slightest hint of disloyalty they were gone.

On the positive side, the film also takes a look at the magnificent work that the Lance Armstrong Foundation and LIVESTRONG have done in support of cancer patients everywhere.  Thanks to Armstrong’s popularity hundreds of millions of dollars have been raised for these organizations (I’ll admit that I bought a LIVESTRONG bracelet when they came out).  And this achievement allows Armstrong to ask if the ends justify the means.  Would this money have been raised if not for him?

In the end, you come away with a man who still doesn’t accept responsibility for anything (except his divorce).  He also laments the hardship he endured having to date such celebrities as Cheryl Crow and Kate Hudson.  Wahh!

I’m not sure if I’ll ever run into Lance Armstrong on the street so let me just say here, for the record, “Hey Lance – F**k you!”

Throwback: TNT’s “Snowpiercer” at NYCC

This Sunday TNT is readying for viewers to depart on their massive eponymous train, SNOWPIERCER. Starring Jennifer Connelly and Daveed Diggs, the series is the second adaptation of the 1982 French graphic novel Le Transperceneige after it got the big screen treatment from director Bong Joon Ho in 2013. TNT describes their series as follows: “The world has become a frozen wasteland, and the only survivors are those aboard a perpetually moving train that circles the globe. See how class warfare, social injustice and the politics of survival play out on Snowpiercer.”

Cast members below series concept art

Given the expansion from a film to a series, the show promises to take a more in depth look into the characters and divisions that exist in the remnants of humanity aboard the some thousand cars of this monster train. Though some nods to the film–such as a character loosely based on Tilda Swinton’s “Mason”–are to be expected. The cast joined show runner Graeme Manson this past fall on stage at New York Comic Con. You can head over to our Facebook page to check out our full album of panel photos before catching the premiere!

Jennifer Connelly (“Melanie Cavill”) and Daveed Diggs (“Layton Well”)

SNOWPIERCER debuts on 5/17 at 9pm on TNT

STEEL PANTHER TO APPEAR ON TONIGHT’S EPISODE OF TRUTV’s HIT SHOW IMPRACTICAL JOKERS

200th Episode Airs This Evening At 10PM (Check Local Listings)
Band Wraps First Leg Of Successful European Headline Tour In Support of Latest Release Heavy Metal Rules Next Week
On the eve of the most romantic holiday Hallmark has ever created, heavy music’s medically-cleared lovers and partiers Steel Panther are adding another career milestone to their ever-expanding resume. Michael Starr, Satchel, Lexxi Foxx and Stix Zadinia joined up with Q, Murr, Joe and Sal for an appearance on the 200th episode of their hit TV show, Impractical Jokers. Impractical Jokers airs on TruTV and the Steel Panther episode is set to air this evening at 10PM (check local listings).  

“What says good times, rock and roll, and making your buddies look like jerks in front of other people more than Steel Panther and Impractical Jokers getting together in one killer episode????? Well, nothing. Seriously, nothing says it more. This 200th anniversary episode was a blast to film, and we were so excited to be asked to be a part of it!” exclaims Steel Panther.  

Steel Panther is currently in the middle of the first leg of their 2020 year-long world tour in support of their latest release Heavy Metal Rules. The tour has seen the band play to sold out rooms across Europe and the guys were even joined by their friends in Five Finger Death Punch during a show last month in Helsinki. Shows in Canada were recently announced with plans for more dates in the United States and Australia to be announced in the future. Information on all shows can be found at: https://www.steelpantherrocks.com/pages/tour.
Confirmed 2020 World Tour Dates (So Far):
Feb 15: Belfast, UK – Ulster Hall
Feb 16: Dublin, Ireland – Vicar Street
Feb 17: Cork, Ireland – Cyprus Ave
Mar 12: Coquitlam, BC, Canada – Hard Rock Casino 
Mar 13: Coquitlam, BC, Canada – Hard Rock Casino 
Mar 14: Coquitlam, BC, Canada – Hard Rock Casino 
Jun 10-13: Nicklesdorf, Austria – Nova Rock
Jun 13: Krakow, Poland – Studio
Jun 14: Budapest, Hungary – Barba Negra Track
Jun 16: Milan, Italy – Alcatraz
Jun 18-21: Dessel, Belgium – Grasspop Metal Meetin
Jul 1-4: Ballenstedt, Germany – Rockharz festival
Jul 10: Mansfield, OH – Inkcarceration Festival 2020
L to R: Michael Starr, Satchel, Lexxi Foxx, Stix Zadinia (Photo by: David Jackson)

Recently Steel Panther released their latest video, the NSFW clip for the title track “Heavy Metal Rules.” The video picks up right where the video for their hit “Death To All But Metal” leaves off. The video then follows the band on the road to stardom from small clubs to some of the largest festivals in the world filled with copious amounts of beauties, blow, and boobs. The video set new records for the band in terms of engagement until the fun police at YouTube got wind of the video and slowed it down. 

“Heavy Metal Rules,” directed by Frankie Nasso, can be seen here: https://youtu.be/uvubIgC9zi0.

The song comes from their “now available everywhere” latest album, Heavy Metal Rules (https://lnk.to/HeavyMetalRules).  

ABOUT STEEL PANTHER:  

For the uninitiated, Steel Panther was formed in 2000 and is comprised of Michael Starr (lead singer), Satchel (guitarist), Lexxi Foxx (bass) and Stix Zadinia (drums). Hailing from Los Angeles, the epicenter for rock n’ roll in all its debauchery and glamour, Steel Panther has established themselves as the world’s premier party band, melding hard rock virtuosity with parody and criminally good looks. Steel Panther is a global phenomenon with four full-length albums, touring across the world, platinum-level You Tube status and high-profile television appearances such as Jimmy Kimmel Live, Larry King Now, and FOX NFL Sunday. 

Rolling Stone avowed, “There’s a reason Steel Panther have transcended their origins as a cover band playing the Sunset Strip,” while Metal Sucks declared, Steel Panther’s concept is genius…their songwriting is…preposterously snappy – and relatable.”

Connect with Steel Panther: www.steelpantherrocks.com

AMAZON PRIME VIDEO SURPRISE DROPS THE SECOND SEASON OF ACTION-THRILLER TOM CLANCY’S JACK RYAN

The Second Season Of The Amazon Original Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan Is Now Available Globally

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION ON TOM CLANCY’S JACK RYAN 

Today Amazon Prime Video surprised fans by globally releasing the second season of action-thriller Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, starring John Krasinski (A Quiet Place), one day early.   The announcement was made via Krasinski’s social channels in which immediately following his posting the series went live on Prime Video.  

In the second season of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, after tracking a potentially suspicious shipment of illegal arms in the Venezuelan jungle, CIA Officer Jack Ryan, portrayed by Krasinski, heads down to South America to investigate. As Jack’s investigation threatens to uncover a far-reaching conspiracy, the President of Venezuela launches a counter-attack that hits home for Jack, leading him and his fellow operatives on a global mission spanning the United States, UK, Russia, and Venezuela to unravel the President’s nefarious plot and bring stability to a country on the brink of chaos. 

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan Season Two, is a co-production of Amazon Studios and Paramount Television and produced by Skydance Television, will premiere exclusively on Prime Video. 

In addition to Krasinski, the second season of the dramatic series also stars  Wendell Pierce (The Wire) as James Greer, Noomi Rapace (Prometheus) as Harriet ‘Harry’ Baumann and Michael Kelly (House of Cards) as Mike November. 

The series is executive produced by Andrew FormBrad FullerMichael Bay, Krasinski and Allyson Seeger, along with Carlton Cuse and Graham Roland, who created the series for television. Additionally, Andrew BernsteinVince CalandraDavid GrazianoTom ClancyDavid EllisonDana GoldbergMarcy RossMace NeufeldLindsey SpringerDennie Gordon and Phil Abraham also executive produce the second season of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan.

NYCC 2019: Hulu’s Castle Rock

The cast of Hulu’s Castle Rock at MSG during New York Comic Con

Just in time for Halloween, Hulu is ready to invite viewers back to the not-so-sleepy town of Castle Rock. The fictional Maine location may sound familiar to even casual horror fans, as it features across the many works of Stephen King. To celebrate the launch of season 2, the cast of the anthology series joined fans at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden for a screening of the premiere episode at this year’s New York Comic Con.

The highlight of the premiere was the debut of Lizzy Caplan as “Stephen King’s nurse from hell” Annie Wilkes. Wilkes was the star of King’s Misery where she was willing to go to lethal lengths to get her way from James Caan’s stranded author character. Bates famously won an Academy Award for her performance and if you had asked me if I needed to see more background on her character I may have doubted you until this episode. Caplan channels her own unblinking manic energy and manages to make Wilkes’s “cockadoody” vernacular her very own. As a bonus, she has the wonderful Elsie Fisher (Eighth Grade) as a daughter to play off of in this series.

Lizzy Caplan (“Annie Wilkes”) and Elsie Fisher (“Joy Wilkes”

While I won’t go into spoilers for the show, suffice to say there was at least one jaw dropping scene that made checking the show out in the massive NYCC audience incredibly satisfying.

Head over to our NYCC Facebook album to see even more photos from the panel which also featured Shawshank Redemption alum Tim Robbins

Tim Robbins (“Pop Merrill”)

Castle Rock season 2 is available on Hulu starting October 23rd.

SopranosCon Announced; First-Ever ‘Sopranos’ Themed Convention ‘For The Fans, By The Fans’

Time Immemorial, Famous Signs and Michael Mota present SopranosCon, the first-ever “Sopranos” themed convention, to be held at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in New Jersey on November 23rd and 24th, 2019. 

Visually inspired by the Feast of St. Elezar, SopranosCon presented by East Commerce Solutions, is a fan convention unlike any other. Billing itself as “for the fans, by the fans,” SopranosCon will feature a once-in-a-lifetime reunion of key cast members, including Tony Sirico, Federico Castelluccio, Vincent Pastore, Vincent Curatola, David Proval, and over 30 supporting cast members, with many more special guests to be announced in the coming days.  

“In a nutshell, this is The Sopranos meets New York Comic Con. However, our event is going to be much more than pictures, autographs, and vendors,” said Daniel Trader who runs @TimeImmemorial_, a creative Instagram page that boasts the largest Sopranos fan network on social media with over 225,000 combined dedicated followers.  

Guests of the two-day convention will be able to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the series by showcasing Italian culture in New Jersey with food, drink, music, comedy, and show-related businesses (such as Holsten’s Ice Cream, a sponsor of the event). There will be fan art galleries, exhibits, Q&A’s, trivia, contests, games, and more.   

“This event will be an experience no true fan will want to miss,” said Joe Fama, owner of Famous Signs and a co-presenter of the event. “We have spent years designing sets, exhibits, and more for this event.  There will certainly be something for everyone.”   

In addition, an accompanying documentary commemorating the 20th anniversary of the hit HBO show will be released after the event.  The as-yet-untitled documentary will focus on three superfans — Michael Mota from Lincoln Rhode Island, Daniel Trader from Baltimore, Maryland and Joe Fama from Long Island, New York — who came together to give every Sopranos fan the opportunity to celebrate history. The documentary will also feature many key cast members telling “their story” and other exclusive behind-the-scenes footage of the Con.   

Federico Castelluccio, better known as Furio Guinta on The Sopranos, has been chosen to narrate the documentary.   

“When the first season came out, I was a huge fan myself.  I told my agent that I had to be on the show.  Having the opportunity to be a part of SopranosCon and celebrate with the fans is an amazing opportunity.  I am honored to be a part of this documentary, and I am excited to showcase what a few fans can do when they have a passion for something,” he said, exclusively.   

“I can’t put into words the amount of support we have received for SopranosCon.  People all over the world have reached out to us and are coming to the United States for the first time for our event.  This show touched so many people and has left a mark on their lives forever,” said Michael Mota, founder and CEO of Skyline at Waterplace, and one of the key organizers of the event.  “I have thrown several Soprano themed events but this is something much larger. This is truly for the fans, by the fans.”  

Tickets are on sale now at www.sopranoscon.com. For a limited time, fans can enter the promotional code HipHopGamer to receive 10% off all ticket packages.

BookCon: The Handmaid’s Tale Season 3

The second season of Hulu’s hit series The Handmaid’s Tale left more than a few fans stunned when June (Elisabeth Moss) bucked her chance to escape to freedom in Canada with her baby and instead handed the infant off to Emily (Alexis Bleidel) while turning back into the world that still holds her other child hostage.

This weekend eager Handmaid’s fans finally got to see where June’s unexpected decision has lead the inhabitants of Gilead when showrunner Bruce Miller and actress Ann Dowd (“Aunt Lydia”) brought the premiere episode of the third season to New York’s BookCon.

Ann Dowd (“Aunt Lydia”) and Handmaid’s Tale showrunner, Bruce Miller

Without going into episode spoilers, I will say what I saw went a long way in explaining why June would make such a tremendous sacrifice in that finale and the acting across the board continues to be top notch. Alexis Bleidel’s Emily in particular had me moved to tears more than once. And the BookCon crowd broke out into applause at least twice.

While the terrifying Aunt Lydia did not appear in the premiere ep, the trailers showed that she will return after Emily very literally stabbed her in back last year. Dowd, who was also nefarious in last year’s horror hit Hereditary, is delightful and warm in person and said of Lydia, “she is doing quite well…she’s very concerned” She also offered some exciting tidbits into where season three might take Aunt Lydia.

Although in the last two seasons we’ve seen almost every protagonist’s backstory, Aunt Lydia has remained a mystery. Apparently that will change in season three. Of this insight, Dowd commented that while it wasn’t exactly what she thought it would be “it’s so true to what might have went wrong.” On that change she added that whatever happened, “her life leaned toward Gilead and [to being] one of the most staunch believers of that group.” And while Dowd clearly loves playing Lydia, she joked about her inner dialogue with the character: “I say I’m disappointed with her and she says to mind my business!”

Dowd complimenting a Handmaid cosplayer in attendance

The Handmaid’s Tale returns weekly to Hulu starting Wednesday June 5th.

GROUNDBREAKING COMEDIAN TOM GREEN SHARES VIDEO FOR ‘I WANNA BE FRIENDS WITH DRAKE’

TAKEN FROM ‘THE TOM GREEN SHOW’ ALBUM 
OUT MAY 17TH ON VINYL ONLY VIA SHIP TO SHORE PHONOCO(DIGITAL VERSION TO BE RELEASED AT A LATER DATE) WATCH ‘I WANNA BE FRIENDS WITH DRAKE’ VIDEO DIRECTED BY TONY CORELLA 

PRE-ORDER ALBUM

ON TOUR NOW!

Photo: Tony Conrad

Tom Green – prankster, provocateur, pundit – has a lot on his mind, and this bracing, inventive album lays it all out. A dazzling pastiche of social and political commentary, autobiography, and general Tom-foolery, it mixes hip-hop, punk-rock, goth-rock, confessional folk, electronica, and signature novelty tunes into a heady stew, spiced with samples from the Green’s TV shows, movies, and stand-up comedy routines.

“Thank you for listening to my album. I made this record myself. And I had fun doing it. As a teenager, I became fascinated by rap and electronic music. I spent my summers mowing lawns and working shitty jobs just to scrape up enough money to buy a used drum machine and, eventually, an Akai s-950 sampler and an Atari 520st computer to sequence my beats. I began “digging in the crates” through the vast collection of vinyl at the community radio station where I volunteered. And I started sampling and looping old funk and R&B and jazz breaks from musical legends of the 1970s. I would take the looped beats and bass-lines and drop raps over them in my home studio. Most of my friends would come to my house and have no idea what the hell I was doing. 

Flash forward three decades. I never stopped making music, but a few years ago, I decided to start recording again on a more regular basis. This is my first release on vinyl since 1992. I would like you to know that every sound was carefully considered by me. I funneled the drums or bass or guitar noise through a mess of cables and compressors in my own recording studio that I built in Los Angeles. The album includes some audio clips from my recent stand-up comedy, some from the original “Tom Green Show,” and, of course, some funny songs and some sincere ones. I hope you enjoy it.

Please follow me on social media and at tomgreen.com, and we can discuss this recording together. Your support over the years means everything to me. I am always touring all over the world and will probably be performing in a city near you, so please come see me and say hello! And if you are reading this, YOU ROCK!” – Tom

TRACK LISTING:

SIDE A:

1. The Tom Green Show – Theme Song
2. Acoustic Intro
3. Philly Stand Up
4. Purple Whiskey Bag
5. Live With Dignity
6. You Painted The Car?
7. None Of Your Business
8. Hip Hop Woman
9. Crack Baby Don’t Come Back
10. Daddy Would You Like Some Sausage?
11. Far 2 Young 2 Die
12. Hot Rhymes
13. Cell Phone Addict
14. Away We Go
15. The Salmon Song

SIDE B:

1. Park Bench Old Lady
2. I Wanna Be Friends With Drake
3. The Mustard Inspector
4. It Takes Balls (to rule the world)
5. Testicular Cancer Speech
6. Hey Kids, Feel Your Balls
7. Another Lie
8. Plastic Bag
9. The Bum Bum Song (lonely Swedish) 


Tom Green exploded on MTV with the groundbreaking comedy show “The Tom Green Show.” Before reality TV, YouTube and social media existed, Tom Green’s man-on-the-street pranks changed television forever. He’s graced the cover of Rolling Stone, hosted Saturday Night Live, guest hosted Letterman, and appeared on Oprah, Jay Leno, Kimmel, Fallon, Conan, The Daily Show and more! The success of the Tom Green Show has landed him roles in mainstream Hollywood movies like Road Trip, Freddy Got Fingered, Stealing Harvard, Charlies Angels and more! Now Tom Green’s sold out Stand Up Comedy Tour is getting 5 star reviews worldwide. Don’t miss the insanely hilarious stand up comedy of Tom Green when he comes to your city. His brilliantly cracked view of the world around him makes for non-stop laughter every time.Ship to Shore PhonoCo are a Brooklyn-based boutique record company shining a light on new-to-the-format music, underappreciated classics and undiscovered gems. 

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