Beer League

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 5/14/19
MVD/FilmRise;
Comedy, B.O. $0.5 million, $14.95 DVD, $24.95 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for nonstop language, including strong sexual references, sexuality, nudity and drug use.
Stars Artie Lange, Ralph Macchio, Anthony De Sando, Cara Buono, Jimmy Palumbo, Jerry Minor, Joe Lo Truglio, Seymour Cassel, Laurie Metcalf, Louis Lombardi.

I love this movie. It’s the perfect tonic for the Al Bundy in us all — an ode to camaraderie, teamwork and the art of the great insult.

That description belies a certain temperament, of course, but how one not eyeball a movie headlined by Artie Lange about a softball squad of New Jersey drunks and not expect to find something potentially offensive to ponder? If it was un-PC when it first premiered in 2006, and it most certainly was, it would be hard pressed to even get made in the Twitter-fueled outrage culture of today. And that’s aside from how years of cocaine use have turned Lange’s nose into silly putty.

Co-written by Lange and director Frank Sebastiano (and based on Shakespeare’s Ale League, Sebastiano quips in the commentary), Beer League is the Bad News Bears if the entire team were Buttermakers — a portrait of drunken thirtysomethings whose last shot at glory rests with success in one of those community rec-center slow-pitch softball leagues where the teams consist of bar buddies.

Lange basically plays himself, a guy named Artie whose team is so bad they always end up picking a fight with their main rivals rather than admit defeat. A local cop (a great cameo by Louis Lombardi of “24”) is so fed up with the fights he orders the team that finishes with the worst record to leave the league.

Artie has a personal motivation for winning, as the other team is led by his oldest rival, who has held the upper hand in their feud since high school.

All seems lost until Artie realizes that if his team can stay sober in a league of drunks, they might actually have an advantage.

But Artie can’t seem to get out of the way of his own personal problems, particularly when it comes to his new girlfriend, played by Cara Buono, who later had a prominent role in season four of “Mad Men” as the love interest of Don Draper who gets dumped so he can marry his secretary; most recently she’s been on “Stranger Things” as Mike’s mom.

A few other plot machinations conspire to bring the team to their lowest point just before the championship, leading to a final game one must see to believe. There’s just something special about seeing a batter throw up in mid-swing, a feat Joe Lo Truglio (of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”) pulls off with aplomb.

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The late Seymour Cassel, who just died in April, gets some of the film’s best lines and steals nearly every scene he’s in as the crotchety old-timer who pitches for Artie’s team.

Also notable is Jimmy Palumbo as Johnny, who constantly refers to his quest to finish the season with a .700 batting average (“It’s so unfair … it’s like pitching to a healthy Lou Gehrig”).

Artie’s best friend is played by Ralph Macchio, who at the time was basically at the tail end of his Karate Kid fame before a guest appearance on HBO’s “Entourage” led to his casting in this movie and sparked a bit of a career renaissance that brought him full circle with “Cobra Kai.”

Even Tina Fey gets in on the action with a one-line cameo as a gym receptionist. Fey was wrapping up her stint on “Saturday Night Live” at the time and about to debut “30 Rock,” and shows up here visibly pregnant with her first daughter.

This is one of those films that critics are prone to dismiss, and most did at the time, but for the audience in the target demographic, which I suppose would be middle-aged Johnny Six-Packs, it hits the sweet spot. It’s crude, extremely funny and eminently watchable in the vein of The Hangover or Major League, and rife with quotability. My brother and I still toss off zingers from the film to this day.

With its flair for crudeness and apathy toward the human condition, Beer League is a perfect companion piece for 1998’s Dirty Work, which was co-written by Sebastiano and also starred Lange.

The new FilmRise Blu-ray edition of the film is basically an updated pressing of the Echo Bridge Blu-ray from 2008, with a new menu and the same previously released trove of bonus material.

The Lange-Sebastiano commentary ends up being surprisingly serious compared with the tone of the film itself, mainly because in-between Lange laughing about his various drug habits they actually focus on how the film was made.

We get a glimpse of Sebastiano’s directing style in the 19-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, which shows him calling the shots in a Yankee cap and bath robe.

The Blu-ray also includes the minute-long faux “Beer Goggles” commercial that went on to inspire the production of Beer League.

Additional extras include the film’s trailers; a photo gallery; four minutes of Lange recording jokes for the film’s promotional campaign; footage of Lange behind the scenes at “Best Damn Sports Show,” “The Jimmy Kimmel Show” and Cine Vegas (3-4 minutes each); and 19 minutes of cast junket interviews.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FilmRise Partners for Anti-Poverty-Themed On-Demand Theatrical Screening

Distributor FilmRise has partnered with anti-poverty group Global Citizen for a special (April 24) on-demand theatrical screening of Sprinter, from executive producers Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith and Richard Jefferson.

The fictional movie showcases Jamaican teenage runner (Dale Elliott) – burdened by an unstable father and an unruly older brother – who hopes a meteoric rise in track-and-field can reunite him with his mother (Lorraine Toussaint), who has lived illegally in the U.S. for over a decade.

The movie also features David Alan Grier, Shantol Jackason, Bryshere Gray and multiple Olympic champion and world record holder Usain Bolt, among others.

International anti-poverty organization Global Citizen is offering a VIP ticket package to attend the FilmRise and Citi/Grove exclusive premiere screening in Los Angeles.

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Sprinter is an authentic look at a teenager struggling to find his way, fulfill his true potential, and reunite with his family, which has been broken apart by extreme poverty,” Sal Scamardo, VP, distribution strategies, FilmRise, said in a statement.

Since 2012, Global Citizen has grown into one of the largest platforms around the world calling on world leaders to honor their responsibilities in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

“We are thrilled to be a part of this film and its campaign to help bring families together, create opportunities and education for all and to help encourage more people to take action in support of a worldwide movement to end extreme poverty,” said Madge Thomas, senior director of global policy and government affairs at Global Citizen.

With over 15,000 titles in a wide range of genres, FilmRise releases include HBO’s multiple Emmy-winning “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief”; “Janis: Little Girl Blue,” produced by Oscar-winner Alex Gibney; two-time Academy Award-nominee Julie Delpy’s “Lolo; and the Sundance hit “White Girl”. Television titles include such classics as “Roseanne” and “3rd Rock from the Sun”, as well as Robert Stack hosted series, “Unsolved Mysteries” and Gordon Ramsay’s “Hell’s Kitchen” and “Kitchen Nightmares.”

Recent releases include “Manifesto” starring two-time Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett; sci-fi drama “Marjorie Prime” starring Jon Hamm and Lois Smith; the box-office hit “My Friend Dahmer” starring Ross Lynch and Anne Heche; and “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” starring Chloë Grace Moretz.

 

Six FilmRise Titles, Including Nicolas Cage Starrer ‘Vengeance: A Love Story,’ Coming to Blu-ray in March From MVD

A Nicolas Cage drama, a James Franco genre mash-up and film festival winners are among six FilmRise titles coming to Blu-ray Disc in March from MVD Entertainment Group.

The lineup begins with five titles streeting March 12th.

The Nicolas Cage action-drama Vengeance: A Love Story, a film in the vein of Death Wish, stars Cage as a detective seeking justice for a single mother that is brutally assaulted in front of her 12-year-old daughter.

Chloë Grace Moretz stars in The Miseducation of Cameron Post, based on the novel by Emily M. Danforth. The story follows Cameron as she’s sent to a gay conversion therapy center where she forms a bond with a group of fellow teenagers, and together they fight for survival. The film won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Bonus features include an audio commentary with director-co-writer Desiree Akhavan and producer-co-writer Cecilia Frugiuele; a behind the scenes photo gallery; the theatrical trailer; and an accolades trailer.

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Clio Barnard’s Dark River, winner of the Platform Prize at the Toronto International Film Festival, is the story of a woman that returns home to her family farm after the death of her father. Having been gone for more than 15 years, she is forced to face dark memories from her past while attempting to rekindle the relationship with her brother.

Life in the Doghouse is a documentary that showcases the work done by Danny Robertshaw and Ron Danta at Danny & Ron’s Rescue. In their 10-plus years of working together, the duo has saved more than 10,000 dogs. Bonus features include deleted scenes, a trailer and a photo gallery.

The final March 12 release is the modern cult classic The Greasy Strangler. Bonus features include audio commentary with director Jim Hosking, Michael St. Michaels and Sky Elobar; exclusive cast and crew Interviews; the original theatrical trailer; the red band trailer; and a teaser trailer.

Due March 26th is Dan Bush’s The Vault, a genre mash-up that opens like a pretty standard heist film about a bank robbery, but the tables take a turn when it’s revealed that the bank is haunted. The Vault Stars James Franco, Taryn Manning and Clifton Collins Jr.

FilmRise Inks Streaming Deals with ITV, MGM and Warner Bros.

Ad-supported movie streaming service FilmRise said it has signed distribution agreements for catalog content with ITV Studios Global Entertainment, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) and Warner Bros., among others.

Titles include Hell’s Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares, The Terminator, and the original Blade Runner.”

“We are thrilled that the FilmRise Channel has become a major platform where consumers can watch their favorite films and TV shows,” FilmRise CEO Danny Fisher in a statement.

We have formed a stellar line up of programming thanks to our amazing partners,” said Fisher.

The channel can be found on Roku, iOS, Android, Amazon Fire devices, Apple TV, and other connected devices.

 

Warner’s ‘Blade Runner: The Final Cut,’ ‘Million Dollar Baby,’ ‘Selena’ Among Warner Titles Now Available on FilmRise AVOD Service

Blade Runner: The Final Cut, director Ridley Scott’s final cut of the classic 1982 film, including extended scenes and never-before-seen special effects, in addition to five more Warner films are available now on FilmRise’s ad-supported streaming network.

FilmRise licensed the titles from Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution.

“We are excited to be partnering with Warner Bros. in bringing these beloved films to audiences through our streaming network,” said FilmRise CEO Danny Fisher in a statement. “Die-hard fans of Blade Runner deem this final cut as the only version of the cult classic reflecting Ridley Scott’s original artistic vision for the project. The additional five films are undoubtedly part of American culture — classics that fans can view over and over again.”

The five other films available include the Oscar-lauded Million Dollar Baby, starring Clint Eastwood and Hilary Swank; Free Willy, the whale tale that spawned three sequels; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the 1990 feature starring Corey Feldman; Gremlins, 1984’s comedy-horror film executive produced by Steven Spielberg; and Selena, Jennifer Lopez’s break-out role as recording star Selena Quintanilla-Pérez who was tragically murdered at 23.

FilmRise Acquires Exclusive U.S. SVOD Rights to ‘CHiPs’

FilmRise has acquired from Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution the exclusive U.S. SVOD rights to the 1970s TV show “CHiPs,” starring Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox, according to the company.

The show is available on Prime Video, through FilmRise’s Prime Video Direct self-service program.

“We are thrilled to have concluded a deal with Warner Bros. to bring this classic television favorite to Amazon’s Prime Video audience,” said FilmRise CEO and co-founder Danny Fisher in a statement. “The show is a perfect fit for the Prime Video service, which boasts an ever-expanding catalog of classic film and TV.”

“CHiPs” ran for more than six seasons on NBC. It followed California Highway Patrol motorcycle officers Jon (Wilcox) and Ponch (Estrada) as they patroled the streets of Los Angeles.

FilmRise has also brought other classic TV shows to the Prime platform, including “Hell’s Kitchen” and “3rd Rock from the Sun.”

FilmRise Signs Deal With ITV Studios for Streaming Rights to Gordon Ramsay Shows

Independent film and TV distribution company FilmRise has signed an exclusive deal with ITV Studios Global Entertainment for the ad-supported video rights to two TV programs headlined by television personality and chef Gordon Ramsay: the reality series “Hell’s Kitchen” (seasons 1-15) and “Kitchen Nightmares.”

The two shows June 1 became exclusively available for free across the FilmRise streaming network, including its Roku, Xbox, Apple, Amazon Fire TV and Android platforms.

“We’re thrilled to be able to bring such iconic reality series, such as ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ and ‘Kitchen Nightmares,’ to even more audiences,” said FilmRise CEO Danny Fisher. “With our partnership with U.K. powerhouse ITV Studios Global Entertainment, FilmRise is dedicated to providing exceptional programming across a range of platforms to best serve our viewers.”

Others series streaming through FilmRise’s network include the Emmy Award-winning sitcom “3rd Rock from the Sun” from Carsey-Werner and “Unsolved Mysteries” with Robert Stack.

Original ‘Roseanne’ Series Available to Stream on FilmRise’s Ad-Supported Network

FilmRise has just released the complete original series of “Roseanne” on its ad-supported streaming network.

The series, starring Roseanne Barr, John Goodman and Laurie Metcalf, is available to stream for free across FilmRise apps, including on the Roku and Xbox platforms. The company will soon launch “Roseanne” on FilmRise apps across additional platforms, connected TVs, and mobile devices.

ABC recently re-booted the Emmy award-winning sitcom featuring many of the original cast members to strong ratings.

During the original run that aired from 1988 to 1997, “Roseanne” reached No. 1 in the Nielsen ratings, at one point becoming the most watched television show in the United States. The show remained in the top 4 rated shows for six of its nin seasons. Its finale attracted 16 million viewers.

“We are thrilled to offer fans of this unique series an opportunity to watch all of the original ‘Roseanne’ seasons for free on FilmRise ad-supported platforms,” said Danny Fisher, CEO of FilmRise, in a statement. “The original ‘Roseanne’ broke social barriers and connected with millions of viewers, and we are excited to bring this iconic show to the FilmRise streaming network.”

FilmRise licensed the show from Carsey-Werner Television Distribution.

 

Indie Company Rises With New Vision

“Roseanne” is once again a success on TV — and capitalizing on that reboot is a company flying quietly under the radar with digital rights to the classic Roseanne Barr series and others from television production stalwart Carsey-Werner.

That company is FilmRise, which, along with CEO Danny Fisher and his partners, has risen from the ashes of bankruptcy on a vision of digital content distribution.

“My brother and I went personally bankrupt in 2012,” recalls Danny Fisher. “We lost it all, and I had a vision for a company that was digitally minded, and we created that company in the basement and kitchen of my house, my Brooklyn brownstone.”

Starting with a handful of titles, one of which Jack Fisher (now president of FilmRise) had produced, the two brothers, together with third founder, current chairman Alan Klingenstein, built a business. They raised an initial $200,000 from a couple of investors to prove an essentially digital distribution concept, and FilmRise took off.

“In the last two years, we’ve raised $112 million, we have a 15,000-square-foot office, we have 65 people on staff, and the company’s been in the black for several years,” Fisher said. “We’re doing very well.”

Danny Fisher said the company has three key businesses: acquisition and distribution, which includes such successes as the theatrical feature My Friend Dahmer and the Carsey-Werner deal; AVOD, advertising-supported video-on-demand streaming services under the FilmRise banner; and original television production, a new venture.

On the acquisition and distribution side, “in the digital space, we are one of top aggregators for Amazon Prime and we’ve been very close to Amazon from the days of working out of my basement,” Fisher said. “Of course, we work with Netflix, Hulu, many other platforms as well and including pay-TV.”

But they also acquire features, such as My Friend Dahmer.

“We don’t sort of have a brand in the sense that we are an art house, or genre house,” Fisher said.  “We take on everything. I don’t mean we take on everything like everything that comes our way. We are extremely selective. What I mean is we work with a lot of different genres, everything from art house to foreign language to mainstream commercial films.”

How does the company decide what to acquire?

“There is a proprietary method that we have that my investors are not even privy to so I have to leave that part, but I will just say that’s a model that I developed in my basement,” Fisher said. “Essentially, we’ve been able to figure out how to acquire titles the people want to see. We figured that part out. How we get there is a little more involved. We look for quality content that we believe to have viewers. Whether they are DVD buyers or whether they are watching in a theater or watching online — we acquire titles that people want to see.”

As for the second aspect of the business, advertising-based VOD, FilmRise has expanded rapidly in an arena that many have ignored as SVOD has taken the spotlight.

“We launched a while ago but it’s really only in the last few months we’ve gotten to real critical mass where it’s become a real key part of our business. We have our own streaming network and our streaming network is ad-supported,” Fisher said. “Currently, we have 22 channels on Roku. We’re now just launched on Xbox and Windows and we are about to launch on Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV as well as mobile applications worldwide.”

While Crackle might be one of the best-known AVOD platforms, FilmRise is quietly rising in the space.

“I think we are approaching the size of Crackle probably,” Fisher said. “We are kind of under the radar. If you look at the Roku ranks, FilmRise [with all of its channels] is right behind Crackle.”

FilmRise has many different genre-based, ad-supported VOD channels, such as FilmRise Documentary, FilmRise Thriller, FilmRise Gay & Lesbian and FilmRise Horror.

Fisher sees an opportunity in ad-supported VOD.

“What about those people who can’t afford or don’t want to pay any money? It’s a different kind of audience,” he said. “They’re willing to watch a commercial in order to have it for free and to have no obligations, to have to get a cable box or to have to pay Netflix or anybody a fee. It’s a different type of audience. When you think worldwide, it’s a really, really big audience, I mean it’s a billion plus audience. It’s a less glamorous audience, because right now you’re not going to be able to produce ‘Orange is the New Black’ and ‘House of Cards’ and ‘Stranger Things’ and all that for an ad-supported channel.”

But “right now” isn’t what FilmRise is all about. They are indeed getting into original TV production, the third aspect of their business, planning for the future.

“We brought onboard to be head of production Vlad Wolynetz [formerly with AMC], and he oversaw production of shows like ‘Mad Men,’ ‘Breaking Bad,’ ‘The Walking Dead,’ and most recently produced ‘Waco’ for Paramount,” Fisher said. “He’s head of production and what we’re looking to do there is enter into co-productions and co-financing deals with other entities, and we’re in discussions right now with major studios and major networks on some very substantial deals.”

None of these plans seem unusual for a company planning to follow the axioms of the day in entertainment — the right acquisitions (including distribution on disc, which is still “a solid business,” Fisher said), digital AVOD and original productions.

“We’re trying to be hopefully just a little bit smarter than everybody else,” Fisher said. “We don’t have to be a lot smarter. We just have to be like 1% smarter than everybody else to be successful.”

FilmRise’s Ad-Supported Roku Channel Adds Classic Carsey-Werner TV Shows

FilmRise has launched several classic Carsey-Werner TV shows on its ad-supported Roku streaming channel, including the “3rd Rock From the Sun.”

The FilmRise channel ranks at No. 15 among top free channels on the platform, according to a release from the company. The channel generates more than 300 million monthly ad impressions and reaches nearly 20 million users who can watch movies and TV on demand for free, according to the release.

FilmRise will soon launch ad-supported channels on Amazon Fire TV, Xbox, Apple TV, and smart TVs such as Vizio, among other platforms, and is currently in development on iOS and Android for mobile viewing via worldwide apps.

Other Carsey-Werner sitcoms available on the Roku channel include “Cybill,” “Grace Under Fire” and “Grounded for Life.”

“FilmRise’s tremendous growth on Roku sheds light on the power of ad-supported free digital streaming,” said Danny Fisher, CEO of FilmRise. “By bringing our vast library of quality content to viewers who don’t wish to pay a transactional or subscription fee, we’ve unlocked the potential to reach new and diverse audiences who want to experience the best in film and TV — including timeless TV series and iconic movies.”