Notable Tech, Media April Fool’s Day Pranks

While much of the world celebrated Easter Sunday April 1, some enterprising media, tech and consumer brands couldn’t resist same-day April Fool’s pranks.

British-based subscription streaming video service BritBox announced a new feature, dubbed “Interp-Brit,” enabling subscribers to switch between British and American accents.

Amazon Publishing said it would begin delivering favorite authors in person to Prime members who bought their books.

Netflix said it had acquired actor Seth Rogen, “transferring full ownership of his personal autonomy to Netflix Inc.” The prank was a plug for the actor/comedian’s new show on the SVOD pioneer’s platform, beginning April 6.

Roku introduced “streaming socks,” giving binge-viewing users something comfortable to wear, wipe their hands with, select favorite programing, among other features. Each sock included a locator option if lost in the laundry cycle.

T-Mobile bowed a pair of branded “Sidekicks” high-top smart shoes with built-in phone, camera, screen, etc.

Internet curator, which showcases images, video and posts to a claimed audience of 250 million users monthly, announced the launch of an over-the-top video service, Imgur TV.

Fitbit bowed dating app “SoleMate” on Facebook. “Burning calories meets burning passion in first-ever dating app for people who love to walk.”

Media Play News reported about men’s Final Four basketball players’ confusion receiving packaged media swag.

Animated ‘Suicide Squad’ Has Fun With the Bad Guys

For James Tucker, producer of the DC Universe line of animated superhero movies, making an animated film based on the Suicide Squad was a no-brainer.

James Tucker

After the 2016 live-action Suicide Squad earned more than $325 million at the domestic box office, with a sequel is in development, Tucker said the decision to make an animated adventure featuring the team was made “about 10 seconds after the live action came and made a gazillion dollars, pretty much.”

However, the animated movie is not a tie-in with the live-action one, but rather exists in the same continuity as Tucker’s earlier animated efforts such as Justice League: War and Teen Titans: The Judas Contract.

“There’s only like three characters from the movie in this movie. It’s very much our own version of the Suicide Squad and our own continuity,” Tucker said during a press day March 23 at the 2018 WonderCon at the Anaheim Convention Center.

Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay is available now digitally and will be released on Blu-ray, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray April 10 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

The ‘R’-rated adventure finds the top secret Task Force X — a government-sponsored team comprised of supervillains being blackmailed into undergoing dangerous missions — sent to retrieve a powerful mystical object before another group of bad guys can obtain it.

Alan Burnett

The screenplay, which tells an original story, represents one of the last projects for retiring animation veteran Alan Burnett, who has been writing and producing superhero cartoons since “Super Friends” and “Batman: The Animated Series.”

“I’ve always liked the Suicide Squad, and I thought ‘that’s a good one, that’s different,’” Burnett said. “I’ve been in Batman-land for long enough, and other major characters in DC, and this will be nice, to work with some of the minor characters.

“This was fun because 90% of them I really hadn’t dealt with.”

The voice cast includes Christian Slater as Deadshot, Tara Strong as Harley Quinn, Billy Brown as Bronze Tiger, Liam McIntyre as Captain Boomerang, Kristin Bauer van Straten as Killer Frost, Gideon Emery as Copperhead, Vanessa Williams as Amanda Waller, C. Thomas Howell as Zoom, Dania Ramirez as Scandal Savage, James Urbaniak as Professor Pyg, Julie Nathanson as Silver Banshee and Jewelee, Jim Pirri as Vandal Savage and Vertigo, and Greg Grunberg as Steel Maxum.

“I feel like it serves the fans really well,” McIntyre said. “I think it’s really well written, it’s a compelling story, and it fits really well into that Suicide Squad world.”

With “Suicide Squad” stories focusing so much on the bad guys of the DC Comics pantheon, the opportunity to kill off numerous characters presents itself much more readily than with the DC Universe’s more-traditional superhero fare.

“I retired six months ago, and when I was writing this thing I was ready to kill them all,” Burnett said. “We worked pretty closely with DC, and there are certain ones — you’re never going to kill off Harley Quinn, she’s the fourth biggest star in the DC lineup. But many of the others were up for grabs, and DC didn’t blink when we started our executions.”

In this case, the villains on the team are forced to comply with the orders of their government handler, Amanda Waller, or else be killed by an explosive implanted in their heads. This creates some fun for writing them, Burnett said, because they are still entrenched in their villainous ways.

“They’re not only disturbed and troubled, but they’re forever threatened to have their heads blown off, so that makes it an interesting situation,” Burnett said. “The trick in a way is to be able to create a story in which you can’t anticipate who’s going to die. And I think we succeeded. I think there’s a lot of surprise deaths in this one. So I’m hoping the fans will like it.”

Nathanson found playing the “bad guys” was a departure from some of her other roles.

“Morally ambiguous is such a great way of describing any villain,” Nathanson said. “They say that one of the best ways to play a villain is to not let the villain know that they’re bad because to that villain what they’re doing is just and right. It’s the right thing to do, otherwise they wouldn’t be doing it.”

For van Straten, the role of Killer Frost let her indulge in personality traits she doesn’t come to naturally.

“I love playing characters who don’t care about being liked, probably because it’s so the opposite of my life,” van Straten said, comparing Killer Frost to her role as Pam on “True Blood.” “They just don’t care. No sympathy whatsoever. That’s an amazing quality to have. My stress level would be so much lower.”

McIntyre said he was happy to play Captain Boomerang, but that finding the voice wasn’t so easy as simply using his natural Australian accent.

“What’s funny to me is that my challenge was like how Australian to make him,” McIntyre said. “There’s a spectrum of Australian that I don’t think you guys understand. There’s pretty much English, and then there’s like belligerently Australian.”

Grunberg said he enjoyed how his character was developed.

“I remember them showing me what the character looked like, and then I get there and I see the movie and I’m like ‘oh, that’s right, I am dancing on a pole,'” Grunberg said. “I’m a stripper. And he wears a thong.”

Grunberg joked that the risque nature of his character made for some entertaining times in the recording booth.

“Just so you know, I wore a thong when I recorded this because I thought, I want to stay true to the character,” Grunberg said.

Dania Ramirez and Greg Grunberg

Ramirez said she was glad to see her character of Scandal Savage included in the film because of what her backstory represents.

“Scandal is actually one of the few lesbian characters in the DC comic book world,” Ramirez said.

Never one to miss a beat, however, Grunberg chimed in: “You know who’s going to appeal more to the gay community though? My character!”

“He with the biggest [banana] hammock wins,” Grunberg said.

Burnett said he relished the storytelling freedoms presented by the ‘R’ rating.

“I’ve been wanting to make ‘R’-rated movies since I started in this business,” Burnett said. “I’ve been wanting to make adult oriented animated stories forever. This is a pretty hard ‘R’ I think. I started with ‘The Smurfs’ and I never thought I’d see this day. I’m glad that before I retired I got the opportunity to do it.”

McIntyre said the film’s harder edge allowed it to go places that the live-action film and the comic books tend to avoid.

“The advantage with the ‘R’ rating is we get maybe a bit more play room to be the Suicide Squad that you might have expected, like these guys who are really gung ho, really take no prisoners, who can be truly like horrible in their way but kind of loveable in the same way,” McIntyre said. “So that’s fun. I think that will be fun for the fans to see that version of the Suicide Squad and I think a bit more hardcore.”

Ramirez agreed.

“This was a lot of fun,” she said. “It’s evil versus evil.”

Burnett said he hopes that ‘R’-rated superhero animation will prove successful enough to inspire more such projects from the major studios.

“What I wish is there will be more adult animated films made by the major studios, that they’re not always falling back on PG,” Burnett said. “I think that’s the next step.”

The Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay DVD, Blu-ray and digital versions will include a sneak peek at the next “DC Universe” movie, The Death of Superman.

Extras exclusive to the Blu-ray and digital versions are audio commentary from Tucker and Burnett; and the featurettes “Outback Rogue: Captain Boomerang,” “Nice Shot, Floyd! The Greatest Marksman in the DCU” and “The Power of Plot Devices, MacGuffins and Red Herrings.”

Netflix Partners with Vodafone for New Aussie Streaming Service

Netflix has partnered with Vodafone to help the British telecom launch its first subscription streaming video service in Australia.

Dubbed Vodafone TV, the service bows June 30 and features 12 months of pre-paid access to Netflix. The Android TV-powered platform enables subscribers online access for an additional $5 (Australian) per month over 24-months.

“The pre-paid 12-month subscription can be applied to new and existing Netflix accounts … for our [telecom] customers,” GM Matthew Lobb said in a statement.

Ben McIntosh, consumer business unit director, said the agreement with Netflix helps jumpstart Vodafone’s broadband business down under.

Vodafone TV has access to apps and games through Google Play. Other features include 4K compatible HD resolution, Google voice-search, free-to-air TV tuner and dual-band Wi-Fi.

“We’re not going to maintain the status quo by buying up content rights and building walls around it,” he said. “We don’t think it’s fair that Australians are being locked out of access to content they want to watch. Australians want fast and reliable broadband, with the freedom to watch the content they love when they want.”



Amazon Prime Video U.K. Gets Two New Disney Series

Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom has licensed exclusive access to two new series from The Walt Disney Co. Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

The series include Marvel’s “Cloak & Dagger” and “The Crossing,” – the latter sci-fi episodic launching on ABC TV in the United States on April 2 and on Prime Video U.K. on April 3.

“Cloak & Dagger,” features Olivia Holt and Aubrey Joseph as Tandy Bowen (Dagger) and Tyrone Johnson (Cloak), two teenagers who acquire superpowers and form a romantic relationship. The series bows domestically on Freeform (formerly Disney Family) on June 7 and on Prime Video U.K. on June 8.

“The Crossing” is about refugees from a war-torn country (the U.S.) in the future coming to an American fishing town in the present. While the government sets to work trying to untangle the truth behind the ominous migration, the fact that the lives of those involved will never again be the same seems to be the only thing that no one can deny.

“This marks another step forward in bringing best-in-class TV shows to Prime Video customers in Europe,” Jay Marine, VP Prime Video EU, said in a statement. “We are thrilled to be bringing Marvel’s next hugely anticipated TV series exclusively to Prime Video and we look forward to hearing the reaction from Marvel fans and newcomers.”

Last month, Prime Video U.K. secured exclusive access to ABC’s “American Idol” two days after the show’s domestic broadcast. This season’s music talent competition features guest judges Katy Perry, Lionel Ritchie and Luke Bryan.


It’s Raining Film at Allied Vaughn

Manufacture-on-demand outfit Allied Vaughn has added a new studio partner, It’s Raining Film, a Los Angeles-based production company established in 2008.

The company, helmed by producer Rainy Kerwin, is releasing the first in a three-picture production slate, The Wedding Invitation, May 8 on DVD and Blu-ray on MOD.

The romantic comedy follows three best friends who get a last-minute invitation to an ‘80s prom-themed wedding and are determined to go out and find the perfect dates.

The film won plaudits at the Manhattan Film Festival (Best Romantic Comedy), the Burbank International Film Festival (Best Comedy), the South Dakota Film Festival (Best Romantic Comedy), the Rahway International Film Festival (Best Screenplay, Best Actress) and the Accolade Global Film Competition (Award of Excellence, Special Mention).

China’s ‘Once Upon a Time’ Due on Blu-ray May 1 From Well Go

Based on the best-selling fantasy novel, Three Lives Three Worlds, Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms, and directed by two Oscar-lauded filmmakers, the Chinese film Once Upon a Time will be released on Blu-ray May 1 from Well Go USA Entertainment at $29.98.

The title is available now on digital.

A story of epic battles, passion, and the powerful forces that drive mortals and gods alike toward revenge, loyalty, and eternal love, the fantasy adventure follows an immortal woman who reconnects with a love from her past life. First-time feature film directors Zhao Xiaoding (Academy Award nominee for Best Achievement in Cinematography, House of Flying Daggers, 2004) and Anthony LaMolinara (Oscar winner for Best Achievement in Visual Effects, Spider-Man 2, 2004) co-directed the film starring Liu Yifei (White Vengeance, next starring in the title role in Disney’s live action version of Mulan), Yang (Joyful Reunion), Yikuan Yan (The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom), Jin Luo (Shaolin) and Chun Li (Guilty of Mind).

Hoop Players Confused by Packaged Media

SAN ANTONIO – Heading into the NCAA men’s college basketball Final Four weekend, players from competing schools were given a variety of swag items, including movie DVDs – without digital codes, of course.

Sports-themed discs such as I, Tonya, Creed, Goal! and even pre-order vouchers for Black Panther elicited confusion among some players accustomed to a world of cell phones, streaming video and social media.

“I’ll give [the discs] to my parents,” said Villanova’s Eric Paschall. “I think they have a player.”

Indeed, players from Kansas, Michigan and Loyola Chicago remembered watching DVDs as kids, or even as recently as high school. Often renting from local video stores or Blockbuster – both fading retail memories in an age of Netflix.

A NCAA representative said DVD and Blu-ray titles were given out for entertainment and sponsor marketing, while limiting liability to the student-player’s amateur status.

Following well-publicized scandals involving college athletes trading bowl jerseys and autographs for tattoos and cash – both in violation of NCAA rules, officials considered packaged media a safe bet.

“I understand the trade-in value for a DVD movie online is less than a dollar,” said the NCAA rep. “These are kids with good intentions. But, we felt reassured regardless.”

Happy April Fool’s Day