Space Jam: A New Legacy

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Warner;
Comedy;
Box Office $70.51 million;
$34.98 DVD, $39.98 Blu-ray, $49.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG’ for some cartoon violence and some language.
Stars LeBron James, Don Cheadle, Cedric Joe, Khris Davis, Sonequa Martin-Green, Ceyair J Wright, Harper Leigh Alexander, Sue Bird, Anthony Davis, Draymond Green, Damian Lillard, Klay Thompson, Nneka Ogwumike, Diana Taurasi.

Borrowing the same basic concept of its 1996 predecessor, Space Jam: A New Legacy dives into the realm of video games to bring the Looney Tunes back to the basketball court.

As with the original, the story involves an NBA player teaming up with Bugs Bunny and the gang in a high-stakes basketball game with dire consequences if they lose. The 1996 version starred Michael Jordan, who was recruited to help save the Tunes from being imprisoned by the owner of a cartoon amusement park planet.

The 21st century version of the premise involves LeBron James, the current era’s equivalent of a player with Jordan’s superstar stature. However, fans of the original film looking for another fun romp that doesn’t take itself too seriously will likely find themselves disappointed early in the proceedings, as A New Legacy quickly devolves into what is essentially a promotional reel for Warner Bros. IP.

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Space Jam: A New Legacy plays like a collaboration between the marketing departments of the NBA and WarnerMedia, resulting in a script that seems like it was developed by a PR committee that just finished a marathon of the original Space Jam, Ready Player One, Tron and the “Wreck-It Ralph” movies.

The story involves LeBron being recruited by Warner Bros., for a partnership involving a new slate of films in which he would be scanned into a computer and inserted into several movies created by a algorithm named Al G. Rhythm (given humanoid form by Don Cheadle) that controls the supercomputer where all Warner’s characters are stored.

LeBron’s reaction to this little piece of meta-commentary on Hollywood’s creative bankruptcy is to declare that the idea of athletes acting in movies is a bad idea, and thus Al’s proposal is stupid. The movie then proceeds to do exactly what it thinks it’s cleverly making fun of.

After Al takes offense to LeBron’s rejection, he somehow traps LeBron and his movie son, Dom (Cedric Joe), in the computer to get revenge.

Conveniently for the plot, 12-year-old Dom is some sort of genius video game designer, so Al steals his basketball video game as the arena for the contest that will allow LeBron to win his son back and earn their freedom.

For their team, the Goon Squad, Al and Dom create super-powered avatars based on some of the top NBA and WNBA players. All LeBron has to do is recruit a team of Warner Bros. characters to compete with them. His first instincts are to team up with the likes of Superman and King Kong, but then LeBron meets Bugs Bunny and his plans are derailed.

It seems Bugs is the only character left in the Looney Tunes section of the Warner Bros. Serververse (where each franchise has its own “world” that looks like a cartoon planet) because Al convinced the other Tunes their talents would be better served elsewhere. Daffy Duck, for example, hangs out in the DC Comics-based world posing as superman, complete with the John Williams theme.

Bugs uses LeBron’s predicament as an excuse to round up his friends on the pretense that they’re the ones being recruited to play. And thus, LeBron ends up teaming up with the Tune Squad for the big game, just like Mike 25 years earlier.

LeBron’s version, though, is more of a reboot or a remake than a sequel. It’s a completely standalone adventure that makes just a few passing references to the original while mostly ignoring its established worldbuilding. The original featured the Tunes as real-world characters living in their own realm beneath the surface of Earth (not unlike Toontown from Who Framed Roger Rabbit), while the bad guys were cartoon aliens from another planet, hence the “space” in Space Jam. The new iteration is more like “Cyberspace Jam” given how it pretty much all takes place in virtual reality.

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The creators of A New Legacy also appear to have misunderstood what made the story of the original work beyond the basic premise. The original film was as much the story of Jordan rediscovering his love of basketball as it was about the Looney Tunes playing alongside him. The movie famously chronicles Jordan’s real-life foray into an attempt to play professional baseball after he abruptly retired from the NBA following three championships. The film ties into this by having the evil aliens steal the talent from top NBA stars; as Jordan was away from basketball, his talent was left intact, leaving him for the Looney Tunes to recruit.

A New Legacy, on the other hand, has such a cut-and-paste story that they could have plugged nearly any marketable NBA player into it without it being fundamentally different, since the player’s family at the center of the story is entirely fictional. And then they chose LeBron James, one of the most unlikable players in the NBA, who in some metrics is considered the league’s most-hated player.

For the big game, the movie’s creators are essentially just playing a game of “spot the famous Warner Bros. character” in the audience, as the court is surrounded by extras dressed in recognizable costumes but who bear little resemblance to the original actors who played them (the guy dressed as Robin from the 1960s “Batman” show is especially distracting as he dances around every time he’s on camera).

As much as it all is an excuse for glitzy graphics and flashy colors, it should at the very least keep small children entertained.

The 4K disc doesn’t contain any extras. All of the extras are included on the regular Blu-ray Disc of the film.

The bonus materials primarily consist of about 28-minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes split into four parts, like the quarters of a basketball game. They run seven to eight minutes each, focusing on LeBron’s involvement, the rest of the cast, the visual effects, re-creating classic Warner characters as background characters, and animating the Looney Tunes with CGI.

There are also five deleted scenes that run just under eight minutes and expand on some of the ideas in the film, including a jab at Cleveland.

Originally published as a streaming review July 18, 2021.

‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ Available via Premium Digital Sept. 3, on Disc Oct. 5

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Sept. 3 will release Space Jam: A New Legacy for premium digital ownership at $29.99, and 48-hour PVOD rental at $24.99. It arrives on Blu-ray Disc, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Oct. 5.

The film is a remake of 1996’s Space Jam, which combined live-action and animation to team basketball legend Michael Jordan with Bugs Bunny and the Looney Tunes against a team of monsters from outer space.

The new version stars LeBron James, who must recruit the Looney Tunes to play a basketball video game against a team created by the artificial intelligence program (Don Cheadle) that controls the Warner Bros. mainframe and has captured LeBron’s son as revenge for LeBron rejecting his pitch to star on a series of movies for the studio. To save his son and escape the computer, LeBron, Bugs and the rest of the Tunes must defeat a team of computer enhanced NBA and WNBA stars.

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The film earned $68 million during a domestic box office run in which it was simultaneously available on HBO Max for a month.

The DVD and Blu-ray editions of the film will include deleted scenes. The 4K combo pack and Blu-ray editions will also contain the featurettes “First Quarter: Game On,” “Second Quarter: Teamwork,” “Third Quarter: Out of This World” and “Fourth Quarter: The Looniest.”

Additionally, Warner Bros. will continue its partnership with Nifty’s, a social NFT platform, to introduce a second collection of limited-edition NFTs inspired by the film.

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‘Black Widow’ vs. King James in Weekend Box Office Face-Off

Superhero movie Black Widow goes up against Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James at the domestic weekend box office through July 18. James is starring in Space Jam: A New Legacy, Warner Bros. Pictures’ Looney Tunes animated/live-action sequel to the 1996 original Space Jam featuring Michael Jordan.

While the original generated more than $230 million at the global box office, A New Legacy is not expected to top Disney/Marvel Studios’ Widow featuring Scarlett Johansson in the title role. The movie has topped $200 million at the worldwide box office, including $100 million in the U.S. — becoming just the fourth release to do that in the pandemic era.

Other movies surpassing $100 million domestically include Paramount Pictures’ A Quiet Place Part II with $150 million, Universal Pictures’ F9: The Fast Saga ($141.9 million), and Warner’s Godzilla vs. Kong ($100.6  million).

An unknown factor in the weekly box office sweepstakes: a surge in COVID-19 cases fueled by the Delta variant, which has led Los Angeles County health officials to mandate the wearing of masks indoors, including in movie theaters, beginning at midnight on Saturday. It is unknown whether these and similar restrictions in other parts of the country will impact movie theater attendance.

The weekend’s other major newcomer is Sony Pictures Entertainment’s thriller Escape Room: Tournament of Champions.

Apple TV+ to Debut Sports Doc Series ‘Greatness Code’ July 10

Apple TV+ July 10 will exclusively debut globally the documentary series “Greatness Code,” featuring such top athletes as LeBron James and Tom Brady.

The short-form unscripted series spotlights untold stories from the top athletes in the world. The first season includes seven episodes, each examining a pivotal moment that defined an athlete’s career. Athletes profiled in season one include:

  • four-time NBA MVP, three-time NBA champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist LeBron James;
  • six-time Super Bowl champion and four-time Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady;
  • Olympic gold medalist and co-captain of the US Women’s National Soccer Team Alex Morgan;
  • record-holding Olympic gold medalist snowboarder Shaun White;
  • world’s fastest man and eight-time Olympic champion Usain Bolt;
  • five-time Olympic gold medalist and 15-time world champion swimmer Katie Ledecky; and
  • 11-time world champion surfer Kelly Slater.

 

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“Greatness Code” is a co-production between sports content platforms Religion of Sports, which is co-founded by Gotham Chopra, Tom Brady and NFL Hall of Famer Michael Strahan, and Uninterrupted, founded by LeBron James and Maverick Carter.

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The series is directed by Chopra, who also executive produces through Religion of Sports, and executive produced by Maverick Carter via Uninterrupted. Ameeth Sankaran also serves as executive producer through Religion of Sports, and Devin Johnson executive produces via Uninterrupted.

Starz Bowing New LeBron James-Produced Docu-Series ‘Warriors of Liberty City’ Early on Digital

Lionsgate-owned Starz Sept. 4 announced that the premiere episode of the new unscripted six-part series “Warriors of Liberty City” will be available on the Starz App and VOD platforms Sept. 9 — one week ahead of its linear pay-TV debut on Sept. 16 at 8 p.m. ET/PT. Each subsequent episode will be available across all digital and on-demand platforms one week prior to the linear airing.

“Warriors of Liberty City” explores Liberty City, a marginalized neighborhood in Miami that is arguably the NFL’s largest, most successful football factory.

The series follows a season with the Liberty City Warriors, a youth football program founded by an unlikely mentor: hip-hop pioneer Luther Campbell, better known as “Uncle Luke.”

Before Liberty City native Barry Jenkins won his Oscar award for Moonlight, the city was best known for producing some of the biggest names in football, including Devonta Freeman, Antonio Brown, Duke Johnson and Teddy Bridgewater.

Beyond football, the Liberty City Warriors Optimist Club is a youth organization that sponsors sports teams, dance, cheerleading, tutoring and academic support. Life, like football, is a contact sport, and for the kids and family of Liberty City, being a Warrior holds the key to both.

“Warriors of Liberty City” made its world premiere with the first episode at the 2018 SXSW Festival in the “episodic” category, making it the first documentary series to be accepted into the category.

The series is created by Evan Rosenfeld, with LeBron James, Maverick Carter and Jamal Henderson for SpringHill Entertainment (Starz Original Series “Survivor’s Remorse,” “The Wall”); Pam Healey, Dan Peirson and Ted Skillman for Shed Media (“Genius Junior,” “Who Do You Think You Are?”), a division of Warner Bros. Unscripted & Alternative Television; and Luther Campbell also serving as executive producers.

Emmy award-winning documentary filmmaker and screenwriter Andrew Cohn (Night School, Medora) co-directed the documentary series alongside Rosenfeld.

Starz recently made the first two episodes of the 10-part docuseries “America to Me” available on its app and VOD platforms with subsequent episodes hitting the platforms a week prior to their debut on the Starz linear channel.

 

NBA Finals Streaming Up 21% From 2017

The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers may be meeting in the NBA Finals for the fourth consecutive year, but streaming video interest in the matchup is stronger than ever.

New data from video measurement firm Conviva found a 30.3% increase Game 2 (June 3) streaming in the Bay Area and 119% increase in Cleveland compared with Game 2 in 2017.

Golden State won the contest 122-103 in Oakland, Calif., to take a two-game lead in the best-of-seven series that continues June 6 in Cleveland. The Warriors hold the identical won/loss advantage over the Cavaliers going into Game 3 as they did last year.

Overall, Game 2 only saw a 2.14% increase in video streams compared to Game 2 2017. Combining Game 1 and Game 2 2018, streaming saw a 21.42% increase over the first two games in 2017.

Peak concurrent streaming — the number of concurrent streams at the exact same moment — was up 36.2% for Game 2 this year compared with Game 2 in 2017.

Notably, Game 2 was viewed on 12.43% fewer unique devices than Game 2 of 2017.

The 2018 NBA Finals are available to stream on Sling TV, YouTube TV, PlayStation Vue and DirecTV Now, in addition to the Watch ESPN app.

Hulu Pulls Ads From ‘The Laura Ingraham Show’

Hulu has pulled TV commercials from “The Laura Ingraham Show” on Fox News following the conservative host’s tweets mocking a high school student survivor of the recent Parkland, Fla., shooting.

“We’d like to confirm that we are no longer advertising on Laura Ingraham’s and are monitoring all of our ad placements carefully,” Hulu said in a March 29 Twitter post.

The subscription streaming video service, co-owned by The Walt Disney Co., 21st Century Fox, Comcast and Time Warner, joined a growing group of advertisers (including TripAdvisor, Expedia, Wayfair and Johnson & Johnson) that have pulled spots.

The controversy involves David Hogg, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who survived the Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14) mass shooting where gunman (and former student) Nikolas Cruz allegedly killed 14 students and three teachers with an assault weapon.

Hogg, along with other students, has become a face of the tragedy and emerging gun control activist, speaking out on national media. He is a founding member, along with 19 other students, of the “Never Again MSD” advocacy group that has spearheaded movements against gun violence, including the March 24 “March for Our Lives” demonstration that attracted hundreds of thousands of protesters nationwide.

Ingraham, along with other conservatives in the media, have criticized Hogg as a mouthpiece of a liberal agenda aimed at curbing gun rights they claim are guaranteed under the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution.

But Ingraham went one step further, attacking Hogg personally on social media.

The former MSNBC host, who worked as a speech writer for President Reagan, clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and guest-hosted the former “The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox News, called Hogg a “whiner” for not getting accepted into UCLA, despite reportedly having a 4.1 grade point average.

“David Hogg Rejected By Four Colleges To Which He Applied and whines about it. (Dinged by UCLA with a 4.1 GPA…totally predictable given acceptance rates.),” Ingraham tweeted, linking it to an online story about four universities that reportedly rejected Hogg’s college admissions application.

“In our view, these statements focused on a high school student, cross the line of decency. As such, we have made a decision to stop advertising on that program,” a spokesperson for TripAdvisor.com said in a statement.

Home furnishing company WayFair, in a statement, said it supports open dialogue and debate on issues – with restrictions.

“The decision of an adult to personally criticize a high school student who has lost his classmates in an unspeakable tragedy is not consistent with our values. We do not plan to continue advertising on this particular program,” the ecommerce company said in a statement.

Ingraham – who courted controversy last month criticizing NBA superstar LeBron James’ comment about President Trump not understanding black people – made no comment of the Hogg controversy on her March 29 show and has apologized for her comment, tweeting:

“Any student should be proud of a 4.2 GPA —incl. @DavidHogg111. On reflection, in the spirit of Holy Week, I apologize for any upset or hurt my tweet caused him or any of the brave victims of Parkland. For the record, I believe my show was the first to feature David…”