Lego DC: Shazam! — Magic and Monsters

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Warner;
Animated;
$19.98 DVD, $24.98 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Voices of Sean Astin, Troy Baker, Nolan North, Grey Griffin, Christina Milizia, James Arnold Taylor, Imari Williams, Fred Tatasciore, Ralph Garman, Zach Callison, Dee Bradley Baker, Jennifer Hale, Tom Kenny, Johnny Rees, Erica Lindbeck, Josh Keaton.

The “Lego DC” movies are like a throwback to the days of superheroes being light and fun, like the old “Super Friends” cartoon.

The latest installment focuses on Shazam, the red-suited mystically powered hero who has gotten a bit higher profile of late thanks to his own live-action motion picture last year.

In this new adventure done in the Lego style, Shazam is a rookie superhero on the verge of joining the Justice League. But he doesn’t believe the team will accept him if they discover that his secret identity of Billy Batson is just a kid who only takes on adult form when he gains powers by shouting “Shazam!”

His fears become secondary, however, when his archenemesis Mr. Mind and Dr. Savana discover a way to turn the Justice League members into children so that they may more easily brainwash them into doing evil.

That leaves is up to Shazam, and the kid version of Batman who escapes, to save the day.

The movie has a lot of fun playing with the Shazam mythology, particularly all the gods from whom Shazam derives his powers. There’s also a fantastic final fight that might fulfill a lot of fanboy crossover fantasies.

The Blu-ray includes a Lego Shazam minifigure and three bonus cartoons: an episode of “Teen Titans Go!” and two episodes of “Unikitty!”

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Universal Grabs ‘Lego’ Movie Rights From Warner Bros.

Universal Pictures April 23 announced that it has entered into a five-year exclusive agreement with the Lego Group to develop, produce and distribute theatrical releases based on its intellectual property and original ideas. The announcement was made by Donna Langley, chairman of the Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, and Jill Wilfert, head of entertainment at the Lego Group. Wilfert will serve as producer on all Lego projects developed and released by Universal.

Lego, which had licensed its IP to Warner Bros., reportedly moved to Universal after a planned Warner movie didn’t materialize. Lego branded movies include The Lego Movie, The Lego Batman Movie, The Lego Ninjago Movie and The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, which have collectively grossed nearly $1.1 billion at the worldwide box office — for Warner Bros., which retains rights to those titles.

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Universal and Lego have previously collaborated on the television special Jurassic World: The Secret Exhibit and the 13-episode miniseries Lego Jurassic World: Legend of Isla Nublar.

“The Lego System in Play gives people the ability to build worlds and create stories that they carry throughout every phase of their lives,” Langley said in a statement. “To partner with such an iconic brand that remains relevant and is constantly evolving allows for creativity in storytelling.”

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Warner Releasing ‘Lego Shazam’ Movie Digitally April 28, on Disc June 16

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release the new full-length animated feature film Lego DC: Shazam! — Magic and Monsters through digital retailers April 28, and on Blu-ray Disc and DVD June 16.

The latest entry in the direct-to-video line of Lego DC Comics movies features Shazam (Sean Astin) becoming the newest member of the Justice League. But to join, he must reveal his true identity as Billy Batson, a 10-year-old boy granted the power of the gods when he says his name, a gift bestowed upon him by a wizard (Ralph Garman). While fighting off the evil Mr. Mind and Black Adam, Billy learns that he must trust others — and that nothing creates trust like helping those in need.

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The cast also includes Troy Baker as Batman/Bruce Wayne; Nolan North as Superman and Alfred; Grey Griffin as Wonder Woman and Lois Lane; Christina Milizia as Green Lantern Jessica Cruz; James Arnold Taylor as The Flash and Dummy; Imari Williams as Black Adam and Teth Adam; Fred Tatasciore as Lobo and Oom; Zach Callison as Billy Batson and Jimmy Olsen; Dee Bradley Baker as Jeepers, Dr. Sivana and Crocodile Man; Jennifer Hale as Mary Batson and L.N. Ambassador; Tom Kenny as The Penguin and Perry White; Jonny Rees as Mr. Mind; Erica Lindbeck as a greeter and a farmer; and Josh Keaton as Terrance and an executive.

The Lego Shazam! Blu-ray and DVD will include three cartoons from the Warner Bros. Animation vault: The “Teen Titans Go!” episode “Little Elvis,” and the “Unikitty!” episodes “Spoooooky Game” and “Pool Duel.”

For a limited time, the disc versions of the move will include a Shazam minifigure.

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Lego Launching Streaming Video App

Lego Dec. 9 is bowing The Lego Channel, a free COPPA-compliant content app for children available across all major over-the-top video streaming platforms, including Roku, Fire TV and Apple TV.

The new channel will feature more than 1,000 videos with content ranging in genres and animation styles. The channel will feature series based on various Lego properties, including content from Lego Ninjago, Lego Friends, Lego City, and specials from franchises such as Lego Jurassic World, and Lego Marvel, among others.

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“The Lego Group’s mission is to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow,” Jay Shah, director, global content for the Lego Group, said in a statement. “With the launch of The Lego Channel, we can reach even more kids who will connect through some really fun and engaging content to inspire creativity, imagination and learning.”

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Content includes Lego Designer Set Reviews, which draw fans into the world of Lego designers and builders to get tips on how to build, in addition to YouTube show Rebrickulous, featuring the brand’s legacy Lego bricks.

“The Lego brand is known by practically every parent and child in the U.S. and Canada and they have created an incredible and memorable programming franchise amassing fans everywhere over the last 80 plus years,” said Vikrant Mathur, co-founder of Future Today, which helped with the Lego app launch.

Family Dynamics Build Conflict in ‘Lego DC: Batman — Family Matters’

Even though he’s a superhero, Batman can’t build a gadget to shield himself from family conflict in Lego DC: Batman — Family Matters.

Voice cast and creators were on hand at San Diego Comic-Con for the world premiere of the direct-to-video title July 21. The animated movie, which involves Batman, Batgirl, Robin and other superheroes facing off against Red Hood, who is obsessed with destroying the Bat-family and all of Gotham City, will be available Aug. 20 on Blu-ray, DVD and digital from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

“It’s kind of an analysis of Batman because he really is the head of the Batman family and there’s a responsibility that goes with that,” said director Matt Peters in an interview before the screening. “How would Batman the crime fighter deal with that? Is he ok with that? Is he comfortable with it? Is it something that he would like to relinquish? Is it something that he would like to take responsibility for? And that’s kind of the story for a hero as well.”

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In the feature, Batman faces different conflicts with several family members, including various Robins.

“You have Batman trying to struggle with being a superhero and a dad at the same time,” said Troy Baker, who voices Batman and noted he’s facing his own dad struggles with a  14-month-old son. “The past, present and future are kind of tag-teaming him because you have Nightwing … you have Jason Todd, you have Red Hood, you have Damian Wayne — we see how much of an important facet Robin is to Batman.”

Jason Spisak, the voice of Red Hood/Jason Todd, finds the disaffected character easily relatable for families.

“A Lego movie is a great chance to have a whole family watch it, and if there’s someone in the family who’s bitter and somebody who’s angst-ridden or whatever, they can see this play out on the screen and then at the end when Batman and Jason have a moment of reconciliation, they can possibly open that door in their own family,” he said.

Then there’s Batgirl to add some spice.

“With Lego, the humor is far more sardonic,” said Alyson Stoner (Batgirl). “There’s a sassiness and a snarkiness to her in this version.”

While the Lego direct-to-video projects involve a separate universe from the theatrical movies, they have the famous plastic brick world in common.

“We do work hand and hand with Lego,” said producer Rick Morales, adding, “I got to go to Denmark to actual Lego headquarters and work out with their team what they might create for their sets and talk about the possibilities.”

Legos make up all the sets for the DTV title.

“You can pretty much take anything that’s in this movie and build it straight up from Lego bricks,” he said. “It would cost you thousands and thousands of dollars. I wouldn’t recommend it. But most everything in here is really buildable, and we’ve even developed a library with our designers of CGI bricks that are legitimate in scale.”

“Honestly, it’s one of the coolest projects I’ve ever been involved in,” Stoner added. “You just say the word Lego, and it’s pretty awesome.”

Playing one of numerous Batmans on page, screen and home video involves a certain responsibility to the character, Baker said.

“This may be the first introduction to Batman that somebody ever has,” he said. “And if that’s it, I just want them to go, ‘What’s the original?’ All of these pull from these great storylines. So if I make a kid or an adult pick up a comic book, then I’ve done my job.”

Warner Releasing ‘Lego DC: Batman — Family Matters’ Aug. 20

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release the animated movie Lego DC: Batman — Family Matters on Blu-ray, DVD and digitally Aug. 20.

The film is a follow up to previous direct-to-video movies based on the Lego DC Super Heroes video games, and not the theatrically released The Lego Batman Movie.

The story involves Batman, Batgirl, Robin and other superheroes facing off against Red Hood, who is obsessed with destroying the Bat-family and all of Gotham City.

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The cast includes Troy Baker as Batman, Alyson Stoner as Batgirl, Scott Menville as Robin, Jason Spisak as Red Hood, Steve Blum as Scarecrow, Zach Callison as Billy Batson, Cam Clarke as Brother Eye and the Bat Computer, Will Friedle as Nightwing, Ralph Garman as Wizard, Jake Green as Fred, Josh Keaton as Board Member, Tom Kenny as Comissioner Gordon and Penguin, Christian Lanz as Two-Face, Nolan North as Alfred and Killer Croc, Andre Sogliuzza as Riddler, Tara Strong as Batwoman, and Fred Tatasciore as Solomon Grundy.

The Blu-ray and DVD releases will include an 84-piece Lego mini Ultimate Batmobile while supplies last.

Note: This report has been updated with a new street date of Aug. 20. The previous street date was Aug. 6.

The Toys That Made Us: Seasons 1 & 2

DVD REVIEW: 

Street Date 5/7/19;
Screen Media;
Documentary;
$29.98 DVD;
Not rated.

This eight-part documentary series that originally premiered on Netflix delves into the history of some of the most influential toy brands from the past 50 years.

With a particular focus on toys that were big in the 1980s, when the loosening of the rules governing television programming blurred the line between content and advertising, it’s no surprise that many of the toy lines profiled here also rank among the most significant pop culture franchises as well.

Fittingly, then, the first episode deals with “Star Wars,” and how the George Lucas space opera forever changed the landscape of movie merchandising, while elevating a small toymaker such as Kenner into a national powerhouse. Not that other major players such as Hasbro and Mattel aren’t represented.

The hour-long episodes are divided into two seasons — one season per disc — and smartly focus on a different toy brand each episode. That allows each episode to find its own voice in telling the story of that particular toy, while letting viewers pick and choose which episodes they want to watch based on which of the toys are of interest to them.

Other season one episodes focus on “Barbie,” “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” and “G.I. Joe.” Season two deals with “Star Trek,” “The Transformers,” “Lego” and “Hello Kitty.”

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Aside from some invaluable under-the-radar lessons about business and marketing, the episodes offer a pure blast of childhood nostalgia, particularly for Gen Xers who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s.

Which isn’t to say that younger viewers can’t find something to enjoy in the show, as most of these toy lines are pretty timeless. Plus, the upcoming third season will look at newer toys such as “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “Power Rangers” (in addition to “My Little Pony” and professional wrestling toys).

The shows offer a lot of fascinating details about how the toys were created and evolved. The “He-Man” show is entertaining simply for how so many of the line’s creators want to take credit for coming up with it. The story of the creation of Battle Cat is particularly hilarious.

The first disc offers an eight-minute behind-the-scenes featurette with series creator Brian Volk-Weiss, who delves into what his goals for the show were and why certain toys were chosen to be profiled.

It seems like a bit of an odd choice to include “Star Trek,” which has never really been associated with a robust toy line. But as the narrator continually brings up how less successful “Trek” toys have been compared with “Star Wars,” the episode comes across more as an avenue to profile the various toy companies like Mego, Galoob and Playmates that tried their hands at “Star Trek” toy lines over the years, with varying degrees of success.

In fact, the lone deleted scene included with the DVDs is from the “Star Trek” episode, consisting of a two-minute clip of various talking heads wondering why the toys based on the J.J. Abrams “Star Trek” reboot didn’t sell well.

That discussion hints at the challenges that not just toymakers, but any steward of a popular brand face in the rapidly changing information age. Some brands have always had better success than others in crossing from one generation to the next, but the means of instant gratification brought on by the Internet have altered the tactile relationship viewers have with their favorite content, both in the collectability and playability of the merchandise associated with it.

As one of the talking heads notes in the deleted scene, we don’t really have pop culture anymore. We have a customizable culture, in which consumers can focus on their fandoms like never before.

Whatever the case, at least we have shows like “The Toys That Made Us” to help remind us why we love these things to begin with.

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

 BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street Date 5/7/19;
Warner;
Animated;
Box Office $105.73 million;
$28.98 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $44.95 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG’ for some rude humor.
Voices of Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Tiffany Haddish, Stephanie Beatriz, Charlie Day, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman.

Picking up directly where 2014’s The Lego Movie left off, the sequel finds the Lego characters under siege by the Duplo invaders for five years, eventually forming a post-apocalyptic settlement a la “Mad Max.”

When Lucy (Elizabeth Banks), Batman (Will Arnett) and a handful of other characters are whisked away in the latest invasion to a far-off planet in the “Systar System,” it’s up to Emmet (Chris Pratt) to try to rescue them, with the help of an adventurer named Rex he meets along the way.

Lego Movie 2 follows the same conceit as the first film that the adventures of the Lego characters are the manifestations of the imaginations of the children playing with them, with more puns about how real-world situations can threaten their existence (this time they fear ending up in the “Bin of Storage”). The film once again hints at the toys being alive, and idea it can only take so far before it starts to delve into “Toy Story” territory.

The war with the invaders stems from a sibling rivalry, as the little sister of the kid from the first film wants to play with her brother, only to be rebuffed. So, there’s a nice little message about sibling cooperation at the heart of the story for good measure.

The animation is as stylish and colorful as the first film, the story works in a few more catchy songs (many by YouTube star Jon Lajoie, who played Taco on “The League”), and the franchise continues to make smart and funny observations about its nature as essentially a Lego toy commercial. But after following up the first movie with “Batman” and “Ninjago” Lego spinoffs, the concept is a bit played out.

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The Blu-ray features the movie in an “Everything Is Awesome” sing-along mode that showcases facts about the movie, on-screen lyrics, trivia games and more.

There’s also a full-length commentary from director Mike Mitchell, writers/producers Phil Lord and Chritopher Miller, and animation director Trisha Gum.

Additional behind-the-scenes material includes the 9-minute “They Came in Pieces: Assembling The Lego Movie 2,” featuring interviews with the cast and filmmakers.

The Blu-ray also offers 12 minutes of outtakes and deleted scenes, including some interesting footage showing parts of the story from the point of view of the kids playing it out.

Just as a reminder that these are toys you can buy at your local store, there’s a two-minute “Lego Sets in Action” video of animations of the new products featured in the movie, and a three-and-a-half-minute featurette that interviews Lego toy designers about the toys created for use in the movie.

The disc also includes four additional minutes of promotional material, including the actors talking about their characters’ minifigs.

On the musical side, there’s a music video for the “Super Cool” song by Beck, featuring Robyn and comedy team The Lonely Island.

Finally, there’s a three-minute Christmas-themed short film called “Emmet’s Holiday Party.”

Documentary Series ‘The Toys That Made Us’ on DVD May 7

Screen Media will release The Toys That Made Us: Seasons 1 & 2 on DVD May 7.

The eight-episode Netflix documentary series chronicles the creation, marketing evolution and rise in popularity of several key toy lines, with each episode focused on a different brand.

The first four episodes focus on “Star Wars,” “Barbie,” “He-Man” and “G.I. Joe,” with the second season dealing with “Star Trek,” “Transformers,” “Lego” and “Hello Kitty.”

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‘The Lego Movie’ on Sale at FandangoNow as Sequel Debuts in Theaters

As The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is scheduled to hit theaters Feb. 8, FandangoNow, Fandango’s VOD service, is celebrating the fifth anniversary of The Lego Movie with a special sale starting Feb. 7.

Fans can purchase the animated blockbuster from FandangoNow in 4K for $9.99.

Additional anniversaries this month include the 20th anniversary of Office Space, the 25th anniversary of Footloose and the 30th anniversary of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. FandangoNow is renting thoses titles for as low as $2.99 or $3.99 and $10.99 or $13.99, respectively.