‘Game of Thrones’ Complete Series Due on Blu-ray Dec. 3 From HBO

Game of Thrones: The Complete Collection, including all eight seasons of the fantasy saga, will be released in a limited-edition Blu-ray set Dec. 3 from HBO Home Entertainment.

Game of Thrones: Season 8 will also come out Dec. 3 as a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray (plus DVD) combo pack and Blu-ray Steelbook.

Based on the best-selling novel series by George R.R. Martin, “Game of Thrones” holds the record as the most awarded series in television history, earning a total of 132 Emmy nominations and 47 wins to date, and is HBO’s most-viewed program ever, with the final season averaging a record-setting 44 million viewers in the United States, according to HBO. The ensemble cast includes Emmy and Golden Globe winner Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister), Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister), Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen), Kit Harington (Jon Snow), Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark), Maisie Williams (Arya Stark), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister) and Iain Glen (Jorah Mormont).

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The series release will include the “Game of Thrones: Reunion Special,” a two-part reunion show with cast members from the final season, including Harington, Clarke, Turner and more, as well as stars of previous seasons, including Sean Bean, Jason Momoa, Mark Addy and others. Hosted by Conan O’Brien, the reunion was shot in front of a live audience in Belfast, Ireland, and includes show and behind-the-scenes footage.

Additional bonus content includes deleted and extended scenes, animated histories and lore pieces, behind-the-scenes featurettes, audio commentaries, and the documentary Game of Thrones: The Last Watch by filmmaker Jeanie Finlay.

The limited-edition Game of Thrones: The Complete Collection will be packaged in a wooden shadow box case, featuring panel designs by Robert Ball (the artist behind the “Beautiful Death” series) that summarize the “Game of Thrones” story. Each season is represented by a different layer, showcasing characters and memorable moments from the show. The set also contains a “Hand of the King” pin clasp, which holds all nine custom plated disc sleeves.

Game of Thrones: Season 8

DIGITAL REVIEW:

HBO;
Fantasy;
$19.99 SD; $26.99 HD;
Not Rated.
Stars Peter Dinklage, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, Liam Cunningham, Nathalie Emmanuel, Alfie Allen, John Bradley, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Gwendoline Christie, Conleth Hill, Rory McCann, Jerome Flynn, Kristofer Hivju, Joe Dempsie, Jacob Anderson, Iain Glen.

The eighth and final season of “Game of Thrones” is certainly its most divisive, setting off a wave of Internet debates as to whether the final run of episodes was worthy of the extensive storytelling that had been laid out before.

Much of the ire seems to be focused on the creative decisions made by showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss in mapping out the final story arcs of the various characters once they no longer draw from the “Song of Ice and Fire” novels by George R.R. Martin, which formed the basis of the first five seasons.

A noticeable shift in the show’s pacing occurred in season six, once it was clear they had to create their own after reportedly receiving outlines from Martin about how he envisioned the saga more or less ending up. After season six, it was announced the show would wrap up in 13 episodes split into two seasons, with seven in season seven and six in season eight.

In hindsight, the argument goes, this timeline was insufficient in setting up the character development needed for the plot twists of the final episodes, leaving the final storylines feeling rushed while retroactively weakening the earlier seasons by both devaluing their story development and making it clear (particularly to readers of the novels) where the show missed opportunities to lay the foundation for the plot points the writers eventually decided to pursue.

The series has spent seven seasons seemingly maneuvering every character into two factions. One is the army gathering at Winterfell to fight the Night King and the White Walkers. This is the faction commanded by Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow, who joined forces last season. However, their truce may be complicated by the lingering truth of Jon’s true heritage, which could present an obstacle to Dany’s claim to the Iron Throne.

Meanwhile. Queen Cersei has fortified her hold on King’s Landing through an alliance with Euron Greyjoy’s fleet and a mercenary army.

The first two episodes deal largely with various characters reuniting, setting the stage for the battle against the Night King, which takes place in the third episode. The final episodes involve the battle for King’s Landing and its aftermath.

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So, is the final season as problematic as the darkest corners of the Internet would make it out to be? Well, mostly no, but a little bit yes.

The ire seems to fall into two categories. The first, as mentioned, is the show rushing to get to the end. The second is the specific outcomes for some of the characters, which may have differed a bit from what some of the more entitled fans envisioned in their heads.

As to the second point, such is often the refrain of toxic fandom, and seems misguided. The character arcs themselves are fine and completely understandable, particularly when it comes to the most divisive of the individual stories, that of Queen Daenerys and her quest to reclaim the Iron Throne on behalf of her family.

The show has always been an examination of the dangers of tyranny and absolutism, even when the results of such governance may seem beneficial. The cycle of inherited power is itself the problem, not the potential for harm a new ruler may bring.

That being said, it’s hard to disagree that the final march to the end was a bit rushed, and perhaps could have used a few episodes to show events for the characters to experience that might reinforce their motivations in the final battles.

The final season is fine as it is, as easy as it is for fans to pick it apart, and will likely come to be better regarded once absorbed into the bulk of the show as fodder for binge viewing. While the asinine suggestion of fan petitions to “remake the season with competent writers” is beyond the realm of credibility, it’s hard not to at least entertain the idea of filming a few more episodes of material to expand on the character development, then re-editing them into the final couple of seasons (though, realistically, that ain’t happening either).

The show’s critics are also quick to overlook the many strengths of the final season, which offers some of the most stunning visuals of the series. This includes the purposefully dark and moody third episode, which uses its nighttime setting to great effect give viewers the same sense of unseen dread the characters would experience in fighting off wave after wave of undead armies.

There was some concern about the cinematography being too dark upon its initial airing, but this isn’t much of a problem with the digital HD presentation.

The other aspect of concern in fan circles were all the memes pointing out Starbucks cups and plastic water bottles left on the set for key scenes. The prominent coffee cup was subsequently digitally erased from episode four, but a few water bottles spotted under the chairs in the “Council of Lords” scene in the finale were still visible in the digital copy of the episode, at least within the first few days of its digital release. It will certainly be something to keep an eye out for in the eventual Blu-ray release that should arrive in a few months.

The digital package of the final season also includes a four-minute production featurette, a 17-minute profile of a key season from the third-episode battle, and The Last Watch, the feature-length documentary chronicling the making of the show’s final season that provides an enlightening look at the filmmakers and craftsman who brought it all together.

HBO June 2019 Slate Includes Several Digital Downloads, One DVD

HBO Home Entertainment has announced a slew of content for digital download in June, plus one title for DVD.

Due on digital June 3 and on DVD June 4 will be Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland, a documentary about the 28-year-old African-American from Chicago who was arrested for a traffic violation in Texas and found three days later hanging from a noose in her jail cell.

Due for digital download June 10 will be Barry: Season 2. Desperate to leave his violent past as an assassin behind in favor of his newfound passion for acting, Barry (Bill Hader) keeps getting dragged back into his old life by a variety of factors.

Also available for digital download June 10 is My Dad Wrote a Porno, a comedy special based on the popular British comedy podcast in which host Jamie Morton reads a chapter from the “Belinda Blinked” series of “erotic” novels, written by his real-life father under the pseudonym “Rocky Flintstone.” Friends of Morton, James Cooper and Alice Levine, join on stage, providing uproarious commentary.

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Due for digital download June 17 is Momentum Generation. In the 1960s, surfing in America was known primarily as a California- and Hawaii-based phenomenon associated with surf instrumentals and Beach Boys songs. Although equipment and skills evolved, the public’s perception of surfing remained constant until the 1990s, when a group of punk rock-loving teens found its way to a house on the north shore of Oahu, Hawaii. In Momentum Generation, the core members of that crew — including Kelly Slater, Rob Machado, Shane Dorian, Taylor Knox, Benji Weatherley, Kalani Robb, Ross Williams, Taylor Steele and Pat O’Connell — tell their story together for the first time.

Also available digitally June 17 is My True Brilliant Friend, a documentary that follows young actresses Margherita Mazzucco and Gaia Girace during the filming of the HBO series “My Brilliant Friend,” based on Elena Ferrante’s bestselling book of the same name.

Another June 17 digital release is Home Videos, Jerrod Carmichael’s exploration into aspects of the black experience through interviews with his family. In the first of two specials, Carmichael focuses on the strong black women in his life, returning home to North Carolina, featuring informal, intimate conversations with his family and friends, who speak candidly about subjects such as sex, confidence, beauty standards and feminism.

Coming June 24 for digital download is Chernobyl, a dramatization of the 1986 nuclear disaster in the Soviet Union. The digital release also includes the companion bonus content piece “Pivotal Moment: The Trial,” which explores the climactic trial scene in interviews with director Johan Renck, writer/executive producer Craig Mazin, and stars Emily Watson and Jared Harris.

HBO Announces Four Digital Releases for May 2019

HBO Home Entertainment has announced four titles available for digital download in May 2019.

Due May 6 is Native Son, the story of Bigger Thomas (Ashton Sanders), a young African-American living in Chicago who is hired as a chauffeur for affluent businessman Will Dalton (Bill Camp). As Thomas enters this seductive new world of money and power — including a precarious relationship with Dalton’s daughter, Mary (Margaret Qualley) — he faces unforeseen choices and perilous circumstances that will alter the course of his life forever. The cast also includes Nick Robinson, KiKi Layne, Elizabeth Marvel, David Alan Grier and Sanaa Lathan.

Arriving May 13 is Veep: Season 7, as well as Veep: The Complete Series. The final season of “Veep” finds Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) running for president again and facing new challenges and controversies.

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Also due May 13 is Arthur Miller: Writer, a documentary about the celebrated playwright told from the perspective of his daughter, filmmaker Rebecca Miller.

Coming May 27 is The Truth About Killer Robots, which looks at several automation cases, from a factory in Germany to a bomb-carrying police droid in Dallas, raising questions of accountability and morality. Exploring the provocative viewpoints of engineers, journalists and philosophers, the film goes beyond sensational deaths to examine more subtle but pervasive ways that robots affect humanity.

‘Leaving Neverland,’ New Seasons of ‘Vice’ and ‘Crashing’ Among Titles From HBO in April

April is chock-full of releases on digital and DVD from HBO Home Entertainment, including the controversial Michael Jackson documentary Leaving Neverland.

The two-part documentary Leaving Neverland, due on digital download April 29, explores the separate, but parallel experiences of two young boys, James “Jimmy” Safechuck, at age 10, and Wade Robson, at age 7, both of whom were befriended by Jackson. They and their families were invited into his world, entranced by the singer’s fairy-tale existence as his career reached its peak. Through gut-wrenching interviews with Safechuck, now 37, and Robson, now 41, as well as their mothers, wives and siblings, Leaving Neverland crafts a portrait of sustained abuse, exploring the complicated feelings that led both men to confront their experiences after both had a young son of their own.

Crashing Season 3 is coming to digital April 1. The show’s third season finds Pete reinvigorated — and no longer crashing on people’s couches — as he reenters the New York stand-up comedy world following his college tour. But even though he’s improved, that doesn’t mean he’s at the head of the pack. As Pete edges closer to success one stand-up set at a time, he continues to navigate his faith, dating and the ever-changing comedy scene.

The documentary Student Athlete, due on digital April 8, unveils the exploitative world of high-revenue college sports through the stories of four young men at different stages of their athletic careers, as well as a coach-turned-advocate and a whistle-blowing shoe rep who exposes the money trail. From high-school recruiting to post-graduation, the usefulness of athletes is tied to their ability to produce revenue.

Wyatt Cenac’s Problem Areas Season 2, coming to digital April 15, focuses on education in America, investigating teacher pay, student mental health, the school-to-prison pipeline and other pressing topics. Cenac visits West Virginia, Oregon, California, Minnesota and other areas around the country to learn how communities navigate issues facing public education. While education serves as the season’s primary focus, the show addresses other issues, including the unionization of fast-food workers and the potential dangers of facial recognition software, as well as comedic solutions to lighter topics, such as how to get more steps in at the office or how to teach kids practical skills, like filing taxes.

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Also due on digital April 15 is High Maintenance Season 3, which profiles everyday people whose stories of success, failure, love and loss intersect across New York, while delving deeper into personal life of The Guy, who is spending less time on his iconic bicycle and more time in “Steve RV,” a set of wheels gifted to him last season. Featuring an intricate web of returning characters and new faces, the new episodes find New Yorkers exploring their relationship with the city, touching on such themes as death, parenthood, sexuality, fantasy and aging.

Vice Season 6, another title coming on digital April 15, continues to explore under-covered global stories with exclusive reports from Iraq, Russia, the Central African Republic and China. Season six also focuses on the domestic issues dividing the nation, providing in-depth reporting on the major debates surrounding gun laws, immigration, economics, education, civil rights and America’s place in the world.

Coming on digital April 29 is Outside the Bubble: A Road Trip with Alexandra Pelosi. The show follows Pelosi as she ventures beyond the coast and sets out on a cross-country trip to engage in conversations with fellow Americans in an effort to gain an unfiltered understanding of other perspectives.

Also due on digital April 29 is Strike Back Season 6. When a Russian bomber crashes in the South China Sea, the covert special-ops soldiers of Section 20 — Thomas “Mac” McAllister (Warren Brown), Samuel Wyatt (Daniel MacPherson) and Gracie Novin (Alin Sumarwata) — are sent to investigate. There, they cross paths with Katrina Zarkova (Yasemin Allen), a rogue Russian operative with questionable loyalties. Under orders of the new commanding officer, Col. Alexander Coltrane (Jamie Bamber), Section 20 pursues stolen contents of the Russian jet across Southeast Asia. They work alongside the Malaysian police to shut down a Triad gang in Kuala Lumpur, uncover a corrupt plot by a wealthy Indian businesswoman running for Parliament and plunge into the jungles of the Golden Triangle in Myanmar, facing off against mercenary drug agents and terrifying warlords as they uncover a conspiracy that threatens to push the world to the brink of global conflict.

HBO is also releasing two titles on DVD in April.

Coming April 2 is My Brilliant Friend. When the most important friend in her life seems to have disappeared without a trace, Elena Greco, a now-elderly woman immersed in a house full of books, turns on her computer and starts writing the story of their friendship. Set in a Naples, their story goes on to cover more than 60 years of their lives as she tries to describe the mystery of Lila, Elena’s brilliant friend and — in a way — both her best friend and her worst enemy.

Written and directed by Daniel Sawka, Icebox, available on DVD April 16, tells the story of Oscar, played by Anthony Gonzalez (Coco), a 12-year-old Honduran boy who is forced to flee his home and seek asylum in the United States. As Oscar attempts to reach his uncle, Manuel, in Arizona, he is apprehended by the Border Patrol and placed in “the icebox.” Faced with a seemingly impenetrable immigration system, Oscar struggles to navigate a path to freedom, with a journalist and his uncle, himself a recent immigrant, as his only lifelines.

Season Two of ‘2 Dope Queens,’ ‘Jane Fonda in Five Acts,’ ‘O.G.’ Among Titles Coming in March From HBO Home Entertainment

Season two of “2 Dope Queens,” Jane Fonda in Five Acts and O.G. are among the titles coming in March from HBO Home Entertainment.

Available for digital download March 11 is Swiped: Hooking Up in the Digital Age, which looks at online dating, offering revelations about the billion-dollar industry. The film features interviews with, among others, Jonathan Badeen, co-founder and CSO of Tinder; Whitney Wolfe Herd, founder and CEO of Hinge; and Mandy Ginsberg, CEO of Match Group, which owns Tinder, OkCupid and other dating sites.

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Available March 25 for digital download is O.G. Filmed in Indiana’s Pendleton Correctional Facility, an active maximum-security prison, O.G. follows Louis (Jeffrey Wright), once the head of a prominent prison gang, in the final weeks of his 24-year sentence. His impending release is upended when he takes new arrival Beecher (Theothus Carter), who is being courted by gang leadership, under his wing. Coming to grips with the indelibility of his crime and the challenge of reentering society, Louis finds his freedom hanging in the balance as he struggles to save Beecher.

Season two of “2 Dope Queens” will also be available for digital download March 25. The two return in four specials with some of their favorite stand-up comedians, including Rory Scovel, Solomon Georgio, Bowen Yang, Jamie Lee and Pat Brown, along with celebrity guests, to talk music, nostalgia and fashion.

Available for digital download March 25 and on DVD March 26 is Jane Fonda in Five Acts, about the Oscar-winning actress who has lived a life marked by controversy, tragedy and transformation in the public eye. Fonda has been vilified as Hanoi Jane, lusted after as Barbarella and heralded as beacon of the women’s movement.

Finally, due on DVD March 26 is Camping, starring Jennifer Garner and David Tennant as Kathryn and Walt, a not-so-happily married couple. A meticulously planned outdoor trip to celebrate Walt’s 45th birthday is derailed by uninvited guests and forces of nature, turning the weekend in a test of marriage and friendships.

HBO Announces January 2019 Slate

HBO Home Entertainment has announced a slate of DVDs and digital downloads coming in January.

HBO Jan. 7 released the first season of “Camping” for digital download. The show stars Jennifer Garner and David Tennant as Kathryn and Walt, a not-so-happily married couple whose meticulously planned outdoor trip is derailed by uninvited guests and forces of nature.

Due for digital download Jan. 14 is the eight-part miniseries My Brilliant Friend, adapted from the first book in Elena Ferrante’s “Neapolitan Novels.” The drama follows Elena Greco, a now-elderly woman and author who discovers the most important friend in her life disappeared and starts writing the story of their tempestuous friendship. Includes the featurettes “The Making of My Brilliant Friend” and “Invitation to the Set.”

Also due Jan. 14 for digital download is the stand-up comedy special Pete Holmes: Dirty Clean.

Available Jan. 21 for digital download will be Room 104: Season 2 and Icebox. “Room 104” is an anthology series from Jay and Mark Duplass that peeks inside a room at an average American corporate motel, exploring the stories of the characters who pass through it on any given night. Icebox tells the story of Óscar (Anthony Gonzalez), a 12-year-old Honduran boy forced to flee his home and seek asylum in the United States, only to find himself trapped in the U.S. immigration system.

HBO will release Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind for digital Download Jan. 21 and DVD Jan. 22. The documentary explores’ Williams’ life through his own words, celebrating what he brought to comedy and to the culture at large, from the wild days of late-1970s L.A. to his death in 2014.

Due for digital download Jan. 28 is Mike Judge Presents: Tales from the Tour Bus — Season 2, chronicling the exploits of legendary music artists, including James Brown, George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, Rick James and others.

Coming Jan. 29 is Ballers: The Complete Fourth Season on Blu-ray and DVD. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stars in this series as a retired football superstar trying to reinvent himself as a financial manager for current players in sun-soaked Miami. After refusing to compromise his principles by joining an alliance with the filthy-rich Anderson brothers to move a football franchise to Las Vegas, Spencer and his partner Joe set out to expand their foothold in the client-management business, weighing an opportunity to purchase an extreme-sports company.

Also due Jan. 29 on Blu-ray and DVD is Crashing: The Complete Second Season, starring Pete Holmes and loosely inspired by Holmes’ personal experiences in stand-up comedy. Extras include “Invitation to the Set” and “The Secrets of Roasting” featurettes.

Season Two of ‘The Deuce’ Coming to Digital Dec. 3, Disc Feb. 5 From HBO

The Deuce: The Complete Second Season will come out on digital Dec. 3 and Blu-ray and DVD Feb. 5 from HBO Home Entertainment.

The Deuce: The Complete Second Season continues to trace the evolution and power dynamics of the porn industry in New York’s Times Square neighborhood in the 1970s. Picking up in late 1977, five years after season one, The Deuce’s backroom massage parlors and hotels have exploded into sprawling emporiums, while the New York Mafia’s grip on the porn business is beginning to slip as talent migrates to the West Coast. Season 2 also captures the disco era in all its excesses before developers, crack cocaine, AIDS and videotapes conspire to end the scene.

The cast includes James Franco (The Disaster Artist), first season Golden Globe-nominee Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart), Margarita Levieva (“Revenge”), Lawrence Gilliard Jr. (“The Wire”), Dominique Fishback (HBO’s “Show Me a Hero”) and newcomer Luke Kirby (“Rectify”).

Bonus features include “The Deuce Season 1 Recap”; “Candy’s Back,” showing viewers where Candy (Gyllenhaal) is headed in season two; and “Height of Porn,” which explores the proliferation of porn in late ‘70s New York.

‘My Dinner With Hervé’ Available on Digital From HBO

My Dinner With Hervé is available now on digital from HBO Home Entertainment.

The film explores the unlikely friendship between struggling journalist Danny Tate (Jamie Dornan) and Hervé Villechaize (Peter Dinklage), the world’s most famous French dwarf actor.

The story unfolds over one wild night in Los Angeles — an encounter that has life-changing consequences for both men.

My Dinner with Hervé also stars Golden Globe nominee Mireille Enos (The Killing), David Strathairn (Lincoln), Andy García (Ocean’s Eleven), Harriet Walter (Succession) and Oona Chaplin (“Game of Thrones”).

‘Flight of the Conchords: Live in London’ Coming on Digital Nov. 12 From HBO

Flight of the Conchords: Live in London, featuring musical comedians Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement, will come out on digital download Nov. 12 from HBO Home Entertainment.

Filmed at the Eventim Apollo in London, the show features the two performing never-before-televised songs from their recent “Flight of the Conchords Sing Flight of the Conchords Tour,” as well as some of their classics.

New Zealanders McKenzie and Clement appeared on the HBO series “Flight of the Conchords” starting in 2007. The series following fictionalized versions of their lives in New York City and earned 10 Emmy nominations over its two-season run. Their album “The Distant Future” won Best Comedy Album at the 2008 Grammy Awards.