The Suicide Squad

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 10/26/21;
Warner;
Action;
Box Office $55.8 million;
$34.98 DVD, $39.98 Blu-ray, $49.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for strong violence and gore, language throughout, some sexual references, drug use and brief graphic nudity.
Stars Idris Elba, Margot Robbie, John Cena, Daniela Melchior, David Dastmalchian, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Alice Braga, Peter Capaldi, Taika Waititi, Jai Courtney, Nathan Fillion, Flula Borg, Pete Davidson, Sean Gunn, Michael Rooker, Jennifer Holland, Sylvester Stallone, Dee Bradley Baker.

Writer-director James Gunn’s subversive follow-up to 2016’s Suicide Squad resets the franchise by embracing the absurdity inherent in comic book movies.

Like its predecessor, The Suicide Squad is based on the DC Comics series about a team of supervillains who are blackmailed into conducting black ops for the American government through the threat of an explosive chip in their head. The 2016 edition, while a financial success, was panned by critics and audiences after it was infamously re-edited by a trailer company into essentially a series of vignettes set to popular music, trying to capture some of the magic that made Guardians of the Galaxy work so well.

So, for the sequel, DC just brought in Gunn, writer-director of Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies. The hire came shortly after Gunn was fired by Marvel over some questionable tweets in his past, only to be re-hired for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which he’s working on now.

The Suicide Squad is just another example of why he’s such a good fit for these kinds of movies: a keen understanding of the source material, and a willingness to poke fun at it without undermining the credibility of the story. Here, Gunn assembles a team of some of the silliest comic book concepts ever created, gives their characters emotional depth, and makes it all work.

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This is one of the bloodiest comic book movies ever made, but also one of the funniest, with Gunn expertly finding the balance between the two extremes, beginning with an absolutely insane opening sequence that will leave audiences without a clue of what to expect from this movie.

The story involves the team heading to a tropical island to dispose of a top secret project before the new military dictatorship can expose U.S. involvement in its development. Idris Elba grounds the mission as Bloodsport, a weapons expert. He has a bit of a rivalry with the team’s other weapons expert, Peacemaker (John Cena), as they try to outdo each other running up the movie’s body count. With his earnest penchant for killing anything that stands in his way to achieve “peace,” Peacemaker would seem to be Gunn’s metaphor for American foreign policy (though Gunn found the character appealing enough to write an eight-episode TV spinoff about him, set to debut on HBO Max in 2022).

Other standouts on the team include King Shark, literally a walking, talking man-eating shark voiced by Sylvester Stallone; Ratcatcher II (Daniela Melchior), who uses her deceased father’s technology to control the minds of rats; Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), who was experimented on by his mother with an interdimensional virus that gives him the power to expel dots of deadly energy; and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), one of the few holdovers from the first movie, along with team commander Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), and Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), the government agent who will detonate their heads if they disobey her.

Like the first movie, the sequel has plenty of songs, but thanks to Gunn, they are well integrated into the structure of the film, rather than seemingly played at random.

The Suicide Squad is fun, vibrant and visually distinctive like a graphic novel come to life, though its hard-‘R’ sensibilities may not appeal to everybody.

The Blu-ray edition of The Suicide Squad comes loaded with hours of insightful bonus material about the making of the film, including a good solo commentary with Gunn.

There are also about 17 minutes of deleted scenes that don’t amount to much, so it’s easy to see why they were cut.

Also included are three fun retro trailers done in the style of 1960s war movies, 1970s horror movies and 1980s buddy cop movies.

The regular Blu-ray Disc of the film contains all the extras. The 4K disc includes just the commentary and one featurette, a seven-minute breakdown of Harley Quinn’s violent escape sequence.

Originally published as a streaming review Aug. 9, 2021.

CW Movie ‘The Waltons’ Homecoming’ Due on Digital and DVD Dec. 14

The Waltons’ Homecoming, a feature-length film commemorating the original holiday film that launched the long-running family drama series “The Waltons,” will be available for digital purchase and on DVD Dec. 14 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment following its broadcast premiere on The CW Nov. 28.

The film stars Logan Shroyer (“This Is Us”) as John Boy Walton, Bellamy Young (“Scandal,” “Prodigal Son”) as Olivia Walton, Ben Lawson (“Firefly Lane”) as John Walton Sr., and Richard Thomas (“The Americans,” “The Waltons”) reprises his role as the adult John Boy and narrator.

The Waltons’ Homecoming is set in the 1933 Depression Era and is told through the eyes of John Boy, the 17-year-old eldest child of John and Olivia Walton. His mother expects John Boy to help her raise his sisters and brothers, and his father expects him to follow in his footsteps to help support the family but secretly, John Boy wants to be a writer. Times are hard enough in 1933, but to make matters worse, it looked to be the Waltons’ first Christmas without John Sr. When Olivia receives a letter that John Sr. is planning to make it home for Christmas after all, the family is thrilled and races to prepare for his homecoming. But when a storm threatens his arrival on Christmas Eve and John Sr. is nowhere to be found, Olivia sends John Boy out into the night to find his daddy — a journey that will change John Boy’s life forever.

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The Waltons’ Homecoming also stars Marcelle LeBlanc as Mary Ellen Walton, Christian Finlayson (The Gifted) as Jason Walton, Tatum Sue Matthews as Erin Walton, Samuel Goergen as Jim Bob Walton, Callaway Corrick as Elizabeth Walton, Alpha Trivette as Grandpa Walton,  Rebecca Koon (“The Walking Dead”) as Grandma Walton, Jacinte Blankenship (Just Mercy) as Rose Dooly, Arianna Rosario (West Side Story) as Maggie Sikes, with special appearances by legendary musicians and singers Marilyn McCoo as Sister Harriet and Billy Davis, Jr. as Brother William.

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.

Warner Celebrating Clint Eastwood on His 50th Year of Partnering With the Studio

As Clint Eastwood enters his eighth decade in the movies, WarnerMedia and Warner Bros. are celebrating the actor/producer/filmmaker with a series of initiatives, including Blu-ray and digital releases, a nine-episode docuseries, an HBO Max spotlight page, a curated exhibit of props and costumes spanning his 50-year association with Warner Bros., a theatrical re-release of select Eastwood films, and Clint Eastwood programming on Turner Classic Movies (TCM).

This year marks the 50th year of Eastwood’s partnership with Warner Bros. (“Dirty Harry”). Eastwood’s most recent film Cry Macho was released theatrically and on HBO Max on Sept. 17.

From Sept. 9 through Oct. 31, HBO Max will launch a spotlight page featuring select Clint Eastwood films, including the recently-released Cry Macho and seven episodes of the “Clint Eastwood — A Cinematic Legacy” docuseries.

WarnerMedia will launch “Clint Eastwood — A Cinematic Legacy” in Dallas, an exhibition of props and costumes from 50 years of filmmaking at Warner Bros. along with memorabilia from Clint Eastwood’s personal collection. Items include the Gran Torino car from the 2008 film Gran Torino, boxing gloves from 2004’s Million Dollar Baby, Bradley Cooper’s costume from 2014’s American Sniper, the saxophone from 1988’s Bird, Clint Eastwood’s director’s chair, and more.  The exhibition runs from Oct. 6 until Nov. 29 at the AT&T Global Headquarters Showcase in Dallas.

Oct. 16 and Oct. 23, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will air Clint Eastwood programming including feature films and two episodes of the docuseries per night.

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This fall, CNN will feature editorial content highlighting Eastwood’s career and the docuseries.

Also this fall, in select theaters, Warner Bros. will re-release six of Eastwood’s classic films theatrically, each one paired with an episode from the docuseries that highlights the feature film. The films include American Sniper, Gran Torino, Dirty Harry, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Unforgiven and The Bridges of Madison County.

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On Nov. 5, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release “Clint Eastwood — A Cinematic Legacy,” a nine-episode docuseries exploring Eastwood’s 50 years of filmmaking at Warner Bros. Episodes include:

  • Episode 1 –      “A Director’s Vision”
  • Episode 2 –      “The Heart of a Hero”
  • Episode 3 –      “Witness to History”
  • Episode 4 –      “Reinventing the Western”
  • Episode 5 –      “An Actor’s Director”
  • Episode 6 –      “No Holds Barred”
  • Episode 7 –      “Fighting for Justice”
  • Episode 8 –      “Courage Under Fire”
  • Episode 9 –      “Triple Threat”

 

The “Clint Eastwood – A Cinematic Legacy” docuseries will be available digitally and will also be available in select Blu-ray collections, including:

  • “Clint Eastwood 50th MGM 4-Film Collection” (A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, Hang ‘Em High)
  • “Clint Eastwood 50th 5-Film Collection” (Dirty Harry, Magnum Force, The Enforcer, Sudden Impact, The Dead Pool)
  • “Clint Eastwood 50th 4-Film Collection” (The Mule, Gran Torino, American Sniper, Sully)
  • “Clint Eastwood 50th 2-Film Collection” (The Outlaw Josey Wales, Pale Rider)
  • “Clint Eastwood 50th 10-Film Collection” (Kelly’s Heroes, Where Eagles Dare, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Pale Rider, Heartbreak Ridge, Unforgiven, Dirty Harry, City Heat, Gran Torino, American Sniper)

Discovery CEO in L.A. ‘Learning’ About Warner Bros. Ahead of WarnerMedia Takeover

Discovery CEO David Zaslav is in Los Angeles meeting with executives at Warner Bros. ahead of the media company (and him) assuming operational control of the studio and the other WarnerMedia business units, HBO and Turner, in 2022.

Speaking Sept. 21 at the virtual Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference, Zaslav said he has spent the past two weeks in the Southland familiarizing himself with the venerable studio, executives and staff.

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“The more I look at Warner has, what HBO has, and see what [Warner boss] Ann [Sarnoff], [AT&T CEO] John [Stankey] and [WarnerMedia CEO] Jason [Kilar] have been doing, together, I think we have the best IP menu in the world,” Zaslav said. “We’re working hard at what this [Warner Bros. Discovery] company will look like.”

Zaslav said he spending two weeks a month in Southern California attending studio and off-site meetings with executives and lawyers.

“There was a lot we couldn’t see and couldn’t talk about [until the $43 deal billion closes],” he said, adding that on the Discovery integration team the company has 182 “work streams” in motion ahead of the merger.

What the Warner Bros. Discovery direct-to-consumer products, i.e. HBO Max and Discovery+, will look like remains a work in progress Zaslav said he couldn’t discuss in further detail. At the end of the most-recent fiscal period, HBO and HBO Max had a combined 47 million subscribers, while Discovery+ had 18 million subs.

“Now, we’re going to position ourselves, so when we close we can affect that strategy and drive ourselves onto ever [streaming] device around the world,” he said.

‘Tom and Jerry’ Preschool Series Gets Greenlight for HBO Max and Cartoon Network

The first-ever preschool “Tom and Jerry” animated series “Tom and Jerry Time,” produced by Warner Bros. Animation, has been greenlighted as part of WarnerMedia Kids & Family’s new Cartoonito preschool programming block, debuting on HBO Max and Cartoon Network.

Combining comedy with key early learning concepts, “Tom and Jerry Time” aims to teach young viewers the skills they need to explore the world around them, according to the studio.

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“Based on the beloved classic that so many parents grew up with, ‘Tom and Jerry Time’ introduces a whole new generation to these iconic characters with a fresh and original take,” Amy Friedman, head of kids and family programming at Warner Bros., said in a statement. “For our youngest audience, Sam Register and his team at Warner Bros. Animation managed to keep all the playful hijinks, drop all the cartoon violence, and add the most delightful early childhood learning through song and story.  It’s playful — with a purpose — and we think parents and their little ones will love watching and learning together.”

Presented as a series of animated musical shorts, “Tom and Jerry Time” turns the world created by the cat-and-mouse rivalry into a cartoon classroom. Preschoolers will be introduced to their comical mischief — chasing, pranking and outsmarting each other — while also learning key social and emotional skillsets, lessons in independence, early math and literacy skills, and other key preschool educational concepts, according to the studio.

Sam Register (Looney Tunes Cartoons) is executive producer. Will Finn (Tom and Jerry in New York) serves as showrunner and co-executive producer with Denise Downer (Stillwater) on board as story editor.

‘Middle-Earth Ultimate Collector’s Edition’ Due on 4K Ultra HD Nov. 16

The Middle-Earth Ultimate Collector’s Edition, timed to the 20th anniversary of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, will come out on 4K Ultra HD Nov. 16 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

The $249.99, 31-disc collection of Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth saga contains new special features along with the theatrical and extended versions of the six films from New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures — The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies as well as The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, which won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.

It comes in “Puzzle Box” packaging and includes a 64-page booklet featuring costumes, photography and production notes from the film, and art cards featuring travel posters and images from iconic locations throughout Middle-Earth including The Shire, Lake-Town, Erebor, Anduin, Rohan, Minas Trith and Rivendell.

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Also included are the original Cannes Film Festival presentation reel, and footage from the recent Alamo Drafthouse cast reunion, featuring director Peter Jackson along with cast members Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Billy Boyd, Ian McKellan, Dominic Monaghan, Viggo Mortenson, Andy Serkis, Liv Tyler and Elijah Wood.

The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs will feature Dolby Vision HDR and a Dolby Atmos soundtrack. All six films also come on Blu-ray discs remastered from the 4K master. The 4K remastering process was overseen by Jackson.

Update (10/12/21): Release date changed from Oct. 26 to Nov. 16.

Noted Film Historian George Feltenstein Rehired at Warner Bros. Entertainment

Industry veteran George Feltenstein has been rehired at Warner Bros. Entertainment as “WarnerMedia Library Historian,” effective August 2021, according to his LinkedIn profile.

His return comes nine months after WarnerMedia announced the elimination of his position, SVP of theatrical catalog marketing, in the second of two rounds of layoffs that rocked the company in 2020. The job cuts were announced in November 2020, but Feltenstein remained on the job until Feb. 19, 2021.

George Feltenstein

A Warner spokesman said Feltenstein’s “role is still being defined.”

Feltenstein’s return was first reported by the Home Theater Forum.

“Indeed, I have returned to the company, for which I am very grateful,” Feltenstein told Media Play News in an email.

Feltenstein came to Warner in January 1997 after seven years of effectively running MGM/UA Home Video, during which time he released a significant number of classic MGM and United Artists films on videocassette and laserdisc.

At Warner Bros., David Krause wrote on the DigitallyObsessed.com website, Feltenstein held “the keys to a kingdom of Golden Age treasures, a massive, enviable catalog that encompasses the collections of Warner Bros., MGM and RKO studios.”

Feltenstein was the primary driver behind the studio giving classics such as The Wizard of Oz, CasablancaSinging in the Rain and Gone With the Wind the royal treatment for their DVD and then Blu-ray Disc debuts.

Other Warner veterans who lost their jobs in November 2020 include Melissa Hufjay, Rosemary Markson and Jay Reinbold.

‘Sex and the City’ Series and Movies Due in Blu-ray Boxed Set Nov. 2

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release all six seasons of the HBO comedy series “Sex and the City” plus both feature films based on the show as a Blu-ray Disc collection for the first time on Nov. 2.

“Sex and The City: The Complete Series + 2 Movie Collection” features 96 episodes of the series plus Sex and the City: The Movie and Sex and the City 2 in one boxed set. It arrives in time for the next chapter “And Just Like That …,” which debuts on HBO Max later this year.

Winner of seven Emmy Awards, and the first cable show to win Outstanding Comedy Series, “Sex and the City” celebrates the bond of female friendship. It stars Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw, a New York-based writer who explores and experiences the unique world of Manhattan’s dating scene, chronicling the mating habits of single New Yorkers. The series also stars cast regulars Kim Cattrall as PR executive Samantha Jones, who’s seen — and done — it all; Kristin Davis as Charlotte York, still trying to hold on to the idea of happily ever after; and Cynthia Nixon as corporate lawyer and mother Miranda Hobbes, a pragmatist trying to balance the idea of love with the realities of life.

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The release includes more than three hours of previously released special features, including “Inside Sex and the City,” “Meet the Cast of Sex and the City,” “The Writers of Sex and the City,” “The Fashion of Sex and the City Sex and the City: Real New Yorkers,” and many more.

Sex and the City: The Complete Series, Sex and the City: The Movie and Sex and the City 2 are also available to own on digital via purchase from digital retailers, and to stream on HBO Max.

Warner Bros. Implementing 45-Day Theatrical Window for Southeast Asia Movie Releases

With WarnerMedia’s unprecedented 2021 concurrent theatrical/SVOD release strategy in its final four months, Warner Bros. is reportedly implementing a 45-day theatrical window for new releases in select Southeast Asia markets.

Beginning with The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, which is currently screening in the Philippines, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan and Indonesia, WarnerMedia will make the title available on the HBO Go streaming platform within 45 days. HBO Max has not yet launched in Southeast Asia.

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Warner streams theatrical titles in the United States concurrently for 31 days on HBO Max. The studio plans to implement a 45-day theatrical window for most new releases in 2022.

“This new windowing strategy is great news for fans that haven’t been able to catch our movies in cinemas,” Amit Malhotra, managing director for HBO Max/Go in Southeast Asia/India, said in a statement. “With the addition of the latest Warner Bros. movie slate, HBO Go continues its reputation as the region’s exclusive streaming home for the very biggest and best from the world of entertainment.”

Pending 2021 Southeast Asia releases include Space Jam: A New Legacy, In the Heights, Reminiscence, Dune, Malignant, Cry Macho, The Many Saints of Newark, King Richard and The Matrix: Resurrections.