‘Game of Thrones’ among new DVD and Blu-ray items

By Rich Heldenfels Beacon Journal popular culture writer

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Kit Harington as Jon Snow in HBO's Game of Thrones. (Helen Sloan/HBO)

With or without toys, the third season of HBO’s Game of Thrones is one of those things that every serious student of television history should have.

The series has many fervent admirers. When Hitfix.com polled TV critics about the best shows of 2013, Game of Thrones ranked third, behind only Breaking Bad and newcomer Orange Is the New Black. One episode from the season, the stunning and blood-soaked The Rains of Castamere, was among the most discussed telecasts of the season, as well as a demonstration of how freely the show would turn against its characters.

TV and film critic Matt Zoller Seitz said Castamere “is assured a spot on any list of the most horrifying hours of TV ever.” I watched it again recently, and have to agree — especially with the closing shot.

But that violence was part of the show’s vast landscape of battling families, mystical occurrences, unexpected betrayals and even dragons.

The fantasy crowd, and especially the fans of the George R.R. Martin novels on which the show is based, have connected to the show as extreme fun. Hence there have been collectibles provided to those fans, and some are included in packages of the third season. (The fourth begins April 6.)

Indeed, HBO on Tuesday will have the season’s 10 episodes available in seven different configurations: DVD ($59.98); a Blu-ray/DVD combo/digital combo ($79.98); DVD sets which include one of two mini-helmets representing the Stark and Targaryen clans ($89.99); Blu-ray/DVD/digital combos with the mini-helmets ($99.99) and, through Amazon.com, a limited edition Blu-ray/DVD/digital set with a mock-stone model of a dragon in the casing and other visual additions (which Amazon lists as $129.97 but is currently selling for about $30 less).

But even if you go toy-free, the sets offer extras. The basic DVD includes extended and deleted scenes, audio commentaries and featurettes on new characters and other topics.

The Blu-ray adds more background, guides you can view while watching episodes, and a look at the making of The Rains of Castamere.

‘1964’ documentary

Since 1964 was 50 years ago, a lot of time is being spent on discussions of what that year meant in American history, especially to the baby boomers who recall that time so vividly. (And yes, I am one of those.) PBS’s American Experience tried to treat the breadth and depth of that year in its two-hour documentary 1964, and on Tuesday the program comes to DVD (PBS Video, $24.99).

Written and directed by Stephen Ives, and narrated by Oliver Platt, the program tries to cover everything from the Beatles (also much celebrated elsewhere) to Muhammad Ali, feminism, the civil rights movement and the Ford Mustang. It is a bit dry at times, especially for a period loaded with such passion, but it’s not a bad overview. No extras.

Down video road: The company responsible for the recent DVD release of China Beach with most of its music intact has now promised another longed-for title for 2014: The Wonder Years. The 1989-93 comedy about a family in the late ’60s was a lovely piece of work, but one that was also laden with period music. As with China Beach, getting the music rights — often expensive, sometimes impossible — kept the show from being released in its original form. DVD distributor StarVista Entertainment/Time Life promises it is “painstakingly securing the rights for virtually every song” — and it did a fine job with China Beach.

There’s no specific release date for the Wonder Years DVD yet, but you can check for updates at WonderYearsdvds.com.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the second in the series of blockbuster movies based on the trilogy of novels, comes to DVD and Blu-ray on March 7; it will also be On Demand and on digital platforms that day. The fourth and final season of Eastbound and Down will be in various formats, including DVD and Blu-ray, on May 13.

Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and Ohio.com, including the HeldenFiles Online blog, www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles. He is also on Twitter (@RHeldenfelsABJ) and Facebook. You can contact him at 330-996-3582 or rheldenfels@thebeaconjournal.com.


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