- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Father’s Day is this Sunday and here are a few last-minute gift suggestions for the dad who loves binge watching television shows in his home entertainment room.

Game of Thrones: The Complete Fourth Season, Steelbook Collectors Set (HBO Home Entertainment, Unrated, $79.98) — The popular cable network’s award-winning adaptation of author George R.R. Martin’s medieval fantasy saga offers an updated Blu-ray package sure to deliver a devilish grin on Westeros-loving fathers.

Continuing the cutthroat and complex stories of a never-ending collection of characters, viewers follow the blood-letting and political intrigue of the Seven Kingdoms to see which powerful faction will ultimately control the Iron Throne.

Through 10 episodes offering a most enjoyable screen-filling (1.78:1-aspect ratio) presentation, the fourth season kept the fans focused on events leading to Tyrion’s trial by combat spectacle, Daenerys Targaryen’s emerging dragons, King Joffrey’s ill-fated wedding and the intense battle at the 800-foot-tall wall of ice between an army of wildling and the Night’s Watch.

Each episode also arrives with a Dolby Atmos sound remix (for viewers with a compatible speaker system) that allows an enveloping aural experience complementing the fantastic digital transfers.

Best extras: It’s more than safe to report that HBO’s interactive bonus content and avalanche of extras highlight the best of what the Blu-ray medium can offer.


SEE ALSO: Father’s Day Gift Guide: Cool tech toys for dad


Fans and newbies will love a whopping 11 optional commentary tracks featuring Mr. Martin and stars such as Kit Harington (Jon Snow), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister) and Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister) as well as a look at the wall battle and a roundtable discussion with the actors whose characters die during the season.

Best of all, viewers can immerse themselves in an interactive, encyclopedic-rich resource available in every episode that covers minutia on locations, characters and mythologies of the series highlighted by 16 animated shorts.

And, as with all of the steelbook releases, the fourth season of discs are not only encased in a metallic hard-shell case but it also comes with an ornate magnet, this time featuring Jon Snow’s sword, Longclaw, a crow and Night’s Watch oath emblazoned on a shield-shaped crest.

By the way, the first three seasons ($79.98) are available with the same packaging and additional magnets that make for a tempting collection for the complete “Game of Thrones” binge-watching experience.

Roots: The Complete Original Series (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Not Rated, $44.98) — Debuting for the first time on Blu-ray, ABC Network’s award-winning, 8-part adaptation of Alex Haley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book about his slave heritage gets crisply remastered (4:3 original aspect ratio) from the 1977 broadcast masters and arrives on a 3-disc set.

For those unfamiliar, the impactful story delivers a powerful expose of dehumanization and discrimination in America from the years 1750 to 1865 revolving around Kunta Kinte, a teen captured in Africa and sold into slavery, and the evolution of his family. Throughout the saga, it’s an emotional message of perseverance and hope

Starring a young Levar Burton as Kunta, the episodic series featured an incredible support cast delivering iconic performances including Ben Vereen as Chicken George Moore, Louis Gossett, Jr. as Fiddler, Leslie Uggams as Kizzy Reynolds, John Amos as Toby, Cicely Tyson as Binta, Georg Stanford Brown as Tom Harvey, Scatman Crothers as Mingo and Lorne Greene as John Reynolds.

Best extras: Not only does the presentation impress, but also the bonus content equally shines. Start with a 36-minute vintage interview with Haley by David Frost to learn of the real story’s origins. The author died in 1992.

Next, a pair of current day retrospectives offer about an hour’s worth of memories with original stars from the series along with other actors, professors and politicians discussing “Roots” impact on pop culture and history. A wide range of interviews feature Mr. Burton, Mr. Amos, Mr. Gossett Jr., Mr. Vereen, Miss Tyson, James Earl Jones, Debbie Allen, Whoopi Goldberg and Christopher Haley.

The package also contains a 32-page, color booklet offering a synopsis of each episode and plenty of images of the cast.

Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Complete Series (CBS Home Entertainment, Not Rated, $208.99) — While in the midst of the 50th anniversary celebration of Gene’ Roddenberry’s iconic science-fiction show, this bundle of intelligent television will keep Trekkie dads tied up in the entertainment room for weeks.

The original “Star Trek” television show set the tone for the action, amazing technology and intense character-driven mythology, but most critics and fans will agree that the seven-year run of “The Next Generation” truly set the standard for “Star Trek” universe, cementing its place in pop culture.

This repackaged set compiles all 178 episodes on 41 Blu-ray discs spread out over two plastic containers, introducing the adventures of legends such as Capt. Jean Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), Lt. Cmdr. Data (Brent Spiner), Lt. Worf (Michael Dorn), ship’s counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), Cmdr. William T. Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton).

However, what’s truly noteworthy here is that the set contains all of the recently remastered to high-definition episodes presented in the original 4:3-aspect ratio.

For those unaware, CBS Digital artisans took the original 35-mm camera negatives, rescanned them and reassembled each show, even bothering to rebuild special effects shots from scratch to deliver the incredibly rich color and clarity. They combined the new look with an enhanced DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound mix for a truly memorable experience.

Best extras: All of the extras from the individually packages sets (sans the inclusion of the cut-together, two-part episodes) are included. That means access to an enormous amount of vintage production chronicles, retrospectives and interviews, hours worth of multipart documentaries highlighted by a cast reunion and over a dozen optional commentary tracks with writer Ronald D. Moore, Trek historians Mike and Denise Okuda and even Seth McFarlane.

Gift givers with a small cash pile burning a hole in their tricorders might also consider bundling “The Next Generation” set with “Star Trek: The Original Series” ($99.99, 79 episodes).

The original series ran for three seasons from 1966 to 1969 and offered the excessive acting stylings of William Shatner (Capt. James T. Kirk), Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock) and DeForest Kelley (Dr. Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy).

It is one heck of a nostalgia trip for the hard-core fan and features all of the meticulously remastered versions of each episode (more original camera negative scanning and cleaning and even reproducing the musical score with new musicians) along with more extras (ranging from rare home movies to vintage interviews and the uncut, original pilot) than you shake a reproducing Tribble at.

Veep: The Complete Fourth Season (HBO Home Entertainment, Not Rated, $34.98) — Emmy-award-winning actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus returned for another season of political hijinks on HBO as the foul-mouthed and bumbling Selena Meyers, the U.S. vice president thrust into the role of commander in chief after her boss’ resignation.

Through 10 episodes in the season, featuring immaculate screen-filling digital transfers, fans are taken through President Meyers’ attempt to stay in office through a chaotic and painful election process while juggling her daily duties.

The ensemble cast continues to shine with Anna Chlumsky as Amy Brookheimer (campaign manager), Tony Hale as Gary Walsh (President Meyers’ personal aid), Kevin Dunn as gruff Ben Cafferty (White House Chief of Staff) and Timothy Simons as the universally hated and idiotic Jonah Ryan (a White House liaison).

Guest stars that made an impact this season included Patton Oswalt as the male-genitalia-fondling Teddy Sykes (as chief of staff for the current vice president) and Hugh Laurie as Tom James (senator and President Meyers’ running mate).

No kidding gift-givers, this is the funniest show on the air and the pair of discs deliver at least 300 minutes of laughs and residual chuckles for dad.

Best extras: Although rather disappointing but still pretty funny, each disc offers easy access to deleted scenes usually shown at the end of each episode when originally aired on HBO.


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