Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.
Connor Bynum // Film Critic
GAME OF THRONES: THE COMPLETE SEVENTH SEASON
Just in time to ease the news that its eighth and final season has been delayed until 2019, HBO is releasing GAME OF THRONES: THE COMPLETE SEVENTH SEASON on Blu-ray for the holidays. Since new seasons of the show usually make their way to home video in the spring, this is an interesting decision to say the least, but a welcome one at that.
Season Grade: A-
After surpassing the storylines in the existing source material with its sixth season in 2016, GAME OF THRONES has grown to feel less like an adaptation of an epic book series and more like an epic television series. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but viewers who have grown accustomed to unexpected twists and shocking character deaths may be frustrated as the show has seemingly embraced a more traditional (i.e. predictable) narrative structure. Gone are the days where nobody is safe. The show killed off those guys long ago. This may change with Season 8, but for now it’s clear the producers have reached the bottom of the barrel of expendable characters. That being said, a weaker season of GAME OF THRONES is still a fantastic viewing experience.
In the world of Westeros, winter has finally arrived as well as three new monarchs. Jon Snow (Kit Harington) is the newly appointed King In The North, and is in search of a way to combat the fast approaching army of the dead. To the East, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) at long last makes her return to her homeland to reclaim her rightful place on the Iron Throne. Determined to stop her, Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) does everything in her power to keep the throne for herself. With thrilling battle sequences and betrayals at every corner, the players may have changed, but the game has just begun.
Video/Audio Grade: A
While HBO has shown that they are fully capable of releasing superb 4K UHD content with the recent release of WESTWORLD, this series is once again only available on Blu-ray and DVD. That being said, the image quality is nothing short of glorious. Fine details of dragon scales, battered armor, and even facial textures stand out with abundant clarity. There are occasional moments where the darker scenes would have benefitted from the added color depth of HDR, but GAME OF THRONES has never looked better.
On the audio front, this season comes with a Dolby Atmos track to make home theater enthusiasts squeal with delight. Clashing swords, thundering stampedes of Dothraki hordes, and deafening dragon cries will threaten to wake the neighbors. Overall, this Blu-ray offers the best GAME OF THRONES experience available.
Extras Grade: B-
Season 7 marks a shift in the way supplemental material is presented. The “In Episode Guide” returns to assist viewers who may not remember every single detail or character from its 67 episodes. This would usually come in either the form of a brief reading selection or an animated featurette narrated by a particular character. The latter of these two mediums has often been a means by which the audience can familiarize themselves with the rich history of Westeros that reaches well beyond what the show itself actually covers. It’s also noticeably absent from the feature this time around. Instead, these animated shorts have been compiled into one 45- minute feature on its own separately packaged Blu-Ray titled GAME OF THRONES: CONQUEST & REBELLION. The fact that Season 7 is the first in the series to break the ten episode formula, and therefore ship with fewer discs, only makes the decision to separately package this new disc all the more confusing. While the content on the disc itself is gorgeous to watch and wonderfully crafted, having to deal with two individual packages simply feels needlessly clunky.
Blu-ray™ & DVD Exclusive Bonus Features Include:
· Conquest & Rebellion: An Animated History of the Seven Kingdoms- From the Game of Thrones realm comes the never-before-seen story of the tumultuous events that shaped the world of Westeros for thousands of years before the series start. Cast members Pilou Asbæk (Euron Greyjoy), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister), Aidan Gillen (Littlefinger), Conleth Hill (Varys), Harry Lloyd (Viserys Targaryen) and Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark) team up to narrate the animated telling of Aegon Targaryen’s attempts to conquer the Seven Kingdoms, written by show writer Dave Hill.
· From Imagination to Reality: Inside the Art Department- Extensive two-part featurette detailing the astonishing work of Production Designer Deborah Riley and her Art Department, dissecting the process behind the creation of this season’s incredible new sets, including Dragonstone, Casterly Rock, Highgarden, the Dragonpit, and more.
· Fire & Steel: Creating the Invasion of Westeros- Revisit this season’s most pivotal moments with this behind-the-scenes featurette, including interviews with key cast and crew breaking down how fans’ favorite moments were created.
· Audio Commentaries- Commentaries on every episode with cast and crew including David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, Jacob Anderson, Gwendoline Christie, Liam Cunningham, Kit Harington, Lena Headey, and more.
Blu-ray™ Exclusive Bonus Features Include:
· Histories and Lore- 7 new animated pieces that give the history and background of notable season 7 locations and storylines including The Dragonpit, Highgarden, Prophecies of the Known World, the Rains of Castamere and more all narrated by cast members including Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Aidan Gillen, Iain Glen and more.
· In-Episode Guides- In-feature resource that provides background information about on-screen characters and locations.
Digital Download Exclusive Bonus Features Include:
· Creating the North and Beyond- Behind-the-scenes featurette delving into the massive undertaking of creating and filming the battle in Episode 6 of Season 7.
Final Grade: B+
While the narrative beats may not be as shocking as previous outings, this is easily one of the best looking and most action packed seasons of GAME OF THRONES to date. The wait for Season 8 is sure to be a long night. Best keep yourself warm with some dragon fire.