WATCH: HBO’s John Oliver blasts South Carolina for flying Confederate flag at the state house

Add John Oliver to the growing list of critics calling on South Carolina to stop flying the Confederate flag at the state house. The comedian and host of HBO's "Last Week Tonight" blasted the state for allowing the symbol, viewed by many as racist,to fly at the building in Columbia — particularly in the afternath of the murder ofnine black worshippersinside Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston last week. Accused gunman Dylann Roof was reportedly motivated to commit the crime by the white supremacist beliefs heexpressed in a hate-filled manifesto discovered after the crime, including his contention that he "had no choice" but to kill the black churchgoers. OBAMA: PUT THE CONFEDERATE FLAG IN A MUSEUM Oliver began his show by pointing out little has been done to address gun control laws despite a number of high profile mass killings, but he quickly shifted his analysis, focusing on a "symbol" that he said represents the racist attitudes in the South that could have contributed to this tragedy. Oliver said that South Carolina and other states that fly the flag immediately take it down. He also suggested where they could put it. Fold it, or don't bother, put it in a box, label it bad flag and put it somewhere no one can see it. "Fold it, or don't bother, put it in a box, label it 'bad flag' and put it somewhere no one can see it," he said as his audience cheered. "Just a thought. It's just a simple, good thought." The host said now would be a good time, "out of respect not just for the events of this week, but for the events of the past several centuries," he said. "The Confederate flag is one of those symbols that should really only be seen on T-shirts, belt buckles and bumper stickers to help the rest of us identify the worst people in the world," he said. He also disputed the notion that the flag is merely a symbol of history. "I believe the first time the Confederate flag was used in a racist way was the Continue Reading

‘True Detective’ review: Colin Farrell and Vince Vaughn head new team at HBO including Rachel McAdams and Taylor Kitsch

Score a second bullseye for “True Detective.” HBO’s neo-noir crime mystery franchise returns next weekend with a new cast, new city, new era, new case and new look. But the switch to Colin Farrell and Vince Vaughn instead of Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey has left one detail intact. It’s still the kind of show that makes TV viewers reach for phrases like “golden age of television drama.” The second installment of “True Detective” goes out of the way not to echo the first. Acclaim for that inaugural season is still ringing every awards show in the Western world. As drama, though, the new “True” is in the same league. It’s dense and it’s dark. If there were a quiz, you’d have to take notes. But the show breezes through the most important of all viewer tests: At the end of the three episodes, you’re itching to see the fourth. “True Detective” will make a great binge-watch down the line. But it simultaneously reminds us that real-time viewing has its own pleasures, like the suspense of having to wait a week to find out what happens next. If there’s a lead character, and arguably there isn’t, it would be Farrell. He plays Ray Velcoro, a world-weary L.A. cop whose life seems comprised entirely of baggage. He has a serious drinking problem. He has a bad relationship with a family that includes his father, a bitter ex-cop who complains that ever since the O.J. case, the L.A. police haven’t been allowed to go about their business the way they need to. Even more seriously, Ray may have overstepped his law enforcement mandate at some point in the past. The fallout haunts him, as does his continual failure to control his rage. Still, he’s a highly competent cop, which leads him into a mysterious relationship with Vaughn’s Frank Semyon. Semyon is a high-stakes financial hustler who thinks he’s scoring a Continue Reading

HBO adds $3,000 White Walker costumes to ‘Game of Thrones’ merchandise

Springtime may finally be here, but winter is still coming. Especially with life-size White Walkers on the streets of Manhattan. Fortunately, these undead killers are not out for your blood, but they will suck your Visa card dry. At a whopping $3,000 each, the White Walker rubber costume was among the most expensive items displayed Monday at an HBO product showcase presented to coincide with the start “Game of Thrones’ ” fifth season. “These items let fans experience ‘Game of Thrones’ in a different way,” said Laura Greenwood, a director of marketing at HBO. “The show lends itself to life beyond the screen.” For a real fan, these products hint at life in the Seven Kingdoms, minus the dragons and wine. There is beer, though — a dark saison ale ($9.50) from Ommegang Brewery in upstate New York. There’s also a box of dragon eggs ($100), a lifelike bust of Daenerys Targaryen with a baby Viserion ($125) and a deck of playing cards ($7) with an inspiring motto printed on the back of each one: “You win or you die.” In an amusing nod to the 21st century, some Hand of the King pins and dragon eggs come with a USB drive hidden inside ($30-$40). New this year is an official “Game of Thrones” Monopoly set ($60). The players’ pieces are shaped like thrones and crowns instead of top hats and shoes, while the houses and hotels look like buildings you’d see in Westeros rather than Atlantic City, where the original Monopoly game was set. The game will be available in May, along with a new card game called Westeros Intrigue ($10). By then maybe we’ll know which of our favorite characters have had their throats slit this season. Most of the “Game of Thrones” products are available in the HBO store at 1100 Sixth Ave. or from Continue Reading

HBO signs deal with Cablevision to provide HBO Now

Apple TV won't be the only one to offer HBO's new stand-alone service. Cablevision announced today that it signed a deal with HBO to provide HBO Now to Optimum Online customers. That makes Optimum Online the first cable provider to partner with HBO for the streaming service. Cablevision didn't provide any price details, but it said it will announce those details and other news in the coming weeks. HBO Now will cost $14.99 a month on Apple TV and a traditional HBO subscription costs $14.95 on Optimum for regular TV customers. Prices may be similar for HBO Now on Optimum. HBO announced earlier this month that HBO Now will launch in April in time for season 5 of "Game of Thrones." Twitter: @MrAlexAlba Continue Reading

Dwayne Johnson rocks Miami Dolphins uniform in glimpse at new HBO show ‘Ballers’

The Rock looks good in aqua. Dwayne Johnson dons a Miami Dolphins uniform in a new leaked pic from behind the scenes of his forthcoming HBO show "Ballers." According to BroBible, Johnson captioned the now-deleted photo, "I meant to hurt you that day. Nothin' dirty… just to punish. "It's how I played the game — relentless and punishing. #92 Spencer Strasmore #Flashbacks #OfAFutureHallOfFamer." The new half-hour series, debuting later this year, revolves around the lives of several pro and former athletes, but other details remain hush-hush. Johnson, a former Miami Hurricanes defensive tackle, plays Spencer Strasmore, a retired NFL player living in Miami. "Hot Tub Time Machine" star Rob Corddry and newcomer John David Washington, an ex-NFL gridder who is Denzel Washington's son, also appear. Johnson is executive producing the series, along with Mark Wahlberg and "Entourage" partner Steve Levinson. Continue Reading

‘Game of Thrones’ stars aid rollout of HBO’s streaming service; Fox 5 and Writer’s Guild in labor showdown

A brilliant move gives new meaning to the term tech-savvy. In a bid to drive interest for its new stand-alone streaming service, HBO Now, the pay cable channel threw a bash for the U.S. premiere of “Game of Thrones” in San Francisco — the center of the high-tech universe. The new service, which will offer HBO shows on demand for a mere $15 a month, launches on April 12 — the same day that “GoT” premieres. But there’s a catch. The service will at first only be available on Apple devices, like iPhones, iPads and Apple TV. At the premiere, HBO executives noted that holding the event in San Francisco was a natural extension of the channel’s new tech-friendly strategy. “Look at who’s here,” said one high-ranking official, gesturing to the crowd of top tech executives. Representing companies like Craigslist, YouTube, Yahoo and, of course, Apple, the bigwigs mingled with the stars of the show. On hand were Peter Dinklage, Emilia Clarke and Kit Harington. “It’s a huge geek show,” noted the exec. “And this is a huge geek town.” Among the show’s fans are other big bucks Bay Area denizens, like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. He didn’t show, but was on the invite list. All dragons and swordfights aside, people love these characters because of the way that those guys have created them. “We’ve heard he’s a fan,” the exec said. A pair of tickets to the 3,000-person screening and after-party were allegedly auctioned off for $6,000, which then went to charity. “It’s crazy,” said Dinklage about the show’s popularity. “But the reason this show is so good is the storytelling. (Author) George Martin, (executive producers) Dave Benioff and Dan Weiss — they’re beautiful writers and incredible storytellers,” he said. “It’s a pleasure to go to work Continue Reading

Viola Davis to play Harriet Tubman in HBO biopic

LOS ANGELES — “How to Get Away with Murder” star Viola Davis will play Harriet Tubman in a HBO movie about the abolitionist hero. HBO said Monday that the project is based on the biography “Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman,” by historian Kate Clifford Larson. Tubman was born into slavery in Maryland, escaped in 1849 and led countless slaves from the South to freedom along the Underground Railroad. An air date for the untitled project and other cast members were not announced. The Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes and safe houses for escaped slaves, is the subject of other announced TV projects. They include a Stevie Wonder-produced miniseries for NBC, “Freedom Run,” and a WGN America drama, “Underground,” starring Christopher Meloni and Jurnee Smollett-Bell. Continue Reading

HBO Now launching as stand-alone service in early April with Apple as exclusive partner

Apple will be the exclusive launch partner of HBO’s stand-alone streaming service named HBO Now, the network’s CEO Richard Plepler announced at Monday’s Apple event. The service, which will cost $14.99 a month, will offer the network’s content — such as the Game of Thrones series, as well as movies on-demand — without having to subscribe to a cable or satellite tv subscription. Plepler said the service will become available in early April, and can be watched on Apple TV, iPhone and iPad apps. The network's original HBO Go streaming service is currently available on other platforms such as Roku, Android, Amazon FIre TV, Xbox and PlayStation when purchased as part of a cable or satellite subscription. No announcement has been made yet as to when the stand-alone edition will be available on non-Apple platforms. Follow @NYDNTech on Twitter for more updates from Monday's Apple announcements. Follow on Twitter @MikeJSorrentino Continue Reading

HBO Now, Uber team up for #RideofThrones experience: ‘Game of Thrones’ fans can get a chance to sit on the Iron Throne in NYC

New Yorkers: Spring is coming — and so is the Iron Throne. Uber has teamed up with HBO Now to celebrate the new stand-alone streaming service, which provides TV viewers access to HBO content, including the hit drama “Game of Thrones.” For those who’ve dreamed of taking over the Iron Throne from the warring clans of Westeros, they have the opportunity to do just that with Uber’s #RideofThrones experience. Taking place in Midtown Manhattan on Thursday and Friday, fans can summon the Iron Throne using the Uber app in two ways: They can request a visit from the throne encased in a glass truck (think of it as the Throne-mobile), or ask for a ride from a throne pedicab. Here’s how it works: When Uber users enter the promotion code “ThroneRides” in the Uber app, the HBO Now option will appear as an additional car selection. Riders can either choose “THRONE” to take photos with the throne in the glass truck or “PEDICAB” for a ride in the throne pedicab. Multiple Throne-mobiles and pedicabs will be reigning over Manhattan between 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the radius of 14th to 59th Sts. and Lexington to 9th Ave. (this includes both pick-up and drop-off). Fans are encouraged to share their photos with the throne on social media using the hashtags #RIDEOFTHRONES and #GETHBONOW. ON A MOBILE DEVICE? WATCH THE VIDEO HERE. Continue Reading

‘Veep’ creator Armando Iannucci quits HBO series after four seasons

“Veep” has lost its Commander-in-Chief. The HBO comedy’s creator Armando Iannucci is leaving the series after four seasons, he announced Friday on Twitter. The surprising news comes just days before the show’s Season 4 premiere on Sunday. “We have had conversations with Armando for some time about the challenges of maintaining his family life in London and producing a show in the states,” a network rep said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “Armando is not replaceable but we are confident that ‘Veep’ will continue to be produced at the highest levels with new showrunner David Mandel. David has worked with HBO for many years as executive producer, writer and director for ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm.’” HBO has yet to officially order a fifth season of the political comedy starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, but with Mandel on board, a renewal seems likely. The season premiere of “Veep” airs Sunday at 10:30 p.m. on HBO. Continue Reading