[img]http://getsomegrapesoda.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/gijoe-retaliation-blu-ray-combo-pack-cover-art.jpg[/img]Releasing/Participating Studio(s): Paramount/MGM/Hasbro
Disc/Transfer Information: Region A; 2.40:1 (Original Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1); 1080p High Definition 50GB Blu-ray Disc
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Running Time: 110 Minutes
Tested Audio Track: English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (Tested in 5.1 Configuration)
Director: Jon M. Chu
Starring Cast: Channing Tatum, Bruce Willis, Dwayne Johnson, Adrianne Palicki, Ray Stevenson, Joseph Mazzello
All it takes is a couple of minutes into watching this to know that Jon Chu’s sequel is leap years better, more involving and far less cheesy and quasi-cartoonish than Stephen Sommers’ original. It can almost stand on its own as blockbuster action flick, of course thanks to the somewhat rudimentary casting nowadays of folks like Willis and Johnson in these types of films; and, as always, Johnson chews up the scenery he’s in with brooding, muscular presence and testosterone-fueled fury while Willis attempts to again change the shadow of himself and step out of the “John McClane” limelight, but to no avail: Those same off-putting smirks, grimaces, attempts at unsettling one-liners and even his annoying-to-look-at-now bald head all come to the forefront again in this as it does in everything he’s been doing pretty much since Die Hard With a Vengeance. But, the kicker of this whole film – and I’ll get to this in the technical analysis area – was one of the most rambunctious, aggressive, overcooked (in a good way) and tactile sound mixes I have ever heard in my time dabbling in this hobby. I mean, WOW…THIS is what high resolution audio should SOUND and FEEL like is what I thought as I sat through action sequence after action sequence on this disc. Couple that with the fact that I can’t remember the last time I noted a TrueHD track on a Blu-ray coming with a 7.1 surround arrangement configuration – if at all – and you have the makings of a disc that can be utilized for nothing else than picture and sound demonstrations if the film itself doesn’t butter your proverbial bread.
Seriously ‘Shacksters – the 7.1 TrueHD track in English on the Region A disc of G.I. Joe: Retaliation was an experience that blew me away…and I’m difficult to impress in this area. I couldn’t help but think how disappointing blockbusters such as The Avengers were in the sound department as compared to this title, and that made me a bit melancholy – honestly, the 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio of Avengers came off as weak, wimpy and a bit lean in the rear soundstage compared to the hefty, brooding almost air-pressurizing track Paramount and MGM equipped Retaliation with. Note: I mentioned Avengers because this was a Blu-ray release carrying a 7.1 surround mix as the subject of this review – and while both were played back on my 5.1 system arrangement, Retaliation completely blew it out of the water and presented something I never heard before since the launch of this format. Normally, 7.1 tracks played back on my system suffer from what I like to call the “dumbing down effect” – that is, something goes wrong when the back surround channel information is “collapsed” into the standard two surrounds when these tracks are played back on a system that doesn’t contain back surrounds…difficult to describe, essentially these audio tracks lose something that’s been confirmed by many others that experience this with 5.1 setups. I heard it in Captain America, Thor and Avengers – but not here on G.I. Joe: Retaliation. This was an absolute blast to demo in TrueHD and should become the next de facto standard for retailers in their demo rooms (do these still exist?) as U-571 and Jurassic Park (both in DTS flavor) were in the heyday of DVD.
Making Retaliation smell even sweeter was a story and film far better than what we got with the cartoon-y, cheesy original – some of the same people reprise some roles here such as Channing Tatum’s “Duke,” Adrianne Palicki’s “Jaye,” Byung-hun Lee’s “Storm Shadow” and Jonathan Pryce’s American President character. New to the film are a couple of super-villains such as “Firefly” (Ray Stevenson) as well as a couple of new additions to the “Joe” team like Dwayne Johnson’s “Roadblock” and Bruce Willis’ “General Joe Colton.” As I mentioned earlier, it seems the trend now to throw together names like Johnson and Willis when constructing an action film of any kind not only for marquee benefits but to seemingly continue the path carved by projects such as The Expendables; regardless of factor, I have to admit I was pulled into the trailers by the mentioning of these two guys. And…can I say…is Adrianne Palicki one of the most scalding-hot actresses on the planet…or what? :bigsmile:
What director Chu goes for here is “right for the throat” – there isn’t a moment, really, in Retaliation that slows down or gets sappy, romantic or otherwise boring…the action hits you in the face non-stop and continues to pummel your senses like a video game gone haywire. Still, in the midst of all this chaos, the effects, staging and stuntwork all come off leagues and yards better than they did in the first film – gone is all the hokey, video game-like CGI work we saw in that film, all of it replaced by pretty professional-looking action sequences that don’t exhibit much of any cheesiness. And, of course there is the aforementioned eye candy that is Palicki…especially in a red formal ensemble she steps into in order to infiltrate a presidential dinner event (a rather eye-opening moment). The fireworks go off from the very opening frame, in which Channing Tatum’s Duke character begins narrating the situation that’s at hand since the end of the last film. He is now a leader of the G.I. Joe team, and, remarkably, under him are Johnson’s muscular “Roadblock” and the gorgeous Jaye (Palicki). We don’t see Dennis Quaid make an appearance here, but I think it was for the best. The opening sequence has the Joes attempting to secure a nuclear weapon in an Asian country but when their mission is complete, Roadblock notices the Cobra flag fluttering in the breeze overhead…and he knows they’re going to be in for a fight of their lives.
Perhaps most questionable – at the least – about one of Chu’s decisions in working the plot was the one in which he chooses to kill of Tatum’s character not even halfway through the film; during a vicious attack by Cobra commanders on the G.I. Joe basecamp, Duke is wiped out, making Roadblock the leader Jaye and another Joe named “Flint” look to now. What they don’t yet know is that the President of the United States (Jonathan Pryce) is not really the President at all – but rather a calculated shape-shifting Cobra villain working for Cobra Commander (Robert Baker in voiceover) that has taken his identity in the White House to secretly plot a world domination scheme with his fellow Cobras. The real President, meanwhile, is being held captive in an underground bunker, subjected to the wild ravings and insults from the Cobra villain pretending to be him. What the Joes also don’t know yet is that this presidential imposter had the Joe basecamp attacked to make it look like the Joes bailed out on their country when they needed them the most, thus he was forced to attack them by way of this Cobra fleet (all this gets a bit thick and hokey but you have to just go with it if you know what’s good for you). The “President” explains all this in a press conference to the country – and the world – but that’s not the half of what’s about to happen.
Roadblock, Jaye and Flint retreat to Roadblock’s old stomping grounds – which turns out to be a rather crime-and-homeboys-on-the corner-riddled ‘hood – to kind of catch their breath from the attack they survived on the basecamp, taking shelter in an abandoned youth recreation center. Meanwhile, a bunch of subplots splinter at this point, one involving the whereabouts of both super ninjas from the first film, Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes – in a sequence depicting what appears to be Snake Eyes in his black armor getup being captured by Cobra operatives who take him to a secret prison of some kind, we learn that this wasn’t really Snake Eyes but rather his dire adversary, Storm Shadow. He “pretends” to be Snake Eyes, a captured Joe operative, to get into this facility only to break out of his cryostasis-like holding capsule and to aid in the escape of Cobra villains Zartan (Arnold Vosloo) and Cobra Commander as well (however, Zartan doesn’t last long, leaving Cobra Commander to rule the roost). Now with these maniacs back on the loose, the group leaves to reteam with the imposter posing as the U.S. President in order to carry out their plan of unleashing the powerful ZEUS weapon orbiting in space.
What bothered me here was the inclusion and eventual meeting of Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow – didn’t Snake ultimately wipe out Storm in their hand-to-hand fight at the end of the first film…or did I have that wrong? In any event, we catch up with Storm’s incredibly powerful adversary, Snake, who ends up going to meet with the “Blind Master” (RZA) at their “ninja headquarters” so to speak; the Master informs Snake he must find Storm and bring him back to this place to face justice for how he had disgraced and brutally killed their previous Master (events from the first film) and to stop him from further joining the antics of the evil Cobra organization. In one of the most exciting, excellently-choreographed sequences in the film, Snake and his new ninja partner “Jinx” engage Storm and a band of super-ninjas atop a mountain range in an outrageous martial-arts fight that will leave you somewhat breathless. First, Storm and his old adversary duke it out again in a one-on-one battle with swords, fists and ridiculously fast martial-arts antics, which spills to the mountains outside in which Storm and his ninja team battle Snake and Jinx with attached wires to fling from mountain to mountain; the sequence is kinetic and represents everything the first film should have been about but that ultimately failed.
Roadblock and the surviving Joes, meanwhile, make their way to the home of General Joe Colton (Willis) in a sequence that reminded me all too much of the presence Willis exudes in RED or perhaps those direct-to-video stinkers he’s been in lately; Colton was the military soldier of all military soldiers, declared MIA and never intending to step foot on another battlefield. His home is absolutely loaded with weapons everywhere the team looks – under sinks, beneath floorboards, inside kitchen cabinets…when Roadblock tells him their theory that the President may not be who he says he is, the General decides to accompany the team for one last mission. Thus begins the climax of Retaliation, in which the team must bust in on a nuclear summit the President is having with other world leaders before this rogue Cobra shape-shifter working for Cobra Commander can threaten launch of the hideous ZEUS weapon. In the midst of this summit comes Cobra Commander who, with his Darth Vader-esque presence and mask breathing, takes over the situation at the summit after the “President” creates a mock nuclear strike on all these countries. This quasi-final sequence was fun and campy, and you can see how Jonathan Pryce, playing his “evil alter ego,” had fun with the role. The Joes, ultimately, have to stop the launch of the ZEUS weapon before the Cobras can initiate the destruction of their targeted cities around the world, including Israel, France and Korea…and one of the only ways to do that is for Roadblock to hunt down Firefly who has the final command briefcase containing the launch protocols, which leads to the culminating confrontation between the two muscle-bound behemoths (I will get to that below).
What bothered me most about Retaliation was the lack of screen time Willis was given after all the hints regarding his involvement in the story the trailers provided. I realize I stated that he’s becoming an annoying caricature of himself in these action films, but it would have been cool if he had some more screen time with Johnson given the nature of the trailer suggestions. Further, speaking of Johnson, I would have liked more hand-to-hand combat scenes with him against one of the new Cobra adversaries introduced here, namely “Firefly” – given the nature of Johnson’s physique and his commanding physical presence in projects like this and the last couple of Fast and Furious films, the fight sequences staged for him in Retaliation weren’t all that satisfying. Sure, he kicks Firefly’s also-physically-brooding tail all over the place in the final fight scene between them at the very end, but their first confrontation earlier in the film has Firefly throwing Roadblock around like he’s a teddy bear, and this just didn’t make sense to me; in this sequence, which takes place in a city alleyway, Roadblock barely gets any punches in before Firefly injures him to the point he has difficulty walking.
You know what, though? This was a cool action flick, even standing on its own and not part of this “franchise” – much better executed than Sommers’ first film, G.I. Joe: Retaliation kept the action quota up, not really slowing down for any extended amount of time, and included much better attempts at special effect manipulation and action setpiece staging. And yes, I’ll say this again: Adrianne Palicki is gorgeous in this. Oh – and I almost forgot: We get a surprising twist in the way of the once-evil Storm Shadow turning sides and fighting with the Joes and adversary Snake Eyes after a change of heart about what Cobra stands for and what their plans are. Although he does mention that he’s “not really on the side of the Joes” but will fight with them for this “last mission”…so we’ll have to see where his character goes next if there’s another entry.
This sequel – as I kind of suspected it would – injected new hope and interest for me in this series and made me anticipate the possibility of a third entry. While I’m not 100-percent certain if it’s a must-buy on Blu-ray yet, it was definitely an entertaining watch as a rental.
[img]http://turntherightcorner.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/g-i-joe-retaliation-screenshot-19.jpg?w=1024[/img]VIDEO QUALITY ANALYSIS: HOW DID THE DISC LOOK?
While the audio on this Blu-ray release was absolutely jaw-dropping and ear-splitting, the 2.40:1 widescreen 1080p encode was nearly as stunning – from the opening frame to the concluding frame, G.I. Joe: Retaliation exhibited wildly rich and saturated hues, eye-popping details and a blemish-free high definition presentation on par with any reference material out there currently. What I did notice were skin tones that were on the sunburned side, especially in Dwayne Johnson’s character which appeared almost Aztec gold-ish in appearance in certain scenes; the closer I inspected this throughout the film’s run time, the more I noticed other characters displaying this “sunburned” look with flesh tones that seemed too dark and saturated. However, there are a multitude of possibilities here: It could have been for effect, the actors could have definitely had some tan characteristics to them during filming or it could have been my display exhibiting darker-than-usual elements. I also noted during a sequence involving most of the Joes standing around looking at a computer screen that Palicki’s character was analyzing the President’s voice on that this “sunburned skin” effect kind of switched back and forth between very dark characteristics to more subtle tan overtones, sometimes touching on normal flesh color. I don’t know if this was an abnormality in the transfer or something my eyes “wanted” to see, but I did point it out during viewing.
However, that aside, everything here is on vivid display to showcase what the Blu-ray format can do – Paramount, in conjunction with MGM Studios, really hit one out of the park with Retaliation, moving beyond the candy-coated CGI-endowed “cartoonish” look of the first film’s Blu-ray transfer to deliver a much more naturally pleasing video encode that will really blow you away visually. Closeups of characters’ faces are ripe with bursting, incredibly vivid detail such as facial stubble and pock marks while the searing hot landscapes of desert sequences explode with comparable color temperatures through this transfer that really make the viewer feel as though he or she is there enduring that climate. From the vivid yet dazzlingly accurate red of Palicki’s jaw-dropping gown in the presidential dinner sequence to the absolutely rock-solid, inky rich and noise-free blacks of the darker shadow-endowed scenes, this was a top-caliber transfer.
[img]http://www.joblo.com/video/media/screenshot/g-i-joe-retalition-featurette-characters.jpg[/img]AUDIO QUALITY ANALYSIS: HOW DID THE DISC SOUND?
WOW. WOW. WOW. INCREDIBLE. AWESOME. BEYOND REPROACH. :hsd::hsd::hsd::hsd::hsd::hsd:
Did I express how I felt about this title's Dolby TrueHD 7.1 English mix on the Region A release well enough? Let’s start with the decision by Paramount and MGM to include this certain codec on this release: I was refreshed to see that G.I. Joe: Retaliation didn’t come equipped with the pre-requisite DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack found on all releases in recent vintage; not because I dislike the format for any reason, but because they’ve all begun to kind of…well…I don’t know…”sound the same” as if they’re all mastered at the same levels (of course, this isn’t true for every title equipped with a DTS MA track like Dark Knight Rises which was a real wall-shaker). But once I got beyond that, I was shocked to see this mix in a 7.1 configuration for a Dolby TrueHD track – actually, I can’t recall the last one I demoed. But all these “formalities” found their way to the "back of the importance pile" when the track began and the film started.
Though the mix was “dumbed down” to a 5.1 situation in my setup, from the very beginning opening Paramount and MGM logos I knew this TrueHD track was something special – the ferocity of the “flying stars” in the Paramount logo sequence ripped through my system with an aggressiveness I never experienced on any other Paramount-sanctioned Blu-ray and I was able to pick up on a sheer “heft” in this mix that had my walls rumbling from the very onset. Once the action picked up, this track went from aggressive to ridiculously and lavishly overcooked to the point it had me yelling over the audio at my wife “NOW THIS IS WHAT HIGH RESOLUTION AUDIO SHOULD SOUND LIKE!” The bombastic weight of the bass that you could feel in your chest, the non-stop barrage of surround cues, the ultra-hyper and aggressive whipping of action support elements around the entire room and soundstage…it was all here and more, making for one of the most engaging, house-shaking tracks I’ve ever demoed. I’m NOT kidding or exaggerating.
Major action sepieces like the ninja fight atop the mountain were accompanied by explosive, bombastic audio that dragged me into the scene and just didn’t let go – directionality of effects was completely off the charts, with whipping surround elements flying this way and that through the surround channels as characters fought, swords clanged and things blew up. Dialogue remained constantly effective and clear all throughout this tumult, if sometimes getting a bit “stuffy” and “nasally” but the meat and potatoes of this track was the action and surround information – wow. Honestly, I really haven’t experienced a mix with such overt strength, weight and raw in-your-face presence as the TrueHD track found on G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Even major releases that carried excellent audio mixes such as Dark Knight, Dark Knight Rises, The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man 2 couldn’t match the wild sonics and dynamic range on display here. This was one wild ride, and to me is the new sound standard by which all subsequent action releases should be judged against.
I enjoyed it better than the first one, but I kind of expected that. A good action flick that wasn’t boring, really that overtly cheesy or off-putting, G.I. Joe: Retaliation keeps your attention until almost the very end. I am actually now looking forward to a third one if any plans to make one come to fruition.
As for the disc itself – this is pure demo material. The video, while awesome and eye-opening, takes a back seat to the audio which will bring down your house if the master volume is cranked loud enough. Take care how your system is calibrated and configured – something I warned of the DTS track on the DVD release of Spielberg’s bone-crunching War of the Worlds when it came out – because this Dolby TrueHD track is mastered so hot, you may not realize the sheer power this track can deliver to “aggressively set” channel decibel parameters. While I’m not certain if this is a sure buy for me yet, the disc can stand alone as a demonstration piece when you want to show off your system to friends or family.
Come on, fellow ‘Shacksters! Let’s talk G.I. Joe: Retaliation!