The two big releases this week offer fans plenty of gritty action. The first is an overly convoluted, big budget adventure story starring The Rock, while the second is filled with more unknown actors, putting in breakthrough performance over at the subscription cable network Cinemax. Both G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Banshee have their moments, but if neither are what you are looking for, you can read on to learn about some of July 30th’s best releases, and maybe even a few that may have slipped under your radar.

“G.I.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation Blu-ray
For the first 15 minutes of G.I. Joe: Retaliation, director Jon M. Chu deftly mixes action and wit, getting us on board with a team of G.I. Joes that includes Channing Tatum, Dwayne Johnson, Adrianne Palicki, D.J. Cotrona and more. That plotline derails quickly, with a revenge story, a presidential conspiracy, and even ninjas all finding their way into the same narrative. This isn’t you regular G.I. Joe movie, it’s Retaliation.

The flick is more of an underdog fight than we’ve seen from the crew of the Joes. After tragedy befalls the G.I. Joe community, the remaining Joes do some undercover detective work, eventually determining that a bad guy named Zartan (Arnold Vosloo) is impersonating the President (Jonathan Pryce) in order to take control of the United States’ power and weapons. Since no one else is the wiser about this scheme, it’s up to the Joes to take the bad guy down, thereby saving the planet from destruction. First though, they’ll need a little help from a man named General Joseph Colton (Bruce Willis).

That plot doesn’t seem particularly complicated, but when audiences get into the details, there’s a whole lot more that must be explained. For instance, Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee) and Cobra Commander (Luke Bracey) are back on the scene and are tracked down by Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and Jinx (Elodie Young) thanks to a tip-off from a ninja master played by none other than Wu-Tang Clan member RZA. When this plotline collides with the one with the Joes it becomes a little difficult to keep track of who is fighting for whom, and why.

Still, if you wanted a reason to watch a bunch of famous faces come together in the same movie and kick ass via guns, ninja antics, and other hand-to-hand combat, G.I. Joe: Retaliation may be the movie for you. The flick doesn’t ever hold back in terms of action and its easy to see why the movie did decently domestically and quite well worldwide, pulling in more than $335 million. Even when language doesn’t translate well in other countries, action will, and G.I. Joe: Retaliation certainly pulls out all the stops. The movie isn’t exactly for the thinking man and woman, but it is a wild ride.

Paramount Home Media Distribution has put together a pretty nice Blu-ray set for the flick, which also includes a DVD and Ultra Violet copy. The set is even offering a neat little promotional opportunity. For a limited time, owners of the Blu-ray or Blu-ray 3D copies of the film are able to receive a free set of G.I. Joe dog tags that will be personalized. It’s touches like this that have made the movie successful, and have set the series up for a third film.

You can order G.I. Joe: Retaliation over at Amazon.

Best Special Feature: The menu is one of the strong points of the Blu-ray. When initially turning on the movie, I was able to choose between a G.I. Joe menu page and a Cobra menu page, both of which offer different menu backdrops. The special features for the set are also fairly extensive, with the bulk of the bonus features marked under “G.I. Joe Declassified.”

The bonus features marked under this name are each very different but all give us behind-the-scenes looks at the making of the film, focusing on some of the most important scenes and action sequences. Yesterday, we brought you an exclusive look at one of the swordplay sequences present in the film. The segment gives you a good idea of the sort of stuff available with the set.

Other Special Features:
Commentary by Director Jon M. Chu and Producer Lorenzo Di Bonaventura
Deleted Scenes


“Banshee
Banshee: The Complete First Season DVD
Banshee: The Complete First Season is a brutal, violent set of episodes offering a look into a small town chock full of dark secrets. There’s enough sex to prove the series has Alan Ball behind it and enough thought involved to make Banshee more than the average action flick. Cinemax has found success with shows like Strike Back, but none has found a niche like Banshee, a show that may set the tone on Cinemax for years to come.

Programs featuring violence are fond of writing male characters who prefer action to thought. Over at Syfy this year, Defiance introduced us to Lawkeeper Nolan (Grant Bowler), a man whose first instinct is to react rather than think his way through a given situation. On the surface, Nolan and Banshee’s own Sheriff Lucas Hood (Antony Starr) are similarly action-oriented, but unlike Nolan, Hood always keeps his wits about him. His violent tendencies are calculated and his tongue is sharp. There’s plenty that’s complicated about Hood, and Banshee is full of characters like him, including Menonite turned crime lord with perverted sexual tendencies Kai Proctor (Ulrich Thomsen) and gangster daughter turned housewife Carrie (Ivana Milicevic), who have bent the rules and shaped their environment and personalities to be unlike anything else television has to offer.

Subscription cable networks have offered us intricate characters and violence before, but Banshee’s wild, small town antics are a little different. From a New York City chase scene to a rave on an Amish farm, the show always feels a little larger than life, but that’s half of its charm, and its horror.

Interestingly, if you purchase a copy of Banshee, HBO Home Entertainment is also offering fans a copy of the first episode of the aforementioned Strike Back, likely hoping to get you to subscribe to HBO’s sister station Cinemax, which Banshee calls home. These pilot episodes are always nice if its something you’ve been wanting to get into, but Strike Back is already gearing up for a third season on the network and a first season episode is not helpful for anyone who has watched the show at all.

You can order Banshee: The Complete First Season over at Amazon.

Best Special Feature: The Blu-ray has some bonus features the DVD does not, but since we are working with a DVD copy, here, the most exciting extra is probably “Banshee Origins,” which takes a look at where different characters were at different points of time before the events taking place during the show. Added scenes include time with Hood before he was Hood and other people related to Rabbit in the time period before the town of Banshee comes into play. Banshee often uses flashbacks to help us understand the history of some of the show's characters, but these flashback sequences help to flesh out each character's history even further.

Other Special Features:
“NYC Bus Crash”
“Town of Secrets”
“Zooming in: Episodes 7 & 8”
Audio Commentaries
Season 2 Teaser Trailer
Deleted Scenes
“
Other July 30 Releases
While Banshee: The Complete First Season and G.I. Joe: Retaliation dominate this week’s releases, there’s still plenty of stuff to like beyond the action-oriented stuff. From some lower budget horror films to Marilyn Monroe re-releases, there’s plenty of other movies to choose from if you are looking for a rental or even a purchase. If you are a fan, you may even want to check out pop singer Jenni Rivera in what turned out to be her final film role in Filly Brown, a movie about a young hip-hop star trying to find her way to stardom in Los Angeles.

You can check out some more of this week’s releases, below. Unless otherwise noted, the upcoming releases are available on both Blu-ray and DVD.

The Fog Collector’s Edition
Filly Brown
Teen Beach Movie DVD
Black Rock
Assault on Wall Street
The Demented
Night Across The Street
Rushlights

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