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Category:    Home > Reviews > Spy > Espionage > British > Comedy > Cold War > Action > Thriller > Mystery > Satire > Norway > Mixed Martial > Agent 8 ¾ (aka Hot Enough For June/1964/VCI Blu-ray)/Blitz (2011/Millennium Blu-ray)/Norwegian Ninja (2010/Dark Sky DVD)/UFC: Bad Blood – Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz (2011/Anchor Bay Blu-ray + DVD)

Agent 8 ¾ (aka Hot Enough For June/1964/VCI Blu-ray)/Blitz (2011/Millennium Blu-ray)/Norwegian Ninja (2010/Dark Sky DVD)/UFC: Bad Blood – Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz (2011/Anchor Bay Blu-ray + DVD)


Picture: B/C+/C/B- & C+     Sound: B-/B/C+/C+     Extras: C/C/B-/C+     Films/Main Programs: B-/C+/C+/B-



If you are looking for action, these latest releases might give you what you want on some level.



Ralph Thomas’ Agent 8 ¾ (aka Hot Enough For June/1964) is an early fun spy spoof of the trend and James Bond with Dirk Bogarde and Sylva Koscina we previously reviewed in a British PAL DVD import at this link:




It is even better in this upgraded edition with much improved picture and improved sound, here in Dolby Digital 5.1 (which is somewhat limited as a multi-channel presentation, of course) and 2.0 mixes that have more detail and clarity throughout instead of the previous releases’ rough spots.  The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image has much better color, depth and overall fidelity, even if the print has some minor issues.  Both have the same theatrical trailer, but the new Blu-ray has it in HD as well and both also offer stills sections, but the DVD has more sections and more stills.  Bond fans should catch this one.



Elliott Lester’s Blitz (2011) puts Jason Statham in a much-needed smart thriller (far superior to his dud appearance in the unnecessary Mechanic remake) as a somewhat unorthodox police officer looking for a cop killer in the loose in England.  This could have been dumb or just a police procedural with more blood (and we get more than usual here) and violence, but this has some interesting moments throughout and even when it is a bit predictable and falls into some of the formulaic traps of all Statham films, it is worth your time.  Sure, it is odd to see it after the Summer 2011 British riots and does not question his character’s actions enough, but it has a richness and palpability to it not enough such films have and is ambitious.  Paddy Considine, Aidan Gillen, Zawe Ashton and David Morrissey are among the solid supporting cast and this Statham film will eventually find its audience like the underrated Bank Job (reviewed elsewhere on this site) did, especially since this hardly got any theatrical release in the U.S. market, so expect it to be a hot title.


The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image has been stylized down to be softer for whatever reason, but oddest of all, the top sliver of the image is constantly softer than the rest of the image and this was apparently shot on film, so go figure, but I liked the look enough and the locales are used well.  The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix is easily the best on the list with a rich, strong soundfield throughout, even if this is dialogue based somewhat and does not have surrounds that go bonkers, but I liked the consistency and this is the best TrueHD track I have heard in a while.  Extras include the U.K. Trailer, Behind The Scenes featurette, Cast/Crew Interviews and Previews for other Millennium releases, some of which do look interesting.



Thomas Cappelen Malling’s Norwegian Ninja (2010) has a silly title and is a silly film, but it is so oddly amusing that I could see it becoming a cult hit and more if it finds it audience.  Inspired by silly 1980s action films and set in the 1970s based on a true story of scandal in Norway, it may take liberties with it, but it is also set in The Cold War and this offsets the problems in trying to this kind of tale in a humorous context making it less of a problem as revisionist history as it is far form that.


The King has set up a secret ninja organization of Norwegians (I know, I can’t believe it either) to keep Norway Norwegian against plots by either the U.S. and CIA and/or Soviet Union.  Heading the team is Commander Arne Treholt, extremist to some, patriot to others.  Needless to say some of this makes no narrative sense, what does hold it together is its celebration of old technology (almost a spoof of the stupid, big-budget, high tech overproductions that keep bombing from Hollywood, et al), how being a imitator of the reactionary 1980s spoofs that by default and reminds us how wacky that whole cinematic discourse always was (i.e., Rambo) and now is more than ever.


The cast is almost unknown in the U.S., but they are good and between the screenplay, the mix of old-fashioned and digital effects plus almost every character being eccentric on some level, this is a hoot everyone should see once just to believe it actually exists.  Too bad this could not have been a surprise Summer 2011 theatrical release, because had it been able to get some screens, it could have even been a hit.


The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image is purposely stylized to look like it is soft and very 1970s. so the rating is more relative than usual in this case as this is how it is supposed to look with its share of old analog video (imitated or not) and it never deviates from that look to its credit.  Its unique sense of artifice just makes this work better, though I would like to see a Blu-ray.  The Dolby Digital 5.1 lossy mix is good, but this is not always a mix with surrounds or big explosions, especially since it has many monophonic moments and other quiet parts in keeping with its 1970s imitation.  The combination works for this format.  Extras include a Music Video for an extended instrumental dance mix of one of its tracks, Deleted Scenes, Bonus, Scenes, a bunch of fun featurettes, theatrical trailers, TV Spots and even an “action figure advertisement” that you should see after watching the film and is even more fun than the fun of the film itself.  Norwegian Ninja is a real hoot!



If all else fails, you can check out UFC: Bad Blood – Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz (2011), a new documentary program about the two friends who found themselves having a very interesting MMA rivalry that shows another side of the UFC as the growing franchise it is.  We have covered many of their DVD and now Blu-ray titles before and this set is as good as any of them.  Fans will enjoy it and it serves as an interesting intro to their world if you are less familiar with them.  The fighters are likable and formidable.  This is well made as the UFC video releases have found their niche.  You can find more on this site by entering “UFC” in our search engine.


The 1080i 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer is a mix of new HD materials and a good share of analog and low-def 1.33 X 1 digital video, so it is more like watching any other documentary, especially on sports and the anamorphically enhanced DVD is a little weaker in color and overall definition.  Both version only have lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo as their soundtrack, which is sometimes just simple stereo and even monophonic at times, but works well enough for the program.  Extras include three of their fights in full length presentations.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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