Betty White: Champion For Animals (Image DVD)/IMAX
Born To Be Wild (Warner Blu-ray w/DVD)/Frozen
Planet (BBC Blu-ray)/We Bought A Zoo
(Fox Blu-ray w/DVD/all 2011)
& C/B-/B- & C Sound: C+/B
& B-/B-/B- & C+ Extras: C-/C/B-/C- Main Programs: B-/C+/B/C-
cycle of nature programming is good, but not great overall.
with a documentary called Betty White:
Champion For Animals which would make you think there would be plenty of
Miss White with loads of animals, but what seems to suggest an expose of all
her work over the decades is not exactly so.
She is interviewed, but not enough and though the information on animals
is always welcome, we have seen that angle plenty of times. They are always
interesting and we do get footage of White in action, but the title is a bit
misleading with some bait-and-switch involved, but this was still a decent
program about wildlife and the like, with White stealing her scenes as
usual. This runs 89 minutes and the only
extra is a trailer.
IMAX Born To Be Wild is narrated by Morgan Freeman and
runs 40 minutes about how people are in the middle of other countries saving
the animals against the odds. Dr. Biruté
Mary Galdikas and Dr. Dame Daphne M. Sheldrick are the subjects of this
program, showing their advanced knowledge and advanced efforts in making a
difference. This is a good, solid IMAX
program, but it did not stick with me like the many others on the same subject. Still, it is worth a look. Extras include 5 Webisodes tired to the film
and UltraViolet digital copy.
continues its nature and science mini-series with Frozen Planet, narrated once again by David Attenborough and
showing us a world that is changing more than likely any other (via global
warming or “whatever” is melting all that ice) featured in their programs
including 90 minutes not seen on HDTV or otherwise. This one runs seven hour-long shows and is
about as compelling as its predecessors, yet there are some aspects where the
sense of wonderment in previous BBC nature series is a little lost here. Still, you’ll see things here you have never
seen before and it is another top rate effort from the series.
include Freeze Frame, consisting of
seven making of featurettes for each of the episodes, a music-only audio
option, Production Video Diaries with
47 (!) video shorts tied to this release and two additional featurettes: Science At The End Of The Earth and Frozen Planet: The Epic Journey.
we have a new film by Cameron Crowe, a filmmaker who has made some fine films (Say Anything, Almost Famous), disappointments (Singles), overrated hits (Jerry
Maguire) and lately has been in a rut with the likes of the extremely
problematic Vanilla Sky and very
forgettable Elizabethtown. Six years later, he has decided to helm We Bought A Zoo (2011) and it is an odd
choice in telling the story of a family who buys and reforms an animal habitat
with Matt Damon leading the cast.
used to be able to pull off this kind of thing, meaning in this case, taking
flat, obvious material and doing something with it. However, no matter his skills, the appeal of
the actors or the potentially amusing subject matter, the result is never above
a cable telefilm and the film becomes an obvious one-note run on. Even with Scarlett Johansson, this never
takes off in the naturalistic fell; good film it could have been if handled
properly. Running 124 minutes (!), they
should have cut it short and maybe this would have worked better, but we’ll
never know. At least it is somewhat family
friendly, but it also becomes annoying and creates a phony feel early on when
it is apparent it is not going anywhere.
Thomas Haydn Church,
Patrick Fugit. Elle Fanning and Angus Macfayden also star.
include Digital Copy for PC and PC portable devices, feature length audio
commentary track by Crowe, Actor JB Smoove & Editor Mark Livolsi in both
formats, It’s A Zoo insider look at
the film on the DVD and the Blu-ray adds three more featurettes (The Real Mee, Their Happy Is Too Loud, We
Shot A Zoo), Deleted & Extended Scenes that are mixed and an amusing
Gag Reel that shows they were trying to make a good film and having fun doing
anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on White
is a mix of old analog video and new HD video, so you get varying quality as
you would expect in a documentary release, but the surprising thing is that it
fares a little better than the anamorphically enhanced DVD versions of Born and Zoo (both 1.85 X 1) included with their Blu-ray counterparts. The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition
image transfer on Born offers the
best picture quality of all the discs covered here, in part because most of it
is shot in the 70mm IMAX format, but between some editing, older
lower-definition footage and the use of a new 4K IMAX digital camera that is no
match for the 70mm format, this cannot compete with the best fully 70mm IMAX
Blu-rays we have covered to date. Too
many close shots are also a factor.
1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Frozen has some detail issues and other depth limits, but also
offers some fine shots, while the 1080p 1.85 X 1 AVC @ 22 MBPS digital High
Definition image transfer on Zoo may
be superior to its DVD counterpart, the Super 35mm film shoot has some style
choices and transfer issues (like detail and color range) that limit its
performance. Director of Photography Rodrigo
Prieto (Frida, Babel, Brokeback Mountain)
can lens a film, but the results are odd here.
Blu-rays have DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes, but once again, Born is the sonic winner with a nicely
active soundfield. Frozen and Zoo tends to
have soundmixes that pull towards the front speakers and sometimes too much in
the center channel for dialogue/voice over.
The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on Betty is simple and just fine for what it is, but that it can match
the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on Zoo
is sad for Zoo. The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on Born is better, but no match for the
DTS-MA on its Blu-ray.
- Nicholas Sheffo