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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Travelogue > Animals > Nature > Preservation > Enviromental > Drama > Beautiful Planet: France & Italy + Spain & Portugal (Mill Creek Blu-rays)/Flicka: Country Pride (aka Flicka 3/2012/Fox Blu-ray)/Ocean Giants (BBC Blu-ray/DVD set)/Secret Life Of Birds (2010/Mill Creek

Beautiful Planet: France & Italy + Spain & Portugal (Mill Creek Blu-rays)/Flicka: Country Pride (aka Flicka 3/2012/Fox Blu-ray)/Ocean Giants (BBC Blu-ray/DVD set)/Secret Life Of Birds (2010/Mill Creek DVD)


Picture: C+/B-/B- & C+/C†††† Sound: C/B-/B- & C+/C†††† Extras: D†††† Episodes: C+/D/B-/C+



And now for some nature-related titles, most of which are special interest titles.


Mill Creek has issued two Blu-ray in Beautiful Planet: France & Italy and Spain & Portugal that are good programs, but not great or up to the level of the Visions series from Acorn.However, they are different enough by not being all sky-based shots (i.e., flying around on a helicopter) and offer some less glamorous shots throughout, making them useful in unexpected ways.However, they only offer so much we have not seen before and performance is mixed, so only serious fans of the given locales should consider getting them.There are no extras on either disc.



Even worse is Flicka: Country Pride, aka Flicka 3 (2012) which Fox has issued on Blu-ray and aimed at a young female audience.However, this Flicka revival has been pretty forgettable as our coverage of the initial revival release Flicka in 2006 showed in our DVD coverage at this link:




Clint Black and Lisa Hartman Black co-star and try to make this work, but it is extremely routine and proves once again that most horse narratives do not work.Kacey Rohl is the young lady discovering the joys of horses, but she is the only one having any joy I guess because this was a total bore.See War Horse or Secretariat instead.Extras include two boring featurettes and an even more boring music video.


The standout here is the new BBC Earth release Ocean Giants which takes another look at the biggest animals in the sea in yet another effective documentary mini-series.These programs still hold up and are quality productions, but they also tend to have a slight overlap in approach and feel.Still, this is almost three hours and it is always offering something you have likely never seen before.It also makes us wonder how many of these creatures will survive in the face of hunting, abuse and planetary changes that are not for the better.There are no extras on either the Blu-ray or DVD here.



Finally we have the 5-part Secret Life Of Birds (2010) which after the many years of this site is one of the only direct looks at our winged friends we have ever seen.Iolo Williams is an expert on the subject and sees and knows much on them, so it is a good, interesting show, but I thought the format approach flattened out the programs overall, so expect a quieter show than expected.Still, it is not bad and worth a look if you are interested.There are no extras.



The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on the Planet Blu-rays have some good shots, but more have noise and detail issues than expected, plus some shots are pale and other have motion blur.Overall, both disappoint more than expected, but they are not expensive either.The 1080p 1.78 X 1 AVC @ 22 MBPS digital High Definition image transfer on Flicka looks marginally better, but has its share of motion blur, detail issues and color range limits, so the 1080i 1.78 X 1 image from Ocean is actually just as good and by a very narrow margin the best on the list.That leaves the anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Birds the weakest, with softer images throughout than I would have liked and thatís a shame because some of the shots are great.


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Flicka is more towards the front speakers than it should be and it is limited overall in soundstage, so the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 lossless Stereo on Ocean actually is its equal with healthy Pro Logic surrounds and just a warm overall recording for what it is.That leaves lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on the remaining Mill Creek releases, sounding simpler and more limited than expected.



-†† Nicholas Sheffo


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