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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Animals > Nature > Oceans > Ecosystem > Preservation > British TV Mini-Series > 3D > Fantasy > Blue Planet: Seas Of Life (2001/BBC Earth Blu-ray)/Magic Journey To Africa (2010/Image Blu-ray 3D)/Nanook Of The North/The Wedding Of Palo (1922/1934/Flicker Alley Blu-ray Set)/One Life (2011/BBC Eart

Blue Planet: Seas Of Life (2001/BBC Earth Blu-ray)/Magic Journey To Africa (2010/Image Blu-ray 3D)/Nanook Of The North/The Wedding Of Palo (1922/1934/Flicker Alley Blu-ray Set)/One Life (2011/BBC Earth Blu-ray w/DVD)/Planet Ocean (2012/Universal Blu-ray)/Wings Of Life (2011/DisneyNature Blu-ray w/DVD)

 

3D Picture: B     2D Picture: Blu-rays: B-/DVDs: C+     Sound: B-/B-/C+/B-/B-/B- & C+     Extras: B-/C+/B/B-/C+/C-     Main Programs: B/C+/B-/B-/B-/B-

 

 

In theaters and on HDTV at the same time, we have a cycle of pro-environmental documentaries and all the major studios and networks want to have their titles out there being seen by the public.  The critical and commercial success has been smooth and growing, though audience interest in such releases are nothing new as the following set of Blu-ray releases will attest…

 

 

Blue Planet: Seas Of Life (2001) is here over 3 Blu-rays making it the longest entry on the list and as strong as any entry as well.  Made by the BBC with the producers of the massively successful Planet Earth (reviewed elsewhere on this site) before that series was releases, this is a fine companion piece with 8 episodes on the first two discs, extended extras on the third and David Attenborough narrates.

 

Perhaps lost in the shuffle of the insanity of 9/11 plus the fact that the cycle had not yet picked up, this is a very solid presentation, but you had better be awake and prepared to really take in the subject matter because this is as throughout as any of the mini-series in this genre to date.  Fortunately, it holds up very well and if you have never seen it or not seen it for a long time, this is your opportunity, plus many never saw it in HD or HD this good, so Blu-ray is definitely the way to go on this release.

 

Extras include 80 minutes of Behind The Scenes footage, five bonus featurettes and an interview segment with Producer Alastair Fothergill, Cameraman Doug Allan and Researcher Penny Allen.

 

 

Our only child-geared narrative release is Magic Journey To Africa (2010) which is actually in 3D, though Image Entertainment is not boasting of that fact on this Blu-ray release or celebrating that it is a 35mm film production (only dubbing it above the title as “originally presented in GIANT SCREEN theaters” as if it were IMAX or IMAX-like), but this is a short at 49 minutes fantasy presentation that is not that good, but has some nice shots and nice 3D, so it is worth a look, especially if you have a Blu-ray 3D player.

 

Simply put, a young lady finds a fantasy-empowered way to visit the continent of the title via magic means, makes friends and sees lots of great animals.  It is child-safe and quits while it is ahead, but I felt it could have delivered much more as the equally short IMAX productions (3D or not) have in the past, but it is a unique production worth a look and deserves this Blu-ray 3D release.

 

Extras include Trailers and a Making Of documentary.

 

 

Of course, films about nature and people have been around since the dawn of film since they made only shorts, including narratives and faking natural situations.  In 1922, Robert Flaherty’s Nanook Of The North took world cinema by storm, shocking everyone with its appeal, the personality of its real-life main protagonist and making more money than any other such film, of the silent era.

 

Yes, many of the scenes were staged, but audiences loved this film that took them where they had never been before, impressed by all the hard work and building a living, world & survival from scratch and the film remains an all-time classic.  This version is the complete restoration from 1972 and now plays like a forerunner of all the current nature films, showing the beauty of the arctic in beautiful black and white of the time n a way no film or HD of any kind could show now.

 

Environmental concerns were not as bad at the time, though even then, nature was being valued, though it could also be argued the film is endorsing the idea the “man” could and should use nature any way he sees fit.  However, Nanook and company are not a giant multi-national corporation with massive machines to strip the land around them, so the argument is limited.  Long before Michael Moore’s political documentary successes, Nanook proved there was a genre or two here that could make money and be critically praised.  It is worth revisiting and a must-0see if you like the releases on this list.

 

Cleverly (as usual), Flicker Alley has not only added some great extras (more on that in a moment), but a second film in Dr. Knud Rasmussen’s The Wedding Of Palo (1934) made in the Nanook mode and not as known or seen, yet it is as fun, clever and gives us yet another priceless portrait of nature unseen for decades or more.  Possibly its inspiration for Nazi filmmaking Leni Riefenstahl is a reason it is not more discussed, but Anthropologist Rasmussen made a film that continued what Flaherty had started, commented on animal extinction, brought in more people into the camera’s eye and the result is an underrated, influential work with its own things to additionally say.  Glad it was included n this set!

 

Extras include a 32-page illustrated booklet on the films including informative texts, while the Blu-ray adds six bonus films: Claude Massot’s Nanook Revisited (Saumialuk) (1988 French TV production (64 minutes) in regular definition), Houses Of The Arctic/Dwelling Of The Far North – a reedit of the igloo-building sequence ion the film as an educational short, Arctic Hunt (1913, 15 minutes) and long excerpts of Primitive Love (1927) by explorer Frank. E. Kleinschmidt, Louis De Rochemont’s Eskimo Hunters Of Northwest Alaska (1949, 20 minutes) taking place in Nanook territory and Face Of The High Arctic (1959, Canada, 14 minutes) about the region at that point.  Time for a new revisit!

 

 

One Life (2011) is another BBC Earth release, but at 85 minutes, is more of a telefilm than anything else, but they did get Daniel Craig to narrate and he is a plus in this look at all kinds of species worldwide in what is a 3,000-day shoot!  The material is diverse enough, making us wonder where the extra footage is.  Either way, it is a fine work worth your time and great for those who might not have the time for a longer-form program.

 

Extras include UltraViolet Copy for PC, PC portable and iTunes compatible devices, a Making Of featurette, On Camera Interviews, Director’s feature length audio commentary track, a Behind The Scenes featurette and Blu-ray exclusive Mike Gunton on One Life featurette.

 

 

Yann Arthus-Bertrand and Michael Pitiot’s Planet Ocean (2012) was co-sponsored by Omega Watches and issued by Universal Pictures and is another pleasant surprise not only reiterating the beauty and need for the preservation of the oceans of the world though words (narrated well by actor Josh Duhamel) and images including some color images (including nighttime footage) that has some of the most unique and impressive color I have seen from any HD production to date.

 

However, the 93 minutes-long program manages to find a new way to look at said oceans (Tara Expeditions might be a factor) and the result is another priceless volume on the subject that is more than a match for Blue Planet above and adds to the visual proof of how diverse, necessary and priceless the oceans and planet is.

 

The result has a look and feel like no previous release on the subject has had and I did not expect that, but more of the same.  We get otherwise and I only wish it were longer.

 

Extras include a Making Of featurette and two more featurettes: Underwater and Shanghai.

 

 

Louie Schwartzberg’s Wings Of Life (2011) is narrated by Meryl Streep, usually voicing the plants or other life shown throughout this very impressive 80 minutes that shows everything that flies (birds and bugs) plus nature, how the ecosystem works and even something too rare in this cycle, carnivorous plants.  Streep is obviously having fun here and also adds dimension to an already compelling documentary that is now among my favorites from the DisneyNature line.  You will be impressed by the visuals and editing as well.

 

The only extras is a preview for the next DisneyNature release (Bears!) and a collage of the hits previously released in theaters and on home video, all elsewhere on this site.

 

 

The 1.78 X 1, 1080p full HD MVC-encoded 3-D – Full Resolution digital High Definition image on Africa was shot on 35mm film with dual cameras and on Kodak Vision 2 film negative stocks that offer some nice 3-D moments you might not always see on pure 3D HD presentations and this works better than its 2D 1080p version, though both have problematic digital visual effects that look dated and can be ineffective.

 

The 1080p 2D 1.78 X 1 digital color High Definition image transfers on the rest of the new productions have their mixes of nice shots, some problematic shots and a few demo shots.  I liked some of the unique color shots Planet Ocean unexpectedly delivered, but all the discs had their moments, though being HD shoots did not offer the nature images IMAX 70mm or standard 70mm might deliver.  Still, they all look pretty good and nature fans will enjoy them.

 

The 1080p 1.19, 1.33 and 1.37 X 1 black and white digital High Definition image on Nanook and Palo are going to show the age of the prints, but considering they are an early silent film that was a massive hit and an early sound film shot under equally extraordinary circumstances, Flicker Alley has delivered amazing results and the films have never looked sop good.  In addition, even the supplementary film shorts look good.

 

 

The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Life and Wings are softer than the HD versions and not as engaging.

 

All the new productions Blu-ray have DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes and they are decent, though none really offer a solid soundfield throughout and can lack all out activity in parts.  All are well recorded as well, though Life has problems with Daniel Craig’s narration sounding a bit too low, too compressed and too much in the center channel.  Africa has sound effect choices that do not always work.

 

The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on the DVDs of Life and Wings are weaker than their DTS/Blu-ray counterparts and in the case of Life, Craig’s narration is more problematic.  The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on Nanook and Palo are well-recorded instrumental tracks that offer healthy Pro Logic-type surrounds with no major issues and manage to outperform the DVDs enough to rate well with the Blu-rays.

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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