Review for Planet Earth [Blu-ray]
Not only is Planet Earth
one of the most jaw-dropping, ambitious, nature documentaries the BBC has ever produced, it’s now taken on another role: as a superb demonstration disc for the strength of and Blu-ray.
Spread over a good ten hours, the series charts life and nature in dozens upon dozens of differing locations around the earth. Diligently and warmly narrated by Sir David Attenborough, Planet Earth
calmly goes close in on its subject matter when required, and then pulls out some stunning perspective shots that are simply breathtaking. It’s hard to come up with the right superlatives to do the photography on the programme any kind of justice, and that it’s married to such fascinating subject matter is all the better.
And if you think the original broadcast of Planet Earth
was something special, or you were gobsmacked by the picture quality on DVD, just wait until you see it in 1080i HD glory. Particularly some of the broader shots here are all but without parallel, and it’s a real reward for those who have invested ahead of the crowd in high definition technology.
Presented over five discs, and matching wonderful content to spot-on visual presentation, Planet Earth is now not just a landmark in nature documentary film making. It’s also a chartermark of quality for just what HD DVD and Blu-ray can offer. A stunning release, in more than one sense. --Jon Foster
Review for Life [Blu-ray]
This enthralling BBC series examines "the lengths living beings go to to stay alive," in the words of Sir David Attenborough. Aided by breathtaking high-definition cinematography, the makers of Planet Earth explore the more colourful strategies the world's creatures employ to procreate, evade predators, and obtain nourishment. Cameras travel though the air, under the water, and right into the faces of insects, like the alien visage of the stalk-eyed fly. Except for "Challenges of Life" and "Hunters and Hunted," each episode covers a different category, such as mammals and birds. Among the more memorable images: three cheetahs move with the relentless rhythm of mobsters, a school of flying fish glides through the air with the grace of ballerinas, and a Jesus Christ lizard skips across the water, like, well, you know. The strangest sights range from a pebble toad bouncing away from a spider like a rubber ball and brown-tufted capuchin monkeys pounding palm nuts with stone tools like the apes in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Witty writing and skilful editing, which distils thousands of hours of footage, make the learning go down easy (at one point, Sir David references Jurassic Park, which featured his brother, Richard). If the sound effects seem overamped, George Fenton's score is always on the money, adding humour and suspense at crucial moments (martial drums for the mud skippers, woozy brass for the Darwin's beetle). Nonetheless, delicate sensibilities may find some sequences disturbing, as when Komodo dragons feed on a water buffalo or when a leopard seal dines on a penguin (according to Attenborough, the Komodo siege caused the camera operators "emotional turmoil"). More often, the filmmakers capture the moment of impact before moving on. --Kathleen C. Fennessy, Amazon.com