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“Life” (Blu-ray)
Reviewer:
Wayne Klein
Studio: BBC/Warner
Genre:
Documentary
Release Date:
6/01/10
Special Features:

Episode featurettes

Review:

The BBC creates documentaries that no one else can touch for quality. “Life” continues the winning streak begun over a decade ago and continued on with two outstanding recent ones “Planet Earth” and “Blue Planet” both of which set the bar amazingly high for nature documentaries. With individual episodes entitled "Challenges of Life", "Reptiles & Amphibians", "Mammals", "Fish", "Birds", "Insects", "Hunters & Hunted", "Creatures of the Deep", "Plants", "Primates", and "The Making of Life" this documentary does a nice job of complimenting the other recent ones that have come from the BBC. ***

While I understand the need to use a “name” to sell products such as this to a crowd that might largely be unfamiliar with naturalist/documentary writer-producer Sir David Attenborough (younger brother of actor/director Lord Richard Attenborough), I’m a bit mystified as to WHY the producers would choose actress/talk show host and producer Oprah Winfrey to narrate at least one U.S. version of “Life”; sure she has a nice voice and is well known but she didn’t work on this documentary and Attenborough did writing the episodes. He also has a keen understanding of the world the rest of us often ignore. To me this is stunt casting akin to casting a Caucasian in a film role that demands someone of Asian heritage (granted this happened all the time in the past and STILL occasionally happens as is evidenced by the forthcoming “The Last Airbender”) and while it IS important to have the best qualified person doing the job in this case that would be Attenborough who shepherded this project from the very beginning AND can do a GREAT job of narrating as well. I wouldn’t be so offended except that the narration has also been rewritten for us dumb Americans. Trust me look for the OTHER version that has been release narrated by Attenborough. Winfrey’s version is, well, putrid. Even if the narration hadn’t been rewritten the delivery…sucks. ***

I suppose Warner which distributes this in the U.S. must have thought that IQ's took a dip or, perhaps, they were using George W. Bush as the standard for intelligence (if that's the case then I can understand WHY Warner dumbed it down). Listening to Oprah's version makes suicide seem like a viable option after the first hour. ---

Image & Sound:

A beautiful, sharp looking digital transfer for the digitally shot series is a real highlight The quality is consistent throughout, colors pop, black levels are deep and consistent and fine detail extremely nice. ***

Audio sounds terrific as long as you’re NOT having to listen to the “dumb” version for us Americans narrated by Oprah. ---

Special Features:

We get featurettes which focuses on the behind-the-scenes difficulties in shooting the various episodes. What was surprising was to discover that at least one episode was shot in the studio and it’s so good you won’t figure it out until you watch the extras here (I’m not going to spoil it for you). ***

Many members of the crew had to sit idly by watching for example prey be attacked by predator and couldn’t intervene. ---

Final Words:

“Life” is a terrific series but only if you get the right version. If you’re feeling dumb, pick up Oprah’s narrated version (it has a different cover on it and I’ve attached copies of each with this review. The one with the cover of the ocean is the Oprah narrated one while the one with the grasshopper is the Attenborough narrated one. Nothing against Oprah but when I last checked IQ’s for Americans were still pretty high and we really don’t need to be talked down to.

 

 
 
 
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