BBC Earth DVD Reviews: The Bear Family & Me, Earth Flight, Extreme Bears, & Winged Planet



  • Language: English
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: BBC Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: April 8, 2014
  • Run Time: 150 minutes

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    “The Bear Family & Me”

     

            “The Bear Family & Me” has a much more personal approach than your average nature program, bringing the audience into the experience by allowing Scottish wildlife filmmaker Gordon Buchanan to become part of the story. Buchanan travels to the wilds of Minnesota for a close encounter with a group of wild black bears over the course of several seasons, witnessing a number of remarkable scenarios first-hand. Devastating in its ability to inspire empathy for these specific creatures, “The Bear Family & Me” could very well impact each viewer’s feelings about the feared and hunted animals.

     


            Buchanan puts himself at the forefront of the research as he pairs up with a local scientist and animal activist, learning how to gain the trust of specific bears and their cubs. Though these animals are wild, they have been tagged for scientific research that allows Buchanan to experience their way of life firsthand. Sadly, being used for scientific research does not protect them from hunters, making this a tense season to endure after having spent time with Buchanan getting to know the specific personalities of individual bears.

     

            Over the course of three hour-long episodes, we are brought into Buchanan’s experience earning the trust of young mother bear Lily and her solitary cub, Hope. We witness the drama as they are separated, then reunited once again. Conservation controversy follows this type of interaction with wild animals, but viewers will likely find this a welcome change from the detached manner of most scientific research.

     

    Entertainment Value: 8.5/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 8/10

    Historical Significance: 6.5/10

    Special Features: 0/10

     
     
     
  • Language: English
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: BBC Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: April 8, 2014
  • Run Time: 360 minutes (Earthflight) 90 minutes (Winged Planet)

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    “Earth Flight” and Winged Planet

     

            Ever since the remarkable popularity of the “Planet Earth” series, nature programs have become even more plentiful. Every variety of animal (including humans) have been the subject of nature special and series, making it difficult for one to stand above the rest without a unique aspect of the filmmaking process. For “Planet Earth” it was advances in filmmaking technology that brought amazing images never before seen, and “Earthflight” swings for the fences with a similar attempt. Unfortunately, there are still kinks to be worked out with the technology used in this program, making it more admirable in effort than outcome.

     

            The unique visuals brought by this series come from the birds themselves, who act as cameramen as well as stars of the show. With small cameras equipped to the birds, we are permitted a literal bird’s eye view of the soaring journey these majestic creatures take. Though this sounds fantastic in theory, the execution is a bit shakier than desired. Though the images have occasional impact, the flapping of the wings can make for a jarringly unsteady amount of camera work. Some of the best shots of the series abandon this method for more traditional nature photography, much of which has been displayed in similar form elsewhere.

     


            In some ways, it is the making of this documentary nature program which is more impressive than the end result. With a series of drones, paragliders and remote-control microflight planes, “Earthflight” was filmed over a four year period across the globe. There are six episodes total, dealing with different regions and birds in each of the sections contained on two discs. For those lacking the patience of sitting through the 370 minutes of material, there is also a feature film called Winged Planet available which edits the best of “Earthflight” into a concise 94 minutes. Both are narrated by actor David Tennant (Harry Potter franchise, “Doctor Who”).

           

     

    Entertainment Value: 7.5/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 7/10

    Historical Significance: 7/10

    Special Features: 0/10

     
     

  • Language: English
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: BBC Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: April 8, 2014
  • Run Time: 220 minutes

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    Extreme Bears

     

            Extreme Bears is made up of three nature specials about bears, each individual and unrelated to each other but combined in an effort to create a sellable package. These features include the two-part series “Great Bear Stakeout,” as well as the technologically driven solitary specials of “Polar Bear Battlefield” and “Bears- Spy in the Woods.” While each has assets worth mentioning, none are impressive enough alone to warrant a DVD purchase. Bear fanatics may enjoy the footage, though it is only the technological advancements of two specials and the dangerous proximity of the third which sets these shows apart from dozens of past efforts.

     

            “Great Bear Stakeout” is a two-part special on a documentary expedition in the Alaskan wild, with filmmakers often getting dangerously close to the action. This special has more of a narrative for the bears, with a few memorable personalities in the group of beasts. This also works against the show, however, when the behavior of the bears is often brutal and unsympathetic.

     

            “Polar Bear Stakeout” is even less sympathetic of a narrative, mostly because of the distance from the subjects. This series relies much more heavily upon technology to tell the stories, including some cutting edge graphics that can show the behavior of the bears. This would be a show better suited for a scientific mind, though this does not mean that it is void of some of the action and spectacle.

     

            “Bears – Spy in the Woods” gathers footage from bears all over the world, and it does so with the use of camouflaged roving cameras. They are meant to blend with the environment in order to capture footage of the animals in private, but some of the show’s best footage comes from the moments when the bears’ curiosity causes them to discover the cameras. They series could have been altered slightly and called “Bears vs. Robots,” though it is hardly much of a battle. Only the trash can camera seems to escape, which is odd considering you would think it to be the first knocked over.  

     

    Entertainment Value: 8/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 6.5/10

    Historical Significance: 7/10

    Special Features: 0/10

     


     

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