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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Oceans and The Crimson Wing

October 16th, 2010

Oceans - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
The Crimson Wing - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

This week two Disneynature documentaries hit the home market. The first, Oceans, was this year's big Earth Day release. The second, The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingo, is coming out direct-to-DVD. Are either, or both, of these films worth checking out? Worth picking up? Worth paying extra for High Definition?


As a nature documentary, neither this film nor the next have much in the way of a plot. This film starts with some kids at the beach and one of them stops to look over the ocean. The narration kicks in, and explains that to understand the ocean, you have to experience it, which is what this film tries to do.

For the next 80 minutes or so, we see footage from the world's oceans, from the arctic, to the tropics, to the antarctic. And we see creatures that most people experience mostly on their plates (yellowfin tuna, herring, sardines) and creatures that are a lot more exotic. These range from microbial sea urchin larva to the Blue Whale. There are species that are seen in practically every underwater nature documentary ever made (Great White Sharks) to things I've never seen before (there are these weird fish that look like they have tumors on their faces). The narration by Pierce Brosnan is very calming, but perhaps not as informative as it could be. That said, you could watch the movie without any sound at all and it would still be enthralling.

The Extras

Extras on the DVD include an 8-minute featurette on nature conservation and how Disney is trying to help. There is also a music video by Demi Lovato and one of the Jonas Brothers. Both are on the fluff side, however.

Over on the Blu-ray, there's also a feature called Filmmaker Annotations, which is not a very descriptive name. Basically it is a picture-in-picture track and quite frankly, watching the movie with this track is actually more informative that listening to the narration. Not only is there a whole lot of behind-the-scenes information, there's also a lot of information on the animal species featured in the movie. There is also a Living World exclusive, which is an interactive BD-Live feature that looks at various parts of the world and it is updated monthly. (If you have Earth on Blu-ray, then you will recognize this extra.) As for the film's technical presentation, it should come as no surprise that it is flawless, both in terms of video and audio. The level of detail in this movie is simply unbelievably, while the audio helps create an immersion environment that draws you in like very few films can. It's reference level material. And, it only costs 33% more than the DVD, plus it includes the DVD. There's not reason not to get the Blu-ray.

The Verdict

Oceans is easily worth picking up and the Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack is the far better deal over the DVD.

The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingo

The second nature documentary coming out this week didn't earn a theatrical release, at least not here. In many ways, this movie is the polar opposite of Oceans. Instead of looking at dozens and dozens of species from all over the world, it spends its entire time focusing on one species in one location, the Lesser Flamingos of Lake Natron.

Lesser Flamingos actually make very good subjects for this type of film, as they have a very striking look that almost everyone will recognize. However, they are not animals that have been studied a lot, so there is much for the viewer to learn. In fact, as the filmmakers state in the picture-in-picture track, they had a lot to learn about the animals while they were making the movie. Finally, these birds are very good subjects because of the very unusual nature of their habitat and the stunning events that take place on Lake Natron. (Just watching the salt islands form is something worth seeing.) It's a very emotional journey that doesn't shy away from the more, shall we say tragic aspects of the life cycle of the Lesser Flamingos. So while there are plenty of cute moments with hundreds of fluffy chicks running around, there are also a lot of events that might be too much for younger kids.

The Extras

There is only one extra on the DVD, a four-part, 20-minute making of featurette. Unlike the previous release, the extras on the DVD are not fluff.

The Blu-ray has the Filmmaker Annotations / Picture-in-picture track, which is just as impressive as it is on Oceans, as well as the Living World interactive extra. Likewise, the video and audio for The Crimson Wing is universally impressive and it is again reference material. Like Oceans, the price is such that there's no reason not to get the Blu-ray over the DVD.

The Verdict

The Crimson Wing may not have earned a theatrical release here, but do not mistake this for evidence that it is the lesser movie. In fact, it earned superior reviews. Do I agree with the Tomatometer score and think that this is the better film? My personal bias is toward the oceans and the species that live there, but this film is absolutely worth picking up, and the Blu-ray is absolutely the better deal.

Final Verdict

So which movie is better? Oceans or The Crimson Wing? Well, after watching Oceans, I wanted to buy some triops as pets, because they remind me of Horseshoe Crabs. My nephew had triops once. Well, for a few days anyway. They are cannibalistic, so by the end of the week, instead of having dozens of small triops, he had one big triop that had a very guilty look on its face. "What do you mean? I was always an only child."

So what does this have to do with this review? Nothing really. I just like anthropomorphizing crustaceans.

Bottom line, if you are a fan of nature documentaries, then both Blu-rays are worth buying. Even if you are not, give these a rental, they might change your mind.

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Filed under: Video Review, The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos, Oceans