Oceans


Oceans

Underwater, turtles become sprinters.

(DisneyNature) Narrated by Pierce Brosnan. Directed by Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud

The oceans are vast, covering nearly three quarters of our planet and yet humans have laid eyes on only 5% of it. It makes up the largest territory of our planet and yet what we know about what lives there is infinitesimal compared with what there is to know.

As our technology has evolved, so has our ability to study the creatures of our seas. Some, like the bottle-nose dolphin and the blue whale, are creatures who swim close to the surface and as a result, we’ve been able to study them at some length. Others exist at greater depths, or swim in places that are more difficult for humans to access. Even these remote places, however, are becoming more and more reachable with submersibles that can withstand greater pressures, high-tech scuba apparatus and underwater cameras that can take amazing footage.

This is the second in what is slated to be an annual Earth Day event by Disney’s nature documentary division (last year, they released Earth to much acclaim). While Disney is distributing these movies, it should be noted that both Earth and Oceans were made by documentarians in England and France, respectively and were financed and produced outside of the Mouse House.

Still, the images here are magnificent, from the stately blue whale migration to the antics of sea otters and dolphins, from the weird and mysterious spider crabs to the serene and beautiful jellyfish. There are orcas and sharks, to be sure, and gulls dive-bombing for sardines, clouds of krill and schools of yellowfin tuna. There are squid-like creatures undulating through the liquid world with scarf-like streamers trailing them like a Spanish dancer, and tiny eels dancing in a strange ballet on the ocean floor. There are beautiful clownfish darting in and out of the Great Barrier Reef and penguins in the Antarctic, clumsy clowns on the ice but graceful and sleek in the water.

In its own way, Oceans is a beautiful movie but I’m wondering if there isn’t a bit of overkill here. After last year’s Earth and the latest BBC/Discovery Channel epic nature documentary series “Life”, Oceans feels almost like too much of a good thing.

The other quibble is with the narration. Pierce Brosnan is a fine actor but he doesn’t make a great narrator; his voice lacks the gravitas of a James Earl Jones or even a Sigourney Weaver. In all fairness, the narration he is given to read isn’t very inspirational and lacked the humor Disney nature documentaries are known for.

Still, that’s not what you come to a movie like this for. You come for amazing images and to see things you’ll never be able to see with your own eyes. The way to approach a movie like Oceans is to let the images sweep over you, wash you away and take you to the deep blue. It is as alien a world as anything George Lucas has ever devised and yet it is on our doorstep.

Asking the question “What is the ocean,” as the narration posits at the movie’s beginning, dumbs down the movie. Unless you’re a very young child, you know what the ocean is and clearly Disney is going for parents with very young children. While young children will ooh and ahh over the pictures, they don’t have the attention span to last the entire 90 minutes of the film. The trick is to get the same sense of wonder from adults, which they do nicely. It then becomes unnecessary to talk down to the audience by asking them “What is the ocean” because the questions you want them to ask are “What more is the ocean” and “How can we help save it.”

There are sequences that are powerful, with a forlorn shopping cart sitting on the ocean floor (which led me more to wonder how on earth it got there) and garbage floating on the ocean’s surface sending the requisite ecological message which should have been stronger; a segment that showed species that are now extinct was excised for the American version. Perhaps Disney didn’t want children to dwell on the harsh realities, but then why show baby turtles being picked off by frigate birds if that’s the case?

The co-directors were responsible for the much-superior Winged Migration and to their credit to capture some amazing sequences, but quite frankly I wasn’t wowed. Oceans turns out to be less of an educational tool than a new age video, and to my way of thinking our oceans deserved a better movie.

REASONS TO GO: Some very spectacular and beautiful footage, as well as amazing behavioral mannerisms of creatures both familiar and unfamiliar.

REASONS TO STAY: Perhaps a victim of Earth’s success; didn’t stack up favorably. Brosnan’s narration didn’t carry enough gravitas.

FAMILY VALUES: Perfect viewing for all audiences.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Director Perrin narrates the French version; his son Lancelot makes an appearance as the young boy in the movie’s framing segments at the beginning and the end.

HOME OR THEATER: Some of the magnificent footage should be seen on a big screen for full effect.

FINAL RATING: 6/10

TOMORROW: The Express

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New Releases for the Week of April 23, 2010


April 23, 2010

Don't be fooled; those fingers are loaded!!

THE LOSERS

(Warner Brothers) Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana, Chris Evans, Idris Elba, Columbus Short, Holt McCallany, Oscar Jaenada, Jason Patric. Directed by Sylvain White

An elite Special Forces team that gets the job done when nobody else can is betrayed by a high-level government functionary and left for dead. Thought to be out of the picture, the Losers plot their revenge against a man they know only as Max. They are joined by Aisha, a lovely but deadly operative who may have her own agenda. Working as only they can, they must stop Max from dragging the world into a new kind of global high-tech war.

See the trailer, featurettes and a clip here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of intense action and violence, a scene of sensuality and language)

The Back-Up Plan

(CBS) Jennifer Lopez, Alex O’Laughlin, Eric Christian Olsen, Michaela Watkins. Zoe is a veteran of the dating wars and has yet to find the right guy. Still, her biological clock is ticking and the noise is getting louder. She decides to go to Plan B, artificial insemination and it looks like the procedure is a success. Of course, life being what it is, that’s the time when Mr. Right shows up. Can the relationship grow properly with a baby on the way, one that’s not even his?

See the trailer, featurette and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: PG-13 (for sexual content including references, some crude material and language)

Kenny Chesney: Summer in 3D

(Hot Ticket/Sony) Kenny Chesney. 3D footage shot from the country singer’s Sun City Carnival tour last summer will give viewers a unique concert film experience, experiencing more closely than ever what it’s like to be there.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: 3D Special Engagement

Rating: Unrated but suitable for general audiences

Mother

(Magnolia) Hye-ja Kim, Bin Won, Goo Jin, Yoon Jae-Moon. When a feckless young man is convicted of the vicious murder of a young girl, his mother sets out to prove her son’s innocence and is instead drawn into something far darker than she ever expected to be. From the award-winning director of The Host.  

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: R (for language, some sexual content, violence and drug use)

Oceans

(DisneyNature) Pierce Brosnan. From the filmmakers who brought you Earth comes the second in the new Disney nature documentary series. Opening on Earth Day, the film will take us below the waves to see, for the first time, some of the wonderful and strange creatures that live there.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: G

A Prophet

(Sony Classics) Tahar Rahim, Niels Arestrup, Adel Bencherif, Hichem Yacoubi. A young illiterate Frenchmen of Arabic descent is imprisoned and attracts the attention of a powerful Corsican crime lord who gives the young man an ultimatum; kill a fellow inmate or be killed himself. This turns young Malik down a path that will change him forever. This film swept the Cesar awards (the French Oscars) and has won acclaim everywhere it has been shown.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: R (for strong violence, sexual content, nudity, language and drug material)