March of the Penguins (2005)

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Released 19-Jul-2006

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio
Featurette-Of Penguins And Men
Featurette-National Geographic's Crittercam:Emperor Penguins
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 2005
Running Time 76:59 (Case: 85)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Audio Format Select Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Luc Jacquet
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Charles Berling
Romane Bohringer
Jules Sitruk
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $39.95 Music Emilie Simon
Alex Wurman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
English
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Some behind the scenes footage during credits

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Antarctica is one of those harsh and stark places that has a beauty almost despite itself. May of us would like to visit it for a brief period, in fact a number of airlines have made a tidy profit flying tourists over the area in the comfort and warmth of their pressurised, air-conditioned cabins, but would you really want to spend a year in such an extreme climate? If, like me, you're soft and like life's little luxuries - such as warmth - probably not. Fortunately, the world is not full of people like me, but it also produces people like Luc Jacquet and Jérôme Maison who were willing to spend a year amongst ice, blizzards, gale-force winds and below-freezing temperatures to document a truly amazing annual occurrence.

    Each year the emperor penguins leave their ocean hunting grounds and walk 70 miles to an ice shelf to breed. Here they stay through the Antarctic winter, nurturing a fragile egg and then even more fragile chick, going for up to four months without food and trekking 70 miles each way to hunt and bring food back for the struggling offspring. Luc Jacquet and Jérôme Maison spent their Antarctic year filming this unique and fascinating event, and have given us a stunning piece of film that is inspiring, touching and uplifting.

    March Of The Penguins won the Best Documentary Academy Award in 2006 and with even a brief look at this film it's easy to see why. Beautiful cinematography, brilliant editing, great storyline and some of the cutest stars you will find is a winning formula. Narrated in the English version by Morgan Freeman, the penguins' story is told with warmth and pathos as we see the sacrifices the parents make for the chick and the harsh reality of the extreme climate taking its toll on both adult birds and chicks. The script gives human-like attributes to the colony and, while there are cynics out there who may scoff at the notion of portraying this breeding instinct as love, even the hardest cynic will find themselves touched by this story. It truly is a magnificent story and, quiet frankly, is a joy to sit through. Does love find a way in the harshest place on earth? Well, even if it is just instinct, it looks like an instinctive love to me.

    By the time of the 2006 Academy Awards, this documentary had out-grossed all five Best Picture nominees (it grossed $2 million more than Brokeback Mountain). An incredible achievement for a documentary, but well deserved. The quality of the filming, the score, the script and the editing are all superb and make you feel almost part of the penguin colony as they struggle to survive in the Antarctic winter.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    I can't find anything to criticise here. Presented in the near original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and 16x9 enhanced, this is a superb transfer. Antarctica is one of those places difficult to film with its vast white expanses, yet there is no washing out of highlights in this film. Shadow detail is excellent and the image is crisp and sharp. Even the finest details of the penguins' plumage is visible.

    There are no visible MPEG artefacts, even on large areas of clear blue sky or stark white ice sheets. This is a transfer that does credit to the film.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Dolby Digital 5.1 is provided and what a nicely controlled transfer it is.

    Being a documentary, most of the sound is centre speaker driven as the narration is kept firmly centre of the sound stage, but that doesn't mean the other speakers are given the day off. Left, right and rears are all used to surround you in either the ambient noises of Antarctica and the penguin colony, or in the soundtrack. The mix is just right. Not too loud to distract you, but loud enough to provide ambience. You are almost unaware that the rear speakers are being used, so subtle is the mix, but if they were missing there would be a huge hole. A text-book example of how to mix surround sound. Even the sub-woofer gets a work out. Not in a boom-crash way, but providing real depth to the soundtrack and, like the rears, mixed so it just blends in seamlessly with the other speakers. There are real lessons to be learned by some from this audio mix.

    With no audio nasties to complain about, all I can say is this film was a joy to listen to. When you forget you are listening to a film and don't realise there is narration, ambient sound and music, but just become enveloped in the mix of these things, you know they've got it right. They have.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Some excellent extras that actually complement the feature are included, along with some that don't.

Trailer: Happy Feet (1:09)
    Playing before the menu, a trailer for the animated penguin movie Happy Feet.

Of Penguins And Men (53:47)
    Not so much a "making of" documentary, but more a video diary of  Luc Jacquet and Jérôme Maison and their time with the emperor penguins. A good companion to the feature, it gives a bit more insight into the emperor penguins.

National Geographic's Crittercam: Emperor Penguins (23:32)
    A made for TV National Geographic special that features a camera strapped to the back of a penguin as it goes hunting for food.

Theatrical Trailer (1:48)
    The theatrical trailer for March Of The Penguins.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Region 1 gets a few extras over Region 4. Along with the Happy Feet trailer before the menu, Region 1 also gets trailers for The Polar Express, Duma and National Geographic Animal Special and a Merrie Melodies cartoon 8 Ball Bunny. Region 1 also gets  French and Spanish subtitles.

   Region 4 misses out on these extras and sub-titles, but get English for the hearing impaired subtitles.

    I don't see the additional Region 1 extras as compelling, so I'd call it a draw.

Summary

    One of the best documentaries I have seen in a long time, this really should be on your must see list. Stunningly filmed and sporting a great transfer with near flawless video and audio, it is well worth adding to your DVD collection.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Glen Randall (If you're really bored, you can read my bio)
Friday, September 15, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD-1200Y, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic TH-42PV500A 42" HD Plasma. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V596
SpeakersRichter Wizard fronts, Richter Lynx centre, Richter Hydra rears, Velodyne CT-100 sub-woofer

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
We don't get the original language-track?!? - Cemetery Mink REPLY POSTED
French verson ommitted - penguin (there is no bio) REPLY POSTED
New DVD called 'Emperors of the Ice' -
Link to new DVD called 'Emperors of the Ice' -