Review by Leonard Norwitz
Theatrical: Natural History New Zealand for Animal Planet
Blu-ray: Genius Products
Runtime: 87 min.
Size: 25 GB
Case: Locking Blu-ray case
Release date: April 7, 2009
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Video codec: AVC
English Dolby Digital 5.1; English Stereo 2.0
Bugman Ruud Kleinpaste hosts this entomological odyssey into
some of our planet's best habitats for bugs, insects and
spiders. Ruud "Throw another bug on the Barbie" Kleinpaste
is entertaining for young children, definitely his target
audience. (I found his excitement a bit too frantic for my
sensibilities.) The 87-minute program is divided into11
episodes (not that the menu gives any
indication) for easier digestion of the material. I can't
say that I found the promise of the title to be borne out in
the telling or showing. But what do I know! Maybe these
mantises, killer bees, and dragonflies are the biggest and
the baddest little buggers that ever there was – but they
all looked pretty tame to me. Maybe I've just seen too many
sci-fi movies. I mean, Starship Troopers it's not.
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence
compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale.
The second number places this image along the full range of
DVD and Blu-ray discs.
Like other Discovery and Animal Planet Blu-ray entries so
far, this one is presented in 1080i, as would have been the
broadcast, regardless of the original source. This one
appears to be high def video presented in widescreen
anamorphic 1.78:1 with bit rates in the low 30s. Like most
1080i material there is something about it that doesn't
quite gel, especially when you freeze frame. But even on the
fly, the image is often contrasty and of variable clarity
and color saturation – the shot of killer bees massing all
over Ruud face is simply a mess, with very little definition
to speak of. On the other hand, there appear to be no
artifacts or attempts to make the image something it's not.
Some bugs are interesting to look at, some not.
Audio & Music:
Ruud's voice is clear and crisp, as he seems to enjoy his
down-under dialect as much as I do listening to it.
Environmental sounds are minimal, since the scale is so
small. I found the 2.0 mix to have more focus. No surprise
Loading is quick, as expected for a single-layer disc. The
Spartan and, frankly, not very attractively designed menu is
easy enough to use, but offers only the choice of 5.1 or 2.0
audio, and English subtitles on or off. There are episode
chapters, but no access to them from the menu. This is an
especially grievous omission for this disc considering its
audience would likely want to take its hour and a half
length in small doses.
Some interesting facts about little creatures told by the
adventuresome and enthusiastic Ruud Kleinpaste. The image is
OK considering it's 1080i, but I found it not a program I
would want to watch more than once. I'd say: rent it.
April 1st, 2009