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Ghost Canyon

'Life'
(Oprah Winfrey / 4-Disc DVD / NR / 2010 / BBC America)

Overview: Four years in the making, filmed over 3000 days, across every continent and in every habitat, with a production budget of £14 million ($22 million) Life is the latest wildlife blockbuster from the BBC’s award-winning Natural History Unit, the producers of Planet Earth and The Blue Planet.

DVD: OK, let me say this first, and get it quicly off my chest - I am disgusted that the Discovery Channel has wasted money in re-narrating this Life series, just as they did with the Planet Earth series.

And they must have wasted quite a bit of money to get Oprah Winfrey. They paid for "one of the most influential voices of our time", but actually got an inferior narration track for their money. And I'm not just talking about the tone of Oprah's voice or the odd rhythm of her sentences. The narration is Americanized and "dumbed down" so that as some reviewers noted, it seems like it is aimed at children!

The children they are targeting would be much better off listening to Attenborough and stretching their vocabulary a bit. Actually, about the only slightly unfamiliar terms in the British version are those of the metric system, which is part of the language of science; all of us Americans would do well to finally become familiar with metric terms, and if you want to be a scientist or understand science, you must.

I also think that the Discovery Channel's re-narration is an insult to Sir Attenborough who personifies this genre. It is difficult to put my finger on exactly what is so good about his narration, but it adds another dimension to the experience, while Oprah's distracts.

And there is also the matter of the authenticity of the narrator: compare Sir Attenborough's 50+ years of experience as a naturalist to Oprah's shameless promotion of the paranormal, psychics, spiritualism, quack celebrity diets, past life regression and the poppycock of "The Secret".

I must say that while the photography of this new Life series is wonderful, I do prefer the organization and flow of the Planet Earth series. Furthermore, the Life series relies too much on slow motion photography; many scenes are shot ONLY in slow motion, so the viewer really has no idea what the behavior looks like in real time. In many cases it would be better to show a real-time sequence followed by a slow motion one in order to fully appreciate what the slo-mo shot reveals.

Still, I can't get enough of this type of material and have not been able to resist WATCHING it on the Discovery Channel. I suggest you do what I'm doing: turn down Oprah, put on "Dark Side of the Moon", and enjoy the Life visuals now. Then, watch it all again when the BBC version is released; it won't hurt you a bit to watch this stuff twice. If you don't get the Discovery Channel, by all means wait and purchase the BBC blu-ray version. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

The 10-episode miniseries on four discs
The Making of Life, narrated by Oprah Winfrey
Making-of segment for each episode, narrated by David Attenborough
Deleted Scenes
Option to play without narration

www.BBCAmerica.com

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