Arctic Tale (Blu-ray) Studio: Paramount Rated: G Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 HD Encoding: 1080p HD Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 5.1; French, Spanish, Dolby Digital 5.1 Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese; English SDH+ Time: 86 minutes Disc Format: 1 SS/DL BD Case Style: Keep case Theatrical Release Date: 2007 Blu-Ray Release Date: April 21, 2009 Jumping off thematically from the wonderful March of the Penguins, directors Adam Ravetich and Sarah Robertson switch species to chronicle the lives of a female polar bear, Nanu, and a female walrus, Seela. Much like March of the Penguins, we are shown the animals in their infancy as they learn how to survive guided by their mothers and, in Seela’s case, her aunt too. They filmmakers give us incredible views of the environs of the Arctic, showing us underwater scenarios of how the walrus’ pops it head out of the ice to check out the above world, then dropping back into the frigid water. We see perspective shots from under the ice of the massive polar bear walking along, its paws weighing heavily on the ice. However, when it comes to the nastier parts of nature, such as when a polar bear kills its prey and begins eating it, the camera keeps its distance. And that seems to be the problem with it. The picture is unsure if it trying to run alongside a Disney brand to show us cute ‘lil critters frolicking about, or is it a hard news piece on how these animals survive. The “story” is narrated by Queen Latifah from a script Linda Woolverton, Mose Richards and Kristin Gore (yep, Al’s baby girl), and the latter contributor’s message comes through clearly as we are more than subtly reminded of the potential cataclysm that awaits us in the form of global warming. Maybe it’s the fact that March of the Penguins had a narrower focus and their journey was more compelling from species standpoint, but Arctic Tale really never stirred too much emotion in me. Or thought. At least my 8th grade science class films inspired me to dig deeper into a topic. Movie: **/***** Video: Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 11-S1 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 1080p. I am using a Sony Playstation 3 Blu-Ray player while a Denon 3808CI does the switching and pass through of the video signal. I am utilizing the HDMI capabilities of each piece of equipment. The Blu-Ray disc is encoded in the MPEG-4 AVC codec at 1080p with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The original print of the picture seems to have been cut together from various film stocks and maybe even some video. There are numerous fluctuations to the grain structure and video noise is present in the image. It has a very limited color palate, obviously, with white, various shades of blue, the dirty white of the polar bears and the browns of the walrus. The whites of the frozen tundra, for the most, part look good, but there is no artificial light, obviously, to maintain consistency. Black levels are difficult to evaluate since there were no nighttime scenes and the underwater sequences were dark blue and not black. Detail and sharpness are at the mercy of the original print and the image tends to be soft; edge enhancement has been applied to counter this issue. Regardless, this isn’t the newest Hollywood effects movie, and it looks fine for what it is. Video: **.5/***** Audio: The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack was attained by the HDMI connection of the PS3 to the Denon 3808CI. I watched the feature with the Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 track engaged. The soundtrack primarily consists of Queen Latifah’s narration coming from the center channel, and the music and some ambient effects coming from the left and right. Surrounds did not come up except to enhance the sound of the howling wind and it sounded more like the dispersion of the front channels creating the sound stage. LFE’s stir once in a great while but otherwise stay sleeping. Audio: *.5/***** Bonus Material: all items are in SD unless otherwise noted. Making of Arctic Tale (24:07): the filmmakers spent fifteen years documenting the Arctic and eventually distilling it down to this picture. Here we see and hear what they went through to make the picture as well as detailing what they saw and learned during the shoot. This was a truly long journey to get just the right footage to make the movie, yet this mediocre piece doesn’t have much of an impact. ”Are We There Yet? World Adventure: Polar Bear Spotting” (7:03): two kids adventure into Canada to discover polar bears in the wild. Theatrical Trailer (HD) Bonus Material: **/***** Conclusions: This somewhat underwhelming doc strays into narrative, but lacks the heart and impact of other and better similar films. The AV presentation is fair, as are the extras.