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'Deep Sea" - Dive in! A sea full of wonders awaits. Famed oceanic filmmaker Howard Hall (Into the Deep) guides this immersive adventure that lets you swim alongside some of the most exotic creatures of the planet. Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet provide the narration. And an unusual array of finned and scaled stars are ready to steal every scene. Among them: Green Sea Turtles who gather off Kona so that Surgeonfish can strip harmful algae from their shells...an ominous, predatory Humboldt Squid that changes color four times per second like a flashing strobe light...an underdog Mantis Shrimp, whose claws have the speed of a 22-caliber bullet, in battle against a hungry octopus (the shrimp wins!). So many creatures. So many amazing stories. Sea them all.
'Into the Deep' - Filmed off the coast of Southern California, this fascinating film journeys to an enchanting underwater world of swaying kelp forests and glowing corals. Swim nose to nose with colorful garibaldi, starfish and sharks, play tag with sea lions, and observe the rarely-seen behavior of the creatures of the eternal undersea night.
For more about Deep Sea and the Deep Sea Blu-ray release, see Deep Sea Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on May 4, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Howard Hall
» See full cast & crew
Deep Sea Blu-ray Review
An infectious IMAX film receives an excellent Blu-ray release...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, May 4, 2009
It's easy to forget how fascinating and extraordinary our oceans really are. Populated with innumerable creatures mankind has only encountered in their wildest nightmares, the seas are host to the most surreal, mind-boggling lifeforms on the planet. Miles of diverse coral -- itself a generalized moniker referring to any organism comprised of genetically-identical polyps that develop a colony and form a hardened exterior skeleton -- merely sets a multi-colored stage for the marine animals who call the waters home; creatures whose very existence defies science, fish that have adapted to the tremendous challenges of the deep, and echinoderms that prowl the ocean floor with the ferocity of jungle cats. But don't take my word for it: just spend a few minutes watching a documentary like Deep Sea and prepare to be amazed by the indescribable alien landscape thriving beneath our waves.
If Tim Burton (Batman, Ed Wood, Sweeney Todd) decided to direct an undersea documentary, his production would probably strike the same tone as cinematographer Howard Hall's Deep Sea. Boasting a playful musical score by Danny Elfman, an endless stream of stomach-turning sound effects, and narration by Edward Scissorhands himself, Johnny Depp, the film's gelatinous predators and venomous prey resemble something more akin to the twisted beasts you'd find in films like Beetlejuice and The Nightmare Before Christmas than a traditional nature doc. Rapidly darting from sprawling reefs to swarming caverns, Hall drags his audience on a whirlwind tour of oceanic life in every corner of the globe. Along the way, he delivers some truly inspired photography, capturing shots even an avid genre fan like myself can't claim to have ever seen before. At times, his camera is explosive and unpredictable; at others, it patiently awaits the inevitable clash between two antagonistic species. I would imagine striking a balance between familiar creatures and unknown monstrosities is no easy task, but Hall's impeccable pacing and effortless editing allows him to weave a compelling story with images alone.
At the same time, Depp and co-narrator Kate Winslet (no doubt relying on the guidance of the film's finely-tuned script) infuse each animal they encounter with distinct personalities and purpose. A powerful mantis shrimp doesn't merely fend off an octopus, he reveals himself to be a stoic warrior ready to hold his ground in an epic, territorial battle to the death. A wolf eel doesn't simply snag a sea urchin in its jaws, he glumly makes short work of an especially crunchy breakfast. A sea turtle doesn't allow a school of fish to eat parasites from his shell, he swims out of his way to elicit the help of a hungry pack of grateful vegetarians. It's these more personable aspects that make Deep Sea an absolutely perfect documentary to watch with young children. My four-year old son often grows weary of nature documentaries (their slow progression and matter-of-fact tone usually drive him from the room), but he was enamored by Hall's production. As a parent, I also appreciated the film's joyous celebration of undersea life; particularly since it's a welcome change of pace from the unnerving, doomsday-scenarios that have been dominating similar documentaries of late. Granted, Deep Sea still reminds viewers of mankind's responsibilities to these unique ecosystems, but it doesn't toil in the disparaging particulars.
Aside from an all-too-short runtime, I have very few complaints when it comes to Deep Sea. I'm sure the film was even more spectacular in IMAX 3D, but it remains a thoroughly engrossing and entertaining documentary that will capture the imagination of adults and kids alike. Don't let this relatively low-key Warner Brothers release pass you by... it's worth your time and money.
Deep Sea Blu-ray, Video Quality
Hall's photography isn't the only gorgeous aspect of this Blu-ray release. Warner has produced a surprisingly remarkable 1080p/VC-1 transfer that renders every scale, tentacle, and pedicellariae (look that one up!) Deep Sea's marine animals have on display. The documentary's palette is intense and vibrant, relying on crisp contrast and bold primaries to fill the screen with a daunting array of colors. While black levels are a tad inconsistent at times (specifically during a pair of quick scenes involving hundreds of jellyfish), the picture possesses convincing dimensionality and well-resolved shadows. Detail is impressive too, producing sharp object definition and refined textures without the help of any glaring edge enhancement. The film's starfish and octopi are a stunning sight to behold, its coral reveal every crevice of their skeletal exteriors, and its tiniest fish are visible amongst a variety of complex rock formations. A handful of soft shots are a slight distraction, but such shortcomings are the product of the original film rather than the technical transfer.
My only gripe is that faint artifacting and banding occasionally appear in the background, briefly drawing attention away from the otherwise proficient presentation. Thankfully, it doesn't develop into a pressing issue and rarely detracts from the overall impact of the picture. While I expected Warner's transfer to disappoint and underwhelm in more than one regard -- let's be honest, IMAX documentaries aren't typically the most reliable releases when it comes to AV quality -- Deep Sea looks great.
Deep Sea Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Here's another welcome surprise: the Blu-ray edition of Deep Sea overcomes the technical limitations of its standard Dolby Digital 5.1 surround presentation and delivers a more rousing and involving sonic experience than most other nature documentaries I've reviewed. It all comes down to Hall's careful integration of lively sound effects, underwater ambience, and Danny Elfman's musical score. Documentary purists may object to the use of post-production effects to enhance the visceral qualities of the on-screen imagery, but scraping shells, grinding teeth, squealing scallops, and snapping claws add another dimension to an already immersive soundfield. Not only did my son adore the frequently amusing cries and crunches, I enjoyed listening to the efficiently-prioritized effects almost as much as I did studying the creatures they accompanied. Better still, the track's moderately-active rear soundstage relies on surging currents and sloshing topside waves to envelop the listener in its ever-changing oceanic world. Elfman's score completes the puzzle -- subdued enough to give the rest of the soundscape its appropriate dues, but present enough to grace darting fish and lunging squid with even more personality. His delicate instrumentation is light-footed and precise, and his abundent bass beats are solid and earthy.
Oh yeah, did I mention that Depp and Winslet sound wonderful? Their narration may not be as crisp or nuanced as the latest, greatest lossless presentation on the block, but it comes close. All things considered, Warner's use of a standard Dolby Digital audio mix is the lone downside to this package. I can't help but wonder how much of a difference a TrueHD track would have made.
Deep Sea Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
It may not include the theatrical trailer that appeared on the 2007 DVD release, but the Blu-ray edition of Deep Sea serves up a bonus IMAX film: Howard Hall's own 1994 directorial debut, Into the Deep (1080p, 35 minutes). While it isn't as polished or mesmerizing as Deep Sea, Into the Deep is nevertheless a welcome addition to the package that puts some much-needed supplemental meat on this disc's bare bones.
Deep Sea Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I don't want to raise expectations too high -- after all, Deep Sea is only a forty-one minute production -- but parents looking for quality documentaries to share with their families should certainly give this one some serious consideration. It features a captivating undersea documentary, an excellent video transfer, an unexpectedly solid audio track, and a bonus, full-length IMAX film (also presented in 1080p). Give it a spin... both you and your kids are sure to be entertained!
Deep Sea: Other Editions
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Deep Sea Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Deep Sea/Into the Deep IMAX Coming to Blu-ray - January 22, 2009
Warner Home Video has announced that they will bring a double feature of the IMAX films 'Deep Sea/Into the Deep' to Blu-ray on April 14th. Both features will come on a single BD-25 featuring video presented in 1080p VC-1 accompanied by a 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack. ...
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