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Blu-ray Review: 'Bears'

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The Film:

Disneynature has brought us some amazing documentaries in the past, including “Chimpanzee,” “Oceans,” and “Earth.” If there’s one thing you can count on from these films, it’s that they are absolutely stunning to watch, and their latest project, “Bears,” is no exception. Following a year in the life of a brown bear (Sky) and her two cubs (Scout and Amber), we watch as they emerge from their den and go on an incredible journey for food that has them facing such dangers as avalanches, wolves, and even other bears. It all comes down to a battle for survival as Sky desperately tries to find enough food to provide for her cubs to carry them through the next hibernation.

Narrated by Oscar-nominated actor John C. Reilly, “Bears” is a touching documentary that just goes to show how sometimes films with the simplest themes make for the most engaging experiences. There’s not a whole lot of plot to be found here aside from following these bears from spot to spot on their quest for food, and yet, it provides plenty of thrills as they come up against a number of obstacles. From the very start, you can’t help but root for them on their difficult journey that has them traveling from the high peaks of the Alaskan peninsula to the shallow streams where salmon mass in great numbers. All the while, we’re treated to the gorgeous backdrop of the Alaskan wilderness, made all the more amazing by the dazzling cinematography. Those looking to learn a lot of in-depth facts about brown bears will find themselves a little disappointed, but there’s so much here to enjoy that it hardly seems possible that anyone could not have fun with these beautiful creatures. Disneynature has once again gone above and beyond to bring us this footage, spending two years capturing over 400 hours of it. Whittling that down to just 78 minutes must have been a Herculean task, but in the end, it’s wonderful to see that it was worth all the hard effort that went into it.

Video/Audio:

“Bears” arrives on Blu-ray in a 1.78:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of stunning quality. As befits the amazing locations, the picture is perfectly crisp and clear, giving you the best look possible at our furry friends as they go about their lives. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio has no issues to report, allowing you to hear all of the narration and natural sounds in the best possible quality. Overall, the film has been given great treatment that couldn’t possibly be improved upon.

Special Features:

  • Welcome to Alaska
  • The Future for Bears
  • A Guide to Living with Bears
  • How Did They Film That?
  • “Carry On” Music Video by Olivia Holt

For the most part, the extras included on the disc are neat looks behind the scenes at where and how the filmmakers were able to obtain all of this footage, featuring interviews with many of the people who worked on the project. There is also a featurette about the importance of protecting the brown bear population, but that pretty much goes without saying, so it’s not particularly worth watching. However, the short “Making of” featurettes are most definitely worth the time to look at.

Conclusion:

With its touching story, beautiful scenery, and stunning camerawork, “Bears” becomes another worthwhile documentary in the Disneynature library. Kids and adults alike will be drawn into the plight of Sky and her cubs as they trek across the Alaskan wilderness in search of nourishment while facing down whatever stands in their way. It may not be particularly in-depth, but that doesn’t stop it from being an enjoyable romp nonetheless.

Score: 3.5/5

Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.

Recent Blu-ray/DVD releases: Divergent, Need for Speed, Noah, Dom Hemingway, Transcendence, The Angriest Man in Brooklyn, Cesar Chavez, Rio 2, Under the Skin, Open Grave, Deadly Eyes, Jodorowsky's Dune, Lake Placid, Nymphomaniac, Afflicted, House of Cards: Season Two, The Lego Movie, Ernest & Celestine, 13 Sins, Joe, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Tim's Vermeer, Alan Partridge, RoboCop (2014), Alexander: The Ultimate Cut

Now playing in theaters: Get on Up, How to Train Your Dragon 2

Follow me on Twitter @BeckFilmCritic.

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