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North America (Blu-ray Review)

16 Oct, 2013 By: John Latchem

Gaiam Vivendi
$29.93 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, $39.93 BD w/photo book
Not rated.
Narrated by Tom Selleck.

The era of high-definition has unleashed a golden age of nature documentaries, and the latest, North America, fits in nicely among the best of them.

Produced by the Discovery Channel, the seven-part glimpse at the wonders of the North American continent is an eye-opening feast of visual splendor. It’s a testament to the filmmakers of these shows that they can continue to uncover remarkable footage of animal behaviors rarely seen in any medium before.

It’s more than just footage of one animal hunting another, although the episodes are dominated by variations on that theme. It’s how they do it that is so captivating.

Even the producers surprised themselves with what they were able to film. In one episode, a mama grizzly bear dives to the bottom of a river to capture fish for her cubs — an unusual skill for a bear, to say the least, and even rarer to catch on video. Minutes later, we are treated to the sight of bald eagles soaring through a flock of geese to pick off the injured stragglers.

But the most astonishing shot might be of a migration of sharks along the coast of Florida. As the camera pulls back above the crystal blue waters, we can see hundreds of thousands of sharks passing within a stone’s throw of the busiest beaches of Miami, with the beachgoers none the wiser.

The show is certainly not without a sense of humor, as when a coyote hunting for food in the desert comes across a roadrunner. The music selections, consisting of a mix of traditional orchestral score and pop music, also help build a mood that distinguishes North America from its stuffier British counterparts, infusing it with an energy as vibrant as the lands it covers.Tom Selleck is a compelling choice for the narrator, his authoritative voice aided by an engaging script that makes the natural world relatable by establishing a proper context.

Equally fascinating is the filmmaker commentary, which reveals what it took to bring certain scenes together, in many cases requiring years of patience to wait for just the right conditions to collect the perfect footage. It’s the kind of dedication that really makes North America stand out.

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