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Island of Lemurs: Madagascar: Blu-ray 3D/2D + DVD + Digital HD Review

Island of Lemurs: Madagascar (2012) movie poster Island of Lemurs: Madagascar

Theatrical Release: April 4, 2014 / Running Time: 41 Minutes / Rating: G

Director/Cinematographer: David Douglas / Writer/Producer: Drew Fellman / Narrator: Morgan Freeman

Tagline: A real place you could never imagine. Strange creatures you will never forget.

"Own ISLAND OF LEMURS: MADAGASCAR on Blu-ray combo pack and Digital HD on March 31"

Buy from Amazon.com: Blu-ray 3D/2D + DVD + Digital HD Instant Video

If all you had to go on was the title, you might assume that Island of Lemurs: Madagascar was yet another spin-off
to DreamWorks Animation's franchise. It is not and judging from the way that the Penguins movie bombed, some may be more willing to give this little film a chance.

Perhaps "little" is not the right adjective to describe an IMAX 3D movie. As a product of that large screen format, Island is technically as big as any movie. But it is still a nature documentary focused on just one kind of animal and runs barely 40 minutes with credits.

Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Freeman narrates the film. Though his distinctive voice recalls many great performances, in this context it still reminds one most of his similar duties on March of the Penguins, the feature-length non-IMAX feature that resonated with moviegoers ten years ago as few documentaries ever have.

Freeman explains that lemurs have been around for 60 million years, far longer than humans and apes. They co-existed with the dinosaurs and survived the asteroid that wiped out those larger, less nimble beasts. Actually, some lemurs went extinct too, including gorilla-sized ones erased by hunters. But others thrive on the African isle of Madagascar, the only place on Earth where they live in the wild.

Lemurs are cute.

The movie turns our attentions to a number of different types of lemurs. They include the melodic indri, the largest lemurs alive today, and the adorable yet fierce mouse lemurs who are caught in bags and measured. We peek in on ring-tailed lemurs, a class in which the alpha female is in charge (the one we observe remains in control even with a broken hand). A local census taker appreciates the sifaka and their dance-like way of getting around (you could say they like to move it, move it).

Getting special focus is the Greater Bamboo Lemur, a species that has not been observed in fifty years. A scientist from New York's Stony Brook University goes looking for them and eventually finds a father and daughter whose husband/mother abandoned them two years ago.
The lemur-loving primatologist takes it upon herself to find the broken family new mates. Another topic that arises is the ongoing concern that more than 90% of the nation's forests have been burned down for farming and grazing. Fires are constantly burning and endangering the native animals.

Credited as both director and cinematographer, David Douglas is no novice. His filmography stretches back to the mid-1970s and consists almost entirely of scenic documentaries, including enduring IMAX fixtures Blue Planet, Space Station 3D, and Hubble 3D. His contributions to Island are primarily visual, but their impact cannot be overstated. From slow majestic pans to dazzling aerial views, Douglas' photography is often breathtaking. Lemurs are a remarkably photogenic creature, who make you forget about everything else when they are on camera. Still, the compositions and scenery shots are a big reason why the movie is as enjoyable as it is.

American primatologist Patricia Wright clearly enjoys her line of work and getting to observe various lemurs up close in Madagascar.

The beautiful images are complemented by IMAX's incomparable sound technology and some inspired, unconventional musical choices. The latter include a score Mark Mothersbaugh that recalls his work on early Wes Anderson movies. Licensed tracks are also tastefully applied, from Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathrusta (immortalized by 2001: A Space Odyssey) to bilingual covers of The Ronettes' "Be My Baby" and Gloria Gaynor's disco classic "I Will Survive."

A year to the week that it opened in IMAX theaters, Island of Lemurs hits stores on Tuesday exclusively in a Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack whose first disc also doubles as a Blu-ray 3D.

Watch the Island of Lemurs: Madagascar trailer:

Island of Lemurs: Madagascar Blu-ray 3D/2D + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray 3D/2D & DVD Details

1.78:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: March 31, 2015
Suggested Retail Price: $35.99
Two single-sided, single-layered discs (BD-25 & DVD-5)
Blue Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available in Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

I've already marveled about the film's visual beauty and aural grace, but it bears repeating that those technical aspects are a huge part of the movie's appeal. Utilizing every available pixel, the 1.78:1 presentation takes your television to heights rarely reached with its vibrant colors and images. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack is highly potent from the start. You immediately notice the edge it has over the French and Spanish dubs that are limited to the non-lossless format of Dolby Digital 5.1.

A hot air balloon was used to film parts of "Island of Lemurs." Narrator Morgan Freeman may not appear in the movie, but his on-camera comment is used in the first two bonus features.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Island of Lemurs wields a long list of HD bonus features on Blu-ray,
though all of them are short, standard, and lightly promotional.

"Making of Island of Lemurs" (4:49) lives up to its title with a clear, concise discussion of locations and techniques used, with even Morgan Freeman briefly talking about the subject on-camera. "Behind the Scenes" (2:20) is much in the same vein, offering further looks at filming in Madagascar and some of the same sound bites.

"The Story of Lemurs" (5:43) lets filmmakers and featured scientists speak more about the history of the animal and the different types of them. "Meet Patricia Wright" (3:38) gets better acquainted with the film's star primatologist with comments from her and her collaborators here on her work.

This Indri lemur makes a guilty look as five facts about his kind are shared. Primatologist Patricia Wright proudly displays a bamboo lemur, "The Cutest Lemur" according to the bonus short's title.

"A Baby Idri" (2:12) reveals the significance of the production's unprecedented filming of a newborn lemur. "Five Things About Indri" (2:15) dispenses five facts about the biggest yet shortest-tailed of lemurs, sharing more of their loud daily singing.

"The Cutest Lemur" (1:42) lives up to its title with views of incredibly adorable bamboo lemurs, who enjoy eating a banana right out of a crew member's hand. Finally,
"Go-Kart Racers" (2:02) looks at the Madagascar natives who deliver goods down steep hills via primitive carts, which gives the film its most memorable non-nature image.

Though extremely shy of even single-layered capacity, the DVD only includes "Making of", "Behind the Scenes", and "The Cutest Lemur."

Oddly, the Blu-ray opens with a single trailer, for The Flintstones and WWE: Stone Age Smackdown. The DVD starts with that and proceeds to promote Hillsong: Let Hope Rise (another choice you wouldn't expect).

The static menu attaches some bouncy tropical score over a wide rendering of the eye-catching poster/cover art.

The two plainly-labeled discs (one black, one silver) share a standard keepcase bearing the Blu-ray 3D logo and topped by a slipcover featuring more or less the same artwork. The lone insert supplies your Digital HD code and directions.

This little lemur has a bite to eat in "Island of Lemurs: Madagascar."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Like many and perhaps most nature documentaries, Island of Lemurs: Madagascar is a rewarding film that may not leave a huge impression on you, but keeps you feeling good and appreciative of being alive on this planet. Per the IMAX mold, the film is short, but you can't imagine it running any longer with only the one setting and one kind of animal. While home video cannot recreate the large format theater experience, the sights and sounds are splendid enough to still wow you on your television and, hopefully, home theater. Although the combo pack's extras are fairly unremarkable, the demo-ready hi-def video/audio is exquisite.

Buy Island of Lemurs: Madagascar at Amazon.com: Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack / Instant Video

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IMAX Documentaries: Born to Be Wild To the Arctic Aliens of the Deep Space Junk 3D Sacred Planet
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Reviewed March 27, 2015.



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