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Blu-ray/DVD Review: Dinosaurs Alive!

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After sixty-five million years, the ancient world isn’t looking too bad. Ankylosaurus is still the walking epitome of a good defense. T-Rex still struts his stuff as the godfather to our culture’s dino fascination. Nature is lush and green and flourishing. Just throw in Michael Douglas and we’re good to go.

In Dinosaurs Alive! the two-time Oscar winner provides the narration to a 40-minute adventure through the Triassic, the Jurassic, and the Cretaceous period – an adventure spanning from the Gobi Desert in East Asia, all the way west to Ghost Ranch amidst the buttes of New Mexico. Writing/directing duo Bayley Silleck and David Clark succeed with an enlightening discussion of these animals that is both fun and quite enthralling (and it always helps to have a voice like Douglas to relax the audience with a tinge of familiarity).

The film presents a sizable amount of in-depth knowledge and paleontological insight while at the same time treating the kiddies to an enjoyable experience chock- full of the fundamentals, delving into the biology of these creatures without stumbling into the pitfall of overshooting younger viewers. Discussion topics include the context in which fossils have been found (and the meaning behind it), as well as the correlation of feathered reptiles with their present-day avian counterparts. All of these subjects are wonderfully cradled by the film’s overall framework: the research efforts made by archaeologists and paleontologists of the 1930s.

Blu-ray is the perfect medium for viewing this type of natural history documentary. Scientific points are easily driven home via CGI renderings, so the 1080p HD visuals offered by this format are prime. Presented in widescreen, with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, the disc features equally impressive audio. DTS surround sound brings the ancient world to life. Each beast’s roar is at once imposing and distinctive.

If you don’t have access to a Blu-ray player, that should not deter you from picking up this fine natural history piece in standard DVD format. It may not run on the same high-powered engine and the picture might not have the same crystal clear quality, but it does contain all the special features offered in the Blu-ray version.

Disc extras in both the standard and Blu-ray versions include the making of Dinosaurs Alive! shot in HD, an educational segment where you get to meet the film’s colossal stars, and a fun quiz to test your knowledge of the beasties. Trailers are included, with audio offered in English, French, and Spanish in Dolby Digital 5.1.

At some point in just about everyone’s life, they have read of these legendary beasts, studied them in school, or watched, mystified, as they roamed across their television screens. "Dinocumentaries" are, therefore, intriguing by their very nature, appealing to our children and the children within us. And Dinosaurs Alive! does a wonderful job in carrying on this rich tradition.

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About Jon Erbar