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on February 23, 2013
The title for this review seems a bit much, but let me quickly explain why it's not hyperbole or meaningless oversell. I help at my friends video store, which hosts a giant collection of Blu-ray features. I own many, but I should specify the only Blu-Rays I purchase, mostly due to replay-ability, are nature documentaries. My modest collection boasts over 75 Blu-ray nature documentaries: BBC, Nat-Geo, Discovery and other independent sources. I've been collecting nature Blu-rays since the evening I installed a compatible drive in my computer. The PC is linked via 1080p HDMI connection to a large LCD screen. The reason I'm telling you this personal information is so you know I'm serious about the genre. I'm critical. It takes a lot to blow me away since I've viewed so many astonishing, eye-popping nature documentaries over the years. Other people collect guns, stamps or shoes. Well, I collect nature documentaries.

This is, without question, the best nature documentary ever made.

It's better than Life.

It's better than Planet Earth.

It's the reason why you should own a Blu-ray player and a high definition television.

I pre-ordered this series several months ago. Then, like a child waiting for his package to arrive, I eagerly paced my friends store for the delivery to be made yesterday. I'm an avid follower of anything David Attenborough produces -- a God for us nature doc enthusiasts. If you want to hear the highest degree of natural obsession, but described in as fascinating a way as listening to Indiana Jones tell tales of adventure, listen to Attenborough discuss filming on the extra interview footage, Disk 2. He'll give you a sense of where the genre as a whole has evolved from and how modern technology innovated how we study nature. But the reason why this is so great isn't because Attenborough carries it. It's attributed to the iconic and innovative panoramic and close-up cinematography, the high resolution night-filming, spectacular ecological sequencing, detailed studies and harrowing biological dramas.

The series breaks-down six African regions: the Kalahari, Savannah, Congo, Cape, Sahara and a looking-ahead episode called the Future. Among the intense biological attention, the crew follows most of the unique, rare and well-adapted African creatures, harvesting big questions and stirring the viewer into comprehending the vastness and the unfathomable diversity which exists on the mysterious continent. One of the many incredible scenes in the first episode shows the worlds largest underground lake, beneath the unforgiving Kalahari desert. Attenborough describes how this lake contains a prehistoric fish species that exists nowhere else on the planet and how it survives in such ironic form. Another gem is the EXTRAORDINARY oasis scene, where a breathtaking array of beasts and fowl drink side-by-side at a life-saving watering hole. It's one of the most overwhelming scenes ever captured, I'm not kidding. A Garden of Eden, a bounty of lions, giraffes, ostriches, rhinos, and many other stoic animals all existing for the moment as a unified body.

The series showcases the high, mountainous and remote "islands" where creatures like gorillas and other primates live. Detailing how family dramas are tied to the treacherous struggles of survival in the rain forest. You bare witness to the unique personalities and familial bonds, capturing intimate and rare once in a lifetime moments on camera. You see when the normally introverted and temperamental rhinos come out at night, greet one another and foster relationships with friends. Yes, with friends. You hear how they communicate and witness the body language they present for each other, making it easy, as easy as sympathizing with another human, to understand what the rhinos are thinking. These moments echo throughout the series within various species. It results in casting the beautifully special creatures with a sense of importance and individuality on the planet -- as equal as, and I say this with controversial trepidation, human populations struggle with the same belonging.

I never knew why giraffes had those two tiny horns on their heads before this series, which shows you why in glorious detail as the scene unfolds a cliffhanger moment into an uproarious Cinderella story. There are a few nail-biting, horrifying moments where in the last moment an event turns to favor the underdog, you never see it coming as you prepare to flinch and then you burst into tears and clap like a maniac.

Iconic sweeping panoramic landscapes fill the transitions between the micro-dramas. The vivid wildernesses offer glorious, endless wow-factor. You'll find yourself rewinding and re-watching scenes to maintain the tingly frisson, again and again. Earth-porn at its finest.

As usual, the BBC Concert Orchestra extends and resonates the visual majesty with a spectacularly swelling score. The finest timing represented when the camera slowly creeps over a gaping precipice and the symphony builds into a shivering crescendo.

There are hilarious moments too, like the squirrel dropping its dinner with the kind of attitude and personality you expect from your best friend, he's registering he's been spotted by a leopard, and is about to bolt to his haven. The odd and personality-brimming giraffes are also sources of comic relief throughout Africa--they've quickly risen to be one of my favorite creatures on the planet, all thanks to this series.

It is completely worthy of your time. It has the capacity to change your feelings to favor preservation and natural conservation in all its forms without brow-beating you with guilt trips or "humans are always a problem" shaming. Instead the series tactfully, and rightfully, admires nature and shows you why we should preserve these creatures, habitats and regions. And in that respect, showing is far more influential than telling.

Appropriate for all members of your family and offers a paramount-entrance into the revealing and worthwhile nature-doc collection. It's something every human on the planet should be required to see. This is why you bought your Blu-ray player. And if you do not own a Blu-Ray player, this is the reason you've been searching for to take the plunge.
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on March 2, 2013
I've been watching nature documentaries for decades now, so I approach these newer ones with weary skepticism, especially since the wave of glossy 'remake-upgrades' started by Planet Earth. In this specific case, the topic is the wildlife of Africa, which has been covered in almost every major BBC documentary so far, as well as hundreds of other docs, and it has also been the focus of the very good 'Wild Africa' series (also by the BBC).

The one detail with 'Africa' that gave me hope was that it was produced by Mike Gunton, producer of arguably the best of the new breed of documentaries: 'Life'.

I am happy to report that this one is just as good as Life, if not better.

The approach here is to find footage of surprising, educational and entertaining animal behaviour not seen before and film it in dramedy style as with Life. In addition, the documentary masterfully combines summary information on the natural history and climate to provide a complete picture of nature and wildlife in each habitat as an integrated whole.

A typical scene in this series will describe the available food in a region and the challenges specific to that habitat, then introduce a native animal cast, and film a little dramatic, unusual, surprising or funny sequence, such as monster armoured crickets with poison blood attacking baby birds, or a lizard sneaking up on sleeping lions to eat the flies off its face.

If you ever walked in nature, you should know about these moments when you observe animals you already know doing something surprising. Well this series is like a condensed compilation of these moments, some thrilling, some sad, some very amusing. And this is backed by carefully chosen music and narrative to enhance the drama or comical aspects.

Where Fothergill's approach with Planet Earth/Frozen Planet seems to be to focus on postcard landscapes and thrilling hunts, Gunton uses stunning landscapes only as an introduction, and then makes nature intimate, surprising, beautiful, exciting and slightly anthropomorphic. Now I can see this approach being abused by the wrong person and becoming manipulative and cheap, but Gunton seems to know how to balance it all superbly.

As you can guess from the above description, the structure on this one is more tight than recent sloppy BBC documentaries, because it strives to draw a full picture of five very different habitats in Africa (Kalahari, Savannah, Congo, Cape and Sahara). That said, it avoids repeating footage on the same old wildlife and regional information by quickly summarizing the habitat and then focusing on these new findings. Which means that you can combine this series with previous ones and still get something new, as well as watch the amazing landscapes in high-definition with stunning photography.

There are five episodes, making this half the length of Life, but they finally stopped bothering with an overview episode, and this series feels like it chose only top-quality, new and rich footage instead of padding it with repetitive postcards. A superb production! It also includes a sixth episode covering various conservationist projects in Africa that is thankfully more inspirational than alarmist, but it still feels like an extra rather than part of the series. And we get the expected, entertaining ten-minute 'Eye-to-Eye' making-of snippets at the end of each episode.

I only wish that they had included one episode on Madagascar in this series instead of padding it out to three episodes and a separate series (also produced by Gunton while he was filming 'Africa' hmm... why do I get the feeling that was a commercial decision?).

And yes, Attenborough narrates this one, is still in top form, and makes appearances in the Sahara desert, amongst other things. The man is a living monument. And yes, once again Discovery thinks that Americans want Attenborough replaced with an American, and no, I won't be bothering to check out their version. Even if he turns out to be good, why bother when you have Attenborough?

The picture and sound quality are amazing as always.

In short, I keep complaining about remakes, glossy sensationalism and screen-saver documentaries, but Gunton reminds us that nature is always surprising and always has something new up its sleeve, as long as you know where to look, and have the patience to find it (and catch it with the best equipment).
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on February 23, 2013
Africa is the latest incredible nature documentary from the producers who brought us Planet Earth, Life, Frozen Planet, and Human Planet. Africa is narrated by the great Sir David Attenborough. Unfortunately the Discovery Channel airing of Africa used a different narrator. This Blu-Ray is the original uncut broadcast with Attenborough. The Discovery Channel cut out scenes for commercials during the hour long broadcast when it aired.

Africa is a 6 part series which includes: Kalahari, Savannah, Congo, Cape, Sahara, and The Future. Each episode is stunning. From forest elephants to kick-boxing frogs, the animals of Africa come to life in stunning high definition. The cinematography in Africa is amazing. This is definitely one of the best BBC nature documentaries to date. This Blu-Ray is a must have for anyone who enjoys nature.
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on March 14, 2013
Let me start by saying I am addicted to BBC nature films. I was joking with my brother that my son hears more of David Attenborough's voice than his own father's on a lot of days.

After Planet Earth I was blown away and thought it couldn't get any better and was equally impressed by Frozen Planet. Madagascar is incredible as are the Galapagos, and I've probably seen Wild Pacific 20 times now.

Even after countless hours of watching all of the above and others I was still glued to the TV for the entirety of Africa. There are some disturbing and tear-jerking scenes, but as usual the production is incredible, the narration is perfect, and the footage is unsurpassed. This is my new favorite!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon April 30, 2013
Without a doubt, I'm a fan of nature documentaries seen on Discovery, and NatGeo. The BBC has truly impressed me with their series Africa. This production is stunning and a truly beautiful representation of an unappreciated continent.

Narrated by perennial favorite David Attenborough, and with impressive musical scoring, this tour of Africa is absolutely breathtaking. Separated into six episodes, we are taken to the furthest reaches of the Kalahari, Savannah, Congo, Sahara and what many expect to be the future of Africa.

From all over the Dark Continent we are introduced, up close and personally, to animals of all types: elephants, and giraffes, insects, sea turtles, and sharks, birds, and even penguins. We see the majestic beauty of Africa through exploding volcanos, vistas and peaks, ridges and cliffs. The animals and lands of Africa come alive in astounding beauty and color.

BBC's Africa is perfect for the nature buff. This is a magnificent documentary if you have already seen Human Planet, Frozen Planet and Planet Earth, and is a great companion to them, focused on the splendors of Africa.

Disclosure: I received a sample product from the vendor for the purposes of providing this review. A review in exchange for the review sample was not promised. The views and opinions expressed in this review are my own, and in no way represent the views or opinions of the DVD Production Company or vendor.
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on September 13, 2013
The best part of this DVD is of course David Attenborough's narration. And if you could sit and listen to him just reading the phone book (as many of us would) then this film belongs on your must-have list. But the material in the film is more of an augmentation to the Planet Earth series, than a stand-alone work about Africa.

There are moments of greatness: The mountain gorilla babys are cute for the minute these creatures are allocated. And the desert Giraffe section is fantastic, as are the black rhinos, and elephants are always cool. The film devotes much time to showcasing animals that are skipped by most nature videos: lizards, meercats, fruit bats, giant grass hoppers, ants, moles, unusual birds and many other creatures we never knew much about. Perhaps...for good reason?

The footage of the Mountains of the Moon is disappointing, if you know what they are supposed to look like; these are just cloud shots with spectacular music. Granted, they explain they only had a month to film and weather wasnt on their side. But I hesitate to believe the BBC doesnt have the cash to return the crews when the weather is better to get the shots right. Not what one expects from the BBC.

I was also disappointed that the Erindi Ranch in Namibia appeared on the credits. How much of this film was made on a commercial game-farm with captive animals accustomed to humans? Also Etosha Park, which is practically a petting-zoo. I have similar footage on my cam-corder sitting in the parking lot. Not the effort one expects from the BBC.

The sound effects are exaggerated. It seems all animal sounds are dubbed with stock studio recordings. Example: I've never heard a small lizard make such crunching sounds when it moves in slow-motion on a rock, except Godzilla. The lions running in slow motion with growling sounds in real-time contrasts oddly. The ants moving to techno music?

The film set has 5 sections. The first is called Kalahari (much is actually in the neighboring Namib). Second is Savannah. Third is Congo. Fourth is Cape (as in South Africa). Fifth is Sahara. The rest is making-of's.

Synopsis: This film is certinaly not BBC's ultimate achievement in nature documentary. Attenborough is extraordinary as usual and one never knows which film may be his last work. Ironically, I find the 'making-of' at the end of each section to be the most entertaining parts. The film quality is very good in BBC style, its just not always of the most interesting subjects. If you own the Planet Earth DVDs then this should be the next video to supplement the animals not covered in that series. But if you dont, then I predict one may be disappointed at what is missing. A comprehensive collection of 'Africa' this video is not. The question is, will you watch this film twice?
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I have come to expect quality from the BBC. This video once again proves that ANYTHING can be improved. Frankly, I did NOT think that BBC could outdo themselves......but they most certainly have.

I expected high quality narration via Mr. Attenborough and I got that. I expected high quality cinematic content and I got that.

What I was NOT prepared for was the 3d like quality of the images. The use of slow motion high quality image rendering. The use of new star light cameras. The addition of eye to eye at the end of each segment where I was pleased to learn a little about how the cinema artists and scientific advisors were able to gain the truly unbelievable shots..

I have seen almost every BBC video in it's original state.... ie..... from BBC entertainment rather that a cut up version on cable networks...and it has been a most satisfying journey.

Even after seeing the eye to eye explanations at the end of each segment and the bonus dvd I still am awe struck by the images. I have never seen such realistic displays. The animals are alive on my screen. I see into their eyes as they look towards the camera or other wildlife. I was able to see black Rhinos gathering to talk ........ going against what was thought to be normal behavior for this often cantankerous animal.

I was very pleased at how they took such a large continent and broke it down into it's geological or physical territories. This enabled me to follow much closer the content as it unfolded.

After the first segment I realized I wanted to more clearly understand the locations. So I pulled up Google earth and another map app so that as they went I could glance at my ipad and fully appreciate the locations..

Thanks to BBC for another quality program.
Publisher provided copy for review
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on March 21, 2013
The movie starts in the Kalahari Desert first, and uncovers things about the desert that most of us never knew. They also show one perfect scene where so many different animals have congregated close together by a rare source of drinking water. It almost reminds you of the biblical account of the Garden of Eden, with so many different animals getting along so peacefully, until a pride of vicious marauding lions suddenly appear out of nowhere and interrupted the peace. They looked crazed while even attacking each other, before chasing the other peaceful animals away. The show also highlights a group of desert Giraffes, and shows one Giraffe being knocked out in slow motion, by another Giraffe that was competing for a female Giraffe to mate with.

This documentary makes you feel that you're on an actual journey in Africa, all from the comfort of your living room sofa. It is much more than just the same old coverage about wildlife in Africa; this documentary is different because it gives you extensive detailed information about every region they visit. This film shows how the sand dunes in the Sahara desert, is constantly changing its shape in a time-lapse video replay. We also learn for the first time that there is a hidden underground lake in the Sahara Desert that is hundreds of feet deep, which may run the entire length of the desert.

From there the series takes us on a journey to the Savannah, and sheds light on the largest lava lake in the world. This is a six part documentary, and after every part is over they take at least another 10 minutes to explain how they made this series and the video shots they captured, which makes the series even more interesting. With the near perfect video shots, and the perfect lighting effects, this is what sets this film apart from others in the same naturalist field. This is another must have, for your collection of the BBC Earth Series documentaries.
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on May 2, 2013
I'm going to keep this short and sweet, if you love nature, if you love our planet, if you loved Planet Earth and LIFE, and if you love being awed, this is for you. Beautiful in every way possible. Also the best narrator alive.
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on September 10, 2014
The disc plays fine though I have not watched the full 2 discs but more or less skipped around. OK, so what does that mean?

I purchased this set in a Daily Deal and read the reviews and like almost all the other BBC Earth Series discs, the ratings were very high. Especially since David Attenborough narrates it. I knew it would be good and I was not let down from what I have seen.

What I want to talk about though is the disclaimer that this disc will not play in most of the U.S. Blu ray Players as it is a region 2 disc and not region 1. Meaning that it is made for European market and not for USA or Canada market. When I ordered it, i did not see the disclaimer until it was being shipped. I read about the video, the price and the comments from others. Just like you are probably doing now. The DVD version did not have the disclaimer but Blu ray does. I figured it is i]on the way and not much i can do about it now.

It came in the mail today with another BBC Earth disc set I ordered and before unwrapping the cellophane/plastic, I compared the two sets on what was written on the back and looking for the region codes. Both had similar written wording and nothing about regions, so I chanced it and opened it. Needless to say, it worked as I stated above. There was no problem with my player reading the discs and they played normally. There is an area written stated the disc is distributed in the United States by Warner Home Video so I am not sure if these discs came out after the disclaimer was first put on under the description for this set or what, but I will say mine played well in my Sony Blu Ray player and in reading reviews, no one has mentioned this issue and I can only assume it is a non-issue or the other reviewers all live in Europe...which I doubt...LOL. Hope this helps in your decision.
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