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Haunted Sideshow

Dustin Putman

The Last Reef  (2012)

(4K Ultra HD Blu-ray – 2012 – Running Time: 39:54)
Reviewed for by Dustin Putman

The Film
2.5 Stars
(Release Date: September 13, 2016) – As is often the case with short-form IMAX documentaries, they come and go too quickly, only able to scratch the surface—or, in the case of "The Last Reef," just below the surface—of their subjects. Directors Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas invite viewers on an educational, eye-opening tour of the tropical reefs in Palau, Vancouver Island, French Polynesia, Mexico and the Bahamas and the world of astonishing biodiversity which surrounds these multicolored underwater colonies. The sea creatures, from jellyfish to flatworms, are majestic sights to behold, but behind their beauty and that of their habitats are serious threats—environmental, man-made—and a cry for preservation. Where there is danger, however, there is also resilience, as glimpsed in the opening scene as reefs come back over time from virtual decimation following the nuclear testing of the 1950s at Marshall Islands' Bikini Atoll. "The Last Reef" means well, but isn't air-tight in conveying its message without falling into doom-and-gloom preachiness. Still, there is a lot to learn and understand here, all crammed into a lightning-fast running time of under 40 minutes. The film could have easily been twice as long, and been better for it.

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

Shout! Factory presents "The Last Reef" (subtitled "Cities Beneath the Sea" in promotional materials but not in the film credits proper) on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc with a 1.78:1, 2160p transfer that ranges from breathtaking to underwhelming. Choosing to watch in High Dynamic Range (requiring an HDR-enabled TV) or Standard Dynamic Range (for those with 4K televisions but not HDR capabilities) should be a no-brainer for viewers with the proper technology, but it is still nice to have the option. Through no fault of the transfer itself, underwater footage is suitably detailed but lacks the dimensionality and spectrum of color that the above-sea sections hold. Thus, it is in the establishing shots—including some exceptional aerial photography of New York City—where this UHD presentation soars. Also available in this package is a standard Blu-ray disc, a 3D Blu-ray, and a Digital Copy. As has become the case with all of Shout! Factory's 4K releases, their accompanying English Dolby Atmos tracks are aural marvels, putting into perspective just how superior these soundtracks are over other lossless audio options. For a relatively sedate doc, "The Last Reef" swims and rumbles with exquisite clarity, effective ambient surrounds, an immersive score, and clean and clear narration that somehow never becomes overshadowed during the more powerful musical cues.

Blu-ray Features
  • Behind the Scenes:
    • Ocean Acidification (2:44, HD)
    • Filming in Bimini (1:56, HD)
    • Editing and Scoring (2:52, HD)
    • Jellyfish Lake (2:22, HD)
    • Macro Filming in Palau (3:37, HD)
    • Reef and the City (2:16, HD)
    • Statues Under the Sea (2:04, HD)
  • Picture Gallery (2:25, HD)
  • Trailers:
    • The Last Reef (1:35, UHD)
    • Wonders of the Arctic (1:41, UHD)
    • Rocky Mountain Express (1:26, UHD)
    • Journey to Space (1:06, UHD)
    • Humpback Whales (1:53, UHD)
    • Flight of the Butterflies (1:10, UHD)
Bottom Line
Shout! Factory's recent 4K documentaries (each running approximately 40-46 minutes) have been delights to behold, taking advantage of the state-of-the-art UHD Blu-ray home-viewing format while also giving consumers the option of seeing it via standard Blu-ray players. While "The Last Reef" is not quite as memorable as some of their other releases, such as "Rocky Mountain Express" and "Flight of the Butterflies," it is still informative and inviting, and is highly recommended for nature buffs and 4K UHD enthusiasts.

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© 2016 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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