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Title: Flight of the Butterflies (3D)

Movie: :4stars:
Video: :4.5stars:
4K Video: :4.5stars:
3D :4.5stars:
Audio: :5stars:
Extras: :2stars:
HTS Overall Score:87

Reviewing documentaries and obvious “demo” discs that IMAX releases can be a bit of a tough time all things considering. Many of them are just fluff pieces that just act as a way to get demo quality background noise into your home during a dinner party, or just to put on and marvel at the beauty, but writing anything meaningful off of “oooo look! A pretty picture!” can be a bit daunting. Shout’s last release with “Journey to Space” was similar to that in that there was very little to really think about, but there latest two offerings (including this and “Rocky Mountain Express”) have been a cut above the rest, with the culmination being “Flight of the Butterflies”. Not just a basic “ooh shiny” demo disc, it also happens to be a very well done documentary that packs a metric tons worth of scientific information in, while crafting a heartwarming story about an entomologist named Fred Urquhart, who spent his entire life devoted to studying the Monarch Butterflies and their migration patterns.

Supposedly Fred Urguhart grew up with a fascination for the beautiful and unique butterflies, known as the Monarchs” during his childhood in Toronto during the 1920s, and he grew up to devote his entire life to studying their migration patterns. In his childhood state he always wondered just where the butterflies would go as they dipped down south in the off seasons, and when he started growing up he realized that nobody else seemed to know anything about their patterns either. Thus became a lifelong quest to track them down and hunt out their spots of rest and hopefully an endpoint to their trip.

Narrated throughout and sometimes splitting to live action reenactments we get to see Fred navigate the rapids that were the comings and goings of the beautiful creatures. Tagging them and sending out thousands of feelers in the form of citizen scientists, he worked tirelessly at figuring out just WHERE these creatures were ending up. The story blends in the tale of Catalina and her husband, who finally are able to find the final resting area of the butterflies, down in the southern area of Mexica as they have traipsed all over North America.

Simultaneously, we get to see the migration of one very special butterfly named “Dana” by Fred Urguhart, as it travels down the nation, migrating bit by bit. The story not only follows the cute little butterfly, but also her daughter and grand daughter as they make their way from Pupa to gorgeous thing of beauty in a way that touched even my cold cold heart (ok, maybe I’m not so cold…*snuffle).

What makes the story so fascinating is not just the reenactments, but the sheer amount of scientific data that is crammed into the documentary. Unlike “Rocky Mountain Express” which felt a bit like cliff’s notes, “Flight of the Butterflies” is just jam packed with all sorts of good information, ranging from their inception as pupa (and seeming love of the poisonous Milkweed plant), to the data collected by Fred and his team over their lifetime. I honestly have to hand it to the crew as they made something that was just simply fascinating out what could very easily have been nothing but pretty pictures. The cinematography is, of course, gorgeously shot on IMAX cameras, but the information provided makes it that much sweeter for the viewer. Most documentaries are throwaway material, but “Flight of the Butterflies” manages to be one of the keepers in my opinion.


Not Rated by the MPAA

Video :4.5stars:
Unlike the “Rocky Mountain Express” 4K release, I won’t be splitting this into two separate reviews due to the nature of the discs. “Rocky Mountain Express” has a single 4K UHD disc as well as a 2D Blu-ray disc that mirrors the stand alone Blu-ray release. However, “Flight of the Butterflies” is a bit different with the 4K disc as usual, but the Blu-ray disc offers both a 3D AND a 2D experience while the standalone disc only contains a 2D release, thus it’s hard to ascertain whether the Blu-ray in the 4K combo pack is the same encode as the standalone release.

Well, with that done and said, the 4K release appears on Blu-ray with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio in the brand new HEVC codec with some simply stunning results. Shout! Has come out with some truly unique encodes recently and “Flight of the Butterflies” follows that pattern by allowing the 4K version to be viewed in either SDR or HDR, with HDR being the preferred version if you have the TV to support it. Colors are simply magnificent with eye popping saturation levels, making the IMAX film just pop off the screen at every turn. Fine detail is incredible as you can see every little fiber and ribbing on the Monarch Butterfly’s wings, and the distinct blades of grass as you’re watching the little winged creatures dance across the fields. Long shots or close ups are both equally impressive, and there is some old fashioned color grading applied to some of the scenes that were a replication of the 60s and 70s. Blacks remain deep and inky with only the very opening scene showing a few washed out colors.

The 2D release for the disc is much the same way, but is shown in the standard AVC codec and looks remarkably similar. Sure the colors are not AS deeply saturated as the HEVC encoded 4K disc, but as a Blu-ray encode it is just as magnificent and glorious on disc. There’s a teensy bit of banding in one spot and the afore mentioned washed out black levels in the opening scene, but other than that the encode is just a beautiful thing to behold.

3D :4.5stars:
I’m not a real fan of 3D for the most part, as many times it’s either poorly done, or just a conversion that is cheesy and full of gimmicky pop outs. In this particular instance it looks like we have a winner though. The documentary has a wonderful sense of 3D depth and layering that creates a wildly interactive world with quite a few pop out moments with the birds nearly flying off the screen. I didn’t notice any brightness issues, and detail seems just as vivid and impressive in the 3D release as the 2D release is. I also didn’t notice any crosstalk or ghosting anywhere in the film, and I’m overly sensitive to both. A fantastic 3D release for certain.

Audio :5stars:
Once again Shout has given us a Dolby Atmos track for both the 4K release as well as the Blu-ray disc (thankfully, since some studios have an annoying tendency to put the Atmos on the 4K disc only), and it is a FANTASTIC sounding track. It’s hard to give a documentary a perfect score for audio, but this one does it quite well, with an engaging track that utilizes all of the channels with equal aplomb. Dialog and narration is stuck firmly in the center channel, but the rustling of Monarch wings and the chirping of birds, or the whisper of grass scraping against each other comes through with pinpoint accuracy. So much accuracy, in fact, that I was looking over my shoulder at several points in the film just amazed at the directionality and distinctness of each and every sound. LFE adds some nice support, and knows when to fade back into the background when unnecessary and the heights add some wonderful depth for the butterflies flying overhead or to accentuate the wind fluttering around the listener in a field.

Extras :2stars:

• Special Message from the President of Mexico
• Behind the Scenes
• Image Gallery

Overall: :4.5stars:

“Flight of the Butterflies” is a rather engaging and thoroughly entertaining documentary that actually packs a LOT of information into the 44 minutes of runtime. Couple that with a seriously demo worthy package that includes a 4K release, a standard 1080 Blu-ray AND a 3D option makes this a serious package to consider. Audio and video are fantastic as usual and the doc itself is one of the better ones that I’ve seen in quite some time, making this highly recommended for a watch

Additional Information:

Starring: Gordon Pensent, Patricia Phillips, Shaun Benson
Directed by: Mike Slee
Written by: Mike Slee, Wendy MacKeigan
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 HEVC (AVC for the Blu-ray)
Audio: English: Dolby Atmos (TrueHD 7.1 Core), French, Spanish DTS-HD MA 5.1, English, French, Spanish DD 5.1
Studio: Shout! Factory
Rated: NR
Runtime: 44 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: July 12th 2016

Buy Flight of the Butterflies 4K UltraHD Blu-ray on Amazon
Buy Flight of the Butterflies Blu-ray on Amazon

Recommendation: Recommended for a Good Watch

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