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The Daily Tar Heel

IMAX Theater Features Thrilling Productions

But while the facilities might exist, their ultimate success boils down to the quality of their product. Luckily the IMAX theater's films, "The Greatest Places" and "The Mysteries of Egypt," stand strong as educational and exciting productions fit for the student, teacher and casual moviegoer alike.

A breathtaking journey to the world's most foreboding and exotic locations, "The Greatest Places" showcases IMAX technology at its best. Gigantic iguanas, imposing glaciers and Buddhist monks span the 55-foot screen, presenting a truly larger-than-life view of Mother Earth and her inhabitants.

Filmed by the Science Museum of Minnesota, "The Greatest Places" is far from a cheesy educational video.

While the film does indeed educate, it seems more like an interactive safari than another meet-the-animals-type production from the local television station.

Colorful, venomous caterpillars and baby elephants appeal to younger audiences, while jaw-dropping views of the Amazon River and the Himalayas start older minds thinking of their next vacation destination.

But don't be fooled. "The Greatest Places" has its share of creepy spiders and stampeding hippopotamuses. Eerie Tibetan ritual music and the thunderous rush of the Iguazu Falls also make the film a bit of a hazard for the weak at heart.

If country-hopping isn't your thing, Exploris offers a look into the past with "Mysteries of Egypt."

Filmed by the National Geographic Society, the "Mysteries of Egypt" is a tidy look at some 4,000 years of Egyptian history, narrated by Omar Shariff ("Lawrence of Arabia").

A native Egyptian, Shariff regales his co-host Kate Maberly ("The Secret Garden") with stories from the lives of ancient Egyptians, starting with the earliest human settlements on the Nile River and ending with the mysterious downfall of the world's longest existing civilization.

The dialogue between Shariff and Maberly is a bit forced, and scenes showing the two visiting Egypt's various landmarks are posed and unnatural. And the history of Egypt is far too extensive to be covered in a 45-minute film.

But casual observers will not notice these shortcomings.

They'll be too busy gawking.

Dizzying aerial shots of the Nile Valley yield to eerie twilight views of ruined temples on the riverbank. And landmarks like the pyramids and the temple of Abu Simpel are appropriately massive, forcing viewers to crane their necks to see the gargantuan monuments in their entirety.

The film's IMAX format presents the viewer with extraordinary images that ordinary movies simply cannot produce.

The airborne camera work is stunning, and shots of tomb artifacts and treasures render every intricate detail with astonishing clarity.

"Mysteries of Egypt" might be little more than eye candy, but the eye-popping images almost make up for the lack of a decent script. If the film was a two-hour long documentary instead, it would be perfect.

The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at artsdesk@unc.edu.

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