Xpress, the Coolest Section of the St. Petersburg Times, is the home for features, news and views of interest to young readers. Most of the work in Xpress, which appears on Mondays in Floridian, is produced by the Times' X-Team. The team of journalists ages 9-17 from around the Tampa Bay area is selected every year at the end of the school year to serve during the following school term. The current team of 12 was chosen out of 150 applicants. Watch for X-Team application forms in Xpress during the month of May.

Read the reviews by Xpress Film Critic Billy Norris

St. Petersburg Times Online

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A breathtaking underwater feat

© St. Petersburg Times
published March 18, 2002

Movie: Ocean Men

Rating: Not Rated

Summary: This IMAX film is a documentary about the adventures of two men, Pepin Ferraras from Cuba, and Umberto Pelizzari from Italy, who are both world-class free divers (diving without oxygen tanks). They started out as the closest of friends with a common goal and became archrivals with two very different styles of free diving. It shows the intense training -- mental and physical -- each man went through to prepare for his attempts to dive to depths never before reached by free divers.

Pepin sets out to dive 531 feet with the assistance of a weighted sled, and a balloonlike device for ascent. Umberto, on the other hand, takes a totally different approach to the whole thing. He uses only his legs and the fins on his feet to propel him downward and then back to the surface. His goal is 232 feet. Both men do their dives on just one deep breath of air! Which man faced the more enormously challenging and dangerous task? That is for you to decide.

My view: This is a really cool film. What these men accomplished is amazing! The underwater camera views were incredibly clear, and the colors were very sharp. If this wasn't an IMAX film, it wouldn't have had quite the same visual and auditory impact. The IMAX format enhances all your senses while you're watching and listening. It helps you relate better to what seems like an unimaginable feat.

Favorite part: Ocean Men really opened my eyes to things the human body is capable of doing that I never even thought were possible. During a dive, at depths of 500 feet, there is more than 200 pounds per square inch of pressure being exerted on the body. Your lungs shrink to the size of oranges. Your heart rate slows to a lethargic 14 beats per minute. Most professional free divers can remain under water for more than eight minutes at a time! Think about that! It's amazing how far you can push the human body and mind.

Least favorite part: This film lacked depth, excuse the pun. I wish it delved deeper into the lives and motivations of these two men.

Recommendations: This IMAX film is only playing at Channelside Regal Cinemas in Tampa, where it made its U.S. debut last Friday. I believe this movie will have appeal to just about anyone 10 and up, and if you've ever been diving, you definitely don't want to miss this one.

Grade: A-

-- Billy Norris, 14, is in the eighth grade at Seminole Middle School, and is a former member of the Times X-Team.

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