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BY Steven D. Greydanus
Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death (2008)
Wallace & Gromit: The Complete Collection (1989-2009)
Battle for Terra (2009)
and Gromit! A Matter of Loaf and Death marks the return
of Nick Park’s Claymation duo to the half-hour short format of their first
three films, following a successful foray into feature-length cinema in Curse
of the Were-Rabbit.
After spoofing the horror/thriller
genre in their last few outings, the Aardman team takes a stab (so to speak) at
a murder mystery. Someone is knocking off British bakers — and wouldn’t you
know it, cheese-loving Wallace and ever-silent Gromit are in bread themselves
at the moment.
Then there’s The Girl, Piella (Sally
Lindsay), formerly the face of the Bake-O-Lite bread company, whom Wallace
rescues from an out-of-control bicycle. “It’s not every day you meet the girl
of your dreams,” Wallace crows, though, in fact, Piella is his third love
interest in as many outings.
Has the bounce gone from their
bungee? Not quite, but there’s a bit of a “been there, done that” vibe this
time around. It’s a pleasant lark, but the least impressive of the duo’s
outings since the original “A Grand Day Out.” The formula starts to wear thin:
Just once, I’d like to see Wallace save Gromit, rather than the other way
around. Still, it’s enjoyable fun.
and Death” is available singly or in Wallace &
Gromit: The Complete Collection,
which includes the first three shorts: the charming “A Grand Day Out,” the
flat-out brilliant “The Wrong Trousers” and the equally brilliant “A Close
Shave” (but not Curse of
the Were-Rabbit). It’s well worth
getting the set if you don’t have them already.
Also new on DVD, Battle
for Terra is a curiosity: an uncompromising, hard-science fiction
parable that builds a brilliantly imagined alien world, but bogs down on story.
Though themes of environmentalism
and pacifism aren’t taken to extremes, Terra tries too hard
to be good for you. I appreciate their ambition and daring; if the filmmakers
learn to create characters and plots worthy of their world-building, they’ll be
Available in new Blu-ray and DVD
special editions, Zhang Yimou’s Hero is a visually
sumptuous exercise in art-house martial-arts cinema à la Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
The story, set at the dawn of the Chinese Imperial Era, extols nonviolence, yet
offers an unconvincing rationale for force in the name of political unity.
This contradiction lies close to the
heart of Chinese cultural identity, making Hero an intriguing
mythic ethnography, a storybook compendium of Chinese mores. It deserves
CONTENT ADVISORY: Wallace & Gromit: Slapstick violence and comic menace. “Loaf and Death” includes some mildly
risqué humor. Still fine family viewing. Battle for Terra: Intense, sometimes fatal
sci-fi action violence; misguided religious references; complex moral and
social themes requiring discernment. Not for sensitive youngsters. Hero: Intense stylized violence; a
brief but forceful sexual encounter (no nudity); ambiguous treatment of
life-and-death moral issues, including suicide. Mature viewing.