National Catholic Register

Arts & Entertainment

DVD Picks & Passes

BY Steven D. Greydanus

February 10-16, 2008 Issue | Posted 2/5/08 at 2:37 PM

 

IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON (2007) - Pick

THE BEATRIX POTTER COLLECTION (1993) - Pick


This week, two excellent new DVD releases offer top-notch viewing for the whole family. David Sington’s excellent, uplifting In the Shadow of the Moon was one of last year’s best films. A rare award-winning documentary of human achievement rather than human failure, the film revisits the triumphs and tragedies of the U.S. Apollo program, focusing primarily on the Apollo 11 mission that put Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin on the moon’s surface.

Blending interviews with 10 surviving astronauts with extraordinary never-seen archival NASA footage, In the Shadow of the Moon is an eloquent testament to the grandeur of creation as well as man’s unique place in it. Although the archival images of the lunar missions are frequently transporting, the heart and soul of the film are in the memories and perspective of the surviving astronauts, including Aldrin, Michael Collins (who denies being “the loneliest man in the universe” the day Armstrong and Aldrin went down to the moon’s surface, leaving Collins alone in orbit) and others.

With gratifying humility and grace, the astronauts convey the sense of awe and wonder at leaving the planet of our birth, at seeing for the first time in history the whole rim of the earth, at visiting our nearest celestial neighbor. A number of them reflect on spiritual implications — the clear sense of design and a higher purpose in the universe, the dwarfing of our geopolitical squabbles in the vastness of space. “My walk on the moon lasted three days,” says Charlie Duke. “My walk with God will last forever.”

Also new this week, The Beatrix Potter Collection repackages the beautifully done BBC animated episodes of Beatrix Potter’s children’s stories, originally broadcast as “The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends.”

With evocative watercolor backgrounds and character design strongly reminiscent of Potter’s illustrations, animation ranging from fine to excellent, and dialogue and narrative drawn straight from the source material, the series is remarkably faithful to the text, spirit and look of Potter’s beloved stories.

Like the original stories, the 26-minute shorts include incidents both charming (the mouse tailors in “The Tailor of Gloucester”) and alarming (the kidnapping of the bunny children in “The Tale of Mr. Tod”), often with a morality-tale twist.

Individual episodes cleverly combine related tales, so that, e.g., the tales of Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny are presented as a single story. Each episode is framed by lovely live-action sequences, depicting Potter herself (Niamh Cusack) writing the stories in letters to children. A pleasant piano score and lilting Celtic theme song provide ideal accompaniment.

Offered here by BBC/Warner as a three-disc set, the same material is also available from Good Times Video in sets ranging from four to two discs.


Content advisory

In the Shadow of the Moon: A couple of mild profanities and mild crude references; footage of wartime bombings. Fine family viewing. The Beatrix Potter Collection: Some animated menace and violence that could be frightening to very sensitive children.