Titanic


Viewed – 20 July 2008  DVD & revisited 27 July 2013  Blu-ray

Picked this up rather cheap recently, and thought it really deserved a review.  James (Avatar) Cameron’s 1997 epic disaster movie / love story took no less than 11 Oscars at the time, and once you have sat through the 3hr+ movie, it’s not hard to see why.  Everything about this grand spectacle reeks of class.  The production design is outstanding, fully recreating one of the most famous ships in history, and with a credible cast, some of the finest special effects I’ve ever seen, and a second half that always leaves me shaken & stirred – this movie deserves to go down (no pun intended) in history as a cinematic icon.

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Ok, that love story may not be based on fact but leads Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio give it their all, and make for a very romantic pairing, their attraction never in doubt.  I have heard some criticize this movie for its slushiness – and yes, sometimes it is laid on a bit thick, but without it, it would be a journey of hopelessness and doom … not exactly audience grabbing entertainment.  Cameron was right to not have the sinking as the film’s focus, and with that achieves a ‘classic Hollywood’ feel comparable to Gone With The Wind, and all the schmaltz that comes with it.  I’m guessing the cover is a nod to that much admired classic of yester-year.  Even the over-blown camp of Billy Zane’s scorned fiance can’t spoil this. On reflection having watched this movie several times, I feel DiCaprio is a little too arrogant, whilst Kate Winslet (has she ever looked more beautiful?) at times manages to look unsure of herself, despite her likability.  Yet it has to be said what Cameron put them through to capture some of the scenes here, especially during the sinking is nothing short of incredible – that even if they aren’t perfect, the physical demands of this must be applauded.

The Blu-ray is damn pretty.  The movie has a slight softness to it but close up detail is exceptional and the photography hit me as quite jaw-dropping.  There is a distinct layer of grain that gives the movie a very film-like look, and along with a bassey 5.1 sound track that brings James Horner’s emotional score to life – this is every bit the HD treatment fans could have wished for.  The 2 disk Blu-ray boast 3 commentaries (one by the director, another from cast & crew, and a third from Titanic experts / historians).  We also get several in-depth documentaries including the new ‘reflections on Titanic’, an exhaustive photo gallery as well as deleted scenes and outtakes.  A superb package for what is one of the most enduring movies of all time.  Essential.

Verdict:

(the movie)  5 /5

(the Blu-ray)  5 /5

Carnage


Viewed – 04 February 2013 Blu-ray

As far as my knowledge of Roman Polanski stretches, several memorable films (Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby) and something about him being banned from the United States is all that comes to mind.  However, let us not forget that first and foremost he is a director and so we come to his latest offering, that is based on the play by Yasmina Reza.

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Two slightly upper class couples come together one day to discuss what should be done following an incident where one of their children has hit the other in a near by park after a disagreement.  This highly believable and surprisingly engrossing premise brings together four acclaimed actors, namely Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly as the one couple and Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz as the other … all big personalities where it’s our job to sit back and watch the fire works.

On a whole this felt very Woody Allen-esque in it’s comically tense and accurate observations.  I found myself laughing, gasping and grinning throughout like that person at a party, not knowing where to look as others argue – a perversely entertaining experience aided by four decent performances by some of my favorites.  OK, Foster goes a bit into overdrive after a while, and an increasingly manish Winslet fairs little better.  Both however are over shadowed by the utterly wonderful Waltz and Reilly who prove a lot more interesting.  At under 80 minutes this flies by, doesn’t outstay its welcome and is very well written … even if, perhaps like real life it doesn’t really get anywhere.

Recommended.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Revolutionary Road


Viewed – 07 May 2012  DVD

I am a big fan of Leonardo DiCaprio, with some of my favourite movies having stared this gifted actor.  Now when you think of what leading ladies he has been pared with, you’d be forgiven for immediately coming up with Kate Winslet and their on-screen love affair in James Cameron’s Titanic.  Now for the second time, they are paired again as Frank and April Wheeler, who at first glance seem the perfect suburban couple.  They have the big house, the lovely children, the nice neighbours and the perfect existence.  Yet bubbling under the surface is resentment and despair.  Both yearn for something more, something their relationship isn’t giving them and so decide they are going to give up everything and move to Paris.

Based on the novel by Richard Yates and directed by Sam Mendes, ex-husband of Kate Winslet … this like his earlier American Beauty is again holding a mirror up to the suburban dream (albeit in the 50s), with all the cracks and unhappiness that might lurk in the shadows.  It made me think of David Lynch, how his Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks showed us that not all is perfect in that picket-fence image, and although this movie doesn’t delve into Lynch territory freakiness, it felt similar and in some ways had the same atmosphere of impending doom.  DiCaprio again is solid and believable, at times typical American blue-collar, other times a ticking time bomb.  Winslet whilst equally as good sports a somewhat sketchy American accent that distracted me and her character came across less sympathetic.  Also at times the arguing felt forced and unnatural, almost like they were playing it up to hammer home that this couple don’t get a long – but it wasn’t necessary.

As an exploration of a relationship however, I found this absorbing, helped by good support from the likes of Kathy Bates and Boardwalk Empire’s Michael Shannon, and as a vehicle to reunite Winslet & DiCaprio, this was a good alternative to the ice berg movie.

Verdict:  3.5 /5