[box cover]

Titanic

The most expensive film ever made ($200 million) is also the highest grosser in the U.S. ($600,743,440), the highest grosser worldwide ($1,835,300,000), the top-seller on VHS (60 million units and counting), and the first DVD to sell one million copies. So that means that Titanic doesn't suck, right? Well.... The clearest point to be made about James Cameron's labor of love is that it's a James Cameron film in every sense of the term, meaning it's too damn long, occasionally stupid, and sort of brilliant at the same time (it also means that Bill Paxton is in it somwhere). Titanic is just like The Abyss, and Terminator 2, and True Lies — it's just been super-sized, so the stupid stuff is really, really stupid, and what's cool is downright spellbinding. Plot, characterization, and the lost art of screenwriting suffer the most. Our heroine, Rose DeWitt Bukater (the lovely Kate Winslet), is engaged to marry wealthy, boorish Cal Hockley (Billy Zane, who plays the role like a silent-film villain with dialogue) as the two prepare to journey back to America on the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic. It's an arranged marriage, and Rose would rather be with a man who can get the hairs up on the back of her neck. Enter Jack Dawson (eternal teenager Leonardo DiCaprio), a cargo-class ne'er-do-well. They meet, they fall in love, and Cameron indulges in far too many overlong scenes that don't really move the plot forward, they just tack another hour on to the film. But finally, the iceberg hits, and the concluding disaster sequence is a monumental achievement, not only for the excellent mix of practical settings and CGI, but because it's filmed in real time. It took the Titanic roughly an hour to go down, and Cameron's uses that whole hour, as what looked like an unlucky scrape gradually turns into panic, devastation, and death. It's an odd experience to see one of the greatest movies ever made when it's been tacked on to a lukewarm made-for-TV melodrama — but then again, that's why we have chapter selection. Solid transfer, DD 5.1, trailer.
—JJB



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