I think I see your problem. You have this list. It’s a list of people you need/want to buy a Christmas gift for. The trouble is that they’re into home theatre, and you don’t know Star Trek from Star Wars. You couldn’t tell a Wolf Man from a Wolverine. And you always thought that Paranormal Activity was something too kinky to talk about. Fortunately, Upcomingdiscs has come to the rescue every Christmas with our Gift Guide Spotlights. Keep checking back to see more recommendations for your holiday shopping. These gift guides ARE NOT paid advertisements. We take no money to publish them. With conditions as they are, shopping won’t be easy this season. The nice thing about discs is that they’re so easy to get from places like Amazon that you can give a great gift and stay perfectly safe while you do it. This time we’re talking about the greatest box office film in history. It’s gotta be James Cameron’s Titanic, and it’s gotta be on UHD Blu-ray in glorious 4K.
“I’ve never spoken of him until now… Not to anyone… Not even your grandfather… A woman’s heart is a deep ocean of secrets. But now you know there was a man named Jack Dawson and that he saved me… in every way that a person can be saved. I don’t even have a picture of him. He exists now … only in my memory.
It was an excellent experience in 1997, when I reviewed Titanic as it opened in America’s theaters. A sweeping disaster epic wrapped around a passionate romantic drama, the film quickly dispelled early rumors that it would sink faster than the actual boat did 100 years ago. Yes, I liked the movie a bunch. I admired its scope, its detail, its amazing effects, and its superb cast. Director James Cameron’s extensive, expensive production schedule was vindicated by critics and box office alike. Yet somehow I never really wanted to see it again. Too intense, too tragic, too overwrought. Maybe it was just that horrid Celine Dion song.
I was wrong. “Titanic” is well worth a second look – especially if you can see Cameron’s astonishing reprocessing of his work into a three-dimensional spectacle par excellence. For one thing, you forget a lot of details after 25 years. And there’s no better way to be reminded of such things than to see them on a meticulously remastered UHD Blu-ray.
Everyone knows the story. On its maiden trans-Atlantic voyage, the gigantic luxury liner hits an iceberg, floods, and sinks in a little over two hours. More than 1,500 crew and passengers perished, while only 700 or so were saved.
Of course, Cameron’s screenplay centers the sad story on a pair of star-crossed lovers – a poor Irish artist played by Leonardo DiCaprio and an upper-crust beauty portrayed by the gorgeous Kate Winslet. The vast sets Cameron constructed are displayed with mind-boggling brilliance. Sweeping panoramas depict the ship’s magnificent furnishings and vast interiors, while stunning close-ups portray the emotions of those who start out in exuberance and wind up in utter despair.
By Bob Ross
DiCaprio and Winslet earned international stardom for their roles in this mega-hit. Billy Zane as a horrible jealous snob, Kathy Bates as the egalitarian Molly Brown, and Frances Fisher as the leading lady’s social-climbing mother all contribute to the human emotions that sustain the surrounding spectacle. First there’s the exhilaration of setting sail for America in the world’s grandest floating city. Then, after a solid run of class conflicts and other subplots, the glee turns to horror as the doomed ship suffers its miserable fate and hundreds of victims are tossed mercilessly into a frigid, deadly ocean.
The movie needs no more actual reviewing. But the 3D conversion merits some extra consideration. For this critic, the added dimensional depth was reason enough to go through the gut-wrenching process anew. The decision pays major dividends: You can’t help but find fresh appreciation of Cameron’s creative brilliance. Part of the joy is simply in watching and wondering, “How did they do that?” How did he convert those sumptuous scenes into even more breathtaking visions?
You can find technical explanations on the accompanying documentaries. But the real amazement comes from simply putting on the glasses and sitting back for three spellbinding hours.
At first, the UHD is a little disconcerting. The early minutes look like an old ViewMaster put in motion, with human figures seemingly stuck on different planes of vision. But by the first hour’s end, you are consumed by Cameron’s reinvention. Staircases, passageways, ornate railings, lavish furnishings, and one particularly huge ballroom are the types of details that seem somehow more prominent in the new, eye-popping format. The first two hours pass easily as you marvel at the vividness and impeccable detail that seem enhanced by the HDR process. The story itself even gets a boost – or perhaps that simply the result of rediscovering moments that had been forgotten over the years. (I still don’t care for that song that plays over the end credits.)
But it’s the climactic, crushing panic of the ship’s final hour that leaves the most memorable impressions. The vision of innocent passengers being tossed to their death isn’t exactly enjoyable, but it is certainly a tribute to their memory as well as a filmmaking landmark.
Equally astonishing are the images of the huge vessel flooding, breaking up, and ultimately sinking into the ice-cold sea, where a crew studying the wreckage provides the story’s modern-day bookends.
There are a few new features to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the film’s release:
Titanic Stories From The Heart: (35:58) This is a new look back featuring the perspectives of James Cameron, Jon Landau, and Kate Winslet. They look back fondly on many of the experiences of the film. From Cameron we hear the things that inspired him to make the film, and from Winslet there’s this point of view of a young 19-year old girl who was so fascinated throughout. We get to see Winslet’s screentest. It’s rather nice to see the memories from the perspective of time.
Titanic – 25 Years Later With James Cameron: (42:06) This feature plays out like an episode of Mythbusters. Cameron and a crew set out to try to figure out if what he depicted in the film could have been the way it actually happened. They spend a lot of time on models to see if the ship could have broken up the way it was shown. Of course, the biggest get in the feature is Cameron trying to answer the question: Could Jack have climbed up on that door and survived? The answer is that he might have. Cameron’s conclusion was that if he were making the film today, he would have made that floating door much smaller to remove all doubt. It’s kind of cool. They do hyperthermia tests on actors who are in the situation with body temperature being monitored.
Music Video: (4:45) I’ll say this once, and I’ll never say it again: I really like Céline Dion. This music video for the fantastic tune “My Heart Will Go On” is always a pleasure to listen to. What a voice, and that was before she joined the ranks of the Holly wood Super-Skinny Club. She was a pretty sweet-looking , too, back then!
Deleted Scenes: Introduced by James Cameron and with an optional commentary track by the director, 30 partial or completed scenes are presented to the viewer. Most are no more than a few seconds long, but the producers actually completed them as they would have been for a feature presentation, and therefore you really get the full picture of what they were intended to accomplish. As per Cameron, they were mostly cut for pacing and time reasons, but some of them look like they would have worked really well … and yes, I’m telling Jimmy Cameron how to direct.
Deep Dive Presentation: (15:31): James Cameron narrates a montage of clips from his dives to the Titanic’s grave. Personally, I would give my right arm and both my eyes to be able to go down there, but I guess for the moment, this is the best I can do. Lots of cool footage, a lot of it never seen before, especially that part when he runs into Linda Hamilton’s lawyer.
Titanic Crew Video – $200,000,001 A Ship’s Odyssey: (17:02) Rather on the long side, this is a collage of video shot by the film crew during principal photography with some outtakes, gags, jokes, and little performances by miscellaneous crewmembers. There’s a bit of footage from older films mixed for in for good humoristic measure, and it’s pretty neat to watch, but it shouldn’t really last more than five minutes.
Videomatic: (3:14) A brief look at some pre-visualization shots by Cameron made prior to the shoot. They were especially important for the deep-dive shots, since each round trip to the wreck lasted about sixteen hours, and they could only shoot about twelve minutes of film.
Visual Effects: (7:46) A quick run through four key scenes of the movie with the different layers of composition added progressively up to the final product. It’s fairly interesting, although ten years later these techniques no longer hold too many secrets. It’s still pretty cool when you learn they were used in some instances where you would never have noticed or even imagined they could be.
Photo Galleries: Tons of pictures for your viewing pleasure! A total of eight different photo galleries range through several topics with hundreds of pictures for you to go through. Several involve the thoroughly scrumptious Ms. Winslet.
Reflections On The Titanic: (1:03:47) This feature length extra gives you everything we got in the old documentaries and so much more. The pieces are loaded with plenty of Titanic lore both for the film and the ill-fated ship itself. They combine to make this the ultimate release for the highest-grossing film of all time.
James Cameron has embraced this new 4K home video ability with the recent theatrical re-release of Abyss in UHD. It should not be a surprise that Titanic would jump to the format, and just in time for the holidays. You must know a fan of the film, so here’s an easy gift for a few folks on your list.
Parts of this gift guide were added by Gino Sassani