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High-tech re-enactment of the 20th Century's most storied shipwreck, re-enacted well enough by the British in semi-documentary style in A Night to Remember. Director James Cameron's self-deluding bright idea seems to have been to humanize this spectacle, and to do so he has fastened onto the most hackneyed have-and-have-not romance between a free-spirit third-class traveller who came by his tickets at poker ("We're the luckiest sons of bitches in the world") and a stifled Philadelphia debutante sulkingly engaged to a stuffed-shirt industrialist out of Pittsburgh. The three-hours-plus have plainly not been necessitated in order that Cameron can get to know the victims of the tragedy in greater number and at greater depth. He has time only for these two cardboard cutouts (Leonardo DiCaprio, admittedly at his most cavalierly charming, and Kate Winslet, who appears to be convinced she has a role as rich as The Portrait of a Lady's Isabel Archer or The Wings of the Dove's Kate Croy) and of course their chief tormentors (Billy Zane as the Gestapo-esque fiancé and an amusingly glum David Warner as his ask-no-questions henchman) and their lone cheerleader (Kathy Bates, at Ethel Merman volume, as the soon-to-be-dubbed Unsinkable Molly Brown). Some of the exorbitant running time may be blamed on the present-day framing story, which rounds up the now centenarian heroine to recount the events from the inside. (Not surprisingly, Cameron can't be troubled to stick to his own premise, and instead flies off at will or at whim into areas of which the first-person narrator could have no knowledge.) There is a vaguely Somewhere in Time feeling about this angle of approach, and nowhere more so than in the lovers' ultimate reunion in the afterlife, in that Great Ocean Liner in the Sky. With Bill Paxton, Suzy Amis, Gloria Stuart. (1997) — Duncan Shepherd

Rated PG-13 | 3 hours, 14 minutes
View Trailer "Special Titanic 3-D Sneak Preview Screening"

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Glub glub, James Cameron's unsinkable opus, the 1997 Best Picture Oscar winner and highest-grossing film of all time, is a waterlogged white elephant, a trite Romeo and Juliet-like story awash in cliché. Titanic stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet as doomed lovers, she from first class and engaged to someone she doesn't love (Billy Zane), he from steerage. I found myself growing weary ("Hit the iceberg already"), perked up only by a hint of nudity as he's a sketch artist and she agrees to pose nude, but fans of the film are legion. Over one hour shorter, and more admirable to boot, is a 1958 British version, A Night to Remember.

Nov. 1, 2008

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