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Titanic: Limited 3D Edition Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray 2D + Digital Copy Review - Page 2

Titanic (1997) movie poster Titanic

Theatrical Release: December 19, 1997 / 3D Theatrical Reissue: April 4, 2012 / Running Time: 195 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Writer/Director: James Cameron

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio (Jack Dawson), Kate Winslet (Rose DeWitt Bukater), Billy Zane (Caledon "Cal" Nathan Hockley), Kathy Bates (Margaret "Molly" Brown), Frances Fisher (Ruth DeWitt Bukater), Gloria Stuart (Old Rose Calvert), Bill Paxton (Brock Lovett), Bernard Hill (Captain Edward John Smith), David Warner (Spicer Lovejoy), Victor Garber (Thomas Andrews), Jonathan Hyde (Bruce Ismay), Suzy Amis (Lizzy Calvert), Lewis Abernathy (Lewis Bodine), Nicholas Cascone (Bobby Buell), Dr. Anatoly M. Sagalevitch (Antoly Milkailavich), Danny Nucci (Fabrizio De Rossi), Jason Barry (Tommy Ryan), Ewan Stewart (1st Officer William Murdoch), Ioan Gruffudd (Fifth Officer Harold Lowe), Jonny Phillips (2nd Officer Charles Lightoller), Mark Lindsay Chapman (Chief Officer Henry Wilde), Richard Graham (Quartermaster Rowe), Paul Brightwell (Quartermaster Robert Hichens), Ron Donachie (Master at Arms), Eric Braeden (John Jacob Astor), Charlotte Chatton (Madeleine Astor), Bernard Fox (Col. Archibald Gracie), Michael Ensign (Benjamin Guggenheim), Fannie Brett (Madame Aubert), Jenette Goldstein (Irish Mommy), Camilla Overbye Roos (Helga Dahl)

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VIDEO and AUDIO

The film is split across the two Blu-ray 3D discs (which, like it or not, are filled to around capacity), with disc change occurring at the same point where the movie's two videocassettes needed to be switched. It manages to fit in its entirety on a single standard two-dimensional Blu-ray.

Interestingly, the two formats give us different aspect ratios: Blu-ray 3D presents the film in 1.78:1 like its IMAX exhibitions earlier this year, whereas the regular Blu-ray upholds the original 2.35:1 theatrical framing. Since this was shot, like most other Cameron films, primarily in Super 35, the 1.78:1 presentation actually opens up the mattes on the frame slightly, at least for shots not relying heavily on postproduction effects. So whereas, for example, you only see the top of Kate Winslet's butt in 2D, you get the whole thing in 3D. Cameron did a similar thing with Avatar, exhibiting it 2.35:1 in standard theaters but using the IMAX 3D's 1.78:1 on home video. At least here, you have a choice, sort of.

Frame from the Blu-ray 2D presentation in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio The same frame presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio on Blu-ray 3D
Per this same-frame comparison, you see more of Leo's hair and Kate's chest in the 1.78:1 Blu-ray 3D framing.

The presentation itself is, as expected, excellent. The picture shows no aging at all, with the clean, sharp visuals comparing to a brand new film. A handful of shots display a small amount of grain, as they probably should. Beyond that, colors, clarity, and detail are all terrific. As is the 5.1 DTS-HD master audio, although its peaks and valleys are a bit much.
The Oscar-winning sound design is big on atmosphere and effects that grab your attention. James Horner's ethereal score is also nicely presented.

You may be puzzled by random names appearing in the subtitles when the disc tells you they are off. If so, don't be alarmed; you have activated a secondary English track used to identify the current speaker on the cast and crew audio commentary.

Both formats present the film with Paramount Pictures' current 100th anniversary logo in front and an updated THX logo playing at the end.

BONUS FEATURES

Titanic is joined by two major new bonus features on this Blu-ray debut while it hangs on to most (but not all) of the extras from 2005's three-disc Special Collector's Edition DVD.

No extras are provided on the two Blu-ray 3Ds, but a single 3D extra is found on the bonus Blu-ray.

The standard Blu-ray's feature presentation is equipped with all three of the audio commentaries that were recorded in 2005. James Cameron speaks alone. A cast and crew track features dozens of people in or behind the film (basically everyone of note besides Cameron and DiCaprio). Finally, Don Lynch and Ken Marschall provide an historical commentary. I sampled all three in the course of one playback of the film.

Candid Cameron is easy to listen to and the most informative. He acknowledges autobiographical elements (admitting that Paxton is essentially playing him), defends against perceived historical inaccuracies ("art critics can kiss my butt"), and reveals production fights and concerns (casually mentioning the crew getting poisoned by PCP).

The cast and crew commentary patches together remarks from a number of separately recorded individuals, with speakers identified in the aforementioned 5th subtitle track. A few of the many heard here are producers Jon Landau and Rae Sanchini, art director Martin Laing, composer James Horner, sound designer Gary Rydstrom, visual effects supervisor Rob Legato, unit production manager Kevin De La Noy, first assistant director Josh McLaglen, second unit director Steve Quale, stunt coordinator Simon Crane, camera operator Jimmy Muro, multiple core extras, and actors Kate Winslet, Frances Fisher, Bill Paxton, Gloria Stuart, Victor Garber, Jonathan Hyde, Danny Nucci, Kathy Bates, Jason Barry, and Ioan Gruffudd. The extensive participation makes this a varied and vivid alternative and a nice complement to Cameron's track.

Lynch and Marschall's commentary offers something different still, their remarks largely focused on the real Titanic and the movie's efforts to recreate it. A mix of observations, notes for or against historically accurate depictions, and reflections on the filming on which they served as consultants, the track is a little dry and the least essential to hear.

The bulk and remainder of the supplements claim the fourth and final disc of this set, the bonus mostly standard Blu-ray.

Under the heading Documentaries, we get the two primary newly-released supplements.

"Reflections on 'Titanic'" recalls the film's unprecedented success with Variety press clippings and much more. James Cameron and friends try to refine their animated simulation of the Titanic's sinking in the 2012 National Geographic documentary "The Final Word."

"Reflections on Titanic" (1:03:47, HD) is an excellent retrospective that lives up to its title. Randomly broken into four plainly numbered parts, this begins with the film's production and cast and moves to its reception and admission into pop culture immortality. The piece benefits from extensive participation; with the exception of DiCaprio, nearly every major cast and crew member is interviewed here, including: Cameron, Winslet (supposedly from 2005, though she seems to discuss the 3D release), Zane, Paxton, Bates, Nucci, Fisher, Garber, Gruffudd, Horner, Bernard Hill, Suzy Amis-Cameron, Celine Dion (briefly from 2005), producers Landau and Sanchini, and historians Lynch and Marshall. Some authorities lend perspective as well, from critics/historians to executives and heads of organizations.

It is terrifically comprehensive, touching on aspects like the negative industry buzz during production, the delayed release, promoting it, its immediate influence on culture (including clips of parodies from the likes of "The Simpsons" and "NewsRadio"), and the 2012 3D release with footage from the star-studded London premiere. You even find Cameron expressing some remorse of quoting his film at the Oscars.
Though it unnecessarily marginalizes any criticism of the film, that may be the only shortcoming of what otherwise stands as a definitive companion benefitting from nearly two decades of perspective.

Though its title suggests a brief summation, "Titanic: The Final Word with James Cameron" (1:36:16, HD) is actually a feature-length documentary which first aired in April on The National Geographic Channel. The focus here is more on the ship and less on the movie. As Cameron repeatedly explains, he wishes to treat the ship's demise as a murder mystery. So, he assembles a "Titanic dream team" comprised of friends and experts to conduct a forensic investigation. The piece makes some use of clips from Cameron's Titanic and, more extensively, the 2001 dives that featured in his 2003 IMAX 3D documentary Ghosts of the Abyss (whose remotely-operated explorations seem to have planted some seeds for the fundamental concepts of Avatar). There's also footage of public speeches from the historic 1985 discovery of the wreckage.

"Explorer-in-Residence" Cameron and animators put together a new more accurate and detailed visualization of the crash, an update on the 1995 animation featured in his Titanic. They also produce a thorough map of the ship's remains, which they use to guide this CSI-style conjecture. The show concludes with some fascinating bits: potential solutions for saving more lives and minor inaccuracies to the film's sinking. It has a cable television feel and not every fan of the film will have the interest to endure this, but it is a substantial and suitable inclusion.

Spicer Lovejoy (David Warner) comes hunting for Jack and Rose like a Jurassic Park raptor in this deleted watery fight scene. Casually-dressed stunt performers work out how they will fall once the ship set is tilted in this "Behind the Scenes" short.

A Deleted Scenes section consists of a staggering thirty cut sequences, running a total of 57 minutes and 32 seconds with a short Cameron audio introduction. Presented in film-quality high definition and Dolby Digital 5.1 sound with completed visual effects, score, and sufficient context, this material could easily be turned into an extended cut of the film, if anyone wanted both a longer and weaker version of Titanic. There are a number of notable moments presented here, including Titanic's wireless transmissions with the nearby Californian, two visits to the ship's gymnasium, an explanation for Spicer Lovejoy's bloodied head, more of a setup to Rose's suicide attempt, and a shooting star motif. The biggest gains seem to go to the sinking act and to the present day material, which gives more to Gloria Stuart, Bill Paxton, and Suzy Amis, including an almost laughably bad alternate ending.

Nonetheless, this is perhaps the strongest deleted scenes section I've ever encountered. It's amazing to get so much cut footage from the film and in such a presentable state. The scenes are joined by an engaging optional Cameron commentary, which sheds ample light on their deletion and in the real history they depict.

The Production section kicks off with thirty-one "Behind the Scenes" shorts (1:03:34, SD) that focus on some of the many topics given attention on this movie. They are arranged in relation to the film as they were previously presented as a branching viewing mode. They do just fine without that timing and playback extension, as they take us inside many sequences. Some highlights: Kate Winslet and Gloria Stuart getting acclimated over champagne, the primitive motion capture technology by which controlled stuntmen replaced falling rolls of toilet paper, and the making of Celine Dion's music video. It's a lot of content on minor facets, but the brisk design makes it easy to watch and appreciate.

Time-lapse photography illustrates the movie version of Titanic being constructed on a lot in Mexico. Leonardo DiCaprio mockingly mimics a crew member in the Titanic crew video. A Visual Effects deconstruction reveals that part of Jack and Rose's romantic "flight" was shot with nary a ship, ocean, or sunset in sight, just greenscreen.

A "Construction Timelapse" (4:20, SD) documents the building of the giant ship set on a dirt field in Baja, Mexico to your choice of soothing music or documentarian Ed Marsh, who shot this footage.

A "Deep Dive Presentation" (15:30, SD) shares footage from Cameron's 1995 expeditions to the real Titanic wreckage, with the director narrating. It will be best enjoyed by Ghosts of the Abyss fans, who can consider this a prequel to that.

"$200,000,001: A Ship's Odyssey (The Titanic Crew Video)" (17:52, SD) is essentially a long gag reel, which captures production fun and hijinks, from Billy Zane singing "The Love Boat" theme tune to a montage of James Cameron repeatedly saying "You know what I mean?" to footage edited to fit an old newsreel promoting a Cecil B. DeMille film. It's an amusing piece which employs such material as a Talking Heads song and clips from The Poseidon Adventure.

As an introduction explains, two "Videomatics" (3:18, SD) pre-visualize big sequences with tiny scale models and a lipstick camera. It looks like child's play compared to the computer animations used today.

Relying largely on onscreen text, "Visual Effects" (7:50, SD) serves up shot breakdowns dissecting the layers of a brief engine room scene, how-to's showing the many passes two ambitious sequences go through, and the complete animated Titanic sinking simulation that Cameron revisits and improves upon in the National Geographic show.

Last but not least we come to Archives, a section holding a number of short and fun extras.

Celine Dion sings at sunset in the "My Heart Will Go On" music video. A gallery displays surprisingly detailed storyboard drawings.

First up is the music video for Celine Dion's Oscar-winning theme song "My Heart Will Go On" (4:46, SD). The singer belts out from small models of the ship's sections amidst plenty of film clips.

Six distinct theatrical trailers are provided: a teaser (presumably for exhibitors) employing crude concept art (1:50, SD); two standard domestic previews (4:15, 2:32, HD) and an international one (1:06, HD) from 1997 (all of which feature a number of unused bits of footage); and one for 2012's 3D rerelease (2:11, HD), presented both in 2D and, if you have the equipment, 3D. The changing formats and resolutions probably explain the lack of a "Play All" option.

Seven varied TV spots (3:26, SD) follow, ranging from 15 to 45 seconds and with a "Play All" option.

Next up are six HD stills galleries. James Cameron's "Scriptment" presents his original script, dividing each of the 167 pages into two easily read full screens. It departs from the final film in countless minor ways.
The other galleries can be enjoyed with your choice of manual or auto advance display. "Storyboard Sequences" deals a whopping 530 stills, separated by the nine scenes they plot out. "Production Artwork" holds Tom Lay's production paintings (65 stills), David Le Vey's costume design art and photos (63 stills), and Cameron's wreck sketches (9 stills).

Over 1,000 "Photographs" are arranged in nine groups, ranging from Billy Zane's Polaroids to the core extras' scrapbook. "Ken Marschall's Painting Gallery" (80 stills) contains the striking, colorful, and influential artwork of Cameron's friend and collaborator, a Titanic visual historian who is seen and heard elsewhere on this set, including a commentary. "Concept Poster and One-Sheets" serves up around 60 stills from the original 1997 release and five from 2012's reissue. The unused concepts from 1997 are more interesting than the familiar final products, which are presented in numerous international variations and with awards banners.

Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn try (unsuccessfully) to convince James Cameron to make a "Titanic" sequel in this 1998 MTV Movie Awards short. Brock Lovett (Bill Paxton) gets fed up with Old Rose (Cheri Oteri) in this "Titanic"-parodying 1999 "Saturday Night Live" sketch.

Titanic Parodies is a cool section more big movies should think to provide. Gathered here are three short licensed videos.

In a short film made for the 1998 MTV Movie Awards (4:37), a young, slim Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller play executives pitching a sequel to Cameron. Ludicrous though it is, some of their ideas bear a bit of resemblance to Avatar.

From the Bill Paxton-hosted January 9, 1999 episode of "Saturday Night Live" comes the film's "original ending" (4:50), in which Brock and everyone else in the present-day segments gets fed up with the ramblings of Old Rose (Cheri Oteri) and respond violently. Cameron shows up to give fake context.

"Titanic in 30 Seconds" actually needs 50 to recreate moments from the film with Flash animation bunnies.

Finally, there are 25 still pages of credits for all the supplements first assembled in 2005.

WHAT'S MISSING?

With nearly seventeen hours of bonus features presented here (which doesn't even include the time the huge galleries demand), it's tough to imagine anyone feeling slighted by this Blu-ray. And yet, not every extra from the film's Special Collector's Edition DVD resurfaces here. The promotional hour-long 1998 Fox special "Breaking New Ground" (42:46 without commercials) is dropped.
It is not rendered superfluous by this set's extras, for its history, survivor interviews, and unique behind-the-scenes production footage and comments (including the otherwise scarce DiCaprio) are missed.

Unfortunately also dropped: a "1912 newsreel" (2:23) created for the film (featuring its cast) and presented with optional commentary by its maker Ed Marsh, a ship set tour video (7:40) created for the 1997 Titanic Historical Society convention and presented with optional commentary by documentarian Anders Falk, and seven short promotional press kit featurettes (18:32). All four discs are right around the 50 GB capacity of a dual-layered Blu-ray, so either compression would have had to be heightened or another disc added to include this content.

The movie discs' menu burns out the old footage and welcomes in a routine montage. The bonus disc's menu utilizes its contents, like this Rose costume design sketch from the galleries.

MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The menu opens with the film's "historic" sepia opening footage before moving to standard, scored, color montage. The bonus Blu-ray takes a similar approach but uses behind-the-scenes footage. Suggesting a new age of Paramount Blu-rays, all four of these discs are able to resume playback, after the studio's home entertainment logo plays. Hopefully, that's one less major studio holding back the BD experience. In addition, a timeline display appears while navigating every video on the set and pop-up menus are fully functional at all times.

The four discs share two swinging trays inside the thick Blu-ray case, which is topped by an embossed cardboard slipcover. An insert supplies directions and a unique code for redeeming the promised digital copy, which a downloadable file, not one of the increasingly common UltraViolet streams.

Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet) enjoy a magical sunset at the bow of the Titanic in one of the most iconic and infamous scenes of the film.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Though not as outstanding as it wants to be, Titanic is nonetheless an enjoyable and spectacularly produced big budget epic. It is treated to an extraordinary Blu-ray release highlighted by a flawless feature presentation, nearly all of its many worthwhile DVD extras, and a couple of substantial new additions. While the movie clearly isn't for everyone, those who like it would be wise to pick up one of its two satisfying Blu-ray combo packs, which represent the film's strongest releases to date.

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The Cast of Titanic:
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Kathy Bates: Misery Midnight in Paris | Frances Fisher: In the Valley of Elah
Frances Fisher & Billy Zane: The Roommate | Billy Zane: Tombstone | David Warner: Tron
Victor Garber: Eli Stone: The Complete First Season Tuck Everlasting You Again | Ioan Gruffudd: Fantastic Four

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Reviewed September 10, 2012.



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