Thursday 22 October 1998
Available to buy now, pounds 16.99
JUST IN case you hadn't noticed that the highest-grossing feature film in history is now available on video, The Times decided to give you a reminder in the form of a supplement facsimile of its 16 April 1912 edition. The irony is that a TV screen kills off about the only quality you might not begrudge James Cameron's epic: its scale. You really do believe that Leonardo and Kate are promenading up and down the world's largest vanity project. At least Cameron lets the image of sunken ship speak for itself, panning the length of the wreck as it looms out of the gloom. Between that and the ship's foundering, however, Cameron seems to fill time with a simplistic love story that the lead pair gamely try to bring to life.
Thankfully, things pick up as Titanic goes down. Forget the director's much-trumpeted obsession with man's hubris (his Terminator did that far better and far more cheaply). As a horrifying rollercoaster ride to the bottom of the Atlantic, the final hour can't be beaten. (Better still, try and tell me that's not Jimmy Saville in the final scene.)
Wag The Dog (15)
Available to rent from Monday
THE US President has been caught groping the help (stop me if you've heard this one before). Enter Conrad Brean (Robert De Niro), a spin-meister who decides that the only distraction big enough to get his boss through the imminent presidential elections is a war. Not a real one, just a "pageant" put together by Hollywood producer Stan Moss (Dustin Hoffman). The President and his squeeze remain background figures and director Barry Levinson - who filmed this while taking a break from his underwater thriller Sphere - chooses to concentrate exclusively on the mechanics of Brean and Moss' scam. Levinson's avowed thesis - that those in control of the media control party politics - occasionally hits the mark. In particular, the sequence involving Woody Harrelson as a soldier rescued from apparently war-torn Albania raises a smile. For the most part, though, Levinson sets his sights on a moving target and one which Tim Robbins' Bob Roberts left for dead. Otherwise, coincidental topicality lends the film its satirical acuity. Hoffman and Levinson go back a long way, but it seems something of a waste that the director chose this film to get De Niro. Neither they nor Anne Heche as their embattled PA are much more than ciphers.
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (15)
Available to rent from Monday
Socialite antiques dealer Jim Williams (Kevin Spacey) is throwing the party of the year in Savannah, Georgia, and writer John Kelso (John Cusack) is covering it. When Williams shoots a troublesome employee (Jude Law), though, Kelso sniffs something bigger than a 500 word "literary postcard" and cuts a deal whereby he gets the inside story on the enigmatic defendant if he substantiates Williams' self-defence plea. From the first, director Clint Eastwood is at pains to emphasise Savannah's deep south eccentricities and, even if he doesn't quite convey the sweaty claustrophobia of John Berendt's best-selling novel, he allows the plot to meander enjoyably.
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