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Titanic 3D: A Chance to Relive ‘97
Titanic was momentous and its effect on pop culture was probably bigger than its effect on cinema. There hasn’t been a film since Titanic that has managed to create such a fuss; attracting everybody and their grandmother to the cinema, and dominating everybody’s conversations regardless of age or ethnicity. Even the Harry Potter series, arguably the biggest films of this millennium, have a fan base that maxes out at a certain age. Besides, the Titanic onslaught was also aural; Celine Dion’s theme song was inescapable and remained that way for a few years after. It’s actually a wonder that something so fantastically irritating was so popular, but luckily it seems we’re being spared the musical assault this time around.
In hindsight, Titanic is pretty cheesy. Actually scratch pretty, it’s super cheesy. The dialogue is basically clunker after clunker; one of them in particular: “A woman’s heart is a deep ocean of secrets,” sounds like something out of a bad dating manual. The younger Rose contends with her share of duds where Kate Winslet seems very ill at ease while she delivers them. In fact, she only loosens up somewhat when she starts to fall in love with Jack; it’s the romance that enchanted viewers the first time around that has kept the film culturally relevant and generated it so much goodwill. It’s the epitome of a love story. You have two very attractive leads acting out a forbidden love story between a girl stifled by upper class norms, and a free spirited artist from the wrong side of the tracks. Toss in her stubborn, arrogant fiancé, who she’s being pressured into marrying to save her family from financial ruin, and you have just the right elements of a great forbidden love. The Titanic going down is just window dressing and the only reason we care about the accident is because of its effect on Jack and Rose’s relationship. As a viewer, you spend the length of the film rooting for them to end up together; the iceberg is just one more obstacle keeping them apart. And yes, the part where Rose lets Jack go at the end is still as tear inducing as ever.
It’s interesting to see Leonardo DiCaprio at his teen heartthrob peak. It’s easy to forget now but back in the ‘90s DiCaprio was inescapable; he was to the ‘90s what Zac Efron and Taylor Lautner are to this decade.
The 3D effect adds considerable depth to the picture but like most reissues, the real draw here is seeing the film in the cinema; the 3D doesn’t add enough to warrant another viewing if you’re just lukewarm about the film, or if you’ve already seen it a trillion times on TV. The true experience here is reliving 1997 all over again; in other words, feeling nostalgia. Whether it’s for the days when ‘blockbuster’ wasn’t just a code name for a superhero flick; for when film events weren’t a dime a dozen and managed to capture the general public’s attention for extended periods of time; or for when one film would come along and give everybody something in common to be excited about.
Expanding further on its already wobbly and tedious premise, the third installment of the Sylvester Stallone-led testosterone-filled franchise is exactly what you would expect it to be; loud, senseless and utterly brainless.
Directed by Patrick Hughes, The Expendables 3 opens with Barney Ross (Stallone) and his dependable crew of rowdy mercenaries, Lee Christmas (Statham), Gunner (Lundgren), Toll Road (Couture) and Ceaser (Crews), rescuing and breaking Doctor Death – a.k.a “Doc” – (Snipes) out of prison.
After a series of unnecessary explosions, the team decides to take a quick trip to Somalia and take part in a CIA-operated mission to eliminate a black market arms dealer from the scene. However, the mission proves tricky when the group is confronted by Stonebanks (Gibson); a backbiting businessman - and an ex-member of the crew - who holds personal ties with Barney. The team ends up taking a huge and an unexpected blow and, after almost losing one of his members, Barney promises to track down Stonebanks – with the help of CIA Agent Drummer (Ford) – and seek revenge.
Wanting to keep his dear friends out of line of fire, Barney and recruitment specialist, Bonaparte (Grammer), begin putting together a much-younger team of mercenaries, which include the tech savvy, Thorn (Powell), no-nonsense tomboy, Luna (Rousey), weapons expert, Mars (Ortiz) and Smilee (Lutz). Not wanting to miss out on the action, Trench (Schwarzenegger) also joins the team. Their mission? Find Stonebanks and, if circumstances allow, bring him back alive.
Let’s be honest; the novelty of watching this peculiar but impressive assembly of 80’s and 90’s action superstars - all thrown together in one massive concoction of muscle, guns and testosterone – has worn off. While the first two films offered a bit more appeal – mainly thanks to the cast’s obvious sense of self-awareness at their very own absurd existence - The Expendables 3 chooses to go in another direction. Taking itself a little too seriously this time, it seems like the boys are running on fumes; the witty one-liners have been replaced by one too many explosions, the action scenes feel erratic, shaky and incoherent, the pacing is rather clumsy and the predictability levels have reached their all-time high.
The addition of Gibson and Banderas is probably the best aspect of the entire film; Gibson shows what real acting looks like and Banderas – as the unemployed warrior looking for a kill – infuses the story with the much-needed energy. As for the rest, it’s the same old story - old being the operative word – though there is still enough to keep fans happy.
Pierce Brosnan returns to the world of action films as an ex-CIA operative in Roger Donaldson’s latest espionage drama, The November Man; a clichéd spy thriller that relies heavily on outdated tactics to deliver the goods.
Written by Michael Finch and Karl Gajdusek, and set mostly in Eastern Europe, the film opens in 2008 with the veteran CIA operative, Peter Devereaux (Brosnan), teaching the tricks of the trade to new recruit, David Mason (Bracey), whilst out on a mission. However, when Mason fails to follow through with the instructions given, the mission – although successful – leave an innocent civilian dead.
The story then fast forwards to five years later, with the now retired Devereaux drinking his pension away. He is soon approached by his former colleague, John Hanley (Smitrovich), who wants him to get back into the game for one last job; travel to Moscow and help extract a CIA contact who holds valuable information on the soon-to-be president, Arkady Federov (Ristovski).
With a little bit of Bourne, Mission Impossible and Bond thrown into the mix, it’s easy to see where inspiration has been drawn for The November Man. Loosely based on Bill Granger’s 80’s novel, There Are No Spies, Roger Donaldson – see Cocktail and Dante’s Peak – manages to offer a couple of relatively interesting action set-pieces; however, with the incorporation of every single espionage trick in the book, the minutes tend to feel a little predictable, outdated and, most of all, terribly clichéd.
Despite the film’s shortcomings, Brosnan manages to hold his own and although his particular action mould lacks edge, he still manages to charm his way through the film and delivers a performance that’s relatively entertaining, if a little too wholesome in the context of modern action films.
On the whole, The November Man is a generic and a somewhat conventional thriller but for those looking forward to seeing Mr. Brosnan back in the spotlight, it does provide a certain level of enjoyment.