There are two love stories here: one is between James Cameron and a ship; the other is between society girl Kate Winslet and third-class passenger Leonardo DiCaprio. Cameron’s script wouldn’t have sustained Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh for 80 minutes, but, somehow, he and his magical cast revive that old-style studio gloss for three riveting hours. Titanic is a sumptuous assault on the emotions, with a final hour that fully captures the horror and the freezing, paralysing fear of the moment. And there are single shots, such as an awesome albatross-like swoop past the steaming ship, when you sense Cameron hugging himself with the fun of it all. At a cost of over $200 million, it’s one of the most expensive movies ever made; it grossed nearly two billion dollars at the box office – a record. Winning 11 Oscars, it also shares – with Ben-Hur and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – the record haul of Academy Awards.
Veteran Swedish director Jan Troell emerges from the shadow of cinema great Ingmar Bergman with this beautifully observed period drama that explores how a working-class family woman snatches some respite from her everyday struggles by taking photos with a simple box camera. The movie is based on the life of a relative of the film-maker’s wife and is an unfashionably leisurely account of times past and time passing, which nevertheless draws us into the world it depicts through sheer storytelling skill and the force of its compassion. Maria Heiskanen’s doughty central performance holds it all together as she sticks by her boozy, lovable lout of a husband (Mikael Persbrandt), and discovers unexpected self-worth when she peers through the viewfinder. Her talent to select the decisive moment that gives an image lasting life is a skill shared by Troell, who delivers a masterpiece with this composed, affecting window on our common humanity.
Even at their most obnoxious, Will Ferrell and John C Reilly are strangely adorable together. Their on-screen chemistry was key to the success of Talladega Nights and they capitalise on that spark in this equally zany comedy, reteaming with director Adam McKay. Brennan (Ferrell) and Dale (Reilly) are a couple of 40-something losers who still live at home. All the gags rest on how these burly men act like spoilt children when their parents (Mary Steenburgen and Richard Jenkins) get hitched. They draw battle lines in the room they’re forced to share, staring each other down at bedtime and trading peculiar (and phenomenally vulgar) insults – it’s these elaborate exchanges that get the biggest laughs. But things do get a little weird and creepy as the gross-out moments get ever grosser, and the film’s one joke is rather overstretched. Thankfully, Adam Scott shakes things up as Ferrell’s overachieving brother – a bit like Tom Cruise on a sugar buzz. Of course it’s totally juvenile, but that is, after all, the point.
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