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A Night to Remember (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

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Long before Jack and Rose plunged into the icy waters after their ship took a big hit, the story of the Titanic was told effectively in this film, a noteworthy adaptation of Walter Lord's classic book.

They didn't have James Cameron money back in 1958, but director Roy Ward Baker did a terrific job of re-creating the disaster with miniatures and a lake. Given the time of its release, this film is a landmark special-effects movie. The fact that it was shot in black and white also makes the sinking of the ship just a little scarier.

While no big stars occupied this one, Kenneth More distinguishes himself as an officer/sailor trying to keep order on the ship. Michael Goodliffe gives the film a good moral core as ship-designer Thomas Andrews, a part played winningly by Victor Garber in Cameron's 1997 classic.

As is often the case with Criterion, the new transfer and restoration have made an older film look brand-new. The picture is crisp, with little to no film damage evident. For those who found themselves a little irked by James Cameron's usage of a goopy love story to drive his film, this one steers clear of that sort of gimmick. (I count myself as a fan of Cameron's goopy love story; I just know a lot of people can't stand it.)

Fans of Cameron's Titanic will certainly notice a lot of story parallels. Both films went for historical accuracy, so they share many scenes and plot points. Cameron didn't copy anything, but I'm sure he used this film and Lord's book as reference tools.

Before revisiting Titanic in 3-D at the theaters in April, get this one, and see how the story was handled quite well nearly 40 years before Cameron's film broke the box-office record.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Some great interviews, including one conducted in the 1990s with one of the last living survivors. You also get a commentary with Titanic historians, an old making-of featurette and a classy booklet.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

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Director David Fincher produced a good-looking movie with this American remake. Fincher always makes good-looking movies, and he's never made a film that doesn't have something worthy of watching. (Yes, I am counting Alien 3.)

But I think he wasted precious time on this one. The original trilogy based on Stieg Larsson's novels was a huge hit, seen by large international audiences. Why remake the films if all you are doing is setting the movies in the same Swedish and German locations? The accents (especially the one employed by Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander) are annoying, and the movie comes off as a cleaned-up, bigger-budget replay.

Mara doesn't do it for me as Salander. Noomi Rapace is Salander, as she proved in the original film trilogy. Rapace apparently took herself out of the running to play Lisbeth again. If she would have been cast by Fincher, that would've been a little more interesting.

The movie underperformed, and the sequels are in limbo. Hopefully, Fincher will move on and put this behind him.

And let's not forget that the Swedish films got progressively worse. The third film stank. Larsson has died, so the chance for more Salander stories from the mind that created her is gone.

Maybe it's time to leave Lisbeth alone.

SPECIAL FEATURES: While I am not a big fan of the movie, the Blu-ray package is awesome, with features on everything from the credits to the casting to the powerhouse editing. Fincher provides his usual, excellent commentary. Even though it was a fruitless endeavor, it is a good-looking film, and it is fun to hear Fincher discuss how he made it happen.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

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This spy thriller, based on a John le Carré novel (and previously made into a TV miniseries starring Alec Guinness back in 1979), garnered Gary Oldman his first Oscar nomination.

Oldman plays George Smiley, a British intelligence officer trying to find a Soviet spy during the Cold War; Oldman delivers perhaps the most-understated performance of his career.

Colin Firth is Oldman's equal as a fellow agent, as is John Hurt. Still, the great performances don't stop the movie from being a little sleepy at times. Director Tomas Alfredson put together a smart yet quiet thriller that lags in parts.

It's worth watching for Oldman, who finally got the recognition he deserves as an actor. It's funny that the former wild man is now making a name for himself by playing quiet men like this one and Commissioner Gordon in the Batman movies.

The movie also got Oscar nominations for its score and adapted screenplay.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Some deleted scenes, a short making-of featurette, and interviews with Oldman and other members of the cast and crew.

More by Bob Grimm

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