True Lies (1994)
The Tantalizing Teaser: You've seen spy movies before. You've even seen spies working undercover. What if the highly-specialized spy working, went under the cover as a hum-drum computer salesman, father and husband who thought his wife was cheating on him? Roll in the prevention of a nuclear blast on US soil, terrorists, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tom Arnold and you have the convincingly humorous True Lies.
What's to See: Comedy is such a funny road to hoe. Action comedy even more so. Cameron is able to roll all of this, including his trademark filmmaking skill set, the unrivaled action acting skills of an in-his-prime Arnold Schwarzenegger and the love-to-hate caricature of Tom Arnold to craft an always forgotten but always smile-bringing True Lies. It's one of the best "spy movies" that retains a fresh feel each time it's on cable or makes its way into DVD players.
The Score: Another brilliant Brad Fiedel (original Terminator soundtrack) score underscores a very solid entry into anyone's DVD collection. The sound design of the introduction scene, the special effects coverage overall, and Arnold flying a Harrier Jumpjet in the middle of a major metropolitan city net True Lies an 8 of 10 score.
T2 3-D: Battle Across Time (1996)
A Note: This is probably one of the least-seen pieces of Terminator "lore" inside of the franchise, but it is simply one of the best ever accessories offered to any franchise. It's the short, live-interaction continuation of Terminator 2, featured at Universal Theme Parks in the US and is a required bit of theme park-based entertainment for any Terminator fan. While we won't roll it into the decision-making for Avatar, it clearly deserves mention. Imagine taking the success and legend of Terminator 2, a 10 of 10 score film, adding in 3D hallmarks, live-action on stage elements and more great thematics to compliment one of Hollywood's all-time best franchises? It's more off-the-charts greatness that not enough people have seen.
The Tantalizing Teaser: It was an evening in 1912 that we are all-too familiar with. The world's largest ocean liner bound for the United States, breaking records, capturing hearts and well - we all know how the HMS Titanic story ended. What we didn't know is how love can conquer time and the frozen grasp of death. How it can deliver absolution to a young woman who is freed from the icy grip of destiny, thanks to inspirations of a young man by the name of Jack Dawson.
What's to See: With screams of "we know the ship sinks, now what?", James Cameron was able to not only provide you a literal revisit to a ship long gone both above and below the waves, but a juggernaut of feature film box office success that still wows. Titanic had one of the widest demographical successes and the multiple viewing count is still to this day unmatched. Add on the ground-breaking CGI accomplishments, the rebuild of a scale Titanic (with sections excised from it as explained wonderfully in the GOLDEN DVD commentary by Cameron himself) in Mexico, one of the most expensive movies ever made that was also "overbudget" and a soundtrack and score that have trounced almost all other offerings and you have a gem adored by many.
The Score: Depending on whom you ask and how "testosterone-filled" the room is, you'll find that everyone likes Titanic in one capacity or another. Even those that "hate it" love to hate it. It's another Cameron-based property that inspires feelings and opinion, which is the point of feature films, isn't it? We give Titanic a 9 of 10 score.
Ghosts of the Abyss (2003)
The Tantalizing Teaser: You've seen the feature film, Titanic. Now venture into the depths even further with director James Cameron and actor Bill Paxton and a crew of adventurers as they revisit the depths and disintegrating hulk of the HMS Titanic on the bottom of the Atlantic ocean.
What's to See: Those of you that didn't get your fill of underwater details, nomenclature and science during the feature film, will be ecstatic to see this supplemental, detail-ridden exploration of the Titanic as it sits on the bottom of the ocean. This truly has become an obsession for "the most obsessed director" in film history, and it seems to us that this becomes a literal showcase of the level of detail he takes his "hobbies." If you had the chance to showcase YOUR hobby with film crews (that are using the equipment that you and your brother developed and want to sell to other projects and studios no less), in a 3D environment, wouldn't YOU use it? Cameron does that here and it's brilliant, haunting and another testimate to his interest in the sea, its secrets and how to reveal them.
The Score: This becomes the chocolate documentary to those who love chocolate. It's clear that it was made to showcase effort to those that are interested in Cameron's passions and it succeeds wildly. You get to live with and learn about how James Cameron operates. It scores an 7 of 10 score.
Aliens of the Deep (2005)
The Tantalizing Teaser: In an age where budgets for space exploration are in danger, and imaginations have stalled in the creation of new, original content, who knew we could simply look to the depths of Earth's own seas for entertainment inspiration?
What's to See: This science-based review of what lives below is a striking but very under-appreciated find. This, like Ghosts of the Abyss, was created to help build the equipment to showcase deep sea and 3D movie making. While way more detailed than most audiences would want to sit through, it's another great appreciation frame for James Cameron, his vision, his unique and always-evolving skill sets and the people that help him convey them and succeed. We've only seen it on DVD in a plasma screen, but it must have been something to behold on the big screen in 3D.
The Score: As probably the most obscure offering Cameron has, this film is a tour de force of facts, work ethic and vision for James Cameron. It's become an egg in the overall omelette of Cameron's career and earns a solid 7 of 10 score.
When we look at the general scorecard of Cameron's past projects one by one, as one, the answers and trends are clear.
There is solid, more akin to obsession level quality in all of the projects.
Almost all, especially after a period of time, are garnered as at least rungs on a ladder to profound success, and at best, masterpieces of modern American cinema.
So is the harping, worry and razz included in today's hype and circumstance valid? Do we see Cameron's Avatar as some kind of failed and broken rung that might have led to the future of movie making?
You've got to be kidding.
The trends, as indicated by every single film he's made listed in this review showcase the true heart and soul of one of our best feet forward in movie circles. A man that while he knows what he wants, showcases what he wants and steps boldly to get it, always showcases success.
Avatar, and Cameron's overall career and "value" will soar with Avatar (as many of the early reviews are rightly indicating) and we'll see even more people stepping into the footprints of a movie-based DaVinci who soars amongst our brightest and most talented.
James Cameron clearly earns a score of 10 of 10 in our book.