I don't normally give away the ending when reviewing a movie, but I'll make an exception in the case of "Titanic."
The ship sinks.Actually, the sinking takes place with half an hour to go in this two-part, four-hour CBS miniseries, which airs Sunday and Tuesday at 8 p.m. on CBS/Ch. 2. That, of course, is not in question.
The drama comes from not knowing which characters will survive - and which won't.
The Titanic doesn't actually hit the iceberg until the end of Part 1, but those first two hours threaten to sink under their own weight. It's exposition, exposition, exposition as the various characters are introduced. They include:
- The ship's captain, played by George C. Scott (whose English accent sort of comes and goes).
- The old flames (Peter Gallagher and Catherine Zeta Jones) who are reunited at sea.
- The middle-aged thief (Tim Curry) who's corrupting a youngster.
- The shipping line executive (Roger Rees) who ends up being responsible for the disaster.
- The "unsinkable" Molly Brown (Marilu Henner) - which should give you some clue as to her fate.
And the stories include the fabulously wealthy John Jacob Astor and his pregnant young wife as well as the poor-but-religious family traveling below deck in steerage.
The first two hours alone aren't worth watching. But Tuesday's second half of "Titanic" makes up for its first half.
There's genuine suspense. There's the question of which of these characters we've come to know almost too well will survive.
Part 2 is full of heart-wrenching heroics and heart-breaking tragedy. And, even 84 years later, the stupidity of it all is still astounding.
If you can make it through Part 1, Part 2 pays off nicely. And, on average, "Titanic" is a pretty good miniseries.
BLASTOFF: OK, so it's no "Apollo 13." But the Family Channel's "Apollo 11" (Sunday, 8 p.m.) is a pretty darn good TV movie.
The telefilm recounts the journey of the first men ever to set foot on the moon - from the preflight preparations to the worried families, from the problems en route to the ultimate triumph.
And, even though we all know how it turns out, there's a good deal of suspense as the astronauts move in for their lunar landing.
"Apollo 11" boasts a good script, fine direction and a great cast - including Jeffrey Nordling (Neil Armstrong), Xander Berkely (Buzz Aldrin) and Jim Metzler (Mike Collins) and Matt Frewer as the ground-control guru.
This is one truly fine TV movie for the whole family.
STRANGE "HOPE": If nothing else, you have to give Bob Saget credit for self-deprecation in his TV movie directorial debut.
The character based on Saget in "For Hope" (Sunday, 8 p.m., ABC/Ch. 4) acts like a jerk an awful lot of the time.
The movie is based on the struggles of Saget's sister, who died in 1994 of scleroderma, which attacks the body's connective tissues. And Dana Delany does a fine job as Hope, the afflicted woman.
But what exactly "For Hope" is trying to be is somewhat of a mystery. At times, it's a tragic tear-jerker. At times, it's about valiant courage. At times, it veers into disease-of-the-week territory.
And - believe it or not - at times it tries to be a comedy.
Hope's brother, sitcom writer Ken (Henry Czerny) - the character based on Saget - spends a big chunk of his on-screen time make wildly inappropriate, painfully unfunny jokes about the whole situation. Even the other characters scold him for his actions.
There was a good movie hiding somewhere in "For Hope." The one that's on Sunday needs extensive therapy for schizophrenia.
LOVE THAT DENNEHY: On Sunday, Brian Dennehy returns for a fifth time as police detective Jack Reed. And, as always, he's what makes "Jack Reed: Death and Vengeance" worth watching.
The movie involves murder, Russian mobsters and vehicular homicide. But striding through it all is Dennehy's towering talent.
And that's enough to lift "Death and Vengeance" (Sunday, 8 p.m., NBC/Ch. 5) out of the status of ordinary.
ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST: CBS has canceled "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" - as of immediately.
The show's final episode aired last week, and it won't be back. CBS will fill Fridays from 8-9 p.m. with movies and specials until next year, when a new/old show takes over.
"JAG," which aired last year on NBC, debuts on CBS on Jan. 3 at 8 p.m. The show stars David James Elliott as a Navy attorney.
HALF CANCELED? When the prime-time game show "Big Deal" returns to Fox sometime after the first of the year, there will only be half as much of it.
That's right. The show has recently gone back into production, and it's been cut back from an hour to 30 minutes.
Maybe the next step is a 15-minute show. Then a 7 1/2-minute show. Then a 3-minute, 45-second show. And so on . . .
EERIE TV: Anne Rice, the author of "Interview with the Vampire" as well as all the other Vampire Chronicles and the witches books and the mummy book and so on and so on, is developing a TV show for CBS.
The program will be set in Rice's native New Orleans - the site of so many of her books - and will follow a pair of detectives.
One of the detectives will be your run-of-the-mill, still-living type. The other will be the ghost of a detective who died in 1950.
No word yet if there will be any guest appearances by Lestat.