Dave and Rachel's movie reviews.


Monday, September 24, 2012

The Fifth Element

Year: 1997
Running time: 126 minutes
Certificate: PG
Language: English
Screenplay: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen
Director: Luc Besson
Starring: Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich, Gary Oldman, Ian Holm, Chris Tucker, Luke Perry, Brion James, Tommy Lister, Lee Evans, Tricky, Charlie Creed-Miles

Leeloo struggles to come to grips with Luc Besson's
In a recent interview, Milla Jovovich, now arguably better known for the Resident Evil movie franchise, was asked what line she gets quoted back to her most often. The answer was one word: "Multipass". Such is the depth of love for this flawed yet fun epic sci-fi mess. The Fifth Element is a fairly unique film, in that it is a big budget Hollywood action movie but, thanks to director and writer Luc Besson retaining full creative control, it has a distinctly European flavour to it. The result is, frankly, weird. Set in the future where all life is periodically under threat from a flaming planet of evil known as Mr Shadow, only ex-military cab driver Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis) can save us all with the help of the four elements Earth, Fire, Wind and Water (yes, apparently the ancient Greeks were right all along – anyone with the simplest grasp of modern chemistry will wince at the whole concept) and a mysterious fifth element – a supreme being. Despite sporting a bizarre blonde haircut, Willis is as charismatic a leading man as you’d expect. Two members of an ancient order of monks dedicated to thwarting evil, Vito Cornelius (Ian Holm) and David (Charlie Creed-Miles) convince President Lindberg (Tommy 'Tiny' Lister) of the seriousness of the threat, but it all goes horribly wrong when the alien ship containing the titular element is destroyed. Behind this dastardly act is millionaire and all-round bad egg Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg (Gary Oldman), who is working for Mr Shadow. The fact that it has taken this long to outline the opening and general plot illustrates just what a sprawling mess this is. Somehow, it only adds to the charm. ‘Serious’ actors Ian Holm and Gary Oldman are clearly having a blast and simply going with the ridiculousness. Stealing the film outright, however, is the magnificent Milla Jovovich, as the perfect supreme being Leeloo. Re-created from a piece of DNA recovered from the crashed ship, she soon escapes from her 'unbreakable' cage and goes on the run.

The plot is fluff and nonsense, simply providing an excuse to go from set piece to set piece, while showing off the wonderfully designed visuals. For example, the moment when Leeloo escapes out onto a building ledge and we and her get a first look of the sprawling city, with buildings that stretch beyond the clouds and layer upon layer of flying traffic it is breath-taking, even now, 15 years later. With nowhere to go, Leeloo takes a dive off the ledge, landing in Korben's taxi-cab. Action follows, and the Universe is eventually saved. Despite the expense and beautiful imagery, sometimes the sets appear cheap and cardboard-like – see the supposedly luxurious cruise liner floating above tourist planet Flotsam Paradise, for the most obvious example.

Korben Dallas, busy saving the Universe.
So, Bruce Willis (or Korben Dallas if you prefer) does his thing and saves the day– that part is all pretty standard. It is not quite that simple, though. Added into the mix, for example, are techno-opera performed by a blue alien diva carrying magic stones in her stomach and Chris Tucker as Ruby Rhod, a batshit crazy squeaky-voiced over-sexed DJ. Tucker is easily the most criticised thing in this film and for some he ruins the whole movie, while for others he’s only mildly annoying. No-one ever tells you they loved him. For me, the whole thing was already so insane, Tucker’s character made little difference - his obvious frustration at the one-word answers he gets from Dallas is actually quite amusing.

There is something about The Fifth Element that causes me to like it a lot more than perhaps I should. Despite Chris Tucker, the poor dialogue, overly complicated plot (Besson came up with the story as a teenager, and you can surely tell) and mad character and costume design, or even because of these things, it sets itself apart from its peers. Whatever the reason, I count myself a fan.

Score: 7/10

I'm certainly not alone in my slightly perplexed admiration of The Fifth Element - see these reviews by Bryant and Roger Ebert.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Breakfast Club

Year: 1985
Running time: 97 minutes
Certificate: 15
Language: English
Screenplay: John Hughes
Director: John Hughes
Starring: Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Ally Sheedy, Paul Gleason, John Kapelos

Stereotypes unite.
The Breakfast Club is my favourite movie of the late, great John Hughes, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Sixteen Candles notwithstanding. This probably has something to do with the age I was when I first saw it. Having had some experience of being unpopular among my teenage peers, the story of five mismatched kids - 'Rebel' John Bender (Judd Nelson), 'Jock' Andrew Clark (Emilio Estevez), 'Nerd' Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall), 'Princess' Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald) and 'Basket Case' Alison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy) - sharing a Saturday with each other and bonding over their differences seemed tailor-made for me. John Hughes got me, in a way that no other person did. Of course, it transpires that I was not alone in this, and most of a generation felt the same.

Granted, with the hindsight of adulthood, the message is rather obvious and without much subtlety, but that's exactly the point; adults really don't get teenagers, and these five, so wrapped up in their own petty (for the most part) problems and suffering a range of abuses at the hands of oblivious parents clearly mystify Richard Vernon (Paul Gleason), the teacher tasked with monitoring the kids throughout their Saturday detention. As the day goes on, each of them begin to open up, and they each realise the others aren't the stereotypes they suspected. Together they tear round the school avoiding Vernon, argue, get high and pour their respective hearts out.

It’s clear that the cast have an easy chemistry with each other, and each of them acquit themselves rather well, with Estevez impressing in a scene where he relates the incident that got him detention; under pressure from an over-bearing father, a violent act meant to humiliate a friend of Brian's, his character is completely bewildered as to why he did it and is at a loss as to how to even begin to apologise. Anthony Michael Hall probably impresses the least, his Brian pouring his heart out in manner which seems slightly over the top and feels a little fake.
Vernon struggles to control his temper.

Inevitably the point comes where the five of them consider what might come Monday morning; whether they will acknowledge their shared experience or carry on just as they did before. You get the uncomfortable feeling that the three who are more invested in protecting their image in the eyes of others (John, Andrew and Claire) will change little, despite the two new couples leaving the school together, while Brian and Alison might have been glad to make some new friends. I guess the best they can probably hope for is to become friends with each other.

Lots of fun, this will always be a nostalgia trip for me, and might help my cynical adult self remember how it felt to be a teenager.

Score: 7/10

The Breakfast Club is pretty much universally loved, as seen in these reviews by Stevee and Matt.