The Fifth Element (1997)
★★★ / ★★★★
I didn’t know much about this movie when I decided to watch it so my expectations were not that high. I thought it was going to be another one of those science fiction movies that deals with the apocalypse and so happens to take itself way too seriously. I couldn’t be anymore more wrong because “The Fifth Element,” written and directed by Luc Besson, was as funny and interesting as the vibrant colors that could be found in it throughout. Every 5,000 years, a strange power appears and tries to engulf life. It could be stopped by combining the powers of fire, water, wind, earth and the supposed “fifth element” for another five thousand years and the cycle continues. Bruce Willis stars as Korben Dallas, a taxi driver in futuristic New York who used to work for the military. He got sucked into the madness of intergalactic battle when Milla Jovovich–the fifth element, also known as the perfect being–literally dropped into his taxi. Their mission was to gather all the elements and save the planet from being obliterated into oblivion. Gary Oldman as the evil Zorg, Ian Holm as the priest, and Chris Tucker as the hilariously flamboyant DJ also star. I enjoyed this movie more than I expected to because its pace was quick; it didn’t dwell on the specifics on who’s who and what their intentions and motivations are. This film definitely reminded me of a hybrid between the “Star Wars” saga and the B movies of the 1950’s because it had that nice balance of imagination and humor. The only minor complaint I had was that sometimes it managed to distract itself from the story to make room for some of the more obvious funny moments. Tucker was the one who stole most of the scenes he was in because he was able to focus his manic personality into a character that had to be very enthusiastic about everything every time he was on his program. As for the visual and special effects, yes, they are sort of dated but I really didn’t care because I’m more concerned about the concept, how well a film builds on the story, and how it utilizes its characters. “The Fifth Element” is one of those movies that one can really enjoy if one doesn’t mind watching something over-the-top on a slow night.
Waking Life (2001)
★★★ / ★★★★
Written and directed by Richard Linklater (“Before Sunrise,” “Before Sunset”), “Waking Life” is an animated film that tackles deep questions about what life is and how it is like to live one’s life. Although it is essentially an animated film, it is very adult in its approach to tell a story of a guy (Wiley Wiggins) who “wakes up” in his dream and into other dreams without knowing whether he’s conscious or awake in “real life.” I admired that this film actively does not confine itself into the kind of Hollywood filmmaking where there is a distinct beginning, middle, and end. Just like the look of the picture, the story flows and moves like water, which enhances the film’s overall craft because the issues that it tackles are very abstract. And it also helped because the main character is in a dream. I particularly liked the scene when Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy reprise their characters from “Before Sunrise” and had a deeper conversation about what was said in that movie. It really made me think about why, when we dream, time feels endless but in actuality we’ve slept for a very limited amount of time. That constant theme of there having to be something more to life than rules and meaning is explored in such a deep and intellectual way to the point where I found myself struggling to keep up because I wanted to savor the conversations. While I admit that I did not fully understand some of the concepts that they discussed and the names they dropped, it made me want to read up on such topics and people that are unfamiliar. This is a thinking man’s movie and definitely not for people who constantly have to have action scenes thrown at them. The power of this unique-looking film lies in the words and the exaggerated, almost expressionistic, images to highlight the transient meanings of the implications. My only main problem with it is that I felt as though part of the last third somewhat felt apart because it did not fully integrate some of the biggest themes that pervaded the rest of the movie. Still, I’m going to give “Waking Life” a recommendation because it was able to incite various insights on how to communicate and see (or feel?) the world in unfamiliar and not fully explained perspectives.
★★★★ / ★★★★
There’s something about nature films that just touches my heart. I could easily tell that Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield, the writers and directors, put a lot of effort into this documentary. I was absolutely astounded during the slow motion captures of predators catching their prey, the passage of time as it shows a landscape changing before our eyes and the intricate details of nature that seemingly look simple but are beyond complexity of the human mind. Better yet, I found myself captivated by the addition of humanistic attributes to the featured animals (notably the polar bears, the elephants, the migrating birds and the whales; fully encompassing land, air and water). I read on Internet Movie Database that this documentary had over four thousand days of cinematography. I honestly do not know how they found the time to pick out the greatest pieces to make this film and my friend kept asking, “How did they shoot that?” while I asked myself the same question. Most people shy away from documentaries (which I honestly don’t understand) but this is a must-see because I was at awe from the moment it started until it ended. I really felt for the animals; after the film I wanted to visit the places that were featured because it seriously had some of the best images I’ve seen on screen that is not full of special and visual effects. I’ve also read from other reviews that “Earth” is a rip-off because it’s pretty much the same as the “Planet Earth” miniseries. I don’t like using profanities in my reviews (and I won’t start now) but, honestly, who cares? One doesn’t regularly see images that are found in this film; I say the magic is worth the ten dollars or so and is definitely worth reminding everyone that we must protect the Earth because we’re not the only living creatures that depend on it. I say go see this one if you’re interested. Even if your friends aren’t, go take the children or your elders. I can’t imagine anyone not admiring its emotion and craft.
Flow: For Love of Water (2008)
★★★★ / ★★★★
When I turn on the faucet, I expect water to come out and never really think about where the water comes from or what’s in it. I just assume it’s safe to use in a variety of ways because there’s a group of people in the government that regulates the purity of the water. This film warns us that that kind of thinking cannot be any more wrong (there’s actually rocket fuel in our water sources).
But this documentary, directed by Irena Salina, goes beyond that issue. It manages to talk about drought in developing nations and what people do to fight such a crisis, the role of corporations in damaging not only the environment but also when it comes to their active deprivation of water from people who live near their factories, and the chemicals that are in our water supply that contribute to record number of birth defects and deaths of children under five years old. The film has a certain energy–a certain anger–that made me think about what I do (including my friends and family) to help out such corporations that literally rob others from leading healthy lives. It made me rethink about my years in elementary school when we learned about the roles of dams in our science textbooks. In such texts, they highlight the positive impacts of dams (like rerouting water to areas where people do not get water) but fail to address factors like displacing people that used to live in those areas prior the establishment of the dams; how the water becomes stagnant and eventually creates methane gas which then contributes to global warming; how the use of dams can help privatize water so corporations can make profit from something transient. There’s a wise person in the film that talks about how something transient–like the air and sunlight–cannot be owned (and therefore sold) because it belongs to everyone. Why, then, do corporations still sell bottled water if water is a basic necessity to live?
The film also shows an experiment where people cannot tell the difference regarding the taste between tap water and bottled water. When, in fact, there has been a great number of support that bottled water is much less regulated than tap water. I don’t believe that tap water is less healthy than bottled water but most of my friends and family do. I guess it’s the way water is presented and sold: water being in a “clean” plastic bottle (that has an image of a mountain and stream wrapped around it) looks better than water coming from tap. Yes, it can be argued that this picture appeals to emotion more than it should, but the images of rivers of blood (because factories just dump biohazards into the rivers without any attempt to neutralize them) more than speak for themselves. If you know of someone that’s still stuck in this idea that water is an endless resource, go show him or her this film. Even though that person may not change his or her mind completely (though I doubt it), at least he or she will be more aware of what’s going on in the world–why people go to war against their governments just so they can have pure water to drink. (To sign the petition for Right to Water, visit: http://article31.org)