The Fifth Element is the type of post-modern space opera that showcases an actual space opera. Diva Plavalaguna's (Maiwenn) hypnotic intergalactic performance becomes the film's emotional centerpiece, a lyrically diverse protest for hope that occurs right before a brazen shootout between ex-special forces soldier Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis) and a horde over marginalized killer aliens aboard a massive luxury liner.
The gunplay and explosions come at the tail end of a rousing story involving a mysterious entity that takes the shape of a red-haired woman (Milla Jovovich) in order to save the world from an all-encompassing evil force and the corporate dictator (Gary Oldman) who acts as its human proxy on Earth.
Director Luc Besson has never made something this weird, fleet and full of life. Every image bursts with the texture and detail of John-Paul Gaultier's mesmerizing costumes. Dan Weil's production design illuminates the various layers and levels of a crowded pop dystopia. Cinematographer Thierry Arbogast's striking visuals are fluid and colorful.
The film's glorious look would matter little without the chemistry and presence of the performers. Willis slightly subverts the hard-nosed charm and vulnerability he perfected in Die Hard, which contrasts nicely with Jovovich's powerful mix of fury and vulnerability. Oldman, Ian Holm, Brion James and Tommy "Tiny" Lister embody affecting personas that represent flawed modern institutions. And of course, Chris Tucker's mesmerizing DJ Ruby Rhod reminds us how powerful a cinematic scream can be.
Screening as part of the Ken Cinema Midnight Madness Series at 11:55 p.m. on Saturday, July 30, The Fifth Element stands out from the current crop of modern Sci-fi extravaganzas. It fuses slapstick with screwball comedy in brilliant ways, and appreciates the necessity of levity when considering heavy themes. Action scenes and special effects compliment character development instead of pandering for spectacle. In short, the film has a soul, and we can feel its presence throughout.
Bad Moms: Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and Kathryn Hahn star as stressed out mothers who decide to rebel against the ridiculous expectations of suburban parenting.
Free to Run: This documentary looks at the history of running as a sport throughout the 20th century. Opens on Friday, July 29, at the Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Jason Bourne: In the fifth film in this popular action franchise, Matt Damon reprises his role as the tormented super agent amnesiac struggling to remember his past. Things get physical, physical.
Nerve: Emma Roberts and Dave Franco team up in an online game of truth or dare that has real world implications and dangers. Opens today, at various local theaters.
Phantom Boy: A cancer-stricken young boy is able to step outside his body to help those in need. When a madman threatens New York City, a hobbled detective enlists him to be his eyes and ears during the investigation. Opens Friday, July 29, at the Ken Cinema.
The Kind Words: In this Israeli drama, three brothers discover a life-long secret held by their late mother. Opens Friday, July 29, at the Angelika Carmel Mountain Cinemas and Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
One Time Only
Kickass: An unpopular high school student decides to dress up in a costume and become a vigilante, fighting against a worsening citywide crime spree. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 27, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
The Big Chill: Seven college friends reunite at a South Carolina winter home after attending a funeral of one their classmates. Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, July 28 and 29, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Arabesque: Gregory Peck and Sofia Loren star in this 1966 thriller about a university professor who gets embroiled in an international spy plot involving Egyptian hieroglyphics. Screens at 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 30 and 31, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
The Fifth Element: An ex-Special forces soldier (Bruce Willis) working as a taxi driver must come to the aid of a mysterious woman (Milla Jovovich) who holds the key to defeating an evil force hell-bent on destroying the universe. Screens at 11:55 p.m. Saturday, July 30, at the Ken Cinema.
Hook: Steven Spielberg sprinkles some fairy dust on the Peter Pan story in this revisionist tale of the Lost Boys, Captain Hook and Wendy. Starring Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman and Julia Roberts. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 2, at the Arclight La Jolla Cinemas.
Jaws: The perfect movie for the kids to watch before heading to the beach. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 3, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.