Where do you even begin with a film like Titanic, a film so sprawling, so epic, so visionary, that it earns every moment of its three hour length? Do you begin with Jack and Rose, the romantic leads of the story, played by (a very young) Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet? Do you begin with the epic and sprawling scope of the story, its subtext on the hubris of mankind? Do you talk about the impact that Titanic has had on our culture, the myriad ways in which two decades of films have copied and stolen from James Cameron? Any one of these would be a valid starting point.
This review is part of my Remake Preview series, where I watch the original version (or versions) of a movie that is set to be re-made in the near future.
Wag the Dog is a harshly cynical film, a film about a political fixer who comes in to cover up a crisis in which the President of the United States has been accused of sexual impropriety. It’s bizarre to watch a film with this basic premise given the events of the 2016 election, though its not hard to draw parallels between the situations. The film is at parts highly implausible, and yet as Stanley Motss (Dustin Hoffman) and Conrad Brean (Robert De Niro) produce a series of events to distract from the real narrative, we follow an utterly contrived story that feels, somehow, simultaneously surreal and improbable to real life, and yet convincing as a satire of real events that occur all the time.
The Fifth Element is a little like if Star Wars took an acid trip, a rollicking sci-fi adventure with a sense of humor about itself. Director Luc Besson puts most of the film on the back of Bruce Willis, who proves to be a capable action lead, world weary and wry. Supporting him are Ian Holm, Milla Jovovich (giving the role of Leeloo a frenetic energy), Gary Oldman (a lovably hammy performance as the villainous industrialist Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg), and perhaps most memorably, Chris Tucker as Ruby Rhod, a fast-talking talk show host with wild sex appeal and charisma (fun fact: Prince was the first choice to play Ruby Rhod – a fact which is wholly unsurprising given the performance)
The film is a unique visual experience, featuring a futuristic urban environment replete with flying cars, box-like apartments, aliens both grotesque and beautiful, and an alien opera singer whose musical performance ultimately veers into a strange techno hybrid song that has to be heard to be believed.
While some of the film is problematic (the romance between Korben Dallas and Leeloo is pretty weird and gross when you really get down to it), it’s overall a very fun film.