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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English: DTS 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
  • None
  Extras
  • 3 Theatrical trailer - 13 Going on 30 (Suddenly 30), Big Fish and Mona Lisa Smile
  • 6 Featurette - Visual Element, Alien Element, Star Element, Digital Element, Fashion Element and The Diva
  • Photo gallery - Various posters and promotional material.
  • Animated menus
  • Behind the scenes footage - various screen tests and test footage.

The Fifth Element - Collectors Edition

Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 0 mins . PG . PAL

  Feature
Contract

One thing you can always expect from a french filmmaker is art. I will freely admit that I never sampled french cinema until the likes of Leon: The Professional made it into my hands on recommendation from friends. From that moment I was captivated at the un-Hollywoodness of the cinema on screen. None of those sappy, tie up all the loose ends, good guys win endings that we are all so used to; merely a snapshot of time with a title and a credits roll tacked at either end.

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ET phone home. Twice!

It was with Leon that I first sample director Luc Bessons flair for flamboyant story telling, coupling drama or action with visual wizardry and glazing it with a wonderful score from long time collaborator in Eric Serra. See The Big Blue, Leon, Subway and La Femme Nikita for classic examples. If you're not a fan of Besson after these movies you're just not 'getting' it.

"Big badda boom!!!"

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Larry, Curly and Moe.

In the Fifth Element, Bruce Willis stars as Korben Dallas, a down on his luck taxi driver in 23rd century New York when he unwittingly picks up a new ride in Leelo (Milla Jovovich). She's not your usual fare though and Dallas begins to realise that he's integral to the survival of the human race by having to protect Leelo and get her back to a Holy temple for her to unleash her power and destroy the evil that is about to hit the Earth.

On the flip side, Zorg (Gary Oldman) is dealing with the enemy and is tasked to retrieve the four elements, protected over time by the Mondoshawan race, Leeloo being the fifth and final element to complete the jigsaw. He enlists the help of the Mangalores, aliens so beautiful even their mothers wouldn't love them. As is usual, there's not an ounce of competence amongst hired. The same could be said for Dallas' side-kicks in a stuttering priest Vitto Cornelius (Ian Holm) and popular roving radio DJ Ruby Rhod (Chris Tucker in one of his earliest hilarious movie roles).

To complement an ensemble cast as this, the visuals present here in both set design, cinematography, effects and costume design are simply stunning. In fact, the movie has not dated one bit since it's release in 1997 and continues to impress on the many subsequent viewings. Enlisting the help of world renowned fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier is always a bonus.

  Video
Contract

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It's Zorg, not Zurg.
As with the previous two releases of the Fifth Element, this release is using the same 2.35:1 aspect ratio and is enhanced for widescreen displays. Not only that, the re-released superbit transfer is being used here which is a bonus for those of you who haven't upated their original release purchase and were planning on doing so. Could this be the version for you?!

The biggest drawcard of the Fifth Elements visual appeal is its color. The richness here encompasses the whole gamut of the artists palette conceivably possible on film. Was that sentence a bit too much to comprehend? Well, let's talk technicalities then. Most good computers these days have 24bit color available on screen; that is to say a color palette from a possible 16 million colors. The Fifth Element makes use of every possible color, most of them in Zorgs clothing alone.

Shaprness and detail are ever present throughout with shadow detail bringing out all manner of intricacies in every corner of a frame. My only qualm is that of the original source material not being of a standard we are normally used to these days. This by no means tampers with the encoding at all as that is flawless but if Besson had access to digital photography we would have something truly exceptional to behold here.

  Audio
Contract

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Nicely designed menus.
As with the original release, we're presented with a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack that simply rocks. Maybe I haven't seen this movie in a while but it certainly felt like this was a much more lively soundtrack than I remembered with the entire array of speakers in your little showroom garnering a individual standing ovation. High praise indeed but when you're normally taking in the visuals of this great looking movie and are distracted by the sound that you have to turn away from the screen to hear a sound trail off into the distance behind you, you know there is something special here.

Not only that but the addition of a 5.1 DTS soundtrack just adds polish to the cut we're given here. As exemplary as the Dolby Digital soundtrack is, this track matches it in every area. I'm not going to get into a Ford vs Holden debate over which format sounds better because if you've got 'em, smoke 'em. You shan't be disappointed.

I still get tingles watching the Diva scene. As Grandpa Simpson once said "Turn it up! Turn it up!!!!".

  Extras
Contract

One thing that has always been lacking with this masterpiece is a collection of extras to truly make the movie on DVD a collectors item and here's where the strength of this release is further flexed.

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Alien vs Napisan.

Sadly there are no commentaries on this release which would have been something to really top the collection off. To counter this, the only extra feature on the first discis a Fact Track which could substitute for a commentary as there are details after details put on screen for the viewer to read about the little things that made the shot/frame/scene even more interesting.

Disc 2 is the collectors disc with featurette after featurette for the main aspects of the movie. The Visual Elements provide us with the first glimpse of how the Fifth Element came to life with two famous french comic artists having a profound influence on a young Luc Besson. Their stories would come together some 20 years later when Besson contacted them to bring their visions to the big screen. Creating sets from these ideas is the first step to getting the look of the film right and included here is test footage for you to peruse. The Digital Element goes a little further and brings in the visual enhancements used to expand upon the sets and how the team at Digital Domain apply their trade.

When we think of the characters, we're mainly interested in Dallas, Leeloo and to those of you who don't get irritated by his voice DJ Ruby Rhod. In the Star Element we get 3 interviews with these folks and how they were approached and auditioned for their parts within the movie, with most of the focus being on Milla (not surprisingly given that she was married to Besson for a few years). Of note here though, when all features operate in 16x9 enhanced format, the Willis and Rock interviews revert back to 4x3 letterboxed. Granted it could be that way on purpose but it just seems out of place and will annoy those of you who have to switch your widescreen TVs from wide to normal mode manually each time the aspect ratio changes from extra to extra.

The Alien Element obviously focuses on the creatures that stood out within the movie and a race that didn't make it into the final cut, respectively The Mondoshawans, The Mangalores, Picasso (Zorgs little trunked pet) and The Strikers. The features focus on the design of the characters and the process involved in bringing them to life. The Strikers feature comes to explain why there is a large pile of trash present when Leeloo and Dallas leave for Fhloston Paradise.

When you enlist the skills of Jean-Paul Gaultier to design the costumes for the entire movie, you're bound to expect high-fashion for each individual character of the movie, yes even the extras. In the Fashion Element we hear from Gaultier and his vision of what he wanted to provide Besson. His sketches are simply amazing and his creativity seems to have no end; something that is a definite blessing. And his pronounciation of Die Hard (Day Ard) is hilarious. Girls, you're treated to a screen test of Bruce in his get-up and go. Guys, you're blessed with THREE Milla clothing tests; yes one of them is the bandage outfit.

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Mmmmmmmm, Milla!!!

The last of the featurettes focuses on The Diva. It seems the actress who played the Diva, Maiwen, has not said anything about her involvement in the movie and this is her first interview of that nature. Some startling facts come out here that this reviewer found fascinating but what is even more impressive is the inclusion of the entire scene that was shot on green screen for you to enjoy. This inclusion alone is exactly what we're looking for in the extras section of collectors edition DVDs. If it were the only feature included on this disc it would still be a collectors item to have.

Rounding out disc 2 are a vast collection of movie posters from all around the world as well as 3 theatrical trailers for 13 going on 30 (Suddenly 30 in Australia), Big Fish and Mona Lisa Smile. The menu systems across both DVDs are beautifully designed and presented here with 16x9 enhancement. They do not in any way detract from their job and are not overly animated like some other attempts out there. Everything is held together simply, conveniently and most user friendily.

  Overall  
Contract

It has been a long wait to get to a stage where a release of this great movie is worthy of your collection. Those of you wanting the superbit version and the dual 5.1 sound formats will be pleased to know that you get all that PLUS the great collection of extras for $10 cheaper than the superbit version alone. Could you ask for anything more for less?

Finally a truly special edition of the Fifth Element makes its way to DVD on our shores. And it's about time.


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  •  DVD NET Gold Review List 
      And I quote...
    "a truly special edition"
    - Steve Koukoulas
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Sony DVP-NS730P
    • TV:
          Tevion 66cm Widescreen
    • Receiver:
          Onkyo TX-DS777 THX Select
    • Speakers:
          VAF Signature I-91
    • Centre Speaker:
          VAF Signature I-91
    • Surrounds:
          VAF Signature I-91
    • Subwoofer:
          VAF LFE-07
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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