Tag Archives: Alice Braga

I am Legend (2007) 4.79/5 (47)

 

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Rating: The Good – 70.8
Genre: Science Fiction
Duration: 101  mins
Director: Francis Lawrence
Stars: Will Smith, Alice Braga

Francis Lawrence’s take on Richard Matheson’s novella is a worthy addition to the sci-fi genre. Robert Neville (Will Smith) is the last man left in New York City after a genetically engineered virus either killed off the rest of the population or turned them into rabid cannibals. Like the earlier adaptation Omega Man, this film gives us a different type of mutant to the book (in the book they turned into vampires and were much more sinister in their methods) but unlike that film these mutants are far more scary. The production design involved in bringing the desolate New York to life is impressive and Lawrence creates some extremely tense scenes culminating in some genuinely terrifying moments. In this task, he is ably helped by his lead. As the only actor on show for long segments, Smith needed to bring presence to the role and he does it with ease giving us just the right balance between toughness and vulnerability. There are some minor issues such as the fact that the mutants managed to lose all pieces of clothing except their pants and the ending skirts the boundaries of cheesiness but for the most part, I am Legend is first class sci-fi/horror entertainment.

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Elysium (2013) 2.53/5 (3)

 

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Rating: The Good – 65.7
Genre: Science Fiction, Action
Duration: 109 mins
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Stars: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga

The year is 2159 and while Earth has turned into an overpopulated slum planet, the wealthy have relocated to an orbiting space station which caters to their every need and, from which, the planet below is harshly governed. Matt Damon top lines as a lowly factory worker who must make his way to the space station named “Elysium” if he is to find a cure to the fatal dose of radiation he was exposed to in a work related accident. Unfortunately, Elysium’s minister of defence (a very nasty Jodie Foster) takes a dim view of those Earth peasants who attempt to sneak past her atmospheric defences and usually resorts to blowing them out of their ragged socks. However, when the first minister attempts to curb her extremist leanings, she sets about engineering a coup that Damon just happens to get caught up in. But not before he is surgically connected to a metal exoskeleton that makes him as strong as the droids which Elysium uses to enforce the law and the similarly exoskeletonised mercenaries who Foster uses to chase down Damon when he accidentally downloads the plans for her little coup (don’t ask!).

On the face of things, Neill Blomkamp’s eagerly awaited follow up to his directorial debut, the South African sleeper hit District 9, ticks a number of boxes: a 1980’s esque sci-fi escapism; a director who recently made an impressive debut in the genre; and one of the 21st century’s most watchable action stars. And for the first 40 or 50 minutes, it more or less lives up to that promise. Damon shows a likeable presence as the blue collar everyman who like Schwarzenegger’s Doug Quaid, reluctantly gets caught up in the political instability of his world. The film has a distinctive look, captured stunningly in 4K, and the visual effects are elegant and well conceived. And then there’s the hint of a time honoured bad guy dynamic where a sinister yet erudite mastermind uses a greasy thug to do her dirty work (think Kurtwood Smith and Ronny Cox or Michael Ironside and err…Ronny Cox).

Alas, as much as all this plays to an 80’s vintage of science fiction, this turns out to be very much a 21st century movie with all the muddled scriptwriting problems that blockbusters of this century are almost invariably beset with. Instead of taking the neat sci-fi premise and telling a simple straight forward story on the back of it, Blomkamp tacks a number of weak subplots onto the basic plot. What the purpose of these side plots are is anyone’s guess. Is it an attempt to make the movie something more than ‘just’ an action sci-fi? Are there deluded executives demanding the story have a “social angle” because some irrelevant focus group indicated a place for it? Whatever the reason, it pulverises the otherwise sleek concept.

Even without the plot confusion, the script becomes increasingly coarse. After an encouraging introduction, the villains fail to develop beyond their archetypes and Blomkamp uses them and the heartlessness of the new world system merely to flick switches in the mind of the audience. Sharlto Copley’s (Blomkamp’s leading man from District 9) central bad guy becomes more and more laughable in his nastiness and with the persistent and frankly ridiculous overuse of slow motion (coupled with the usual formidable score), Blomkamp gives the audience what seems like forever to ponder just how mean he is. Foster shows more potential but she too is painfully static in her cruelty. Not surprisingly for a film which is saturated with side plots, it’s the secondary characters that suffer most. Alice Braga is just a token presence and an actress with her talent should really start becoming concerned with potential typecasting. But at least she’s good with what she’s given. Wagner Moura on the other hand adds a new layer of awfulness to the catalogue of sci-fi’s bad performances with an altogether misjudged turn as the lesser of two evils whom Damon inevitably sides with against the elite. Positives notes on the acting front are sounded out by Damon himself who yet again proves a safe pair of hands for driving a blockbuster and a sinister William Fichtner who delivers the goods with his usual interesting degree of edge.

Technically, Elysium similarly suffers much more than it should. The concept design is rich and the immaculate visual effects would have done every bit of it justice if it were not for Julian Clark and Lee Smith’s bewildering editing. Every one of the fight sequences, of which there are many, is rendered nearly unintelligible by some frankly amateurish assemblage. Of course, Blomkamp’s stylistic ambitions played a major role here but somebody needed to speak up and steady the ship. Speaking of the fight sequences, as the movie wears on, the metal exoskeleton becomes an increasingly bemusing affectation for it really just isn’t an integral part of the story. This leaves the audience to notice it at the most random times and wonder what the hell its point is!

In the end, Elysium qualifies as a seriously flawed but visually and conceptually rousing piece of entertainment which fans of 80’s sci-fi in particular will probably accept – if only because we’ve been starved of classy science fiction for too long.

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Predators (2010) 3.57/5 (2)

 

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Rating: The Good – 68.9
Genre: Science Fiction, Action
Duration: 107 mins
Director: Nimrod Antal
Stars: Adrien Brody, Laurence Fishburne, Alice Braga

Despite what some of the fans have said, Predators is a hugely enjoyable sequel to the 1987 McTiernan film and easily stands along side Predator 2 in both class and execution. Like Danny Glover was in that latter film, Adrien Brody is a revelation as an action hero. The movie opens as his character and a number of other elite killers from around Earth are being parachuted unconscious into a jungle on a small moon as prey for three Predators. Nimrod Antal’s film looks great and the many luscious jungle locations provide the backdrop to some seriously impressive action set-pieces. The script is smart with some nice humour here and there. There are, however, a few too many references to the original Predator and Alien films (characters spouting familiar lines) to the extent that at times it’s as though the script is serving those references as opposed to the other way round. However, other than that weakness, the film hits all the right notes. Brody’s brilliant tough guy performance is well supported by a series of strong actors with Alice Braga in particular standing out. As in the first two films, the special effects are used sparingly but to good effect and the decision to introduce a new even more vicious race of Predator proved inspired (despite some of the more precious fan’s opinions to the contrary) as it reinvigorated the scariness of the 20+ year old screen monster.

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City of God (2002) 4.71/5 (2)

 

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Rating: The Good – 92.7
Genre: Crime, Drama
Duration: 130 mins
Director: Fernando Meirelles
Stars: Alexandre Rodrigues, Matheus Nachtergaele, Alice Braga

Broad sweeping and utterly captivating tale of life in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. It chronicles the rise to power of two drug lords as perceived through the eyes of its main character “Rocket”. Rocket is an intelligent and mostly honest young man who wants to escape from the slums and become a photographer. However, it’s his ability to get up close and personal with the deranged Li’l Ze (and his hip and all together nicer partner Benny) that get the attention of his newspaper and so he must continue to walk the dangerous slums to get the pictures his editors want.

City of God is an extraordinary achievement thanks chiefly to director Fernando Meirelles’ ability to give a clear sense of authenticity to the proceedings. Non-Brazilians may never have experienced this world but the film quite amazingly transports you there for all of its 130 minutes. Meirelles’ pacing of the film as it leaps years at a time is also faultless and at times he creates a sense of dread so powerful that few out-and-out horror movie directors could match it. For example, the scenes wherein children are being threatened or pressured into the world of drug pedalling (where Meirelles’ use of high angles shots expertly conveys the weight of that pressure) will give the audience some serious chills.

Meirelles is of course, helped ably by his incredible cast of actors most of whom were amateurs who lived in the City of God or nearby areas. In particular, the three leads Alexandre Rodriguez, Leandro Firmino, and Phellipe Haagensen are excellent in giving each of their characters genuinely relatable characteristics while still maintaining the grittier sides to those roles.

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Redbelt (2008) 4/5 (4)

 

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Rating: The Good – 72.4
Genre: Martial Arts
Duration: 99 mins
Director: David Mamet
Stars: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tim Allen, Emily Mortimer, Alice Braga

Redbelt stands as an unusual take on a film built around martial arts. Rather than dishing out a string of unrealistic fights, David Mamet’s film is a pensive drama that follows the fortunes of a deeply principled Brazilian Jui Jitsu instructor as he struggles to keep his business afloat. Chiwetel Ejiofor quietly excels in the lead role and in truth much depended on him getting his part right. He achieves a believable balance between focus and softness which helps to set the tone for the film as a whole. Alice Braga puts in an interesting turn as his ambitious wife whose familial connection to the Jui Jitsu world is only circumspectly pointed to. Tim Allen scores well against type as a famous actor who halfheartedly attempts to pay a debt to the former after he is rescued from a bar room brawl. It is this incident which sets the story in motion but it takes its time in getting there and indeed moving beyond that point. However, the slow build-up pays off well in the end because the final showdown is breath of fresh air for those of us fed up with the highly repetitive “buffy-the-vampire” style fight sequences in which fighters merely go through the motions one high kick at a time (and the obligatory throwing of opponents across a room!). Be warned before you see it though because fans of straight beat-em-ups might be disappointed. That said, true fans of martial arts will cherish this one because while Redbelt may not be an action movie it’s every bit a martial arts movie.

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