Tag Archives: Talisa Soto

Licence to Kill (1989) Review

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Licence to Kill

Time: 133 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Timothy Dalton as James Bond
Carey Lowell as Pam Bouvier
Robert Davi as Franz Sanchez
Talisa Soto as Lupe Lamora
Anthony Zerbe as Milton Krest
Director: John Glen

After his friend, Felix Leiter, is gravely injured by a drug lord, James Bond (Timothy Dalton) seeks revenge. With the MI6 refusing to back him, Bond takes matters into his own hands.

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Of the James Bond movies I had yet to revisit, Licence to Kill was the one I was most looking forward to the most. Timothy Dalton’s second and final entry is now seen as being ahead of its time, doubling down on the serious and gritty take on the character and series from The Living Daylights to deliver a darker movie. It was not received exactly favourably by audiences at the time. Today it’s much better appreciated and I can say that it’s for good reason.

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Licence to Kill felt like a very different Bond than its predecessors, because it really was. Essentially the premise is that James Bond goes searching for revenge after his friend Felix Leiter is gravely injured and his wife is murdered on their wedding day. As such it drops the entire spy espionage aspect and goes straight for a revenge action route, ditching the formulaic plot structure of the franchise. There isn’t even a mission, Bond in the first half has his licence to kill revoked and goes on his own without help from MI6. It is a smaller and more personal story, straying from an espionage plot typical for a Bond film, which is probably why people in the late 80s weren’t feeling it. However it does give the story and Bond an emotional core, as all of his actions are personally motivated by him alone. The film continues with the darker, more serious and grounded tone from The Living Daylights and turns it up. The movie definitely pushed the limits to what PG-13 was at the time, it’s really violent for the Bond film, and cuts down on the wisecracks. That’s not to say that the film is overly self-serious, there’s a lot of fun to be had with it. It retains some of the familiar Bond conventions, including some gadgets surprisingly. However it chooses the right conventions to retain, while remaining true to itself and not forcing in classic Bond aspects. In terms of issues, I do think the ending is the weakest aspect and resolves the plot and characters a bit too neatly for my liking, with more of a typical lighthearted Bond ending.

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Timothy Dalton is once again great as James Bond although this time we see a different side to him, and overall delivers a better performance than in The Living Daylights. Here he is driven by rage and revenge and while we still get to see his humorous side through some one-liners and interactions, he usually doesn’t have much time for the charm or wit, for the better. The Living Daylights occasionally had moments that felt out of place for Dalton to deliver as no doubt carryover from the Moore era, Licence to Kill thankfully strips all that away. Dalton’s Bond also has depth, layers, and felt like an actual person with weaknesses. Also he really benefits from having the plot driven by him. Carey Lowell is the main Bond Girl named Pam Bouvier, and she was a very likeable and prominent presence in the movie. She is established as an equal to Bond, even saving him in their first encounter. Also like in The Living Daylights, there’s legitimate romance explored as the film progresses, and the two are very believable together. Q as played by Desmond Llewyn has a more prominent role in the movie compared to some of the other Bond instalments, as he decides to assist Bond with his vendetta by providing some gadgets. It adds depth to Q and Bond’s unique friendship, and I liked their interactions together. Another way that Licence to Kill is distinct as a Bond movie is the villain. The villain this time is Franz Sanchez, a drug lord played by Robert Davi, and seems to be one of the most grounded and realistic Bond villains. Sanchez doesn’t have any world ending plans, he’s just wanting to become more powerful as a drug lord and isn’t pushing any global plan by the time Bond comes hunting for him. He’s simple yet incredibly effective. First of all he feels like a real threat and is very intimidating in both character and performance. He’s also surprisingly human and isn’t cartoonishly evil, for example it is established that loyalty is very important to him. This goes to make Sanchez an interesting and unique Bond villain, and it’s helped by a strong performance from Davi. Another performance worth highlighting is that of Benicio del Toro in an early role as a henchman, who is very memorable in his screentime.

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Director John Glen does a very good job at directing this film. First of all, I really liked the deliberate grounding of the movie. The action is strong, well shot, and has some impressive stunts. As I said earlier, the film is more violent including people being eaten by sharks, people being lit on fire, and a man literally being exploded in a pressure chamber. All of this is fitting for the much darker tone of the movie. The third act is also very satisfying with its climax.

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Licence to Kill is a fresh movie in the Bond franchise, a stripped down and more personal film for the lead character with a darker tone and grounded take, while also being very entertaining to watch. The action is entertaining, the cast of characters are all memorable and solid, and I was invested throughout. Honestly it is my favourite Bond film outside of the Daniel Craig era. It’s a shame that Timothy Dalton didn’t get to do more Bond movies because both this and The Living Daylights rank among my favourite Bond films. If you like the Bond movies but haven’t watched Dalton’s movies, I highly recommend checking them out, an underappreciated set of movies in the franchise.

Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997) Review

Time: 95 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Robin Shou as Liu Kang
Talisa Soto as Kitana
Chris Conrad as Johnny Cage
Brian Thompson as Shao Kahn
Sandra Hess as Sonya Blade
Irina Pantaeva as Jade
James Remar as Raiden
Lynn “Red” Williams as Jax
Musetta Vander as Sindel
Marjean Holden as Sheeva
Reiner Schöne as Shinnok
Litefoot as Nightwolf
Deron McBee as Motaro
Director: John R. Leonetti

Every generation, a portal opens up between the Outerworld and Earth. Emperor Shao-Kahn (Brian Thompson), ruler of the mythical Outerworld, pounces the moment the portal reopens and slips through with his mighty warriors, intent on total domination and uniting the two worlds. However, he has only seven days to complete his task. In the meantime, opposition grows and warriors Sonya Blade (Sandra Hess), Jax (Lynn “Red” Williams), Kitana (Talisa Soto) and Liu Kang (Robin Shou) get ready for war.

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The first Mortal Kombat was one of the best video game movies, it was simple and goofy but entertaining enough. With that said, it wasn’t really that good of a movie. The ending of Mortal Kombat set up for a sequel and 2 years later, we got Mortal Kombat Annihilation. Somehow Annihilation dropped to a much lower level, and I mean absolutely embarrassingly bad, somehow they just made an okay movie based on Mortal Kombat and they couldn’t even just repeat what the first did. However, I’m glad that we have this movie because it is incredibly entertaining in how it gets literally everything wrong.

Mortal Kombat: Annihilation’s story is very generic and lazy, in fact it can barely be called a story. The first movie did vaguely have a story, even though it was really an excuse for fight scenes but it’s even less existent with Annihilation. It’s really not worth thinking about the story, its barely there and when you pay attention to what’s going on, it doesn’t make much sense. There are many scenes showing off Shao Khan’s (the villain) big army but by the end there’s like no one left except him. The dialogue is hilariously awful, now the first movie had some cheesy and bad dialogue but Annihilation takes it to a whole new level. From the point when you hear Sindel say “Too bad YOU….. WILL DIE!”, you know what kind of movie you’re in. There is so much exposition throughout the movie, there’s a fight scene, Raiden fills the characters in, then repeat. One of the criticisms of the first movie was that there were a bit too many characters. Annihilation decided to have even more characters, so you just lose track of the characters and their goals. Again, best not to think too much about what is going on. There is more fan service than in the first movie, with characters like Cyrax and Sheeva being here to serve no more than a minute doing things.

All the acting in this movie is bad. It’s worth noting that most of the cast from the first movie don’t reprise their roles, only Robin Shou (Liu Kang) and Talisa Soto (Kitana) return. Everyone else is replaced, Johnny Cage is played by Chris Conrad, Sonya Blade is played by Sandra Hess and Raiden is played by James Remar. You really feel the lack of Christopher Lambert in the role of Raiden, he was one of the best parts of the first movie, especially when it came to the acting. Raiden is also pretty useless in this movie, particularly in the third act. Other characters introduced are Irina Pantaeva as Jade, Lynn Williams as Jax, and Litefoot as Nightwolf who added nothing to the movie, unless you are die hard fans of these characters. The villains are also terrible. Shao Khan is a really over the top and goofy villain, who does pretty much all the generic villain things, killing his henchman, declaring that he will rule the world, the usual. At least he’s having a ton of fun hammy his role up. Also bad is Sindel played by Musetta Vander, also rather over the top. The casting of Sindel is really odd, considering that Vander is only like 4 years older than Talisa Soto who plays her daughter Kitana. Not that it’s one of the worst parts of the movie though, this is incredibly minor in comparison to everything else.

It’s not often that I would say this but this movie is missing Paul W.S. Anderson’s direction. At $30 million it has a higher budget than the first Mortal Kombat by $12 million and watching this movie I’m not sure where all that money went because this looks like one of the cheapest movies ever, it doesn’t even look like it has a budget of half a million. This movie looks so cheap that it straight up reused the opening animation of the first movie (and just added Annihilation to the title when it comes up). Saying that the CGI looks really fake would be underselling it, despite the budget being over twice that over the original, the visual effects have taken a complete downgrade and are just horrendous. The third act has quite possibly the worst CGI effects I have ever seen in a movie, its two monsters fighting and it’s absolutely abysmal, even if it was released in the 70s instead of the 90s it wouldn’t be acceptable. Even the green screen background parts are terrible, you can even see the white outlines around the actors. There are occasionally some actual practical backgrounds but they don’t last for long. So the effects are terrible but you’d think that maybe the action would be able to make up for it, nothing could be further from the truth. Not even the action is competent, it’s one of those action movies where the action always cuts at just the right moment when something dangerous or difficult could happen, so there are so many cuts in every fight scene. The camera work is terrible, there’s even one moment when a character wrestles with the camera to act like something is fighting him because they didn’t have the budget to actually show the other person. There’s also for some reason so many flips in this movie, and so many moments when the actors are clearly on wires, it’s like you’re watching a puppet show instead of an actual movie. With all that said, everything I just mentioned can still be very entertaining, for how incompetent and poorly made the movie is. However, if you’re trying to enjoy the movie the same way you might’ve enjoyed the first movie, you’re probably not going to have fun with it (at least in that same way).

Whereas the first Mortal Kombat is kind of enjoyable and (for lack of a better term) a guilty pleasure, this is a complete disasterpiece. Pretty much everything is awful in this movie, the lazy ‘story’, the acting, the poor action and the abysmal special effects. It’s so unintentionally incompetent and its hilarious and entertaining for it. If you can be entertained by some poorly done movies, I think you’ll have a lot of fun with it, especially if you had fun with the first Mortal Kombat movie.

Mortal Kombat (1995) Review

Time: 101 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Christopher Lambert as Raiden
Robin Shou as Liu Kang
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Shang Tsung
Linden Ashby as Johnny Cage
Bridgette Wilson as Sonya Blade
Talisa Soto as Princess Kitana
Director: Paul W. S. Anderson

Lord Raiden (Christopher Lambert) handpicks three martial artists — federal agent Sonya Blade (Bridgette Wilson), Shaolin monk Lui Kang (Robin Shou) and action movie sensation Johnny Cage (Linden Ashby) — and mentors them. After intense training, Rayden transports the trio to Outworld, the site of an inter-dimensional fighting tournament. There, the three humans must defeat the demonic warriors of the evil Shang Sung (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) — or allow Sung to take over the Earth.

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The Mortal Kombat games left such an impact on video games, mostly with the excessive gore and blood that other fighting games at the time didn’t have. In 1995, Mortal Kombat got its own movie adaptation by Paul W.S. Anderson and to this day it’s generally considered to be one of the better video game movies, but that’s not saying much. Looking at the movie as a whole, it’s not particularly good but its entertaining enough (intentionally or otherwise) that it doesn’t really matter.

Mortal Kombat’s story is basic and easy to follow, it follows a basic pattern, two people fight, Christopher Lambert’s Raiden drops exposition, repeat until the third act. There’s really not much to say about the plot, its simple and cliched and nothing new. It still is somewhat entertaining however. Mortal Kombat is very over the top. Having played two of the most recent Mortal Kombat games, I can say that the characters are somewhat similar, they are mostly 2 dimensional but they aren’t given much depth in the games either. The dialogue is laughably terrible a lot of the time as well, the writing isn’t good at all. It’s the entertainment factor that really makes the movie watchable. Mortal Kombat is not too long, with it being an hour and 40 minutes long. It doesn’t really get boring, as long as you know what you’re in for.

The actors aren’t the best and aren’t particularly good for the most part but they do their roles well enough. From the two Mortal Kombat games that I played, they seemed to suit the roles well, however that’s all I can really say about them with a couple exceptions. Christopher Lambert as Raiden is perfect casting and was the standout to me.

Paul W.S. Anderson isn’t that great of a director from what I can tell but he does enough here for Mortal Kombat to be entertaining. The stunts in the fight sequences are pretty standard and nothing special. Thankfully you can actually see what’s going on and its not edited so that they’re incomprehensible, and at times they are over the top enough that they are entertaining. Despite the fight scenes being very over the top however, there isn’t really any blood whatsoever. This is a little bit of a problem, as the reason that the Mortal Kombat games got noticed so much (at least in the 90s) was the blood and gore, so it feels like the movie is really lacking something. No doubt this was a studio mandated decision to increase the amount of viewers as Paul W.S. Anderson had directed some bloody and violent movies. Some of the visual effects are decent enough (for its time at least), other effects are pretty terrible. The character of Goro (who is a monsterlike character with 4 arms) is completely practical, and while I’m fully aware that it would look terrible had it been in CGI, it looks very clunky and fake. There is a lot of slow motion used, to the point of ridiculousness. The music was good and really add to the movies and scenes, especially the main theme.

Mortal Kombat is not that good but it is entertaining at least. The acting for the most part is subpar, the effects haven’t aged well, it’s really cheesy and while it’s not a huge problem, the lack of the blood and gore really feels out of place. Yet it has parts that really work, some of the chesesiness can be entertaining (intentional or not) and the action scenes are mostly enjoyable. If you like the Mortal Kombat games, you might enjoy this movie. When I first watched Mortal Kombat, I personally didn’t watch play the games myself (although I knew of some of the characters) and I still enjoyed the movie quite a bit. So if you’re willing to watch a simple and cliched yet entertaining action movie, Mortal Kombat might do it for you. I think there’s some potential for a modern day Mortal Kombat movie to really work, hopefully we get that one day.