Wednesday, July 9, 2014

El Mariachi Trilogy

El Mariachi/Desperado Director's Double Feature (1992/1995)

Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003)

Movie rating: 8/10 (El Mariachi)
6/10 (Desperado)
8/10 (Once Upon a Time in Mexico)
DVD rating: 10/10 (El Mariachi/Desperado)
9/10 (Once Upon a Time in Mexico)
Release Date: 1998(El Mariachi/Desperado)
01/20/2004(Once Upon a Time in Mexico)
Running Time: 1 hour 21 minutes (El Mariachi)
1 hour 43 minutes (Desperado)
1 hour 42 minutes (Once Upon a Time in Mexico)
Rating: R
Distributor: Columbia Tri Star
List Price: $39.95 (El Mariachi/Desperado)
$28.95 (Once Upon a Time in Mexico)
Disc Details
Special Features:  El Mariachi:
Interactive Menus
Director's Commentary
Robert Rodriguez's short film "Bedhead."
10 minute film school.
Theatrical trailer.
Scene selection.
Widescreen format.
Several languages and captions.

Interactive menus
Director's commentary.
10 minute film school - (Anatomy of a Shootout).
Theatrical trailer.
Scene selections.
Widescreen format.
Several languages and captions.

Once Upon a Time in Mexico:
Widescreen anamorphic format
Chapter selection
Commentary by director Robert Rodriguez
Music and Sound Design track with commentary
Featurette: Ten Minute Flick School
Featurette: Ten Minute Cooking School
Deleted scenes
Featurette: Inside Troublemaker Studios
Featurette: The Anti-Hero's Journey
Featurette: Film Is Dead: An Evening with Robert Rodriguez
Featurette: The Good, the Bad, and the Bloody: A Look at the Special Effect
Soundtrack plug
DVD-ROM: Shooting gallery
DVD-ROM: Lottery game

Video Format: Widescreen (1.85:1) (El Mariachi/Desperado)
Widescreen (1.78:1) (Once Upon a Time in Mexico)
Languages: El Mariachi:
Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0) Mono

English (Dolby Digital 5.1) Stereo
English (Dolby Digital 2.0) Stereo
Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1) Stereo
Portuguese (Dolby Digital 5.1) Stereo

Once Upon a Time in Mexico:
English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)

Captions: El Mariachi: English, Spanish, Portugese.
Desperado: English, Spanish, Portugese.
Once Upon a Time in Mexico: English, French.

Casing: 1-Disc Keep Case

Review: El Mariachi/Desperado

Robert Rodriguez's story is legend among all hopeful filmmakers. With a mere $7,500.00, the young director amazed the world with "El Mariachi." The success of that film was followed by job offers galore. Rodriguez reworked "El Mariachi" with a big budget and name actors as "Desperado." The plotlines to both films are similar, however "Desperado" also tries to be a sequel to the earlier film. This schizophrenia in "Desperado" prevents it from reaching the level the original did. Both films are still worth owning. This DVD allows fans to own both films on one disc.

"El Mariachi" is a case of mistaken identity and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. El Mariachi (Carlos Gallardo), drifting musician comes to a small Mexican town the same day that Bigotn, (Jaime de Hoyos) an imprisoned drug dealer hits town with revenge on his mind. Turns out that Bigotn was ripped off by Moco (Peter Marquardt) who has now become a wealthy kingpin. Bigotn enters a bar and kills several of Moco's men. El Mariachi enters town shortly after this and finds himself fitting the description of Bigotn. He is hunted down by Moco's henchmen and kills several of them. He finds sanctuary at a bar owned by Moco but run by the lovely Domino, (Consuelo Gmez). She is wary of the mariachi player at first, but then realizes that he is a victim of mistaken identity. The remainder of the film has El Mariachi dodging Moco's henchmen, while Bigotn continues try go after his old partner.

"Desperado"is similar in storyline. Both films were made in the same town and on many of the same locations. In "Desperado" El Mariachi, (Antonio Banderas) except he now only plays with guns. His hand was shot thus ending his musical carear. He comes to town to get revenge on yet another bad guy, Bucho (Joaquim de Almeida). It seems that he is after the badguy from the first film, but that can't be, and Bucho was nowhere to be seen in the first film. The question becomes, "Why is El Mariachi after Bucho?" I have no idea. There are many things about "Desperado" which make it a confusing film. It made more sense to me before I saw "El Mariachi." Nevertheless, "Desperado" has some incredible action and funny humor. The opening scene with Steve Buscimi and Cheech Marin combines both of these elements. There is a cameo appearance by Quintin Tarantino which also combines the humor and action elements. There is also Salma Hayek as (Carolina) the bookstore owner who give the mariachi sanctuary. Ms. Hayek is the most beautiful woman in the world. Here, she is dressed to maximize her charms to the viewing audience. She also appears fully nude for and extended lovemaking scene which is perfect for the "step" and "magnify" features of the DVD. While "Desperado" lacks some of the coherence and character development of "El Mariachi" it is still a good film. Not a great film, but a good one.

The Disc
Great disc. Why you ask? Because of Robert Rodriguez. You get to know the filmmaker through his commentaries and the two "10 minute film schools" on this disc. You know what, he seams to be an approachable filmmaker who is interested in helping those who will come after him. I was totally impressed by the man's humility, artistry and humor. I like both of these movies. I enjoyed them more because of the time Rodriguez took to talk with his fans and budding filmmakers. Great extras.

Picture Quality: El Mariachi: 7/10; Desperado: 10/10
The picture quality of "El Mariachi" is inferior to "Desperado" by what the heck, he made the thing for $7,500.00! The picture is as good as it can be on "El Mariachi."

Sound Quality: El Mariachi: 10/10; Desperado: 10/10
Columbia remastered the sound on "El Mariachi" for release. While it is in Mono, you lose nothing. The sound is richer for "Desperado." I especially enjoyed the credit sequence featuring the music of Los Lobos.

Menu: El Mariachi: 10/10; Desperado: 10/10
The menu's get the job done. They make good use of the movie's sights and sounds.

Extra Features: El Mariachi: 10/10; Desperado: 10/10
I loved the "10 minute film schools." I wish he would come out with a series of these. Great insights into the filmmaking process. This is especially true for the "Film School" which appears on "El Mariachi." I have two teenaged kids. I enjoyed Rodriguez's student film "Bedhead" dealing with sibling rivalry. my kids got a kick out of it too.

The Final Word:
Great movies. Rodriguez seems to be a decent human being. He connects with fans and filmmakers alike. Great extras.

Review: Once Upon a Time in Mexico
If you watch Sergio Leone's "Dollars" trilogy closely you will realize that Clint Eastwood's 'Man With No Name' is not really the same character in each film. He is and he isn't. Clint's gunman is a man of mythological proportions. Leone made his character both familiar and foreign in each film. That is one of the reasons the films worked so well. Robert Rodriguez also follows this paradigm with his character "El Mariachi" (Antonio Banderas). In each of the three "El Mariachi" films, Banderas's history has changed. This doesn't matter, as he is a man of myth. In some ways, he is defined by those who encounter him. As Cheech Marin's character explains to Mr. Sands (Johnny Depp), "sometimes the story gets embellished." There are two common traits in all three films: El Mariachi is heart broken by the murder of the woman he loves, and he is one supreme bad ass. When you see El Mariachi playing guitar in this film, forget the fact that he couldn't play his guitar because of a bullet wound in the first two films. Forget any historical inconsistencies. El Mariachi is not a man, he is legend...a myth.

"Once Upon a Time in Mexico" is pure comic book excitement. Robert Rodriguez almost achieves epic status with this film. I thought it a bold move to name a film "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" when you consider the classic status of Sergio Leone's two "Once Upon a Time" films. Rodriguez's film does not rise to the level of either of the Leone films. It does entertain though. This is formalist filmmaking. Do not go into this film expecting the realism of "Reservoir Dogs." "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" is a cinematic graphic novel populated with larger than life heroes and villains.

Johnny Depp could not have chosen a better follow-up to "The Pirates of the Caribbean." Depp plays Mr. Sands, a manic CIA agent trying to manipulate a coup de tat in Mexico. He also has a number of other intrigues in the works, but I won't spoil them for you. His Sands is appropriately named. He shifts under your feet. If you hit him, he conforms to the punch. The rich, well-written part couldn't have been played by anyone else. While not as memorable as Jack Sparrow, Agent Sands is one of Mr. Depp's more memorable performances. When he is not on the screen, you wish he were. Sands is interested in keeping the balance in Mexico. He has psychotic ideas about how to achieve feng shui. Sands always orders the same meal at restaurants where ever he goes. He finds a restaurant that makes the dish better than anywhere else does. In order to maintain the balance, Sands kills the chef. Can't have anything too outstanding. All must be the same.

The film pays homage to "Once Upon a Time in the West" by having three almost godlike lead characters. Depp's agent Sands, Banderas's El Mariachi and Willem Dafoe's Barillo. Barillo is a drug kingpin who will kill anyone who gets in his way, even the President of Mexico. While Depp, Banderas and Dafoe do not captivate you the way Bronson, Fonda and Robards did in "Once Upon a Time in the West," they are not to be blamed. What could have been a classic film is merely a very good entertainment due to Rodriguez's script. The film veers very close to the edge of parody. Rodriguez is smart enough to hold the reigns. The action scenes are comic book in style, but they are consistent. Only the scene in which Banderas and Salma Hayek escape from a machine gun ambush does Rodriguez let one of the movie's proverbial wagon wheels hang over the edge of the parody cliff. He quickly pulls back. This momentary lapse can be forgiven. Rodriguez invents an imaginary world and obeys the laws he creates for that universe. There are no "Die Hard 3" lapses of reason. The laws of physics are bent, but not enough to prevent the willing suspension of disbelief.

Though she receives third billing, Salma Hayek has very little screen time. In this installment, she is the dead woman that El Mariachi must avenge. All of her scenes are told in flashback. While she looks great, do not expect a repeat of the steamy sex scene from "Desperado." Eva Mendes also provides eye candy for the guys (and gals who are so inclined) as Mexican drug cop Ajedrez. She looks like a more voluptuous Gina Gershon. Rubin Blades and Mickey Rourke also have nice supporting roles. All things considered, Johnny Depp steals the show. I'd pay to see this one again.

The Disc
Great movie, picture, sound and extras.

Picture Quality: 10/10
Robert Rodriguez says that film is dead. When you look at the images he achieves with high-def video you begin to believe that he might just be right. Rich, well saturated colors. Very vivid colors. Great flesh tones. Sharp image. No pixilation, delineation problems or artifacts.

Sound Quality: 10/10
Wonderful Latin score. Full rich tones. Excellent balance between the ranges.

Easter Eggs:
No Easter Eggs Found on Disc.

Extra Features: 10/10
I've been a big fan of Robert Rodreguez's "10 Minute Film School." This time around it is called the "10 Minute Flick School." There is another featurette entitled "Film is Dead" which explains the name change from "Film School" to "Flick School." In this installment, Rodreguez explains how CGI special effects enabled him to make an epic scale film on a low budget. Someday, someone is going to fund an entire "Flick School" DVD by this guy. Indie filmmakers can learn from this guy. A very informative and enjoyable entry in the series.

Rodreguez also hosts a "10 Minute Cooking School." He gives detailed instructions for cooking the slow roasted pork that Johnny Depp's character loved in this movie. Can't wait to try it out. I also look forward to the next school that Rodreguez promises at the end of this featurette!

The 'Film is Dead' featurette is a talk given by Rodreguez to film students in LA. He says that the only reason to work on film is for nostalgia reasons. He makes a great case for the future of High Def filmmaking.

The commentary tracks are also excellent. Lots of very useful information for would be filmmakers.

The tour of Troublemakers Studios should give many up and coming filmmakers inspiration for their future. The tour shows how far technology has come to putting the creative power back in the hands of those who create.

The DVD also includes filmographies for the three leads and the director. There are a couple of featurettes detailing the special effects and the evolution of this film series. The DVD-ROM features a shooting gallery game. Kill the badguys while avoiding the good guy. There is also a game called lottery that tests your survival skills with each of the film's characters.

The Final Word:

Well worth the price of admission. A nice start to 2004.

No comments: