DVD review: ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO
by David Blackwell
ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO is a great movie. I throughly enjoyed this epic take on the El Mariachi in this trilogy. The
movie takes the character to mythic proportions and features a great cast of actors. Johnny Depp is just wonderful in this
movie as Agent Sands, a very corrupt CIA agent, who recruits El Mariachi to kill a Mexican general (that El wants revenege
for what the general did) that is planning to do a military coup on the Day of the Dead.
This DVD is great, and Troublemaker Studios and well-known DVD producer Charles de Laurzinka (best known for producing
such DVDs as the recent ALIEN QUADRILOGY) have come up with some great special features for the DVD. This is the type of DVD
that was done right on the first go with no need for future special editons of ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO This DVD is a must
for anyone who liked Desperado, future directors, and DVD collectors. The menus are well designed with music (and scenes from
the movie) playing when you're at the main menu and the special features menu. The DVD case comes in a cardboard slipcase.
Once yout slid e the dVD case out of the cardboard case, you're treated to some nice old art design look on the DVD sleeve
that is worthy of an 1960s or 1970s poster art for Spaghetti Westerns.
There are 8 deleted scenes (with optional director commentary that stress many times that deleted scnes area favorite feature
on DVDs) which amount to most scenery chewing scenes by Johnny Depp and some scenes that give away the surprises in the movie
too early, but these seven minutes of scenes are interesting to watch. TEN MINUTE FLICK SCHOOL gives insight on how to make
a movie cheaper the digital way and Robert Rodriguez shows examples of how he did stuff for cheaper with digital effects and
HD video cameras for ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO. INSIDE TROUBLEMAKER STUDIOS shas Robert show you his editing and mixing facilities
at his house including how he can do music virtually (and connect with visual effects studios in another city) from his home
and a look at the visual effects studio that is set up in another part of Houston.
FILM IS DEAD: AN EVENING WITH ROBERT RODRIGUEZ is also another intereasting featurette to watch as he talks about doing
movies with digital cameras to an audience in Los Angeles. So far the featurettes have me more interested than any other featurettes
on other DVDs. The three featurettes I mentioned prove that the next crop of filmmakers and even current filmmakers can make
movies for cheaper if they film in digital. the INSIDE TROUBLEMAKERS STUDIOS goes to show one can have their own mixing and
editing studio at home without it costing an arm and a leg due to advances in technology.
THE ANTI-HERO'S JOURNEY traces the development of the El Mariachi films from EL MARIACHI to DESPERADO to ONCE UPON ATIME
IN MEXICO. In a way, the el Mariachi movies are Robert Rodgriguez's "Dollars" trilogy. El Mariachi is like Robert's version
of "Fistful of Dollars" and Desperado is his "For A Few Dollars More", But ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO is his epic that is
grand in scale to teh other two movies like "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" was to the first two movies in that trilogy.
The other two featurettes are 10 MINUTE COOK SCHOOL where you are shown how to cook Puerco Pibil which was seen in the
movie, and THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE BLOODY: INSIDE KNB FX which shows how KNB did all of the non-CGI special effects, make-up
effects, and the fake dummies for the movie.
There are two commentary trackes by director robert Rodriguez on the DVD. The first is an interesting director's commentary
track and you hear many production stories (and how the movie finally came to), but you never hear Robert explain why ONCE
UPON A TIME IN MEXICO is the fourth film with flashbacks to a phantom third movie even though he says he will get to that
later in the commentary track. The second is a music and sound design track where you hear the sound effects and music of
the movie with some music commentary from Robert. He plays demo music pieces (from his computer) of some music pieces on the
music score and what chapters to jump to to hear demo music and more commentary. I did hear in the director's commentary track
that Robert is thinking that he could do a ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO Part Two and Part Three.
Rounding out the special features are filmographies of Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Johnny Depp, and Robert Rodriguez;
and two games (playing the Mexican Loterry and a Shooting Gallery game) when you insert the DVD in a computer DVD-ROM drive.
The film is presented in a good 1.78:1 widescreen (anomorphic too) which is very colorful and crisp with great audio. The
trailers selection is cool, but I could have done without two trailers playing before you hit the main menu (even though said
trailers are also made available in the trailer gallery). I do want to see HELLBOY and the trailer is awesome. Also included
in the trailers sections are two theaterical trailers for ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEIXCO (the second trailer is the best of the
two), short trailers for Desperado and El Mariachi, The Missing, Underworld, the Resident Evil: Apocalypse teaser trailer,
Big Fish, In The Cut, and a trailer I didn't even care for (You Got Served).
The final verdict is this DVD is one of the best DVDs to come out so far in 2004 which shows how good movies shot with
high definition video cameras look on DVD. as pointed out several times, Robert Rodrigues says HD makes a movie shoot easier
to do in a shorter time and ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO is one of the first movies shot in high def digital, and it shows that
movies shot on HD video may be the future of movies (and make it easier to transfer such movies to DVD). So go add ONCE UPON
A TIME IN MEXICO to your DVD collection because this DVD is worth it.
DVD review: THE MEDALLION
by David Blackwell
THE MEDALLION is a very cool Jackie Chan movie. It has tons of Jackie Chan action, the beautiful Claire Forlani, the funny
Lee Evans (who is like the Energizer Bunny on Speed), and the ever cool Julian Sands as the villian Snakehead. This movie
has a better story and better humor than any of the US financed productions Jackie Chan has been in (the stupid RUSH HOUR
movies and the very stupid SHANGHAI KNIGHTS (which was worse than than SHANGHAI NOON) which don't even match up to the quality
of script that THE MEDALLION's).
You have options to view the movie in 2.40:1 widescreen or Full screen. The widescreen transfer is good while the last
30 minutes of the full frame transfer seems grainy at times.
THE MEDALLION has 15 deleted scenes (including an alternate ending) which amount to almost 30 minutes of scenes. The deleted
scenes show the movie could have gone in a different direction with some scenes playing out differently than they did in the
final version and scenes that got cut as the movie was edited to make it run at a better pace. The commentary track by the
producer and editor make comments about the shitck Lee Evans made which you don't see the majority of it on the DVD (and it
sounds like a good thing to include if Columbia ever does a special edition of THE MEDALLION and I would also like to see
the uncut version of WHO AM I? released in the USA).
these reviews are (c)Jan 2004 David Blackwell and they can't be reprinted without the author's permission. Send all comments
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