Cheech Marin

Once Upon a Time in Mexico

Year: 2003
Directed By: Robert Rodriguez
Written By: Robert Rodriguez

RYAN’S REVIEW

This movie made it into the collection by way of the “Mexican Trilogy” pack that came out with its counterparts El Mariachi and DesperadoI am a huge fan of Robert Rodriguez and loved his first two films when I was younger. As I have gotten older my love of exaggerated action movies has faded and truthfully I found this film a bit disappointing when it came out. I was in college at the time and I was really excited to see this franchise return to the big screen. The movie fits in with the trilogy really well but I have never found it overly impressive.

I appreciate the style of Robert Rodriguez and his efforts to make incredibly badass Mexican heroes. I grew up watching and loving action movies. When I was younger, exaggerated action only fueled my adolescent imagination and El Mariachi and Desperado were two I specifically got into. Robert Rodriguez, along with others like Renny Harlin and John Woo, really had a knack for these kinds of movies. Now that I’m older though I’m not so into them. If it was a film I fell in love with as a kid then I still get into it but when it comes to something new it just seems silly to me.

This movie came out right around the time that I could just no longer tolerate such films and even it’s connection to two others I loved couldn’t get me on board with it. I think there is plenty to like in this movie and it is cool as only a Robert Rodriguez film can be but it’s just not one I’m interested in anymore.

Johnny Depp does his best to be super cool in this movie and he has his moment in the end when trying to take on the bad guys in a gun fight with no eyes. I think the movie centers around his character far too much though. The Mariachi, “El” that is, just isn’t in this movie enough and when he is he is just far too supernatural. When this movie came out Johnny Depp was still the cool guy for my generation. The same year this came out he was also in Pirates of the Caribbean and I have never felt he was the same since. Since playing Jack Sparrow, Johnny Depp has been an agent of Disney and lost the cool guy persona my generation came to love. Gone were the movies like Blow and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, to be replaced by a series of films in which he seemed to wear progressively more and more make-up. A trend that continues in his career and marriage with Disney. He was still cool in this movie but I have never been a huge fan of his portrayal of this overly cheesy and catty CIA operative.

There isn’t enough of Salma Hayek here either and when she is it’s a bit too exaggerated. Now all can be forgiven in the face of such a flawless beauty but there is just not enough of her in it. This movie isn’t lacking in cast at all and in fact I think it is the saving grace of the film. I may have outgrown this type of movie but I can still appreciate it for what it is. Rodriguez never fails to get a terrific cast together. In this movie are many of his regulars such as Danny Trejo, Cheech Marin, and Julio Oscar Mechoso among others. Rodriguez takes a lot of pride in his heritage and I admire his loyalty to it when casting films.

Antonio Banderas is as cool as ever in the hero role. A bit too supernatural this time around but it is a role he pulls off well. As I said earlier though, there isn’t enough of him in this movie as too much of the film focuses on Depp’s character and near the end too much screen time is dedicated to the other mariachis. Why try to make Enrique Iglesias into a badass when he is only going to take screen time away from a guy like Banderas? I like Mickey Rourke and Willem Dafoe in this movie. I have always been a fan of Dafoe. He was everywhere when this movie came out if that offers any explanation as to how he got this role and it didn’t go to an actual Latino actor. Eva Mendes is flawlessly beautiful but has never really been able to rise to any big time roles.

This movie is what it is. It’s an overloaded action movie that will suffice if that is what you are in the mood for. There are better movies for the occasion but you could do worse by not giving this one a chance. It has plenty of moments to appreciate and keep you interested. I don’t know this this movie is really worth your time but if you are a fan of the series it is still a must see.

NEXT MOVIE: Orange Country (2002)

 

Machete

Year: 2010
Directed By: Robert Rodriguez
Written By: Robert Rodriguez

RYAN’S REVIEW

This film has lost its appeal on me.  I am a big fan of Robert Rodriguez and everything he does but I have to admit this one doesn’t seem as awesome to me as it did three years ago.  I thought Rodriguez’s half of the Grindhouse films was far and away superior in every way to the half that Tarantino did and three years ago I loved that he was taking it a step further.  His fake Machete trailer was really cool and I thought he did a great job carrying that style and intentional exaggeration into a full feature length film.  My problem now is that Rodriguez simply hasn’t done enough in the years since.  I thought this movie was great three years ago but for it to be all this talented filmmaker has worked on since has simply disappointed me.  

I thought that Sin City was incredible and loved what Robert Rodriguez did with it, but after eight years of waiting for the sequel my patience is running thin.  For me, it has created a bit of resentment towards this franchise because this franchise has continued while that one has done nothing.  I have yet to see Machete Kills but haven’t really felt compelled to either because I think this film was enough.  I love Danny Trejo and like him getting the opportunity to be an even bigger badass than he already is but I have just wanted more from Rodriguez over the years and haven’t gotten it.  The sequel to Sin City has finally been made and is set to come out next year but that will be a nine year gap between movies.  I think it’s been too long but I still look forward to it and hope it is worth the wait.

This film was an idea first conceived in 1993 when Rodriguez was making Desperado in Mexico.  When he was shooting the movie the locals had no idea what the movie was actually about or who was in it but they all gravitated toward Trejo when he was on set thinking he was the star of the film.  Rodriguez told Trejo then that he needed to start working with blades and eventually they would collaborate on this.  For the next 15 years Trejo stayed on Rodriguez about the idea to the point that Rodriguez told him he didn’t have to call about it all the time and could simply text him about it.  To this Trejo said “Machete don’t text,” a line Rodriguez thought was funny and eventually put into the film.  Robert Rodriguez has done many great things throughout his career but something I have always liked specifically about him was his propensity to use Trejo in all his films.  Danny Trejo is a badass, and I have loved him in everything from the Johnny 23 to voicing Octavio on King of the HillBeing credited with over 260 roles the man is a relentless worker and there is really no end to naming the great roles he has played either in bit parts or in larger roles.  I do really like him finally getting to play the lead and loved this film at first because it put him in the spotlight.  Having lost its appeal on me though I’ll admit he overdoes it quite a bit in this movie.  Of course that is the point of the movie, but it doesn’t do anything to make the film endearing when there are now reasons to be frustrated with it. If nothing else there is one thing I do want to mention before I move on from Trejo.  He has certainly gotten an awful lot out of one of the coolest tattoos of all time.  If you know Danny Trejo at all then you know exactly what I am talking about but if you somehow missed it here is an image:

Trejo is getting older now, approaching the age of 70 if you can believe it.  The fact that he is just now getting the spotlight and taking hold of it like a man half his age says a lot about the kind of person he is.  This guy never stops working, and while he may make more B-movies than anything else he has still made such a significant impact.  Granted this movie and its sequel technically should count as B-movies they were made like that intentionally and both received worldwide distribution like any other big budget movie.

This movie, like most of Rodriguez’s films, has a lengthy and impressive cast.  The flawlessly beautiful Jessica Alba has a large part and actually appears naked at one point in the movie.  Don’t be fooled however because she has a no nude clause in her acting contract. Rodriguez is a whiz with making movies simple using his computer to do things digitally.  In the shower scene where we see a nearly naked Jessica Alba she was covered while shooting and it was digitally removed later.  Michelle Rodriguez, no relation to the film’s director, is an actress I usually cannot stand.  For years she was constantly playing the exact same role over and over again but of late she has started to impress me.  I actually thought she looked smoking hot in this movie and I have never thought so before.  I haven’t really seen her play different roles of late but somehow she seems better in them.  I’m thinking specifically of this film and of Avatar when I thought she gave a great performance.

I think this was possibly one of the coolest things Steven Seagal has ever done.  I have always regarded Steven Seagal as silly and never taken him serious as an actor.  I do not think his performance in this movie, while awesome, did anything to change that perception. When Seagal comes up I don’t think of his film career first but of that show I never watched where for some reason he tagged along with police and went on busts.  I thought the concept of that show was so bizarre.  What the hell is this guy doing right? Who is Steven Seagal to ride around with police and be involved with busts?  Did the heart to heart convos he had with perps after they were busted change any of their lives? Did I miss out by not watching this show? If anybody out there watched it I would really like to know about it, leave us a comment and tell us something about it.  Somebody out there really must love Seagal and I am always curious why.  He regularly gets a specific week dedicated to him and his movies on AMC.  I’ll admit I haven’t seen enough of his films but I had seen enough as far as I was concerned. Seagal fans tell me I am wrong.  Have I just been missed out all these years and is Seagal really something special? If I have missed something that is worth my time leave me a comment and let know what I should check out.

Chris Cooper was originally offered the part of the corrupt senator but he refused the part because he thought the script was bizarre. When Robert De Niro took the part it suddenly became much easier for Rodriguez to get any other star he wanted in the film.  We see a couple of his regulars as well.  Cheech Marin reprised his role from the original trailer.  Marin appears in most of Rodriguez’s films but has really put together an impressive body of work since simply being half of a popular pothead duo.  Tom Savini is also here as an assassin and for the first time in a Rodriguez film he doesn’t die.  You can also see Rodriguez’s sisters playing two nurses who are part of “The Network.”

When we sat down to watch this movie last night I was really looking forward to it.  It had been a while since we had seen it and I loved it when it came out.  To be honest I really just couldn’t get into it and found the whole experience really disappointing. Maybe I wasn’t in the right mood, I don’t know but for whatever reason I just didn’t love or really even like this movie when I watched it last night.  I think the action and choreography of the fights are great, both of which are specific talents of Rodriguez.  I like most of the actors and still like the campy style of the film but the endearing quality was just lost on me this time.  I don’t want to go into the film too much because I can’t bring myself to criticize Rodriguez or Trejo.  There is still plenty to like about this movie but when you watch it you just need to understand that it does some things on purpose and take it for what it is worth. It’s meant to be over the top and when that is done on purpose it’s altogether different than the stupid films that do it honestly. This movie didn’t do it for me last night and I don’t think it’s going to be one I regularly revisit but I still think it is worth your time to see at least once.

AMBER’S REVIEW

macheteThis movie is okay. I remember really liking it the first time I watched it, but having watched it again, I just don’t know. There are some parts I love and parts I loathe.

This poster kills me. Rodriguez kills me too. He and Tarantino both think they have found this awesome way to stand out-by making their signature that looks like its straight out of the 70s era. This can be fun and a really good idea, but it only works when the movie is set in the same era. I mean seriously guys; move on with the design inspiration. The title sequences included. Their movie ideas are incredible, but the graphic design that goes into their ideas is horrible.

This poster is a montage of the characters. You all should know by now how much that kills me. At least there is a big cheesy explosion in the background. In this case cheesy works, since the whole movie is in fact very cheesy. I don’t like this poster at all. I don’t even like the typography. I have never been a fan of anything looking too much like a WordArt image. I think there was room to make this better and the opportunity was missed here.

NEXT MOVIE: Magnolia (1999)

Movies By Request

The Great White Hype


Year: 1996
Directed By: Reginald Hudlin
Written By: Tony Hendra Roy Shelton

There are more movies made about boxing than any other professional sport.  I think there is a very good reason for that and it is simple.  Boxing movies are awesome, even if they are all the same. I have said as much before in my post on Cinderella Man but I think deep down we all have an instinctive desire to see fights. The men that choose to spend their lives as fighters always have interesting stories to tell as well.  Yet all boxing movies seem to follow a similar template, and this movie is no different.  It covers many elements of the boxing world that we see in others films, but the redundancy of boxing story lines somehow never seems to be a problem. I often find myself realizing this is the same thing I have seen before but still loving it in all boxing films, and or TV shows in the case of Lights Out. I was a really big fan of that show and disappointed to see it cancelled.  My main point here is that while they all might be so similar they are usually interesting in other ways.

This movie specifically makes fun of the racial element in the sport.  I despise racism but do enjoy the humor that can be found in stereotypes across the board.  We all fall into stereotypes, it doesn’t necessarily always have to be about race, but it is funny so long as it is in good humor.  There is a big difference between making a joke about a stereotype and making a racist joke.  I think this movie made fun of racist behavior albeit in a crude manner at times.  One of the times I laughed the hardest was when Samuel L Jackson accused a reporter of being racist.  He responds by saying he is Jewish to which Jackson then accuses him of being an “Uncle Tom.” The reporter says Jews can’t be “Uncle Toms” and Jackson turned to look at his cronie Jon Lovitz playing a Jewish man and puts the question to him.  Lovitz defensively says “we can be!” and it is just such a funny exchange.  This movie is about race all the way through and I did think it was really funny, but these kinds of films watched by the wrong people always send the wrong message.  I have found in my experiences that racist tend to feel validated by comedies or tragedies about race when in fact they should be humbled by them.  I don’t understand the disconnection but it is a disappointing reality about some people.  Racism at the root is a product of ignorance and people who embrace it are often not clever enough to see the error of their ways.

I remember always wanting to see this movie during my Action Video days but somehow never getting around to it.  So I was pleased when a co-worker brought it in among a stack of other films the other day.  I had completely forgotten about the film altogether and was glad for the opportunity to see it.  I was even happier to have liked the movie as I anticipated I would long ago.  Samuel L. Jackson has a charisma that reaches out to everyone and I am no different.  I have thought he was awesome for almost twenty years now since I first saw him in Die Hard with a Vengeance as an eleven year old. I had yet to see Pulp Fiction, that one was off limits for me until I was old enough to seek it out myself.  Nevertheless I have thought he was great since then and he has done nothing to dissuade me from that opinion.  If anything he has only made his image greater in my eyes as he has now become such a key figure in the Marvel movies as Nick Fury.  As to this film he is what would easily be expected, awesome.  As the key figure of a really large cast he does great with a powerful and commanding presence at all times. He is funny in this movie while playing a really flamboyant and enigmatic boxing promoter; he is exactly what he should be in that role.

Of this large cast that includes many notable actors I think the best one playing a supporting role was Jamie Foxx.  He is another actor that is very charismatic and good in most of what he does.  He plays someone kind of stupid in this movie and pulls it off well.  As a big and lifelong fan of The Shield I also really enjoyed seeing Michael Jace in a movie. He played Julian Lowe on the show and I thought he showed great range as an actor throughout the series.  The rest of this cast is made up of other notable actors who do a great job.  Among them are Jeff Goldblum, Cheech Marin, John Rhys-Davies (Gimli from Lord of the Rings), Jon Lovitz, and Damon Wayans (the first one).

I am glad that at long last I have finally seen this movie and I really enjoyed it.  It was a fun and funny movie that didn’t let me down after I had waited so long to see it I had actually forgotten about it.  I am grateful that my co-worker lent it to me to see and I would recommend it to anybody looking for a fun boxing comedy to see.

From Dusk Till Dawn

Year: 1996
Directed By: Robert Rodriguez
Written By: Robert Kurtzman (story) Quentin Tarantino (screenplay)

RYAN’S REVIEW

I don’t know that I have ever watched any other film that does a 180 quite like this one.  This movie offers one of the most dramatic changes in direction that I have ever seen in any movie but I think that is part of what makes it memorable.  For the first half of the movie there is a completely different tone to it and absolutely no hint of what is to come.  Suddenly, seriously out of nowhere, it becomes a movie about vampires.  It’s cool in this case though because it was before vampires would completely consume our culture and wear out their welcome. I have never been a fan of vampires that turn into creepy ass monsters but these vampires aren’t supposed to be cool they are supposed to be scary, or at the very least just silly. This isn’t my favorite film from either of the filmmakers but I think it has many elements that make it a worthy film.

One of the things I think makes this film most significant was that it advanced the career of Robert Rodriguez.  It was his second collaboration with Quentin Tarantino and it would go on to start a franchise and acquire a large cult following. I am a big fan of any time Tarantino and Rodriguez collaborate but I actually think Rodriguez is the better of the pair, not including Inglourious Basterds which was phenomenal. I have never understood why Tarantino has insisted on acting in many of those collaborations but he isn’t bad in this one.  I think he is well suited for the role of a hot headed pervert as it happens though so it works out really well in this case. Rodriguez is ever the king of cool and can always deliver on exciting action so his movies are always great.

It’s not often that I admit this but every so often George Clooney plays a part that is really cool.  I normally cannot stand Clooney but he is pretty badass in this movie, and it’s pre-Batman and Robin so I suppose that makes it OK. There were five other actors approached to play his part before he was offered the role though.  Michael Madsen, John Travolta, Christopher Walkin, Steve Buscemi, and Tim Roth all had scheduling conflicts and ultimately Clooney was approached and accepted.  I think he did a good job; he played a really cool bad guy.  I have always been a big fan of Juliette Lewis, she has a really interesting story and I wish she was in more movies currently.  She doesn’t do anything special in this movie but plays her part well enough.  Salma Hayek is sexy as only Salma Hayek can be and I remember hating the filmmakers briefly for making her so ugly all of a sudden and interrupting her strip tease. I think Harvey Keitel is awful in this movie but I normally like him a lot. I don’t think he was right for the role at all. This movie has several Rodriguez regulars as well playing smaller roles such as Danny Trejo, Cheech Marin, and Tom Savini.

This was a really cool movie that all of a sudden took a nose dive and got really silly.  I think that this is these two guys (Tarantino and Rodriguez) just having a good time and doing something they think is fun.  Watching it this time I felt stupid having told Amber to pay attention to it.  There seems to be no end to the silliness at certain times such as when the vampire band is playing instruments made of body parts and people eventually just start exploding from gunshot wounds.  Despite all that I still see something in this movie that makes it worth the time to watch it.  You would probably be taking a gamble if you chose this to watch one evening but there is plenty of potential so you might like it too, it is worth a shot.

AMBER’S REVIEW

What the heck did Ryan just make me watch? I have to admit that I like both Tarantino and Rodriguez. They are both very talented writers and movie makers. Having said that (my co-workers would kill me for saying that), I am not a fan of this movie. The dramatic change in story line is ridiculous. Everyone I talked to about this movie all seemed to love it and think that I was crazy for not finding it incredibly interesting. I tried to put myself back in time to when this movie came out, because then I am sure the vampire craze wasn’t so prevalent. Maybe I should give the movie another chance someday before really bashing it. If you are in to strange movies that have variable storylines this is your movie.

NEXT MOVIE: Full Metal Jacket (1987) 

Desperado

Year: 1995
Directed By: Robert Rodriguez
Written By: Robert Rodriguez

RYAN’S REVIEW

What a cool action movie, Robert Rodriguez is really good at these shoot em up films.  This movie made a big splash in 1995. It not only ushered Antonio Banderas into the spotlight but it also introduced us all to Rodriguez and Salma Hayek as well. It’s really violent and really exciting with non-stop gun fighting as the mysterious musician kills his way to the top of the drug cartel.   This is the second movie in the Robert Rodriguez “Mexico Trilogy,” the sequel to his 1992 independent film El Mariachi.

Rodriguez has a lot of pride in his nationality, it is more than obvious in all his films.  Rodriguez usually writes his action stars as strong and powerful Mexican heroes. We see this not only in the Mariachi films but also in Machete and Planet Terror. Antonio Banderas plays that part in this film and does it very well.  He looks good and he shoots the hell out of everyone. Has there ever been a woman more beautiful that Salma Hayek?  This was her first American movie and her career easily took off afterwards because she is just so smoking hot.  Joaquim de Almeida is great as the bad guy, a role he usually plays well. Rodriguez favorites Cheech Marin and Danny Trejo both have parts.  I am a really big fan of Danny Trejo and have liked him in nearly everything I have seen him in.  Steve Buscemi and Quentin Tarantino also bring a lot to the film with their parts.  I don’t think Tarantino is worth much in his attempts to be an actor but I think he does do a good job in this movie.  Buscemi as usual is great, his presence instantly makes any movie better.

This movie is simple but it is a cool film that is a lot of fun to watch.  It didn’t and wouldn’t win any awards but I think it is worth your time nonetheless.  Like I have said before, sometimes we all need a good mindless action flick to turn our brains off with from time to time.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I usually give the action movies Ryan makes me watch a chance, but usually there is something I can find entertaining in them.  This movie doesn’t have much that appeals to me, it obviously wasn’t made for women. I like Salma Hayek but in this movie she is only eye candy for the men.  This movie was made for men and I sympathize with any other women who are forced by their husbands to sit through it.

NEXT MOVIE: The Devil’s Advocate (1997)