Robert Rodriguez

Sin City

Year: 2005
Directed By: Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller, special guest directing by Quentin Tarantino
Written By: Frank Miller

RYAN’S REVIEW

In the decade prior to the launch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the first Iron Man movie, comic book films were growing in popularity. You had the properties owned by Fox hitting the big screen with titles like X-Men, Fantastic Four, Ghost Rider, and Daredevil. Though only X-Men could be considered a success. You had Warner Brothers still pushing Batman and Superman movies with no continuity between them; they would show up egregiously late to the Cinematic Universe party. Then you had movies like this one. Gritty adaptations to darker comics like 300, and The Spirit. All of these films helped build the momentum that would carry the movie industry into the huge market of films based on comic characters.

Beyond the R rated New Line films featuring Blade this was far and away the darkest of all comic book films that had been released. Not only was it dark but it was violent and graphic in ways nobody had seen before. Twice in this movie Bruce Willis destroys the genitals of a sex pervert, which specifically stood out as a new and obscene type of violence. This movie truly lived up to it’s name with all the evilness going on within the movie. There are sex criminals, cannibalism, corruption, betrayal, prostitution, and brutally satisfying violence. Shot in black and white with specific uses of colors all this sinful behavior is on beautiful display to dazzle the audience. I have never understood why it took nine years to make a sequel and why it wasn’t as successful.

I have never taken the time to see the sequel because I have never heard anything positive about it. I didn’t want a subpar sequel to disappoint me in what I had once hoped would be a successful franchise. I think waiting too long can sometimes hurt a franchise. For example, I couldn’t get into The Hobbit movies because I felt like too much time had passed. The time to make those movies were in a reasonable time frame after The Lord of the Rings finished up when it was still fresh on all our minds. I feel like that is the same reason I haven’t seen the sequel to this movie. Nine years is too long to wait on a sequel and by the time it finally came interest had waned. I wish Robert Rodriguez had continued this franchise in lieu of diving into the Machete movies. However, I have yet to see the sequel and if anybody wants to vouch for it please leave a comment. I only need to be slightly motivated to sit down with it.

This movie is a beautiful adaptation because it looks like the pages of a comic book came to life and started moving around. Shot nearly entirely against a green screen this movie is so clever with its use of color. Only specific items in the film are seen in color and their presence creates such a sharp contrast to the film noir setting, making the movie all the more beautiful. I do not know if the colors show up in Frank Miller’s actual comic because I have never taken the time to read it. Rodriguez is on record stating that he doesn’t really consider this film a adaptation and instead sees it as a transition of the page to the screen. That makes me think that the colors are part of the comic, and maybe one day I will find out for myself.

Robert Rodriguez has always been good at assembling a great cast in his movies and this one is no different. The cast of this movie is truly exceptional in all main roles as well as supporting roles. I have long considered this to be one of the last exceptional movies featuring Bruce Willis with few exceptions like Planet Terror or Moonrise KingdomSpecifically this is before he decided to go back to the Die Hard franchise and destroy the legacy of John McClane. Mickey Rourke enjoyed a nice resurgence in his career around the time this film came out and his role as Marv had a lot to do with that. He was viewed as perfect for the part by creator Frank Miller. In the last of what constitutes the main roles I really liked Clive Owen as Dwight. Owen had burst onto the scene around the time this movie was coming out and just as quickly fell off the map. He is still active as an actor but isn’t anywhere close to the spotlight he found himself in ten years ago in the aftermath of playing King Arthur.

The supporting cast of this movie would just take far too long to cover in its entirety. I think special mention should go to Elijah Wood who is undeniably creepy and evil as the silent cannibal Kevin. Rosario Dawson is overflowing with sexuality as the leader of the Old Town whores, Gail. Benicio Del Toro is barely recognizable in make up for the role of Jackie Boy, which was originally offered to Johnny Depp. The late Michael Clarke Duncan was perfect as the golden eyed Manute. I think he was a tragic loss but find the replacement actor, Dennis Haysbert a good choice to play the same role in the sequel. Josh Hartnett looks quite dapper in his beginning scene with Marley Shelton and I specifically like how he shows back up in the end as kind of a bookend to a movie that bounces around in storylines. I have always been a fan of Powers Boothe, and he plays a great bad guy. As Senator Roark he is specifically scary with his efforts to protect his sex criminal son, even suggesting that he would make him President. Last but not least I feel compelled to mention Carla Gugino who is just unbelievably hot in this movie. I’m a big fan and don’t understand why she doesn’t have a more stacked career.

The special guest direction from Quentin Tarantino seemed more like a favor to me than anything else and it turns out it was. Rodriguez did the soundtrack for Kill Bill Volume 2 for one dollar and Tarantino returned the favor by directing a scene in this one. This was during the time I specifically began to despise Tarantino and thought he brought nothing to the table. He directs the scene in which Dwight is driving the bodies to the pit and he has a conversation with a dead Jackie Boy. I didn’t think the flashing colors worked with the continuity of the film and I felt the whole scene was too full of dialogue. That’s Tarantino’s thing though, give him a window and he’ll drone on forever with needless conversation.

This movie wasn’t the start of something greater as I had hoped but it stands on its own just fine. The sequel came out far too late and without the same enthusiasm that was put behind this one. Again, I haven’t seen it so anybody who has please share your thoughts. I think this movie is one of the finest adaptations to a comic I have seen and it was an important film for the future of the comic book era of films. I don’t know what went wrong with the sequel and can’t vouch for it but this movie is easily worth your time. It’s not for the faint of heart but if you have an appetite for something devious than you can’t do much better than this one.

NEXT MOVIE: The Sixth Sense (1999)

 

 

Predators

Year: 2010
Directed By: Nimrod Antal
Written By: Robert Rodriguez, Alex Litvak, and Michael Finch

RYAN’S REVIEW

I remember when it was first announced that there would be a new Predator movie penned by Robert Rodriguez. As a Rodriguez fan I was instantly stoked at the idea of what he might do with it. Somewhere along the line I lost track of it and the movie seemed to fly under the radar during development. A year or two came and went seemingly before Predators was finally made and I don’t remember reading much about it before it was suddenly ready to hit the screens. I could have just forgotten but I remember nothing about the development of this movie beyond my initial excitement at its announcement. I consider that odd because when I’m interested in something I follow its development fervently. Despite my interest in the film I didn’t make it out to the theater to see it on the big screen, such luxuries perish with parenthood, but I bought it as soon as it was available. Trusting, that without having seen it, I was making a sound investment in a movie I would undoubtedly love.

I can say that I made a good investment. I consider this to be a perfect sequel to the original film, if you were to just forget about all the others. The original sequel and the offspring of the franchise are all hit or miss but this movie mirrors the original with an interesting idea that makes too much sense. In the first movie the Predator comes to Earth to hunt, in this one he simply grabs his prey up and drops them, literally, on to the hunting grounds. Perfect idea, and they obviously had a lot of fun with the story. The group chosen by the Predators is as interesting as the men who played the parts. You have military badasses from America, Russia, Israel, and Africa, but you also have criminals. There is the Yakuza enforcer, the Mexican cartel lieutenant, and the prisoner about to be executed on Death Row. Then there is a doctor thrown in the mix for good measure, a medic that can make the hunt more interesting, or so it seems at first. Like the first movie, they took a group of badasses, gave them really cool weapons, and dropped them in the jungle. Although in this one they kick it up a knotch by actually dropping them into that jungle.

I wasn’t sold on the idea of Adrien Brody being the hero in this film. I specifically remember seeing this in the beginning and thnking “really?” However, I think Brody pulled off badass soldier fairly well and I was quite surprised. Adrien Brody often surprises me in this way, aside from that awful thing he did in Splice, I am usually impressed with him. Not only did I like what Brody brought to the film but I felt the cast as a whole was terrific. I am a big fan of Walton Goggins and though he plays the character easiest to despise in this movie he plays the character well. It wouldn’t be a Rodriguez movie without an appearance by Danny Trejo, and who better to play the part of the Cartel man? Laurence Fishburne has a nice part as the survivor that has outlived his sanity. Fishburne can never be Morpheus again, but I still think he brings a great presence to the movies he is in today. I have never been a fan of Topher Grace, and frankly I find his continuing career so perplexing. There’s nothing wrong with him in this movie though. His whinny voice actually enhances his performance as the weakest yet secretive character of the out of place doctor.

This movie really brings it with an exciting and action packed story but more importantly it adds depth to the Predator lore. Through Laurence Fishburne’s unbalanced survivor we learn things about the Predators that have never been revealed before. The Predators use the planet as a hunting ground to enhance and utilize new hunting tactics. They only come to the planet in groups of three and there are two different types of the Predators. He explains that there is a blood feud between the larger and smaller Predators which explains the captive Predator the group comes upon earlier. Later Brody uses this knowledge to his advantage. Freeing the captive Predator to battle the only remaining hunter of the three while he tries to escape on the Predator spacecraft. Sensing a trap he doesn’t board and shows up just in time to help his last comrade after Topher Grace reveals himself to actually be a murderer who wasn’t simply a doctor thrown in for good measure. Adrien Brody’s battle with the Predator can never match up to the original ass whooping Schwarzenegger took but he holds his own well with interesting tactics that make for a great climax.

I started this review weeks ago and had to do a little research in order to finish it. Found out some interesting things though. This movie was actually written way back in 1995 when Rodriguez was working on DesperadoIt was considered too expensive at the time and laid dormant for almost 25 years before the studio decided it might have potential to relaunch the franchise. The movie was re-written to specifically distance itself from some of the other installments such as the AVP films. It doesn’t discount the underwhelming Predator 2 but doesn’t acknowledge it either. This movie was meant to serve specifically as a sequel to the first one and in that it was tremendously successful as far as I am concerned. As an effort to relaunch the franchise I at least hope it succeeds. There has been talk of another Predators film but talk means nothing until something is in production and that hasn’t happened yet.

If you are a fan of Predator then this is a must see. A sequel that does everything right. A cool group of characters in a fun and exciting scenario with plenty of action to keep our attention. According to Rodriguez the studio does want to do a sequel and this film was made smaller in scale simply to be built upon in the future. Five years have passed with no activity though so it’s hard to say what might happen. It took ten years for him to give us the long awaited follow up to Sin City. Yet only a year or so before we saw another Machete. That makes it hard to say what will happen but in the event we don’t get more at least this movie gave us something to enjoy. This movie is worth your time and it’s a must see for fans of the franchise.

NEXT MOVIE: The Prestige (2006)

Planet Terror

Year: 2007
Directed By: Robert Rodriguez
Written By: Robert Rodriguez

RYAN’S REVIEW

When this movie came out on DVD I bought it on the spot having not yet seen it. I watched it frequently after getting it and often fell asleep with it on. This movie goes back to menu when it’s over and that song plays over and over again if you don’t turn off your television. I have slept many a night with that song playing nonstop like a personal soundtrack through my dreams. It has been burned into a brain in such a way that when I am old and everything else is gone I will probably hum the tune from this film. I love the song and every single time I pop in the DVD I get this funny feeling from that music. It sucks me in and pulls something inside of me to the surface. That score, as much as anything else, is what makes this an awesome movie for me.

Another obvious thing that makes this movie awesome is the intro. Let me pose a question for anybody reading this now. Is there anything hotter than Rose McGowan in the opening scene of this movie? She is as sexy as any woman I have ever seen, barring my wife of course, dancing on stage to the music by Robert Rodriguez. I don’t understand why she has had such a limited career in acting over the years. I can’t really find any flaw in her talent and she is hot enough to pull off plenty of roles but for some reason she has been limited to films, more or less like this one. This was an intentional B movie and it was fitting for her being cast as she is mainly a B actress. I don’t understand why though. I think she is awesome in this movie and she portrays one of my favorite heroines of all time.

You can say whatever you want about Rose McGowan, but she is a badass as Cherry Darling. Not only is her opening dance scene smoking hot but when she gets her new leg she is an utter badass. I love when she launches herself over the wall and starts mowing down the infected soldiers while utilizing her dance moves. In a movie like this is doesn’t really matter how reasonable it is for a go-go dancer to suddenly become such a badass.  All that matters is what is and this just so happens to be really freakin cool.

I have written many times throughout this blog that when Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino collaborated on these Grindhouse films that Rodriguez proved to be the better filmmaker. Tarantino made what amounted to a 2 hour chick flick with a thrill ride at the end in his half of the collaboration, Death Proof. With this film Rodriguez not only made an awesome film, he did it all himself. He wrote this film, directed it, produced it, edited it, and even wrote the music for the film. It may have been an intentionally campy B movie but with this film he showcased a hell of a lot of talent. It’s one of the reasons I consider him such an incredible filmmaker. One thing Rodriguez never forgets as a filmmaker is the cool factor. I’ve always been a proponent of the cool factor in any movie. If it’s not cool then what good is it? You can just about guarantee that when Rodriguez gets behind camera what he produces will look cool. It may come out as overkill and sometimes even silly but it will be cool and you can take that to the bank.

This movie, if nothing else, is cool and that all starts with the cast. Rodriguez always gets a good group of latino actors into all his films but acting side by side with them are always A list actors. In the part of his misunderstood Latino badass he cast Freddy Rodriguez, no relation. He may have looked silly riding that tiny motorcycle at one point in the film but he fought with the ferocity of a samurai when wielding his butterfly knives in the hospital on his way to save Cherry. In the bad guy roles he has A list actors Bruce Willis and Josh Brolin. Now I have mentioned before I didn’t understand what rock Josh Brolin suddenly crawled out from under but it was right around the time this movie came out he did so. After doing nothing really noteworthy since 1985 in The Goonies he burst onto the map in 2007 with five films, this among them. Bruce Willis is an actor welcome in just about anything. I remember when I saw him in the G.I. JOE sequel I felt like these days he would do just about anything for the paycheck but movies since have proved he’s still got it. I hate what he continues to do with the Die Hard franchise but I could never honestly criticize Willis. He has been an awesome actor as long as I have been alive.

I love that Michael Biehn is in this movie. It’s one of the reasons it stands out to me. I have always been a fan of the original Kyle Reese and I have never understood why his career didn’t take off in other ways. He is part of one of my favorite parts in this movie. When the surviving group arrives at the BBQ joint his deputy, played by cult icon Tom Savini, asks him if he’s sure about this. In his hand Savini shakes a box label “All or Nothing Box.” When Biehn confirms Savini dumps the box full of badges on the hood of the car while Biehn tells everyone they have now been deputized. I love the concept of the “all or nothing box” and how obvious it is utilized in this movie. After arming all of them he walks up the hill and tells them, “don’t shoot each other, don’t shoot yourselves, and most importantly (he turns to face them) don’t shoot me!” Such an awesome actor how is it that Michael Biehn didn’t do more with his career? I don’t know the answer to that so if anybody does know please enlighten me, and I will not accept that he just isn’t a good actor when so many others made it and he didn’t.

I’m unfamiliar with Marley Shelton, and still haven’t seen her in anything else since this movie, but she is great as the nurse with her three little friends. I used to have a poster hanging in my home of her character Dr. Block holding up a syringe, mascara running down from her wild looking eyes, with the tag line “just a little prick.” I loved that poster but Amber won’t let me display it in our home anymore and I to agree it’s probably a bit much for our young children. I still have it though and one way or another it will one day have its place on display again.

I love how aggressive this movie is. It’s aggressive in so many ways. It is aggressively exaggerated and aggressively obvious at times. I think it is interesting to look back at a movie like this in 2007 and hear the big bad guy, Bruce Willis, claim to have been the soldier who killed Osama Bin Laden. Of course we know now that not only was he not dead in 2007 but he somehow continued to live his lavish lifestyle while alluding capture for more than a decade. My main point is that this movie now stands in an interesting place historically as it represents a time when we had no idea what had become of the world’s greatest enemy. The number one villain in American history had been unaccounted for for so long that a movie like this aggressively puts forth one of the many theories to what had to have happened. It represents American thinking in such an interesting way. The idea that he had simply gotten away wasn’t considered or accepted by the public as the great almighty United States would never allow such a man to escape punishment. We know now that not only did he do just that but he lived unencumbered for longer than anyone thought was possible.

I feel compelled to wrap this up now but I could never say enough about this movie. I’m not even satisfied with everything I have covered so far but have let it sit to long. It’s time to release it into the world. There is more to say about this movie though, and I encourage any film fan out there to see it. See it to compare the styles and abilities of Tarantino vs. Rodriguez. See it to learn the kind of thing the American public had about Osama Bin Laden 6 years after 9/11. See it because it is a cool movie that is fun to sit back and enjoy. It would be easy to pass of the Grindhouse films as a camp and nothing significant but that would be wrong. These movies are special because there is so much to get out of them. So much to enjoy about them. This is one of my favorite movies ever and I suggest it to all but the faint of heart that I simply don’t think could handle it.

One more thing because I can’t deal with the fact that I didn’t fit it in. Naveen Andrews is awesome in this movie and Hollywood needs more of this guy. I liked what he brought to the role and he has one of the coolest deaths in the film. Bound to spark argument, I am no a fan of Lost. I think J.J. Abrams is a terrific filmmaker but also a wizard when it comes to duping people into watching something like mindless zombies. Lost equals the carrot on a stick Abrams held in front of the American public for years before he could get his hands onto bigger and better things. I watched three seasons of it and to this day consider every hour of every episode I watch wasted and spitefully hold a grudge for the time I lost. I have had people argue with me about the show till they were blue in the face but as I am to understand the ending was just as vague as everything else on the show. You don’t put f-ing polar bears in the jungle and make the audience wonder why for years with no reason why, motherf-ing YEARS! My question to anybody is, “how is that good enough for you?” To this day I am still puzzled by the people who talk about how great it was. Nevertheless I consider J.J. Abrams to be quite capable and look forward to what he does with Star Wars.

NEXT MOVIE: Platoon (1986)

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)

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)