To coincide with the release of Once Upon a Time in Mexico, the third in Robert Rodriguez's Mariachi trilogy, Columbia has reissued the first two movies as special-edition DVDs. If you already own the 1999 two-sided disc that contains both films, you have most of what's on these versions. New material includes a preview of Once Upon a Time on both discs; a new transfer of El Mariachi pulled from the original negatives; and a trial version of a video-editing program on the Desperado disc.
Frankly, it would be tough to improve on these bonus packages. Rodriguez's commentary tracks are detail-packed, rapid-fire explanations of how he does so much with such small budgets. The "10-Minute Film School" featurettes are just as engrossing—and a real education for any prospective filmmaker. Plus, if you've ever wondered how one guy could make the gory/funny Mariachi films and the Spy Kids franchise, Rodriguez's early short Bedhead (packaged with El Mariachi) helps close that loop.
Both films are presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic format with Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks. The high-zoot treatment can't do much to polish the ultra-low-budget Mariachi, but few films look or sound better than this transfer of Desperado. I loved hearing shell casings clinking on the ground from every corner of our living room.—Drew Hardin
DVD: Sleeping Beauty—Buena Vista
The painstaking process by which Sleeping Beauty was originally made—then restored for this DVD release—is made clear in the wealth of extra materials found in this two-disc set. From the intricately detailed backgrounds to the frame-by-frame digital cleanup and enhancement of more than 108,000 frames, the classic film and DVD presentation were equally effected with love by both the great Disney animators and their computer-aided successors.
The bulk of the royal jewels are on disc two. Most noteworthy is an exceptional making-of documentary hosted by Leonard Maltin, but also of interest is a vintage short in which four illustrators conceptualize the same tree, lending great insight into the varied styles that made Beauty so textured. You'll also find a 3-D image gallery with everything from concept sketches to storyboards, games and crafts projects for aspiring princes and princesses, and two live-action references that were used to animate key sequences.
Disc one contains full-frame and 2.35:1 anamorphic versions of the film, both of which virtually pop with primary colors and clarity. Although the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack isn't a surround dynamo, it amply serves the film and delivers some subtle bass. There's also a film-school-quality commentary track in which a Disney historian fields separately recorded comments from the lead artist, the actress who voiced Princess Aurora and others who contributed their creative talents.
There's much to view here, and most of the materials will only add to viewers' appreciation of this beloved work.—Gary Frisch