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The Mask of Zorro (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 27, 2009 by  



Fun, sexy, exciting and highly entertaining! Definitely the best “Zorro” film ever made thus far!  Fans of the film will love the picture quality and lossless audio soundtrack on Blu-ray.  A solid release!

Images courtesy of © 1998 Global Entertainment Productions GmbH & Co. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Mask of Zorro

DURATION: 137 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition/2:40:1, English, French, Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish 5.1, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

RATED: PG-13 (For Some Intense Action and Violence)

COMPANY: Tri Star/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: December 1, 2009

Based on the character “Zorro” by Johnston McCulley

Directed by Martin Campbell

Screenplay by John Eskow, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio

Story by Tedd Elliott, Terry Rossio, Randal Jahnson

Executive Producers: Steven Spielberg, Walter F. Parkes, Laurie MacDonald

Produced by Doug Claybourne, David Foster

Co-Producer: John Gertz

Music by James Horner

Cinematography by Phil Meheux

Editing by Thom Noble

Casting by Pam Dixon

Production Design by Cecilia Montiel

Art Direction by Michael Atwell

Set Decoration by Denise Carnargo

Costume Design by Graciela Mazon

Starring:

Anthony Hopkins as Don Diego de la Vega/Zorro

Atonio Banderas as Alejandro Murrieta/Zorro

Catherine Zeta-Jones as Elena Montero/Elena Murrieta

Stuart Wilson as Don Rafael Montero

Matt Letscher as Capt. Harrison Love

Tony Amendola as Don Luiz

Pedro Armendariz Jr. as Don Pedro

William Marquez as Fray Felipe

Jose Perez as Cpl. Armando Garcia

Victor Rivers as Joaquin Murrieta

L.Q. Jones as Three-Fingered Jack

Julieta Rosen as Esperanza de la Vega

Luisa Huertas as Nanny

When a power-crazed despot schemes to buy California from Mexico, it takes two Zorros – the legendary Don Diego de la Vega (Anthony Hopkins) and his chosen successor Alejandro Murrieta (Antonio Banderas), a dashing bandit-turned-hero-to defeat the tyrant’s unscrupulous plans.  But can even their combined skills, bravado and derring-do be enough to achieve de la Vega’s ultimate goal: revenge against the man who killed his wife, kidnapped his daughter and held him prisoner for twenty years?

For 90 years, many fans of “Zorro” have seen quite a few adaptation of the swashbuckling hero who dons a black mask, cape, clothing and his sword.

From the original books from 1919 by pulp writer Johnston McCulley to the silent films by Douglas Fairbanks and one of my favorites, the 1958-1960 Disney television series starring Guy Williams.  But there has been a sort of lull when it came to “Zorro” films and before the 1998 film “The Mask of Zorro”, we were left with the George Hamilton comedy “Zorro, the Gay Blade” in 1981.

But in 1998, producer Steven Spielberg (“Indiana Jones” films, “Schindler’s List”, “E.T.”, “Jurassic Park” films) along with director Martin Campbell (“Casino Royale”, “Vertical Limit”, “GoldenEye”) began working on a new action film based on the hero for a new generation of moviegoers.  Featuring a screenplay by John Eskow (“Air America”, “Pink Cadillac”), Ted Elliott (“National Treasure”and “Pirates of the Carribean” films) and Terry Rossio (“Pirates of the Carribean” films), music by James Horner (“The Spiderwicke Chronicles”, “Troy”, “Enemy at the Gates”) and cinematographer Phil Meheux (“Casino Royale”, “Around the World in 80 Days”, “GoldenEye”).

The film was released in theaters during the Summer of ’98 and with a budget of $95 million, the film went on to make over $250 million worldwide and was received positively by critics.

For those not familiar with the “Zorro” storyline, the films and TV series have focused on the Don Diego de la Vega, a man who comes from a political family from Spain and is known for being an intellectual man in high society but a man who does not like seeing the corrupted military officials mistreating the locals.  So, in order to help them, Don Diego dons the black mask and cape and uses the disguise of Zorro to fight the oppression and help the unfortunate in California and takes on the Spanish military leaders and their soldiers.  Whenever people are mistreated, Zorro comes to the rescue.

In “The Mask of Zorro”, Don Diego de la Vega (played by Anthony Hopkins, “Howards End”, “Silence of the Lambs”, “Hannibal” “Red Dragon”) is now an older man in his 40’s.  He is married to Esperanza and together, they have a new baby named Elena.  While the Spanish rule in California is winding down, the antagonist Don Rafael Montero (played by Stuart Wilson, “Enemy of the State”, “Grindhouse”, “Hot Fuzz”) knows his power is slipping and wants to show his power towards the Mexican people one more time by having a few more executions.

But Don de la Vega puts on the mask of Zorro one last time to save the people and in the process, saving two kids named Alejandro Murrieta and his older brother Joaquin and giving Joaquin his silver medallion.

Coming home injured, Don knows that he is getting to old to be the hero, he promises Esperanza that it was his last time he will be Zorro but unknown to both people, Montero and his men were listening.  As they try to apprehend Don, his wife is accidentally shot by one of Montero’s soldier.  Because Montero has looked at de la Vega as his rival for Esperanza, he wants to take away everything from him.  Burning his home, locking him up in prison for 20 years and in the process, taking his daughter and raising her as his own.

Flash forward twenty years later, the two kids that Zorro saved: Alejandro (played by Antonio Banderas, “Spy Kids” films, “Desperado”) and Joaquin Murrieta are now adults and are thieves.  After a robbery, the Murrieta brothers who plan to make a getaway, are stopped by Capt. Harrison Love (Matt Letscher, “Eli Stone”, “Brothers and Sisters”) and instead of leniency, Love savagely kills Joaquin and shoots down their other friend, leaving Alejandro by himself.

Meanwhile, Montero returns to California and returns to the prison which Don de la Vega had been held for 20 years.  This opportunity gives de la Vega a chance to escape and exact his revenge on Montero.  But realizing that his own daughter Elena (played by Catherine Zeta-Jones, “Traffic”, “Entrapment”, “Chicago”) has been raised thinking that Montero is her true father.

Through circumstances, Don Diego de la Vega and Alejandro Murrieta’s path comes together once again and both are bent on getting revenge.  But before they go any further, Don Diego trains the Alejandro to become the new Zorro and to become a gentleman in society.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“The Mask of Zorro” is presented in 1080p High Definition (aspect ratio 2:40:1).  I was quite pleased with the picture quality of the film as there was pretty good detail on the texture of the Mexican and Spanish clothing, detail of the interiors of Don’s cave hideout and the dirt and grime on the Murrieta boys.  A good number of shots were outdoors, so there was a good amount of lighting.  Skin tones were natural and you can see Anthony Hopkins blue eyes quite clearly.  I tend to get a bit unnerved with some films shot during the 80’s and 90’s because they look a bit waxy but “The Mask of Zorro” looks very good for a 1998 film.

As for audio, the film is presented in English, French and Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA (and Spanish 5.1).  The soundtrack for the film is actually fantastic.  For an older film, I was expecting a front and center channel driven soundtrack but “The Mask of Zorro” really takes advantage of the surround and rear surround channels and also some LFE.  You hear the crowds clapping all around you during a scene when Montero arrives back to California.  Horses galloping and thunder is also well heard.  Fighting sequences, gun shots, explosions are really utilized quite well and for the most part, similar to “Air Force One” which is a 90’s film that was given great audio by Sony, the same can be said for “The Mask of Zorro”.  The lossless soundtrack is clear, understandable and quite immersive during the action sequences.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Mask of Zorro” comes with the following special features presented in standard definition, English stereo and optional Portuguese or Spanish subtitles:

  • movieIQ – With BD-Live, you can obtain information about the film online while watching the film (optional).
  • Director’s Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with director Marc Campbell.  Campbell provides insight on each scene and very thorough in his explanation of the talent, the set and more.
  • Exclusive Documentary: Unmasking Zorro – (45:05) The making of “The Mask of Zorro” featuring director Martin Campbell, Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Antonio Banderas and more talking about the film, the history of Zorro, the production and costume design of the film, the music and more.
  • Deleted Scenes – (4:50) Featuring two deleted scenes: The Wallet and The Resolution.
  • “The Legend of Zorro” Behind-the-Scenes Peek – (5:02) A behind-the-scenes look at the making of “The Legend of Zorro” and interviews with Catherine Zeta-Jones, Antonio Banderas and director Martin Campbell who talk about reuniting seven years later for the sequel of “The Mask of Zorro”.
  • Music Video by Marc Anthony and Tina Arena -(4:51) Music video for “I Spent My Whole Life Loving You” by Marc Anthony and Tina Arena.
  • Exclusive Scene from “The Legend of Zorro” – (1:43) A short sneak peek of the 2005 film “Legend of Zorro”.

It actually has been a Zorro month for me during Fall/Winter 2009.  Having watched the complete “Zorro” TV series from 1958-1960, I was enchanted by the humor, drama and the action.  So, watching “The Mask of Zorro”, I felt that it was perfect timing on my part because the film was almost like a continuation of previous films and even the TV series because you forward to the future in which the hero Don de la Vega is now an older man, married and knowing that he’s getting too old to be doing jumps and escaping harm.

I was a bit skeptical at first seeing Anthony Hopkins taking on the role of Don Diego.  Mainly because I’ve gotten so used to seeing Guy Williams playing the role of “Zorro” but because this role calls for an older Don Diego, Hopkins is such a talented actor, that he makes you feel comfortable towards his character.

You easily accept him and sympathize for him as Don Diego goes through the worst, imaginable things that the hero has ever experienced.  But enter Antonio Banderas.  One thing that Guy Williams captured in the classic TV series is a character with class, charisma and is able to deliver in the action.  Banderas starts off as a bit of a ruffian but through the course of the film, we see the thief become the hero and much more refined.

And as for Catherine Zeta-Jones, she looks absolutely beautiful in this film and together, she and Banderas played their characters of Alejandro and Elena quite well.  They both have that chemical/sexual attraction towards each other but also, aside from the dramatics, the two also have a good repertoire for utilizing their characters to earn some laughs from the audience.

One thing that the original TV series had was high production value in which Walt Disney himself made sure “Zorro” utilized.  So, when Steven Spielberg was the name behind the producing of this film, you knew that there would be significant action scenes and most of all, a film that would receive good financing to pull off these fight scenes that Zorro is known for.  May it be him battling with a sword, climbing on rooftops or chandeliers,  being chased on horseback to Zorro taking on dozens of men, fight choreography was done well and cinematography was also solid and for the most part, those scenes were highly enjoyable.

“The Mask of Zorro” was definitely a hallmark for Zorro films.  After that periodic lull of having nothing satisfying since the late 1950’s and early 60’s, it was great to see the character of Zorro done well for this film. A screenplay that is not only action-driven but also character driven and you get all the humor and sexual attraction in this film as well.

Having seen the TV series and a few of the Zorro films in the past, I’m confident to say that “The Mask of Zorro” is the best Zorro film ever made thus far. For those of us who grew up watching the adventures of Don Diego de la Vega, this film is simply the passing of the title to a new character for a new generation of viewers.  Fortunately, the film was handled quite well and I really enjoyed seeing this film again and I’m sure you will too.  Definitely recommended!






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