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(aka 'The 3 Burials of Melquiades Estrada' or 'The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada' or ' Les Trois enterrements de Melchiades Estrada')

Directed by Tommy Lee Jones
USA 2005

There’s something about border country that brings out the best in filmmakers. From Touch Of Evil to The Wild Bunch, from Lone Star to Kill Bill, directors at the height of their powers are drawn to the inherently dramatic, culture-clash-heavy location. Welles, Peckinpah, Sayles and Tarantino might make for illustrious company but, judging by this stunning film, Tommy Lee Jones deserves his place alongside them. Indeed, comparisons have been made with Peckinpah’s Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia, but if anything, The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada is the more humane, emotionally engaging work.

As anyone familiar with the career of screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga (Amores Perros, 21 Grams) would expect, the initial ‘modern revenge Western’ premise is merely the framework for a subtle, involving exploration of friendship, loyalty, sex, death and forgiveness — all the good stuff. Arriaga’s fragmented style allows the audience to experience Melquiades’ (Julio Cedillo) life when he’s already dead, flavouring the warmth and charm of his scenes alongside best pal Pete (Jones himself, marvellous) with an underlying sadness and sense of fate. Similarly, we know Officer Norton is a killer-to-be when we witness his callous attitude both to his wife and the “wetbacks” he brutalises at every opportunity.

Excerpt from Empire Magazine's review located HERE

 

  Posters

Theatrical Release: May 20th, 2005 - Cannes Film Festival

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Comparison:

Sony - Region 1,4 - NTSC vs. Optimum - Region 'B' - Blu-ray vs. Ascot Elite - Region FREE - Blu-ray

1) Sony - Region 1,4 - NTSC LEFT

2) Optimum - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Ascot Elite (Germany) - Region FREE - Blu-ray - RIGHT

 

DVD Box Cover

 

Distribution Sony - Region 1,4 - NTSC Optimum Pictures - Region 'B' - Blu-ray Ascot Elite - Region FREE - Blu-ray
Runtime 2:01:01  1:56:14.040 (4% PAL speedup) 2:01:30.916
Video 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 4.38 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1080i Single-layered Blu-ray

Feature: 20,429,617,152 bytes

Disc Size:  23,938,338,138 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Bitrate: 23.44 Mbps

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Feature: 36,457,289,868 bytes

Disc Size:  30,472,101,888 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Bitrate: 28.99 Mbps

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:  Sony DVD

Bitrate: Optimum Blu-ray

Bitrate: Ascot Elite Blu-ray

Audio English (Dolby Digital 5.1)  DTS-HD Master Audio English 1885 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1885 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio English 256 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 256 kbps
DTS-HD Master Audio English 1868 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1868 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio German 1875 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1875 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio German 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps / DN -4dB
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps / DN -4dB
Subtitles English, French, Spanish, None None English, German, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Sony Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1

Edition Details:

Viewable in both 2.35:1 Widescreen aspect ratio, and 1.33:1 Fullscreen aspect ratio

• Commentary with Tommy Lee Jones, Dwight Yoakam and January Jones

DVD Release Date: June 6th, 2006

Keep Case
Chapters: 28

Release Information:
Studio: Optimum

1080i Single-layered Blu-ray

Feature: 20,429,617,152 bytes

Disc Size:  23,938,338,138 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Bitrate: 23.44 Mbps

 

Edition Details:

• Commentary with Tommy Lee Jones, Dwight Yoakam and January Jones

• Interview with Tommy Lee Jones and writer Guillermo Arriaga (13:40)

• Extended / Deleted Scenes (27:25)

• Making of Featurette (26:14)

• trailers

Blu-ray  Release Date: April 6th, 2009
Thicker UK
Blu-ray Case
Chapters: 16

Release Information:
Studio:
Ascot Elite

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Feature: 36,457,289,868 bytes

Disc Size:  30,472,101,888 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Bitrate: 28.99 Mbps

 

Edition Details:

• Commentary with Tommy Lee Jones, Dwight Yoakam and January Jones

• MasterClass with Tommy Lee Jones and writer Guillermo Arriaga (13:40)

• Interview with Tommy Lee Jones)

• Extended / Deleted Scenes (27:25)

• Making of Featurette (26:14)

• Making the Music

Blu-ray  Release Date: August 19th, 2010
Standard
Blu-ray Case
Chapters: 16

 

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Ascot Elite (Germany) - Region FREE Blu-ray - December 2010': Finally.... this was a shot in the dark buying this Blu-ray but I just LOVE this film and was willing to roll the dice. Luckily, it turned out to be a fabulous investment. Unlike the Optimum this is well transferred. It is 1080P - in theatrical running time AND dual-layered. In fact it wins on every front over the UK travesty. It is brighter, tighter, less digital noise, a higher bitrate and even offers English subtitles. Colors are also better as the Optimum has very red skin tones. Visually it wins hands down and is the definitive release for image quality of this incredible film.

Audio offers lossless original English and German tracks. The former is strong and supports the film very well. Separations are limited to the rifle shot sequences but there is depth when called upon. Fabulous news all around is that this IS region FREE (extras untested on region 'A' player) and it has optional English subtitles and translates for the infrequent Spanish spoken in  the film. The font is vastly less intrusive than the awful Sony DVD.

There are a lot of extras - over 70-minutes of bonus material beyond the existing commentary including the Masterclass (some French/German subtitles), interviews, deleted and extended scenes and more. I think this is a masterfully written screenplay - as I thought of Guillermo Arriaga's The Burning Plain - in which he also directed. This is a perfect film for Lee Jones - it elevates truth, loyalty and repentance. The man gives a flawless performance. This is justifiably highly lauded - as Manohla Dargis of the NY Times states HERE: "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" is nevertheless the story of friendship that transcends borders created by policy, prejudice, wind, sun and sand. The vein of American pragmatism that runs through this journey is matched by a sense of the pastoral that finds beauty in every natural corner and a humanism that looks kindly on even the hardest face."

I am thrilled to have it on a solid Blu-ray - the best digital representation of the The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada available anywhere. I give it an extremely high recommendation.

***

ADDITION: Optimum Blu-ray - April 09': For shame! Well, this practice better stop right away. We've uncovered another interlaced (1080i) transfer from a 25-frames-per-second source (same as Entertainment in Video's region 'B' of Elegy). This sloppiness is not acceptable at all. This is a favorite film of mine and I could easily tell this was sped up hearing Tommy Lee Jones distinctive voice. The image is a marginal improvement but I dearly want to see this done properly in high-definition and hope Region 'A' gets on the ball with this title quickly.

DTS Master HD is also marginally improved at less than 2000 kpbs with a shade more depth. There are no optional subtitles (only the forced for Spanish dialogue) and my Momitsu tells me this is locked to region 'B'.

The only positive about this release are the expanded extras - we get the same commentary but added are a 26-minute Making of..., 13 minutes of an interview (French host) with Lee Jones and Arriaga, a 1/2 hour's worth of deleted/extended scenes and some trailers.

I'm very disappointed in this Blu-ray release and it's transfer ineptitude, but admit to enjoying the supplements - still, this is not enough to endorse as we do NOT want this practice to continue. Thumbs down!      

***

ON THE SONY DVD: Well, I understand fellow reviewers were quite appalled with the edge enhancement of this DVD transfer (see sample below). Well, it is not as bad as it has been represented in my opinion. In fact looking at the positive - both detail and colors on this DVD image are quite striking. I can't say what it looked like theatrically but I was suitably impressed watching on my 42" Plasma. Now, there has been some boosting, which I never understand why it is necessary, but I can only state that it didn't overly impinge on my personal viewing experience even with the occasional artifact. It tends to remove some of the film-like appearance that a 35mm can give, appearing closer to high end digital video look. You can see for yourself how fatal it may be to your viewing system with the images below - they are fairly random. It is beautifully shot and can be a strong visual experience. The 5.1 audio sounded good to me, but is largely untested save a few scenes with rifle shots - even dialogue is quite sparse in the film. The included commentary is very friendly and not as informative or well prepared as some might be. If you can appreciate the 'off the cuff' manner you may enjoy it.




 

This is a fabulous film in my opinion. It has an indirect focus on loyalty and respect. I thoroughly enjoyed it - I couldn't help reflect on Charles Laughton's only directorial work - 'Night of the Hunter' for some reason. Perhaps it was the animal motifs or the journey of expectant redemption. It has the same vengeful anger that it spouts forth like a fountain. All I can say is that it is a beautiful film with great performances and a subtle, gentle depth. What more can you ask from a film?

Gary W. Tooze

 


DVD Menus / Extras

 

(Sony - Region 1,4 - NTSC LEFT vs. Optimum - Region 'B' - Blu-ray RIGHT)


 

 

Ascot Elite (Germany) - Region FREE - Blu-ray

 


CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Subtitle Sample

 

1) Sony - Region 1,4 - NTSC TOP

2) Optimum - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Ascot Elite (Germany) - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

Screen Captures

1) Sony - Region 1,4 - NTSC TOP

2) Optimum - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Ascot Elite (Germany) - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Sony - Region 1,4 - NTSC TOP

2) Optimum - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Ascot Elite (Germany) - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


8X Zoom shows minor edge enhancement on Sony DVD.
 

 


1) Sony - Region 1,4 - NTSC TOP

2) Optimum - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Ascot Elite (Germany) - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Sony - Region 1,4 - NTSC TOP

2) Optimum - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Ascot Elite (Germany) - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

1) Sony - Region 1,4 - NTSC TOP

2) Optimum - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Ascot Elite (Germany) - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Sony - Region 1,4 - NTSC TOP

2) Optimum - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Ascot Elite (Germany) - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

1) Sony - Region 1,4 - NTSC TOP

2) Optimum - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Ascot Elite (Germany) - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

More Blu-ray Captures

 

1) Optimum - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Ascot Elite (Germany) - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Optimum - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Ascot Elite (Germany) - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

NOT EXACT FRAME!

 

 

1) Optimum - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Ascot Elite (Germany) - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Optimum - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Ascot Elite (Germany) - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

DVD Box Cover

 

Distribution Sony - Region 1,4 - NTSC Optimum Pictures - Region 'B' - Blu-ray Ascot Elite - Region FREE - Blu-ray




 

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Gary Tooze

Mississauga, Ontario,

   CANADA

Thank You!