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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze


The Burning Plain [Blu-ray]


(Guillermo Arriaga, 2008)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: 2929 Productions

Video: Magnolia Home Video



Region: A (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:46:43.980

Disc Size: 24,272,891,256 bytes

Feature Size: 18,511,712,256 bytes

Video Bitrate: 18.90 Mbps

Chapters: 15

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: January 12th, 2009



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: VC-1 Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 2920 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2920 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)



English, Spanish, none



The Making of The Burning Plain (43:27 in SD)

The Music of The Burning Plain (15:31 in SD)

• HDNet - A Look at The Burning Plain(4:46 in HD!)

• 4 Previews for other Magnolia Blu-rays (8:31 in HD!)

Bookmark ability

BD-LIVE enabled





Description: Sylvia (Charlize Theron) is a beautiful restaurant manager whose cool, professional demeanor masks the sexually-charged storm within. When a stranger from Mexico confronts her with her dark and hidden past, Sylvia is launched into a journey, painfully forcing her to face her demons and the past she thought she had left behind. From the internationally acclaimed writer of Babel, 21 Grams and Amores Perros, and starring Oscar Winners Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger, The Burning Plain depicts the harrowing story of a woman on the edge who takes and emotional journey back to the defining moment of her life.



The Film:

Beautifully shot, emotionally engaging drama with a great script and terrific performances from Charlize Theron, Kim Basinger and newcomer Jennifer Lawrence.

What's it all about?
The directorial debut of screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga (who wrote Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Three Burials and Babel), The Burning Plain stars Charlize Theron as Sylvia, a beautiful restaurant manager in rainy Portland, Oregon, who's having an affair with her married employee (John Corbett). Her story is intercut with several seemingly disconnected desert scenes in which: a young girl (Tessa Ia) lives happily with her crop-dusting father (Danny Pino) and his best friend (Jose Maria Yazpik), until a tragic accident changes everything; a married mother of three (Kim Basinger) begins a passionate affair with a Mexican father (Joaquim De Almeida); and two teenagers (Jennifer Lawrence and JD Pardo) find love in the aftermath of their parents' sudden deaths.

The Good
In Arriaga's trademarked style, timelines are fractured and key events take place out of sequence, so your enjoyment of The Burning Plain will largely depend on how quickly you put all the pieces together. In addition, the script deals with powerful themes of guilt, forbidden love, facing up to responsibility and coming of age, whilst refusing to offer the easy emotional pay-offs you might be expecting.

Excerpt from Matthew Turner of located HERE



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

Magnolia Entertainment chooses another strong, under-marketed, film (bad poster too!) rendered with a decent but limiting single-layered transfer (see Two Lovers, The Great Buck Howard, Surveillance and Life Before Her Eyes). The Blu-ray looks adequate but lacks some depth although detail, colors and contrast are generally well above the SD-DVD format level. Beautiful scenes are more the credit of Elswit + Toll's cinematography and the exquisite Oregon coast and desert landscapes of Las Cruces, New Mexico - than the lackluster 1080P VC-1 transfer which can look a shade softer than you might anticipate. There is limited grain and no discernable DNR. In short, this looks good enough to support the film well - but not particularly great (perhaps we are spoiled.)



















Audio :

The DTS-HD Master 5.1 at 2920 kbps is solid. The film has some aggression with crashing waves, crackling fire, plane engines and also the subtle whistling winds in the wheat fields that reach back to the rear speakers. No gunplay is involved and dialogue is occasionally softly spoken but nothing that deterred following the film's pace. There are optional English or Spanish subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked disc.



Extras :

The supplements consists of two featurettes lasting about an hour in total. I enjoyed both - in the 'Making Of...' Arriaga explains his motivations and concepts of the story he wrote and expands on some of the performances and his appreciation for the various crew. There is a 15-minute piece on the Omar Rodriguez-Lopez's music (also Hans Zimmer is credited), Magnolia's usual, insufferable, HDNet plug and some Previews in HD. There is a Bookmark feature and untested BD-LIVE functionality. I have the feeling a commentary may have been in the offing but none surfaces on this Blu-ray.



Once again I felt I saw a near masterpiece film that critics panned - but the general public loved (MRQE critic consensus 49% - IMDb public rating 6.9/10 - Ebert; 2.5/4 - his readers; 3.5/4). I felt quite certain the themes of the 4 elements representing characters* was missed by many but this film still has a lot of merit from magnificent performances to fluid direction and brilliant cinematography. Perhaps people are jaded on incomplete puzzle-aspect of the converging storylines spread over multiple timelines and locations. So be it. I thought this was an engrossing, beautiful but morose work. If the complaint is that it is too scattered - I'm not buying it (do people have to be spoon-fed every single, solitary, detail these days?). If it is too 'obvious' - well, I guess I just didn't catch on quick enough.


The Blu-ray transfer is nothing to rave over - superior to SD and worth it for the significant vista shots just don't expect the 'best' this format has to offer. There is a UK Blu-ray HERE that I am tempted to pick up and compare but imagine the quality is not far off this Magnolia release. Well, I strongly recommend this film and this Blu-ray is the best way to view it in your home theater. I suggest giving this a spin especially if you liked Arriaga's penned film work like 21 Grams or The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada.


* Sylvia (Charlize Theron) -> Water
Gina (Kim Basinger) + Nick (Joaquim de Almeida) -> Earth
Mariana (Jennifer Lawrence) + Young Santiago (J.D. Pardo) -> Fire
Maria (Tessa Ia) + Santiago (Danny Pino) -> Air (wind)



Gary Tooze

January 4th, 2009




About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction. So be it, but film will always be my first love and I list my favorites on the old YMdb site now accessible HERE.  

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze








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