Liberty Heights (1999)

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Released 19-Dec-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Listing-Cast & Crew
Interviews-Cast & Crew
Deleted Scenes
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-On The Set
Theatrical Trailer
Isolated Musical Score
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1999
Running Time 122:26
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Barry Levinson
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Adrien Brody
Ben Foster
Orlando Jones
Bebe Neuwirth
Joe Mantegna
Rebekah Johnson
David Krumholtz
Richard Kline
Vincent Guastaferro
Justin Chambers
Carolyn Murphy
James Pickens Jr.
Frania Rubinek
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $14.90 Music Andrea Morricone
Tom Waits


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Isolated Music Score Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
German
English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, end credits over montage of images and music

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Liberty Heights is the fourth in a series of films set in Baltimore, Maryland, USA in the Fifties and Sixties, written and directed by Barry Levinson. The other three were Diner, Tin Men and Avalon.

    Although each film is different, they are all nostalgic and somewhat autobiographical.

    Liberty Heights is about a Jewish family living in Baltimore in 1954. The year is crucial because it signifies a period of social change and upheaval in America. A world of McCarthyism, rock-and-roll, the influx of automobiles, and where the walls of race and class segregation are about to come tumbling down.

    Ben (Ben Foster) and Van (Adrien Brody) Kurtzman are two brothers in a Jewish family living in Liberty Heights, a predominantly Jewish neighbourhood. They have grown up completely segregated from non-Jewish people, and have had very limited contact outside their community.

    All that is about to change. Racial and social integration is occurring all over the country, and strict boundaries are about to be blurred. A black girl called Sylvia (Rebekah Johnson) joins Ben's high school, and Ben is fascinated by her. Against their parents' wishes, they become friends.

    Van and his uni friends gatecrash a WASP ("White Anglo Saxon Protestant") party in an affluent neighbourhood and Van meets the girl of his dreams (Carolyn Murphy), dressed up as a fairy tale princess. Unfortunately, a brawl and a car crash whisks him away before he even learns her name, and he is determined to find her.

    Their father Nate (Joe Mantegna) runs a burlesque joint, and business is drying up. He tries to increase revenue by running an illegal lottery, and the plan backfires when a black man called Little Melvin (Orlando Jones) wins the big prize, and they don't have enough money to pay him out.

    The film is superb in evocating a specific time and place in history, and populating it with characters that are neither boring nor unbelievable. Parts of it run perhaps a bit too slow, but the overall feel of the film is just right.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer is in widescreen 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. The intended aspect ratio is 1.85:1, based on a 35mm film source.

    This is a superb transfer, marred only by a few instances of macro-blocking and Gibbs effect (particularly right at the beginning of the film around 0:40-0:46) and a faint vertical line running down the length of the frame at around 47:18-47:24.

    Otherwise detail levels are excellent, and colour saturation is pretty much perfect. The overall transfer has a very film-like quality about it - everything seems just right. Overall, this is a visual treat for the eyes.

    I did notice a few instances of saturated highlights, particularly around the white uniform of the "nurse" at the burlesque show around 8:25-8:34 and in "James Brown"'s white outfit around 76:18-76:26, but these could be inherent in the film rather than a fault of the transfer.

    There are a number of subtitle tracks: English, French, German, English for the Hearing Impaired, and German for the Hearing Impaired. Both the English subtitle tracks appear to be identical in content apart from a number of instances of dialogue attribution in the latter. Neither subtitle track transcribes the lyrics of background songs except on a few occasions.

    This is a single sided dual layered disc (RSDL). The layer change occurs in Chapter 23 at 66:59. This is during a fade to black, so should be unnoticeable.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are four audio tracks on this disc: English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s), French Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s), German Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s), and an Isolated Music Score Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s).

    The English audio track is quite pleasant to listen to. Dialogue was reasonably clear throughout, and there were no issues with audio synchronization.

    The surround channels were subtly engaged for ambience and background music.

    The LFE channel doesn't really appear to be utilized, since my subwoofer switched itself off halfway through the film.

    The original music score is kind of soft and lyrical instrumental orchestral music, written by Andrea Morricone (the son of famous film composer Ennio Morricone). The film also features lots of music from the Fifties from the likes of Frank Sinatra and James Brown.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are a few extras, but not as extensive as I would have liked. Particularly missing is an audio commentary track - I would have really enjoyed that.

Menu

    The menus are 16x9 enhanced. The main menu includes animation and background audio.

Listing-Cast & Crew

    This is a single still listing the cast playing the members of the Kurtzman family, plus producer, writer and director credits.

Interviews-Cast & Crew (12:39)

    This is an edited set of monologues from the following, presented in full frame and Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s):

    Each person mostly talks about the film, their character and working with Barry Levinson. The featurette is subtitled.

Deleted Scenes (4:13)

    This is an extended version of Van and his friends driving around looking for Dubbie, with an introduction by Barry Levinson explaining why it was deleted. It is presented in full frame and Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s) and is subtitled.

Featurette-Behind The Scenes- On The Set of Liberty Heights (3:41)

    This consists of two monologues delivered by Barry Levinson shot on set during filming, presented in full frame and Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s) and subtitled. The scenes covered including the scene at the diner, and the footage of "James Brown" on stage.

Theatrical Trailer (2:23)

    This is presented in 1.78:1 (16x9 enhanced) and Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded (192Kb/s). There are subtitle tracks, but they are all silent.

Isolated Musical Score

    This is an additional audio track that showcases the background music: snippets of pop songs popular in the Fifties and the hauntingly beautiful original music score by Andrea Morricone, reminiscent of the music from Cinema Paradiso.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on:

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on:

    The production notes are worth reading as they also cover the other three Baltimore films, but it's probably not worth getting the R1 just for those.

Summary

    Liberty Heights is the fourth film written and directed by Barry Levinson based on his childhood growing up in Baltimore. The year is 1954, and America is in the process of social and cultural change, with the disintegration of social and racial boundaries, and the film examines the impact of this on a Jewish family consisting of two brothers and their parents.

    The video transfer quality is excellent.

    The audio transfer quality is acceptable.

    Extras include two featurettes, deleted scenes and a trailer.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Christine Tham (read my biography)
Wednesday, March 03, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDCustom HTPC (Asus A7N266-VM, Athlon XP 2400+, 512MB, LiteOn LTD-165S, WinXP, WinDVD5 Platinum), using RGB output
DisplaySony VPL-VW11HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum/AVIA. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE (upgraded)
SpeakersFront and surrounds: B&W CDM7NT, front centre: B&W CDMCNT, surround backs: B&W DM601S2, subwoofer: B&W ASW2500

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