In The Heights (4K Ultra HD+Digital) [Blu-ray]
(Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera, Olga Merediz, et al / 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital / PG-13 / 2021 / Warner Bros.)
Overview: Lights up on Washington Heights! The scent of a cafecito caliente hangs in the air just outside of the 181st Street subway stop, where a kaleidoscope of dreams rallies this vibrant and tight-knit community.
At the intersection of it all is the likeable, magnetic bodega owner Usnavi (Anthony Ramos), who saves every penny from his daily grind as he hopes, imagines and sings about a better life.
Blu-ray Verdict: Warner Bros. is expanding their 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray catalog offerings this month with the release of the spectacularly colorful and thrillingly beautiful In The Heights coming to 4K Ultra HD video format this August 31st, 2021.
For my money, this In The Heights: 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital combo packs sharpness takes a fairly large step forward from others in their 4K Ultra HD catalog and even comes with HDR (High Dynamic Range) for the complete 4K Ultra HD experience, of course.
So, what we have is In The Heights presented to us as a two-disc combo pack with a sheet for a Digital HD Copy. Other stand out points you should know are: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: Native 4K (2160p), HDR: Dolby Vision, HDR10+, Aspect ratio: 2.39:1 and Original aspect ratio: 2.39:1.
Featuring Dolby Vision and HDR10 for brighter, deeper, and way more lifelike colors, as with most all 4K UHDs, everything that we watch features these qualities - but somehow, this film gloriously shines within them all.
Noticeably crisper with the overall clarity receiving an obvious boost here on this release, what is more is that it is enjoyably noticeable.
For as well as some new nuances to the somewhat drab palette courtesy of Dolby Vision we also get to witness sudden bright pops of color; such as the very first big dance scene: Welcome to the Heights!
This vivacious scene introduces viewers to the raw energy of this barrio (neighborhood). In the opening scene right before that, Usnavi (Anthony Ramos) tells his children that this is a place where “the streets are filled with music.”
Latin beats, a Latin sense of groove and Latin movement vocabulary is fully reflected in this scene’s music and dance; trumpets blare as dance pairs cha-cha-ing fill the sidewalks and the streets.
Indeed, the picture enjoys the fruits of the added resolution in terms of bringing out the aforementioned extremely fine facial and some of the yellow graded material - notably the Carnaval scene!
It’s another scorching hot day in the Heights, and, to top it off, there’s been a blackout, so there’s no air conditioning. Neighbors are gathered in an alley, fanning themselves and feeling down from a few losses that the community has recently experienced.
One senorita urges everyone to get up and dance, to rejoice no matter the heat or their grief and boy oh boy, do they all do just that!
As for the audio, well we have just the choice of: English: Dolby Atmos
English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1, English: Dolby Digital 5.1, French: Dolby Digital 5.1 and Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1.
Overall, this is a very strong 4K HDR Blu-ray presentation, and, for the most part, the audio track remains fairly similar to its DTS-HD counterpart; with much of the action occupying the surrounds with outstanding directionality and placement where effects flawlessly pan between the sides and rears.
OK, well, as for the actual movie, well, In the Heights took Broadway by storm in the mid-2000s, earning composer and lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda (of recent Hamilton fame) a Pultizer Prize nomination and a few Tony Awards. Here, he re-teams with original librettist Quiara AlegrÃa Hudes and director Jon M. Chu to deliver a summer film experience unlike any other.
To theorize what it is that makes In the Heights so worth the viewers time, I found myself drawn to the mental image of a delicious sandwich, perhaps one purchased from your local bodega.
The meat of the thing is its story. At its core, In the Heights tells a tale of dreaming. Each character has their own suenito (little dream, in Spanish) that they are chasing.
Usnavi (Anthony Ramos) wants to reclaim his fathers legacy back in their homeland of the Dominican Republic, but also wants to get with his crush, Vanessa (Melissa Barrera).
For her part, Vanessa dreams of leaving her job at the local salon to move Downtown and become a fashion designer. Local success story turned reluctant college dropout Nina Rosario (Leslie Grace) arrives back home wondering if the dream of academic success she’s been pursuing is even hers.
Abuela Claudia (Olga Merediz), matriarch of the block, has undoubtedly inherited the suenitos of not only her Cuban immigrant mother, but also the neighborhood she cares for.
And when Usnavis bodega sells a winning lottery ticket worth $96,000 dollars, the whole of the Heights dreams a dream all their own about how they would spend the money.
Certain characters circumstances are relatable across the board - haven’t we all, like Vanessa, dreamed of getting that ideal job in maybe a better place than where we are at currently?
And who among us hasn’t played the What-if game about suddenly coming into a large sum of money? But other aspects of this story speak directly to the immigrant experience and the tension that exists therein, reckoning with the obligation to ones identity - both as an individual, and as part of your Community.
Practically speaking, the story hits a home run in this regard by juxtaposing the notion of dreams and aspirations with the concept of being a Dreamer - that is, a DACA recipient - as a small subplot involves Sonny (Gregory Diaz) and his struggle to obtain a pathway to citizenship.
The proverbial condiments on top of such a multi-faceted story are of the audio and visual variety. Jon M. Chus direction, particularly during the films most emotional moments - like Ninas tense discussion with her Dad about attending Stanford - really helps to drive the impact home.
Similarly, the cinematography of Alice Brooks adds a beautiful richness to many of the large group numbers, capturing all of the action with wide and vibrant shots, particularly during 96,000 and The Club/Blackout. And Lin-Manuel Miranda’s score is very well interpreted.
But the real secret sauce of In the Heights are the performances themselves. Anthony Ramos as Usnavi is almost instantly likable, in a way softer and more sympathetic than Mirandas Broadway interpretation.
While there was not a single slouch in the cast, standout performances include Daphne Rubin-Vega as the gossipy, yet takes-no-bull**** salon owner, Daniela.
Leslie Grace played Nina perfectly as a girl torn between her family’s expectations and what she feels is her responsibility. The real shining star of In the Heights is Olga Merediz as Abuela Claudia, a role which she originated on Broadway.
She moved and spoke with all the nurturing spirit of a grandmother, making me miss mine tremendously. Abuela Claudias catchphrase is Paciencia y Fe (Patience and Faith), and in the song of the same name, Merediz encapsulates the heart of the immigrant experience.
If you have an ounce of sensitivity, it is her performance over which you will shed the most tears. Fun bonus cameos include Puerto Rican superstar Marc Anthony, and Lin-Manuel Miranda himself as Piragua Guy.
Finally, we reach the element of the film that holds all this goodness together: Latinidad. This film was made by Latinos in celebration of Latinos.
From the predominately Hispanic setting of Washington Heights to the Latin rhythms in many of the musical numbers, and the frequent use of Spanish - both spoken and sung - it is impossible to separate the essence of what In the Heights is from the people it was not only written about; but written for.
And it is nearly impossible not to get hype during Carnaval del Barrio when the neighborhood residents shout Alza la bandera! (Raise the flag) and wave the flags of places like the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Cuba.
The joy and pride in this moment are palpable and go a long way toward crushing the myth that all Latino people are the same. And if the language barrier here presents a problem for you, the problem is really that your lens is too small.
And it is at this point that I will freely admit and acknowledge that as a Caucasian of Eastern European descent, I cannot speak definitively in any way to the Latino or immigrant experience as the film portrays it.
But I will also say that Latino representation in film matters and that, while admittedly imperfect in its way, Lin-Mirandas magnum opus made me glad and grateful to see people who looked like my Mexican friends or Costa Rican coworkers on the big screen.
There are a few aspects of In the Heights I would change, the biggest of which is the truncation of the love story between Nina and dispatch worker Benny (Corey Hawkins).
It also would not be asking too much for a bit more narrative near the emotional climax of the film to help slow the pacing down, but the fact remains - if In the Heights is comparable in any way to a well-made bodega sandwich, it will keep you going back for seconds.
Taking a peak at one of the Special Features and for me the stand outs are all the colorfully revealing small featurettes that come together as one to truly showcase the love and passion that went into not only filming this masterpiece, but acting in it also.
This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and the “In the Heights” 4K UHD combo pack and Blu-ray contain the following special features:
• Paciencia y Fe: Making in the Heights
• Paciencia y Fe: When You’re Home
• Paciencia y Fe: Hundreds of Stories
• Paciencia y Fe: Alza La Bandera/Raise the Flag
• Paciencia y Fe: Wepa!
• Paciencia y Fe: That Music in the Air
• Paciencia y Fe: Who Keeps our Legacies
• In the Heights Sing-a-long
• 96,000 Sing-a-long
Review by: Ashley J. Cicotte
Experience the cinematic event, where the streets are made of music and little dreams become big, when “In the Heights” arrives for Premium Digital Ownership at home on July 30th, 2021.
The film is directed by Jon M. Chu (“Crazy Rich Asians”) and fuses Lin-Manuel Miranda’s (Broadway’s “Hamilton”) kinetic music and lyrics, starring Anthony Ramos (“A Star is Born,” Broadway’s “Hamilton”) and Corey Hawkins (“Straight Outta Compton,” “BlacKkKlansman”).
The film will also be available on 4K, Blu-ray and DVD beginning on August 31st, 2021.
In The Heights @ Facebook