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Home Alone Print E-mail
Sunday, 14 December 2008
Image"Home Alone" gets a bad rap with critics and viewers.  It is not as bad as it seems.  The story is good and the acting is decent (for a 1990 film).  John Hughes' previous work in the 1980s yielded classics such as "Sixteen Candles" and "The Breakfast Club."  "Home Alone" really doesn't fall short to the standards of those films.

Director Chris Columbus went on to have a fantastic career after this film.  He is noted for his directorial work in the first two Harry Potter films as well as the film adaptation of the Broadway musical, "Rent."  Director of Photography, Julio Macat calls this film one of his favorites in his shooting career.

Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) is a 10 year-old kid who wishes, like many kids, that his family would just disappear.  Between the craziness around the house full of people and a powerful thunder and lightning storm taking out the electrical power overnight, the McCallister family forgets Kevin at home during their frantic trip to the airport.  Kevin awakes in the morning to find the house empty.  Believing that his wish came true, he proceeds to act as kid who is now the man of the house.

The rest of the story is very well known to viewers, so not much is needs to be said.  Two comical geniuses (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) are robbers that plan to break in to each home on the McCallister's block during the families' absences over Christmas.  Unfortunately for them, Kevin is a rather bright 10 year-old.  He is able to thwart the robbers at every turn.  Of course the final showdown sequence needs no introduction, as it is probably one of the most popular scenes in cinema.

Underneath the chessiness of film, it has a warm story at heart that bring families closer to together.  For over a decade, it has been tradition in our household to watch this film around Christmas each year.  I recommend that you all give it another shot. Fox delivers "Home Alone" on Blu-ray with a 1080p MPEG-4/AVC video transfer.  Despite the extremely high bitrate of 33 Mbps, the video is lacking.  It is however, a remarkable transfer for the age of the film.  Still, it is hard to give it high marks.  Nonetheless, it is infinitely better than the standard DVD video transfer.  For the first time, the film is presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio instead of the 1.85:1 aspect ratio letterboxed inside a 4:3 ratio.  It was rather wonderful to watch this film on the big screen for the first time since its theatrical release.  Unfortunately, that is where the fun stops.  The image is hazy throughout due to the enormous amounts of noise reduction that was applied to the image.  Even still, there is a decent amount of grain present in the image.  The contrast has been boosted to bring out the colors, but at the same time it causes irregularities in the image when it comes to snow sequences.  The white snow becomes blown out to the point in which it appears to be a glowing ball.  At the same time, the dust and dirt is brought out in the bright white snow due to the increased contrast.  The black levels a fairly weak, sometimes even appearing more in the purple spectrum.  There is an increase in details as compared with previous DVD presentations, however, the layer of fuzz on the image is really distracting, especially in the close-up shots, which appear completely soft.  The fleshtones vary from sequence to sequence.  Sometimes they are overly saturated in the magenta and reds and sometimes they are perfect.  Still, it is hard to complain due to the film's age.  Fox has down a decent job with the transfer, and I most definitely can live with the drawbacks to have it on the Blu-ray format.

The quality of the audio is quite the opposite of that of the video.  It was extraordinarily good.  Fox gives us a DTS-HD 5.1 audio track.  The film was originally released in theaters with a Dolby stereo audio track, which is also presented on the Blu-ray.  The remixed 5.1 audio track is terrific.  John Williams' music score truly shines.  Most surprising however, is how active the surround channels are.  There is a ton of sound effect panning and music in the surround channels.  This was quite a treat.  The best part of the soundtrack however, is the use of the LFE channel.  Most would expect this film to be front heavy.  However, it is quite the opposite.  The LFE channel gets a good bit of use.  In fact, this film contains the best sequence my subwoofer has recreated in some time.  The church scene, in which Kevin and the old man talk, begins with the choir singing Christmas hymns.  The church organ is absolutely incredible.  My subwoofer has never sounded so tight and deep before.  As a sound engineer I am always looking for that type of bass reproduction.  This film is worth getting solely for that brief scene.  Trust me.  The dialogue is always audible and clean.  There is also quite a dynamic range to the film.  The dynamic range peaks out at a level is may have you reaching for the remote to turn the volume down.  Some of the remixed audio also tends to not fit with the image on screen, particularly the clarity of the audio to the VHS tape of "Angels With Filthy Souls" playing on the TV.  Still, this is quite the soundtrack, and receives nearly full marks from me.

Fox has also given us a nice little bundle of supplemental materials.  Most are presented in high-definition, which is a real treat (even the original Macaulay Culkin handycam footage has been upconverted.  First up is the audio commentary by director Chris Columbus and actor Macaulay Culkin.  This is purely a reminiscing track, and probably won't appeal to everyone.  Next is the original 1990 Press featurette containing cast and crew interviews.  "The Making of 'Home Alone'" is an extended piece that features more cast and crew interviews.  The "Mac Cam: Behind the Scenes with Macaulay Culkin" is a brief segment that shows footage shot by Culkin back during the filming of the movie.  "'Home Alone' Around the World" takes a look at the dubbing of film sequences in foreign languages.  "Where's Buzz Now?" is a short little feature that interviews cast and crew and where they think Buzz ended up in life, all ending with the real actor (Devin Ratray) revealing his life since "Home Alone."  "Angels With Filthy Souls" shows the movie within the movie.  Finally, there are deleted and alternate scenes, as well as a blooper reel.

If you are not a big fan of "Home Alone," I suggest you give it another try on Blu-ray.  You will not be astounded by the video quality, but you might be surprised at the story presented.  At the very least the audio track with darn near blow your socks off with its impressive quality for a 1990 comedy film.

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