L  e  n  s  V  i  e  w  s

A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz


Introduction: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.

The LensView Home Theatre:




Home Alone [Blu-ray]


(Chris Columbus, 1990)







Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: 20th Century Fox

Blu-ray: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment



Region: All

Runtime: 103 min

Chapters: 24

Size: 50 GB

Case: Standard Amaray Blu-ray case

Release date: December 2nd, 2008



Aspect ratio: 1:85:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: AVC @ 33 Mbps



English DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1; English Dolby Surround, Spanish, French & Portuguese DTS 5.1.



English SDH, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, Cantonese & Mandarin



• Audio Commentary by Chris Columbus and Macaulay Culkin

• The Making of Home Alone (19:25)

• 1990 Press Featurette (3:52)

• Mac Cam: Behind the Scenes with Macaulay Culkin (4:46)

• How to Burglar-Proof Your Home: The Stunts of Home Alone (7:04)

• Home Alone Around the World (3:53)

• Where's Buzz Now? (3:03)

• Angels with Filthy Souls (2:06)

• Deleted Scenes & Alternate Takes (15:04)

• Blooper Reel (2:04)



The Film: 7
Nothing I like better than seeing Joe Pesci getting what's been coming to him with enough left over for whatever he deserves in the future. I'm speaking of the persona, of course – so, Joe, hold off on that phone call.

It's hard to believe this movie dates from almost twenty years ago, but it's not so hard to see Macaulay as a boy of nine, since that's the image I have of him even now. He just has one of those faces, I guess. The McCallister family with its 10 or 11 kids, cousins, an aunt and uncle and a full set of parents leave home for a holiday in France, but forget to take Kevin who had been sent up to the attic room the night before for crimes he didn't commit. Oh, the woes of being a younger child in a huge family: someone has to get blamed, and poor Kevin has been identified as all the usual suspects.

Kevin, assuming the role cut out for him by his sibs, seems unable to so much as pack his own suitcase, but when a pair of bungling burglars (Pesci and Daniel Stern) invade, he defends his home with masterful ingenuity. This, of course, is both the film's comic strength and its weakness. Between writer John Hughes, who usually has better insight into his young characters, and director Chris Columbus, who wasn't much older than Culkin from the look of him, they neglected to make Kevin's transition into self-confident kid believable – or even interesting. In fact, there is no transition. It's as if Kevin had been keeping his talent a secret all these years – which is quite possible, given what I know about large families. But the realization of his inner strength surprises no one but the criminals.

That criticism aside, Macaulay is a gem and a joy to watch, whether he is reacting to getting picked on by his sib's (most especially the brutish Buzz), making messes all over the house or burglar-proofing his house against the space invaders. When he meets Marley, the scary next-door neighbor, in church, his changes in expression and gradual acceptance and understanding are a credit to his species.



Image: 5/7
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

Despite bit rates often in the mid 30s, image quality is problematic: oversaturated in reds and oranges, inky shadows, flat as can be, with occasional peculiarities of focus – some of which seems deliberate, though I can't imagine why.















Audio & Music: 7/7
The soundtrack may not be dynamic or crisp, but it sure has bass, especially in the church scene, where it is appropriate. The DTS HD-MA mix allows for clear dialogue, but don't expect much from the surrounds.


Operations: 6
Very easy to read menus, but I'm not a fan of the trend lately to show only one chapter thumbnail or extra feature title at a time.




Extras: 5
Even though John Hughes (who had already written Ferris Bueller, Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles) wrote the screenplay, the actual person is conspicuously absent from the extra features, which tend to focus on its star. I was surprised that I could find no mention of Roberts Blossom as Marley, whose performance and scene with Kevin in the church lends the movie what heart it has, without which it would have simply devolved into a serious of clichéd gags and pratfalls. All the extras are in fair standard definition with variable formats.



Bottom line: 6
While not a high–def demo disc by a long shot, it's a good way to go for first adopters of the movie.

Leonard Norwitz
December 8th, 2008










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