All of the extra to be found here have been ported over from the 2004 Special Edition DVD including, not least, the three Audio Commentaries. If you enjoyed the movie and are interested in the issues that it raises, there is likely everything you could possibly want to learn about them included within these informative extras.
Director Barry Levinson’s commentary is quite in-depth, and adds some nice touches – looking at his symbolism right from the opening shot, the pictorial representations of the various characters, their motivations and even the music playing out. There’s a great deal of information on offer here, about the original script, the changes, the chance locations they used, the difficulty capturing the sunsets and the fact that Michael Caine – after the movie was released – discovered that he indeed had a brother he never knew about, who was in an institution, and whom he successfully fought for custody of. The trouble is that it is extremely bitty. Levinson will talk about one subject for a while and then sit back and remain silent for minutes, making it quite a disjointed offering. You can’t help but think that, with three commentaries on offer here, they would have considered combining at least two of them for one more continuous effort, rather than compel viewers to watch the movie three separate times with only sporadic information on each of the tracks.
Writer Barry Morrow talks about his experiences with disabled individuals who have been institutionalised, discussing the real-life individuals who inspired the project – including Bill Sackter (who was the model for an earlier story and film, entitled Bill, starring Dennis Quaid) and Kim Peek (who had apparently memorised all of the end credits for the movies that Morrow had worked on). He discusses autism, savantism and the increasing knowledge of it in society, what the characters brought to the piece and the changes made from his original script (which, apparently, included literally hundreds of alternative scenes which could have been integrated into the middle act). Morrow’s offering is far more continuous than Levinson (even if he runs out of steam towards the end) and with his knowledge base and background into the themes, is arguably the better choice were you to not have time to listen to both. I also loved some of the anecdotes – like how he came up with the Rain Man title, and the real-life incident that inspired the cross-walk sequence – and highly recommend this commentary.
Writer Ronald Bass adds yet further to the comments, with his own interesting offering. It’s a tough call really on whether or not you should listen to this third, as arguably it’s also better than Levinson’s contribution, and also more continuous throughout (which makes it an easier listen). He notes some other script changes made – the age difference was less before Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman were cast – and comments on how it seemed a little unfair that he had no significant recognition for his part. The discussion about the character motivations is also quite interesting, from Cruise’s own defensive, selfish nature towards others mirroring his brother’s social distance; to how difficult it was to maintain the ending they had without alienating the audience. The alternate ending written (very interesting but slightly undermining towards the end point made) is also well worth hearing about. Another worthy listen.
The Journey of Rain Man spends 22 minutes with Director Barry Levinson, taking a retrospective look at his work here, with both archive and new interview snippets from many cast and crew involved.
Lifting the Fog: A Look at the Mysteries of Autism is 20 minutes long and both extremely interesting and informative. It’s clear that the filmmakers wanted to impress upon the public the importance of having fully knowledge of these kinds of disorders, and this welcome offering clears up some of the questions you may have about autism. Well worth watching.
We get one extra scene where Raymond goes into a shop alone, with expected consequences. It’s only a couple of minutes long, and was probably rightfully cut – it comes across as one of those kind of scenes noted in the Commentary, of which there were apparently hundreds written.
Finally we get the original theatrical trailer to round off the disc.
Nowadays scientists say that there is evidence to suspect that everybody is somewhere on the autistic ‘spectrum’ and – whether or not that kind of over-categorisation is a good thing – it’s a vast change from twenty-something years ago, when the general public were far less aware of this neuro-developmental disorder, and where even doctors could be ignorant about dealing with such a condition. Barry Levinson’s 1998 Oscar-winner, Rain Man, was one of the biggest reasons why that changed, a heartfelt statement about compassion overcoming selfishness, about public and private ignorance, and about the strength of brotherly love. Featuring a similarly Oscar-winning performance by Dustin Hoffman – simply amazing as the eponymous ‘Raymond’ – and a greatly underrated counterbalance from a young but extremely promising Tom Cruise, as well as top notch scripting, smart dialogue, stunning cinematography and a warm, percussive score, Rain Man is surprisingly timeless, and well worth a revisit for all those out there who remember little about the movie other than ‘he wants to fly Quantas’.
On Region Free UK Blu-ray we get pretty good video, solid audio, and a welcome selection of comprehensive extras which will likely prove extremely informative for anybody interested in either the movie or developmental disorders. It’s a decent package that’s well worth picking up – and this excellent drama deserves a place in everybody’s collection. Highly recommended.
Rain Man comes to Region Free UK Blu-ray complete with a 1080p High Definition video rendition in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of widescreen 1.85:1. Now don’t be put off by the opening shot – which is absolutely ridden with heavy grain – it may not be a great start to the movie but, if you persist with it, you will find that this film has simply never looked this good. Inky blacks, stunningly captured tequila sunsets, and perfect facial observation on the close-ups – it’s got them all. And the grain level never reaches the uncomfortable heights of that opening shot (with the Lamborghini being lifted across the screen), instead levelling out to give a suitably filmic impression throughout. Detail is generally very good indeed. Again, I know this is never going to stand up against modern Hollywood productions hitting the format right now, but, for its age – and for the type of production that it is – the video transfer really does everything required of it. Softness is never an issue, nor are there any signs of edge enhancement or digital artefacting. The colour scheme is warmly reproduced – there isn’t anything bright or vibrant, with pastels throughout – but skin tones look realistic and some of the vistas are absolutely amazing. Seriously, there’s one bright blue sky shot, with the car rolling down the road and the mountains in the background that could easily be used as a wallpaper image for your pc. Blacks are strong, without any blocking or bleeding, and there’s even a hint of 3D pop to some of the shots, giving the image a nice amount of depth. As long as you bear in mind the limitations of the movie, and its age – after all, it was never likely to be demo quality, was it?! – you will likely find this a very pleasant and engaging visual rendition, and a far superior one to that of the previous SD-DVD incarnations.
On the aural front we get an equally pleasant DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that, whilst a touch on the quiet side (you may have to crank it up a little louder than average), is nonetheless quite engaging. Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently throughout, largely emanating from across the fronts and centre channels. Effects are not particularly dynamic, with no significant directionality, but the surrounds get a fair bit of atmospheric action, and the rears do well to support it all – from the car noises on the long drive to the perpetually ringing slot machines in the Vegas casino. The score is populated by catchy song tracks – the opening Iko Iko song setting the tone throughout – and a decent, percussion-orientated score, all of which gets keen presentation across both the frontal array and the rear channels. It’s not an all-encompassing mix that sweeps you away in the movie, but it does offer a nice atmosphere, and provides a perfectly suitable accompaniment for the movie. Bass? Little that I could discern, even with all of the beats on the score, but enough to offer a nice depth to round out the track. Overall it’s a solid, if unexceptional offering.
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