Rain Man appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Movies from 1988 usually look a bit drab, but this one seemed fairly attractive.
Sharpness seemed consistently good. Sporadic examples of softness cropped up, but these stayed pretty modest. Most of the flick came across as nicely detailed and tight. No issues with jaggies or shimmering occurred, and edge haloes were absent. Print flaws remained minor. The occasional speck popped up, but those remained rare, as most of the movie looked clean.
Colors appeared surprisingly vibrant. The palette stayed in a natural vein, and the disc displayed these hues well. Despite the occasional instance of muddy 80s colors, the tones usually came across as fairly lively and full.
Black levels seemed very good, with consistently rich and deep tones, and shadow detail was positive; the film offered many low-light situations, and these came through well. Despite a few minor concerns, the movie looked quite positive.
To my surprise, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack was also strong. The track betrayed a few problems, but it usually seemed clear and concise. The soundfield stuck mainly to the front; music spread nicely to the sides, with a modicum of ambient sound blending on the left and right as well. The surrounds supported the score very nicely - it's easily the best part of the mix - and they also added some mild reinforcement for effects. It's not a dazzling mix, but it worked well.
The quality seemed inconsistent but generally positive. Dialogue was the weakest aspect; although it sounded distinct and intelligible, it could appear dull or flat, and it also displayed some slight distortion on occasion. Effects also suffered from some muddiness, but they usually seemed clear and realistic, and they betrayed some solid low end at times. Best of all was the music, which sounded bright and bold, with fne dynamic range; the bass rocked much better than I'd expect from a 1988 film. It didn't make me like the movie, but the soundtrack nonetheless added to the experience.
The Blu-ray repeats the extras from the 2004 DVD, and we find no fewer than three separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director Barry Levinson, who offers a running, screen-specific piece. When he speaks, Levinson gives us some great information. He goes into many aspects of the production. Levinson discusses shooting in sequence and its effect on the production, reshoots, casting some actors, decisions related to the rhythmic score, cinematographic choices, editing, improvs, and many other elements.
The key phrase in the prior paragraph should be “when he speaks”. Unfortunately, Levinson fades into the background too much of the time. Many empty spaces appear in this track and he can disappear for fairly long stretches. The quality of the information seems strong enough for me to recommend this commentary, but the many gaps create many frustrations.
Next we find a chat from writer Barry Morrow, who also offers his own running, screen-specific piece. I admit I didn’t expect much from this conversation, but Morrow provides a consistently informative and engaging commentary. He starts with the roots of Rain Man and how his own interactions with the mentally disabled led him to write it.
Morrow gives us many stories of his experiences with real-life “rain men” and tosses out many great stories about the production. We learn of casting and crew possibilities, the script’s path to the screen, and what’s happened to him since the movie’s release, especially in regard to the reactions the flick engendered. Heck, he even addresses those of us who dislike the film! Morrow remains very likable and interesting in this terrific track.
Finally, we get a piece with writer Ronald Bass, who offers his own running, screen-specific discussion. Bass starts strong as he goes over his involvement in the flick, the development he did with Steven Spielberg and mentions of other directorial possibilities, research and character development, and variations in different versions of the scripts.
Unfortunately, Bass peters out before too long. After a while, his comments become appear less frequently, and he mostly just narrates the film and tells us what we see on the screen. Some good moments still pop up at times, such as when Bass tells a funny Oscar anecdote. Nonetheless, the last half of the track makes for slow going. Most of the good material shows up early in this inconsistent piece.
A few featurettes ensue. The Journey of Rain Man goes for 22 minutes, seven seconds and provides notes from Levinson, Morrow, Bass, producer Mark Johnson, co-producer Gerald R. Molen, UCLA Department of Psychology clinical social worker Diane Bass, associate producer Gail Mutrux, composer Hans Zimmer, and actor Valeria Golina. “Journey” looks at how various participants came onto the project and its development, script, characters and story, research and realism, cast and performances, music, the movie’s release and reception. “Journey” delivers a fairly general “making of “ piece, and it’s fine in that regard. You’ll find some redundant material after all those commentaries, but it ties things up in a neat manner.
Lifting the Fog: A Look at the Mysteries of Autism runs 20 minutes, 13 seconds and includes comments from Morrow, Autism Research Institute director Dr. Bernard Rimland, Autism Service Center’s Dr. Ruth Sullivan, psychiatrists Dr. Darold Treffert and Dr. Arnold Rosen, autistic men Joseph Sullivan, Mark Rimland and Peter Guthrie, and Guthrie’s brother Kevin. The program looks at aspects of autism and shows us the influences for Dustin Hoffman’s performance. This is a basic show but it offers some interesting notes.
In addition to the film’s trailer, we get one deleted scene. It goes for two minutes, 13 seconds and shows Raymond as he navigates a convenience store by himself. It’s an interesting snippet, but it doesn’t tell us anything new about the characters.
Does the Blu-ray omit anything from the SE DVD? Yes, but not much. It drops a useless promo featurette and a minor photo gallery. It adds the “Journey” and “Fog” programs, though.
I've disliked a fair number of Best Picture winners, but I reserve a special level of distaste for Rain Man. Honestly, it can be an entertaining film but it's so insanely phony and artificially sentimental that it makes me nauseous. The Blu-ray provides pretty good picture and sound as well as a decent roster of extras. The three audio commentaries bring out a lot of useful information, mostly thanks to the one excellent track from writer Barry Morrow; the other two seem much more erratic. I feel pleased with the Blu-ray but still can’t stand the movie itself.
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