Rain Man * * * *

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Director: Barry Levinson.
Screenplay: Barry Morrow, Ronald Bass.
Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Tom Cruise, Valeria Golino, Gerald R. Molen, Jack Murdock, Michael D. Roberts, Bonnie Hunt, Ralph Seymour, Lucinda Jenney, Beth Grant, Barry Levinson.

I must have been about ten or eleven when Rain Man was released and I remember enough about this time that it was seemingly heralded as a modern classic. The fact that it went on to win several oscars – including Best Picture – would further back this up. In hindsight, it’s not the classic that its proclaimed to be but still remains a solid human drama.

Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) is a self-centred car salesman who discovers that his recently deceased father has left his fortune to his older, autistic brother Raymond (Dustin Hoffman) – that he didn’t know he had. In a bid to get his hands on the money, he kidnaps his brother but rather than it turning into a money making scheme, Charlie finds himself bonding with Raymond on their cross-country journey.

On the surface, Rain Man comes off as a film about family ties, responsibilities and an exploration of learning disabilities. This is true to a great extent but essentially it’s a road movie with two mismatched characters and actors. Hoffman delivers another masterful performance and one that gained him his second Best Actor Oscar after “Kramer Vs Kramer” in 1979. There’s a real sensitivity to his performance, which in turn, brings a lot of humour. The humour can sometimes come across as unintentional but that’s all the more credit to Hoffman’s abilities. As for Cruise, he’s all cocksure arrogance – like most of his performances throughout the 80’s – but he’s perfectly fitting and delivers one of the more grounded and mature performances of his career. He plays off Hoffman brilliantly and after playing alongside Paul Newman in “The Color Of Money” two years previously, this marked the second time that Cruise held his own against two of the screen greats – the two of them also on Oscar winning form at the time. Behind the camera, Levinson does an admirable job but his main strengths lie in capturing the subtleties of the performances. Anything else other than that is generic filmmaking. That’s not to say that it’s poor. It far from that, but I wonder whether it was deserving of a Best Director Oscar. Other candidates from that year included Martin Scorsese for “The Last Temptation of Christ” and Alan Parker for “Mississippi Burning“. At least two, that could arguably have taken the award. However, this is the type of material that the Academy laps up; it’s a difficult subject in highlighting the complexities of autism and although it’s one of very few film’s to tackle it, it doesn’t provide any answers and doesn’t probe as well as it should. Maybe the lack of probing is exactly the point? Autistic savants can’t be understood and it confirms that through Cruise’s frustrated character. Either way, I found that it became a little contrived and formulaic. This is a small gripe though, as the journey that these two go on is filled with humour and pathos and manages to be both touching and emotionally uplifting.

A thoughtful and affecting story that benefits from exemplary performances and great chemistry from the two leads.

Mark Walker

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63 Responses to “Rain Man * * * *”

  1. I’ve had this sat in my collection for ages but haven’t got round to watching it yet. Like you say, i’d always heard it’s somewhat of a classic, but i wonder if it’s more a product of its time in some way? Nice review Mark!

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    • It’s definitely worth a watch Chris. It’s a good film but I think you’re spot on. It was more of a product of it’s time and although I like it, I don’t necessarily think it should have cleaned up at the Oscars. Cheers man!

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  2. I’ve had this DVD for years but really never felt the urge to watch it (I’m not sure why). It always bugs me that The Last Temptation of Christ wasn’t nominated for Best Picture though. Nice review.

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    • You should stick it on one day. It’s a good film but personally I prefer “The Last Temptation…” That’s a very bold film from Scorsese and you’re right, it should have been at least nominated. I would have gave it Best Picture that year.

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  3. This has what I think is Tom Cruise’s most approachable and under appreciated performance, IMO. Fine review.

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    • I actually really like Cruise as an actor Michael. He comes in for a lot of stick but he’s delivered some excellent performances throughout his career and this is one of them. Thanks man!

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  4. Excellent work, as always!

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  5. I’ve never seen this and honestly have never really been interested in seeing it.

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    • You’re the third person to say you’ve not seem this Misty. I actually thought everyone had seen this film. I can understand you’re lack of interest though, it doesn’t appeal to everyone.

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      • mistylayne Says:

        I’m glad I’m not alone. I thought I was the only one. This is another where most of my reference comes from an episode of The Simpsons.

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      • Haha. Yeah, you can always rely on The Simpsons to keep you informed. I’ve seen a few references to this in episodes myself.

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  6. Good review Mark. I didn’t love it as I felt like it was too manipulative in some spots, but when you get right down to the performances from Hoffman and Cruise, you cannot go wrong at all. Cruise definitely stands nowhere near Hoffman in terms of acting, but at least he gives it a shot and does well none the less.

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    • Cheers Dan. I totally agree with you. It has it’s faults but it’s the performances that stand out. I really liked Cruise in this despite Hoffman receiving all the plaudits.

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  7. Insightful review. Wow, I would never understand how could people managed NOT to see this film or even dislike it. Its like never seeing ‘Thelma and Louise’ or ‘Titanic’. It should be made criminal. ‘Rain Man’ is like THE movie of the 1980s – it is so great, – everything in it – plot, acting, score, etc., and it’s so emotional as well. What else one needs? Despite what you said, I do regard films like ‘Rain Man’ as ‘classics’, but ,maybe, in their own right – and that is because I am yet to see a film, made relatively recently, which appears as perfect and as complete as, for example, this one, and I think ‘Rain Man’ will withstand any passage of time.

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    • That’s a fair point. I think that over 20 years later it has already proven that it has stood the test of time very well and it will continue to do so. I can understand why many would label it a classic but I’m reluctant to do so. I’d say it’s more iconic. I also found it to be manipulative at points and basically the film has a predictability. That being said though, it’s still a great film. Thanks for commenting.

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      • Well, I do not think its more manipulative or more predictable than at least half of the films produced in 80s, 90s. I mean such films as ‘E.T’ or ‘Forrest Gump’ are way more so, but yeah, I think I know where you are coming from, so fair enough.

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      • I totally agree on E.T. and Forest Gump, they are more manipulative and predictable. Still great films as Rain Man is but I just don’t throw around the classic label very easily. As I say though, I can understand why some would rate it so.

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  8. As always great review. This is one of those films that I haven’t revisited since my first viewing YEARS ago. In fact, I really remember little about it other than I liked it. Perhaps it’s time for a revisit.

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  9. ray brayne Says:

    This is a family film about acceptance. How do you deal with a family member, or anyone, who can’t be affected and will not change? Do you walk away, abandon them? If you love them you accept them. This is the lesson Charlie learns as do we all! one other movie deals with this difficult subject in family relations, “Ordinary People”, another Oscar favorite. Hoffman did Rainman so well, it seems autism is now off limits to other actors. I love the film but dread the name “Rainman”, a hated nick name for years!

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    • You shouldn’t have told me about your nickname man. That may crop up from time to time Lol.

      Yeah, totally agree on Hoffman. Nobody would dare attempt to there again. It’s always a favourite with the Oscars though. Hanks pretty much won for a similar deal in Forrest Gump but one that I really enjoyed was DeNiro in Awakenings.

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  10. daveackackattack Says:

    Well Mark… I wrote a long reply as to why Levinson really did deserve the Oscar and then my page refreshed so it’s now lost. Oh well.

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    • Bummer Dave. I would have been interested in hearing that. If you find the time, try it again. I hate it when that happens though.

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      • daveackackattack Says:

        ?OK… take two. I remember seeing this film in the theaters in ’88 and being totally blown away. Hoffman was just amazing and Cruise was in top form and even likeable. Remember whan Cruise was likeable? Leaving the theater I had no doubt that Rain Man would sweep all the major awards.

        As far a Levinson goes I think he more than deserved the Best Director Oscar. Unfortunately both Scorsese’s and Parker’s films were too controversial to win any major awards. Personally I wouldn’t even put The Last Temptation in Marty’s top 10. Why? Well let’s start with Kietel’s accent… hello Brooklyn… lol. I could go on. Parker’s film, as good as it was, was criticized as revisionist history that didn’t really make clear that it was a work of pure fiction unlike Marty who promoted his film by constantly mentioning it was based on the book by Nikos Kazantzakis.

        Levinson did concentrate on the subtlety of the performances, so your right there Mark but there was plenty of style to go along with it. Diner and Tin Men you could probably say that the direction was serviceable but I can’t put Rain Man in that category. I probably haven’t seen the film in 20 years and I can still vividly remember images from the film. Raymond and Charlie coming down the escalator in their shiny new suits, driving through downtown Vegas, the view from the “Rain Man” suite, the toothpicks scattered across the restaurant floor, the deck of cards flying off the back of the the Buick Roadmaster as they speed towards Vegas, the Lambo flying across the sky to the strains of “Iko Iko”, the Quantas scene in the airport terminal and the touching scene with Raymond and Charlie in the conference room with their heads pressed together at the end. If you throw out period pieces like Bugsy and The Natural, Rain Man was easily Levinson’s most stylized film and the film holds up really well visually after all these years. Even you yourself remarked how well the film has held up. Surely a sign of great direction.

        Also another point… when you’re dealing with the mentally challenged in film there’s a great danger of not getting the tone right. The Other Sister and I Am Sam come to mind for me.

        To your point of the film being contrived and formulaic… wouldn’t you consider The Last Temptation and Missippippi Burning very contrived? I mean they actually changed history to make their films work. As far as being formulaic I have to disagree. The more realistic ending as opposed to the happy ending really stood out for me as a gutsy call as I watched the film back then. Hollywood is known for changing the ending of movies, even just to appease test audiences with a happy ending because they think it will make more money. Hollywood isn’t interested in making art… they’re into making money. Period. Remember these are the same people who wanted to change the ending of Se7en because they thought it was too down of an ending. Actually Spielberg was tapped to direct Rain Man before things fell through. Can you imagine him sticking with that ending? All in all I was too caught up in the story to keep guessing where the story was taking me next. When I get bored with a film I start to pick it apart and I can’t say that with Rain Man. I saw you also mention De Niro in Awakenings. Here’s a few other ones that stand out… Geoffery Rush in Shine and Claire Danes in Temple Grandin.

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      • LOL. Wow! That’s quite a comment Dave. Thanks for taking the time to be so in depth with your views. I appreciate it and I also take your point on many things. Maybe your right, maybe the fact that the film stands up well today is a sign of good direction. I certainly don’t think Levinson’s direction is bad, it just came across to me that it was the actors that delivered the goods. Levinson sat back and observed which was probably wise. In terms of Scorsese and Parker, I found their handling of difficult material more impressive. In particular, Scorsese used some powerful images throughout the film which I found very striking and he made bolder moves. The accents were admittedly a problem and the less said about David Bowie the better lol. I completely agree on the tone of Rain Man, it was brilliantly handled but I just find these types of films a safe bet when it comes to awards. I really liked Forrest Gump but again I wasn’t too happy about it overshadowing Pulp Fiction come awards season. That being said, I don’t want to come across as disliking Rain Man or Levinson. I enjoyed the film very much but I wouldn’t have showered it with as many Oscars as it took. There’s no denying Hoffman though. Geoffrey Rush is a good shout out there but I haven’t seen Claire Danes in Temple Grandin. I must check that out.

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      • daveackackattack Says:

        Hmmm… as far as a safe bet for awards I would say the the degree of difficulty in the performances is much higher on those type of films so they stand out more in films like Shine, Gilbert Grape, Sling Blade, Rain Man, Temple Grandin. Claire Danes has come a long way from My So Called Life. She won an Emmy for Temple and another this year for Showtime’s brilliant Homeland. Check it out.

        And of course the one rule in these kind of movies is you “never go full retard”:

        In the hands of a bad director Rain Man could have gone into “Simple Jack” territory.

        Speaking of safe bets don’t forget Holocaust movies:

        A well directed as Mississippi Burning was Alan Parker’s fatal flaw was sticking too close actual events from history while introducing fiction into the film. Showing the FBI as the good guys coming to the rescue made for a great movie but really rubbed African Americans the wrong way as this was not the case at all back then. Should Mississippi Burning have been made? Sure. Should it have been handled with more care taking to account the touchy subject matter? Absolutely. I can’t go as far as to call it irresponsible but a simple prologue or epilogue would have helped the film immensely. Remember we Americans are good not so good at the facts of our history especially the darker parts. The big gripe was that lesser educated people(and there are plenty of them here) would see the film AS history instead of fiction it was intended to be. It’s OK to make a film like Valkyrie because it was basically a true story but if you want to make a Holocaust movie where Himmler, Goebbels and Herring heroically try to prevent Hitler from completing his final solution… I’m just sayin’ it isn’t going to go over well with the Jewish people.

        I also saw The Last Temptation in the theater back in ’88 and it just didn’t work for me. The accents, the casting (I think it would have been much better with lesser known actors), Barbara Hershey’s new puffy lips, the score (Peter Gabriel’s world beat soundtrack is one of my favorite pieces of music ever but I felt it just didn’t fit with the film somehow) and truth be told I think I remember more images from The Life Of Brian than this movie. Dafoe’s performance was what I remember most from this movie. In fairness Like Rain Man I haven’t seen this movie in 20 years so I may need to see this again but even so it just didn’t stay with me.

        I wasn’t trying to imply that you didn’t like the movie or Levinson (you gave it 4 asterisks after all… lol) but I was responding to the assertion that Levinson wasn’t Oscar worthy. Look at the big movies that year: The Last Temptation of Christ, Dangerous Liaisons, Mississippi Burning, Big, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Working Girl, Gorillas in the Mist, The Accidental Tourist, Die Hard, A Fish Called Wanda, Tucker: A Man and His Dream, Pelle the Conqueror, Running on Empty, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Willow, Married to the Mob, A Cry in the Dark, Stand and Deliver, Bull Durham, Salaam Bombay!, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, The Milagro Beanfield War, Bird and the acclaimed Beaches! 1988 was kind of a weak year for movies actually now that I look at it in total.

        Personally IMHO I’d pick Die Hard, A Cry In The Dark, Mississippi Burning (with reservation), Running On Empty and Bull Durham as the best movies that year but all of those are still a runner up to Rain Man for me. What you think?

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      • Again, many good points here Dave. I agree that the level of difficulty in playing characters with disabilities does certainly demand more from an actor and some of my favourite performances include the likes of DiCaprio in Gilbert Grape, Day-Lewis in My Left Foot and DeNiro in Awakenings. These are just a few but Hoffman is certainly included as well.

        Now that you rhyme off all those movies from ’88. It was quite a poor year after all. Bull Durham and Running On Empty would certainly make my favourites as well. I’d also go for Mississippi Burning (although you make an excellent point on it inaccuracy) Rain Man and although you’re not a fan, my favourite would be The Last Temptation… I admired Scorsese’s boldness and that film really struck a cord with me. Thanks again for taking the time to comment Dave. Very much appreciated my friend.

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      • daveackackattack Says:

        I saw in your About Me page that you’re from Glasgow. I should have guessed you were from across the pond with ‘colour’ and ‘favourite’. Home of two of my favorite actresses. Kelly Macdonald and Karen Gillan. OK I haven’t seen any Karen Gillan in anything but Doctor Who but damn she’s irrepressibly cute. I saw her on Craig Ferguson and said “who is this girl?”

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      • I am indeed a fellow Glaswegian of Kelly Macdonald and Craig Ferguson. I’ve not heard or seen any of Karen Gillan though as I’ve never actually watched any Doctor Who episodes.
        I should maybe give them a go someday.

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      • daveackackattack Says:

        Doctor Who leans toward the cheekier end of Sci-Fi so take it with a grain of salt.

        Speaking of Barry Levinson, check his new found footage horror movie out. Interesting story of how it came about. I’m certainly interested.

        http://www.wired.com/underwire/2012/10/the-bay-levinson-nycc/

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      • Yeah man, I’ve heard a bit about this Levinson found footage movie. It sounds very interesting and quite unusual for a director if his stature. I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for this myself.

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  11. This was one of the first movies that I can remember watching as a kid that wasn’t a kid movie or a straight-up comedy. Thought it was great then, think it’s great now.

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    • Thats an interesting Observation there Morgan. I’m probably the same. I don’t really remember watching a dramatic film before this and it does stand up very well to this day.

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  12. Great review. Cruise and, of course, Hoffman are in top form here.

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  13. I haven’t even thought about Rain Man in years. It was a massive turning point for Cruise’s career in terms of more grown-up roles. Between this and Hot Shots, I had the biggest crush on Valeria Golino back in my formative pubescent years. Whatever happened to her, I wonder.

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    • I hadn’t thought about it for ages either Ryan until it came on Tv a few weeks back. Yeah man, what ever happened to Golino? She was a prominent feature around this time and I think many a young lad shared those thought on her.

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  14. I really liked this movie, too. Actually this is one of only two performances by Tom Cruise of which I’m a fan.

    http://eclecticbooksandmovies.blogspot.com

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  15. That’s the only movie in which I like Dustin Hoffman.

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    • You don’t normally like Dustin Hoffman? Man, he’s delivered numerous great performances over the years.

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      • daveackackattack Says:

        Russel, have you seen The Graduate, Tootsie, All the President’s Men, Marathon Man or Kramer vs Kramer? If you don’t like him in any of those movies then it’s safe to say that you just don’t like him .

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      • My personal favourite of his would be Midnight Cowboy. He’s also really good in Lenny but if truth be told, I always enjoy Hoffman.

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      • daveackackattack Says:

        I think some people don’t like Hoffman because of the edginess he brings to his characters. Especally characters like Ratso Rizzo and Lenny Bruce. Also most people just see a shory guy with a big nose. Not exactly the Johnny Depp/Brad Pitt type. Personally I think he’s one of the greatest actors we’ve ever had. Unfortunately like other adging greats (De Niro, Nicholson, Pacino) I’d have to go back to the late’90’s Wag The Dog to find a great role he played.

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      • Hoffman was marvellous in Wag The Dog and if I remember rightly, he got an Oscar nomination for it. I always enjoy his performances and the edginess he brings is the very reason why.
        It’s a real shame about some of the ageing screen greats man. Nicholson has been not too bad recently but The Bucket List was abysmal. Pacino has been really hit and miss and probably the most unfortunate is actually my favourite of them all; some of the stuff DeNiro has been in is really bad.

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      • daveackackattack Says:

        Of all the older actors Duvall can probably hold his head the highest. It’s a shame Hackman gave up acting back in the early 2000’s. I loved that guy. Harry Caul, Popeye Doyle, Little Bill Daggett, Lex Luthor, Royal Tenenbaum… I could go on.

        Notice on the womens side that Streep, Close, Mirren, Dench, Deneuve (who’s doing mostly European movies and at a furious pace I might add) and Maggie Smith (she’s been great in Downton Abbey) are still at the top of their game. Even Jessica Lange is making a comeback in TV with her Emmy wins for Grey Gardens and American Horror Story.

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      • Hackman was just marvellous and it might have been a wise move for him to retire. The roles just don’t seem to around anymore. The last time I seen Duvall, where he really sank his teeth into a role was in Get Low. Brilliant stuff.

        As for the actresses, your spot on. It has seemingly been said that good roles for female actresses are hard to come by but for older actresses that doesn’t seem to be the case. Maturing like fine malt whiskies! πŸ˜‰

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      • daveackackattack Says:

        I’ll drink to that. Cheers Mark.

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      • “Slainge” Dave! (That’s Scots Gaelic for cheers) That’s what I’d say when raising a glass πŸ˜‰

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      • daveackackattack Says:

        SlΓ‘inte. Yeah that’s what me and the Dempseys say when we’re throwing back a wee bit of the Jamisons. They’re pretty hardcore for some Irish-American lads. They won’t even drink that protestant stuff (cough*** Bushmills). Curious… is the phrase Irish or Scottish Gaelic? Wiki says it’s Scottish Gaelic but the word root comes from an Old Irish adjective. Not that it really matters… I’m part English, Irish, Scotch and Welsh.

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      • Haha. Im impressed Dave. You even spelled it correctly. I automatically went to spell it as I’d say it. Thats a good question on it’s origins, I’m not entirely sure if it’s Scots or Irish. I always had it down as Scots but I’m sure my Irish brothers feel the same. We’re almost inseparable that way. πŸ˜‰

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      • daveackackattack Says:

        Well thank goodness for copy and paste otherwise I’d have to hunt down the acute accent special character (Γ‘).

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      • Lol. At least you’re aware of it though. Kudos. Here’s another one for you “Uisge Beatha”. This is one that could describe what you’re drinking with the Dempsey’s. πŸ˜‰

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  16. I loved this movie as a kid, one of my favorites actually…which is really weird now that I look back on that.

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    • It’s like Morgan said earlier in the comments Andy, it’s one of the few ‘grown up’ movies that a lot of kids actually managed to see. I was the same when it was released. It is a bit weird as not many films can claim to have that but for our generation it seems to be an introduction to actual mature filmmaking.

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      • AndyWatchesMovies Says:

        I didn’t catch that, but that is a very apt way of putting it. I’d love to see it again as an adult to appreciate more of the film that most likely went over my head as a kid.

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      • I remember loving it more as a kid than I did recently. That’s not to say, it was a bad film. Far from it but it didn’t quite have the same impact that it had years ago.

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      • AndyWatchesMovies Says:

        Interesting – I’ll see if I can give it a go

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