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    Join Date
    Oct 2001
    St. Louis, MO

    BLU-RAY REVIEW: Good Morning Vietnam & Dead Poets Society

    Two Robin Williams classics hit hi-def home video...

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    Robin Williams is a master of his craft. One of the most versatile actors of the last half century, the man has played everything from a psychiatrist and psychopath to a robot and woman. Of course, two of his most recognizable roles were Armed Forces Radio Airman disc jockey Adrian Cronauer in 1987's Good Morning, Vietnam and English professor John Keating in 1989's Dead Poets Society, both of which hit blu-ray hi-def recently.

    Good Morning, Vietnam

    A classic tale of Vietnam told mostly off the battlefields and set in 1965 Saigon, this engaging, emotional, character-driven comedy/drama features an outstanding cast, including not only Williams, but also Forest Whitaker, Bruno Kirby, Robert Wuhl, and J.T. Walsh. The story itself follows shock-jock Cronauer, who's brought in by the brass to entertain the troops via his crazy antics on live radio. What the top dogs get is more than they bargained for, but - because of Cronauer's popularity - they can't get rid of him. Likewise, Cronauer can't keep himself out of trouble when he's outside the recording booth, finding himself attracted to the Vietnamese ladies (and one in particular).

    With brilliant acting by the entire cast - and especially Williams (who was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor), Good Morning, Vietnam is a story unlike any other Vietnam War movie ever made. It's bold in its attitude, relevant in its subject matter, but hilarious in the handling of both. For those looking to find a war movie that's not a war movie, this is it. Dramatic, touching, emotionally-charged, and yet laugh-out-loud hilarious, Good Morning, Vietnam is one of the best all-around comedies you'll find.

    This 25th Anniversary edition blu-ray includes an updated video transfer that'll impress most casual viewers. Colors are all bright and beautiful - especially the lush forest greens and bold yellows. Likewise, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track will keep most movie viewers happy. While the balance is off and audio is primarily front-heavy, there is some decent use of the surround channels for the city and jungle scenes, though nothing overly impressive. The best audio feature of the film is the soundtrack, which features fan-favorite classic artists including The Beach Boys, James Brown, Perry Como, The Angels, The Supremes, Louis Armstrong, Frankie Avalon, and others.

    As for bonus material, a 35-minute production diary is included, which features producer Larry Brezner, screenwriter Mitch Markowitz, and director Barrry Levinson in a six-part production diary which covers everything from interviews with the real Airman Cronaur and cast and crew to Williams' improv acting and the movie's music. Overall, a great bonus feature well worth watching for fans of the film. A 13-minute "Raw Monologue" is also included and features an uncut take of Williams' improv on-set making things up as he goes. Lastly, the film's theatrical trailers are also included.

    For fans of Williams' comedic roles, it doesn't get any better than Good Morning, Vietnam. Well-written, well-directed, with great acting and an outstanding soundtrack, Good Morning, Vietnam is a classic worth adding to any hi-def home video collection.

    Dead Poets Society

    Set in 1959, this classic, tragic tale of Welton Academy students and the English teacher who educates, motivates, and inspires them makes for one of the most emotionally-wrought, tragic, and inspirational educational tales to hit the big screen.

    John Keating (Robin Williams) isn't your average, run-of-the-mill English teacher. He's emotional, engaged, and passionate about what he knows and loves. And it's this emotion and passion which become contagious to his students, the young men of the Welton Academy. Among his students are Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke), Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonard), Knox Overstreet (Josh Charles), Charlie Dalton (Gale Hansen), Richard Cameron (Dylan Kussman), Steven Meeks (Allelon Ruggiero), and Gerard Pitts (James Waterston). Together, these young men form a bond and recreate the Dead Poets Society, a club which their teacher, a Welton alum, was once a member. Of course, these new found relationships and this new way of learning soon lead to the young men expanding their boundaries and taking risks, both emotionally and physically. These risks have unintended consequences the likes of which none of them expect, which of course lead to tragedy, love, and loss.

    Thanks to an Academy Award nominated screenplay by Tom Schulman and amazing directing by Peter Weir, the film captures the essences of education as it could be, should be, and every student wishes it were. The classroom is alive with learning, the students are engaged, and the teacher is rewarded with the knowledge that he's changed lives and opened minds. In fact, it was Dead Poets Society that made me want to teach. After all, if a teacher could do what John Keating does and not only educate, but inspire and motivate students, they could change the world. Thankfully, there are teachers like this out there, though they are no doubt few and far between.

    As for video and audio, Dead Poet Society feature solid transfers faithful to the original release. The 1080p video transfer is good looking, with its softer color palette carefully captured, edges sharp, and contrast defined. Likewise, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is - for its age - of good quality. Dialogue-heavy, the front speakers see the most work, with decent use of the surrounding speakers to add effects when necessary. Overall, both video and audio are at their finest here.

    Special features are better here than on Good Morning, Vietnam. This disc includes an audio commentary track with director Peter Weir, cinematographer John Seale, and writer Tom Schulman, each who comments on everything from the film's script and character dynamics to production design and casting. Detailed, well-paced, and educational, this is one audio track worth listening to for fans of the film. Likewise, a 27-minute featurette entitled "Dead Poets: A Look Back" - originally made for the 2006 DVD release - features cast members recollecting the creation of the film and the filmmakers. Two short featurettes - the 11-minute "Master of Sound: Alan Splet" and the 15-minute Cinematography Master Class - are also included. These both include filmmakers discussion contributions by specific members of the crew, including sound designer Alan Splet and cinematographer John Seale. Lastly, a single deleted scene 8 minutes in length (called "Raw Takes") and the film's theatrical trailer is also included.

    I'm biased, but Dead Poets Society is one of the best Robin Williams films made...and it's not really a Robin Williams movie considering he's a supporting actor. Emotionally engaging and intellectually entertaining, Dead Poets Society features an outstanding script, excellent acting, and a topic to which everyone can relate.

    Both Good Morning, Vietnam and Dead Poets Society are available now on blu-ray hi-def wherever fine home video are sold.

    - Jess C. Horsley
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    "Until next time...have FUN with your figures!!"

    Jess C. Horsley

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