For those of a certain generation, the mere mention of Dead Poets Society might bring comments such as, "O Captain, my captain," "Carpe diem" or "so good, I bawled my eyes out." It's a story that follows a small group of boys in a New England preparatory school in the 1950s. Most are in their last year and are on a path they have not chosen for themselves. With the new year, a new teacher arrives, Mr Keating (Robin Williams), who encourages the boys to think differently and to "seize the day." Each boy interprets the sentiment in their own way and are forever changed.
Watching this 1989 Best Picture nominee, it's a look back in time at a cast of young actors in their first big film, who are now much more familiar. Among them are Ethan Hawke (Daybreakers, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, Training Day), Josh Charles (S.W.A.T., Will Gardner on CBS' The Good Wife) and Robert Sean Leonard (Dr James Wilson on Fox's House M.D.). Of course there's also Robin Williams, who was nominated for another Best Actor Oscar.
Even though the film as marketed as a Robin Williams film, it's really about all the boys. This is a story about them, not their teacher. In watching the bonus feature, "Dead Poets Society: A Look Back," each of the boys helped shape the film by giving their feedback as to how they, as a boy, would respond to the situations in the scene. Director Peter Weir listened to them and by taking their suggestions, the film has a honest and vulnerable tone.
The transfer to Blu-ray is a nice upgrade from DVD without being to distracting. Sometimes an older film looks odd when it's too clear, and this one has just enough clarity because there isn't a lot of background action, it mostly focuses on the actors in the scene.
There is a tribute bonus feature entitled, "Master of Sound: Alan Splet" in which director Peter Weir and David Lynch speak about their experiences with sound designer/editor Alan Splet. Although I has great respect for Alan Splet, these interviews were very boring and gave virtually no insight into the film.
The best bonus feature is "Cinematography Master Class" which is a fascinating look into how cinematographer John Seale prepared the scenes in the bedroom of Todd and Neil. There are lots of technical words and concepts, but overall, anyone with any interest in film will find it andimmensely enjoyable and eye-opening look into how to light a set.
We should all be so lucky as to have someone that inspires us at a young age but the one of the next best things it is a film that does so. The film can be enjoyed by any generation as it deals with universal themes and will continue to inspire the young and old for years to come.
Dead Poets Society Rated: PG Theatrical release - 1989, Blu-ray January 17th, 2012 Directed by: Peter Weir Written by: Tom Schulman Featuring: Robin Williams, Robert Sean Leonard and Ethan Hawke Plot: English professor John Keating inspires his students to a love of poetry and to seize the day.
Robin Williams was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in the #4 ranked film of 1987, Good Morning, Vietnam, losing to Michael Douglas in Fatal Attraction. It's hard to believe it's been 25 years since the film's release, and watching the Bluray, you'd think it was last year. Set in Siagon in 1965, the film is a time capsule and holds up incredibly well in both humor and location.
The film is based on a real DJ, Adrian Cronauer, who started the infamous "Good morning, Vietnam!" sign-on and played popular music to the servicemen struggling with culture shock in the early years of the Vietnam conflict. Writer Mitch Markowitz took the concept and shaped it into a story of a DJ struggling with censorship, friendship and comedy. Director Barry Levinson gave Robin Williams freedom to improvise and the result it an incredibly funny but brutal look at life in Saigon.
Both the strength and weakness of the film is it's comedy. Robin Williams is intoxicating and everything he says is funny. Without Willams, the film would be overshadowed by the depressing situations and be lost. What is great about the film is the relationships that Cronauer has with the Vietnamese people, but just when that gets going, the film makes a turn and loses momentum.
The comedy is hilarious, as mentioned, but it is also very dated, so anyone not familiar with the 1960s will not get a lot of the jokes. I saw this film when it was released on VHS in the early 90s, and even though I was young, I knew of the era from all the older movies and history that my parents had told me about. I was familiar with the music and so I loved the soundtrack as well.
Bluray makes everything better, and with this film, it's no exception. Especially being of a period, the film is crisp and the colors are amazing. Note: watch with subtitles. It really helps in lots of scenes, especially with the Vietnamese people, as they do not speak English very well. It's also helpful when Adrian is on air, as sometimes he speaks really fast.
Included in the Bluray edition are the Theatrical Trailer and the Theatrical Teaser Trailer. It's always fun to watch these because of how times have changed in how trailers are cut. I really liked these trailers because only a few of the jokes were show and some things were cut completely out of order, so as it would not take away from the complete viewing of the film.
The five bonus features are basically just one feature cut into five segments. It's a retropective with comments from director, Barry Levinson, writer, Mitch Markowitz, producers, Larry Brezner and Mark Johnson, and actors Bruno Kirby and Robert Wuhl. It lasts around 30 minutes and provides interesting insight into the production of the film including stories from the actual Adrian Cronaur who talks about his experiences. Also included are the raw monologues from Robin Williams and the many takes for the on-air scenes.
Good Morning, Vietnam Rated: R Theatrical release - 1987, Blu-ray January 17th, 2012 Directed by: Barry Levinson Written by: Mitch Markowitz Featuring: Robin Williams, Forest Whitaker and Tung Thanh Tran Plot: An unorthodox and irreverent DJ begins to shake up things when he is assigned to the US Armed Services Radio station in Vietnam.