Funnyman Robin Williams is likely best known to us Disney fans as the voice of Genie from “Aladdin.” But it’s really impossible to say Robin Williams is “best known” for anything at all, with decades of work spanning nearly all genres of filmmaking. But few can argue that the two of his movies that were released on Blu-ray for the first time yesterday, both Disney/Touchstone films, are among his best: “Good Morning Vietnam” and “Dead Poets Society.”
Good Morning Vietnam (1987)
Though “Good Morning Vietnam” is celebrating its 25th anniversary with the new Blu-ray release, the film feels much older when viewed, but not in a bad way. Set in the 1960s just before the Vietnam war fiasco fully escalated to its most intense period, the film stands up well, largely due to Robin Williams simply being Robin Williams. His role as (an embelleshed version of) real-life radio DJ Adrian Cronauer is not unlike roles he has played in many other films, “acting” as an outlandish, often manic comedian who defies all rules for the sake of the joke, but still retains a strong heart with good intentions. But this was one of Williams’ first times playing that role and even after two and a half decades, it still works. Most memorable in the film are scenes in which Williams is allowed to spew off stream-of-consciousness jokes about the war, celebrities, United States Presidents (and their daughters). But almost equally memorable are the dramatic scenes that bring the grim realities of what the Vietnam war was into what is otherwise a solid comedy.
It’s not a film that needs to be seen in high definition to enjoy, but it is more enjoyable on Blu-ray. Though the transfer suffers from some graininess, it can be excused for the film being a 25-year old comedy, not a 1990s summer effects-driven blockbuster. Unfortunately, despite the 25th anniversary banner across the top of the Blu-ray release, there are no 25th anniversary bonus features. A revisit with the cast of the film would have been nice, but instead limited bonus features are recycled from previous releases. The most major “making-of” featurette is included with no effort made in improving its poor video and audio quality. It’s an interesting piece, but particularly difficult to watch.
“Good Morning Vietnam” is now available on Blu-ray for purchase on Amazon.
Dead Poets Society (1989)
Like the title phrase from “Good Morning Vietnam,” the poetic line “O Captain! My Captain!” has come to remind many of the film “Dead Poets Society.” Since its 1989 release, the film has practically become required viewing for high school students, offering not only a bit of literary insight into poets of the past but also an inspirational message that everyone should indeed “seize the day” and live life to its fullest. Ineed, I first saw this film in a high school English class and while my teacher was not anything like Williams’ eccentric character (Does he play any other kind?) John Keating, he did embrace and pass on many of the same freedom-rich ideals, teaching more than what’s on the page of a text book. And though “Dead Poets Society” today is often overshadowed by the more recent, more dramatic, more emotional, and multiple Oscar-winning “Good Will Hunting,” it still serves as one of Williams’ finest performances.
As with the new release of “Good Morning Vietnam,” watching “Dead Poets Society” on Blu-ray is an enjoyable experience, but nothing particularly special. The transfer to HD looks good, but the whole package is totally lacking on new bonus features. Those that are included are enjoyable – and there are more than with “Vietnam” despite “Dead Poets” not celebrating an anniversary – but they are standard definition copies of older extras, again recycled from previous releases. They’re worth a watch, but are nowhere as good as the film itself.
“Dead Poets Society” is now available on Blu-ray for purchase on Amazon.