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Good Morning, Vietnam(1987)
A new Disc Jockey is shipped from Crete to Vietnam to bring humor to Armed Forces Radio. He turns the studio on it's ear and becomes wildly popular with the troops but runs afoul of the middle management who think he isn't G.I. enough. While he is off the air, he tries to meet Vietnamese especially girls, and begins to have brushes with the real war that never appears on the radio.
For more about Good Morning, Vietnam and the Good Morning, Vietnam Blu-ray release, see Good Morning, Vietnam Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on January 13, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Robin Williams, Forest Whitaker, Tung Thanh Tran, J.T. Walsh, Bruno Kirby, Robert Wuhl
Director: Barry Levinson
» See full cast & crew
Good Morning, Vietnam Blu-ray Review
A less-than-stellar video transfer knocks this anticipated classic release down a notch...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, January 13, 2012
If Dead Poets Society is Robin Williams: Reigned In and Restrained, Good Morning, Vietnam is Robin Williams: Uncorked and Relentless. Director Barry Levinson doesn't seem to mind one bit either, setting up shop and granting the manic fringe-comedian-turned-bankable-actor free run of the place. Williams' non-stop antics, hyperkinetic screen presence and verbal diarrhea are as divisive as ever -- even occasionally detrimental -- but in many ways they work. It isn't difficult to see how a man like Williams' Adrian Cronauer could endear himself to the Vietnam War's jungle-weary troops and so enrage his direct superiors. It isn't hard to feel some measure of affection for a mildly rebellious but good-natured wartime disc jockey who feels tremendous loyalty to his fellow soldiers, grows fond of the Vietnamese locals, bucks the system in the name of truth, and learns a few hard lessons in life, survival and propaganda. It doesn't even require much suspension of disbelief to buy into most of Cronauer's trials and tribulations. If only an ounce of it were true...
When asked how much of Good Morning, Vietnam is based on his life and experiences, the real Adrian Cronauer is fond of saying, "well, I was a DJ in Vietnam," scratching his head, pausing awkwardly and shrugging his best "that's it" shoulders with a wry grin. Films based on true stories are notorious for bending, stretching and outright obliterating the facts, so that, in and of itself, isn't reason really a good reason to criticize Good Morning, Vietnam. A problem arises, though, when you then examine the film as a work of fiction and realize it's sometimes little more than a rather indulgent Robin Williams vehicle (at least for the better part of an hour). Williams' performance is quite impressive, particularly when he sheds his go-to schtick and wades into more satisfying dramatic waters, but early on Levinson makes the mistake of letting the lightning-quick funnyman dominate his scenes too much. When Cronauer first steps off the plane, he's already talking a mile a minute, doing his best to entertain his appointed chauffeur, Private First Class Edward Montesquieu Garlick (Forest Whitaker). It intensifies when he meets his fellow DJs, bubbles to the surface and gets snarky when dealing with the Armed Forces Radio Service commanding officer (J.T. Walsh), and erupts when he all but hijacks an English class packed with bemused Saigon residents. So when Cronauer sits down at the mic, his routine isn't an explosion of comedy or a burst of brilliance; it's just more of the same. Had Cronauer been an introvert -- or even a more low-key everyman -- who came to life on the radio, Good Morning, Vietnam would be a far more interesting, far more powerful dramatic comedy.
Instead, it's an admittedly funny, at-times moving, ultimately effective three-note riot that gives Williams plenty of opportunity to shine as a master of improvisation but shuffles his best work to the second and third acts. It lurches every now and then when it should cruise along; it slams on the breaks, getting too serious, too suddenly, and leaves most of Williams' supporting castmates basking in his shadow. (The exception being Bruno Kirby, who kills as a slimy Second Lieutenant with a Napoleon complex.) Williams' most devoted followers won't balk for a second, of course. His patented mach-three wit, schizophrenic voices and delirious impressions, after all, are precisely what many of his biggest fans adore about the man, and I get the appeal. Williams is a comedic genius; perhaps one of the most multi-talented of his kind, and certainly of his generation. But his mania and hysterics can really start to wear thin, especially in a film like Good Morning, Vietnam where so many fascinating things are happening; fascinating things that are initially shortchanged when Levinson lets him off the chain. The latter half of the film, beginning with Cronauer's temporary suspension and climaxing with his impromptu street performance for a group of soliders, is much stronger than the first half. Williams casts off his more dizzying diversions while Levinson and screenwriter Mitch Markowitz focus on meatier stuff: Cronauer's relationship with a young Vietnamese woman (Chintara Sukapatana), his friendship with her brother (Tung Thanh Tran), the culmination of the conflict over censored news stories, his exile and ensuing turmoil, and the emergence of the film's somewhat preachy yet all-too-resonant message. And, no, it isn't just "war is bad." The soundtrack is exceptional throughout as well, setting a pitch-perfect tone for every scene and channeling the full emotional breadth of what an average grunt would have felt listening to a radio program during the Vietnam War.
Don't let any of my grumbling mislead you, though. I still enjoy Good Morning, Vietnam quite a bit... I just breathe a sigh of relief every time it reaches the hour mark and becomes a more memorable film. It isn't my favorite, it isn't the first thing I'd throw in my Blu-ray player if I needed a laugh, and it isn't one I tend to revisit very often. Comedy is so dependent on a personal connection to the material and a love of one particular style that you simply can't cram any one film into any one category. Some will declare Good Morning, Vietnam to be one of Williams' best. Others will add it to their collection without hanging on its every joke and dramatic twist and turn. Still others will avoid it altogether, shaking their heads and wondering why so many filmfans are willing to pay good money to see a grown man bounce off the walls. And that speaks more to the enduring appeal and legacy of Good Morning, Vietnam than anything else. How many comedies have come and gone? How many have been completely forgotten? How many have been deemed unworthy of a 25th Anniversary release? How many are better left in the past? How many have so little to say? Levinson's Vietnam-era genre pic continues to withstand the test of time and attract newcomers to its fold. Most importantly, it isn't a typical war film. It examines aspects of the Vietnam conflict other more notable classics have overlooked or ignored, chief among them the plight and struggles of a South Vietnamese people who found themselves playing host to hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers; a seemingly overnight development that resulted in incredible social and political upheaval. Could Good Morning, Vietnam be a more compelling film? Without a doubt. But only for some of us. In changing the fabric of the film, others who count it among their must-have comedies would be left wanting. Comedy's a fickle beast, but that's what makes discovering a new flick or revisiting a twenty-five-year old favorite so exciting.
Good Morning, Vietnam Blu-ray, Video Quality
Unlike Dead Poets Society, Good Morning, Vietnam has been scrubbed and buffed for its Blu-ray debut. It isn't the worst use of noise reduction I've seen, far from it, but it is obvious on more than one occasion and quashes its fair share of fine textures. (Tragically, Dead Poets Society will probably draw more criticism from casual viewers simply because it's a softer film and its transfer is extremely faithful to John Seale's original photography.) To combat the side effects of Vietnam's DNR, edge enhancement has also been added to the mix, making the image sometimes appear sharper than its Dead Poets counterpart but introducing some minor ringing, faint edge halos and intermittent aliasing. Still, don't let all that paint too grim a picture. Disney's 1080p/AVC-encoded video presentation, while overworked and over-preened, still bests its DVD predecessor and, all things considered, doesn't look too bad. Closeups haven't been affected too drastically, waxiness isn't a prevailing problem, a variety of decently resolved textures have survived the assault, and edges are commendable and, for the most part, consistent. Meanwhile, color and contrast are striking (albeit somewhat dark and heavy), with an array of bold jungle greens, rich primaries, inky blacks, sun-baked earthtones and well-saturated skintones on display. Shadow detail and delineation are sound as well, as is the impact of the image at first glance. As it stands, some viewers will quip, "DNR? What DNR? It looks great to me." Meaning a small but vocal minority will be the only voice asking for a more filmic transfer. I strongly suspect the master that was used here has been in the can for some time, so hopefully the studio will start from scratch when Vietnam's 30th anniversary is on the horizon.
Good Morning, Vietnam Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Disney's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track isn't going to wow anyone either, but not because anything is particularly wrong with the mix. While the jungles of Vietnam and the bustling cityscape of Saigon present countless sonic opportunities, Good Morning, Vietnam suffers with a front-heavy soundfield and several prioritization mishaps. None of it is too debilitating or disappointing, mind you, especially considering the age of the film and the nature of its original sound design. But it also doesn't draw in the listener or fill the stage as assertively as it could. LFE output is adequate but a touch one-note, the rear speakers are active but underwhelming, and directionality is rather lifeless, offering only superficial movement and ordinary channel pans. Thankfully, dialogue remains clear and intelligible throughout, and Levinson's selection of Vietnam-era rock-n-roll saves the day. From the Beach Boys' "I Get Around" to James Brown's "I Feel Good" to Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World," the classic music is easily the highlight of the track and roars to life every time it's deployed.
Good Morning, Vietnam Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Good Morning, Vietnam Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Good Morning, Vietnam isn't a perfect film, nor does it ever break free of its own star's gravitational pull. But when it's funny, it's really funny. When it throws an emotional punch, it really throws a punch. When it lands a hit, it... well, you get the idea. If it were only a more consistent, less indulgent comedy, drama or dramedy, it might resonate with me more. As it stands, though, it's a bit all over the map. Disney's Blu-ray release isn't consistent either. With an iffy video transfer, a decent DTS-HD Master Audio track, and just fifty-minutes of extras, it has its moments but never seals the deal. If you're a diehard Robin Williams fan, this one will be an easy decision, flaws or no. But if you have plenty of other movies on your wish list, you might want to wait for Vietnam's price to drop before adding it to your cart.
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Good Morning, Vietnam Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Exclusive Giveaway: Dead Poets Society, Good Morning Vietnam - January 9, 2012
Blu-ray.com and Walt Disney Home Entertainment are offering six Blu-ray.com members the opportunity to win one of two Robin Williams classics: Dead Poets Society or Good Morning, Vietnam. Both catalog titles arrive on Blu-ray on January 17th.
• Dead Poets Society and Good Morning, Vietnam Heading to Blu-ray - October 15, 2011
Disney has officially announced that it will release on Blu-ray Barry Levinson's Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), starring Robin Williams, Forest Whitaker, and Tung Thanh Tran, and Peter Weir's Dead Poets Society (1989), starring Robin Williams, Ethan Hawke, Robert ...
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