This DVD review was my first real introduction to Good Morning Vietnam. Now having seen this film, I can understand the strong following and many opinions that surround this film. It’s a film that, despite its first-glance resemblance to a “comedy”, cannot be categorized so simplistically. It’s irreverent, and makes no apologies to any group which falls victim to its satire. However, Good Morning Vietnam breaks rank with other uni-dimensional comedies in that it displays an extraordinary degree of respect for many of the institutions that it, on the surface, seems to ridicule. For instance, the film doesn’t promote the knee-jerk “the military is stupid and bad” theme ubiquitously cliché in Hollywood anti-war depictions. Rather, it points to individuals and specific abuses of power within such organizations as the problem to be exposed and addressed. Also, in addition to portraying “good” military persons along side the bad, the film is remarkably sensitive to the plight of the solider who is both victim and aggressor in place and time where enemy, ally, and purpose were often unclear.
The film is entertaining enough to please the popcorn munching wants-to-laugh spectator while at the same time layered enough to satisfy the introspective viewer. Like most “good” comedies, Good Morning Vietnam has a solid structure extending below the surface—something like vanilla icing spread over a cake made from scratch versus the usual out-of-the-box “fluff” of Hollywood entertainment. The montage of imagery accompanying Louis Armstrong’s “Wonderful World” is poignant and powerful, and is a moment where the film steps out of its comical robes and confidently reveals its substance of sincerity.
And without question, Good Morning Vietnam is the perfect vehicle for Robin Williams. The director gives him free license to spontaneously ad-lib when it serves the film. His personal momentum never feels forced or contrived in this film…the character of “Adrian” (loosely based on a real-life D.J.) is a perfect fit for Williams.
I’m sure that many of you have lots more to say about Good Morning Vietnam, and I look forward to your comments in this thread.
Quick Summary for speed-readers: 16x9 and basically nice but it’s pretty soft for wide-angle viewers (but probably will look fine for standard viewers).
Both this title and Dead Poets Society are being remastered and released in tandem on DVD in special edition form. Both DVDs have an uncannily similar video signature and it looks to my eyes that both film-to-digital transfers were performed and color timed in the same studio, by the same technician, and downconverted/compressed by the same engineer. They both exhibit the same softness and lack of fine image detail, same generally warm color palette, and same restricted dynamic-range/contrast. It’s entirely possible that many of these characteristics (such as color temperature) are representative of the film-source elements. But I’m less convinced that this is the case with the picture softness, and the fact that these two separate films being released together both have this same characteristic makes me suspect that the softness is a result of electronic processing.
Color seems good…a tad muted with a warm cast that feels “right” for the film (never saw this print projected but I’m assuming the color is representative of the source). Contrast isn’t as dynamic as in modern eye-candy productions, which leaves an image that doesn’t quite have the punch and 3-dimnesional depth of reference DVDs, but the look of the projected DVD is convincingly “film like” in-so-far as the contrast is concerned, and I’ve seen many projected 35mm prints that looked much flatter than this in the theater. Fine film-grain is visible at times which (like I mentioned in my Dead Poets Review) implies that the image softness is a function of flat HF filtering and not due to excessive DNR processing (the image also lacks the nasty “crawlies” in moving backgrounds from typical DNR). Compression also seems well handled and, thankfully, I no noticed no instances of obvious ringing from edge enhancement…at least nothing that stood out enough to distract me when viewing from my 1.6 screen-width viewing distance.
To put things in perspective, the image quality of this DVD is “good” overall except for the lack of fine picture detail. I’d imagine that viewers who watch their displays from 1.75:1 screen-widths or less might find the lack of detail to be a frustration, while (typical) viewers who watch from more than 2 screen-widths won’t see anything objectionable.
The image is also properly letterboxed to preserve the 1.85:1 OAR aspect ratio in the 16x9 (1.77:1) frame, though this mild letterboxing will only be seen by 16x9 viewers who have monitors/displays optimized for minimal overscan.
Picture Quality: 3.5 / 5
In the past I think I've been too ambiguous with my scoring or at least haven't applied it consistently from title to title, so I've endeavored to define my rating system more clearly to help make the scoring more meaningful (for all titles reviewed December 2004 and later):
|1-2||An absolute abomination. Hurts to watch. Think "Outland" (scan-line aliasing, chroma noise, dotcrawl)-- truly horrid.|
|2-3||Has some serious problems, but one can at least watch it without getting a headache despite all the problems though you might try to talk your guests into picking a different movie to watch if you have a large projection screen. Think Cold Mountain.|
|3-4||Good or at least "acceptable" on a big-screen, but not winning any awards and definitely room for improvement if you view the image wide-angle (though smaller-screen viewers may be quite content). Think the first extended cut of Fellowship of the Ring...decent picture but still some HF filtering and some edge-halos.|
|4-5||A reference picture that really makes the most of the DVD medium and shows extraordinary transparency to the film-source elements. Non-videophile observers can't help but remark "WOW". Think The Empire Strikes Back, The Fifth Element Superbit, or the new Toy Story 10th Anniversary Edition.|
Currently running DVDs on my OPPO DVD player (Faroudja deinterlacing) which scales to 720P, feeding my BenQ 8700+ PJ via DVI, projecting onto a 106” 16x9 Dalite HiPower screen, viewed from approximately 1.6 screen-widths distance. Well mastered DVDs produce a stunningly film-like image in this scenario, and lesser-mastered material quickly shows its flaws.
It is what it is. The “5.1” notation on the packaging and lighting up on your receiver LED is really a polite way of saying “fat mono”. If you’re not looking for a head-spinning multi-channel experience, you’ll be fine. Dynamic range is generally restricted except (thankfully) during musical overlays where the rock-n-roll songs come through in full color. Dialogue is intelligible and low-level detail remains in tact, though (again given the basically mono character of the mix) there is little soundstage depth other than during music-overlay sequences, which actually causes them to stand-out dramatically which may be part of a larger artistic intent of the recording/mixing engineer. In any case, the audio presentation on this DVD sounds like it’s doing little to get in the way of the original sound, so rest assured that what you’re hearing is what you’re supposed to hear.
Sound Quality: 3.5 / 5
- [*][b]Production Diary:4x3 1.33:1, 34:40 minutes. This excellent featurette is subdivided into 6 parts that can either be accessed directly or watched in sequence using a “play all” option.
- [*]How the movie came to be[*]Actor Improv[*]Music of the movie[*]Origin of the ‘Good Morning Vietnam’ sign-on[*]Shooting in Thailand[*]Overview of the film a year later[/list]
Many of the case and many of the creative team are featured here and do a fine job of covering a range of material of interest to casual viewers and ardent fans alike. You’ll even get to meet the “real” Good Morning Vietnam D.J. upon whom the film is loosely based. If you enjoyed the movie enough to watch it then you owe it to yourself to this documentary. My only complaint is the lack of 16x9 aspect ratio…given Disney’s position of supporting Blu-ray because it has all that space for “high definition bonus material” you’d think we’d get at least the occasional 16x9 downconverted bonus item on SD-DVD. I sure hope someone over in the “extras” department there has a bit of foresight to start shooting these extras in HD. Small quibble but I know that lots of you feel the same way and I hope that the Mouse gets the 16x9-bonus-material-clue.
[*][b]Raw Takes:4x3 1.33:1, 2.0 DD (mono), 13 minutes. Watch Robin Williams in a stream of improv-consciousness as he plays D.J. The man is truly talented. How does he do it? (supposedly HOURS of such improve material exists for this film…would be nice to see more!)
[*][b]Original Theatrical Trailer:4x3 1.33:1, 2.0 DD (mono), 2:30 minutes. Here it is. Not sure if it’s open matte or P/S, but at least you’ve got it. Is it just me or has Disney been getting it together lately by providing movie trailers as a matter of course? Good job Disney.
[*][b]Original Theatrical Teaser-Trailer: 4x3 1.33:1, 2.0 DD (mono), 1:30 minutes. Similar to the “raw take” bonus feature actually…this teaser trailer showcases Robin Williams behind the mic doing one of his Good Morning-Vietnam routines and he’s in perfect form. Check this out for his striking performance if you’re not interested in it for the “Teaser Trailer” aspect alone.[/list]
Great movie. Soft picture for wide-angle viewers. Adequate (but faithful to the source) sound. Decent extras. You do the math…
Your comments, as always are welcome.