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  1. #1
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    A DVD REVIEW: STANLEY KUBRICK'S FULL METAL JACKET (Warner Brothers)

    "Your days of finger-banging old Mary Jane Rottencrotch through her pretty pink panties are OVER!!"
    -Lee Ermey, Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket


    After all the talk we had in the Stanley Kubrick thread below, it gave me inspiration to pull this disc off my shelf to re visit --- and it was one of the very first DVDs I ever bought I enjoy this film so much. Because we mentioned Oliver Stone's Platoon in that last thread, as well, I did a full review of the Special Edition of that disc, as well; and this whole thing just put me in a "Vietnam War Movie" mode.....and so it was Full Metal Jacket tonight, and probably Brian DePalma's Casualties of War to conclude tomorrow.

    And how different these three films about this one war are from each other.....each delivering a different vision based on Stone's, De Palma's and Kubrick's immaginations. When you watch them consecutively, it is amazing how different they are from each other, with the underlying theme, of course, of the brutalizing war tying them together. No matter how you try and get around it, there's no denying that just too many young American soldiers were killed in this war for apparently no reason.....and each film depicts this in its own way.

    Jay Scott of the Toronto Globe and Mail called Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket "The best war movie ever made." I dont know if I would go that far, because this can be debated until the Earth stops turning if you let it amongst war film afficionados, but is surely one of Kubrick's finest moments in the way he splits this picture up to make it feel as if it is actually two separate films we're watching during its nearly two hour running time. By the time the second half rolls around, we have almost forgotten about the awesome, over-the-top performance by ex-drill Sergeant Lee Ermey as he screams at his trainees during boot camp --- and it seems as if we have entered a totally different picture and plot. No doubt intentional on Kubrick's behalf.

    A brilliant opening sequence using the track "Hello Vietnam" in the background begins the film depicting Vietnam boot camp trainees having their hair shaved off, and rolling right into the drill sergeant sequences this film has become so famous for. Lee Ermey is absolutely BRILLIANT here, screaming obscenities at his troops-to-be and demoralizing them beyond belief with racial slurs and out-of-control accusations of homosexuality. To watch these sequences leaves you absolutely drained emotionally, especially if you have your sound system really cranked up like I did while watching this, allowing Ermey's BOOMING voice to come screaming at you with no let up for a second. All I keep thinking every time I watch Full Metal Jacket is how glad I was not to be where those boot camp trainees were at Paris Island.

    Matthew Modine plays "Private Joker," a name given to him by Ermey after he snickers out a wise crack while the drill sergeant is busy verbally lashing someone else across the room. His friendship to "Private Cowboy" (Arliss Howard) is the basis for the transition into the second half of the film; inbetween, the platoon is dealing with a horribly deficient trainee who probably never should have been sent to boot camp to begin with, "Private Gomer Pyle" (Vincent D'Onofrio). This overweight train wreck just cant seem to do anything right, even dress himself, let alone negotiate an obstacle course set forth by Ermey. Throughout the entire first run of the film, Ermey screams, shouts and morally degrades D'Onofrio's character to the point of breakdown in order to motivate him --- and it seems to work as suddenly, Private Pyle gets his ass in order and becomes an expert rifleman; but this transition wasnt easy. After finding a jelly donut in Pyle's footlocker, Ermey punishes the rest of the platoon for not giving Pyle the "proper motivation" which leads to the platoon taking turns one night beating Pyle in his sleep with bars of soap wrapped around their towels. From this point on, along with private coaching from Modine, Pyle seems as if he has turned around and become a soldier.....that is, until the last night on Paris Island before the platoon is shipped off for Vietnam. Drawing fire watch the last night, Modine goes into the head and catches Pyle sitting on a toilet with a loaded rifle in his hands --- a "Full Metal Jacket" as it is known. Pyle has finally snapped, after all the events during boot camp finally getting to him, and this was a very powerful statement by Kubrick through this scene. When Ermey busts into the head to scream at Modine and Pyle for being out of their bunks after lights out, Pyle fires his rifle right into the drill sergeant's chest, instantly killing him, right before blowing his own brains out of the back of his head.

    The next scene fades up from blackness, and now Full Metal Jacket suddenly becomes a different film altogether, showing the actual war and catching up with some of the characters we meet during boot camp such as Joker and Cowboy. Joker, now a reporter with Stars and Stripes, a military newspaper, seeks and finds his old friend Cowboy (Arliss) and begins hanging out with Arliss' platoon, immediately getting into a very funny scuffle with a war hungry crazy named "Animal Mother" (played by Adam Baldwin). The film definitely drags here a bit more than the insane, intense opening boot camp sequence, as we watch Modine, Arliss and the platoon try and get laid by some Vietmenese hooker on the back of a motorbike, Modine negotiate with another hooker in a short black mini skirt (the famous "Me So Horny" sequence) for getting "anything they want" for just 10 dollars (man.....when was it EVER that cheap?), and also watch the men battle a single sniper thats hiding in a building wiping out each member of the platoon, one by one. Sure, these scenes slow the film's pacing down from the mesmerizing beginning, but it cannot be denied that Full Metal Jacket even in its second act is a fascinating film with some fascinating, memorable, highly quotable dialogue.

    The very end leaves us a bit "wanting," as the men, after finding the sniper (who turned out to be a young girl) and Modine killing her (a "coming of age" for his Joker character) walk off across a firey field chanting the "Mickey Mouse" song as Modine narrates, as he does throughout some of the film. It seems like a rushed attempt at closing this picture by Kubrick, as if he wasnt sure which way he wanted to go with the material toward the end, but it does not take away from the overall presence this awesome war film has. Throughout the entire beginning and the first part of the second half, it was clear which direction Kubrick wanted to go with the material --- as if we are following him on this transition from boot camp to Vietnam.....but then the very end comes a bit abruptly after the men kill the sniper, making the film feel a bit --- just a bit --- incomplete at the end, and I always felt that way about Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket.

    This title, amongst other classics like A Clockwork Orange and The Shining, has been digitally remastered into a "Stanley Kubrick Collection" by Warner, but the discs are available separately. Unfortunately, this leaves you with that awful, cheap snapper case Warner loves to put their DVDs in; the front of the cheap carboard inlay box proclaims this title has been DIGITALLY RESTORED AND REMASTERED.

    VIDEO SPECIFICATIONS:
    NEW 2000 DIGITAL MASTER FROM RESTORED ELEMENTS, STANDARD FULL SCREEN TRANSFER

    Believe this or not --- and this is a fact --- unlike guys such as John Carpenter who demand shooting in a widescreen scope, Stanley Kubrick's scope of choice was the full screen format for his films, and so Warner gives him what he wanted with this digitally restored transfer of Full Metal Jacket. This is probably the best this film is ever going to look pre-high def, but its definitely not reference grade, still. There's a lot of video noise in darker scenes, and specifically towards the end, during the sniper sequence, the picture gets real grainy in spots. But, in general, a pleasant transfer from Warner, who WAS in fact working with restored elements for this DVD release. I can remember sitting through some pretty snowy-looking cable deliveries of this title, and it did look considerably better on this DVD than ever before. Still, dont expect anyone's panties to get that wet here from the video quality. The full screen transfer didnt really interfere with the experience in any way; it seemed like just about every character is in frame where Kubrick intended them to be --- even when the camera sweeps across the lines of men in the platoon as they do rifle drills.....it does not seem like a widescreen transfer, authorized or not, would have done wonders to opening this film's scope up.

    AUDIO SPECIFICATIONS:
    SOUNDTRACK NEWLY REMASTERED IN DOLBY DIGITAL 5.1, SUBTITLES IN ENGLISH, FRENCH, SPANISH AND PORTUGESE

    With one Dolby 5.1 mix onboard, the audio results were a bit cloudy; although Warner claims they were working with a "newly remastered soundtrack" on this disc (and they said the same thing on their Exorcist III DVD), the mix itself wont wow anyone any more than the video would; this is mainly a front-focused affair, to begin with, with nothing I was really able to detect in the surrounds. Many missed opportunities, much like on MGM's Platoon - Special Edition, for gunfire, explosions and ambience making it into the rear channels for a more immersive experience rear their heads here. A big problem with the track, aside from this surround issue, is the dialogue stem.....you can clearly hear where Warner attempted to clean or "pump up" this center channel delivery, as Lee Ermey's voice, once your processor is CRANKED, comes flying through the center channel at times very shrill and at times a bit distorted and muffled --- but for the most part its clean. Extra volume, though, increases the dialogue channel's chances of getting a bit shrill and rough sounding, ESPECIALLY when Ermey and the platoon troops are shouting at each other in the first half of the film. The quality of the speech comes and goes, too, clearly indicating (too obviously) that work was done in remastering the track.

    Overall, the volume power of the mix isnt that high, as Warner could have pumped up the dB headroom here a little as they were remixing if this was possible; another title, sorry to say, that you're gonna have to crank up to get anything out of. There were brief moments of LFE which shook my walls --- NOTHING like a modern DTS or Dolby bass drop --- but the booms did complement the scenes nicely, such as land mines blowing up or tanks firing their massive cannons into buildings, which were accompanied by brief burps of LFE. But I found myself raising the master volume of my receiver considerably from the start of the disc, as the ONLY way to enjoy the sequences with Ermey and his boot camp soldiers is when his voice is downright BOOMING and filling your room for full impact of the scenes, yet then trimming the volume knob back a notch or two just to "cap off" some roughness this track can display during INTENSE dialogue scenes with a lot of yelling, or when explosions begin to rip across the speakers --- without care, this can cause some system distortion if you dont trim your volume back just a tad bit because the track can exhibit some dated characteristics even with Warner's so-called re-prepared audio elements for this DVD.

    But there is a distinct lack of surround activity here, so dont go into Full Metal Jacket expecting Pearl Harbor audio-wise; I didnt even detect a rare helicopter or two --- a staple in Vietnam cinema --- make it into the rear channels. They're there (the surround channels, that is), for sure, for support --- but I couldnt make out WHERE exactly they were for that support because it was so weak. This is mainly a front-heavy Dolby soundtrack; but perhaps this is most efficiently fitting because the greatest part of this motion picture, hands down, is Lee Ermey's performance as the drill instructor in the beginning, and if you can get past the rather "edgy," almost-shrill characteristic of the dialogue channel, crank this one up and let Sergeant Hartman fill you living room.

    Only a theatrical trailer rounded off this disc.
    Last edited by Lexmark3200; 07-26-2005 at 11:21 PM.

  2. #2
    Forum Regular paul_pci's Avatar
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    Great review, although I suspect I like the movie more than you do. You gotta do Good Morning Vietnam. Believe it or not, that movie covers more of the various issues emerging out of that war than does Platoon; viewers simply miss that fact as they become increasingly infatuated with Robin Wililams subversive humor.

  3. #3
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    Full Metal Jacket is my 3rd favorite war movie behind Saving Private Ryan and Pearl Harbour...

    I do like Apocalypse Now, but that just got too freakin' weird at the end for me to really consider it a war movie.

    I suspect someday they'll remaster this classic and it'll get the treatment it deserves. I'm not a big Kubrick fan at all, but I really liked this movie.

    (just kidding about Pearl Harbour).

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by paul_pci
    Great review, although I suspect I like the movie more than you do. You gotta do Good Morning Vietnam. Believe it or not, that movie covers more of the various issues emerging out of that war than does Platoon; viewers simply miss that fact as they become increasingly infatuated with Robin Wililams subversive humor.
    Thanks for the kind words on the review, Paul! Glad you liked it and thank you for reading it! However, dont make any mistake about it.....and dont suspect otherwise.....I am a HUGE Full Metal Jacket fan!! What lead you to believe you liked it better?

    While I dont have GOOD MORNING VIETNAM in my personal collection, I shall rent it when I get the chance and overview it fo you.

    Thank you, sir.

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    "Full Metal Jacket is my 3rd favorite war movie behind Saving Private Ryan"

    While Im going to "GULP" ignore your statement about Pearl Harbor being a "favorite war movie" (LOL----Im kidding; I know you admitted to joking about this below), yes, Saving Private Ryan, in the GENERAL SCOPE of war films, was great.....I was referring to the most "popular" Vietnam-oriented films, not just war in general, but you do make a good point.....SAVING PRIVATE RYAN was a great Spielberg war film that could definitely drag in certain spots, but the DTS DVD I have is simply HOUSE BREAKING.....that opening Omaha Beach sequence in DTS is probably the best example of what five speakers and a subwoofer can do......damn it, now you are gonna make me take THAT off the shelf to watch and review!!!!! LOL. I welcome it though.

    "I suspect someday they'll remaster this classic and it'll get the treatment it deserves. I'm not a big Kubrick fan at all, but I really liked this movie."

    Well, Warner has "claimed" to have remastered this already, working with "RESTORED DIGITAL ELEMENTS," but the results were a mixed bag; in all fairness, this is PROBABLY the best this film will look pre-high definition. The sound is another thing; with little surround usage and a not-so-great center channel presentation which introduces distortion and some uneveness in quality, perhaps some more work could have been done on this Dolby track.....although, again, Warner is probably working with damaged mono stems of this film to begin with and it was the best they could do to restore it. Im always very hard on these studios, audio-wise, so you cant always go by my passionate desire for "stellar surround usage" as its sometimes inplausable.

  6. #6
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    I am a huge fan of Full Metal Jacket. Platoon is good, Saving Private Ryan was too.

    Apocalypse Now was amazing, but it is so psycological, it's almost in a different movie catagory. I know war is very psycoloical, but I consider a war movie to be a movie about war, with some of the psycological effects of it as part of what's going on. Apocalypse Now is move of a psycological movie with a war going on in the background, if that makes any sense. That may well be what war is like from the inside, thank goodness I've never found out, but it seems different than what I'd really consider a war movie.

    But if it would be allowed into any film discussion, Band of Brothers would probably be the best. It did have an advantage, having over 10 hours to cover such a complicated subject, but damn, they did it right.

  7. #7
    RGA
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    One shuld also see the other two films in Stone's Vietnam Trilogy: Heaven and Earth (reminiscent of the stage play Miss Saigon) and Born on the Fourth of July (Cruise's best perfmance and his best film).

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    Quote Originally Posted by RGA
    One shuld also see the other two films in Stone's Vietnam Trilogy: Heaven and Earth (reminiscent of the stage play Miss Saigon) and Born on the Fourth of July (Cruise's best perfmance and his best film).
    Indeed Born on the Fourth was monumental, but as good as a performance Cruise did in it, I dont think was his best; believe it or not, I liked him, personally, better in War of the Worlds and A Few Good Men.

  9. #9
    ride a jet ski Tarheel_'s Avatar
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    my link to this movie

    Quote Originally Posted by Lexmark3200
    Indeed Born on the Fourth was monumental, but as good as a performance Cruise did in it, I dont think was his best; believe it or not, I liked him, personally, better in War of the Worlds and A Few Good Men.
    enjoyed your review Lex...

    DVD:
    I love war flicks so i had the 1st issue DVD and watched it many times. I just recently purchased the one you reviewed 'remastered' copy and found this....

    the video is much improved...example, when in boot camp and they are running and singing cadances...you see sun marks/reflections off the camera lens in lower screen...again the sun shows it stuff in a few other scenes (can't remember those). Overall, nice improvement.
    the audio, well i can't hear much difference. Defintely not the loudest war film, but has enought oooph to convey the mood.

    Personal:
    now, my reason for loving this movie. It's by far the closest movie every made to real-life boot camp. They don't drop racial slurs or hit you, but the mental abuse is severe enough to rid the weak.
    If you've never been through boot camp, this is a great way to experience it. Not all boot camps are alike...supply clerks get a free ride, but some get the full treatment. I speak from experience. I joined the Army in 87 and went to Military Police boot camp/school. Seargent Hartman was very much like my two Drills. Tough SOBs. We had 4 attempt suicide, handfull of others just quit, but in the end they mold great soldiers....have to...imagine an 18 year old carrying a loaded .45 (now its a 9mm) with a badge. You better make sure they are mentally tough.

    I could keep going, but it is important to understand the FMJ boot camp scene is not far from today's camp.

  10. #10
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    "enjoyed your review Lex..."

    Thank you very much for taking the time to read it and respond, Tar.

    "DVD:
    I love war flicks so i had the 1st issue DVD and watched it many times. I just recently purchased the one you reviewed 'remastered' copy and found this....

    the video is much improved...example, when in boot camp and they are running and singing cadances...you see sun marks/reflections off the camera lens in lower screen...again the sun shows it stuff in a few other scenes (can't remember those). Overall, nice improvement."

    I did not have a copy of the first release from Warner Brothers to go off of for comparison, but aside from that grainy part at the end when they're looking for the sniper, the print looked pretty clean in preferred full screen version (well, prefered for Kubrick).

    "the audio, well i can't hear much difference. Defintely not the loudest war film, but has enought oooph to convey the mood."

    From what I understand, this "reworked" Dolby Digital 5.1 mix was not that reworked much at all; and the results were obvious because there are dialogue quality shifts that became apparent to MY particular ears during certain points of Hartman's bombarding rhetoric at the troops.....but, since this film, before the second part begins, is maninly dialogue, I suppose the sort of front-heavy presence of the mix was appropriate.

    "Personal:
    now, my reason for loving this movie. It's by far the closest movie every made to real-life boot camp. They don't drop racial slurs or hit you, but the mental abuse is severe enough to rid the weak.
    If you've never been through boot camp, this is a great way to experience it. Not all boot camps are alike...supply clerks get a free ride, but some get the full treatment. I speak from experience. I joined the Army in 87 and went to Military Police boot camp/school. Seargent Hartman was very much like my two Drills. Tough SOBs. We had 4 attempt suicide, handfull of others just quit, but in the end they mold great soldiers....have to...imagine an 18 year old carrying a loaded .45 (now its a 9mm) with a badge. You better make sure they are mentally tough.

    I could keep going, but it is important to understand the FMJ boot camp scene is not far from today's camp."


    Interesting.....didnt know this......

  11. #11
    ride a jet ski Tarheel_'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lexmark3200

    I could keep going, but it is important to understand the FMJ boot camp scene is not far from today's camp."


    Interesting.....didnt know this......
    The opening scene in FMJ is known as 'shock treatment' every boot camp begins with this process. The aim is to intimidate, confuse and well, shock the new recruits by overwhelming them. Today, there would be around 8 Hartmans so they can have a better ratio. This technique is very effective.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tarheel_
    The opening scene in FMJ is known as 'shock treatment' every boot camp begins with this process. The aim is to intimidate, confuse and well, shock the new recruits by overwhelming them. Today, there would be around 8 Hartmans so they can have a better ratio. This technique is very effective.
    Of course, this would seem logical; thanks for the info.

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