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272 of 287 people found the following review helpful
on September 3, 2001
"I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours." (Henry David Thoreau, "Walden.")

Hands up folks, how many of us discovered Thoreau after having watched this movie? *Really* discovered I mean, regardless whether you had known he'd existed before. How many believe they know what Thoreau was talking about in that passage about "sucking the marrow out of life" cited in the movie, even if you didn't spend the next 2+ years of your life living in a self-constructed cabin on a pond in the woods? How many bought a copy of Whitman's poems ... whatever collection? (And maybe even read more than "Oh Captain! My Captain!"?) How many went on to read Emerson? Frost? Or John Keats, on whose personality Robin Williams's John Keating is probably losely based? Judging by the vast majority of the reviews on this site alone, you just can't fail to notice that this movie has a powerful appeal like few others; "inspirational" is probably the most frequently used word in the opinions represented here. And justifiedly so, despite the fact that charismatic Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonard), one of the movie's main characters, tragically falters in the pursuit of his dreams, in the wake of apparent triumph. Because although Neil's story is one of failure, ultimately this movie is a celebration of the triumph of free will, independent thinking and the growth of personality; embodied in its closing scene.

Of course, lofty goals such as these are not easily achieved. Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke) in particular, the last scene's triumphant hero, is literally pushed to the edge of reason before he learns to overcome his inhibitions. And Thoreau said in "Walden:" "If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; That is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." Anyone who takes this movie's message to heart (and Thoreau's, and Whitman's, and Emerson's, Frost's and Keats's) knows that success too easily won is often no success at all, and most of our truly important accomplishments are based on focus, tenacity and hard work as much as on anything else. And prudence, too ... dashing Charlie Dalton (Gale Hansen) pays a high price for his spur-of-the-moment challenges of authority; although of course you just gotta love him for refusing to sign Keating's indictment. "Carpe diem" - live life to its fullest, but always know what you are doing, too.

You won't enjoy this movie if you are afraid of letting your mind and your feelings run free. Shot on the magnificent location of Delaware's St. Andrews Academy, "Dead Poets' Society" is visually stunning, particularly in its depiction of the amazingly beautiful scenery (where the progression of the seasons mirrors the progression of the movie's story line), and it is as emotionally engaging as it invites you to mentally reexamine your position in life. Robin Williams delivers another Academy Award-worthy performance (he was nominated but unfortunately didn't win). Of course, Robin Williams will to a certain extent always be Robin Williams ... "Aladdin's" Genie, "Good Morning Vietnam's" Adrian Cronauer and "Good Will Hunting's" Professor McGuire (the 1997 role which would finally earn him his long overdue Oscar) all shimmer through in his portrayal of John Keating; and if you've ever seen him give an interview you know that the man can go from hilarious and irreverent to deeply reflective in a split second even when it's not a movie camera that's rolling. Yet, the black sheep among Welton Academy's teachers assumes as distinct and memorable a personality as any other one of Williams's film characters.

Of its many Academy Award nominations (in addition to Robin Williams's nomination for best leading actor, the movie was also nominated in the best picture, best director [Peter Weir] and best original screenplay categories), "Dead Poets' Society" ultimately only won the Oscar for Tom Schulman's script. But more importantly, it has long since won it's viewers' lasting appreciation, and for a reason. - As the Poet said: "Camerado! This is no book; Who touches this, touches a man" (Walt Whitman, "So Long!"), this is no movie; who watches this, watches himself!

Also recommended:
Good Will Hunting (Miramax Collector's Series)
A Midsummer Night's Dream (The New Folger Library Shakespeare)
Henry David Thoreau : Collected Essays and Poems (Library of America)
Whitman: Poetry and Prose (Library of America College Editions)
Robert Frost: Collected Poems, Prose, and Plays (Library of America)
John Keats: The Complete Poems (Penguin Classics)
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161 of 168 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 2005
Be careful about the label 'Special Edition' if you are still waiting, like me, for the fabulous Director's cut that was released on laser disk but not on DVD. It contains essential extra footage added by Peter Weir that fleshes out the motivations behind many of the characters and answers some questions that the theatrical cut raises. The Director's cut is 142 minutes so this DVD is just a re-release of the original theatrical version.
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91 of 93 people found the following review helpful
on January 10, 2006
I just received the "Special Edition" and was disappointed. The reviewer who advised caution was correct-this is just the same version with a few "bonus" features. The "Deleted Scenes" or "Raw" footage contains only the couple of minutes of Keating meeting the boys at the cave after Neil's performance. The version shown on USA (I haven't seen the Laser Disk Director's Cut) containing the extra footage of Knox's dinner at Danbury's and meeting Ginny Danbury, the scene rehearsing near the lake, the boys being assigned their extracurricular activities are all missing. The original script called for Knox and Chris to kiss near the frozen waterfall after the Keating-led meeting. That's not here, either. Too bad - those scenes really tie up the story much better.
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69 of 73 people found the following review helpful
on May 18, 1999
There are three versions of this movie that I am aware of. The first is the theatrical release, the telvision version that has 13 extra minutes added on, and last the travesty that Touchstone has released. Why DPS has been hacked up in this way is puzzling to say the least. In some parts, the plot suffers greatly because key scenes have been cut out. For example, when Knox meets Chris for the first time at the Danbury's, are we to assume that he falls head over heels in love after just seeing her at the door for all of 30 seconds? Also, there is a great scene when Dr. Nolan is handing out the extra-curricular activities at Welton, showing what a tyrant he is. Again, this scene is left on the cutting room floor. Given the Oscar nominations this movie had, and that it is one of Robin Williams' most memorable roles, I am baffled as to why Touchstone would give this move such short shrift when releasing a home video version. My advice to anyone who wants to enjoy DPS at home would be to seekout a copy of the TV version which has the full theatrical version plus the extra 13 minutes. Dead Poets' Society is a touching and thoroughly enjoyable movie. However, the verision that is found on the home video release bears little resemblance to it.
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77 of 86 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 21, 2000
No matter how many times I watch a particular movie, certain ones have a way of moving me. Dead Poets Society was one of them. It was the most influential film I had ever watched, and the only one that I could relate to directly and indirectly.

Robin Williams plays the English teacher, John Keating, who brings enthusiasm to the classroom of young scholars whose only sense of fun is spending time together in their study groups. But his method of teaching was rather unconventional. Keating did not conduct an in your face way of teaching, and nor did he spoon feed the boys in his class. Keating suggests to the students that in any formal environment, there is the strict expectation that one follows the straight and narrow, and free thinking is the antagonist where there should not exist any curves or turns. He simply opens the minds of the students who only thought that going to prep school was the easiest way to get to Harvard. And in essence, the main gist of the film has to do with, no matter what direction in life one takes, poetry is the path to expression.

This movie was high with emotions and of course relationships. I particularly thought Ethan Hawke's performance was very convincing. If you've ever been a situation like Hawke's character, you would know what I mean; watch the movie and you'll understand. Also, the relationship between Robert Sean Leonard's character and his father was very realistic of a person who's dying to break free from parental influence.

As in any movie depicting honor and respect (School Ties and Scent of a Woman), someone suffers the consequences, but no one is left standing alone. In the case of Dead Poets Society, the circle of friendship that existed between the students became a hard lesson. The film makes a good of emphasizing that those whom you thought were invincible, turned out to be less of your expectations, and the movie was good at presenting that scenario.

If you like a movie that doesn't preach to you, but nourishes your mind with words to ponder, or words of encouragement, I recommend Dead Poets Society.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on May 24, 2006
"Dead Poet's Society" is a movie which could be probably called a comedy-drama. It was written by Tom Schulman and directed by Peter Weir who both created an absolutely unusual, innovative piece of art.

Welton Academy whose four pillars are tradition, honour, discipline and excellence, is the type of school, where children of rich parents are sent to in order to leave as future doctors or lawyers. Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke), a shy young man, is one of Welton's new students and plays, together with the new literature teacher John Keating (Robin Williams), the leading role in the movie. Another important role is played by Todd's roommate Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonard) who is the reason for the movie's genre. The other students Knox Overstreet (Josh Charles), Charlie Dalton (Gale Hansen), Richard Cameron (Dylan Kussman), Steven Meeks (Allelon Ruggiero), and Gerard Pitts (James Waterston) all fit into the conformity of the school and gain great marks.

But everything changes with the arrival of the new English literature teacher John Keating, who doesn't fit into the conservative attitude of the school and makes his students, for example, rip out pages from their books that he considers as wrong and stand on their desks to see the world from a different view. The boys are totally fascinated by his methods of teaching just like the "Carpe Diem" motive, which he tries to convey to them. "Make your lives extraordinary" is one of his famous quotations, which his students don't hesitate to follow. Therefore, when the boys get to know about a secret organization called the "Dead Poet's Society", founded by their motivated literature teacher, they decide to revive it.

The movie is visually beautiful, there are so many great pictures in it, like a scene which plays at sunset and everything is enveloped in an orange mist. The classical music in the movie is a great idea in my opinion as it conveys both the prestige of the school but also the emotions of its students, for example sadness, happiness or melancholy and is chosen perfectly for every scene. There has even been a novelization of the movie by Nancy H. Kleinbaum which is supposed to be even better than the movie itself, but I cannot prove this as I did not read it.

When I saw this movie for the first time, and this was, together with the rest of my English class, I somehow really felt a need for some major changes in my life. A student at our age probably does not realize that his time is constantly running out. That is why I think that this movie is ingenious, it makes us think about our time, things we maybe want to do once in our lives or opportunities we already had but missed. So "seize the day" and "suck the marrow out of life" before it's too late.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on February 16, 2006
Dead Poets Society is significant in Robin Williams' career in that it was his most dramatic role at that point. Also, it was a film in which he did not have the most screen time. His character is not the central focus; rather it is the boys who play the students in his class that get the bulk of the screen time for it is their story. The film is the in the tradition of other classic prep school stories like A Separate Peace and The Catcher in the Rye that are poignant coming-of-age tales that feature conflicts between individuality and conformity.

Williams is quite good and very believable as an English teacher. Director Peter Weir reigns him in and not once does the comedian go on one of his trademark manic tears but still has his funny moments. More importantly, he evokes a passion for literature and this in turn inspires his students who resurrect an old tradition of his when he was a student at the school - The Dead Poets Society, a group of boys who met, after lights out, at the old Indian cave and recited their favourite poetry and even some of their own.

Weir perfectly captures the look and atmosphere of the northeast in autumn with orange and brown coloured leaves on trees or lying on the ground as winter approaches. He also accurately depicts the rarified atmosphere of private school life: the camaraderie of the boys, the secret breaking of the rules, and the strict adherence to tradition. He shows us glimpses of the day-to-day goings on: chapel first thing in the morning, classes where one learns the standards (Latin, Trig, etc.) and the participation in sports like rowing.

"Dead Poets: A Look Back" features cast members Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard, Kurtwood Smith and others praising Weir's skills as a director. They talk about how they got their roles, take us through the rehearsal process and tell good filming anecdotes in this fascinating retrospective documentary.

"Raw Takes" features unedited footage of a deleted scene from the movie that takes place after the suicide with one last meeting of the Dead Poets Society with Keating in attendance.

"Master of Sound: Alan Splet" is a tribute to this incredible sound designer who passed away many years ago.

"Cinematography Master Class" with John Seale takes us through how he lit a scene from the movie by recreating it on a soundstage and demonstrates how important camera placement and lighting is in creating a specific effect on film.

Also included is an audio commentary by Weir, Seale and screenwriter Tom Schulman. Schulman talks about his personal experiences with private school and how it informed his screenplay. All the participants speak very knowledgably about their respective crafts and the movie itself.

Finally, there is a theatrical trailer.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on December 8, 1999
I first saw this movie on its original release in 1989 and can genuinely say that it completely changed my life,I was 22 at the time and with no particular direction in life.It quickly became my favorite film ever and I couldnt get enough of it seeing it as much as I could while it was in release than snaffling it up when it came out on video.I also bought the soundtrack on cassette and cant wait to get it on CD.I also would love to put my own dead poets society together if I can find the guys to do it,if I do I have the perfect book,the Oxford book of english verse,which covers the history of poetry to about 1930 and includes American and English poets with the notable exception of Robert Frost.Im dying to go to St Andrews where it was filmed and Im also a fledgling poet,hoping to publish a book of poetry one day even if I have to do it myself. To the movie itself it is a true masterpiece,everything is perfect,especially the actors and the brilliant photography.The script is a work of genius and well deserved its oscar and in a perfect world would have won many others not least for best film,lead actor for Robin Williams and supporting actor for the wonderful Robert Sean Leonard. I definately recommend this film to anyone with a heart and soul for it will truly turn you on to life and its possibilities like no other. Carpe Diem. That same flower that smiles today tomorrow will be dying
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on November 19, 2000
"Dead Poets Society" was shown in my American Literature class as a teaching device for transcendentalism. Though I do not believe wholeheartedly in the ideas of transcendentalism, I found "Dead Poets Society" to be one of the most moving films that I have ever seen. As a student, I know what it is like to feel pressure to academically succeed, and through my classmates, I have seen the strain that pressure can put on a parent-child relationship. "Dead Poets Society" logs the effect of one inspiring teacher on upon a group of boys that have never been given the chance to think for themselves.
One boy, Neal, realizes his dreams to be more than an intellectual, but also an actor. His struggle with his father brings him to drastic measures, but he is an admirable character for overcoming his ability to overcome his fear of standing up to his father. Other boys experience trouble and triumph with authority, love, and fear. Their stories are classic, but also portrayed beautifully.
Robin Williams plays Mr. John Keating, the English teacher that inspires the boys of Wellton Academy to think on their own and to seize the day. They re-initiate the Dead Poets Society, a group that Keating was in as a student at Wellton. Through their club, the boys discover the magic of poetry and the power of words. Keating uses famous quotes from Whitman, Thoreau, and other classical thinkers to motivate his students. His charisma and optimistic view of life is uplifting and leaves one inspired for days. Perhaps his outstanding performance is best portrayed in his line, "Life is a play and you may contribute one verse. What will it be?"
The film is well acted and revives memories of one's first experience in standing up for one's own beliefs. I recommend this movie to anyone who finds inspiration in literature, and to every person who wants to make the most of his life. It is teachers like Keating that breed our future philosophers and geniuses. This film is a thank you to every teacher who has unknowingly inspired his or her students to do great things. The final scene when the boys pay tribute to their teacher who is punished for influencing them is enchanting! P.S. Thank you Mrs. Allen!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on February 11, 2006
+++++

This movie is based on the book of the same title by N.H. Kleinbaum.

In this movie set in the late 1950s, we meet an unconventional English teacher named John Keating (Robin Williams) who tells his students of a conservative and expensive all-male prep school such things as the following:

(1) "The purpose of education [is] to learn to think for yourself."

(2) "Carpe diem, seize the day...boys, make your lives extraordinary."

(3) "We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race."

(4) "Only in their dreams can men [and women] be truly free."

(5) "You must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait, the less likely you are to find it at all."

(6) "You must trust that your beliefs are unique, your own, even though others may think them odd or unpopular, even though the herd [of conformists] may go 'that's bad.'"

(7) The quotation that titles this review also comes from Keating.

(Literally, the Latin phrase of (2) above is technically "diem carpere" which translated means "to make the most of the present.")

Keating's charisma and love of poetry (from such people as Thoreau, Whitman, Shakespeare, Tennyson, and Frost) inspires several school students such as Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonard) and Knox Overstreet (Josh Charles) to revive a secret society (called the "Dead Poets Society") but this time, with a Bohemian twist. As well, some of the students take what these dead poets and Keating say too literally. This ultimately leads, in one case, to tragedy.

However, the movie ends on an uplifting note about intellectual freedom and creativity.

The acting is terrific. Williams is not on-screen all the time but when he is, he gives a good, restrained, dramatic performance and the script gives him wide latitude for him to do his own brand of comedy (and he delivers). The story is mainly about Keating's influence (through the dead poets' works) on his students. Actors Leonard and Charles give good performances as very influenced students.

The background music adds to each scene. There is even some classical music. The cinematography is also quite well done. The filming was at St. Andrews, a private boarding school in Delaware.

Note that this movie had four Academy Award nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director (Peter Weir), and Best Original Screenplay.

Also note that this movie ("Special Edition") is NOT the director's cut. This movie lasts about a minute longer than the original theatrical release version.

Finally, the DVD itself (Special Edition) is perfect in picture and sound quality. It has several extras. In one of these extras are interviews with some of the cast. There is, however, no interview with Robin Williams. I found this strange since he is given top billing in this movie and he received a Best Actor nomination.

In conclusion, I recommend viewing this movie in order to understand the full meaning of the phrase "carpe diem."

(1989; 2 hr, 9 min)

+++++
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