The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: HBO - 2008
MPAA Rating: TV-14
Feature running time: 501 Minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Video Aspect: 1.78:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, French/Spanish Dolby Stereo
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish English SDH
Starring: Paul Giamatti, Laura Linney, Stephen Dillane, David Morse, Tom Wilkinson, Dannu Huston, Sarah Polley, John Dossett
Directed by: Tom Hooper
Music by: Robert Lane & Joseph Vitarelli
Written by: Kirk Ellis & Michelle Ashford based upon the book by David McCullough
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: June 16, 2009
"He United the States of America"
While our new nation was suffering attacks from both within and without, John Adams had a vision of a nation of liberty and justice for all. He guided his peers - General George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson - in setting the values and agenda for a glorious, free America. Adams and his wife Abigail refined these ambitious democratic ideals, and their partnership became one of the most moving love stories in American history. John Adams is the incredible saga of a man who dreamed a nation and watched it come true.
John Adams presents and intimate portrait of the man who ultimately became the second American President and father of the sixth American President. He was of course much more than that. The story follows John Adams, through portions of his family life and carefully examines his contributions to our country's first 50 years. I have to admit that there was so much about this man and the things that he did which helped to shape the nation that we would ultimately become that I didn't know. This fantastic miniseries carefully portrays the close relationship between John and his wife Abigail. She was so much a part of his life over their 50 + year union. Her intellectually stimulating council and personal strength had an important and relied upon influence over John. I appreciated the fact that the events that transpired weren't painted here using broad, rose colored strokes. Our history isn't always pretty and the direct nature of this telling is both rewarding and eye opening. It depicts Adams as an educated man of principle who often speaks his mind even at the expense of diplomacy. This is something that will be follow him throughout his political life and make him enemies both within and outside of his personal circles. Early on John fought hard to defend Boston/Massachusetts against the long reaching tax happy hands of the Britain. He fervently believed in the law and the right to due process as evidenced by his defense of the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre. It was he that first pushed for the idea of independence and ultimately won over the Continental Congress. This seven part film details the steps that were necessary to separate the 13 colonies/states from England. It depicts our forefathers and examines their roles in our country's independence.
It follows John as he becomes George Washington's Vice President and the frustration he endured in that capacity. Later after he is elected our second President he learns first hand about the struggles of leadership, loyalty, and the fallout associated with the ramifications of decision making. After his defeat by Thomas Jefferson in the 1800 presidential election he retires to Massachusetts. His later years are marked by sorrow and familial loss. Later in life he does reconnect with and reconcile his damaged relationship with Thomas Jefferson. Strangely enough both men died on the same day within hours of one another. The date seemed befitting as it was exactly 50 years to the day of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. This is a compelling TV drama that I found to be one of the best I have seen. What a terrific ensemble cast. Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney give stirring performances as John and Abigail. Stephen Dillane (Thomas Jefferson), Tom Wilkinson (Benjamin Franklin), Sarah Polley (Nabby Adams), Danny Huston (Samuel Adams), and David Morse (George Washington) all offer excellent supporting turns. Pulitzer Prize winning author David McCullough's book was adapted for this film (I have read that some liberties were taken) and although I haven't read it the result of the work by screenwriters Kirk Ellis and Michelle Ashford is impressive. This scope of this large scale production seems to match the importance of its subject matter. The seven parts are spread out over three dual layered BD-50 Blu-ray discs that come in a handsome and sturdy keep case that collector's will appreciate. The work that went into it and its critical reception are evidenced by its 23 Emmy Award nominations and 13 wins. I commend HBO and the production team which includes Director Tom Hopper and Executive Producer Tom Hanks on a job well done.
The rating is for thematic material.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
John Adams comes to Blu-ray from HBO Films featuring 1080p VC-1 encoded video that has an average bitrate of 24 mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 1.8 mbps.
This high definition video presentation offers clear, refined images that boast a relatively subdued color palette that is rarely eye catching. This is intentional and conveys the rustic, time period specific clothing, locals and sullen complexions with aplomb. There are instances where deeper more vivacious hues are utilized and their presence is not only welcomed but their application is purposefully vivid and boldly stated. The rendering of fine detail can range from exquisite to moderate. This leaves certain long range and mid level shots with less dimensionality but not to the point of appearing soft. Black levels fluctuate similarly however with the controlled/steady contrast and flatter colors this wasn't problematic and worked well with the visual style of the presentation. Grain is visible but has an uneven texture that leaves its presence undetectable at times. I couldn't say for certain what the reason is for this. While this may seem to create the impression that this presentation's quality is suspect I can assure you that it looked very good on my big screen.
The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack isn't bombastic or aggressive but that didn't prevent it from being remarkable. Its attributes come in the form of superlative high level detail, defining clarity, and subtly distinctive surround sound that didn't disappoint. This is a sophisticated sound design that incorporates a vast number of sounds/effects that are intricately mixed to engage the listening position. Bass is substantive and can sometimes be vigorous in depth but never rises inappropriately in prominence within the soundfield. The delicate blend of music, discrete/ambient sounds, dialogue and bass is supremely enriching as it weaves an aurally stimulating pattern across the entire surround platform. It sounded great.
- Previously on - Each episode contains a brief recap of the preceding episode
- Facts are stubborn things - Episode specific pop up facts and historical/character guide
- (HD) The making of John Adams - 29 minute featurette
- (HD) David McCullough - Painting with words - 40 minute documentary
John Adams is a well acted, written, directed and executed miniseries/biopic that is an adaptation of the book by Pulitzer Price winning author David McCullough. I thoroughly enjoyed its honest and effectual portrayal of one of our greatest forefathers as portrayed with incredible depth by one of my favorite actors, Paul Giamatti. The seven part high definition presentation on Blu-ray Disc from HBO Films offers solid audio/video quality and a limited bonus supplement set that will more than likely leave fans wanting. It is an excellent piece of filmmaking that has found a place in my collection. Recommended.
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