A Few Words About A few words about...™ John Adams -- in Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, May 29, 2009.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    As a huge fan of history, it was my pleasure almost precisely eight years ago to acquire a copy of historian and author David McCullough's John Adams.

    I had no idea that seven years later, I'd be watching Paul Giamatti of Sideways fame, perfectly cast as our second president, and playing against Laura Linney.

    This is one of those commentaries that doesn't need many words. It is far easier to write about something that is perfect than something that needs explanation and dissection.

    Those who have visited mystical restored examples of our past, such as Colonial Williamsburg, where parts of John Adams were filmed, will understand what I mean when I relate that something accurately represents our historical past.

    It occurs every decade or so.

    Assumedly out of nowhere, a production created for broadcast, will stun its audience with its quality, and be fully deserving of the praise that it receives.

    John Adams, directed by Tom Hooper and photographed by Tak Fujimoto (The Silence of the Lambs, Gladiator), is just such a production.

    It is as perfect a production as one will find in every technical respect, and HBO -- yes, there's HBO again with high quality releases that out-do some of the best coming from the studios -- has, a full year after its release on standard definition, given us yet another Blu-ray that is perfect in every single detail.

    It is obvious that HBO sets their sights high with technical standards that are uncompromising. John Adams is brilliant filmmaking -- 500 plus minutes of absolutely perfect story-telling with intelligence and the highest of quality. Now it is that rara avis made even more special. Because of the abilities of Blu-ray it is now at a far higher technical level than it was at broadcast.

    If one were to purchase just half a dozen Blu-rays this year, John Adams should be one of them.

    Extremely Highly Recommended!

    RAH
     
  2. Timothy E

    Timothy E Supporting Actor
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    My wife and I really enjoyed this miniseries when it aired on HBO. It is encouraging to hear that the BD is of sublime quality. We look forward to seeing this great series again in HD.
     
  3. PaulDA

    PaulDA Cinematographer

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    This is a tough one for me. I got the SD version as a gift last year and it looks pretty good (among the better SD DVDs on my shelf). I would like to double dip, but the SD version is useful in the classroom (my school has no BD players and I don't want to lug one around). I will likely get the BD at some point, for my own enjoyment, but unless there are some significant new extras that are exclusive to the BD (some documentaries or other historical content), I think I will wait a while. It is good to know that the quality is excellent. Perhaps when the school upgrades to BD players (or I get a new laptop that has one--then I could plug into the PJ directly in the class), I'll get the BD.
     
  4. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    I don't see myself upgrading from the SD version. As Paul notes, it looks (and sounds) pretty darn good.

    I couldn't wait to see this (I've never had HBO) and it's too bad this HD release didn't come out when the SD release hit the shelves.

    It would take an extraordinary deal for me to upgrade. And those are uncommon (but not impossible) with an HBO release like this.
     
  5. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    With Amazon's trade-in program, final cost is $42.75.
     
  6. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Producer

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    I was thinking about giving this a rent before I buy, but maybe I won't wait for that now.

    Hmmm... The release date probably coincides w/ whenever DeepDiscount/DVDPlanet runs their usual semi-annual sale, assuming they're still doing that. Maybe I'll get it from them when the time comes.

    Thanks for nudging me in that direction (to buy it soon), RAH (and others)... [​IMG]

    _Man_
     
  7. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    I never did buy the SD DVD because I knew it would come out on BRD some day. I have it preordered through Warner's site and can't wait until I can see it again in HD. The HBO viewing was great, but I expect the BRD to be more impressive both, video and audio-wise.




    Crawdaddy
     
  8. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    FAR more.
     
  9. PaulDA

    PaulDA Cinematographer

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    Ordinarily an very good deal (especially for me as I got the SD for free as a gift). However, my situation is relatively rare in that I need the SD copy for work purposes, so this appealing offer is not one for me. I do urge those who have the wherewithal to take advantage of this offer to do so, as it is an excellent series which can only be even more enjoyable in hi-def. Would that BD could do what combo HD DVDs could do--several of those have proven useful to me personally and professionally as one copy serves both needs. Just a wistful thought, not a desire to ignite a format debate (in case anyone thought otherwise).
     
  10. Mike Williams

    Mike Williams Screenwriter

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    Apparently not everyone is as pleased with the image as Mr. Harris. Note this excerpt of a review from blu-ray.com:

    John Adams features a slightly disappointing 1080p/VC-1 transfer that isn't as faithful or proficient as HBO's other recent high definition presentations. Regardless of the episode, soft shots and spongy closeups are an intermittent distraction, black levels are inconsistent, and contrast is unpredictable. One moment, a vibrant, three-dimensional image with fine textures galore inhabits the screen... but the next moment, a dull, lifeless mess limps into view, complete with waxy faces, squishy edges, and squint-inducing delineation. It's also worth noting that grain, while present to some degree, appears to have been wiped away in post-production. Grain-haters may rejoice at the news, but anyone sensitive to the effects of noise reduction will cry foul.
     
  11. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Like any other release, I don't use reviews to determine which releases I buy because I had too many instances in which my opinion about the video presentation has differed from on-line reviewers.
     
  12. GlennH

    GlennH Cinematographer

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    I must have missed something. What's the Amazon trade-in program? I do see that the Amazon price for the Blu-ray is $46.49. Not bad for the amount and quality of content.

    Just curious, as I don't own this in any form. I saw only the first 3 episodes of this series on a free HBO-HD preview. Always thought I'd like to see the rest some day.
     
  13. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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  14. Mike Williams

    Mike Williams Screenwriter

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    Good for you, Robert, and I've had the same experiences. However, there are many people who use reviews for releases about which they're on the fence.

    It seems that if everyone is excited about Mr. Harris' glowing review, then reviews matter. If someone has quite a different opinion than Mr. Harris, then we don't pay attention to reviews.
     
  15. PaulDA

    PaulDA Cinematographer

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    There is some tendency to do that. I will offer this point to consider, however. Mr. Harris has a pedigree that, to many (myself included), lends greater credence to his views. Just as there are a few film critics whose opinions I've come to trust, I've found Mr. Harris' opinions more trustworthy than some others. When I encounter two divergent opinions about picture quality, I privilege the one that seems best informed. It's not perfect (I don't have the same reticence about Patton that Mr. Harris does, though I agree with him that it is not as good as it could be), but it helps contribute to the decision making process.

    Ultimately, we need to assume responsibility for our choices, but it is not unreasonable to find some reviewers who share similar sensibilities, on average, as helpful guides. It is a bit disingenuous, though, for anyone to swear by a particular reviewer with pride and then routinely dismiss others who do the same with a different reviewer as a reference point.
     
  16. Yumbo

    Yumbo Cinematographer

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    Current price is $46.
     
  17. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    For others, I would think reviews matter depending on the person giving that review. Mr. Harris has built up a level of trust here which I can't say that other reviewer has among this membership.





    Crawdaddy
     
  18. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Offering commentaries on line can become a dangerous passion. Attempting to lead the public away from potentially problematic transfers and toward those of quality, is not an easy thing.

    Many of the studio people are friends, and I take my words very seriously, as those words can occasionally be damaging. I've made more than a few calls of apology in advance of posting.

    I do not take sides, will occasionally take a position of being mute, but at the same time try very hard to lead the consumer where there limited funds are best spent. If one takes these things seriously, and I do, those emails and phone calls telling friends that I've panned their studio's work, do not come easily.

    The nice thing is that over the past year, Blu-ray quality has grown immeasurably, and we are all better off for it.

    That said, it must be noted that HTF keeps a tight rein on its reviewers, who work tirelessly, and on their own nickel, in a continuous attempt to create a more knowledgeable consumer. I merely do short commentaries. It is they, who need to be acknowledged.

    RAH
     
  19. Mike Williams

    Mike Williams Screenwriter

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    I certainly do not dispute Mr. Harris' pedigree as it relates to video quality. Indeed, he is one of the more qualified people around to determine such things. However, because of his relationships, I think Mr. Harris tends to lend on the side of forgiveness for a questionable transfer.

    He was much more forgiving of Patton in his initial review than later.

    He was praiseworthy of the initial release of "Full Metal Jacket," which fortunately didn't stop Warner from issuing a second, far better quality version.

    Mr. Harris' reviews are always on my list to check before purchasing, and I highly respect his opinions and observations. I'm merely saying he may not be as critical with his words as he may be with his eyes, as a result of -- by his own admission -- his friends in the industry who may have had a hand in the final product.
     
  20. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    As a point of reference, there were some at Fox who found my "few words" in regard to Patton so abhorrent that we took them down as part of a mollification process. I haven't bothered to replace them. What I can tell you however, is that they were a far shorter version of what appears here:

    Yellow Layer Failure, Vinegar Syndrome and Miscellaneous Musings by Robert A. Harris

    This piece was also removed for a time as a part of that same MP, but has since been replaced. Should a friend have a major part in disc release that fails to impress in a huge way, my position is to be silent -- never to recommend.

    "And that's for the record!"

    RAH
     

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