on October 5, 2005
From the Earth to the Moon: Signature Edition (2005)
I don't intend to review the content of this DVD set as it has been covered in great detail by many hundreds already. If you love top-class historical drama and enjoyed Apollo 13, you probably know about the quality of this miniseries already. My rating for the miniseries itself is 9.5 out of 10.
This is a short review to point out the differences between the 2000 4-Disc box set and the 2005 Signature Edition 5-disc box set.
In case you have already got the 2000 DVD set in your collection and are wondering whether to update it to the 2005 edition, here are the differences:
Firstly, there are 5 discs instead of 4, but NO difference in content. No extra scenes, documentaries or commentary. The original DVD-Rom Disc 4 has been re-authored to play on your DVD player in the lounge room. This makes a lot of the content immediately accessible instead of having to search for it on the net, but the interactivity is gone. For me that's small loss as I didn't get much out of the games etc anyway.
Secondly, the entire set has been remastered in DTS and Widescreen (1.85:1). Now this sounds like manna from heaven, but unfortunately only the audio remastering is really worth spending any extra dollars on. The sound is crisp, clear and beautifully mixed and the liftoffs etc come booming out of your home theatre system like you were there at the Cape.
But the widescreen - well, sadly it just doesn't enhance the original viewing experience. It's evident that HBO produced the original series in 1.33:1 for tv and have merely re-jigged and adapted that ratio for the modern proliferation of widescreen plasma television sets. There is no extra data. You will find some scenes are better cut in the frame, but others suffer. For example, in Disc 1, when the Gemini 8/Agena assembly is tumbling around the sky with a stuck thruster, you don't see the thruster in the new widescreen version as it is cut off by the top of the frame. Some captions have also been compromised.
As the series was created for the 1.33:1 ratio, all the crucial information is positioned inside the frame for that ratio anyway. The only advantage of the widescreen ratio is that it now fits your new plasma widescreen without the black bars. Also the video quality is not as crisp as I expected it to be, possibly from the re-sizing process.
Each chapter now gets its own play and audio options menu and there are 3 chapters per disc, which is tidier. However there are still those weird groupings of episodes where some contain the titles and some don't. Nothing has changed here.
The box looks impressive with the silver signature cover and Tom's moniker on it and there is a nice holo of the Earth and the Moon which alternates as you tilt it this way and that.
But, in a major disappointment to this buyer, the original cardboard foldout format is identical to its 2000 counterpart. My box broke apart after about a year due to excessive wear and tear and sadly I fear this box will succumb to the same fate. Two of my discs had already broken free from their moorings in transit and were sliding all round the inside of the box, picking up scratches and marks in the process. Poor packaging.
How I wish they'd used the Battlestar Galactica Season 1 format where all discs sit securely in plastic pages like the leaves of a book. Sturdier, simpler and more durable.
In summary, if you don't have From the Earth to the Moon, then buy this 2005 set. If you have it already and are wondering whether to spend $100 on a better version, think twice. You may think it's worth it to get better sound, but unless you are an audiophile with a top home theater surround system and DTS, you probably won't notice. You may be better off spending your money on other titles.
First off, if I could give this miniseries 10, 20, a zillion stars, I would. Amazon just didn't let me count high enough.
So let me get ahold of myself long enough to tell you to run, run, run and get this DVD set now, if you haven't already. "From the Earth to the Moon" is one of the most unique and engrossing (as well as gorgeously produced) miniseries I've ever seen -- 12 hours of moving, dramatic, gripping, frightening, and ultimately completely inspiring entertainment. As a kid born in the late sixties, I missed the moon race (and I'm still ticked about it). But this literally perfect 12-episode miniseries makes me feel as if I've been there too -- from the tragedy of Apollo 1 to the triumphs and near-misses of the ensuing missions, to the vastly underappreciated final Apollo 16 and 17 missions. (As one character in the film laments, "We stopped going up just when we were getting really good at it.")
Those of you who might have avoided this because it's "history" -- let me reassure you right now that it's as gripping as any drama you'll see in or out of a theatre. This isn't just history painstakingly created by some of those who were there -- it's also just plain incredible, suspenseful, joyful entertainment.
And for those of you who saw it on HBO, the DVD set is well worth the price, even if you'd already taped it. The DVD set offers not only crystal-clear viewing you'd expect (and the special effects hold up admirably under the discerning eye offered through DVD), but also special features including an enjoyable making-of featurette (emphasizing Tom Hanks' huge role in bringing the project to the screen), plus behind-the-scenes studies of special effects, 3D ship models (which can be rotated or even viewed in wireframe), a transcript of Kennedy's "We Choose to go to the Moon" speech, a follow-up quiz, and a virtual tour of the solar system. And that's just for starters.
The writing, acting, music, direction and more are all simply superb -- each hour out of the twelve having its own particular look and feel, while nevertheless meshing perfectly with the others. The introductions to each chapter in Apollo history are delivered quietly, but with eloquence and power, by the project's producer, co-writer, actor (and driving force) Tom Hanks.
One of my favorite aspects of the project was the way it brought in so many actors who are often underused (or at least under-appreciated) in TV and film today -- many of whom are cast against type to show what they can really do. Stephen Root, a guy I'd loved as Jimmy James on NewsRadio for years, does a terrific job in a serious role as Mission Control's Chris Kraft, as does Nick Searcy in a quiet and often sensitive turn as the program's father figure Deke Slayton. Meanwhile, Stephen Root's former NewsRadio news director Dave Foley also gets in on the action, and gets to shed his "Kids in the Hall" cynicism with a surprisingly sweet and innocent portrayal of Al Bean.
Other favorites out of the dozens of amazing actors include Ted Levine's wistful, complex (not to mention curmudgeonly) Alan Shepard, the criminally underused Jo Anderson's sensitive and moving Pat White (wife of Gemini and Apollo I astronaut Ed White), and memorable appearances large and small by such gifted folks as Kevin Pollak, Elizabeth Perkins, Matt Craven, Tim Daly, Mark Harmon (returning for a few moments to his lighter roots), Paul McCrane, David Clennon, James Rebhorn, Mark Rolston, Jay Mohr, George Newbern, Brett Cullen and Steve Zahn.
The surprises are the best part. Before viewing this, I would never have guessed that the Apollo 13 ("We interrupt this Program") segment, while unique and powerful, would be my least favorite of the group, while "Spider," a look at the development of a *machine*, for goodness' sake, would move me to tears. Other standouts (keeping in mind that they're all terrific) include a quietly powerful look at Apollo I, the trials and surprising fates of the astronauts' wives in an episode directed by Sally Field, and the bittersweet old-man-as-underdog battle of Alan Shepard to make it "up there" one last time -- and for more than 15 minutes.
OK, I'll shut up. But if you ever have a day when you've encountered a really stupid driver, or been detained in ridiculous meetings with half-brained bozos, or wondered if human beings aren't actually DE-volving -- then this miniseries is just the kind of thing to remind you of what human beings can be at their very best. And what wonders they are capable of.
And I can't believe I missed it all. We just better go back. Darn it.
NOTE: For those of you inspired by the miniseries, I strongly urge you to go pick up Andrew Chaikin's wonderful "A Man on the Moon," the history of Apollo that provided much of the backbone for the miniseries. And for an even closer look at the moon, don't miss "Full Moon" (Michael Light and Andrew Chaikin) -- a truly stunning, beautiful, even eerie compilation of lunar photographs, many of which had never before been seen.
on September 25, 2005
First let me start by saying this is one of the finest movies I have ever seen. I can watch it over and over again. I like this series so much that even though I bought and own the first DVD set, I just had to buy the signature series. The reason I bought the signature series was because it says it is in 16:9 aspect ratio unlike the first set which is conventional 4:3. I thought to myself "they must have filmed it in 16:9".
When I played the first disc it looked strange. So when I compared the two sets, I saw that the way they got the 16:9 was by zooming into the 4:3 video which essentially lops off some of the top and bottom of the picture. This has disappointed me. When you buy or rent a movie that has been converted from 16:9 there is a message that says, "This film has been modified from the original to fit your television". Well it would have been nice if this set said, "This film has been modified to fit your 16:9 television".
I am a victim of clever marketing. I am disappointed that Tom Hanks would let something like this happen with one of his products. He has a fantastic reputation. I am disappointed.
on March 11, 2000
HBO has done a superb job in telling the story of "the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventures on which mankind has ever embarked." - JFK. With a cast of hundreds and a staggering budget of close to 70 million, Tom Hanks and HBO have woven together stories from the Apollo program into one 12-episode miniseries.
The first episode, "Can We Do This?," begins with the early years of American space exploration. Alan Shepard's heart stopping Freedom 7 flight is skillfully portrayed and Ed White's first Gemini spacewalk is seen. It really is a great beginning. "Apollo 1" gets right to the point. Within 5 minutes after the start of the episode the fire occurs. Most of the rest of the episode chronicles the investigation with the Apollo 204 Review Board and the clash between Harrison Storms and Joe Shea. It's got a really neat ending, probably the best of the series. "We Have Cleared the Tower" follows the Apollo 7 crew training all the way up to the launch as seen by a documentary crew filming the mission. If you want to know what it's like before a mission, this is the episode for you. "1968" I honestly thought was the worst episode. A lot of it is just a bunch of stock news footage from '68 and it keeps switching from color to those annoying black and white shots. However, this episode survives because later on it has an excellent scene as the Apollo 8 crew witnesses the first earthrise seen by humans. The episode also has some great in-flight scenes while the crew is in lunar orbit. "Spider" is by far one of the best. It has a good story mixed with a little dose of humor. It's really interesting seeing all the work that went into the lunar module and the Apollo 9 flight. This one also has a great ending. The only bad thing is it gives only 30 seconds devoted to the Apollo 10 mission. "Mare Tranquilities" is a great episode, but could have been better. I got sick of the interviews mixed in with different scenes. It isn't until the end that you see the actual mission, when Apollo 11 is already in lunar orbit. But the episode is still good because of the fast paced landing and the goose-bump filled first step. It's a scene you can't get enough of. "That's All There Is" is a fun one. The Apollo 12 crew was best friends and it showed. This episode is one of the most enjoyable and is a great one to watch with friends, especially if you are the only space buff. Astronaut Al Bean narrates the episode. "We Interrupt This Program" follows the press covering the flight of Apollo 13. The producers were creative and did not show any shots of the crew in space except at the beginning. The reason for this is because they did not want to compete with the movie Apollo 13 and they wanted something new and different. "For Miles and Miles" is another one that could have been better. It's got a slow start but a good ending. The episode follows Alan Shepard's road to return to the flight rotation. "Galileo Was Right" is a great one. It is interesting and fun as you watch the Apollo 15 crew go through geology training and eventually go to the moon and drive the lunar rover. One of the best. "The Original Wives Club" has not been one that I have watched over and over. It tells the astronaut wives' story and what went on behind the scenes while the astronauts were training for the Apollo program. It has only about five minutes worth of Apollo 16 footage, which was a disappointment. But it is an interesting one. "Le Voyage Da Na Lune" has to be the most creative episode there was. Mixing scenes of an early 20th century film crew filming a movie about a science fiction voyage to the moon as well as Apollo 17 footage. It also features interviews with the "astronauts," which are actually the actors who played them, speaking of Apollo. It ends with parts of Kennedy's speech and the astronaut's names scrolling across the screen.
From the Earth to the Moon has to be the best thing HBO has ever done. The accuracy makes it seem almost like you were there in the 60s and 70s, watching as mankind voyaged to another world. I have watched many episodes almost a dozen times because I can't get enough of it. If you are interested in Apollo or even if you lived during Apollo and want to re-live the adventures, then get this now. You won't be disappointed.
on November 14, 2003
- Facts are real, has plenty of information about what probably is humankind`s greatest achievement. The mix of real footage and amazingly created ones add to its real life/documentary spirit. But it`s far from being a documentary, although every fact is real. It goes beyond on the narration.
- It`s not "Americana" on its spirit. Mr. Hanks and his team deserve merits for showing this great achievement as a mankind victory instead of an "America only" feat. Congratulations!
- Each episode is presented thru an original point of view, not the one you`d expect. This gives new life to the facts. The Apollo 13 episode, for example, shows how an anchor man from a TV network faced his drama at the same time as the astronauts. A great achievement since if it was presented the other way it would fail when compared to the movie. Actually, one complements the other.
- Many generations have not lived the man on the moon. This is the best way to give them a small feeling of what that meant. It`s the closest an historical document can get to emotion. Anyone will learn great and funny facts from the Apollo project and its missions.
- Episodes are very successful in passing the feeling of this great achievement. You`ll be proud of it, specially if you happened to be alive when it happened. At the end you`ll regret the fact that today we (humans/nations) spend too much time and energy with small problems that don`t take anyone anywhere.
- On the latest episode you`ll learn that one of the century`s "greatest" men was, actually, the first pirate whose actions screwed the life of the first great filmmaker.
- Mr. Hanks talents go far beyond acting. Congratulations!
- Acting is amazing, direction perfect, screenplays compelling. You won`t believe this was "just" a 12 episode TV miniseries. It`s FAR better than many movies made on science fiction/space exploration genres.
The only point where they`ve sleeped:
- The box and its opening "book" scheme doesn`t feel it`ll be up to date when man reaches Mars.
I`d like to remind you all that this is not a science fiction miniseries. Its focus is on the spirit, the challenge, the emotions, the technology, the men and women involved on taking the man on a voyage from the Earth to the Moon.
At around US$ 80.00, it`s far from cheap. But worth every cent.
When I was in the first grade in Orlando, Florida our class would go outside to watch the Mercury flights take off from Cape Canaveral, so the American space program made a big impression on me as a child. Of course, now I have a daughter who is surprised to learn that human beings have walked on the moon while I remember "Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C." being interrupted by a news bulletin about the fatal fire that killed the crew of Apollo 1. My father was stationed in Japan for most of the Apollo flights, so except for Apollo 11 we did not get to see a lot of what everybody saw back home. Consequently, for me "From the Earth to the Moon" is a combination of vague memories and new information.
Having also watched "Band of Brothers," the other HBO documentary in which Tom Hanks had a significant hand, I am struck by how these two mini-series have essentially redefined the term more towards its original meaning. Unlike landmark mini-series such as "Shogun" and "Winds of War," where each episode picks up the main characters pretty much where they were left at the end of the previous episode, "From the Earth to the Moon" and "Band of Brothers" clearly offer up distinct episodes in telling the story of the Apollo space program. The only constant characters are really Eugene Cernan (Daniel Hugh Kelly), the astronaut who ended up heading the program, and the fictional television anchorman Emmett Seaborn (Lane Smith), who represents an amalgam of all the newscasters who were big boosters of the space program (such as Walter Cronkite).
Most of the episodes focus on a specific Apollo flight, but there are also episodes on different topics, like the development of the lunar module. There are episodes that of surprising comedy, such as when the crazy Pete Conrad (Paul McCrane) takes Al Bean (Dave Foley) and Apollo 12 to the moon, and one devoted to the pathos of the shattered lives of the wives of the third group of Astronauts. The episode on Apollo 13 is interesting in how it effectively avoids covering the same ground as the movie. We never see the astronauts, we only hear their voices, and since we all "know" the story now the focus of the episode is to show how the space program was confronted with the "new" brand of journalism that was not going to be spoon fed information and heroes by NASA. However, my favorite was the episode in which Lee Silver (David Clennon), a professor of geology, teaches the astronauts how to read the story of rocks as the test pilots being sent to the moon learn to be "scientists." There are lots of familiar faces in these episodes (the proverbial too many to name), but for those who remember the indelible bad boy characters created by McCrane and Clennon on "E.R." and "thirtysomething," there is a special joy in which them play good guys.
"From the Earth to the Moon" is not as informative as a documentary, but it certainly focus on the actual nuts and bolts of sending men to the moon. Actually it does this in a rather engaging manner, and the way in which it combines NASA technology with human drama is one of the strengths of the mini-series. Almost all of the astronauts come out of the series with their images as heroes intact (providing you do not ask their ex-wives), the exceptions being Buzz Aldrin (Bryan Cranston), who really wanted to get out on the moon before Neil Armstrong (Tony Goldwyn), and Alan Shepard (Ted Levine), who we always knew was the grand old S.O.B. of the space program. But even so both men merely come across as being decidedly human. Whether you actually were around at the time to go outside and look up at the moon knowing there were a couple of Americans walking around hitting a golf ball, picking up rocks, and dropping a hammer and a feather at the same time, or this is all just history come alive, you should find this an excellent series of adventures in and about outer space.
on February 10, 2000
Tom Hanks executive produced this mini-series after completing Apollo 13 as a way of detailing the entire Apollo program. Each episode is a story about a different aspect of the endeavor and each features different writers, directors and actors. As a whole, the series is a wonderful adventure and a great history lesson. Cameo appearances by many, many well known character actors enhances the fun. A few of the episodes really stand out as special, but the entire series is more than worth watching. The entire video was shot on video for HBO but still looks great, special effects are as good as in any movie and for the DVD, excellent 5.1 sound is used. The boxed set includes a fourth disc containing extras that I have not seen, thought I anxiously await the opportunity.
on April 27, 2000
I waited many years for somebody to make a series like this. When 'The Right Stuff' came out I waited impatiently for some kind of follow up, but it never came. Until now. Finally, after Ron Howard's wonderful 'Apollo 13', we have this extraordinary series. We get to see the Astronauts, their families and Nasa management as something other than two-dimensional history book figures. Myself and many others cannot express our gratitude enough for the existence of 'From The Earth To The Moon'. The series gives good coverage of the Gemini program which often tends to be overlooked, although a portrayal of the remarkable events of Gemini 6 and 7 would have been welcome. I know that there was only limited running time and budget to show certain missions. But more details of the near-mutiny of Apollo 7, the white-knuckle events of Apollo 10 and the problem solving of Apollo 16 could have been important additions to the series. Perhaps one day someone will make a long-overdue movie or series about Yuri Gagarin and the eventful Russian space program, Skylab and the Apollo-Soyuz mission. And one day, someone could tell the tales of the early Shuttle program and the Challenger tragedy. Manned spaceflight has many tales left to tell. But for now, 'From The Earth To The Moon' is a magnificent and very comprehensive start.
on July 15, 2000
I wasn't an HBO subscriber when this film came out and only saw one portion at a friend's home during its original run. That was enough to convince me to buy the series on DVD even before I owned any electronics that would play DVDs. Since then, I've purchased a DVD player and I am as impressed by the content and the quality of this production as I was back when I saw it the first time. For those that are younger, it takes a committment to get through all the episodes, but they will learn much and reap great rewards. For those of us that were actually alive during the Apollo years, who watched as NASA unfolded a dream for us, Tom Hanks and HBO take us where we only dreamed. Despite its cost, I can easily recommend this set and would encourage moving it to the top of your buy list. It is a welcome look at a time when this country had the courage and the imagination to do things that were indeed great.
on June 4, 2006
I will try to keep this short and sweet.
I watch this series at least once a year to restore my faith in humanity.
This is the sort of stuff that makes grown men weep. It is unbelievably powerful and moving.
It is - without exception - my single favorite thing ever committed to film.
This series is why I bought a DVD player.