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John Adams

4.7 out of 5 stars 10,093 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

John Adams (DVD)

Amazon.com

Based on David McCullough's bestselling biography, the HBO miniseries John Adams is the furthest thing from a starry-eyed look at America's founding fathers and the brutal path to independence. Adams (Paul Giamatti), second president of the United States, is portrayed as a skilled orator and principled attorney whose preference for justice over anti-English passions earns enemies. But he also gains the esteem of the first national government of the United States, i.e., the Continental Congress, which seeks non-firebrands capable of making a reasoned if powerful case for America's break from England's monarchy. The first thing one notices about John Adams' dramatizations of congress' proceedings, and the fervent pro-independence violence in the streets of Boston and elsewhere, is that America's roots don't look pretty or idealized here. Some horrendous things happen in the name of protest, driving Adams to push the cause of independence in a legitimate effort to get on with a revolutionary war under the command of George Washington. But the process isn't easy: not every one of the 13 colonies-turned-states is ready to incur the wrath of England, and behind-the-scenes negotiations prove as much a part of 18th century congressional sessions as they do today.

Besides this peek into a less-romanticized version of the past, John Adams is also a story of the man himself. Adams' frustration at being forgotten or overlooked at critical junctures of America's early development--sent abroad for years instead of helping to draft the U.S. constitution--is detailed. So is his dismay that the truth of what actually transpired leading to the signing of the Declaration of Independence has been slowly forgotten and replaced by a rosier myth. But above all, John Adams is the story of two key ties: Adams' 54-year marriage to Abigail Adams (Laura Linney), every bit her husband's intellectual equal and anchor, and his difficult, almost symbiotic relationship with Thomas Jefferson (Stephen Dillane) over decades. Giamatti, of course, has to carry much of the drama, and if he doesn't always seem quite believable in the series' first half, he becomes increasingly excellent at the point where an aging Adams becomes bitter over his place in history. Linney is marvelous, as is Dillane, Sarah Polley as daughter Nabby, Danny Huston as cousin Samuel Adams, and above all Tom Wilkinson as a complex but indispensable Ben Franklin. --Tom Keogh


Special Features

  • The entire seven-part miniseries on three discs
  • David McCullough: Painting with Words: a rare and personal glimpse at the life and works of author David McCullough
  • Facts Are Stubborn Things: An exclusive on-screen historical guide
  • The Making of John Adams featurette

Product Details

  • Actors: Paul Giamatti, Laura Linney
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: Unknown
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: HBO Studios
  • DVD Release Date: June 10, 2008
  • Run Time: 501 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10,093 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000WGWQG8
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,937 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "John Adams" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Edwin C. Pauzer VINE VOICE on July 30, 2008
Format: DVD
Each night I turned on the HBO feature anxious to see a good dramatic series, and learn about my country's struggle for life through one its most underrated founding fathers, John Adams.

Paul Giamatti's performance in the title role is much in dispute as he, like many other actors, seems to play himself as much as his character. He turns from a loving father to the lawyer and representative who sometimes looks apoplectic rather than just an angry or fiery patriot. Much to his credit, I felt the John Adams of later years on subsequent episodes was extremely well-acted.

Abigail Adams is played by Laura Linney, and her performance is superb and not the least in dispute. From the first moment, she is thoroughly credible as the vivacious lover, friend, confidante, advisor, and wife of John Adams. Her acting here should garner her an Emmy. The actors protraying Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson turned in stellar performances.

Many complain that this did not follow the book of the same title, and was not true to history exactly. To the first query the answer is what does? To the second, it is a well-written and well-acted drama that deserves our attention.

The series begins with the Boston Massacre and John Adams representing the British soldiers. With his successful defense, he is noticed by the Crown, as well as the colonials who are striving for independence. Both want his services. Adams chooses independence over the king and we see him as representative, foreign minister, beggar and borrower, ambassador, vice president, and president. His one anchor through these assignments and occupations in the struggle of a new nation is his love and respect for his wife, Abigail whom he always refers to as "my friend.
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I read David McCullough's GREAT book in anticipation of this miniseries. McCullough painted a picture of a man and a time that I found fascinating; a picture of a hardworking, sensitive (maybe mildly obsessive-compulsive in terms of his emotional high and lows) genius. I found the first few episodes excellent, albeit different from the book. It is the last few episodes that have really affected my view on this series.

The series insists on focusing on Adams' lows. It seems the writers took all the depressing elements of McCullough's book, which were few, and magnified those to center stage. For instance, John Adams' alcoholic son Charles has a major part in the series, but played a relatively minor role in the book. The mudslinging between Jefferson and Adams in Adams' second election for president was jettisoned for the Charles Adams storyline. Also, Adams, presented by McCullough, was a good natured man with a self-deprecating sense of humor. In the series he seems to live in misery.

They also took scenes that were generally upbeat and made them darker. When Adams meets King George III (in my opinion the climax of the story - or at least the first half of the story) in the book, the King is very polite and friendly (much like his portrayal in The Madness of King George III). He smiled a lot and made Adams more comfortable, if not less in awe. In the series the King is just plain weird. I can only guess the filmmakers were hinting at King George's future illness/madness. It's almost as if this series is based on another book about John Adams - a darker book. This series really missed the tone of McCullough's great book.

Still -- divorcing myself from the book -- I find this series is well-made and held my attention. Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney are very good. My advice would be to watch the series first, then read the book for a much more uplifting story.
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Like many others, I am seeing the series as they come out on HBO, and have yet to read the book (which I intend to at some point). The series features great acting, poignant scenes, and memorable oratory. But what really got me was how it transported you to that time, when life was a series of great heroics, but was also harsh, gritty, and so unforgiving. The series kept sending me to try and research different historial events that I remembered fleetingly reading about, in one line or a few paragraphs during unfortunately uninspiring history classes of many years ago. The concept of being "tarred and feathered" took a whole new dimension for me, as the brutality of that era touched everyone, rightly or wrongly. I am sure I would have more to say once I have finished seeing the series, but I cannot stop thinking about the different scenes. I recommend it to everyone very highly, and can't wait for the DVD to come out.
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John Adams: deeply principaled, no-nonsence, ornery, lawful good, brilliant, fallible, passionate founder of our country. This is the story of the unbridled defiance, the shrewd intellect, and the angry pounding fist that tore the American colonies from British rule and gave birth to one of the greatest experiments in the history of the world - the United States of America. Stunning and haunting, this is John Adams like you've never seen him. Myth and poetry have been stripped away to reveal the far-more-fascinating, truly-human story of one of the greatest men who has ever lived.

Giamatti is simply brilliant as Adams. If he doesn't win the Emmy for this, I may declare my own independance from the "dark tyranny" of the ATAS. Linney is equally wonderful in her portrayal as the groundingly sapient Abigail. Their love story is one of the greatest in American history, and it's been marvelously recaptured here.

If it's even possible to have "spoilers" for a factual historical drama, then the following might qualify, but if you want to see what each eposide covers, here's my stab at it:

Episode 1: Join or Die.
Begins with the Boston Massacre, and covers the period leading up to Adams departure for Philidelphia to represent Massachusettes in the First Continental Congress.

Episode 2: Independance.
Covers the First Continental Congress, the beginning of the American Revolution at Lexington and Concord, the nomination of GW (by Adams) to serve as general of the new Continental Army, the Second Continental Congress, and Adams collaboration with Jefferson and Franklin to bring forth the Declaration of Independance.

Episode 3: Don't Tread on Me.
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