- Format: NTSC
- Language: English
- Region: Region A/1
- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
- Number of discs: 3
- MPAA Rating:
- Studio: Lionsgate Home Entertainment
- Release Date: Aug. 10 2010
- Run Time: 564 minutes
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- ASIN: B003C27X4Y
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #85,507 in Movies & TV Shows (See Top 100 in Movies & TV Shows)
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America: The Story of Us [Blu-ray]
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A riveting adventure of how America was invented, this stunning Blu-ray version of AMERICA THE STORY OF US focuses on the people, ideas and events that built our nation, covering 400 years of American history in the most extensive and in-depth television series ever produced by HISTORY. From the rigors of linking the continent by wagon trails to the transcontinental railway, the engineering of steel-structured buildings, through to landing on the moon, this epic 12-part series is a grand cinematic vision of how this country was built. AMERICA THE STORY OF US brings this story to life firsthand through patriots, frontiersmen, slaves, abolitionists, Native Americans, pioneers, immigrants, entrepreneurs and inventors. From the revolutionary war that birthed the nation to the civil war that divided it, into the making of the modern world, AMERICA The Story of Us is an epic, dramatic, heartbreaking and triumphant journey that reminds us that American history truly belongs to we, the people.
Sharing their thoughts on the building of America, and what it means to be an American, are a world-class group of individuals including Tom Brokaw, Michael Douglas, Meryl Streep, Buzz Aldrin, Colin Powell, Donald Trump, John Legend, Melissa Etheridge, Brian Williams and more.
With 12 chapters spread out over three discs and a total running time of more than nine hours (not including bonus material), the History Channel's America: The Story of Us is a sprawling primer on the history of the country and its people. Starting about 100 years after Columbus with the arrival of the earliest white settlers from across the Atlantic and finishing in the present day, the series can boast episodes devoted to major conflicts like the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and World War II; the more gradual but still significant developments that helped shape the nation (like western expansion and the mass migration to major cities); and the various elements and forces (the discovery of oil; the growth of industry, engineering, and infrastructure; the development of the automobile and other means of mass transportation, and, of course, the accumulation of vast economic and military might) that combined to make the United States the world's dominant superpower in the 20th century and beyond. To the filmmakers' credit, the darker aspects of this history--slavery and racial strife, the treatment of Native Americans, the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII--are not given short shrift. And while much of the material is dealt with in fairly broad strokes, there are also various enlightening details in each chapter. Who knew that George Washington established a network of spies who wrote notes in invisible ink in order to deceive the British, or that the most valuable currency for those who first explored the West was beaver pelts?
A combination of reenactments, photos, CGI, models, and other elements delivers a great deal of information here, along with frequent references to Americans' pioneer spirit, devotion to hard work, and belief that if you can dream it, you can do it. Yet this isn't an especially scholarly document. The events depicted, from the Boston Tea Party and Paul Revere's midnight ride to the Alamo and the Gettysburg Address, not to mention more lurid tales like the Donner Party and the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, should be familiar to those with even a cursory knowledge of US history. The emphasis on star power, be it the comments from a parade of talking heads including actors, musicians, politicians (President Barack Obama among them), athletes, soldiers, and so on, or the focus on charismatic historical figures like John Brown, Daniel Boone, and many others, reflects our celebrity-obsessed culture. And the constant hyperbole (narrator Liev Schreiber intones some variation of "What's about to happen will change things forever!" at least half a dozen times in the first episode alone) becomes tedious. Then again, considering the number of Americans who can't find their own country on a map, presenting the material like a dramatic TV show instead of textbook was a shrewd idea. --Sam Graham
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There was a strange Sound Quality issue when we watched the first episode. It was hard to hear the narration because the musical soundtrack was so loud and distracting. They are trying to trump up the suspense with the soundtrack, but it is one bang, drum and oboe too many. We adjusted the sound on our television which helped. Although, I noticed that the opening narration credits still remained drowned out by the music. We do enjoy Liev Schreiber's narration, just wish we didn't have to struggle to hear it.
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Of course, not everything is wrong about the series. Most of the, names and dates and some of the facts appear to be accurate and someone who didn't read/study much American history may find the episodes entertaining.
Now, for the 'not so good' aspects, and I'm going to itemize:
- The makers on these series seemed to believe that spicing the presentation with sound bytes from politicians, talk show hosts, news readers, wealthy people and self-proclaimed celebrities trumpeting their agendas and biases or just sounding important added weight to the narration. It didn't.
- Related to the above, the episodes feature very few actual historians. Strange, given this being a 'history' series.
- The narration follows a bombastic and sometime patronizing style that is supposed to capture the viewer's attention. In my view, it further lowers the program's credibility. Especially when the commentator using 'the movie trailer throaty voice' announces (frequently) that 'what is about to happen will change the fate of the country/world/universe forever'. Seriously?
- There are very few documents or artifacts from the periods examined, presented or discussed (get the celebrities sound bytes instead).
- Production values are not very high. All seems to have been done in a hurry and on the cheap.
- The 5.1 surround option at least on the Blu-ray edition is impossible to listen to, grossly imbalanced. 2-channel stereo sound is okay.
- There doesn't seem to be any apparent gain in picture quality on the Blu-ray edition.
There are many informative and quality historical shows ranging from PBS' 'The Civil War' classic to even 'entertainment' shows such HBO's brilliant 'Rome'. Sadly, 'The Story of Us' is at best a light weight. Can't recommend it and I wish I didn't buy it.
In terms of bringing history to life, I learned a lot of things I never knew and got a more in-depth insight into others, although this is by no means a complete history book.
Not only is the production informative but it is enjoyable to watch with a few notable exceptions. One is that the writers had the narrator saying "An event that would change the course of history forever" literally dozens of times until it got downright annoying. I don't dispute that just about EVERY event in history changed the course of history, but someone should have realized that when it is repeated over and over and over it becomes nothing more than silly.
I feel the entire production would have been better without the mini on-camera interviews with a whole range of people, many of whom have no background or expertise regarding the subject. I don't get how a person who plays a make-believe role in a movie lends any credibility to a production about history. Some of these on-camera people were shown so many times that just seeing their face was a turn-off.
The production has an obvious political lean to it, in which certain people and events got an inordinate amount of air time and others were virtually ignored. Whether or not that bothers anyone is a personal preference. It didn't bother me, it was just a reality of the way the show was produced.
Would I recommend it? Yes. More people should expose themselves to the history of how our country came to be and develop into what it is.