Blu-ray Review HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: National Treasure: Book of Secrets

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Matt Hough, May 11, 2008.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/a/af/ronsreviews_covers_1826466.jpg">
    [b][SIZE=5]National Treasure: Book of Secrets (Blu-ray)[/SIZE][/b]
    [SIZE=3]Directed by Jon Turteltaub

    Studio: Disney
    Year: 2007
    Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 1080p AVC codec
    Running Time: 125 minutes
    Rating: PG
    Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English ; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish, Portuguese
    Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, others
    MSRP: $ 34.99

    Release Date: May 20, 2008
    Review Date: May 11, 2008[/SIZE]


    [b][u]The Film
    [/u][/b]
    2.5/5

    Bigger is not necessarily better in the second film in the [I]National Treasure [/I]franchise. As with most sequels, the producers feel they must up the ante in a follow-up movie, so we have more action in international locations, a longer chase sequence, bigger sets, and more comedy than in the first film. What we don’t get is an improvement in the script writing. The story is functional enough to propel the action from sequence to sequence, but the continual capers our heroes have to pull off over and over wear out their welcome this time out, even though the film is shorter than the first one.

    Nicholas Cage once again plays Benjamin Franklin Gates, historian extraordinaire, and early on, he finds his great grandfather’s good name is being smeared by being linked to the Knights of the Golden Circle, a post-Civil War Southern branch of the masons determined to start a second Civil War, their first act being assassinating President Abraham Lincoln. We quickly learn, however, that the owner of the damning document, Mitch Wilkinson (Ed Harris) has a nefarious scheme to use Gates to help him find the lost City of Gold, reputedly buried somewhere in the continental United States. Along for the ride again are Gates’ cohorts: his father Patrick Gates (Jon Voight), best friend Riley Poole (Justin Bartha), estranged girl friend Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger), and in this adventure, his mother Emily Appleton (Helen Mirren). Once again hot on his trail is FBI agent Sandusky (Harvey Keitel).

    The writers (the returning husband and wife team of the Wibberleys) take our intrepid team from Washington to Paris, London, and eventually to the Black Hills of South Dakota to, yes, Mount Rushmore pausing occasionally as they did in the first film to offer up some interesting tidbits of history and trivia facts though admittedly this time, they are less interesting and seem more manufactured to move the plot forward. They even manage to work in some adventures with the President (Bruce Greenwood) at Mount Vernon. Though this attention to history does set the [I]National Treasure [/I]franchise apart from the usual superhero action pictures, the careless plotting, the almost surreal way the villains stay up with or sometimes surpass the heroes, take away the pleasure one gets from smart action-adventure writing. Better to just take off your thinking caps and enjoy the capers without pondering much about any of them.

    Three Oscar winners headline this film (Nicholas Cage, Jon Voight, Helen Mirren), but none of them are taxed by the cardboard roles they’re asked to play here. The other actors follow their lead and simply enjoy themselves going through the high flying and water-logged stunts they’re compelled to perform. Ed Harris, usually a compelling presence in any film, seems less kinetic in this adventure, a real surprise. One also wishes that more could have been done with under heralded actor Joel Gretsch who plays Cage’s dishonored ancestor in the film’s opening sequences.

    Jon Turteltaub may never have directed a James Bond picture before, but his work in this film may now qualify him for one. The stunts and chases now more than ever move [I]National Treasure [/I]into 007 territory. The extended chase scene through London streets with beer kegs flying and cars, motorcycles, sidewalk cafes, and pedestrians being mowed down looks as if it could have plucked out of any Bond extravaganza. The climactic multi-layered maze of catacombs the team must maneuver through and survive certainly has echoes of [I]Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade [/I]about it, and when Nicholas Cage lowers his torch to light a flame trough in a deep cave, I had distinct feelings of déjà vu from the first film. It’s not original, but it can hold one’s attention.


    [b][u]Video Quality
    [/u][/b]
    5/5

    The Panavision 2.40:1 theatrical aspect ratio has been brought to Blu-ray in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. A super sharp picture with great attention to detail and marvelously noted textures of clothes, rocks, skin, and books distinguishes this transfer. Flesh tones seem just as accurate and natural as they did in the [I]National Treasure [/I]Blu-ray disc. I had no complaints about the depths of blacks which are truly rich though shadows get so dark, they do sometimes swallow up the surrounding imagery. The film is divided into 18 chapters.

    [b][u]Audio Quality
    [/u][/b]
    5/5

    The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is exemplary. When the situation demands, the surrounds are vivid with a wide range of sound effects and thundering LFE when needed, particularly in the climactic cave scenes with roaring waterfalls to near deafening levels. Once again, Trevor Rabin has contributed a very energetic score that’s placed appropriately throughout the soundfield enhancing scenes wherever possible.

    [b][u]Special Features
    [/u][/b]
    5/5

    Director Jon Turteltaub and actor Jon Voight provide a fun and unusually conversational [b]audio commentary[/b]. As in the first film’s Blu-ray release, director Turteltaub does much of the talking though Voight is a willing participant and adds comments throughout.

    Kudos to Disney for presenting every bonus on the disc in either 1080i or (in the case of the trailers) 1080p.

    [b]“Book of History: The Fact and Fiction of NT2”[/b] is a BD-Java interactive overlay which plays as you watch the film. As various events occur on screen, four possible areas are illuminated on the overlay (Desk of the President, History Makers, Chronology, and Archives) which, if selected, lead the viewer to pop-up facts or featurettes on a particular point of history. Also as part of this program is a true-false quiz which tests the viewer’s knowledge of American history and, if one stays through to the end, rewards high scores with additional featurettes.

    [b]7 deleted scenes [/b]are included on the disk. They can be watched individually or in one 20 ½ minute chunk. All are introduced by the film’s director.

    [b]“The Treasure Reel”[/b] is 5 minutes of outtakes and bloopers from the film.

    [b]“Secrets of a Sequel” [/b]details the pleasure and excitement the cast and crew had on being reunited for this second adventure. It is the puffiest of the features and runs 6 ¾ minutes.

    [b]“The[I] Book of Secrets[/I]: On Location” [/b]spends its 9 ¾ minutes discussing the elaborate preparations necessary for shooting scenes in both Paris and London as well as at several important American institutions for the film.

    [b]“Street Stunts: Creating the London Chase”[/b] goes into interesting detail with the five week rehearsal period that went into the film’s most elaborate chase scene, a sequence that had to be shot on weekends only in London. It also runs 9 ¾ minutes.

    [b]“Inside the Library of Congress” [/b]goes into some surprising detail in taking the viewer on a tour through the many buildings and levels of the Library of Congress where a couple of important scenes in the film take place. This 8 ¾-minute investigation into our country’s most important library is one of the disc’s best featurettes.

    [b]“Underground Action”[/b] shows how the trap door and pivoting motion platform were rigged on the set at Universal for the catacombs sequence. This runs 6 ¾ minutes.

    [b]“Cover Story: Crafting the President’s Book”[/b] details the construction of one of the most important props of the movie, the secret book of the film’s title. This featurette lasts 4 ½ minutes.

    [b]“Evolution of a Golden City” [/b]shows the eight weeks of construction on the elaborate City of Gold discovered in the climactic moments of the film and how much was made and how much was green screen/CGI effects. This feature runs 10 ¼ minutes.

    [b]“Knights of the Golden Circle”[/b] is a 2 ¾ minute quickie on the little known organization which may have been the genesis of the Ku Klux Klan.

    There are several [b]Easter eggs [/b]planted through the bonus feature and deleted scenes menus that will take you to brief discussions of Turteltaub and Cage’s high school days, a stunt man discussing driving in the chase sequence, and the numerous attempts to get a stunt right in the catacombs sequence.

    The disc offers 1080p [b]trailers[/b] for [I]Tinker Bell, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Sleeping Beauty[/I], and [I]Wall-E[/I]. The trailer for [I]National Treasure: Book of Secrets [/I]is not present but can be found on many Disney Blu-rays over the past six months.


    [b][u]In Conclusion
    [/u][/b]
    3/5 (not an average)

    [I]National Treasure: Book of Secrets [/I]has a less riveting exploration of historical artifacts as part of its caper-puzzle scenario this time out, but that didn’t stop it from achieving international box-office success. The James Bond and [I]Mission Impossible [/I]franchises offer greater stunts and more bang for the buck for me, but I can think of worse ways to spend a couple of hours. The Blu-ray disc is an excellent package of film and bonus features which fans of the movie will surely want to experience.

    And HTF DVD reviewer Neil Middlemiss has reviewed the sDVD version of the film
     
  2. TonyTone

    TonyTone Supporting Actor

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    Matt--thanks for the great review! One question though--do you know if the "Book of History" BD-Java interactive feature has the same (or similar) underpinnings as that of the D-Files feature found on the BD version of Enchanted? I ask because, on certain BD players (e.g., Panasonic BD30) the D-Files feature would not work correctly unless the BD Secondary Audio feature (in the BD30 it's called "BD-Video Secondary Audio") in the player setup was enabled--it's normally disabled because enabling it would then force the main soundtrack to output at DD/DTS rather than TrueHD/DTS-HD. Getting D-Files to work correctly on my BD30 was very frustrating until I discovered the solution (not that I'm claiming to be the first to have figured it all out)...
     
  3. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    Cool, plan on getting these both!
     
  4. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    I wish I could help you, Tony, but I used a PS3 for the reviews of both ENCHANTED and NT:BoS, and it had no trouble navigating either of the BD-Java features. To be honest, I found the program probably a little MORE complicated in construction than the "D-List" feature on ENCHANTED.

    I hope those who have a Panasonic BD30 who get the disc next week will report here and add to the thread for the sake of user friendliness.
     
  5. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    Thanks, Matt! Great review...but unfortunately you have confirmed the absence of Disney's Goofy short feature which ran nationwide before NT2 in the theaters, "How to Hook Up Your Home Theater."

    Since I missed this in the theaters, I missed the short and was hoping-upon-hope that it would be included on this disc. [​IMG]

    I'm afraid to say that since I was lukewarm about the first film, there's not enough here to warrant my purchase of this disc...especially with the absence of the short. I can actually say that the addition of that short (sight unseen) would have been enough for me to pull the trigger on this title.

    ===============

    **EDIT: I don't usually comment on coverart...but upon looking at the picture at the top of your review, it struck me that this is pretty bad artwork, eh?! [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  6. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    Unless the short was hidden in a Easter egg I didn't find, it is not on the disc. I would love to have seen it especially in HD.
     
  7. Dave Moritz

    Dave Moritz Producer
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    I also plan on getting both. Thanks for the review Matt. [​IMG] I have been waiting for the first NT to come out and will buy the second one even though I have not yet seen it.
     
  8. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    Oooh. I wonder if there's ANY chance it might be hidden as an Easter egg.

    Normally I would say that's crazy...but hasn't Disney hidden some substantive features this way in the past?!

    [​IMG]
     
  9. Travis Brashear

    Travis Brashear Screenwriter

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    Having seen this film in theaters, I was treated to the Goofy short and, while cute and "close to the heart" of a subject we all hold dear here, really, it wasn't "all that". It represents a mild, chuckle-but-not-guffaw diversion, nothing more; anyone who feels this is a dealbreaker between buying or not buying NT: BoS could use a healthy dose of perspective, IMO...
     
  10. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?
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    i'll try to check later tonight for any hidden eggs.
     
  11. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    A healthy dose of perspective? All I can say, Travis, is that it's hard for me to have perspective on something I haven't had the chance to see yet and was looking forward too much more than the feature-length NT2.

    Maybe you don't get the historical allure of the Goofy "how to..." shorts...but that is, as you put it, your opinion and I'm afraid it IS a dealbreaker for me as I'm not overwhelmingly interested in the NT2 disc. I could see picking it up in a "used" bin down the road...but it's not something at the top of my wish list. So, the presence of the short would make the difference.

    Among other reasons, I am most curious to see the renewed hand-drawn animation of the Disney unit. Even though much of the work (estimates are 50%) was done on computer, it is the turn of a new page for the Disney animators and I wanted to see how it turned out.
     
  12. Travis Brashear

    Travis Brashear Screenwriter

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    No reason to get worked up, Mike, and I'm sorry if you read a harsher tone in my statement than intended. Read it in the sense that some people insist on bonus features with their DVDs/Blu-rays and others don't see what the fuss is all about, but the two sides seldom intend hostility towards the "other side". Though I'm a huge bonus features supporter, in this case, I just don't see the fuss. The Goofy short is cute but, in the end, meh. It's a trifle, and it's okay to disagree with me, but I'm just flabbergasted that its exclusion from NT: BoS is proving to be a dealbreaker for people. Perhaps the key to your passion is your statement that you haven't seen it yet, because, if you had, it should (again, IMO) be a non-issue...
     
  13. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    That's cool.

    I'll let you know...if I ever get to see the damn thing. [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  14. TonyTone

    TonyTone Supporting Actor

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    Slightly off-topic, and I already posted it in the Bargains forum--there is a $10 instant-off coupon for the BD version of NT2. YMMV on redemption, depending on your local B&M store's policy regarding "scanned" coupons.
     
  15. Chris Atkins

    Chris Atkins Producer

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    Gave this a spin in the PS3 last night. Picture looked great, sound was great too. The mix isn't that aggressive (and I remember it being rather soft in the theater) but that shouldn't be a mark against the presentation on BD.
     
  16. Brian Bergen

    Brian Bergen Extra

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    Is anyone else having trouble playing this disc? It makes my Win BD player crash. Everyother BD plays fine.
     
  17. Travis Brashear

    Travis Brashear Screenwriter

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    I just noticed something rather unimportant in a world that has genocide in Burma and Darfur, but irritating to my fat and comfy American ass nonetheless--the film is titled NATIONAL TREASURE: BOOK OF SECRETS but the packaging is emblazoned with NATIONAL TREASURE 2: BOOK OF SECRETS. Again, who gives a rip in the grand scheme of things, but still, how inane...
     
  18. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    [​IMG]

    You might not believe this, but I pondered long and hard over which title to use in the review and title of this thread. The cover of the disc and the press release that came with it referred to the movie as "2," but the film's title screen does not, and so that's what I went with.
     
  19. Travis Brashear

    Travis Brashear Screenwriter

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    For my money, you chose wisely...
     
  20. Dave Moritz

    Dave Moritz Producer
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    I have not purchased National Treasure yet but when I get paid again National Treasure 1 & 2 will be in my Blu-ray collection, oh yes it will be mine. [​IMG] [​IMG]
     

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