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BUENA VISTA

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Jon Turteltaub
Cast:
Nicolas Cage, Justin Bartha, Diane Kruger, Jon Voight, Helen Mirren, Ed Harris, Harvey Keitel, Bruce Greenwood
Writing Credits:
Marianne Wibberley (and story), Cormac Wibberley (and story), Gregory Poirier (story), Ted Elliott (story), Terry Rossio (story), Jim Kouf (characters), Oren Aviv (characters), Charles Segars (characters)

Synopsis:
Join Nicolas Cage on a heart-pounding adventure that will have you on the edge of your seat in a race to find the Lost City of Gold. Grounded in history, imbued with myth and mystery, Disney's National Treasure: Book of Secrets takes you on a globe-trotting quest full of adrenaline-pumping twists and turns - all leading to the final clue in a mysterious and highly guarded book containing centuries of secrets. But there's only one way to find it - Ben Gates must kidnap the President. Packed with fast-paced action and crackling humor, National Treasure: Book of Secrets is a movie your entire family will want to rediscover again and again.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$65.444 million on 3832 screens.
Domestic Gross
$219.455 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Surround 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish

Runtime: 125 min.
Price: $34.99
Release Date: 5/20/2008

Bonus:
DVD One:
• Audio Commentary with Director Jon Turteltaub and Actor Jon Voight
• Sneak Peeks
DVD Two:
• Five Deleted Scenes
• “The Treasure Reel - Bloopers and Outtakes”
• “Secrets of a Sequel” Featurette
• “The Book of Secrets: On Location” Featurette
• “Street Stunts: Creating the London Chase” Featurette
• “Underground Action” Featurette
• “Evolution of a Golden City” Featurette
• “Knights of the Golden Circle” Featurette
• “Cover Story: Crafting the Presidents’ Book” Featurette
• “Inside the Library of Congress” Featurette


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


National Treasure 2: Book Of Secrets (Collector's Edition) (2007)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 12, 2008)

Though the $171 million gross of 2004’s National Treasure didn’t make it a huge smash, it did well enough to ensure a sequel. And a sequel that lived up to expectations, as 2007’s National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets took in even more money than its predecessor. The flick’s $219 million take probably ensures a National Treasure 3, and you know what? That’s fine with me, as Secrets provides pretty good entertainment.

Secrets brings back treasure-hunter Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage). He learns that some suspect his great-great-grandfather Thomas (Joel Gretsch) was part of the conspiracy to assassinate President Lincoln. Ben wants to vindicate his ancestor, so he uses a recently found page from John Wilkes Booth’s diary to send him on the right path.

To that end, he gathers his troops from the first flick: technology expert Riley Poole (Justin Bartha), estranged girlfriend/archivist Dr. Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger), and his archaeologist father Patrick (Jon Voight). The quest sends them to find a treasure that will prove Thomas’s innocence. (This makes sense in the film’s context.) Chaos and excitement ensue.

When I saw the first Treasure, I thought it offered pretty mediocre action material. It seemed awfully generic, and while the Jerry Bruckheimer stamp meant great production values, it also brought with it a tendency toward the same old, same old. The flick felt like something we’d already seen – and seen done better.

At no point does Secrets reinvent the proverbial wheel, but it refines the feel of Treasure and manages to better stand on its own two feet. Most of the same ingredients pop up here, so expect it to follow similar themes and concepts. Secrets simply comes across as more confident and self-assured.

It also better balances action and laughs. Director Jon Turteltaub came from a comedy background, so his attempts at action felt strained and unenthusiastic in the first flick. With Treasure, Turteltaub shows more competence with the set pieces. Take the car chase through London, for instance. Such sequences have been done to death, but Turteltaub give us an exciting segment that adds to the fun.

Actually, “fun” would be the best word to describe Secrets, especially since fun was in short supply during the somewhat plodding original flick. Secrets never takes itself too seriously, and that irreverent attitude works for the film’s benefit. Like the first flick, the participants pull off difficult tasks with improbable ease, and the story provides too many plot holes. However, these problems don’t gall as much here as they did in the first film, especially since the comedy helps wink at the absurdity.

I think the actors seem more comfortable here as well. Cage sleepwalked through the first movie, but he appears more engaged here, and the extra experience with each other translates to the co-stars as well. They all mesh nicely and feel like real acquaintances, not like actors tossed into goofy roles.

I rather liked the fact that actors in their sixties – or close - played such important parts here. In addition to Voight, we got Helen Mirren as Ben's mom and Ed Harris as the nominal villain. The film doesn’t patronize them or treat them like ancient folks; it throws them into the action without regard for their age. That’s an unusual and welcome choice.

One minor acting quibble relates to the use of Bartha as Riley. I like the wry humor he brings to the role, but looks-wise, he’s all wrong. The movie makes fun of his second banana status and his inability to snare a babe. That’d be fine if he wasn’t insanely handsome. It makes no sense whatsoever that the ladies treat him like a non-entity; he’s substantially better looking than Cage and not someone who I think would struggle to get dates. Bartha is too amusing in the role for me to really oppose his casting, but there remains a major disconnect between his looks and the character’s problems with women.

At no point does Secrets turn into an action classic, and I wouldn’t even put it on the top tier of Bruckheimer flicks. Nonetheless, the movie offers good entertainment and allows the easy suspension of disbelief despite sketchy history and plot holes. Secrets provides an easy-going, engaging action-comedy.


The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B+/ Bonus B+

National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I thought the first flick showed fairly mediocre visuals; unfortunately, the sequel didn’t look any better.

Sharpness was one of the main problems. The movie often lacked great detail, especially in wider shots. While the film never became terribly ill-defined, it wasn’t as crisp and concise as I’d expect. Still, most shots - particularly close-ups - looked acceptable. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, but I noticed mild edge enhancement. No source flaws marred the presentation, though grain was heavier than expected.

As with the first movie, the colors of Secrets lacked the heavy stylization typical of most modern action flicks. This one seemed relatively natural, though it boasted a mild golden tone – a decision that made sense in a film that follows the pursuit of a city of gold. The colors were fine; they never appeared particularly dynamic, but they showed acceptable delineation. Blacks were reasonably deep, and shadows showed good clarity. All of this meant a “B-“ transfer; it was watchable but not as good as I’d hoped.

As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Secrets, it was perfectly acceptable. Like the first movie, it featured a soundfield that seemed more limited than expected for a big action film. Of course – also like its predecessor – this one didn’t boast a lot of huge action beats, so it didn’t get to show off too often. It worked fine during the various scenes that required a broader setting, such as the car chase through London.

Music showed nice stereo definition, and the surrounds bolstered the experience well. During those occasional action scenes, some unique material popped up in the back speakers and created a reasonably involving setting. This was especially true during the climax; the “City of Gold” environment offered good creaks and other immersive pieces. Nothing about the soundscape dazzled, but it added some pizzazz when appropriate.

Audio quality lived up to modern standards. Speech remained distinctive and natural, as the lines were well-reproduced despite the need for quite a lot of looping. Effects demonstrated good definition and liveliness, and they showed nice heft when appropriate. Music was a minor disappointment, though, as the score didn’t provide great range. That side of things seemed decent but could’ve been more vivid. This was good enough for a “B+”, though it’s an unenthusiastic “B+”.

Expect a load of extras in this two-disc set. On DVD One, we find an audio commentary from director Jon Turteltaub and actor Jon Voight. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. It looks at cast and performances, sets and locations, effects and stunts, editing, music, and sound design, story issues, and a few other production areas.

Turteltaub dominates the commentary. For its first two-thirds or so, Voight says little; he becomes more active and informative during the final act, though, especially when he chats about acting with Helen Mirren. Nonetheless, this remains Turteltaub’s commentary, and he makes it a pretty good one. There’s lots of happy talk but he provides enough interesting details about various production issues to make the chat worth a listen.

A few ads open DVD One. We get clips for Blu-ray Disc, Sleeping Beauty, WALL-E, Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Disney Movie Rewards. These also appear in the disc’s Sneak Peeks domain along with promos for Tinker Bell, The Muppet Show Season 3, Disney parks, The Jungle Book 2 and Minutemen. No trailer for Secrets appears in this set.

Over on DVD Two, we start with five Deleted Scenes. These run a total of 12 minutes, 30 seconds. (Optional intros from Turteltaub add three minutes, 38 seconds if viewed.) We find “Pursuit at Rushmore: The Unseen Chapter” (7:50), “Hacking the Palace” (1:17), “Pushed to the Edge” (2:38), “A Helping Hand” (2:31) and “Tight Squeeze” (0:14).

All five scenes prove interesting. Since “Pursuit” is the longest, it comes as no surprise that it’s also the most compelling; though I agree with Turteltaub’s to rework it and save a lot of time, the sequence itself is fun. The others also offer entertaining material, especially since we get more of Voight and Mirren.

The Treasure Reel: Bloopers and Outtakes fills five minutes, three seconds. Should you expect anything other than the usual goofs and giggles? Nope. If you dig that stuff, go nuts.

Eight featurettes follow. Secrets of a Sequel lasts six minutes, 51 seconds and provides notes from Turteltaub, Voight, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, executive producers Mike Stenson and Chad Oman, and actors Nicolas Cage and Diane Kruger. The show looks at some of the challenges connected to the creation of a sequel. Well, at least that’s the theory. In reality, it acts more as a general promotional take on Secrets. A few minor tidbits emerge, but it’s usually too fluffy to be very useful.

For the nine-minute and 40-second The Book of Secrets: On Location, we hear from Turteltaub, Voight, Bruckheimer, Cage, Kruger, executive producer Barry Waldman, UK supervising location manager Bill Darby, healthy and safety officer Barry May-Leybourne, security agent Alex Garty, and actors Justin Bartha, and Helen Mirren. A few parts of the featurette provide good information, particularly when we learn about some complications in London. Unfortunately, too much of “Location” just seems to want to impress us: “We’re in London! We’re in Paris!” It’s a mediocre reel.

Next comes Street Stunts: Creating the London Chase. In this nine-minute and 41-second clip, we receive comments from Turteltaub, Bruckheimer, Waldman, Kruger, Bartha, Cage, Darby, UK 2nd unit stunt coordinator Steve Dent, stunt drivers Andy Smart, Pete Miles and Rob Fitch, UK special effects coordinator Neil Corbould, UK 2nd unit location manager Duncan Flower, UK supervising art director Gary Freeman, first AD Geoffrey Hansen, assistant stunt coordinator Paul Herbert, and actor Ed Harris. “Stunts” looks at all the work put into the complicated car chase sequence. It provides a good encapsulation of the various challenges. It even throws in some deleted shots, which makes it more fun.

Underground Action gives us six minutes and 48 seconds with Turteltaub, Bartha, Mirren, Voight, Bruckheimer, Harris, Kruger, Cage, supervising art director Drew Boughton, gimbal operator Jesse Noel, and stunt coordinator George Marshall Ruge. We find a look at the underground cave set and the stunts done there. This becomes an informative glimpse of that subject, especially in the way it illustrates the use of the gimbal.

After that, we locate the 10-minute and 19-second Evolution of a Golden City. It features Turteltaub, Bruckheimer, Bartha, Mirren, Cage, Harris, Oman, Stenson, Boughton, Voight, Kruger, screenwriters Cormac and Marianne Wibberly, visual effects supervisor Mitchell S. Drain, senior visual effects supervisor Nathan McGuinness, and lead modeller Greg Stuhl. “City” examines the design and building of the enormous set used in the movie’s climax as well as shooting in it. The program covers the various areas in a reasonably complete manner and entertains along the way.

When we move to Knights of the Golden Circle, we get two minutes and 40 seconds from the Wibberlys, Cage, The Mysterious and Secret Order of the Knights of the Golden Circle author Dr. Roy Roush, Rebel Gold author Warren Getler, and actor Christian Camargo. The featurette offers a quick look at the history behind part of the film’s story. Too quick, really, so it feels more like a teaser than a substantial piece.

Cover Story: Crafting the Presidents’ Book lasts four minutes, 32 seconds. It includes Kruger, Cage, Bruckheimer, Bartha, Voight, Turteltaub, prop master Ritchie Kremer, calligrapher De Ann Singh, and actor Bruce Greenwood. We learn a little about the creation of the movie’s titular scrapbook. I like the info about that side of things, especially since we find out how much work went into the tome. Unfortunately, too much of the short piece just talks about the concept of the book; I’d have liked a closer look at the prop itself.

Finally, Inside the Library of Congress runs eight minutes, 39 seconds and provides notes from Bruckheimer, Turteltaub, Cage, Bartha, Kruger, Library of Congress curator C. Ford Peatross, Library of Congress’ Dr. James H. Billington, collections access chief Steven J. Herman, Civil War specialist Dr. John Sellers, Preservation Directorate director Dianne van der Reyden, Curator of Fine Prints Katherine Blood, Manuscript Division chief Dr. James H. Hutson, Geography and Map Division chief Dr. John R. Hebert, Rare Books and Special Collections curator Daniel De Simone, and Prints and Photographs acting chief Helena Zinkham. It’s usually little more than an ad for the LOC, but it’s an interesting one as it takes us through the stacks.

After the lackluster National Treasure, I didn’t look forward to its sequel. However, Book of Secrets offered a frequently funny, occasionally exciting experience that rarely excelled but always entertained. The DVD comes with acceptable but somewhat lackluster picture, pretty good audio, and a generally informative collection of supplements. Overall, this is a fun movie and a perfectly acceptable DVD.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.0666 Stars Number of Votes: 15
25:
54:
4 3:
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main