Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian Blu-ray Review
'Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian' springs to life on Region A locked Blu-ray with a very nice looking 1080p AVC/MPEG-4-encoded transfer that's framed in the widescreen 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Colours are bold and vibrant with good saturation showing up in Octavius' red cloak as well as in the deep metallic gold of some of the Egyptian artefacts within the museum. Skin tones are of the Hollywood tan type and look good in context.
Contrast is fine throughout and we're treated to deep blacks in shadowy interiors.
The image is sharp throughout with no visible ringing due to over sharpening. There's also a great sense of depth to the picture which is very pleasing to look at and a fine veil of grain simply reminds us that the movie was originated on film.
The black and white sequence inside the VJ picture is particularly handsome, being handled well by the encode.
Overall, there's a great amount of detail on show here too - typified by the Pharaoh's tunic and headpiece. The only real suss job in the movie was the CGI squid, where the extra detail didn't do it many favours.
In general, there are no complaints on the picture quality front. Nice one.
The audio on 'Battle of the Smithsonian' comes in a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround flavour which thankfully is not as frenetic or headache inducing as a film of this type could have been. It's a little more kind to the neighbours, but really does rock in the surround areas when the rocket engines fire up in the National Air & Space Museum sequence. When the aircraft start flying around we have some nice audio pans to plant us amid the action. As the Wright Bros plane crashes through a window near the end, I was mentally trying to locate the dustpan and brush required to sweep up the broken glass that tinkled to the floor.
Alan Silvestri's memorable score rises to the occasion and wakes up the subwoofer with its fine use of deep bass.
Amid all the action, dialogue is clean and crisp throughout. Only occasionally did I find myself deliberately having to tune my ears in to what the characters were saying.
Overall though, it's probably not as enveloping as it might have been but that would be a directorial choice - and a consideration that some of us may welcome in the protection of our hearing for the future.
'Night at the Museum-Battle of the Smithsonian' comes to Blu-ray as a 3 disc-er, with disc 1 being taken up by the feature and extras, while Disc 2 is a DVD version of the movie and Disc 3 is the Digital Copy. It's interesting when you compare the DVD with the Blu-ray. You can really see how much better the image is with greater colour depth and solidity on the Blu.
- Commentary Tracks
We get two comm tracks here, The first has director Shawn Levy flying solo, who begins with great enthusiasm but begins to flag towards the end. It must be a struggle to talk about a movie for its duration so soon after completion, but he fills us in on production details from a director's viewpoint.
Next up we have a track from writers Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon who tend to be a bit more interesting than Mr Levy, providing us with reasons regarding some story considerations as well as more behind the scenes detail.
- Scavenger Hunt Mode
Here we have a trivia track with two difficulty levels that each offer different trivia experiences. Players have to use the red, green, blue, and yellow buttons on their remote to identify people and objects in the film.
- The Curators of Comedy: Behind-the-Scenes of 'Night at the Museum 2' (HD, 27 mins)
This fairly chunky behind-the-scenes featurette covers many aspects of the production and we get a good look at the construction of the massive sets and props. The cast & crew, including director Shawn Levy, all have nice things to say about each other and it appears as if they all had a good time making the movie.
- Historical Confessions: Famous Last Words (HD. 6 mins)
Each of the actors, in character, tells us what contribution they made to the world. A good idea, for about 2 minutes, but it drags somewhat - proving that actors really are better when they have a script.
- Directing 101: A Day in the Life of Director/Producer Shawn Levy (HD, 20 mins)
We follow Shawn Levy from his arrival at the studio in the morning, through a busy day when, strangely, everything went well to his departure at night. We see him deal with his assistant director on scheduling the days work. Everything is fluid. Nice for the director, but not so nice for the minions who have to chop and change everything for him. A fairly interesting piece.
- Caveman Conversations: Survival of the Wittiest (HD, 4 mins)
This is about 2 minutes too long as the three cavemen from the film grunt incoherently in response to an interviewer's questions. Probably not quite as funny as they'd hoped.
- Museum Magic: Entering the World of the Photograph (HD, 5 mins)
Director Shawn Levy and visual effects supervisor Dan Deleeuw guide us through the film's recreation of the famous VJ-Day photo of the sailor kissing a nurse - including the building of a section of Times Square in a car park and subsequent multilayering of CGI to produce the end result.
- Secret Doors and Scientists: Behind-the-Scenes of The American Museum of Natural History (HD, 16 mins)
In this interesting short we're taken inside the research labs at the American Museum, meeting a variety of scientists who explain what they do in some detail. For me, the Security Guard was most interesting.
- Phinding Pharaoh (HD, 5 mins)
Here we see a series of screen tests where Hank Azaria attempts to nail the character of Kahmunrah. He's clearly a talented voice artist as he convincingly covers a posh English accent, followed by a Cockney and others before perfecting the Boris Karloff with a lisp delivery that worked so well.
- Show Me the Monkey Featurettes (HD, 17 mins)
We have three featurettes here that focus on some real monkey business as Crystal & Squirt, the cute Capuchins, are shown with their handlers in some on-set as well as off-set antics.
- The Jonas Brothers in 'Cherub Bootcamp' (HD, 4 mins)
The boy group take part in a send up of an intense training regime with Shawn Levy for their appearance as cherubs in the film.
- Deleted Scenes (HD, 27 mins)
Eleven deleted scenes are included, along with an alternate ending although some are merely extensions of existing scenes. There is also an optional commentary by director Shawn Levy.
- Gangster Levy (HD, 2 mins)
This is the black & white sequence shown on the museum's Al Capone display in the movie. When Director Shawn Levy couldn't find a clip of gangsters firing machine guns in slow motion, he decided to shoot one himself - starring himself. Sounds like an excuse for a stab at immortality to me.
- Gag Reel (HD, 8 mins)
Yup, it's the usual collection of fluffed lines that were so funny years ago due to their rarity, but are now commonplace. Hank Azaria does provide a few amusing ones though.
- Fox Movie Channel Presents (SD, total 15 mins)
Here we get a couple of promo type segments from Fox Movie Channel. In "Making a Scene" we look at the production of the Air and Space Museum sequence, while in "World Premiere" we talk to the film's stars, who answer a few questions about the production.
'Night at the Musuem - Battle of the Smithsonian' is reawakened on Region A locked Blu-ray with a fine 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer, framed handsomely in the widescreen 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Particularly pleasing are the vibrant, solid colours of the museum interiors together with good looking skin tones. The image is both sharp and dimensional with lots of detail on display.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack affords us the pleasure of rocket engines starting up, planes flying around and shattering glass in a very clear mix where dialogue remains clear despite the action and Alan Silvestri's lively score.
A Pharaoh's treasure trove of shorts, featurettes and out-takes combine with the bonus DVD and Digital Copy to provide a well rounded package that will be appearing in many a Christmas stocking.
The movie itself is good fun and expands the action from the original movie to a wider range of characters and events. Nothing too taxing for the old grey matter here with the focus on the spectacle - and Amy Adams' particularly cute caboose.
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- Commentary Tracks