- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 24, 2007

Here’s a look at some DVD software that’s available: TV Scene It to Go, by Mattel and Screen Life for DVD-enabled computers and entertainment centers, for ages 13 and older, $19.99. An early maker of DVD games has released a portable version of one of its titles to capitalize on the vehicle entertainment center market.

Passengers now can be kept busy on extended road trips with a DVD that rolls dice and asks a variety of questions based on the 50-year history of television. A mini-board with magnetized playing pieces fits into a player’s lap.

Timed challenges, accessed via the controller, require players to shout out the answers to basic trivia questions, identification of show segments and sound clips, fill-in-the-blank questions and pictograms while covering programs from “24” to “Fantasy Island” to “The Brady Bunch.”

Shrek Swamp Party, from bEqual for DVD-enabled computers and entertainment centers, $19.99. The DVD continues the traditional board game’s evolution, this time with help from William Steig’s famed green ogre.

Shrek hosts this party game that takes advantage of a zany fairy tale universe through a combination of more than 200 levels of on-screen, but mostly on-the-floor, challenges, accessed via a single DVD.

Pop the DVD into the console and players pick a difficulty level and compete for points in up to 15 rounds with help from most of Shrek’s pals.

Randomly generated challenges, which are triggered with the DVD controller, include a ring toss, a round of Shrek Says (just like Simon Says), modified charades, the old shell game with Puss In Boots hiding a piece of cheese in hats, hot potato, pictograms and a staring contest.

Pan’s Labyrinth: Platinum Series, from New Line Home Entertainment for DVD-enabled computers and home entertainment centers, rated R, $34.99. This Academy Award-winning film gets royal DVD treatment in a two-disc set with an overwhelming set of multimedia extras.

I can’t say writer-director Guillermo del Toro’s adult fairy tale is the most uplifting of films, in fact, as a parent I found the unfolding events pretty depressing. It offers a brutal take on war, but mixes in enough fantasy elements to captivate lovers of any supernatural epic about good versus evil.

For serious fans of the movie, this DVD set could not have been hatched by a more tech-enlightened filmmaker and distribution company. Mr. del Toro and New Line have embraced the digital video medium and always seem to have the best deconstructive features with their releases.

No exception here. Especially impressive on the first disc is the optional commentary track by Mr. del Toro, one of the best I have ever heard. It truly explains this man’s passion for the project and the meticulous detail he afforded it.

The second disc unloads the featurettes and special effects revelations to give the viewer about 90 minutes of footage. The disc also includes beautifully illustrated comic book montages of the creatures’ back stories, including the Giant Toad, fairies, Pan and the scary Pale Man, which are highlighted with dialogue boxes that automatically pop up.

Those who pop either disc into their PC use the IVEX (interactive viewing experience) software, standard to most all of New Line’s Platinum Series releases, to watch the film on their computer and simultaneously compare the script (in English or Spanish) along with storyboards and art against the final film.

It is a gorgeous and rich encyclopedic resource, complete with hundreds of pieces and the ability to bookmark segments and even search the script to jump to specific points in the movie.

Another PC component to the DVD offers a Web link to Mr. Del Toro’s personal sketchbook that combines a running audio narrative by the creator against virtual pages turned by the viewer.

This “Pan’s Labyrinth” release easily highlights the continued relevance of the DVD medium to help thoroughly examine a creator’s vision. It also questions the point of cramming new formats — Blu-ray and HD-DVD — down consumers’ throats.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; or send e-mail (jszadkowski@washington times.com).

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