- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Here’s two of the latest releases highlighting the best interactive features from the high-definition format.

Gru on Blu

The computer-animated exploits of a super villain on a mission to steal the moon hit box-office gold this summer with help from the voices of Steve Carell, Russell Brand and Jason Segel — and some yellow capsule-shaped wise guys delivering Three Stooges-style shtick.

Now available in Blu-ray, Despicable Me (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, rated PG, $39.98) will keep families not only giggling at the odd, evil genius Gru and his mischievous minions, but also will keep youngsters busy with a selection of multimedia and interactive extras.

Let’s start with the least impressive, called Gru-Control, a riff on Warner Home Video’s Maximum Movie Mode. It allows characters from the movie to interrupt the action and cause some extra on-screen mayhem.

At any given minute in the film, Gru may shrink the screen using his famed weapon, arch enemy Vector might pop up to replay one of his favorite scenes, viewers might get a reaction from Mr. Carrell on voicing Gru or those wacky minions could walk in front of the movie to offer a bit of slapstick.

A better use of time is playing the Gru’s Rocket Builder challenge. The slightly clunky controller-navigated trivia game requires a player identify famous world landmarks in order to collect and rebuild eight parts of Gru’s ship.

In this actual learning experience, a map and a tight photo are the clues used to select and identify monuments including the Statue of Liberty and Great Wall of China. After selecting the correct image, the player also gets a fact, such as the Great Pyramid took 20 years to build or Big Ben is the largest chiming four-face clock in the world.

More games on the disc are found in the Super Silly Fun Land area. They include Tin Can Alley (set directional and speed meters to throw a ball and knock down cans), Freeze the Minions (shoot an ice ray at the little fellows as they pop up “whack-a-mole” style) and Feed the Creatures (roll a ball at the right time into a beast’s mouth to collect points).

Round out the action away from the computer after completing five recipes for cookies courtesy of Miss Hattie.

An extra for the iPad owner is using the Pocket Blu app to use Apple’s magical tablet as a remote control and watch the movie on a television while simultaneously using the iPad screen to watch some of the extras.

High-def hooting

Wings, feathers and snakeskin have never looked so spectacular than in the high-definition release of director Zack Snyder’s computer-animated epic, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (Warner Home Video, rated PG, $44.98).

A single Blu-ray disc delivers the beautiful 97-minute adaptation of author Kathyrn Lasky’s first three “Guardians” novels involving groups of wise, but often battling, anthropomorphic owls.

The disc also allows younger fans to watch the film again in a Maximum Kids Mode where they learn about the real owl world and the process of making an animated film.

Star of the “Guardians,” the barn owl Soren, hosts a presentation that interrupts or plays alongside the film and features character sketches, artwork, animation tests, production staff and voice actor interviews — and the occasional lecture on the importance of family.

Although the behind-the-scenes stuff is interesting, the information on these great creatures wins out. The on-screen learning experience encompasses videos about the functions of an owl’s gizzard (not for the squeamish) and the use of wings, fact boxes, a detailed look at owl species, and an occasional multiple-choice question about the birds in the movie.

Unfortunately, after the nifty Maximum Kids Mode, only the youngest fans will appreciate a set of games also on the Blu-ray.

Armor Up with Soren and Eglantine involves virtually dressing up the characters in various costumes, while Match the Owl Treats is three rounds of Concentration tied to the birds’ small-creature diet.

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