- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Blu-ray Bytes

Highlighting the best interactive features from the high-definition format.

Listen to the vampire

One could effectively argue that the number of blood-sucking creatures from ancient folklore in television shows and movies has again reached the saturation point.

I tend to agree, but that did not stop this fan from enjoying The Vampire Diaries: The Complete First Season on Blu-ray (Warner Home Video, not rated, $59.98).

Four discs lead to 22 episodes worth of “90210” meets “Dark Shadows” angst in Mystic Falls, Va., revolving around a pair of vampire brothers (one good and one very bad) and their love for evergreen beauty Elena Gilbert.

The CW Television Network show’s roots lay in author L.J. Smith’s young-adult fiction series of the same name, and an extra on one of the Blu-ray discs reminds viewers of that with quite a treat. Specifically, the complete 16-chapter audio adaptation of the 1991 book “The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening.”

Not only do listeners learn much more about the origins of the characters and the differences between the books and the television show, but it is narrated by actress Rebecca Mozo, who sounds a lot like Nina Dobrev, the actress who plays Elena on-screen.

I’ll call it a good idea, but why not offer a way to easily download the book into a mobile device for maximum appreciation potential.

Learning through “Lost”

One of the better  and stranger  television shows to grace the airwaves is gone, but viewers can relive its final season in Lost: The Complete Sixth Season (Buena Vista Home Entertainment, rated TV-14, $79.99).

Besides the chance to watch the last 18 episodes in high-definition glory, two multimedia extras truly distinguish this five-disc Blu-ray release.

First, a 12-minute never-aired epilogue, “The New Man in Charge,” explores more secrets from the show and offers a bit more closure. I’ll never tell.

Next, there’s the more-time-consuming continuation of Lost University, the faux collegiate career found in last year’s complete-season Blu-ray release.

It’s on to the master’s program, which is quite the interactive marvel as students register and take classes, meet with a faculty adviser and ultimately publish a master’s thesis to the online world.

Mixing education with the mythos of the show, the simulation features real experts in the field, via video, that succinctly teach a variety of online classes.

Topics such as “Investigating Character Archetypes,” “Exploring Redemption and the Afterlife” and “The Craft of Acting,” take a serious look at the subject matter. “Building Blocks of Storytelling,” for example, offers a 12-minute class presentation featuring footage of the show and professors such as Katharine Haake of the California State University at Northridge.

Students learn about theme, symbolism, character, setting and structure. It is recommended they read an actual book, such as “The Slaughterhouse Five” by Kurt Vonnegut or “Our Mutual Friend” by Charles Dickens, before taking a multiple choice test to complete a study guide.

The guide is then available to them through the online version of the college (www.lostuniversity.org).

Lost University is nothing short of a brilliant multimedia package that extends the life of a wonderful show and propels the Blu-ray format.

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