- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 22, 2010

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

A Blu Robin

Director Ridley Scott methodically explored the origins of Sherwood Forest’s famed archer in a plodding epic earlier this year.

Now available in Blu-ray, Robin Hood: Unrated Director’s Cut (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, $39.98) gives viewers an extra 15 minutes of reasons why actor Russell Crowe’s portrayal of Robin Longstride, aka Robin of Loxley, makes better fodder as a History Channel pseudodocumentary than an action-packed blockbuster.

However, viewers who get through the overly long (2-hour) film will find a few reasons to interact with it via a selection of bonus features.

I’ll start with the Director’s Notebook, featuring a collage of information starring Mr. Scott. At specific points in the film, the screen breaks into three sections. Mr. Scott or a member of the production crew talks about the production in one area; behind-the-scenes footage or art sketches are offered in another; and the movie plays in the third.

The feature is at its most interesting when the director talks about the history and real characters of the time period.

Next, a no-brainer breakthrough in technology arrives with Uhear. At any point in the movie, when, for example, one of the heavily accented Brits is talking or Mr. Crowe is bellowing his lines, viewers can hit the yellow button on the Blu-ray remote and go back a bit in the film and read subtitles for the scene to understand what the actors said.

Finally, there’s Pocket-Blu, a not-quite-ready-for-prime-time idea tied to one’s smart phone. An iPhone, for example, with the Pocket application installed, will detect when the Blu-ray disc is played and can be used as a remote control. Turn the iPhone sideways and drag a finger over the timeline, which appears to quickly access specific parts of the movie.

Also, a select group of 11 extras, including deleted scenes and a behind-the-scenes featurette, is unlocked and can be streamed or downloaded to the phone.

Other than the cool factor and some social-networking functionality, I’m not yet seeing the potential of Pocket-Blu.

It should be noted that I had a difficult time getting the “Robin Hood” Blu-ray to work on three different players (all with updated firmware). I only succeeded, with full functionality, using the PlayStation 3.

Singing in high-def

A more mature “High School Musical” for prime-time television debuted in 2009 and won the hearts of viewers and critics with its celebration of song, stories of modern teen angst and the comedic stylings of Jane Lynch as conniving cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester.

Glee: The Complete First Season (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, not rated, $69.99) arrives on Blu-ray and offers the initial 22 episodes of the series about the adventures of a glee club and a few focused extras on the show’s highlights, namely the musical numbers.

Fans can jump right to the musical action on each of the four discs through the Glee Music Jukebox to immediately find the troupe performing classics such as Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” Queen’s “Somebody to Love” and AC-DC’s “Highway to Hell,” all choreographed and homogenized for your pleasure.

A karaoke mode reinforces some of the musical moments. Found on the fourth disc, we get four songs highlighted to sing along. It seems with the dozens of tunes available, developers could be a bit more generous for their audience and provide many more.

“Behind the Pilot: A Visual Commentary With Cast and Crew” offers the principal actors and creator Ryan Murphy in a movie-theater setting. The group comments liberally and chuckles while watching the first episode. Watch the cast watch themselves on one side of the screen while enjoying the episode on the other side.