- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 31, 2005

Each week, the Browser features some pop-culture places on the World Wide Web offering the coolest in free interactive sounds and action.

Lights, camera, online action

Activision and game developer Lionhead Studios turn cinema fans into filmmakers with the Movies ($49.99, rated T for ages 13 and older), a PC-based simulation.

An individual takes charge of all facets of a Hollywood studio, manipulating every nuance, from talent and resources to research and development. In a robust story mode, the user eventually creates a full movie that includes original dialogue, customized actors and musical scores while choosing from almost every genre, including crime dramas, musicals, thrillers, spaghetti Westerns, horror, sci-fi and comedies.

In a melding of PC action with online experience, a second tier of interaction allows virtual movie moguls to upload their finished masterpieces to a Movies community Web site (movies.lionhead.com) where a reviewer — meaning any schlub who wants to watch flicks through his Windows Media Player plug-in — can judge finished works and directly affect a player’s success in the game.

The Web site houses 21,000 movies ranging in length from three minutes to two hours, with new flicks appearing almost every minute to give amateur Roger Eberts the chance to critique around the clock.

Considering that almost any competent computer user can output a potential blockbuster, the creative quality and subject matter of the finished products varies. (Nothing pornographic is allowed, but violence and profanity can be found).

However, each multi-megabyte film consistently has a computer-animated look (think of the Sims game) and is of slightly better quality than real big-budget movies’ previsualized storyboards, often developed to lay out special-effects sequences.

Of the various productions, visitors will enjoy the seven-minute werewolf tale “Woodland Horror,” two versions of “King Kong,” a five-minute remake of Edgar Allen Poe’s “Telltale Heart” and a 19-minute humorous epic titled “Will and Fred’s Mediocre Misadventure.”

Films can be found under Top 25 lists encompassing genre, studio and actors, and each comes with text information about the project, words about the lead actors (all of whom were designed by the game player) and the numerous comments from reviewers.

Visitors who register with the site can offer criticisms as well as deliver a star rating. Movies with consistently high marks reward filmmakers with credits so they can buy more sets, props and costumes for their next project.

Those interested in getting a taste of the virtual action to decide whether they want to purchase a full version of the game should visit the game’s official Web site (www.themoviesgame.com) where they will find a free Scene Maker.

The Scene Maker requires no massive downloads and allows up to five directors to work together (the program alerts players via e-mail when it’s their turn) to create a static, 15-scene feature that looks like a computer-generated comic book.

‘Producers’ on the Web

Mel Brooks’ 1968 movie “The Producers” was transformed into a Tony Award-winning musical in 2001 and has come full circle as a new movie, based on the musical. Ya got it?

The movie’s official Web site (www.theproducersmovie.com) gives visitors a heavy dose of the hysterical songs sung by Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane and other cast members while providing promotional information about the film.

A trio of activities also gives fans some belly laughs as they learn about the movie … er, musical … er, musical movie?

Bialy’s Big Ones stands out by providing a historical resource chronicling producer Max Bialystock’s best theater shows as visitors admire the posters, read the rave reviews and peruse the scripts. Productions such as “The Breaking Wind,” the musical version of Hamlet called “Funny Boy,” and “The Kidney Stone,” which the New York Chronicle reviewer said was “almost like the real thing,” stand out.

Quizzical Quandary is next and presents a four-part, multiple-choice stream of 16 questions related to minutia in the movie and its plot. An e-card creator concludes the interactivity and incorporates four scenes from the film that can be sent to a friend or loved one.

Have a cool site for the online multimedia masses? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at the Browser, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message (jszadkowski@washington times.com). Joseph also writes a Web exclusive column for the Washington Times’ Web site where he reviews educational software and family -riendly video games. Check it out at https://www.washington times.com/familytimes/ romperroom.

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