- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 19, 2006

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

‘Zoom’ to the Net

“Zoom,” the new Tim Allen film about a down-on-his-luck superhero called back into service to train superpowered youngsters, did not dazzle theatergoers last week. Sony Pictures’ official online ode to the movie (www.sonypictures.com/movies/zoom/index.html) will, however, capture their time and attention.

Visitors first watch an elevator descend next to an exposed cross section of an underground facility named Area 52, which houses the younger heroes and trainers.

Once the elevator opens to reveal the characters — Captain Zoom, Princess, Houdini, Wonder and Mega Boy — all ready for action, visitors can click on the facility’s test or control rooms to take part in a multimedia challenge or learn about the film.

One of the more stress-relieving areas to explore is found in Princess’ Room, which allows the visitor to use her superhuman strength (with the help of a mouse) to fling huge weights at destructible items, including wall-mounted video cameras and a fire extinguisher.

A more creative use of Web-animated design can be found in Houdini’s Room as the player has 30 seconds to track the invisible hero as many times as possible when he moves objects around an office area. A click on items such as a rolling ball, short-circuited sign and shaken coffee mug will cause the hero to reappear briefly.

The most difficult challenge, placed in Wonder’s Room, has a visitor tap Summer Jones’ levitation powers to keep a spaceship afloat in a hangar area. Directional keys bring the magic to life as the fussy craft wants to crash constantly and take off quickly.

A different sort of activity can be found in the Reject Room, where an amateur genetic engineer has the chance to construct a hero not quite up to Area 52’s standards. He chooses from a variety of heads, torsos and legs to put together a reject that can be named and powers revealed with the wave of a mouse cursor.

Although the “Zoom” site offers a bit of fun in large and colorful rooms, it is not quite as interactive as it should be. With very few hot spots set in large environments, it pales in comparison to sites heavy with interaction, such as that of “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” (https://disney.go.com/ disneypictures/pirates/).

Web classics

National Public Radio’s Web-based Music section (www.npr.com/music) is one of the better places to read and hear about the eclectic world of song. The site has expanded its popular programs with a new online component to give audiences exposure to some of the lesser-known — but important — musical recordings of all time.

“Shadow Classics,” written and compiled by “All Things Considered” host Tom Moon, is a cyber-area updated each Wednesday that showcases rock, pop, soul, jazz or classical albums by artists Mr. Moon considers to be an essential part of music history.

An online essay that provides some analysis and perspective highlights the featured artist and his or her composition. Visitors also can listen to a selection of full tracks from the recording and post feedback on the weekly choices.

A recent example of Mr. Moon’s picks was soul singer Donny Hathaway and his 1970 debut album, “Everything Is Everything.” Visitors get a concise look at his career and can hear “Je Vous Aime,” “Misty” and “Thank You Master.”

While at the site’s Music area, visitors also will find 46 concerts archived for on-demand listening (including shows from Sleater-Kinney, Sonic Youth and the Walkmen at the 9:30 Club) along with a song of the day and live concert presentations every Friday.

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 e-mail (jszadkowski@ washingtontimes.com). Joseph also writes a Web-exclusive column for the Washington Times Web site where he reviews educational software and family-friendly video games. Check it out at www.washington times. com/familytimes/ romperroom.htm.

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