- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Here’s a trio of DVD packages that enable viewers to become armchair directors as they access another level of interactivity.

Final Destination III: Thrill Ride Edition, from New Line Home Entertainment for DVD-enabled computers and home entertainment centers, rated R, $29.99.

The tradition of the dead-teenager film continues with the latest in the “Final Destination” series as the fickle finger of fate delivers a series of Rube Goldberg-style deaths that Doctor Phibes would appreciate.

The mildly successful movie has been salvaged in the DVD realm through a double-disc set that offers viewers choices for the main characters’ demise or salvation. During various points in the action, a creepy carny’s image appears on-screen with two choices, which could range from setting the thermostats in a tanning booth too high to having a victim move to the left or right.

Once the viewer uses the directional arrows on the DVD player controller to decide, the results are shown, and though the viewer can save a victim, the result in most cases is very ugly and graphic.

Despite this innovation, I was more impressed with the extended care taken with the extra content created for such a mediocre movie.

The second disc begins with a creepy seven-minute cartoon about the inevitability of death, a 30-minute history of the dead-teenager movie with comments on the genre from legendary film critic Roger Ebert, and a 90-minute documentary on the forgettable piece of cinema.

An intense, PC-specific game also is available. The player puts the victims’ deaths in chronological order, and the correct order leads to a new set of photos that when touched by the cursor reveal a video segment of a very gross death.

What the Bleep!?!: Down the Rabbit Hole Quantum Edition, from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment for DVD-enabled computers and home entertainment centers, not rated, $26.98.

Who are we? What are we? Why do I spend time listening to a chiropractor and spiritualist tell me about quantum mechanics?

These were just a few of the points I pondered as I watched an expanded DVD version of a film that claims to reveal the minutiae of a theoretical physics discipline but sandbags viewers with New Age spirituality that ultimately tries to merge science with mystical revelation.

Through three double-sided discs filled with an amalgam of interviews, animation and dramatic interludes, viewers can spend up to five hours wondering why they exist.

Tech magic is embedded throughout, and viewers can tailor the experience to the level of hocus-pocus and migraine-inducing explanations desired. Specifically, the viewer can watch random or specific cuts of the film that could include a series of interviews on a related topic (such as sight perception), cutting out all of the fictional subplot starring Marlee Matlin as an uninspired woman who goes on a quest to understand her life, or the viewer could play sequences of the movie in a random order.

I found it informative listening to the real physicists talk, and I suggest a look at the more than five extra hours of bonus interviews to find such folks as David Albert and see what I mean.

Choose Your Own Adventure: The Abominable Snowman, from Goldhil Entertainment for DVD-enabled computers and home entertainment centers, rated G, $19.98.

Author R.A. Montgomery’s popular books in which youngsters control the outcome of the story come to animated life through a direct-to-DVD series in which children continue to select their path to the on-screen action.

Within a cartoon that averages about 30 minutes and features the voices of Frankie Muniz, William H. Macy and Lacey Chabert, viewers will be prompted to use the directional arrows on their DVD player’s controller and guide the lives of young explorers Benjamin, Crista and Marco, who go to the Himalayas in search of their Uncle Rudy.

Choices such as whether to stay aboard a plane losing fuel or use a parachute and whether to follow paw or boot tracks will lead to 11 possible plot lines that might end with an encounter with the mythical Yeti.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; or send e-mail ([email protected])

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