- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 20, 2008

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

Forbidden Web Kingdom

The dynamic duo of martial arts films team up in Lions Gate Entertainment’s “The Forbidden Kingdom,” currently in theaters. Jackie Chan and Jet Li star as adversaries in ancient China who work together with a team of heroes to free the imprisoned Monkey King.

The film’s promotional Web site (www.forbiddenkingdommovie.com) dabbles in the mythology of the movie and uses a wonderfully colorful presentation to take visitors on a full-screen visual journey.

Much of the site’s navigation relies on the use and movement of a golden staff. Its first on-screen swing reveals the movie’s stars in midair with green plasma trailing them.

The staff then resides at the top of pages, and visitors can pull an arrow point across it to move through a roster of characters. Each drag of the arrow pulls new heroes or villains forward and offers a detailed biography, opened up from a scroll, and a video clip of each in action.

Folks looking for a higher level of interactivity can skip the staff and click on a Features section at the bottom of any screen to find six activities offering either simple challenges or social networking enhancements.

The biggest time-waster of the bunch is Mandolin Warrior, in which musicians match notes with number keys that fly along a musical staff in a challenge similar to Guitar Hero.

A pair of creation tools for Facebook and MySpace will impress. The best for the registered Facebook member is a turn-based game called the Forbidden Facebook Battle, which has players select a character and martial arts moves.

The slickest for MySpace members is the Layout Generator, a free program to customize their page to a “Forbidden Kingdom” theme. The generous design offers a choice of backgrounds, characters, film clips and a customizable drag-and-drop photo gallery to achieve the desired final look.

Another excellent tool, found under the Promotions section, takes advantage of the Mixercast (www.mixer cast.com) mash-up application to really give the “Forbidden Kingdom” fan a way to put together a multimedia promotion of the movie.

A timeline used by many video-editing software suites enables the user to drag and drop movie clips, still photographs and dialogue chunks together as he assembles a two-minute masterpiece.

Although this type of activity is nothing new, especially to some movie Web sites, this one offers the best selection of media and ease of operation I have seen. Users even can incorporate transitions into the clip and set the time for stills and effects to play.

Designers can save up to 10 projects and then immediately upload them to YouTube.

Virtual tourism

I’m not sure whether to file this under the future of Big Brother technology or as a marvelous navigation device, but the debut of Every Scape.com (www.everyscape.com) takes multimedia mapping to a new level of visual immediacy.

The site’s programming offers street maps culled from Google Maps and combines them with the three-dimensional interactive exploration of a location’s interiors and exteriors.

The magical tours are available for selected spots in 15 cities, including the District, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston and Krakow, Poland.

Through an interactive pair of media screens, a visitor clicks on a link. One screen “drives” him (in a first-person perspective) to the real-world location, and a map on the side confirms his street route. Tourists then can grab the image of the location and move around the area or sometimes even go inside buildings to scope out individual rooms or floors.

Just some of the spots to appreciate include Paul Revere’s house in Boston, Beijing’s Forbidden City, the Rio Grande skate park in Aspen, Colo., Miami’s Children’s Museum and the Jefferson Memorial.

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, DC 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send e-mail to jszadkowski@ washingtontimes.com.

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