- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 15, 2010

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

Interactive Chipmunks

Those wacky singing rodents made so much cash for 20th Century Fox in a 2007 movie that they were invited back last year for a “Squeakquel” highlighting their computer-animated exploits.

Theodore, Simon and Alvin deal with issues in school and competition from the Chipettes as they croon their way through classic and top-40 pop hits in the movie.

The subsequent Blu-ray release of Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Rated: G, $39.99) offers kid-friendly extras far more entertaining than the main event.

The starters include a pop-up song-trivia track, a Live Lookup of the careers of the movie’s cast with help from Internet Movie Database (using an attractive interface) and a robust Album Maker.

This on-screen art program involves grabbing stills from scenes in the movie, sizing and then adding them to various layouts, decorating each with stickers and titles, and developing a scrapbook-style collection of album covers that can be seen in a slideshow presentation.

Surprisingly, that is not the best of the “Squeakquel” Blu-ray multimedia fun.

Viewers also get Fox Pop. With help from Spot411 (https://spot411.com/) technology, the active widget extends the interactive movie experience to create a potential social-networking event.

Download the free application to a computer (microphone required) or iPhone, and it opens an interface on the devices that trigger and sync messages to the audio of the movie being played on a television or external monitor [-] no spotty BD-Live software required.

A vertical menu space is then available, tied into a user’s Twitter, Facebook and MySpace accounts, along with a selection of special Fox Pop trivia, games and interactive updates.

Look for polls to vote on your favorite Chipmunk, facts such as that “Daydream Believer” was written by Neil Diamond and released by the Monkees in 1967, and a history of singing rats.

Under challenges, try a round of Munk Mayhem. Spin rodents in a mixing bowl and get them to hang on a kitchen pots rack or fling junk in Trash Class — pull back the computer mouse to activate a meter and catapult pieces of garbage into cans.

When Alvin sings his own version of “Stayin’ Alive,” watchers can even buy the song immediately with a link through iTunes while watching the movie.

So, at worst, viewers can see all of their friends’ previous comments about the film and have some multimedia fun. At best, they can set up a real-time screening [-] as long as everyone starts “Squeakquel” at the same time.

Holmes Vision explained

Love or hate director Guy Ritchie and actor Robert Downey Jr.’s take on Sherlock Holmes (Warner Home Video, Rated PG-13, $35.99) but viewers will not dispute the immersive value of its recent Blu-ray release.

Specifically, Warner’s Maximum Movie Mode extra delivers a very good reason to jump aboard the high-definition format.

I’ll call it a 128-minute, one-on-one class about filmmaking led by guest lecturer Professor Ritchie.

The presentation finds the director standing in a Victorian alley, in front of his movie or between screens and formally explaining artistic choices made on “Sherlock Holmes.”

Mr. Ritchie talks about the camera used to define Holmes Vision action scenes. He offers a brief history of the Masons, explains the significance of Irene Adler and discusses his use of special effects pertaining to the painstakingly re-created Tower Bridge.

This is all further aided by the use of extra visuals such as stills and behind-the-scenes footage.

Then, once he let viewers return to the movie, scenes are further deconstructed with the help of more “on set” picture-in-picture interviews, fact boxes and illustrations.

Besides the on-screen lecture, viewers get supplemental resources such as a Sherlock Holmes timeline and those deeper Focus Points that open up to reveal content ranging from a set-design slideshow to a tutorial on the martial art of Ba-Ritsu to a study of movie details tied to the Holmes canon.

The Maximum Movie Mode not only adds a wealth of value to the disc for the fan but will captivate the cinema student.

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