- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 10, 2010

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

War in high def

Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg’s Emmy Award-winning look at some of the perilous World War II campaigns U.S. Marines fought against a determined Japanese foe is at its grittiest in the high-definition format.

Now available on Blu-ray, The Pacific (HBO Home Video, not rated, $99.98), a 10-part docudrama, delivers a powerful statement about war and its effects on the soldiers who must fight it.

The six-disc set also provides a pair of fantastic resources for history buffs to look into the events and men that shaped the Pacific campaign.

Start with a documentary broken up in a picture-in-picture format that runs concurrently with each episode, featuring some of the real Marines highlighted in the series with comments from historians.

Next, the highly interactive and aptly named Field Guide acts as a stand-alone multimedia encyclopedia that complements each episode.

Broken into the categories Maps, Marines’ Experiences, Historical Overview, and Facts and Bios, and accessed via a timeline of topics such as Battle of Iwo Jima and Aftermath of Okinawa, it features interviews with historian Richard B. Frank, historical consultant Hugh Ambrose and real heroes of the series, such as Sgt. Richard Greer of the 7th Marines.

Junior World War II scholars will appreciate the easy-to-access selection of maps, historical footage, photographs and text facts attached to the dozens of entries.

“The Pacific” Blu-ray set is one of the best examples of innovations in the high-definition format that can interactively enlighten as well as entertain.

Buzz in to win

Anyone enamored with the latest installment of Disney/Pixar’s homage to toys will be blown away with its release on Blu-ray.

Toy Story 3 (Walt Disney Home Entertainment, rated G, $45.99) not only boasts a great story about change and growing up and funny voice-over work from stars Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Ned Beatty and Don Rickles, but in high definition, it just explodes in color, jumping off the screen without the help of 3-D.

Of course, a great movie demands great extras, and Disney does not disappoint.

After viewing a generous supply of behind-the-scenes featurettes, extra cartoon shorts and Cine Explore (an optional commentary track with director Lee Unkrich and producer Darla K. Anderson enhanced by images such as storyboards played over the film) scattered over two discs, the whole family will want to take part in the interactive Toy Story Trivia Dash.

This multiple-choice challenge is set in a colorful 1950s retro style and broken into four rounds as a pair of players or teams participate in helping Buzz or Woody race to cross the 2-D finish line.

Players take turns through a variety of formatted rounds that include nuances such as fewer points being awarded the longer it takes a competitor to answer, jumbled text questions, and a Final Dash round in which players bet all or part of their point totals to possibly double their score.

Use the remote’s number keys to answer questions such as “Which toy does not drive the car in Al’s Toy Barn?” or “What does Buzz call the tape when he is fixing his ship?”

It’s a fun idea executed with the pretty hard-core fan in mind, compiling questions from just the latest film or the entire trilogy.

The slicker trick of the challenge is that two players with smart phones can use them as controllers to answer the questions, as long as their Blu-ray player has BD-Live capability and is hooked up to the Internet.

Send e-mail to jszadkowskiwashingtontimes.com.

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