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Following in the footsteps of JUMANJI comes ZATHURA ($29), another board game that proves itself the ultimate trip for those who play it. This adaptation of the Chris Van Allsburg book tells the story of six year old Danny and ten year old Walter, two brothers engaged in the age old pursuit of sibling rivalry, which is more or less aimed at getting the attention and affection of their recently divorced workaholic father (Tim Robbins). While staying with their father, during his days of parental custody, Danny comes across a board game that was sequestered in the basement his father’s creaky old house.

Hoping to engage his older brother in some sort of activity they can share, Danny dusts off Zathura: A Space Adventure, winds the key on the mechanized vintage tin board game and hits the GO button… The next thing the brothers know, their father’s house is transported into outer space where it is hit by a meteor shower; their annoying teen sister Lisa (Kristen Stewart) is frozen in cryogenic sleep; they rescue a helpful astronaut (Dax Shepard); a defective robot (voiced by Frank Oz) runs amok, and the house is besieged by carnivorous reptilian aliens.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has made ZATHURA available on DVD in a 1.85:1 widescreen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. Image quality is generally quite good, with the picture being sharp and nicely defined most of the time. Occasionally, shots appear a little softer than I would like, but the picture is never problematic. Colors appear strongly rendered and stable, while the flesh tones are consistently appealing. Blacks are generally solid and deep, whites are stable and the contrast is pretty smooth. Shadow detail is a little variable, but usually quite good. Digital compression artifacts are never a cause for concern.

ZATHURA comes with a potent Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack that makes good use of all the discrete channels. With tons of chaos and destruction, sound effects are aggressively deployed once the movie hits outer space. Fidelity is very strong, with the sound effects packing a wallop and the musical component having a full-bodied quality. The bass channel certainly rocks the house. Voices are cleanly reproduced and the dialogue maintains complete intelligibility. Occasionally, the shrieking of the film’s young protagonists starts to grate on one’s nerves, but that certainly isn’t a flaw in the soundtrack. A French language track has also been encoded onto the DVD, as have English and French subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some nice supplements. Director Jon Favreau and co-Producer Peter Billingsley are on hand to provide a running audio commentary. Next up are the featurettes. Race To The Black Planet is a twelve-minute look behind-the-scenes featuring interviews with members of the production team. The Right Moves clocks in at fifteen minutes and looks at adapting Chris Van Allsburg’s book to the screen. The Cast is nearly thirteen minutes in length and focuses on the casting process and the actors who got the roles in the movie. Miniatures runs nearly ten minutes and looks at some of the old school special effects that the film relied upon. The World Of Chris Van Allsburg is a nearly thirteen minute program that looks at the author/illustrator and his work. Zorgons, Robots And Frozen Lisa highlights Stan Winston’s effects work in this sixteen-minute program. Making The Game spend ten minutes examining the look and design of the actual board game as depicted in the movie. Previews for other Sony Pictures titles close out the supplements.

ZATHURA is a wild ride that the kids will enjoy, as well as one’s inner child. Sony’s DVD looks quite good and sounds even better. If you enjoyed JUMANJI, you are certain to get a kick out of ZATHURA.



Zathura (Widescreen Edition) (2005)



DVD reviews are Copyright © 2006 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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