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At The Movies: PSP Video Feature Volume 1

So, the PSP is out and everybody is going ga-ga over the great games that have already been released for it and the great ones on the horizon. But what most people aren’t talking about are the dozens of movies that are coming out. The Internet Movie Database however has reported that over 100,000 UMD movies have been sold so far, and that number is steadily growing as more and more great films are coming out for the system. But are all of them worth buying? Probably not, so that’s why this feature exists. Yes, we’re a gaming site, but we love all forms of entertainment too, and we especially love the PSP. We recently picked up a batch of the latest UMD movies courtesy of the great people at Lions Gate Home Entertainment and have run them through our PSP’s and now it’s time to let you know how they are. So, grab your popcorn and read on!

Open Water

The Movie:

Open Water casts Blanchard Ryan and Daniel Travis (ironically, both can use their last names as first names) as Susan and Daniel respectively. They’re just your regular bunch of workaholics finally going on a vacation to the Bahamas where they can get away from all their hectic work and relax in the sand and water. Unfortunately, through rather ridiculous circumstances, they get stranded out at sea about sixty miles from the shore while scuba diving and now find themselves at the mercy of the waves, and it’s here in the deep ocean that the movie slowly degrades from being interesting to ultimately a bore.

My main issues with Open Water stem from the fact that nothing really happens for about sixty or so minutes of the film. While stranded in the water they get attacked by jellyfish and flirt with sharks and even have to contend with a thunderstorm, but for the most part, the unpolished script totally hampered the experience. I understand that the film is supposed to be a “real-life experience” (it’s even filmed in a home movie style), but real people stranded in the water wouldn’t be this boring. Susan and Daniel, who are supposed to be madly in love, have absolutely nothing to talk about that is even remotely interesting. While the movie could have taken many spins (perhaps Susan and Daniel could have talked about their pasts or jobs), it inevitably just focuses on our two bobbing characters in the water that seem to have run out of ideas, just like the films’ creators.

To their credit, the actors did actually brave shark infested waters, so you have to give them credit for that. However, this movie is a lot like a porn with no money-shot: there’s never any Jaws-type maiming or anything like that, so ultimately you’re just left sitting there praying that something that will never happen just might happen.

The Presentation and The Extras:

Open Water looks crisp and clear on the PSP’s brilliant screen. The movie sounds great either with headphones equipped or through the PSP’s main. The sound effects never overpower the dialogue either, which is another point for the audio department. There aren’t any real special features outside of a few advertisements for a couple of upcoming UMD releases from Lion’s Gate.

The Final Verdict:

Open Water is a great idea on paper, but when the paper is thrown into the ocean it gets trashed about and disintegrates into almost nothing. The movie is a constant “what’s going to happen next” type of film where nothing happens next and ultimately, the ending is a big letdown. Sadly, a great presentation is wasted on a film that fails to meet expectations.

Score: 3/10

The Punisher

The Movie:

As I’ve discovered in discussions, most people fall into an “I loved it” or “I hated it” category when it comes to The Punisher. I happen to fall into the former category, but in general I do enjoy heavy action movies that are light on plot and coherence. The Punisher is based on the comic book series published by Marvel, but don’t worry if you don’t follow the series: I’ve never read a single frame of the comics and I never once had a problem following the movie.

Here’s the setup: Frank Castle (Tom Jane) is an FBI undercover agent that’s just a few days from a retirement from fieldwork. He, the wife, and the kid are all going to London to live a normal life, but on the way they’re going to stop for a nice family reunion. Some party crashers with a twisted vendetta are also on the way to that family reunion, led by a notorious criminal named Howard Saint (John Travolta). Caught off guard, Castle’s whole family is wiped out in the blink of an eye by these ruthless thugs and Castle himself is left for dead. Thing about being left for dead, you’ve only been left to die. The whole dying part, that’s up to you. Castle chose to live, but only to dish out punishment. After he punishes a few people, he really doesn’t care what happens. But while he’s punishing people (there’s a lot of diversity to punish, isn’t there), it makes one hell of an enjoyable movie.

The Punisher works well because it doesn’t try to be an incredibly moving or powerful film; it never gets too mushy or depressing. It’s a movie about killing people and how you do it, and in that regard it succeeds better than a lot of other action movies. There are a lot of original ideas involved in the many executions too, so it’s a lot of fun to just watch and wonder how Castle is going to lay waste to his next victim. The acting and the direction really help with this, as Tom Jane plays his part very well and director Jonathan Hensleigh uses his experience (the guy wrote Die Hard 3 and Armageddon) to deliver some really well-shot action sequences.

The Presentation and The Extras:

This movie is, like I said, all about lots of big explosions and intense fighting, and it all looks awesome on the PSP’s screen. The audio in this movie is a mixed bag though. I had to crank up the volume to the max during dialogue sequences but I also found myself turning it down a few notches during fight scenes because the explosions were very loud. As for special features, there aren’t too many to be found here, but the good people at Lions Gate Home Entertainment were kind enough to include a scene selection feature (one that is sorely lacking on many UMD videos) and a Dolby Headphone Track which makes the movie sound excellent through the PSP’s headphones.

The Final Verdict:

What it comes down to is this: if you’re a huge fan of action movies, you’re probably going to love The Punisher. It’s a no-nonsense kill-fest that really entertains, but if you’re looking for a great plot, or even a good one (maybe even an average one), The Punisher isn’t going to be there for you.

Score: 7/10

National Lampoon’s Van Wilder

The Movie:

I was a bit skeptical when I started watching this movie. A lot of people told me that I was going to hate it a lot. I tried to ignore their judgments as I watched this movie, and this is what I determined: National Lampoon’s Van Wilder is a pretty funny movie, but it tried too hard to be funny all the time and falls flat just enough times to dampen the experience.

It plays out something like this: the movie focuses on the life and times of Van Wilder (Ryan Reynolds), a guy who is in his 7th year at college and who has absolutely no plans for graduating. See, Van loves attending Coolidge College: he has a fresh supply of girls going ga-ga over him and there’s a party every night of the week. He’s got his own personal assistant, a best friend, and a dad who pays his tuition, so life is great for Van. However, his dad decides one day that seven years in college is just too much and stops paying Van’s tuition. After Daddy stops writing the checks, it’s up to Van and his friends to keep Van’s college career going. Of course, shenanigans ensue. The college newspaper decides it wants an exclusive look at the real Van Wilder for its final paper of the year and puts major babe Gwen Pearson (played by pre-whore Tara Reid) in the writer’s chair.

Some of the shenanigans that ensue are actually quite funny. One scene involving a foreigner’s penis enlargement pump had me laughing out loud because of the sheer discomfort demonstrated by all of the characters involved in the scene. However, a gigantic scene of the movie that was ultimately a huge waste of film involved filling some éclairs with dog semen and feeding them to some local frat boys. That scene had me wanting to throw up more than anything. The acting in the movie helps out quite a bit as Reynolds does a great job portraying the multiple dimensions of Van Wilder, but there’s just too much of the movie that is supposed to make us laugh that doesn’t really fit with the theme of the movie.

The Presentation and The Extras:

Again, like most of the UMD movies that I’ve reviewed in this article, National Lampoon’s Van Wilder looks really good on the PSP. Unlike some of the other movies though, it actually sounds really good without having to crank the volume all the way up. With the headphones on, you can actually listen to the movie at what would even be considered a “low” volume compared to some of the other films. And of course, in the special features department National Lampoon’s Van Wilder is probably one of the most complete UMD movies I’ve seen, offering both a scene selection feature and also several deleted scenes.

The Verdict:

National Lampoon’s Van Wilder is a movie worth seeing, but don’t expect perfect experience out of it. In the end, it fails to capture that same magic that other teen movies like American Pie because it tries too hard to make you laugh in every single scene, but you will find yourself laughing along and rooting for Van to succeed before too long.

Score: 6/10

Saw

The Movie:

I never watched Saw in the theaters and that was something I regretted for a while until I sat down with the UMD release of the film. Then I realized that I would have been wasting my money on a film that has a great premise but slowly kills itself by getting more and more ridiculous throughout the film.

As Saw begins, we’re introduced to our two main characters: Adam (Leigh Whannell) and Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes). These two guys are chained to pipes on opposite walls of a room. In the center of a room is a dead guy, and Adam and the Doctor have no idea what’s going on. After a few minutes, they find out that they’ve been brought to this room by a notorious serial killer who places his victims in extreme situations. Adam and the good Doctor are told by a mysterious voice that their only ways out of their ordeal is death or cutting off their feet.

While it’s certainly a gripping, powerful premise, bad acting is all over the place in this one. Cary Elwes decided that he’d drop his cheeky British accent in favor of a weak, often crappy, American one that is an affront to his talent. With his new-found American voice, Elwes talks very slowly, and for most of the movie you’re going to be asking yourself “why couldn’t he have had an English accent?” Leigh Whannell, who is also the writer of this movie, shouldn’t act to begin with. He tries too hard and comes off as overacting, which is incredibly irritating. Finally, the movie also has a supporting role by Danny Glover that is laughably poor. The quality of the acting in this movie is not something you expect considering that two of the actors have worked on over 40 different projects.

The Presentation and The Extras:

Saw is actually one of the first movies that doesn’t look perfect on the PSP. The movie features a lot of dark scenes which the PSP just can’t display very well. During scenes of darkness, most of the objects the characters are interacting with look like big black blobs and you can’t really tell what they’re doing with them. The audio actually is very good for this DVD as well. I found that I didn’t have to fiddle with it too much while experiencing this masterpiece, but that’s probably because the audio only consisted of dialogue and few musical tracks or explosions.

The Verdict:

Saw is not worth your time. You can tell that Saw wants to be a good movie, but terrible acting and a plot that gets awful (again, this is another movie that has a stupid ending) totally destroy any of this movie’s flirtations with greatness. Avoid this; there are better movies on the PSP.

Score: 3/10

Terminator 2

The Movie:

Who hasn’t seen Terminator 2 at this point? I’ll just assume that there are still a few people out there that haven’t been blessed with watching this movie and give you a brief rundown of the film. Terminator 2 is a story about the end of the world. It’s not a warm and fuzzy ending of the world, not one where the sun blows up and we all die instantly or one where God comes down and says “You have disobeyed!” and turns us into the sludge we evolved from. No, in this end of the world, machines have finally outsmarted their stupid creators (us) and decided that they no longer need humankind around messing everything up. So they wage an all-out war against us.

But this is all still to come, in the future. Most people don’t know of this terrible fate that is about to plague mankind, except for a few people who were greeted by a killing machine in the first movie, the same people who also star in this movie. See, in the original Terminator movie, a robot was sent from the future to 1984 to kill the mother of the man who led the resistance against the robots in the future. That robot was The Terminator, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. However, the resistance was able to send back a man to protect Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), mother of John Connor (Edward Furlong) and thus the mother of the resistance. Sarah survived because of her protector and the resistance lived on.

Flash forward to 1991. The machines are going to send a new, better, more versatile killing robot back into the past. The T-1000: an unstoppable killing machine. It features the ability to withstand conventional bullets because of an alloy in its design. In order to save the past, the resistance has to send back someone even more powerful to protect the future: the need to send back The Terminator. Of course, they need to reprogram it so it doesn’t kill Sarah Connor, but of course they can do that.

It’s hard to explain exactly why this movie is so good. It’s incredibly entertaining for the first part. You can’t help but be glued to the screen when it’s on. Perhaps Terminator 2 is so enjoyable is because while on the surface this is just a standard hard-action movie, past all that are a few decent subplots that are fully-explored and are actually interesting. John thinks his mother is an absolute loser and struggles to find love for her. Sarah has to deal with her distrust for The Terminator and fully trust a machine that is a replica of one that was sent to kill her. And let’s not forget that James Cameron’s outstanding direction of the massive action sequences is a reason to own this movie alone.

The Presentation and The Extras:

Of course, Terminator 2 looks great on the PSP. All of the big explosions look incredible and vibrant. The movie also includes a Dolby Headphone Track which sounds incredible through the PSP’s standard headphones. Without the headphones though, this is another movie that is a challenge to hear and you’ll be constantly fiddling with the sound. However, you can easily go back to whatever scene you’d like thanks to the scene selection feature, so no worries about missing any pivotal moments.

The Final Verdict:

Terminator 2 is easily the best action movie on the PSP and quite possibly one of the best movies on the PSP period. The movie offers a great “what if” look into the future that seems far more realistic and plausible than offered by movies like The Matrix. Definitely pick this one up for your PSP movie collection; it’s one that you can’t afford not to have.

Score: 9/10

Well, that’s all for today, readers. Check back with us though in upcoming weeks as we’re going to make these features a staple of the site. We hope you enjoyed reading, and feel free to discuss any of the reviews in our forums!

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2003.

Gentle persuasion

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