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At The Movies: PSP Video Feature Volume 2

It seems that every company these days is getting into the UMD business, including Buena Vista Home Video. They were kind enough to send over three fine films for Thunderbolt to take a look at this last week, and here we are to tell you our opinions on the UMD releases of Hostage, Cursed, and National Treasure.

Hostage

The Movie:

Here’s a true story from my personal life that I’m sure you all want to hear. One day, I was driving down to the highway, and while I’m at the onramp, some guy decided to cut me off very abruptly. I’m a pretty alert driver so luckily I avoided hitting the rear end of the Mazda that oh-so-rudely violated my driving experience, but sadly my common sense isn’t quite as solid as my driving abilities and so, at the first attempt I got, I sped up, passed him, and then proceeded to give the guy the finger. I sped away, content and pleased. Of course, that wasn’t the end of it. We’ll skip some details, but let’s just say the guy decided to follow me all the way to my house and confront me about it. Thankfully it ended peacefully, but it could have been much more explosive, like in Hostage. This is the setup: young girl (fairly attractive young girl at that) flips off a truck full of guys who made a rude sexual gesture at her, next thing she knows, she and her dad and brother are being held hostage by them – they are prisoners in their own home.

But that’s getting a little bit ahead of where the movie begins. The film opens in Los Angeles, with a man screaming with a gun in his one hand and a phone in his other He’s barricaded himself inside his house and outside are dozens and dozens of incredibly tense SWAT agents, rifles in hand, waiting patiently for the signal to move in and rescue the hostages it turns out the man is holding. That signal will only come from one man, and that’s Jeff Talley (played by Bruce Willis), the chief negotiator on the scene. The situation goes awry and the gunman and his hostages (the gunman’s wife and his son) end up full of bullets, and Talley decides his career in negotiations is over. He moves away to a small town where he becomes the chief of police, away from the big crimes and the bigger stress of one of the biggest city… until the young girl and her family are kidnapped, of course.

Talley really doesn’t want to get involved, but unfortunately for him the father of these two youngsters is involved in some business that he probably shouldn’t be involved in and there are some men that really need some things he has of theirs, and they’re willing to go to any lengths to get it back. Those great lengths include kidnapping Talley’s family and holding them hostage until he can get the items that are inside the house of the people that are already being held hostage. Now Talley is forced back into a job that he thought he’d never have to go back to and as terrible as the setup might sound, it works really well in this movie thanks to a great performance by Willis. Anyone who thinks that Bruce Willis is “washed-up” or a-“has-been” needs to watch Hostage. It will reaffirm your faith in his ability to be an action star (Sin City does too, which is also coming out for your PSP soon too).

The rest of the cast does there part too, but the main focus of the movie is on Willis’ character and the pacing of this film is great. You’re constantly left wondering “what’s going to happen next” and its fun to watch. While you’re enjoying the film, you’re going to be questioning Talley’s judgment, what’s happening to his family, and how he’s going to save the day. I also liked the movie let you inside the heads of the kidnappers, letting you witness their fear and nervousness, which I thought was another great angle to explore.

The Presentation and The Extras:

Hostage is quite easily one of the best releases I’ve seen yet on the PSP. The movie looks great, which seems to be pretty standard, but also the movie sounds great. I had the sound turned down to about half of the maximum and I could hear the movie crystal clear, without having to fiddle with the volume the entire time. Not only that, but the movie also has boatloads of extras included, more than any other release. There’s a behind the scenes discussion with several people involved in the film, deleted scenes (more than 5 of them), and even trailers of some upcoming releases (most notably, Sin City).

The Final Verdict:

Hostage might not be the greatest movie ever made, but it’s very entertaining and definitely one of the best examples of what a UMD should be. This movie is loaded with extras, sounds and looks great, and is very fun to watch. If you’ve got a PSP and you’re up for some fun action that allows you to think, pick up this release at your local store. It won’t disappoint.

Score: 9/10

Cursed

The Movie:

When I sit down to review these things, I’ve often thought about them for hours before hand. Sometime during the day, I’ll be in the bathroom or working and I’ll suddenly have some grand idea on how to review something. Next, I’ll sit down and write it all up and then plop it down for the whole world to read. But I had to think about Cursed for a little longer. I want to complain about it because it’s a lot like every other teenage horror movie around, but that the same time; it’s written by the guy who wrote all the other teenage movies that it plays out like. Kevin Williamson, the writer of the movie, also penned Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and The Faculty, as well as many others. Of course, it’s also directed by Wes Craven, who needs absolutely no introduction.

So that still leaves me with my original thought, which happens to be that Cursed could have been a good movie, but it wasn’t any bit original so it instead becomes an average movie. Consider this: Scream was successful due to the fact that we always wondered who the bad guy was right up until the ending, and even when it was revealed we still second guessed it. We were never quite sure so we were gripped and curious. It was also given an R rating, which allowed the movie to be gorier and more adult, even if it did use it’s rating to take some brief detours into immaturity. Ultimately, Cursed lacks both of these very important features and feels less suspenseful; more “get on with it.”

The movie begins with two young girls (played by Shannon Elizabeth and Mya) going to see a carnival fortune teller over some guy that they’re in love with. The fortune teller freaks out and tells them that she sees blood and that they’re in grave danger. Typically, the blow her off, insult her, and go on with their lives. Well, one of them does (Mya’s character). The other one (Shannon Elizabeth’s character) gets hit by another car when she’s driving down the road. Conveniently, the two main characters and their dog are occupying the car that hits her.

The story doesn’t end there. Our heroes Ellie (Christina Ricci) and Jimmy (Jesse Eisenberg) go down to see what’s going on and Shannon Elizabeth’s character is trapped in the car. Interestingly, the Ellie never once says I’m sorry during the whole crash, which stood out as I watched the movie. But she isn’t stuck in the car for long because some giant shadowy creature rips her out of it. Desperately, the unapologetic Ellie and her dorky brother Jimmy try to keep her out of the clutches of the shadowy creature and eventually rescue her, but her legs are missing at that point and she dies. Our heroes are treated for minor cuts that they sustained from the animal. They’re given some shots and are sent home with their dog.

The next day, Ellie is driving a nicer car than the one she wrecked and she starts feeling strange. Her dorky brother decides that it was a wolf that attacked them, but not just any wolf, a werewolf. His sister ignores him and gradually the two of them start to change. Ellie’s eyes bug out at one point and her dorky brother beats up a tormenter who eventually turns out to be gay. The gay guy also turns out to be in love with Jimmy while Jimmy is in love with the gay guy’s former girlfriend which is a very strange thing. All of this happens while our two transforming siblings are trying to figure out who they have to kill to get rid of their curse (because if you kill the main werewolf you’re no longer cursed) while the audience is fully aware of who it is.

Cursed isn’t really a bad movie, it’s just really lame. The whole movie teases us with the fact that Ellie and Jimmy are going to become werewolves but except for getting claws, they never become werewolves. I really wanted a werewolf vs. werewolf final confrontation which never happened. This is a shame because Ricci and Eisenberg have more acting talent than many other actors their age and they do a pretty decent job in this movie. And it’s also a shame that a guy like Kevin Williamson who was able to write some of the more entertaining horror movies of the 1990s has written a movie like this one that is far too predictable.

The Presentation and The Extras:

When I began watching this movie, it bothered my eyes. It seemed like there was a lot of LCD blurring going on and to keep up with it I needed to squint. As I watched further into the film, I began to figure that it was probably because the movie was in widescreen. Now, most PSP movies are natively widescreen because of that big beautiful screen. However, Cursed is double-widescreen with black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. Why they decided to go this way I’ll never know. After my initial issues with the presentation, my eyes adjusted fine. Typically, I had to fiddle around with my sound while watching the film without headphones, but it was just fine with my headphones in (which I’m getting very tired of saying). Cursed has quite a few special features, including four separate features chronicling various parts of the movie (some of which were actually pretty interesting) and a few trailers.

The Final Verdict:

Cursed could have been a great teenage horror movie if it had more guts. If it had taken a more adult approach to werewolves and hadn’t shot for a lower MPAA rating so that they could take in more money in the box office, it easily could have been one of the best teenage horror movies thanks to a pretty solid cast. As it is, this movie might be fun to watch one time, but it’s not going to be one you want to have in your collection.

Score: 6/10

National Treasure

The Movie:

I’m usually tickled pink for a new Jerry Bruckheimer film. Don’t get me wrong, I like classy movies too, but there’s nothing like a good Bruckheimer film to make you feel proud to be an American. His films epitomize everything that is good about this country: they’re always overblown, never are concerned about plot holes, and there are always, always massive explosions. Usually, a good Bruckheimer film costs more to produce than the GDP of some small countries. National Treasure is one of these films, but while it’s a little lighter on explosions than some more notable Bruckheimer films, it’s just as entertaining.

National Treasure starts up in an attic on a rainy night with a young boy creeping silently along when he comes across what he is looking for. His eyes open widely and he reaches out for his prize when suddenly his creepy grandfather startles him. His grandfather then sits the boy down and tells him the great secret that only their family knows: the secret of a massive treasure that was hidden in America by the founding fathers. He knows this because a man told his grandfather’s grandfather that “the secret lies with Charlotte,” which means big giant treasure. Then the boy’s father walks into the attic and tells his son that it’s a waste of time and the story is a lie, but you can tell by the look in the boy’s eyes that he thinks it’s real.

And then we jump to Antarctica, several years into the future, with Benjamin Gates (Nicolas Cage) driving some sort of arctic vehicle across the frozen terrain. Gates thinks he’s finally found Charlotte, which happens to be a ship that’s been trapped in the ice of Antarctica for centuries. Using some sort of technology and knowledge that’s never revealed, Gates actually manages to find the ship. He thinks he’s found the massive treasure, but inevitably he only finds another clue to the treasure’s location. Gates of course has a financer named Ian (Sean Bean) who seems shady from the get-go (I mean, he does have an accent and all) gets pissed off at this and is going to take more extreme measures to find the treasure. Now, the race is on for Gates to find the treasure, become the wealthiest man in history, redeem the family name and also get some from the required geeky-but-oh-so-hot girl.

The setup might sound horrid, but the end result is actually an entertaining movie. I liked the movie because it’s mindlessly fun. The puzzles that Gates and Co. have to solve are enjoyable to watch and to figure out and you feel happy when you solve one for yourself. The production is slick, sharp and fast moving.

The Presentation and The Extras:

National Treasure looks really good on the PSP and even sounds pretty decent too. I was able to hear the movie while I was on break at work over the noise of the shop. There are very few extras included with the disc however. Sure, there are some trailers and scene selection, but I expected more out of this since the DVD release had quite a few special features.

The Final Verdict:

In the end, National Treasure is a goofy but entertaining movie. It’s not going to win any awards anytime soon, but it’s one you can watch and have a good time with. Inevitably, it’s a good movie, but if you’re looking for a new PSP release, there might be better films out there for you.

Score: 7/10

The author of this fine article

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

Gentle persuasion

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