I never thought that embracing the new Universal Media Disc (UMD) format for Sony's Playstation Portable (PSP) would ever be in my future, especially when it came to watching and enjoying movies. Not really considered a "gamer", I honestly thought that the available movies for the UMD format would simply be a gimmick at best, boy was I wrong. I decided to purchase a PSP to watch movies while traveling to continue my contributions to DVD Review while I was away from home and unable to watch DVDs on my meticulously calibrated home theater. Featuring a smaller 4.3 inch 16:9 screen with only stereo sound, I have to say that I was pretty impressed at what the PSP can do, as far as movies go. I also like the idea of some UMD titles coming with a Dolby Headphone track rather than a PCM or ATRAC3 soundtrack, although quite impressive when heard through the supplied mini-bud headphones, Dolby Headphone encoded soundtracks can mimic a full 5.1 surround presentation.
Sure the PSP can't even come close to competing with a full blown home theater, but who ever thought it would? When you are sitting in an airport waiting out a flight delay, and we have all been there at some point in time, or relaxing in the close knit quarters of a typical airplane or bus seat, the PSP will easily fulfill you home theater desires.
This being my first endeavor into this pretty cool format, the first film I decided to view to break in PSP is the third installment to the "Terminator" franchise, "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines".
Now 22 years of age, John Connor (this time played by Nick Stahl) lives "off the grid", with no credit or fixed address, etc. Soon realizing that even these precautions won't secure his safety as there is a newer breed of Terminator out to erase his existence from the future. The arrival of this technologically advanced model, the Terminatrix (Kristanna Loken), or T-X for short, takes on the form of an enticingly sexy female. With her ability to control any and all machines around her, this new model T-X has a few surprises in store for the older model T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who arrives from the future shortly after the T-X makes her grand entrance.
Thinking that the apocalyptic judgment day had been prevented, John has a rude awakening when he learns that in reality, the devastation that faces the world as we know it had only been postponed. "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" adds another new face to the story with Kate Brewster (Claire Danes) as the possible future Lieutenant to John's resistance fighters who is also slated for termination by the T-X. Kate is the daughter of Air Force Lt. Robert Brewster (David Andrews), who just so happens to be in charge of the Skynet project, which will link all of the U.S. military's computers into one entity, an entity that, unbeknownst to Robert Brewster, will become self aware and threaten the world with complete annihilation. The action never stops as John and Kate utilize the protection of the T-800 in an attempt to reach Kate's father before the T-X does, leading to quite a surprising end to their journey.
I liked this somewhat panned sequel to the "Terminator" franchise. I still get goose bumps when I see the final shot showing armed missiles being deployed in the distance to a common mid-western farm backdrop, beginning the dreaded judgment day. Of course that shot is simply forming the link to the next one or two installments to the "Terminator" franchise that is supposedly going to focus a lot more attention on the future war itself and I for one can't wait!
Void of James Cameron this time around, I do have to commend Jonathan Mostow (U-571) for taking on the daunting task of continuing one of my favorite sci-fi series, and doing so in great fashion. Also missing from this sequel is the Sarah Connor character, played by Linda Hamilton in both "The Terminator" and "Terminator 2: Judgment Day". Even though she was a mainstay in the first two films, I still felt the story worked quite well without her character this time around. A rather decent story and good performances help to make "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" a welcomed addition to the futuristic cyborg fuelled "Terminator" franchise.
Warner Home Video presents "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" on UMD in fine form displaying its original aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1. Surprisingly good color saturation and decent black levels work to provide sharp details throughout the presentation of the film. The transfer is clean and crisp and free of any distracting or even noticeable dust or dirt particles. I did notice slight aliasing in a couple of scenes, but this symptom is rather minor and not overly distractive at all. If you are a "Terminator" fan that travels or find yourself away from your home theater and possess the urge to see a good installment to a terrific franchise, then I can easily recommend a UMD copy of "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines".
I wanted to begin my UMD reviewing with a movie that I was completely comfortable with and fully aware of exactly what the sound and picture is supposed to offer, in relation to the films DVD release. This way I could listen to every minor detail within the soundtrack to see if there is a proper representation of the sound for its UMD release. Being fully aware that mini-bud stereo headphones would never duplicate the thundering bass that is so prominent on the DVD, I was rather surprised at what this UMD of "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" has in store for my senses.
The soundtrack for this UMD provides a well balanced mix that offers good use of bass all around, not ground shaking, but impressive nevertheless. Vocal tracks appeared natural in reproduction. Every minute detail of sound effect is present, even the low rumbling of bass that is produced over the opening credits; which I never honestly picked up on during the various theatrical exhibitions that I had the pleasure of enjoying. I guess there are good points to watching movies with headphones, as annoying everyday ambient sounds can distract you very easily such as ringing phones and the like. I also had no problems with the audio level as there is plenty of it, just an overall enjoyable experience.
Some UMD titles come packaged with audio commentaries, deleted scenes or featurettes, basically a scaled down version of the films DVD release. Unfortunately, "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" comes with no added value content, just a great picture and awesome sound packaged for people on the go. If you are into collecting films from the UMD format, I can easily recommend "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines".