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Review: Fireproof (2008) starring Kirk Cameron gets 3 stars

13 Feb

Fireproof is a 2008 drama about the appreciation of marriage, & what it takes to keep one going strong.  It came to Blu-ray not long ago, & so it deserved a review.

The film focuses on the rocky relationship of a couple played by Kirk Cameron (from Growing Pains, & Growing Pains‘ spinoffs, movies & TV movies) & Erin Bethea (apparently no relation to Colts free safety Antoine Bethea).  Fireproof starts out a little slow but definitely has some plot twists & a coherent story overall.   There are a couple big action scenes and lots of moments that are laugh out-loud funny even though they probably aren’t supposed to be (but due to the behavior of the actors or the way the scene was set up, they are).  For some reason seeing the actor who plays Cameron’s dad in the film always ready to answer his cordless phone struck me as hilarious (also b/c the dad looked like Senator John McCain).

Kirk Cameron must turn to this John McCain look-alike for advice on how to save his marriage in Fireproof. Where's Dr. Seaver (Alan Thicke) when you need him??

Unfortunately the acting is very average for the most part, and there are times when the lack of background/scene transition music is painfully obvious.  The simplistic sets and very scripted lines early on make the film feel like an instructional video for employee safety at a fire station, & I couldn’t tell if the guy playing the doctor was supposed to be behaving patient, understanding, slick or sleazy – or a little of each.  Regardless, all of these issues work against the film’s quality, but people have to be realistic – this film was clearly done on a low budget.  Given high-dollar disasters like Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man’s Chest or Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen, Fireproof certainly managed to do a lot more with less.

I really appreciate the film’s values and pointers on marriage, but some folks who are spiritual yet not religious may be put off by its repeated focus on “God” or “Jesus” – it’s interesting that the filmmakers realized that morality, love & respect are central to any successful marriage, while organized religion/focus on a higher being is not (meaning the latter is not always emphasized in some successful marriages).  Given the fact that Cameron is a Christian Fundamentalist evangelist, I doubt he is too concerned about the film’s perception outside of his core audience.

Fireproof is an inspiring independent work that every couple in a committed relationship should see for its message – just don’t expect a fast-paced story or top-notch acting – this isn’t Nick Cage in Ghost Rider! (just kidding)

Verdict: 3 stars out of 4 (definitely a rental, buy if you connected with it)

Here’s a brief recap of how The Floor Seats’ 0-4 star rating system breaks down:

0-1 stars: This is an atrocious movie; an insult to film & a waste of your time

1-2 stars: Bad but not awful – avoid unless you’re dying to see it for a particular genre/subject matter/actor’s performance

2.5 stars: Only worth a rental if you really like that genre/subject matter/actor’s performance

3 stars: Definitely worth a rental unless you hate that type of genre/subject matter/actor’s performance

3.5 stars: Very good but not great – this is a film you should definitely rent & even consider buying if you like that genre/subject matter/actor’s performance

4 stars: Outstanding & unforgettable – almost certainly 1 of the top 100 greatest films you’ve ever seen.  Buy with confidence!

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Little Big Planet: Game of the Year edition features red greatest hits junk & no Pirates pack…Rrrrr!?!

10 Feb

Sony finally gave us another go-around at the PS3 exclusive Little Big Planet, but it’s full of Greatest Hits junk, literally.  The “Game of the Year” edition comes encased in loud red plastic so bright that everyone in a 3-mile radius can tell you didn’t buy the original version of the game when it first came out.  Why does Sony do this?  It’s almost like they want to brand a scarlet letter on the collection of every Playstation gamer who doesn’t throw down $60 for the initial release of a game!  

Some people (myself included) outright refuse to purchase a game that comes in 1 of these ruby red cases, as it looks weird on display against the rest of their gaming collection (don’t get me started on that “New Super Mario Bros. Wii” game, which isn’t even a “Player’s Choice” AKA “Greatest Hits” yet was released new in a red case). 

Little Red Planet's "Game of the Year" edition leaves users hoping for an included Pirates pack hanging at the gallows. You still have to pay your way to Tortuga if you want to reach platinum!

Sackboy’s Game of the Year edition does come with the Metal Gear Solid pack (saving users who didn’t already buy it a solid $5 to 7), but doesn’t include the Pirates of the Caribbean pack (same price on PSN, must be purchased separately).  The odd thing is that in order to Platinum the game (100% of trophies), you must have access to the Metal Gear pack AND the Pirates pack. 

While the very idea of forcing the customer to buy a DLC add-on just to complete a game he/she has already paid for seems obnoxious, this is even weirder…why include 1 pack but not the other?  Did Johnny Depp want a bigger cut of the loot if Sony included the Pirates pack in its Game of the Year edition rather than still independently charge for it? 

This strange move has made some of its loyal fanbase into angry pirates – perhaps Sony will give Game of the Year purchasers a coupon code to download the Pirates pack for free before they feel like throwing their copy of LBP into the Kraken!

In case you’re interested, here’s what your $30 gets you on the “Game of the Year” edition (from Amazon.com):

“Additional Game of the Year Edition features include:

  • Collect over 500 objects, stickers, tools and costumes as resources for your own levels.
  • Over 1 Million User Generated Levels to play.
  • 18 New Bonus Levels designed by actual LBP Community Members.
  • Free Costume and Level Packs including the Metal Gear Solid Level Pack.”

Fan from unsafe seating area calls Super Bowl XLV a “total disaster”

10 Feb

By Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com

An NFL executive doesn’t blame fans for being angry over losing their seats at Super Bowl XLV.

NFL executive vice president Eric Grubman, in an interview with ESPN 970-AM in Pittsburgh on Thursday, summed up the situation as “awful.”

“We made the best of it. We screwed it up. I can’t change that,” Grubman said. “I’m a football fan and before I worked at the Super Bowl I took my young sons and my father … to see the New York Giants and if that would have happened to me, I would be furious.”

Temporary seats at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, weren’t ready in time, forcing some fans to move and others to watch from standing-room spots. The league has come up with a number of different ways to compensate displaced fans, but at least one class-action lawsuit has been filed against the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys, and their owner, Jerry Jones.

With Jerry World turned into the planet Hoth, 400 fans seats were deemed unsafe due to the weather in Dallas. Must be global warming!

Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement Thursday expanding the league’s compensation to fans that were inconvenienced at the game. Some 2,000 fans in temporary seating who were delayed in getting to their seats “will receive a choice of either a refund of the face-value amount of their ticket or a free ticket to a future Super Bowl game of their choice.”

In the days after the Packers’ 31-25 Super Bowl win over the Steelers, the league has given the displaced fans two options: $2,400 — triple the face value of the ticket — and a ticket to next year’s Super Bowl, or a ticket to any future Super Bowl, with round-trip airfare and hotel accommodations included.

The plan Goodell announced Thursday is separate from the original package.

One of the angry fans is a granddaughter of the first president of the Green Bay Packers. She says she was among the 400 ticketholders forced to watch the Packers play the Pittsburgh Steelers from standing-room spots because their seats weren’t safe.

In a letter sent to the NFL, which she provided to The Associated Press, Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine says Jones should never be allowed to host another Super Bowl. She called her experience a “total disaster.”

Beisel-McIlwaine wrote that it took several hours — and miles of walking — before stadium and league officials finally led her and other displaced fans from their upper deck seats to a field level bar area behind the Pittsburgh Steelers bench — with no view of the field.

The 55-year-old woman from Michigan told the AP she received a call Wednesday from the NFL, and will be going to the league office Friday in New York to meet with a person who is handling her situation.

“I hope we can get this remedied quickly,” she wrote.

Beisel-McIlwaine’s grandfather was Andrew Blair Turnbull, the Packers’ first president and a member of the team’s Hall of Fame. Her father was Daniel C. Beisel, a Packers’ board member from 1968 until his death in 2009.

The NFL knew about the seating problem days before kickoff but still couldn’t solve the problem of fixing the seats. Grubman said it’s nearly impossible to get the temporary seats inspected until they’re completed. Still, 400 fans didn’t get to see the Super Bowl the way they wanted and that’s a problem.

“It’s a construction project when you put up these stands, these temporary stands,” Grubman said. “You put up the outside of the building and then you’ve got to finish it and there’s a lot of detail work and you can’t get the inspections until you do the finished detail work. And we just didn’t get that done. Literally, an hour before the game, we thought we were going to have all the seats and we just didn’t get it done.”

The big question concerning all this regards North Texas and whether the region will get another chance to host a Super Bowl. The next three Super Bowl sites have been decided and North Texas would like to host Super Bowl L.

“It was a regional approach to the Super Bowl and they did a great job and they were great hosts,” he said. “I tell you, I would go back there again. … I don’t think they took themselves out of the running. Do we plan it better next time? You betcha.”

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said Thursday that 40 employees have been assigned to help identify and assist fans who were left without seats. He said 260 of the ticketholders have either been located or have called the league. Some have shown up at the league’s New York office.

A Packers’ season ticketholder, Beisel-McIlwaine bought two tickets for the Super Bowl at face value, $800 apiece. When she arrived with her son at their seats — “in the nose bleed section, 425A seats 4 and 5” — about three hours before the game, stadium officials said they weren’t ready. Eventually, they were told the seats weren’t going to be available at all and, like many others in the same predicament, ended up without a view at field level, forced to watch the game on television.

During her ordeal, Beisel-McIlwaine wrote that she was sent from one ticket office to another and back again, then back to her seats, which by then were covered with a black tarp.

“We were getting nowhere,” she wrote in her letter to the NFL. “Everyone was passing it off to someone else and no one seemed to know what was going on. It was truly a run around.”

Beisel-McIlwaine wrote that she “grabbed one of the few tables and two chairs and we were joined shortly by two other Packer fans. There were many folks in this bar now, many of which had to sit on the floor.”

Free food and drink was available, but even watching on TV was a problem: The picture was supplied by the NFL feed, and the audio was from the Fox telecast.

“They were not in sync with each other and it was very difficult to determine what down or how many yards there were to go unless we listened very closely,” Beisel-McIlwaine wrote.

There was a benefit: After the Packers won and the Lombardi Trophy was presented, “they did lead us out onto the field so we could get a look and actually were able to thank many of the Packer players and coaches.”

Beisel-McIlwaine said she wore a pedometer on Super Bowl Sunday, and clocked 21,823 steps. Using the commonly accepted average of about 2,000 steps per mile, that translates to more than 10 miles, up and down steps and through crowded concourses.

“I’m 55 and fortunately in good shape and health, but I saw many in wheel chairs and one person on crutches,” she said.

Warner Bros.’ latest Harry Potter release embraces Blu-ray while leaving DVD owners feeling like 2nd-class citizens

10 Feb

Warner Bros. (WB) announced that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is coming to Blu-ray on April 15th.   It will also be released that day on DVD…well sort of.

WB is banking on “Pottheads” springing for the $35 Blu-ray combo pack loaded with features rather than settle for the barebones DVD that merely includes some deleted scenes & little else.  The Blu-ray is mysteriously bloated with extra DVD & digital copies of the film, while the DVD version is decidedly sparse…perhaps the film should be renamed Harry Potter & the Greedy Movie House

The penultimate movie is the 2nd highest grossing Harry Potter movie to date, but that will probably change with the release of Part 2 in July.

Warner Bros. hopes you run from your DVD player like Harry impersonating Twilight's Edward Cullen in his woodlands jaunt above. Perhaps there's a Best Buy at the bottom of that forest hill?

The Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 DVD/Blu-ray will contain the following special features:

3-Disc Blu-ray Combo Pack:

Exclusive Sneak Peek of a scene from the highly anticipated upcoming film Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2
Maximum Movie Mode – Join host Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy), and other members of the cast and crew, on an interactive journey through Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1. Plus, revisit important moments from the previous films to prepare for the final battle that takes place in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2.
Dan, Rupert and Emma’s Running Competition – While filming the escape scene from the Snatchers in Swinley Forest, Dan, Rupert and Emma engage in a little competition of their own. With colorful commentary by Director David Yates, see the competitive spirit on set and this hilarious rivalry between the three leads.
The Seven Harrys – See how Daniel Radcliffe recreated the personalities of the different characters that transform into Harrys in the hilarious Privet Drive scene.
On the Green with Rupert, Tom, Oliver and James – Accompany Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), Oliver Phelps (George Weasley) and James Phelps (Fred Weasley) for a round of golf and get a glimpse into their 10-year friendship that developed while making the Harry Potter films.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Promotional Trailer – Join Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson and other cast members from the Harry Potter films on their first visit to the Grand Opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
• Additional Scenes
• Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1: Behind the Soundtrack
• Standard Definition DVD of the feature film
• Digital Copy of the feature film

DVD:
• Additional Scenes

Additional scenes?  That’s all the DVD version has to offer??

Why would Warner Bros. (WB) only offer fans a stripped-down DVD but a decked out Blu-ray package? 
Answer: They want to entice people to buy the more expensive version & push the latest technology, hence the existence of the Blu-ray combo pack (apparently no barebones Blu-ray will be offered).   I can see Beyonce singing “Upgrade, upgrade!” from that TV ad.

What’s even more insulting for Americans is that WB is actually offering a 2-disc DVD version with plenty of special features to our friends across the pond in the U.K., but not in the good ‘ole U.S. of A.

Perhaps WB did research that showed that Blu-ray discs or single disc DVD releases don’t fare well in the U.K. where more people are on a budget/more frugal, but in America they could succeed with a more greedy scheme of “forcing” people to buy Blu-ray b/c the DVD is such a barebones offering.  Trust me, WB spends millions of dollars on marketing and spending research to try to squeeze every last bit of revenue out of these movies. 
 
Some background:
Any more, for a studio/movie house to decide on buying the rights to a script and actually making a film, they have to know the movie will “pay for lunch” (meaning it will turn a profit).  As long as the movie makes money in ticket sales, DVD/Blu-ray sales & merchandise, then the investors who put money into the project will receive large dividend checks later.  WB is then hoping these investors (or shareholders who collectively own the WB company) will happily invest more money in more film projects in the near future to keep expanding WB’s empire & keep everybody employed in Hollywood.  Whether or not the film is actually any good is sort of unimportant to them as long as it makes money.  This is why so many well-known franchises keep getting sequels despite mixed or even bad reviews on the last movies (such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Meet the Parents series, X-Men/Marvel comics series, Scream series, Toy Story, Exorcism, Freddy Krueger, James Bond etc.) – as long as the investors/movie house (such as WB) made money on the movie, they hardly care how “respected” the film was or whether people really liked it b/c they just want the profits from that movie so they invest in another project to make even more money LOL 
 
Common sense would say the movie must be “good” or else no one will go see the next one, but with a lot of animated films, horror films, & established series, the movie houses do so much research they know that even if the movie is bad people will still pay to see it!  This next Harry Potter or Twilight film could be awful, but based on the prior movies they know a lot of people will pay big bucks to see it!  In fact, even if the last movie in the series was bad, they can still usually project whether or not another movie in that series will make money based on market research.  If so, the movie usually gets made.  If not, it usually doesn’t.

Hopefully WB will release a solid 2-disc DVD package for Americans who still enjoy DVD & haven’t moved to Blu-ray yet.  Until then, prepare to break out your wallet before your popcorn.

U.S. Renews Contract With Spotted Ground Squirrels Through 2015

10 Feb

From TheOnion.com:

Thanks to various animal labor unions, squirrels won't be paid simply in nuts anymore.

WASHINGTON—The Department of the Interior announced this week that ongoing negotiations with the nation’s population of spotted ground squirrels have been resolved and that the rodents are now contracted to continue activities on U.S. soil through Dec. 31, 2015.

“We’re happy to have finally reached an agreement with this vital American species, and we thank all the ground squirrels who have been carrying on in good faith for the past 18 months while we worked this out,” a jubilant but visibly exhausted Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told reporters at a press conference Tuesday. “Their continued participation in our forests, meadows, and prairies is an integral part of our natural world, and I think our generous offer reflects that fact.”

Under the terms of the agreement, which was conducted through third-party labor mediators, the ground squirrels will be responsible for scurrying up and down trees; rustling in undergrowth; chittering; and eating a variety of seeds, berries, and nuts.

The contract stipulates the nation’s spotted ground squirrels be paid $345 million over five years and also provides for performance-based bonuses.

“This amount is well in line with the compensation of other North American wildlife, and when you factor in the spotted ground squirrels’ vast range of distribution across the country, it’s actually quite a value,” said Ray Chen, who represented the squirrels during arbitration. “The government is getting a tremendous bargain on Xerospermophilus spilosoma, especially when you consider what they’re currently paying the white-tail deer.”

Negotiations between Chen’s firm of Hannigan, Chen & Falbaum and the Interior Department took nearly two years, and at one point reportedly grew so strained that the government considered opening the bidding to blue jays, marmots, and Lockheed Martin.

A deal was reached only after the ground squirrels acquiesced to signing a non- compete clause that forbids the animals from pursuing foraging opportunities in the Asian or Latin American markets.

“We think this was a deal that had to happen, and both sides are satisfied,” said assistant secretary for wildlife Tom Strickland, who originally balked at the ground squirrel’s terms and was chastised by the pro-squirrel-labor lobby for his use of the “disparaging and insensitive” slang term “gopher” during a television interview early in the negotiations. “I admit the road here was rocky, and we wish they had given a little on the three-month’s hibernation. But no one wanted a return to the strike years of the 1970s, when unburied nuts were piling up on curbs by the thousands.”

Because government representatives were unable to move the ground squirrels on several key points, including nesting in attics and garages, and appearing suddenly in the middle of the road for no apparent reason, the contract is essentially the same as the previous agreement, which held from 1998 to 2009.

The Interior Department denied that national-park fees would increase to cover the ground squirrels’ new contract and insisted that the cost of the most hotly contested portion of the agreement, a provision for comprehensive heath care extending well into retired squirrels’ fourth year of life, was included in the total divulged cost.

“Worse comes to worst, we’re not locked in to anything, since it’s just a five-year deal,” Salazar said. “And now that this is behind us, we can turn our attention to making sure we get that contact signed with the bald eagles, who have been threatening to move their operations to Mexico since June.”