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Great story on the history of the Madden video game franchise

22 Apr

Could this be the next Madden cover? All Brownies' fans hope so.

Click here to read this sweet ESPN: Outside The Lines recap by Patrick Hruby on the history of how EA Sports’ Madden franchise rose to prominence in the sports & gaming world.

 
 
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Funny clip from The Onion: ‘Warcraft’ Sequel Lets Gamers Play A Character Playing ‘Warcraft’

12 Apr

Gotta love The Onion: ‘Warcraft’ Sequel Lets Gamers Play A Character Playing ‘Warcraft’ video is hilarious

The sad thing is I actually think there might be a gamer or two who would buy this LOL

Gamers launch class action lawsuit against EA for its exclusive license on Madden & NCAA games, allege the license led to overcharging

8 Apr

Electronic Arts is being sued for its exclusive license on Madden, NCAA & Arena Football League games from the past several years (presumably starting with Madden ’06 & NCAA ’06). 

If you purchased certain Electronic Arts brand football video games between January 1, 2005 to the present you may be eligible to join the lawsuit!

Thanks to Peyton Hillis & online voters, we will actually get to see a Browns player grace the Madden cover in 2012. Amazing. I was starting to think the only way that would happen is if EA Sports was so desperate for new ideas it started using kickers (Phil Dawson) or longsnappers (Ryan Pontbriand) as the face of its NFL game.

EA will probably defeat the claim against it b/c antitrust cases often force the plaintiff to put on quite an impressive amount of evidence proving the game developer truly closed competition in the market.  This civil suit standard is technically called a preponderance of the evidence (51%), which sounds relatively easy but is usually not the case in the land of antitrust litigation (this regards competition & fairness in the marketplace). 

While most gamers obviously wish other vendors like 2K Sports & Midway could make NFL games to compete with EA, it’s not like EA runs the entire videogame universe & is going Tony Soprano, telling all other game developers they’d better not think about making a football game or there’s going to be trouble.  In fact, those Blitz: The League pro football games came out, & no one is stopping another game developer from following in Midway’s footsteps and making its own unlicensed game using retired NFL players or players not part of the NFLPA (NFL Players Association). 

Midway featured former all-pro linebackers Lawrence Taylor & Bill Romanowski’s likenesses/voices as “Quintin Sands” & “Bruno Battaglia” in its Blitz games with fictional teams to overcome EA Sports’ exclusive license with the NFL.  I’m sure few people think those types of games are anywhere near as good to play as the Madden games, & I’d agree with that.  Still, those games got released & the first Blitz game obviously did some business or else Midway would’ve have bothered to make a sequel.  This may make proving competition was closed a tough sell, but more power to ’em! 

The great thing about this lawsuit is that it may make EA & the NFL think twice about pursuing another exclusivity license when the current one expires in 2012 (assuming it’s not renewed beforehand or extended further by a season-long NFL lockout in real life).  Lawsuits are bad press, & paying legal fees to defend yourself gets old fast.  Plus, most gamers hate this exclusive arrangement, so it’s a black eye for EA & the NFL.

Imagine if the NFL just lets the deal with EA run out, how great would that be?  This would finally mean diversity in the marketplace again, taking us back to the glory days of 2004!  Who remembers the joy of having your choice of:
1) arguably one of the best editions of Madden ever – Madden 2005, &
2) NFL 2K5.

Madden ’05 debuted the hit stick, & still let athletic QBs run & throw the ball accurately 70 yards down the field.  This wasn’t an extremely realistic passing attack, but was a blast to play.  That “big play” offensive model came off the heels of the Michael Vick-friendly Madden ’04 title.  Some Madden enthusiasts, including myself, still regard Madden ’04 as the most fun copy of Madden ever.

On the flip side in 2004 you had NFL 2k5, which had the fantastically low $19.99 MSRP & featured a relatively authentic ESPN broadcast presentation for the time.  Some people even thought this was a better game than the Madden edition that year.  I wouldn’t go that far, but who cares?  The point is Madden had some legit competition back then, & all was right with the world.

What does this mean for 2012 & beyond?  Video games are logically better when developers know another game has the chance to beat them in a competitive genre if each developer doesn’t bring its A game. 

So do we really need a class action lawsuit to get a better football video game?  It’s pretty clear that having multiple NFL videogames released each year would be the real victory for gamers, and we don’t necessarily need a judgment & court order to do that if the NFL takes action. 

All the NFL would have to do is decide exclusive licenses are too much of a hassle & make sure it can get more money collectively from all the football game developers than it could make from EA alone.  Once that happens, diversity in the marketplace returns, and it’s a touchdown dance for the consumer.

As for this lawsuit, EA will probably win b/c other football titles do exist.  Even if EA loses, most class-action plaintiffs will probably only get like 75 cents or a free download of “NFL Labor Dispute 2014” or whatever new idea EA rolls out in a demo the year this case is resolved.  “Labor Dispute 2014” could be like the ill-fated “Head Coach” EA series, where you attend meetings, run an office, fill out paperwork, manage a schedule…basically an awful, boring football RPG every 14-year old Madden fan will put down in favor of finishing his homework.

Whether EA wins or loses, the lawyers are probably still getting paid…so we can all look forward to that.

Here’s the details from the web page link that was emailed to members of the class action:

GEOFFREY PECOVER and ANDREW OWENS v. ELECTRONIC ARTS INC.
U.S. District Court (N.D. Cal. – Oakland Div.)
Case No. 08-cv-02820 CW

 

If You Purchased Certain Electronic Arts Brand Football Video Games
Between January 1, 2005 to the Present
You May Be a Class Member.

 

 

Membership as a class member in the Electronic Arts Litigation is the result of a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, Oakland Division (Case No. 08-cv-02820 CW).

What Is This Class Action About?

The class action lawsuit alleges violations of California’s antitrust and consumer protection laws in connection with the sale of certain football video games. Plaintiffs, purchasers of Electronic Arts’ football video games, claim that Defendant Electronic Arts entered into a series of exclusive licenses with the National Football League (NFL), National Football League Players’ Association (NFLPA), National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA), and Arena Football League (AFL), which Plaintiffs claim foreclosed competition in an alleged football video game market. Plaintiffs allege that this series of exclusive licenses caused customers who purchased certain football video games to be overcharged. 
Defendant Electronic Arts has denied any liability and all allegations of misconduct. The Court has not decided whether the Defendants did anything wrong, and this Notice is not an expression of any opinion by the Court about the merits of any of the claims or defenses asserted by any party to this litigation.

Who Are Class Members?

The Class includes all persons who, during the period January 1, 2005 to the present, purchased the Madden NFL, NCAA Football, or Arena Football League brand video games published by Electronic Arts with a release date of January 1, 2005 to the present. Excluded from the class are purchasers of software for mobile devices, persons purchasing directly from Electronic Arts, persons purchasing used copies of the relevant football video games, and Electronic Arts’ employees, officers, directors, legal representatives, and wholly or partly owned subsidiaries or affiliated companies.

What Should I Do? (Getting Further Information)

If you believe that you may be a class member (see above “Who Are Class Members”), you should get more detailed information about the class action and its potential effect on you and your rights. Further information can be obtained by going to the following website: http://www.easportslitigation.com. Additional information about the lawsuit may be obtained from Plaintiffs’ Counsel website at http://www.hbsslaw.com, or by calling Plaintiffs’ Counsel at 1-206-623-7292.

To Remain a Class Member

If you are a class member and you do nothing, you will be bound by the court’s rulings in the lawsuit, including any final Settlement or Judgment.

To Exclude Yourself from the Class(Deadline to Request Exclusion: June 25, 2011)

If you are a class member and you want to exclude yourself from the class and keep your right to sue Defendant, you must take further action before June 25, 2011. By that date, you must request exclusion in writing to this address:

Electronic Arts Litigation Exclusion
P.O. Box 8090
San Rafael CA 94912-8090

Or submit a request for exclusion electronically at the following website: www.easportslitigation.com

For further information about excluding yourself from the class go to the following website:
www.easportslitigation.com

Please do not telephone or address inquiries to the Court.
April 6, 2011. By Order of the U.S. District Court (N.D. Cal. – Oakland Div.).

Why do achievements / trophies not exist on the Nintendo Wii? Another victory for Sony’s PS3 & Microsoft’s XBOX 360

24 Mar

Do you enjoy letting your friends know you just unlocked the toughest PS3 trophy or XBOX 360 achievement for Call of Duty: Black Ops or another game everyone is playing?  It’s sort of like that saying about whether the tree falling in the forest really makes a sound if no one is around to hear it.  Accomplishing something difficult or unique in your game just isn’t that cool if none of your friends know about it.  I’ve always been puzzled as to why this same system-wide trophy concept is not available for the Nintendo Wii – perhaps it makes too much sense?! 

Nintendo has historically been very invested in their own ideas, not usually offering a response to what its competitors are creating until it’s really forced to do so by significant consumer demand for change (remember mild console flops like the GameCube, & major ones like the Virtual Boy that forced Nintendo to go in other directions).

Here’s a great article by IGN.com‘s Craig Harris from late 2009 about why Nintendo really needs to offer an achievement/trophy system for the Wii:

“Wii Need Achievements”

Nintendo was late to the online party, & now seems disinterested in offering system-wide accomplishments. It's getting to the point where 3rd-party games are almost pointless to play on the Wii. It's looking more & more like the only Wii games worth buying are those made by Nintendo.

Late last week I came home to my roommate playing Cars Race-o-Rama on the PlayStation 3. This game, released a couple of months ago, is not good – our official review of Cars Race-o-Rama put the game at a 5 out of 10. He wasn’t casually checking it out, either – he was deep into the game’s progression, almost to the point of beating it completely. The conversation went like this:

Me: You’re playing Cars Race-o-Rama.
Him: Yep.
Me: You’re playing Cars Race-o-Rama just to get the trophies, aren’t you?
Him: Yep.

This word-for-word dialogue was essentially the catalyst for this editorial. It’s been something that’s been on my mind for months now: love the idea or despise it, Nintendo is missing a huge opportunity by dismissing persistent online accounts that track individual game accomplishments. The fact that a gamer in my household was playing a crappy game just to get credit for it is a testament to the need for this feature on Wii.

For those who haven’t been following what’s been going on outside of the Nintendo camp, Sony’s Trophies are essentially the PlayStation 3 version of Xbox 360’s Achievement system. When players hit certain accomplishments in games – completely determined by the developer and unique to the game in question — they’re rewarded with a “token” that’s noted in their user account. These badges of honor are not just accumulated as a rating or score, but they can also be viewed by other players, either on the system or through a web page.

PlayStation 3’s Trophy web list is pretty snazzy.

The most significant innovation in this generation is easily motion control, and we have Nintendo and its Wii remote to thank for getting this ball moving; both Microsoft and Sony are playing catch-up in this regard, but they’re at least making some headway to out-do what Nintendo has done to change the playing field.

But arguably Innovation Number Two has to be the creation of accumulative achievements, and it was Microsoft that set this standard with the debut of the Xbox 360. Like Wii and its motion control, the Achievement system was something that started from Day One of the system’s debut and it is a standard that hasn’t changed since it began back in 2005. Since Microsoft made the move other companies have followed. Individual games have incorporated the “achievements” idea into their designs as an alternative checklist of what’s been completed. Even World of Warcraft has embraced achievements as a standard part of its experience, which will reportedly be rolled into a persistent account using its Battle.Net system.

Xbox 360’s online user game list can be pulled up by anyone.


Sony chose to add Trophies partway through the life of the PlayStation 3, so it’s had some growing pains to worry about; since it wasn’t available from the start, many early games do not have support for Trophies. But as of January 2009, Trophy support is a mandatory inclusion for all PlayStation 3 games, both in retail and in digital distribution.

The whole idea of an Achievement Score or a Trophy collection really is just a way for gamers to show off how much they play videogames. Some people call it an “e-penis,” and just like a regular penis, the bigger it is the more powerful and important you feel, right?

Some may dismiss the idea of an accumulative gamer score, and that’s perfectly fine — if a game can’t stand on its own, no amount of trophy hunting can make it any better. However, it’s hard to ignore the sense of gratification that’s felt when you’ve hit a certain milestone in a particular game, and a rewarding “Bing!!” is followed by the badge of honor that notes your accomplishment. Even if you were playing the most dreadfully designed game, that little token of acknowledgement is a wonderful release of endorphins that makes the awful experience a bit more pleasant.

Personally, even I’ve been known to play a game well past completion just to score as many Achievements and Trophies the design has to offer. An immensely fun game is made even better if there’s more to shoot for, and it’s sort of a driving force to grab all there is in a game just to prove to yourself, as well as the entire world, that it was one of your most favorite experiences on the console.

Now, this isn’t a commentary of which achievement system is better – Greg Miller chimed in with his choice last week, and Charles Onyett claims both are dumb. No, my point is how Nintendo is losing out by looking the other way. Nintendo tends to focus on its own innovations and only be reactive to strategies when it’s absolutely required – online support, for example, is in the Wii, but it’s certainly not an absolute integral part of the Wii experience in the way that Microsoft and Sony have embraced it.

It just flabbergasts me to see Nintendo taking such a blase attitude towards the growing support and backing for the system-wide, persistent accomplishments. At the Electronic Entertainment Expo this year, I asked Shigeru Miyamoto if Wii Sports Resort’s “stamps” was Nintendo’s way of addressing achievements, and possibly a taste of things to come for Wii gamers. According to Miyamoto, “I’m not a big fan of using the carrots to motivate people to play,” he said. “I want people to play because they enjoy playing and want to play more.”

Wii Sports Resort clearly had a team that understands the idea of Achievements.

My roommate’s Cars Race-o-Rama play session is evidence that gamers will play even the lousiest of games if there’s a carrot dangled in front of their nose. One of the biggest issues with Wii third-party support is the lack of enthusiasm to play anything that’s not made by Nintendo. However, Miyamoto makes a good point – but it’s a point from the perspective of someone whose games are seen as the best of the system’s best: of course people are going to play your games, Mr. Miyamoto.

But look at the rest of the system’s offerings: even the greatest third party games are being overlooked because, well, they’re not made by Nintendo; Zack & Wiki is a fantastic example of a game that’s one of the best the Wii has to offer, and yet failed to attract any sort of number on the sales level. We may never know for certain, but if Nintendo’s Wii had some sort of online persistence that not only touted to friends and colleagues that they were playing it but also awarded players with stamps that added to their gamer presence, perhaps we’d see more players tracking down a copy of Zack & Wiki. Sort of a virtual word of mouth…without saying a word.

Again, even the worst games would get played (bought, even) if there were an incentive to boot it up.

Later in the year, Miyamoto once again addressed the issue of Achievements and Trophies, this time taking a much more defensive position. At a roundtable discussing New Super Mario Bros. Wii, when asked if the Stars system in New Super Mario Bros., where certain accomplishments are rewarded with star badges in the user’s game profile, Miyamoto stated “playing the game in a certain way and have something that unlocks is something we’ve been doing for years.” He went on to note that he’s not familiar with what Microsoft’s doing because “I don’t have a lot of time to look at what other people are doing.” That, Mr. Miyamoto, is very telling.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii’s star system is a nice try, but oh so dull.

Wii developers have added in-game achievements in their projects for years — Retro Studios, for example, incorporated “tokens” into Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, and then brought that idea back for the Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes ports for Metroid Prime Trilogy. But those achievements are locked down to the games, so while there is a sense of satisfaction in securing these awards, it’s only a personal one with very little opportunity to show it off.

It is, admittedly, a technical hurdle if an achievement system was added to the Wii this late in the game. Just like Sony’s growing pains by incorporating the idea more than a year after the PlayStation’s release, if Nintendo started with its system now we’d see similar problems, which most notably would be the early lack of support due to a slow push to a standard. And with Nintendo’s current “no patching games after release” policy on Wii, existing games couldn’t even be updated with the feature outside of re-issuing a brand new disc with the support. And while the enticement of achievements might be a good drive for gamers to double-dip, I’m sure many players would have a hard time paying full price a second time just to get the badges.

But the Wii at least has the basics for an achievement system – it just needs to pull the trigger to get it done. While there’s no way of “logging in” with user accounts in the current Wii firmware, the Wii can be linked to an online account via Club Nintendo and the Wii Shop Channel. And at the very least, as the Message Board and Nintendo Channel prove, the Wii records which games are being played and how long gamers have been playing them. There’s a basic foundation here for a full-on accomplishment system, but Nintendo needs to take it one step further.

Returning to Wii Sports Resort for a second, the “Stamp” system isn’t just a good start, it’s also a great name if Nintendo ever decides to embrace the idea of persistent achievements. My passport is “stamped” every time I enter a country, and I see my document booklet as a partial, personal achievement record: I’ve entered Japan, I got my stamp on September 17th, 2009. If anything, I’m on board with the “Stamp” naming structure.

Just look at what’s happening in Microsoft and Sony’s corner with its persistent accounts. Players can post their badges on Facebook and MySpace. They can check out friend’s scores on their iPhone.

Do I expect Nintendo to surprise us all in 2010 with a brand new firmware update that opens up an achievement standard on Wii? Not at all. I personally believe that those at Nintendo R&D, or the decision makers that call the shots on system wide features, don’t understand the importance something seemingly insignificant as an “e-penis” gamer score.

But there’s no doubt in my mind that the Wii system and random third-party games would be treated a lot more seriously with an achievement system in place.

Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars free demo available now on PS3 & XBOX 360

24 Feb

I’ve already played this demo & I must say it sports even greater play control & features than the prior LEGO Star Wars games!  Finally we have a LEGO SW game with trophy support & top-notch graphics to go with fantastic gameplay & fun for all ages. 

This game should almost certainly be a hit – I’ll provide a review when I get my hands on a full version copy of the PS3 game.  For now, go out & snag the free d/l from the PSN (Playstation Network) & get a taste of what’s coming in late March.

The Force is strong with this latest LEGO SW installment, which should line George Lucas' pockets with about as many coin studs as it takes you to get "True Jedi" status to 100% the game.

From The HD Room.com:

LucasArts today released a free playable demo for Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars on Xbox 360, the next installment in the hugely successful and timeless Star Wars Lego series of video games. The same demo will be available for Playstation 3 owners to download for free starting tomorrow, February 23.

In addition to the demo release, LucasArts confirmed that Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars for 3DS will be one of 18 3DS launch titles that arrive in stores on March 27.

I just completed played the Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars demo and as expected it’s a great time for either a single player or two players cooperatively. There’s quite a bit of moving objects and droids with the Force, puzzles and battling Separatists.

Both short demo levels are set aboard the Malevolence, a prototype Separatist cruiser capable of incapacitating any ship within the range of its sonic weapon. Three episodes of the Clone Wars television show revolved around the ship and it appears as if the full game will include a level representing each Malevolence episode.

2009 dolphin documentary “The Cove” finally released on DVD in Japan this Friday, Feb. 25th!

21 Feb

This is what you'll be seeing this Friday, Feb. 25th at the Best Buy stores in Tokyo. Finally the truth about Taiji, Japan comes out!

From the Ocean Preservation Society:

We have been looking forward to this Friday when The Cove  DVD gets released throughout Japan. The limited theatrical run last summer was met with protests by violent extremist groups, who threatened the film distributors as well as theatergoers. Hopefully now Japanese citizens can view the film in the safety of their own homes and come to their own conclusions.

Viewer’s Guide to Television: Feb 21-27, 2011

20 Feb

“The Can’t Miss List” – Your Guide to the Top 10 Must See Events on TV

February 21 – 27, 2011:          

 The week of February 21st makes up for a lack of compelling sporting events by bringing us a host of new episodes for our favorite television shows, as well as a great conclusion to the weekend with the Academy Awards presentation (all listings are in Eastern time).

 10.       The Office –  Thursday, 9pm, NBC:  The chemistry between Steve Carell and Amy Ryan always elevates the quality of this series; in this new episode, Michael Scott’s crude friend Todd Packer makes another appearance at the Dunder Mifflin office.

9.         Fringe – Friday, 9pm, FOX:  Truly one of the highlights of Friday night

programming, Fringe is a sci-fi based show that seems to get better with every passing episode; intriguing plotlines in both universes continue to propel us towards the season finale.

8.         Parks and Recreation – Thursday, 9:30pm, NBC:  Don’t flip the channel once The Office ends; stick around for this highly amusing comedy series centered around a small town Parks and Recreation Department that features great writing, stellar acting, and new recurring roles for Rob Lowe, Adam Scott, and various special guests.

TBS, Conan is the only original programming you have that is funny. Are We There Yet? House of Payne? NOT FUNNY

7.         Conan – Monday, 11:00pm, TBS:  Conan is worthy of your viewing attention on a nightly basis; an appearance by Ed Helms, who has started to land some well-deserved leading roles on the big screen, elevates this to the must see Conan episode of the week.

6.         Lakers at Thunder – Sunday, 2:30pm, ABC:  These two teams met in the 2010 NBA Playoffs and gave us one of the more memorable series of the entire postseason.  LA will be looking to start the second half of their season on the right track after heading to the All-Star break with many doubts surrounding their title aspirations.

5.         Modern Family – Wednesday, 9:00pm, ABC:  Arguably the funniest show on all of television, Modern Family almost always guarantee to not only make you laugh, but to make you laugh out loud uncontrollably at least once. 

4.         American Idol – Wednesday and Thursday, 8:00pm, FOX:  Say what you will about the judging panel for this season, American Idol’s time tested structure is able to overcome the lack of any value the judges bring to the show.

3.         Glee – Tuesday, 8:00pm, FOX:  Glee is the type of show that plays much better on the screen than it does on paper; if you haven’t seen an episode yet, do yourself a favor by making time to catch it this week.

2.         Heat at Bulls – Thursday, 8:00pm, TNT:  This game has two of the top Eastern Conference powers  meeting  in a possible preview of the upcoming Conference Finals, and features two of the top MVP candidates in the entire league in LeBron James and Derrick Rose.

We can guarantee you that Brendan Fraser won't be winning one of these for his leading role in "Furry Vengeance."

1.         83rd Academy Awards – Sunday, 8:30pm, ABC:  There are so many movies up for Best Picture this year that it was almost surprising to not find Furry Vengeance amongst the nominees; the best part of the program promises to be how hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway respond to the immense scrutiny they are sure to receive.  You read it here: these two underrated comedic actors will do just fine, and create the template for future Oscars presentations to follow.

Just Missed List of Guilty Pleasure Honorable Mentions:

10a.     Jersey Shore – Thursday, 10:00pm, MTV:  Any reality show that features so many people known by simply a nickname has to be good, right?  Right?

10b.     Wipeout – Thursday, 8:00pm, ABC:  The true definition of a guilty pleasure, this show always seems to have at least 4 to 5 moments per episode that feature a hilarious wipeout of a contestant.   Be sure to check your underwear each commercial break to see if you really did end up wetting yourself during one of your violent laughing streaks.

10c.     1000 Ways to Die – Wednesday, 10:00pm, Spike:  Just look at who the hapless victims are this week: a caretaker, 2 hunters, a Japanese game-show contestant, and a stripper.  Enough said.  Half of the fun of this show is simply trying to guess what the show’s creators name each of their stories.

10d.     Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern – Tuesday, 9:00pm, Travel:  Andrew’s mouth goes where most men’s mouths only dare dream of: this week, he travels to Namibia to tackle wildebeest eyeballs.

10e.     Piers Morgan Show – Monday, 9:00pm, CNN:  The star of the show isn’t Morgan, who has received mixed reviews so far as Larry King’s successor.  The true attraction is his guest, Rod Stewart, whose success on and off the stage continues to generate jealousy in the minds of countless men.  Here’s hoping that Rod shares with the rest of us how he went about signing a pact with the Devil that promised him lifelong career success and an endless supply of supermodels to father children with.

10f.      When Harry Met Sally – Saturday, 8:00pm, E! 

10g.    Love Actually  Saturday, 11:00pm, LMN

Saturday affords us little in the way of original programming, so why not use this opportunity to curl up in front of the TV with your soul mate and generate some romance for the night?  And with “Saturday Night Live” being a rerun this week, “Love Actually” is a wonderful movie to laugh and smile yourself to sleep with.

Review: Grown Ups (2010) starring Adam Sandler gets 2.5 stars

20 Feb

“Grown Ups” is an okay 2010 comedy that could’ve been great.  Not “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” great, but maybe “Knocked Up” great.  Those 2 films had something going for them that “Grown Ups” doesn’t – their producers were smart enough to make those movies with R-rated scripts!  “Grown Ups” is stuck in a PG-13 world that plagues the film throughout…jokes they can’t land, words they can’t say, & racy moments the audience never sees.

Not particularly strong in terms of 1-liners nor full of memorable crashes/falls/disasters, “Grown Ups” lacks an identity and starts to drag about an hour into the film.  It reminded me a lot of an arguably better comedy, 2009’s “The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard” starring Entourage’s Jeremy Piven.

“The Goods” dies off after about 40 minutes, but had so many great one liners you don’t even care!  The opening 5 minutes of “The Goods” are so laugh out loud funny you feel like no matter what happens the rest of the way, what you just saw was worth the price of admission.  “Grown Ups” never has a stretch like that but still has enough silliness to maintain your attention for the most part.

Sandler’s interaction with his wife (played by Salma Hayek for reasons unknown) & kids is hilarious at times, & Kevin James’ path of destruction involving pools, trees & water skiing is fun to watch.  My favorite part of the film involves the eccentricities of Rob Schneider’s character annoying everyone else at a cabin.  He gets carried away with a food dehydrator – pretty creative writing to think of something as obscure as that (I’d say more, but I don’t want be a spoiler…no food dehydrator pun intended).

I’m sure Hollywood will be churning out more of these PG-13 letdowns, as “Grown Ups” grossed $271 MIL on an $80 MIL budget.  While the aforementioned “The Goods” only grossed $15 MIL on a $10 MIL budget, “Knocked Up” grossed a whopping $219 MIL on a $33 MIL budget and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” grossed $177 MIL on a mere $26 MIL budget.  Moral of the story to studio execs: Make a good R-rated comedy that adults want to see, & you can make an even greater % return on your money with less risk (smaller budget).

If you’re a fan of slapstick falls & some raunchy humor, then “Grown Ups” is disappointing but still worth a rental.  If you’ve never liked Sandler & Spade /SNL-type comedy, then nudge other video store customers out of the way for a better comedy on the shelf.

Verdict: 2.5 stars

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!

Pirates of the Caribbean 4 trailer in HD

17 Feb

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides looks a lot more like the instant classic that started the series than the last 2 additions to the series that almost ruined the franchise!  Hopefully this film is shorter with a more straight-forward plot than the last 2 Pirates films.  While Penelope Cruz replaced Keira Knightley, everything else about this film seems like a big improvement from recent efforts in the series.  More fun, laughs, & explosions are pretty much all you need to satisfy moviegoers looking to beat the heat with a summer blockbuster, & this latest Pirates installment looks like it has all of that & more.

Click below to check out the trailer:

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!