Tuesday, February 24, 2015

redvsblue Season 2 Remastered

Another month, and a second season's worth of remastered redvsblue videos to cover. In case you are unfamiliar with the web series redvsblue, please check out my entry covering the first season from last month where I go into the origins of the show and why the earlier seasons are being remastered. Season two (trailer) is continuing the Blood Gulch Chronicles saga that makes up the first five seasons of the show, and is entirely shot from gameplay from the first Halo on original Xbox, but for this remaster the PC version is used to get a HD resolution on BluRay.

Spoilers ahoy for those who have not finished the first season yet, but when we left off, an attempted blue assault on the red base went terribly awry when Donut (Dan Godwin) got a lucky grenade toss that led to the demise of Tex (Kathleen Zuelch). This had the side effect of the infectious AI called O'Malley that had control over Tex leaving her body upon her death, and via travelling through the open channel in his radio, wound up being attached to Caboose (Joel Heyman). The spirit of Church (Burnie Burns) ends up possessing the android body of Lopez for a majority of this season to give him a reason to be riding with the blues still in some capacity, and rest assured it seems that just like in comic books that no one stays truly dead in redvsblue because soon enough Tex's spirit arrives on the scene.

A new character joins the fray early on as a medic gets dispatched down to Blood Gulch. His real name is too hard to pronounce, so Church officially calls him Doc (Matt Hullum). Doc is not a big hit with either the reds or the blues, so it was fun watching both sides get tired of babysitting him before abandoning him. Rest assured Doc will play a bigger role as the season progresses, but a good chunk of the season is spent on the blues coming up with a plan on removing the sinister AI out of Caboose.

Meanwhile on the red base side of things, Sarge (Matt Hullum) has his own devious plan to get Grif (Geoff Ramsey) and Simmons (Gustavo Sorola) to work better together and stop their bickering. Sarge also is desperate to get his favorite android Lopez back, and even constructs two new androids in hopes to pull off a trade to get Lopez back. The final act builds towards this big hostage trade, and of course things do not go according to plan, and a bizarre firefight erupts. The season ends on another cliffhanger alluding to us that it looks like both the reds and blues are taking their war outside of Blood Gulch and finally exploring onto the many other maps available in Halo.

Just like the first season, season two looks fantastic being remastered in HD with the prettier PC version of Halo. Unfortunately, the six bonus PSA video featuring the redvsblue crew shedding their wisdom about various holidays are not remastered, but provide a great comparison to show you how far they came on making the remastered videos really pop in HD. All the other original extra features are back also with about 15 minutes of deleted scenes and ten minutes of outtakes, as well as the original commentary. There is no bonus commentary for season two, so I gave the original commentary another listen, and like last time it was fascinating listening to the Rooster Teeth crew talk shop about setting up some of their shots and the stories that came out of the crazy long production days they endured.

I thought the second season of redvsblue held up well just like the initial season. Again, this is primarily because almost all of this season transpires on Blood Gulch. A couple other maps make small cameos in certain scenes, but by and large this is still another season of the red and blue armies going at it in the fan favorite map of Halo. Besides both armies being up to their usual tomfoolery, the lore of this universe really starts to unfold this season with the O'Malley AI breaking out as the series' primary antagonist. I liked how the season played out, and still did not mind the cliffhanger because it was enticing to see which maps and new direction that Rooster Teeth Productions would take the series going into season three. I am hoping this time around that redvsblue will be easier to follow and less convoluting when watching these seasons in quicker fashion in individual sittings like a movie instead of over the course of many weeks when they were originally released in weekly bite sized episodes.

Looking forward to covering season three next month, because if my memory serves me right, it is when the series makes the jump to being produced with the Halo 2 engine. You can join in the fun reliving these episodes with me by watching them for free on the Rooster Teeth website and YouTube channelor by getting the ten year anniversary set off Amazon. See you all next month for season three!

Past redvsblue Blogs

Season 1

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Macho Man: The Randy Savage Story

A few months ago, the WWE finally gave "Macho Man" Randy Savage the proper home video treatment in the form of a feature length documentary with the release of Macho Man: The Randy Savage Story (trailer). This is long overdue because of WWE's and Randy's rocky relationship since he left the company in 1994. Before this, the only other Randy Savage set WWE put out was 2009's Macho Madness DVD, which was simply a collection of matches. The two sides were starting what seemed like a gradual healing process with Savage doing a couple of promotional appearances shortly before his untimely death in 2011. Several weeks ago WWE finally announced that Randy Savage will be making his long awaited entry into WWE's Hall of Fame. So in anticipation of that event next month, now is as good as time as ever to review Macho Man: The Randy Savage Story.

I could rattle on forever about Macho Man's career, but I already wrote a tribute to him chronicling his career right after he passed for my old friends at Team Fremont/Robot Panic/Mojo Menace. For this entry, I want to focus on how WWE's biography portrayed the Macho Man and how much attention they gave/ignored for various parts of his career. The bio is quite fascinating because it is mostly a fitting tribute to him, but WWE does put a unique spin on certain aspects of his career worth going into.

There is a nice opening intro on Randy's childhood setting the stage with him being a second generation wrestler of Angelo Poffo, and his brother Lanny following in his footsteps as well. For those that did not know, Savage was an aspiring pro baseball player originally, and the documentary gives a decent amount of time interviewing childhood friends and teammates about his time playing baseball growing up and his years in class A minor league baseball. While covering his transition to wrestling I was surprised they dedicated a little time about his runs in CWF and Memphis that caught the attention of the WWE which helped landed him and Lanny jobs over there. Jerry Lawler helps shed some details of their rivalry, along with some brief clips from their headlining feud from the Memphis territory in the mid-80s.

WWE had an old interview with Savage they used in spurts throughout this feature from 1993 I had no idea existed until this documentary. He is in the full Macho Man get up, but is mostly talking out of character about his career through that point, which helps compliments the bio through his WWE days. A lot of time is given showcasing the vintage "Macho Man" look with his colorful and flamboyant outfits, but the WWE does it in a ostensibly disrespectful way. This biography claims that Savage had a smaller body compared to other WWE headliners and pointed out he had bigger ring entrance costumes to disguise that and the bio went further out of its way to point out Savage wrestled on his toes a lot to allegedly hide the fact he was a little shorter than the average main eventer. This whole segment should have been cut, as it comes off like WWE only desires ripped up body builders in the main event and that WWE feels ashamed that they let Randy have so much success much like they constantly point out Daniel Bryan's shortcomings with all the success he had in recent years. It was not like Savage wrestled with the ring gear on once the match started, and I felt it was always just a small part of the success of the flashy "Macho Man" character, the same way with the one-of-a-kind cadence on how he moved around the ring that made him stand out in a good way and not in a negative fashion like WWE wants you to believe here all these years later. This scene just felt slimy and bitter on WWE's part with WWE wanting to go out of their way to get a few potshots in at Randy so they got the last word in their tumultuous relationship.

Throughout the feature they also spend a lot of time about his relationship with his on air manager and then real life wife, Miss Elizabeth. Besides detailing the highs on how Elizabeth was a great part of "Macho Man" act and their main event wedding ceremony of Summerslam '91, it later goes into real life lows. We get insight from a few of their colleagues like Hulk Hogan and Ted DiBiase providing comments about how Randy was always extra protective of Elizabeth to a fault, and later going more in depth about how their marriage wounded up in a divorce. Time is also given to Liz's untimely death in 2003 when she was residing with Lex Luger, with Luger surprisingly on hand to provide some present day thoughts on Liz and Randy. This is all fact to the best of my knowledge of how Randy acted backstage, and pertinent info on Randy's life that warranted some attention. However, on a feature that is mostly about celebrating Randy's career I could not help that it felt a bit overkill on their behind-the-scenes drama, especially when compared to other failed relationships in wrestling history that got little to no attention in other wrestler's biographies WWE put out over the years.

Speaking of the WWE management, unlike most of their other biographies, no McMahons or Triple H are on hand to pay their respects to the Macho Man. This is understandable because of all the controversial rumors about what lead to Savage leaving the WWF, but part of me still wants to know what they would have said about Randy all these years later had they been interviewed.

The feature does give plenty of time profiling his rise through the ranks and his prolific run with the Intercontinental Championship, including his career defining match with Ricky Steamboat at Wrestlemania III. Steamboat and other legends like Bret Hart are on hand here and provide emotional memories about that classic match still fresh to them all these years later. The feature proceeds to capture his other glorious highs of the 80s from winning his first WWF Championship at Wrestlemania IV, to the success of the rise and fall of the Mega Powers tag team with Hulk Hogan that climaxed with their unforgettable main event at Wrestlemania V. I like how the bio treats Randy's villainous turn as him reinventing himself as the "Macho King" and aligning himself with "Sensational" Sherri.

Also props to WWE for interviewing representatives from the company that manufactures the convenience store sensation meat snack, Slim Jim. Randy became synonymous with the beefy, spicy snack for their over-the-top "extreme" 90s advertising that was a perfect fit for the Macho Man character as he was their spokesperson in countless memorable ads for a majority of the 1990s. I lost track of how many of those damn tasteless things I ate because of how ridiculously awesome those ads were (yes Macho, higher education does have me down in the dumps!). It was good to see the Slim Jim reps had fond memories of Savage being a class act as they reminisced about him having no problem recording countless takes for their commercials and Savage going out of his way showing up to support their NASCAR team.

Unfortunately they decided not to give time to cover some of my other childhood favorite feuds of Randy with his great retirement match at Wrestlemania VII with the Ultimate Warrior and his second WWF Championship win against Ric Flair at Wrestlemania VIII. Instead, the bio jumps to him taking a backseat in his final WWF years as an announcer and use this as WWE's angle on what lead to him leaving the company at the end of 1994 and going to WCW. Randy's brother Lanny provides a few other reasons here with Randy brewing resentment with a tale on how the company disrespected his father a few years earlier, and the WWF denying him a rivalry with an up-and-coming Shawn Michaels that Randy pleaded for as his last big feud in the company as more reasons as why he left. Lanny goes on to say the 1996 "Billionair Ted" satire skits that poked fun at WCW by highlighting Hogan and Savage's old age and bald spots were the last straw that caused a big rift between Savage and the WWE. I honestly have no idea about the validity of the aforementioned controversial rumors, but hearing Lanny's side here and him going more into detail in another recent interview Lanny did with Wade Keller lead me to lean more to this all combining for why Randy left the company and the actual reasons there was a big grudge between the two parties for so long.

The biography kinds of glosses over Randy's five year tenure in WCW for the remainder of the 1990s. A bunch of assorted highlights are shown, but the only real parts of his WCW career that got some extra coverage was his big time grudge with Diamond Dallas Page in 1997, where DDP is on hand here to discuss how thankful he was for Savage helping him break out into the main even tier in WCW with this rivalry. Other than a brief nod to Savage's last WCW run with his "Team Madness" faction where he came out accompanied with three lovely ladies, there is not much at all about discussed about his WCW years which is unfortunate because he did have a bunch of other really good encounters and feuds there in his five years there.

The documentary then does a decent job running down his twighlight years after he retired from the business and did a ton of charity work and ended up marrying his old college girlfriend a year before his death. I really liked this portion of his documentary because not much was known about Savage post 2000 other than his awesome cameos in the movies Spider-Man, Ready to Rumble and Bolt, and him making a go of it in the music industry with a rap album. I would have appreciated a joking nod to Randy's film and music endeavors, but I will gladly take this scene focusing on him finding peace and love with his family instead. The main feature has no mention of his very brief run in TNA Wrestling in 2004, but in one of the BluRay exclusive interview snippets, Dusty Rhodes talks about how he was part of management during Randy's TNA stint and he mentions how Savage backed out of a PPV appearance at the last minute because he was ashamed of letting his look go and how he did not want to tarnish his legacy.

After the main feature, there is a collection of 15 matches spanning Savage's WWE and WCW years, with BluRay exclusives featuring an additional four matches and an extra half hour of bonus interview clips that did not make the final cut of the biography. WWE has been pretty good at trying to avoid repeat matches on DVDs when putting out multiple home videos on individual wrestlers, and I did not recognize a single repeat match when comparing this to the match listing in the Macho Madness DVD. This is both good and bad, because a lot of these are fresh match ups I never saw before on video, but the negative is that nearly all of Savage's most remembered bouts were already on the last DVD and a lot of these match ups either have crazy shenanigans taking away from the match or feature Savage in good matches, but coming out on the losing end. For example, you get to see Savage lose both his then-WWF Title and WCW Title to Ric Flair, and lots of early career Savage matches that have screwy finishes. There are still at least several really good bouts on here, with a really good street fight against Bad News Brown in 1989, a surprisingly good match against "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan and another epic No DQ encounter in his classic feud against DDP.

I ended up rambling and going farther in depth about the documentary than I thought I would, but it was worth every word because of the notorious relationship between Savage and the WWE over the years. Even with a few pot shots that overstay their welcome that WWE could not resist, the documentary is a well made tribute to Savage's career for the most part. It feels a smidge short at just over 90 minutes as they could have covered many more parts of Savage's rivalries and outside-the-ring lifestyle and easily went two hours. I also was surprised they did not include a small smattering of some of the vintage Macho Man interviews as extra features like the last collection did. Those gripes aside, Macho Man: The Randy Savage Story is still a much welcomed and long overdue biography that is a must own for any Macho Man fan, especially with his very fast approaching WWE Hall of Fame induction.

Past Wrestling Blogs

Best of WCW Monday Nitro Volume 2
Biggest Knuckleheads
Bobby The Brain Heenan
For All Mankind
Goldberg: The Ultimate Collection
Ladies and Gentlemen My Name is Paul Heyman
Legends of Mid South Wrestling
OMG Vol 2: Top 50 Incidents in WCW History
RoH Supercard of Honor V
RoH Supercard of Honor VI
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
Superstar Collection: Zach Ryder
Warrior Week on WWE Network
Wrestlemania 3: Championship Edition
Wrestlemania 28
Wrestlemania 29
Wrestling Road Diaries Too

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Angry Videogame Nerd: The Movie

A few months ago I raved about how big a fan I am of The Angry Videogame Nerd (AVGN) web series. In case you missed that blog, AVGN is portrayed by James Rolfe, who is a stereotypical nerd who loves Rolling Rock and ripping apart terrible NES games in his web series. I also mentioned in that blog that James Rolfe just wrapped up his work with his much anticipated film, Angry Videogame Nerd: The Movie (trailer). It did not have a traditional theatrical run, and instead Rolfe took the film on a ten city tour throughout the United States before it got an online digital release at the end of 2014. Just several weeks ago AVGN: The Movie finally got a BluRay release, complete with a boatload of exclusive extras.

For a few years leading up to the film, the AVGN character randomly teased on his web series to reviewing the most requested game by his fanbase, E.T. on the Atari 2600. After years of teasing, he finally got around to reviewing it in grand fashion by dedicating a whole movie to it. E.T. is notorious for being a horribly licensed movie game rushed to market in time to coincide with the blockbuster Stephen Spielberg directed film. A lot of people point to it as the impetus of the crash of the videogame market in 1983 in the United States, which resulted in a few terrible years of console games until Nintendo resurrected the market with the NES in late 1985. Atari overproduced the game, and bad word-of-mouth resulted in many unsold copies that Atari buried along with plenty of other unsold product in a New Mexico landfill.

The buried Atari product ties into the plot for AVGN: The Movie. Fan demand for a review of E.T. (which is called Eee Tee in this film to avoid a lawsuit from Universal) is so high that upstart videogame publisher Cockburn Industries wants to capitalize on it with a sequel, Eee Tee 2, and promises to make it even worse than the first game. Cockburn sends their representative, Mandi (Sarah Glendening) down to convince the Nerd to make an event out of it by filming a documentary on a road trip to the New Mexico landfill to dig up and review both the original game, and Cockburn's sequel. The Nerd finally commits to the project after pressure from his colleague, Cooper (Jeremy Suarez). The trio's journey to New Mexico does not go as planned because it is filled with plenty of opposition from a secret government agency headed up by General Dark Onward (Stephen Mendel) and his top agent, McButter (Helena Barrett) that has their own confidential reasons why Eee Tee shall forever remain buried.

From following blog posts on Rolfe's website over the years, I remember a full length feature film has been a passion project of his for many years now, and he made sure to go for broke on AVGN: The Movie. The film well surpassed its online crowd funding goal, and wound up with a budget of $325,000. This results in a much more better looking product on screen when compared to the average online AVGN episode. The film is shot entirely in high definition, which yields far better lighting and camera work that can be done with an entire crew when compared to the usual one man production filmed by Rolfe. Rest assured, the film is still filled with plenty of vintage cheesy special effects and action shots the web series is known for, so it is not like the film is trying to pretend to be this grand major motion picture as it retains plenty of the essence that lead to the popularity of the web series.

One of the recurring themes on the AVGN web series is he randomly will get interrupted in one of his game reviews by a villain associated with the game being reviewed and the villain and The Nerd will duke it out in an over-the-top cheesy fight scene. Now that Rolfe has an actual film budget, he went all out with a mythical gigantic robot on a rampage destroying some of the country's landmark structures. As I alluded to in the prior paragraph, these action scenes look far more ambitious and impressive compared to the action scenes from the web series, but do not hold a candle to almost anything done by major film studios, but I mean that in a good way because the film embraces the hokey, low-rent special effects the web series is known for.

As for how I felt on AVGN: The Movie as a whole, I had my highs and lows with it, but I enjoyed it for the most part. I felt Rolfe really nailed the opening setting up The Nerd's lifestyle outside of his gaming room, and what lead to him finally going on the road trip to New Mexico. Once they get to New Mexico though, there were parts where the pacing started to drag in parts with a little too much emphasis on constantly trying to run away from General Onward's forces and whatever the newest threat they put in front of The Nerd, Mandi and Cooper. The final, big climatic action scenes were fun to watch, but I felt they could have easily trimmed a little bit off of it as the film feels just a bit too long at nearly two hours in length.

I kept trying to keep in mind this is mostly a passion project for Rolfe and it is not like he has access to top Hollywood stars. Most of the cast does put in a commendable performance, but a lot of the smaller roles are filled in from well, not-so-experienced actors who kind of stand out a little bit in a way the hotel clerk from one of my favorite videogames, Heavy Rain does. I will give the film the benefit of the doubt because a lot of those smaller roles are filled in by fans and guest stars from the online gaming scene. Nitpicking aside, I still liked the film for the most part because I could not help, but feel great for Rolfe living out his dream of making a feature length movie driven entirely on a grass roots level by fan demand and crowd funding and eschewing the traditional major film distribution model.

James Rolfe makes sure you get your $20 worth from the BluRay release by filling it with over ten hours of bonus content. Being the nut that I am, I made sure to watch each and every minute of all the extra features (it took me over a week to do so!). If you do not have time for the plethora of extras, I highly recommend first listening to the commentary track from the two directors, James Rolfe and Kevin Finn who go into a lot of details on how everything was shot and provide lots of facts and tidbits on all the actors and production that a lot of the other extra features also detail. Some of the bonus content that really stood out to me was a 20 minute review from Doug Walker, aka the man behind the web series, The Nostalgia Critic, and even though he has a cameo in the film he makes sure to calls this film like he sees it. There is a 48 minute compilation of b-roll footage of filming the gigantic robot monster scenes that is fun to jump around into seeing how they pulled off those shots.

There are nearly an hour and a half of behind-the-scenes interviews separated into several parts. The two interviews here that I recommend checking out are with E.T. game designer Howard Scott Warshaw and film composer Bear McCreary (also famous for being composer of the hit TV series, The Walking Dead), as both interviews discuss their story on how both of them became involved with the film. There is nearly two hours of Q&A sessions included from various cons hyping up the film and other sessions that took place while the film was on tour across the country, and it is awesome seeing the crowd's raw emotion right after seeing the film. The final two big chunks of extras are on the set video diaries with the cast and crew totaling just over an hour and a half, and video diaries from the main AVGN website throughout the film's two year production that total for just under two hours. Both are not required viewing, but I still got a lot out of it as it felt like Rolfe is meticulously updating the production journey from beginning to end. So yes, obviously more extras than you probably wanted and parts of it got to be a little bit of a chore to get through, but for all the ardent fans of AVGN, you could not be happier with the whopping amount of extras on the BluRay.

Ultimately, it was great to see AVGN: The Movie finally come to fruition, and yes he does eventually give the proper AVGN review treatment to E.T. during the closing credits. You do not have to pay to see the movie if you want to only see his long anticipated review of the game since Rolfe has kindly spliced out the review and has it up on the AVGN website for free. For longtime fans of the show, you owe it to yourself to watch Angry Videogame Nerd: The Movie and see the passion project Rolfe has had in store for us for his most requested game to review ever.

Other Random Backlog Movie Blogs

12 Angry Men (1957)
21 Jump Street
Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Bounty Hunters
Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Clash of the Titans (1981)
Field of Dreams
Fight Club
The Fighter
For Love of the Game
Good Will Hunting
Hercules: Reborn
Marine 3: Homefront
Marine 4: Moving Target
Rocky I-VI
Running Films Part 1
Running Films Part 2
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Source Code
Star Trek I-XII
Veronica Mars
The Wrestler (2008)