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)

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