AVGN the Movie: The Film Event of Our Generation

No. That was not hyperbole.

James Rolfe, aka, the Angry Video Game Nerd, encompasses two of the biggest influences of my generation of 20-30 somethings: video games and the internet. (with hip-hop culture rounding out the triumvirate of my generation’s biggest cultural influences).  And for the last eight years, he and his friend and writing partner Kevin Finn have been working on a full-length feature film for Rolfe’s online persona and, yes, I truly believe it to be the movie event of my generation.

Don’t believe me? Here is a short list of the reasons why!

  • Video Games & Gaming Culture: Video games have, since the beginning, had many myths and legends associated with them. The movie discusses all the little secrets that used to appear in Atari games (initials and easter eggs), but even later games like Mortal Kombat, Doom, Tomb Raider, and Killer Instinct all had their own lore associated with them . These little mysteries entered into gaming culture so much that secrets in games are commonplace and expected now. Myths about how games are created and their back stories are just as compelling; from how Pac-Man got his name (anyone believe Scott Pilgrim’s explanation?) how Rock-Man became Mega-Man, we just eat these legends up. The AVGN movie explores a real game legend with a fantastical explanation. It’s the kind of stuff the internet would run with in this day and age! And on that topic…
  • Internet & YouTube Culture: The only cultural aspect that has impacted my generation more than video gaming would be the internet. People make their entire careers as internet personalities (James Rolfe being one of the best and most successful) and legions of fans follow them, often doing just what they are begged not to do. The Angry Video Game Nerd even points out in “Nintendo Classics Re-Revisited” that people bought and played Jekyll and Mr. Hyde after he expressly told them not to. The whole premise of the film is that negative press from the right personality can bring positive results. Both from a slightly sleazy game publisher and from an altruistic scientist. It’s an interesting parallel and sums up how the internet community can have profound impact on course of popular culture.
  • The Movies of Our Youth: For those in my generation, the happy-go-lucky 20-30 somethings out there, we grew up with cheesy horror movies, giant monster movies, goofy cartoons, and practical effects (guys in suits, miniature sets, puppets, blue screen effects, etc.) James Rolfe is a filmmaker first and he makes movies the way he likes them. With…guys in suits, miniature sets, puppets, and blue screen effects… I think even if he’d managed to raise 10 million dollars we’d still see a model van explode in a spark-filled firecracker explosion and not a real van flip and burn before bursting into a gasoline bomb. Death Mwauthzyx would always be a home-made suit…never a CGI model. It’s just like the movies and afternoon cartoons we all grew up with; summed up in one brilliant two hour spectacle.

I don’t think it’s necessary to go into the plot or characters. I won’t spoil it and it’s actually got too much going on to sum up in a few sentences. But suffice it to say I think James Rolfe captured the entire culture of 25-35 year olds in a compelling and incredibly hilarious movie, made with love and affection for that culture AND love and affection for his fans. Furthermore it still feels like an AVGN episode. Yes it’s bigger, more characters, expanded world…but it is still his world and has his tone.

James Rolfe has declared a sequel isn’t likely. While I’d love to see another expanded look at the AVGN’s life I can see why and I’m looking forward to seeing what other, new creative ideas he has. Until then I know I’ll enjoy revisiting all things AVGN for a while to come. It truly takes me back to the past and exemplifies what’s great (and delightfully bad) about the cultural impacts of my generation in the best way possible.

Cinemassacre website

Buy the movie!

RevPub Christmas Special Favorites: Part 1

Back in October, we here at RevPub shared are favorite Halloween specials. In the spirit of that, we decided to share our favorite Christmas/holiday specials as well.  Though Halloween still has most of our favorite specials, Christmas isn’t entirely left out and can produce some great, memorable moments as well.  Here they are:

Will Vinton’s Claymation Christmas Celebration (1987):  This is one of the most memorable from my childhood, though I only remember seeing it once, maybe twice.  It was the height of claymation in the 80s after the California Raisins hit it big in their TV commercials.  I loved this special — doo-wop, camels, the self-striking bells, and the “wassailing” lyrics runner.  Of course my favorite, being the person I am, were the dinosaur hosts, Rex (the actor sounds like he’s doing a George Plimpton impersonation) and Herb the Styracosaurus.  I just rewatched it for the first time in probably over 20 years, it’s still a great show.

A Garfield Christmas Special (1987):  I still love all things Garfield.  While this one has a more sappy ending than most Garfield stories (even the orange feline himself acknowledges it!) it is still one of my childhood favorites that still holds up.  From the “gift that keeps on giving,” to the “doc boy, doc boy, doc boy” runner, and of course Odie’s gift exchange.  Even the music’s good!  I hope they still show this one every year!

Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire (1989): It’s not the strongest episode of the veritable TV family, but it was the first time they broke out from shorts on the Tracy Ullman Show and had their own 30 minutes to fill.  It’s still a great episode, and because it’s early in their lifetime, it feels more like an animated sitcom than a zany cartoon.  The voices are still works in progress and the animation a little primitive, but it’s still a great show and takes you back to the basics of what made the Simpsons a hit.

MST3k Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1991) and Santa Claus (1993):  I have distinct memories of watching these two episodes on Christmas Eve night during that “can’t sleep” phase of Christmas.  Martians is completely absurd but perfect for riffing, and contains a number of hilarious runners, my favorite being “head butt” when the martians touch heads.  Santa Claus is a goldmine of humor, from the creepiness of Santa’s cloud-spy lair, his horrible laughing reindeer, and the weirdo antagonist, “Pitch” the devil.  It also has a quote that sticks in my mind, “Santa has the power to reverse film!”

Futurama Xmas Story (1999), A Tale of Two Santas (2001), Futurama Holiday Spectacular (2010), and the holiday song in Bender’s Big Score (2007):  ALL of Futurama’s holiday episodes are brilliant shows about the nature of the holidays.  They are also so dark that even the creators comment during the audio commentaries “wow, we shouldn’t have been able to air this!”  But they are so wonderful.  Where else can you see a robot Santa who judges EVERYONE to be naughty and tries to gun them down?  Or Hanukkah Zombie (voiced by Mark Hamill) or Kwanzaa Bot, voiced by effin’ Coolio! (who’s been giving out the same book What the Hell is Kwanza? for 647 years!)  Watch them with a sense of humor and they won’t disappoint.

Honorable Mention: AVGN’s Bible Games (2006), Bible Games II (2009), and Bible Games III (2012): I found the first of these episodes RIGHT after I found AVGN.  They are some of the best and most entertaining Internet videos out there.  They have throwing baby Moses in the water, “Sunday Fun Day,” and the great word search in the Game Boy version of the King James Bible. Definitely give them a watch to lighten the holiday mood!

Life Lessons from Video Games: Versus Mode!

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I’ve been playing video games since I 4 years old.  My first “gaming” system was an Atari 400 and was replaced (actually it was added to by) an Atari 800XL in the mid-80s.  I was a military kid who lived in secluded base-housing and, essentially, only knew my family.  I just assumed that everyone was playing Centipede, Missile Command, Frogger, and  Pac-Man.  In addition I had loads of games that almost no one has heard of but remain my all-time favorites; Sea Horse Hide n Seek, Ducks Ahoy, and Movie Musical Madness.  It wasn’t until my father retired from the USAF and we moved into “civilian” life that I first learned of what kinds of systems were popular.

I had an Atari…but never heard of an Atari 2600.  My memories of Pac-Man are slightly different from most others…the 400 and 800XL computers I had played different versions that actually (to me) looked superior to the 2600 version.  I only ever saw Commodore 64s and Apple IIs in school.  I never heard of Colecovision until I saw it on VH1’s I Love the 80s and never heard of Intellevision until James Rolfe did a video about it.  I DID hear of NES almost immediately after my we left the military lifestyle.

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I can remember being in my elementary school cafeteria in my private school blue shirt and slacks and a vicious little rich kid snarling at me, “What?  You don’t have Nintendo?! What’s ‘Atari’?”  I remember telling my mom that and she said, “I bet our Atari has better graphics than their ‘Nintendo…'”  And I immediately agreed.  And the game was on.

Over my lifetime I’ve seen numerous competitions in video games, systems, and gaming culture in general that are all just as frivolous and subjective as this one.  Sega vs. Nintendo.  Street Fighter vs. Mortal Kombat.  Sony vs. Microsoft.  It’s been fascinating to see them come and go, and each generation of hardware and software customers act like it’s the first time these things have ever been discussed.  I’ve been thinking a lot about all these various, senseless wars I’ve witnessed during my gaming life and thought I’d start sharing some of the most memorable.  Since this is just a little intro I thought I’d start with a brief look at the Atari vs NES.

Of course the Atari 400, which came out in 1979, and even the updated 800XL had nothing, hardware-wise, on the NES.  The NES came over from Japan with a library of games that would become classics (and some hardware strangeness that would fall into pop-culture obscurity).  Since the NES clearly has the edge in nearly every technical sense, I thought I’d look at just one thing that strikes me as amusing in terms of my old Ataris compared to the NES.

I started watching AVGN when the new Ghostbusters game was set to come out on current-gen consoles.  I heard a funny online reviewer had reviewed the NES Ghostbusters game and I was intrigued, I didn’t know there WAS one.  I turned on his review and was alarmed to see him reviewing a game I knew…only I knew it from my Atari 800XL…I knew it on floppy disk……and I knew a MUCH better version!  Smoother gameplay, more “ghostbuster-y” graphics, and less idiotic additions (like the gas station…)  Granted it was still a monotonous “wtf is going on?” kind of game, but the NES version looks like a butchered port…of an Atari game.  The Atari version was no masterpiece…but it’s definitely competitive with the later NES version!

That little fact did indeed help remind me that, although the most popular system might dominate the market, the reviews, and rewrite the history, for the minority of us who lived with other brands…we might have found a nice classic gem.

In two weeks I’ll start versus mode in earnest, and will try to do one every two weeks.  The first one will be the most appropriate way to start such a contest and has been a heated debate for almost 20 years…ladies and gentlemen…it will be: Street Fighter vs. Mortal Kombat!

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