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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie (Blu-ray)
Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie (Blu-ray)
Other // Unrated // December 18, 2014 // Region A
List Price: $24.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Randy Miller III | posted February 3, 2015 | E-mail the Author

Though James Rolfe began producing episodes of The Angry Video Game Nerd less than a decade ago, he'd been practicing his entire life. Like most children growing up during the 1980s and beyond, an attraction to video games was natural---and with some of the most entertaining and influential titles being released during that era, it's no wonder that plenty of them (The Legend of Zelda, Super Metroid, and Super Mario Bros. 3, just to name a few) are rightly remembered as classics. The Angry Video Game Nerd doesn't bother reviewing those titles; instead, he focuses on the mountains of crap that didn't measure up. From mainstream to obscure, Atari to Nintendo, these abominations were sold to impressionable young gamers and their parents, since neither had easy access to online reviews yet. Rolfe's tongue-in-cheek reviews combine satire, disgust, frustration, unspeakable vulgarity and, most importantly, a love for classic games into some of the most entertaining nuggets of anti-nostalgia you're likely to come across.

Rolfe uploaded new episodes of AVGN semi-regularly after the first handful caught on...and since 2005, he's built a fanbase of well over 1.5M YouTube subscribers and followers on GameTrailers.com, ScrewAttack.com, and all manner of social media platforms. His 8th DVD collection of AVGN episodes was just released in the past week, and DVD Talk even covered a few of the earlier ones several years ago. The all-too-obvious point is that Rolfe's alter ego has proven enormously popular during the last decade, enough to leverage said popularity to crowd-fund his dream goal of making a feature film. After securing over $300K in fan support (substantially more than his initial $100K goal) almost three years ago, development slowly began months later. Despite a number of setbacks and the daunting task of handling post-production with a new baby in the house, the fruits of his labor finally premiered on July 21, 2014.

Those willing to venture out to see one of AVGN: The Movie's limited theatrical screenings---and, of course, lucky enough to actually score tickets---got to see their icon on the big screen and, more than likely, a post-screening Q&A session with Rolfe and/or other members of the cast and crew. I'd love to say that I made the trip out (specifically, to the East coast premiere at Phoenixville, PA's historic Colonial Theater [below] on August 2nd), but I was beaten to the punch. So, like the other 99% of his fans, I had to wait patiently to finally see AVGN: The Movie; it was just released on Blu-ray as of December 2014 and has since been made available for rent or purchase on YouTube.

I'll be completely honest: there was a part of me that actually didn't want to see this movie. AVGN has gradually lost steam during recent years: the series was still funny on occasion, but its increasingly sporadic schedule---partially brought on by the film production, to be fair---and Rolfe's shift towards larger and more complex episodes resulted in flat stabs at comedy instead of the looser, shorter, and more spontaneous antics of earlier years. The movie looked to be a ramped-up version of everything that I didn't like about what AVGN was drifting towards. Trailers and early reviews seemed to confirm my suspicions...but I knew deep down that I'd end up seeing it anyway, if only because Rolfe has served up hours upon hours of free online content enjoyed by myself and millions of other fans.

So what's it all about? This 115-minute road comedy stars Rolfe as the titular Nerd, who toils away as a "GameCops" employee when he's not hanging out with fellow game reviewer Cooper Folly (Jeremy Suarez). The Nerd's been pressured by fans for years to review Eee Tee for the Atari 2600; often dubbed "the worst game of all time", it's paired with the meta-urban legend that millions of unsold copies were buried in a New Mexico landfill. After hearing about the upcoming release of Eee Tee 2 by Cockburn Industries (dubbed "even worse than the original"), The Nerd decides to take a New Mexico road trip with Cooper to debunk the urban legend; they're accompanied by Mandi (Sarah Glendening) of Cockburn Industries, who funds their trip in exchange for a review of the original Eee Tee. Along the way, their "dig" is mistaken for an Area 51 raid and they're pursued by General Dark Onward (Stephen Mendel) and company.

AVGN: The Movie is far from a flawless production; it's not even that great of an independent movie, and feels closer in tone and effectiveness to Clerks II than the original. It has the look and feel of a compromised film: one that runs at least 30 minutes too long, is entirely too self-indulgent, and feels almost completely removed from its source material. There are occasional flashes of brilliance: Eee Tee's meta-urban legend serves the plot nicely whether or not you're aware of the game's history, and many of the film's low-budget effects are charming in their own right. Bear McCreary's score is also inspired, serving up an atmosphere not far removed from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. But only the most die-hard fanboys will watch AVGN: The Movie and not be bothered by its awkward pacing, mediocre performances, and extraneous subplots; they'll just enjoy all that fan service. While Rolfe deserves all the credit in the world for scratching an itch he's had for several decades, here's hoping he shows a little restraint the next time around.

I'll be honest: on several occasions, I had to double-check the disc label just to make sure I wasn't sent a DVD by mistake. Simply put, this is a thoroughly unimpressive transfer of limited source material, resulting in any number of little problems, annoyances, and a general feeling of "meh" during the entirety of AVGN: The Movie. To be fair, this digitally-shot production was almost doomed to mediocrity from the start, largely due to its extremely limited budget (at least taking the film's scope into account; this isn't exactly two guys talking in a convenience store). The visual shortcomings aren't necessarily a problem, for the most part: most of the film's charm comes from its handmade approach and, at the end of the day, those familiar with Cinemassacre will likely be more pleasantly surprised than unimpressed.

But yeah, cramming well over ten hours of content on one dual-layered Blu-ray wasn't a great idea, and that's the most objective reason why this 1080p, 2.35:1 image is lacking in detail, clarity, and overall effectiveness. Textures and close-up detail are occasionally impressive but often waxy and flat, while obvious compression issues mar the image even further. Shadow detail and black levels are lacking. The film's "anything goes" color palette is well saturated but sometimes prone to bleeding. Overall, this Blu-ray doesn't look much better than most 1080p YouTube videos...and in hindsight, it makes me wish that more of the budget was spent on better equipment and a second disc instead of a few of the more unnecessary effects shots. A DVD package is forthcoming; though I'm not sure how many discs are included (hopefully at least two), I'd imagine that the quality gap between formats will be narrower than most titles.


NOTE: The screen captures and images featured in this review are decorative and do not represent Blu-ray's native 1080p resolution.

Surprisingly, the audio is actually more impressive than the video despite being limited to Dolby Digital, which is available in either 5.1 or 2.0 during the main feature. The dialogue is crisp and easy to understand---save for the occasional dodgy bit of ADR here and there---and it's mixed fairly well, rarely fighting for attention with sound effects and music. Speaking of which, Bear McCreary's score is definitely a highlight and sounds full and dynamic, sneaking into the rear channels on many occasions and elevating some of this material to greater heights. Background effects are also placed strategically, giving the sound stage a fairly wide presence at times. Overall, it's a solid presentation...and even though I've got to deduct a few points for the lossy mix, I doubt many fans are going to care all that much. Optional subtitles are presented in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, and Polish...but for some reason, they're not accessible via the menu, only the subtitle button on your remote. If you don't have said button, you're out of luck.

The interface is clean and well-organized, but it's authored more like a DVD than a Blu-ray; that means non-seamless transitions and, even worse, no pop-up menu. This region-free disc loads quickly, though, and there are minimal pre-menu distractions. This one-disc release arrives in an eco-friendly keepcase with poster themed cover artwork; no inserts are included (just a few stickers or tattoos, it looks like), but the back cover details a few of the standout extras and technical specs. I was kind of expecting more creativity here, but I'd imagine money was tight.

The saving grace is here is a figurative mountain of extras, which detail almost every aspect of the production and include plenty of fun odds and ends too. It's all presented in 720p and looks and sounds good for the most part.

First up are two audio tracks that play during the movie itself: a feature-length Audio Commentary with co-writers and co-directors James Rolfe and Kevin Finn with producer Sean Keegan, and an Audience Reaction Track spliced together from the film's premiere and early theatrical run showings. The former goes into near-exhaustive detail about the film's inception, production, editing, cast, crew, and much more, with Rolfe doing most of the speaking during this informative and entertaining track. The latter is a fun little diversion made popular on Robert Rodriguez releases like Sin City; it's simply meant to let viewers in on the theatrical experience and doesn't disappoint in that regard.

Five Interviews and miscellaneous Featurettes are up next; topics of discussion include costume design (with Layne McGovern, 4:12), the extensive special effects shots (40 minutes), key cast and crew member comments (15:12), music and sound effects (with Bear McCreary, 15:28), and a nice little chat with Howard Scott Warshaw himself (9:21). These are all entertaining and informative, and each one covers just about as much detail as they need to.

A handful of Outtakes are also included, featuring Lloyd Kaufman (2:05), Eddie Pepitone (2:36), Justin Carmical (1:53) the van chase (3:36), and the Nerd's Game Reviews (5 minutes), as well as separate Blooper and Fan Reels (12 minutes total). Also of interest in this section are a few Extended Scenes ("Mandi vs. McButter", "Super Turbo Deluxe Edition", "Zandor's Hallway", and "Death Mwauthzyx Rampage", 8 minutes total), short Alternate Opening and Ending Scenes (2 minutes total), and one Deleted Scene ("Nerds Before Birds", 1:39). Worth a once-over, but nothing more.

We also get a handful of Auditions from key cast members including Sarah Glendening (Mandi), Stephen Mendel (General Dark Onward), Helena Barrett (McButter), Jake Johnson ("Young Fan"), and Time Winters (Dr. Louis Zandor).

From here, the extras more of less shift into promotional mode, beginning with a "Movie Tour" section that details the film's limited nationwide theatrical run. The featurettes here include (but are not limited to) a Tour Montage featuring clips from the premiere at Hollywood's Egyptian Theater (4:22), a collection of Teasers & Trailers, an interview with Rolfe and Finn at PAX 2014 (15 minutes), "Trailer Talk" with Rolfe at PA's historic Colonial Theater, more footage featuring composer Bear McCreary, and a collection of behind-the-scenes Photos from the set and various locations. A collection of Q&A Sessions are also included here (5 total, about 15 minutes apiece) from various screenings.

The next chunk of material will probably be all-too-familiar to anyone who's regularly followed the film's progress on Cinemassacre or social media; though most of this stuff is readily available elsewhere, it's nice to have everything here for posterity's sake. The "Nerd Log" and "Movie Update" sections serve up a collection of short clips featuring Rolfe (either by himself or with occasional cast and crew members) that offer a chronological look at the film's inception and production...in some cases, right as it happens. Highlights from these two sections include a thank-you video to fans after initial funding was reached, his temporary move to California and footage from the road, shooting locations, special effects, casting, lessons learned, a daily breakdowns of the month-long shoot, post-production updates and much, much more. These are all extremely candid and worth watching, even if you've seen 'em online already.

Last but not least is a hodgepodge of miscellaneous featurettes and other fun little nuggets, grouped together as "Declassified Supplements". Highlights include a Video Review by The Nostalgia Critic (who scored a cameo), a glimpse of getting into character with Death Mwauthzyx, a fun Voice Acting Session with veteran Robbie Rist, more comments from Rolfe, a short but sweet collection of Before and After VFX Comparisons, a tongue-in-cheek Rap Video featuring Death Mwauthzyx, and more. Again, everything is presented in 720p and looks reasonably good, but there are definitely a few compression issues here and there. Not surprisingly, optional subtitles are not included during these extras.

The Angry Video Game Nerd's film debut is a bittersweet affair. On one hand, it's packed with fan service, handmade charm, and a real enthusiasm for the wonderful world of B-movies. On the other hand, it feels compromised, at least 30 minutes too long and, at times, almost completely flat and lifeless. Even so, I'm glad I finally saw it: Rolfe and company truly did the impossible here and, if nothing else, the exponential growth of AVGN during the past decade makes for a pretty inspirational story. This Blu-ray package serves up more than enough extras to justify its price tag, but treads water or comes up short in every other department, from the middling A/V presentation to the extreme compression of fitting well over ten hours of content on one measly disc. Still, its small budget contributed to the film and Blu-ray's handicap, and both end products will nonetheless appeal to die-hard fans...so assuming you haven't picked this up already, it's a great way to show your appreciation for all that free content. Firmly Recommended.


Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs, and writing in third person.
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