This weekend I went to see Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie at The Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA. It was...quite an event, so I will try to relive the evening as much as possible.
After following The Nerd for all these years and keeping patient through the long development of the movie, the night had finally arrived for it all to come together. This wasn't the premiere of the film, but it was definitely a special evening. For starters, the location was the beautiful Colonial Theatre, which was prominently featured in the 1958 film The Blob. The trailer for the film debuted here back in 2012, so it pretty much brought the genesis of the film full circle. This was also the first East Coast showing of the film, so I'm sure it meant a little bit more to the Cinemassacre gang since they're local.
I scooped up tickets for my wife and I back when the screenings were announced in June. I'm pretty sure she saw some of the AVGN reviews in the past, but she isn't one to really care about anything I like, so she went into this experience cold. I, on the other hand, was ready. I have been part of some strange cinematic endeavors in the past (the most recent was seeing "Die Another Day" early at MGM Studios and telling the woman conducting the test that they killed James Bond...which they did...) but this was definitely an evening unlike others.
We arrived at the movie house pretty early. We spent some time putzing around town and such. There was a line early on, which soon snaked around the building. As it turns out, we were practically locals compared to everyone else in line. People were talking about driving 6+ plus hours from all directions (yes, even Canada). I honestly felt like an ass for even considering the alternate reality where I didn't buy tickets to this event that was practically in my back yard by comparison.
Man, I have issues.
Anyway, so while we were in line a very helpful staffer approached me for some reason (I literally have no idea why she came up to just me) and asked if I had printed my tickets. I didn't, but I had the pdf files handy. She said "follow me" and brought me inside the theatre well before the movie was set to start. While she was messing around in the office I took a look to my right and saw Mike Matei and Bootsy messing around with a camera. I would've said "Yo!" but they were setting up shots and I didn't really want to bother them.
Mike and Bootsy. I'm a creep...
They ended up filming some kind of intro that I'm sure will end up online or on the eventual DVD/Bluray. I hid out of sight to avoid being in that sort of thing. I was handed my tickets, and I went back outside to see Mike pacing down the line asking random rapid-fire questions to the crowd. I found my wife and we waited a little while longer before we were finally let into the theatre.
After a little while, Kyle Justin and Mike Matei hopped on stage to introduce the man himself--James Rolfe. He spoke a few words, and the movie began--all the while a camera was filming the audience. After the movie, there was a 45 or so minute Q&A followed by a signing in the lobby. I stuck around for the Q&A, but was too tired to get my ticket stub signed (yeah, I should've brought my copy of E.T. that I've had since I was a kid...). With that, we headed home.
My souvenir from the evening thanks to the super helpful Colonial staffer. (Edited out my name)
Now--On to the movie itself...
Yes, there will be *SPOILERS*
The film begins with a scheming executive named Mandi who is explaining that there is good business in terrible games thanks to the immense popularity of the Angry Video Game Nerd. Cockburn Industries is releasing an intentionally unplayable sequel to Atari's E.T. (called Eeee Teee in the film) and she is spear-heading a project to get the nerd to review the game. As this is going on, The Nerd and his recent sidekick/manager Cooper are filming a review for the fictionalized version of the game Xenophobe on the NES (Nintoaster cameo). The two head to work at a video game store called GameCops where Nerd (that is his real name) is chewed out by his boss. Nerd is forced to sell customers on a Call of Duty knockoff despite his protests. However, he ignores this and basically tells his customer that the game is horrible before spitting on it. The customer enthusiatically buys the copy of the game because of the spit/bad review and suggests that he should review Eeee Teee. The customers in the store start chanting "Eeee Teee!" to which Nerd flees outside.
After work they head to an arcade/bar where they meet up with Mandi, whom Cooper had been corresponding with. She proposes that he do a review of Cockburn Industries' Eeee Teee 2. In exchange, they would fund an excavation of the games that were rumored to be buried in the desert, which Nerd has declared to be a hoax. Nerd later has a nightmare about getting Eeee Teee for Christmas as a child which devolves into him repeatedly falling down pits and eventually ending up at an AVGN carnival, where all of the prizes are Eeee Teee on Atari. He approaches one patron, who turns out to be a zombie which leads to several other zombies appearing and chasing Nerd before he is ultimately bitten by a zombie Cooper.
The next day Nerd arrives at Cooper's house where Mandi arrives with the Nerd Mobile. They set off to the desert to begin their excavation of the buried cartridges. On the way, Cooper explains that he thinks the world is flat, that Santa Claus is real, and that something called Deathmwosis (I have no idea how this is spelled, so lets just go with this spelling for the sake of the review) lords over us from hell and can wipe out existence leaving only a scaleless bologna sandwich in it's place.
Meanwhile, government agents are monitoring the Nerd crew and believe they are looking for Extra Terrestrials. This leads the legless General Dark Onward and Sergeant McButter intercepting the crew. The Nerd crew flees after a brief encounter (where Onward manages to blow his right arm off with a grenade) and escape after a brief car chase.
They decide to seek out the assistance of Howard Scott Warshaw, the game's creator, but instead find the reclusive (and fugitive) Dr. Zandor who formerly worked at Area 51 and became friends with the alien who crashlanded there. His job was to research the material that the ship was made out of, which he stole and left tinfoil in it's place. As it turns out, he teamed up with Warshaw to create the Eeee Teee Atari game, which itself is really the floorplan to Area 51.
During the night, Mandi is contacted by Cockburn who says that he came up with the brilliant idea to hold a festival at the excavation site after their radars detected copies in the ground. She tells him this is a bad idea, but loses reception on her phone. She leaves the guarded house and is captured by McButter. She proceeds to lead McButter on a wild goose chase to Dr. Zandor's house, stopping in various unrelated locations.
Nerd, Cooper, and Zandor show up at the excavation site where fans (Kyle Justin is playing a song while hanging out with Mike Matei) are buying up copies of Eeee Teee 2 (Keith Apicary is the first customer, heh.). Nerd proclaims that the landfill legend is a hoax and tells Pat the NES Punk and the other fans that they should leave. As the crowd disperses, Howard Scott Warshaw arrives and says that the legend is true, which prompts fans to rush the electic fence surrounding the landfill.
Nerd decides to break into Area 51 while disguised as an alien as Cooper keeps lookout in the van. Nerd awakens to find himself being dissected and attacks the doctors. As it turns out, Area 51 is laid out much like the Eeee Teee game with Cooper seeing Nerd in-game as he plays the game in the van. He watches as Nerd is captured, but manages to free the alien who befriended Zandor from his containment unit. Meanwhile Onward interrogates Nerd and tells him that he is actually a fan of his work and wants him to review Eeee Teee also. As Nerd refuses, he begins the launch sequence to a missile aimed at Mount Fuji, which the Atari logo is based on. As Onward is escaping, the closing door cuts off his remaining arm. Nerd is then rescued by the alien, who he then flees the base with in a fighter jet.
The rocket that Onward launches hits Mount Fuji and Deathmwosis (again--sp?) emerges. Nerd and the alien arrive back at the excavation site as Onward arrives in a tank. Meanwhile, Deathmwosis arrives in America, destroying the Golden Gate Bridge and eventually attacking Las Vegas. As he kinda freaks out, Cooper flees the scene but is picked up by Deathmwosis. Vegas also happens to be where Mandi and McButter are--still on their lengthy wild goose chase to Zandor's location. After a lengthy fight, McButter is kicked off of the Eiffel Tower and Mandi is also captured by Deathmwosis.
Zandor reveals that the metal he stole from Area 51 that made up the alien's ship, was used in the circuitry for the Eeee Teee cartridges. Using this knowledge, the alien summons all of the cartidges (Lloyd Kaufman and Doug Walker are shown as people playing the game as their cartridges fly away) and is able to recreate his ship. As this happens, Onward and his tank drive over a cliff and explode. Nerd then joins the alien and they head to Vegas to take on Deathmwosis.
Nerd and the alien arrive just in time to catch Cooper and Mandi as they fall from Deathmwosis. Cooper explains that to defeat him, they have to shoot the satellite on his head. Nerd takes the shot and is successful, which causes Deathmwosis to don Groucho Glasses and depart for space.
They leave Vegas and return to the fans at the excavation site. Nerd asks if there is any way he can still play the Eeee Teee cartridge, which the alien oblidges as the ship is made of the cartridges. They are beamed back to the ground as the alien hovers above. Cooper and Mandi kiss, and Nerd begins his review of Eeee Teee 2, which he dismisses/disarms as a shameless cashgrab. This causes the fans to discard their copies of the game. He then states that he's finally going to review Eeee Teee for Atari.
As the credits roll, Nerd gives his review of Eeee Teee. He gives the game credit for being advanced and ambitious for it's time and that a lot of the complaints really stem from users not reading the manual. He admits that there were a lot of glitches and unnecessary difficulty factors, but really doesn't think it's the worst game ever.
As you can see, there is no such thing as a brief summary of this movie. I suppose you could just say "AVGN goes to dig up E.T. carts and ends up saving the world", but anything beyond this needs further explanation. This movie was conceived many years ago and has been in development since then--and it shows. The plot is extremely dense with hardly a beat of downtime once Mandi was kidnapped.
As the pace is fast and heavy, the movie went by rather quickly. I apologize if I got anything in the summary out of order toward the end of the movie, there was a lot going on all at once and I was definitely taken in by the exciting atmosphere in the theatre.
What my summary is definitely missing out on is the comedy bits. There are many, many, MANY tiny nods to episodes and memes throughout the film as well as a lot of funny little moments. The biggest laugh for me was when Cooper was sneaking out of the house--it was just so perfectly done. Oh yes, and you might want to watch James' review of Ninja Turtles III to fully understand McButter's demise. Those of us who got it laughed. Trust me, this movie is funny.
I should also talk about game footage. The movie features some fictional games as well as recreated footage for games such as E.T. and Top Gun, which look convincingly close to the original games. The title screen to Eeee Teee is pretty much the same as the original Atari title screen with the addition of a moustache on E.T.. James even noted in the Q&A that they attempted to get permission to use footage of the E.T. game but were told by Atari that film studios retained the rights to games back then and when they approached Universal they were told to contact Steven Spielberg...which was essentially a dead end.
The music in the movie was pretty damn cool. Bear McCreary did the score and, as James mentioned in the Q&A, he is working on an even bigger version of the score. So basically the music that I heard in the film that I screened will most likely be replaced by the time the film is released digitally/on home media.
The effects were as you would expect from a B-Movie. There was some either intentionally or unintentionally great timing in the use of models in this movie in that they were introduced early enough in the film that you were welcome to the idea of it by the time the climax started to kick in. I believe the first model work to appear is when the government agents first spot the Nerd crew at the excavation site. If the models were introduced all at once at the end of the movie, it might have made the film a little lopsided. I also happen to prefer practical effects and model work over CG (I mean, duh, you probably know me well enough if you're reading this) so this was a win for me.
Cameos! Lots of Cameos! I mentioned the big/obvious ones in the summary, but there are some nice stealth cameos in there as well. Be on the lookout for the combination Shit Pickle/Glitch Gremlin cameo.
On a whole the movie felt a bit too big for itself. If you cut out the Deathmwosis (someday I'll get the right spelling for this) plotline, you could pretty much still have a pretty coherent movie with some tweaks. BUT, I did see what James was trying to do--and he confirmed this during the Q&A. He basically said that this film was a sampler of everything he does, which is 100% true. The only thing that this movie was short on was horror, which was limited to the dream sequence. Think of it this way... If you were to combine the R.O.B. The Robot episode, Texas Chainsaw Massacre review, with the Nintendo World Championship episode and a dash of the Mr. Bucket short film, you would have something close to the movie. It is all stuff that he has done before, just in one giant feature.
That said, the only thing I didn't like were some of the reaction shots during the Deathmwosis rampage. The Double-Zero lady was pretty funny, but there were just a few too many of just randos running in place.
All-in-all seeing the movie in a packed theatre was the absolute best way to see it. It was a great experience and I look forward to watching it again to see anything that I missed along with the extras that James talked about putting together for the DVD/Bluray.
I look forward to seeing the general reaction of this film once it's widely released. If you get an opportunity to go to a screening, I highly recommend it. Even if you don't, check out the film when it is released digitally or on home media.
Big congrats to the Cinemassacre crew and best wishes~!
P.S. I might as well run down a few extra things I remember from the Q&A
A shitty photo of Kevin Finn, James Rolfe, and Kyle Justin (holding the alien). Mike Matei is in the first row filming.
-After the film ended, Kyle Justin came out with the animatronic alien from the movie. James said that it was designed in a way so that it looked like the E.T. from the game in silhouette. This is pretty apparent after they eject from the fighter jet.
-When asked if he was looking forward to Nostalgia Critic's review of the movie, James said he was actually looking more forward to seeing Chester A. Bum's review.
-James talked about putting together a "Making Of" that will be "pretty much feature length".
-Cooper was never actually in the Nerd room. Those shots were bluescreened.
-James confirmed that AVGN's name is "Nerd" which people pointed out that Spider-Man called him "James" and he entered his name as "James" in the Winter Games (NES) review. Sheesh, remember that episode of The Simpsons with Poochie? Yeah...NERDS!!!
-Likewise, he also mentioned that the alien's name is just "Alien" in the script.
-He confirmed that McButter's demise was based on the infamous falling shot from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle III.
-He was able to clear use of Rolling Rock for the film and confirmed that he drinks water while he films reviews. Some people booed and he said "I don't want to get too drunk!".
-James mentioned that a bigger and better score is being worked on so the music that was used in this cut might not necessarily be final. The soundtrack will be available for purchase later on.
-Kevin and James talked about how Deathmwosis is something they came up with way before The Nerd was even started.
-James also mentions that he would like to remain independent in his career.
-I'm not entirely sure if they were serious, but Kevin and James said that Lil Jon screentested for the movie.
UPDATE: (02.September.2014) This article was linked from Cinemassacre.com! I might have committed a cardinal sin by posting so many damn spoilers, but hey...I was excited to write about the movie. Enjoy the film!