Thursday 23 February 2017

Movie Review - Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie

I've always been a huge fan of the Angry Video Game Nerd; and when creator/star James Rolfe announced the potential for an AVGN feature film back in 2010, it was certainly something I was insanely keen to see, though my excitement only dwindled as it began fading into distant memory considering setbacks with its development. Upon its eventual release in 2014, following a lengthy production schedule built purely off of crowdfunding, extremely mixed reviews turned my attention away from it even further; but now, I've finally got round to checking out, and I can pretty much say that said mixed reviews are spot on with their criticism...and even somewhat generous at times.

The film features Rolfe as everyone's favourite Angry Nerd, with the continuing pressure from his fans to review Atari 2600's E.T. and its burial rumour haunting him more and more as each day passes. Succumbing to said pressure in the end, he embarks on a journey with fan Cooper (Jeremy Suarez) and game developer Mandi (Sarah Glendening) to locate the burial site and prove its all just a silly urban legend, but soon finds himself tangled up in a government conspiracy involving actual extra terrestrials - with nothing but chaos shortly ensuing.

The Nerd actively dodging the opportunity to review E.T. for the sake of the film says a lot about the passion involved in a story over one of the worst games to to date; sadly, the passion translates to what is generally a film stretched to an awkward length due to an underwritten narrative. The story on paper sounds pretty cool, even if the trailers made it out to be generic and dumb, but the central issue lies with the fact that this simply does not feel like the Nerd we know and love from many of his classic episodes. References to his best lines aside, the Nerd lacks the anger and wit we all wish to see, as if the film wanted to tone things down to appeal to a somewhat wider crowd. As for the supporting characters...well, they ain't much better.

As you now know, Jeremy Suarez co-stars as the Nerd's friend Cooper, an equally passionate albeit less angry gamer, with Sarah Glendening as Mandi, a gaming executive responsible for the development of Eee Tee 2, an intentionally bad sequel created due to the increase in sales for bad games - something the Nerd finds himself responsible for. They often end up as annoying pests in the background than genuinely funny supporting characters, and there never seems to be a solid purpose for their existence apart from the Nerd simply not being enough to carry a feature length film on his own. The same can be said for the villain Sergeant MacButter who, despite a reasonably funny performance by Stephen Mendel, feels cliché and forced in from the start.

This film's budget is just over $300K - yeah that's a lot, but you're still not gonna expect the special effects to be on par with Hollywood's greatest hits. However, I always think that one should work with such limited resources instead of injecting them into a somewhat overambitious narrative. Whilst AVGN: The Movie shines with some moments of interesting set design, cheesy but old school computer effects, and some humourous animatronics, it also falls flat with how blatantly fake some of these effects look which can ruin some otherwise enjoyable set pieces. What's especially pants is the use of miniatures, which is something that has to be nailed in terms of scale, and whenever you see a miniature used in this film to convey an action sequence, you know what it is from the start - the end results are not impressive, making some scenes randomly (and awkwardly) shift from live action chaos to blatant toys on a tacky model landscape.

But the central issue with this film is its lack of humour, particularly from the Nerd himself. Rolfe is a fairly mediocre actor, trying to play the Nerd as a character with a deeper personality and some cheesy backstory, which sounds okay in theory, but just doesn't work when we've always known him as a superbly angry man who reviews crap games. While it does have some moments of charm, AVGN: The Movie mostly falls flat due to a clumsy story which doesn't suit the character or the limited budget, and an insanely bloated run time that can often make watching it a dull, tedious challenge. Stick to the classic episodes if you want my advice.

The Nerd also finally reviews E.T. when the movie concludes as I'm sure you know, and to be honest whilst many were understandably disappointed at his lack of anger and the annoying audience of extras, I find it to be an interesting outlook on what many consider to be the worst game of all time; a review that's more than just the same criticisms recycled again and again. Perhaps it's one of the films most enjoyable moments.

Tuesday 14 February 2017

Movie Review - The Lego Batman Movie

Three years ago The Lego Movie opened to respectable success from a critical and commercial perspective, considering it was about a line of plastic toys and the first theatrical film based on it all. One of the most renowned supporting characters was none other than Batman himself, played by Will Arnett, who many adored due to his sarcastic sense of humour and numerous parodies of the character's many iconic traits. Now, such popularity has led the studio to craft Lego Batman his very own movie, which thus far appears to be equalling the success of it's predecessor.

The story features Batman going about his day to day crimefighting routine, but lacking something deep down - family and friends. When the Joker (Zach Galifianakis) arises with yet another evil scheme, based on his own heartbreak following Batman's cold rejection of Joker as his "greatest enemy", it's now down to Batman, his inadvertently adopted son Dick Grayson/Robin (Michael Cera), new police commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson), and loyal butler Alfred Pennyworth (Ralph Fiennes) to put a stop to it and save Gotham City from further destruction.

But more characters of DC heritage are still present in this latest Lego hit - from Superman to Green Lantern to Wonder Woman, most of whom find themselves in small cameo roles rather than full on starring ones. Villains, however, is where the film truly thrives from a comedic and visually admirable perspective - not only does the lineup of DC baddies include some of Batman's most acclaimed foes, the film later starts to expand it's lust for parody outside of the DC universe and into other major blockbusters, making for some hilarious results and one epic climactic battle.

However, where Lego Batman slips is actually that aforementioned insane lust for parody - funny as it can often be. The film sometimes just doesn't know when to take a step back from it's endless comedic nature, and while I hardly expect a film based on plastic toys to have serious emotional heft, a respectable amount of such drama was present in the original film without resorting to sappy, cheesy clichés. Here, every moment where it feels like a decent tender scenario will pop up is instead ravaged with unnecessary gags that eventually become incredibly tiresome.

The animation is as gorgeous as ever - textural detail and fluid movement aside, the art direction put in place to craft all these sets and characters out of Lego pieces makes for wonderful eye catching results and an equal amount of amusing visual gags. While this is all fab, the main issue I have with this film that prevents me from truly loving it is, again, it's continuing obsession with cheesy jokes and pop culture references. It's a trait of the film that most people love, so this is purely my perspective of things, but to me The Lego Batman Movie is a film that is admittedly funny, beautifully animated, and backed by some fab voice acting (annoying as Will Arnett can be), but also one that goes overboard too often with the comedy to the point of being obnoxious and irritating at key moments - and so the story and characters suffer as a result.

Sunday 5 February 2017

Movie Goofs - The Little Mermaid 2: Return to the Sea (2000)

Disney direct-to-video sequels...quality is clearly not one of their main targets. Some have been decent to be fair, but as I say many times, most of them are naught but poor quality clones of their far superior theatrical predecessors.

The Little Mermaid 2: Return to the Sea is no different. Essentially a reversal of the original film's story, this tacky sequel sees Ariel's new daughter Melody detesting her life on land and wishing to explore the sea, eventually striking a deal with Morgana, the evil retconned sister of Ursula, to become a mermaid in exchange for betrayal against her family. You can tell from the get go what I mean, and it's safe to say the script is just as cheap as the animation, and so is inevitably riddled with some daft plot holes that show a lot of laziness within the film's structure.

  • It's vaguely implied that Melody has the ability to communicate with sea creatures such as Sebastian, as well as Tip and Dash, because of her mermaid heritage. So, with that in mind, did she never question why she was able to do such a thing whilst growing up? You'd think as soon as a crab began speaking to her in a Jamaican accent she'd run to her mother in terror and demand some kind of explanation, thus exposing her habits of sneaking into the sea and surely unveiling the truth of Morgana's attack when she was a baby. She may not have wanted to in order to avoid revealing her unauthorised visits to the ocean, but I'm sure sea creatures talking to you might be enough to convince you otherwise.
  • King Triton tosses Melody's locket away when Ariel suggests she can't know anything about Atlantica or its inhabitants. It sinks down to the ocean floor, but Melody eventually finds it and witnesses its magic for herself...twelve years later. The locket dwelled on the ocean floor for over a decade and didn't get whisked away by any currents, picked up by any sea creatures, or, hell, didn't even ever so slightly rot away. Melody finds it in pristine condition, with her name on it still perfectly visible. It's also bizarre how, after such a long time, it's only buried underneath a handful of sand, making it easily visible.
  • Said scene and those surrounding it also bring to fruition a plot hole that's common in films like this: Melody can see extremely well underwater, hold her breath for significant amounts of time, and is never subjected to the harsher pressure when swimming at great depth despite wearing no protective gear; she also doesn't ever seem to be soaking wet when exiting the sea. On top of that, has her family never noticed her clothes often being rather damp and stinking of seawater?

  • King Triton goes off in a hissyfit when his servants are merely preparing a few dinner tables and demands that the search parties for Melody be increased instead. He then wanders off, leaving his trident completely unattended. Yes, it can only be moved by him or one of his descendants, but that doesn't mean having at least one guard next to it is a bad idea, as is eventually proven when Melody sneaks in and pinches it in a matter of seconds.
  • Why is it the trident cannot be moved from its pedestal by anyone except Triton or his descendants, but it can be used by anyone? Surely in its list of contrived powers, it would've been, if anything, more useful to have it only work when used by Triton or his family members. A lot of hassle would've been prevented if so.
  • When Morgana locks Melody away in an underwater chamber, she says that her time as a mermaid is now over. It then takes absolutely ages for Melody to lose her mermaid powers, but the reason why it took so long is never made clear; and this unnecessary delay gives Tip and Dash time to come in and rescue her. Had Morgana simply removed Melody's mermaid powers instantly, she would've died in minutes and her villainous scheme would've succeeded.
  • How on Earth does Melody so easily climb the ice tower made by Morgana during the film's climax? Surely she'd constantly be slipping about and have her bare feet frozen in a matter of minutes.

This film sucks.

Thanks for reading!