June 29, 2010

The Angry Video Game Nerd

Also this week: Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage, The Crazies, Uncle Sam, Leave it to Beaver: The Complete Series

Highlight of the Week

Angry Video Game Nerd: Volumes 1-3 (ScrewAttackFor nerds, the ’80s was one dicey decade. With every Contra there were a hundred Yo! Noids. Decades later, James Rolfe (a.k.a. the Angry Video Game Nerd) is a godsend for those of us who hurled our controllers in sheer frustration at games made virtually unplayable by their slacker developers. AVGN began in 2006 when, just for kicks, Rolfe decided to film his cranky critique of every flaw in the notoriously impossible Simon’s Quest. He has since gone on to dissect dozens upon dozens of old-school titles for not only NES, but also vintage consoles like Sega CD, Intellevision and abysmal accessories like the Power Glove and Virtual Boy. Clearly this is not aimed at a wide audience, but Rolfe is likely the world’s foremost gaming authority. Watching another dude play dated games could make for even worse entertainment than actually playing them, yet Rolfe turns it into a hilarious (severe potty humour notwithstanding) nostalgia trip and a hugely prolific history lesson in retro gaming. All three volumes are loaded with nice extras, so get ’em @ and take a trip to the shitty past. 

Also Available

Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage (Alliance) The success story of Rush is a strange one. Over four decades, they’ve sold millions of records and filled stadiums, yet remain on the outskirts of cool. Whether or not Rush’s sound has ever spoken to you, you’re bound to get caught up in the rise-to-(cult)-fame story behind three of Canada’s most beloved musicians. Hot off similarly tasty docs Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey, Global Metal and Iron Maiden: Flight 666, filmmakers Sam Dunn and Scot McFadyen take us through this other rock lore — and these nerds do rock, which we witness as they go from suburban jammers to crossover prog act to divisive synth-metal explorers to broad-appeal nostalgia act. Extras include more interviews, anecdotes and sweet concert footage. Also: dig that SteelBook packaging. 

The Crazies (Alliance) In making a leaner and meaner update to George A. Romero’s so-so 1973 paranoia chiller, Breck Eisner mostly gets it right. Check your expectations at the door and you might get a kick out of the film’s conventional jolts and rather balls-out carnage. The blueprint remains mostly the same: a leaked toxin causes townsfolk to slaughter everyone around them, kin included… and then the even-more-malevolent military arrives. In the middle of all this bloodshed is Sheriff Timothy Olyphant, his pregnant wife, a trigger-happy deputy and a token girl trying to escape the neighbourhood before it devours itself. Extras include director’s commentary, lotsa featurettes and charming holograph packaging. (Two-for-two, Alliance.) 

Uncle Sam (Blue Underground, E1) With the tag line “I want you… DEAD!,” how can you possibly resist the temptation? Actually, 1997’s Uncle Sam has a few things going for it, not least of which is the post–Maniac Cop reteaming of writer Larry Cohen and director Bill Lustig. In similarly slashery fashion, an inexplicably zombified Gulf War soldier steals the iconic costume from a pervy Fourth of July performer (on stilts!) and proceeds to knock off unpatriotic party-goers. Still need more convincing? Try this on for size: Robert Forster, P.J. Soles, Timothy Hutton and soul maestro Isaac Hayes co-star. For its solid highs and crushing lows, this new-on-Blu release makes for a unique addition to anyone’s holiday horror catalogue. Extras include two commentaries, stunts featurette, deleted scenes, gag reel and more. 

Leave it to Beaver: The Complete Series (Shout! Factory) If you have deep pockets and an even deeper love for the Beave, you will lose your head when you score this swell limited-edition set that contains all six 1957-’63-spanning seasons, tonnes of keen extras, a nifty booklet and — wait for it — a Beaver board game. For serious. Over the years, family-oriented programming has gotten a lot more progressive, but the Cleaver’s remain an endearing slice of Americana that comes warmly recommended to both old fogies and the iCarly crowd.