REWIND FEATURE Interview with Cinemassacre’s JAMES ROLFE, MIKE MATEI, and BOOTSY

Mike, James, Bootsy, and a lot of video games

2006 was the year YouTube seriously gained Internet momentum - the purchase of the site by Google, ranking #5 in Internet site hits, and of course the growth of viral videos such as the 2006 videos “Leeroy Jenkins”, “Shoes”, “lonelygirl15”, “Evolution of Dance” and others you may have forgotten. 2006 was also the year of “bad video games”. We’re not talking about “Sonic 06” here, but about “The Angry Video Game Nerd” - 2006 was when the initial videos of “AVGN” were uploaded to YouTube - the foul mouthed retro gamer series directed by, written by, and starring James Rolfe. With more than 100 episodes later, a theatrical feature film, and DVD / Blu-ray releases, it’s now the 10th anniversary of the Nerd’s appearance on YouTube. After a massive thanks to the 2 million subscribers to the channel, Rolfe also announced an auction of memorabilia from his independent Cinemassacre Productions in which the proceeds would go to Shriner’s Hospitals for Children. We are very lucky enough to have a chance for an interview with Cinemassacre’s James Rolfe (AKA The Angry Video Game Nerd AKA Board James), Mike Matei (AKA Motherfucker Mike) and Bootsy (AKA Bad Luck Bootsy) who are not only big video game fans but also big fans of movies and television. The interview with the three by Rewind - DVD Compare’s James-Masaki Ryan (who is initialed as “JMR” in the interview) is mostly movie-related but there are a few video game related questions for the AVGN fans!

JMR: James, You’ve created a lot of movies since your childhood days. What made you guys first get interested in movie making process?

James: In the 80’s, my parents would sometimes rent a VHS camera for birthday parties or other family events. I was fascinated by it. Eventually we got one, and I gradually took it over, making home-movies in my backyard, and all throughout the house. I was inspired mostly by King Kong (1933). When I saw that film, it made me realize that movies are a medium that’s perfect for fantasy and imagination.

Bootsy: I’ve always loved the art of storytelling, even as a small child. I would find excitement in the visual concepts more so than the written word. As I grew older, studying the craft of filmmaking only made sense.

JMR: Whether it’s film directors, artists, musicians, or even family or friends, who are your influences?

James: The filmmakers that have mostly influenced me are George Romero, Robert Rodriguez, Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, and tons of others.

Bootsy: I’d say that my main artistic influences are Charles Schulz, Todd Solondz, Ernest Hemingway, and Harry Nilsson. Comedically, Stephen Colbert & Amy Sedaris are kind of my heroes. Outside of art, I’ve always admired individuals like Jackie Robinson (resilience in the face of discrimination) and Fred Rogers (calmness in the delivering of positive reinforcement).

Mike: For drawing, my biggest influence is Carl Barks, the writer and illustrator for Walt Disney Comics and Stories. When I was growing up, I loved those comics so much that I would try drawing panels from the pages of the stories. Doing that taught me the fundamentals in drawing I use to this day. However, my main function for Cinemassacre is as a video editor. And to be honest, most of the editing skill I have I learned from James. In fact, with my own videos such as my Top 10s, my writing influence has also been James. I learned the process from him. I am not as adept as he is, but what I know came from his style of work.

JMR: Carl Barks of Scrooge McDuck fame! When I was in elementary school, I was a huge fan of DuckTales, watching it religiously every afternoon. I actually wrote and typed up an original DuckTales story for a stage play in third grade - no joke. But it was never performed since this was elementary school and the scale of the play was way too big for us little kids. With the ever growing library of movies in the “Cinemassacre library” (as showed in the recent YouTube video of converting part of the basement into looking like a vintage rental store), how many DVDs/Blu-rays do you have in your collection?

James: Wow, it’s a lot. I honestly never have counted yet. It would be a daunting task. Someday.

Bootsy: I have too many VHS tapes to possibly count. I didn’t own a Blu-ray player until recently, and the only movie that I own on Blu-ray is Kubrick’s 2001.

JMR: Bootsy, that sounds like the loneliest Blu-ray shelf ever… But at least you picked a stellar movie to have on it! As a collector myself I have an Excel file that I created years and years ago that I update constantly. It’s up in the few thousands, but it seems James, you have a lot more than me especially with older generation VHS, Beta, LDs, etc. So, what are your top 5 DVDs and/or Blu-rays?

James: That’s a great idea for a list. Here’s 5 off the top of my head. Not necessarily the best, but ones I can think of at this very moment.
1) Batman ’66 (BD) – This one is fresh in my mind, since it’s a recent release. After decades of never having been released on any home video format, they finally got the legal stuff figured out, and released it on Blu-ray. The image is amazing, the colors look better than ever, helping me appreciate the show like never before. And the packaging, booklets, and the documentaries are all great inclusions. The wait was worth it.
2) Terminator 2 (DVD) – I have to mention this one because it was one of the first DVD’s I ever saw. It was packed with so many bonus features, I never had time to even watch them all. This is what sold the DVD format for me.
3) From Dusk Til Dawn (DVD) – as far as audio commentaries go, this is definitely one of my favorites. It’s the only one, that I’m aware of, that Quentin Tarantino has ever done. It’s a hilarious commentary. He should do more.
4) King Kong (1933) (DVD) – I mentioned Kong, so I have to pick this one, for the 7-part documentary included. It’s one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen on the pioneering days of special effects.
5) It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World – Criterion Collection (Blu-ray). I was impressed that they packed it with lots of rare behind-the-scenes clips that I’ve never seen. But most important, they include a partially restored version, of the long-lost original cut. I don’t recommend the longer cut for most audiences, but from a fan’s perspective, it’s always great to see more footage of a movie that you’ve already seen hundreds of times.

Bootsy: I love Pee-wee’s Big Adventure & Election for their commentary tracks, Baseball: a film by Ken Burns because of the amount of times that I’ve watched it, and anything by Stanley Kubrick for the cinematography alone.

JMR: Some very good choices in there. The “Batman” series finally coming to video was something to rejoice about. “Terminator 2” seems to be a staple in almost every DVD library. But it was sickening how they would repackage the movie in an “Ultimate Edition”, “Extreme Edition”, “Skynet Edition” and add new extras yet leaving out old ones. By the way James, Tarantino has actually done a few more commentaries including one on “True Romance” which he wrote, and he did a very loose commentary with Edgar Wright on “Hot Fuzz”, which for two hours they talk about every other movie besides “Hot Fuzz”. I also love the “King Kong” Special Edition. Ray Harryhausen commentary, Peter Jackson’s recreation of the lost sequence - superb stuff. I knew you would put “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World” Criterion in there as it’s unabashedly your favorite movie. Nice choices there Bootsy, especially with the Ken Burns set. It always seems to be a daunting task to try to watch one of his documentary series because of the length, but his direction has a way of mesmerizing the audience. Even if the documentary is 10 hours long, you actually wish it was longer! As we talked with “best”, how about what are the worst DVDs and/or Blu-rays?

James: I’m sure I’m forgetting lots. There’s got to be plenty of bad ones out there.
1) Back to the Future (Blu-ray) – Excellent movie! Great extras! Nothing wrong there. The reason I count this as “worst” is because of the way the discs were trapped inside. It actually came with instructions on how to remove the discs! On later releases, it seems they went back to the regular way. No need to re-invent the wheel.
2) Any of the 50-Movie Horror packs (DVD) – There’s tons of them out there. You know? Those cheap bargain sets, which include tons of public domain movies. The transfers are always terrible. Hardly any chapter marks. And they often shamelessly put their company logos over the films. It’s one thing to see a logo appear on a movie, if you’re watching on TV, but for it to appear on a DVD is inexcusable!
3) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (original DVD collection) – Back when they first started releasing the show on DVD, they didn’t know how to organize them. There was no overall plan, so they first started as Seasons, then as “volumes”. The numbering got real confusing. Episodes were released out of order, and sometimes missing entirely. Eventually they fixed this all up, with a new set that came in a turtle van. So it’s all good now.
Sorry, can’t think of any more, but I know there’s tons.

Bootsy: I own a copy of The Boy in the Plastic Bubble on DVD that’s visually worse than a bootleg VHS tape. It’s almost fitting in a way, given the campiness of the movie itself.

A massive collection of movies

JMR: I purposely avoided the US “Back to the Future” Blu-ray set and went for the UK to not have to encounter the terrible tabs on the digipack case. Although I did get bit in the end - I got the UK “The James Dean Ultimate Collection” which had the infamous BTTF packaging tabs while the US release had regular disc hubs. Back in the day it was a confusing time for TV series on DVD. Others like “The Muppet Show” and such also had volume sets with out-of-order episodes that made it terrible for collectors. Glad they finally sorted it out. “Boy in the Plastic Bubble” is one of those unfortunate ones that is released by almost every public domain DVD company with terrible art and terrible transfers. There is a Sony DVD release, which is the only release that actually mastered it from film elements. As for the film itself… well, that’s debatable. As for your own titles, DVDs and Blu-rays of Cinemassacre are heavy on bonus materials. Recently most major studios are moving away from including in depth or lengthy extras on their releases. What extras do you like to see the most on DVDs or Blu-rays?

James: Yes, I definitely like to deliver what I feel major movie DVDs/Blu-rays often lack. I see less and less bonus features all the time. I wonder if it’s because they release them so fast, they don’t have time for many extras. After a movie comes out in theaters, it’s usually only a few months before it’s on DVD/Blu-ray. Maybe to avoid piracy or something. I remember when Jurassic Park came out. I was like a whole year before it came out on VHS. I typically like behind-the-scenes documentaries. I’d like to see more substantial ones, than usual.

Mike: It’s always nice to see Behind the Scenes, Deleted Scenes and Commentary tracks. When I buy a new Blu-ray, usually I will watch the bonus features before looking at the actual film or show because it’s content you have never seen before. It’s the best part of owning a Blu-ray and it’s too bad a lot of major releases are slowing down on the bonus material. Our Blu-rays always have a lot of bonus content. Look at the AVGN X Blu-ray as an example. There are about 7 hours of awesome bonus content along with the first 100 Nerd episodes.

Bootsy: I like the directors’ commentary the most. I feel as though deleted scenes are good for comedies but less so for dramas. Filmmaker Todd Solondz refuses to put deleted scenes from his movies on DVD & Blu-ray because he feels that the movie speaks for itself. He has a “barber doesn’t save his clippings” mentality, and I kind of admire that.

JMR: James, I believe the reason for the theatrical/home video window becoming so short is both due to piracy and getting the content out while it is fresh in people’s minds. But this has definitely hurt second run theaters in the process. I think it is best when they release two versions: a barebones edition with basic or no extras a few months after the movie comes out but tell the fans that a special edition is coming down half a year later, like “Zodiac” or “The Martian”. Mike, you really watch the bonus materials before watching the movie? Even for older movies that I’ve seen multiple times, I like to watch the movie itself again and then delve into the extras, though depends on how fresh it is in my mind. Anyway, since Rewind - DVD Compare is a movie-based website so the questions are quite movie based, but I know many AVGN fans are into video games (as am I) so I’d like to ask a hybrid question: What are some video games that you would like to see turn into movies?

James: Zelda and Metroid would have been nice, but Nintendo just hasn’t been in the movie-making scene very much. I think it’s too late now. Now there’s too many new games in the series’, so fans will debate which plotline it should follow. For Zelda, I would have liked to see it based on A Link to the Past, while younger gamers will say Ocarnia of Time. If any Zelda film would actually be made, they’d probably try to fuse elements of more than one game, just to try to make everyone happy. It would overstretch itself and become a mess. Also, I can only picture a Zelda movie with 80’s special effects. It should embrace the decade in which it was born.

Boosty: I’m still waiting for a Leisure Suit Larry film adaptation.

JMR: Would a Leisure Suit Larry movie be R-rated or X-rated? A Zelda movie would have either rocked or completely been terrible. Metroid would have been great as well but I’m sure it would not be able to escape the Alien franchise comparisons. We will always have the Super Mario Brothers Movie though! So in a reverse question, what are some movies that you would like to see turn into video games?

James: Off the top of my head, Clash of the Titans would be a good one, but they'd have to expand it to include lots of other Greek monsters. I'm also a fan of the unexpected. To see a game based on Jingle All the Way, or something really ridiculous.

Bootsy: It would be great to play a video game based on the strategy behind managing a political campaign. Maybe a game that’s loosely inspired by the documentary The War Room.

Could have been an interesting game, no?

JMR: Upon research Bootsy, there is a PC game series entitled ”The Political Machine” which may be of interest to you, being a game based on running a political campaign. The latest version “The Political Machine 2016” is now available. A “Jingle All the Way” game… I guess when you lose, there will be an audio clip of Arnie saying “Aw, poor baby!” and laughing at the player. That’s a blast from the past, which is exactly what the Angry Video Game Nerd does, I should say. It’s been 10 years since the YouTube channel. Do you see the Nerd continuing for a further 10 years? Do you think the Nerd will be reviewing PS4 or Wii-U games by then?

Mike: The theme song explains the show very well. “He’s gonna take you back to the past” meaning, the show will always primarily focus on retro games. We grew up in the 80’s and early 90s. Primarily, this is the era of games AVGN is going to be covering. There could certainly be exceptions where the Nerd reviews something more modern. But for the most part I believe the show will always be about the era of games we grew up with. This is why we came up with other shows. We do “James & Mike Mondays” where we will play more modern titles, such as Mortal Kombat X. Or another Cinemassacre show we do called “Talk About Games” which is all about modern games. This is how Cinemassacre is addressing modern titles, without altering the AVGN series to become something it isn’t intended to be.

James: I don’t know. I wouldn’t have said that if you asked me in 2006. So anything can happen. With newer games, it’s tougher because the games are so much longer and more involved.

JMR: Some of the AVGN DVDs and episodes had to be reedited to remove film clips and music clips for copyright reasons. Have you ever had problems from video game companies with the use of their footage?

James: No, but it’s a safer bet, to cover yourself, when it comes to movie clips. And yes, even with game clips, and mainly music, it can trigger YouTube content ID matches. Large media companies are making it very difficult for the average people to create content and make a living off it. Reviewing movies/games is an important thing. With the amount of media that exists today, in over 100 years of movies being made for example, we need more curators, common people to pick things out of the pile, to review, not only for entertainment, but for historical purposes.

Angry Video Game Nerd 2016 meets Angry Video Game Nerd 2006 in the episode #139 “Mega Man”

JMR: Your videos have been an Internet fixture for 10 years now. How often do you get recognized?

James: I get recognized whenever I leave the house. But I’m too busy working on videos, to leave the house much. When I do, it’s comfortable. It’s always great meeting a fan in public. It’s never gotten to the point where it’s ever been too crazy.

Mike: Whenever I go to a place with a lot of people it’s bound to happen. Going to the mall is the most likely place to be recognized, which makes sense because there are a lot of people there. I also get recognized often when I’m at a theme park like Disney World.

Bootsy: I’ve gotten recognized much more over the last year because my involvement in the channel has been more frequent as of late. I personally enjoy getting recognized by bartenders - less hurt on my wallet!

JMR: Obviously I never get recognized… although back when I used to DJ at a college station, I was once in a record store and a person asked me ”Hey, you do a radio show, don’t you?” because he thought my voice was familiar. On the radio we always tried to organize non-profit concerts and events, but I gotta say what you guys did for charity recently was amazing. The AVGN charity auction was quite an event with props and other memorabilia from over the years being auctioned off with the proceeds going to Shriner’s Hospitals.

James: Thanks very much. It’s a network of childrens hospitals that run on donations. The auction was successful. We raised about $20,000 for Shriners Hospitals for Children. It concluded on May 6, 2016 with a live event. I am waiting on the final numbers from the auction house, who are waiting on a few last payments from the winning bidders. The short story is that the auction helps children, as well as getting AVGN memorabilia into the hands of fans who will appreciate them.

A selection of self-released DVDs from Cinemassacre

JMR: There are now some YouTubers who have actually said that watching your videos influenced them to start their own series, “The Gaming Historian” is one example of many. How does it feel knowing the content on Cinemassacre has in fact influenced others to make their own videos and play old games?

Mike: I think it’s awesome. I love that we can play a game, and that prompts people to try out the game for themselves. That’s one of the main goals for me with both “James & Mike Mondays” and “AVGN”, to teach people about the history of these games and whether they’re worth playing or not. I’ve gotten a lot of emails from people telling me that they learned something about a game they never previously knew about, or that they ended up buying and playing a game we reviewed because they found what we had to say about it worthwhile. It’s rewarding to know that we are helping to keep some of the old classic games alive.

James: It’s great! I’m very glad to hear that others are being inspired by me. I relate completely. For those who say that, I feel like YOU are the new ME.

Bootsy: Anyone can go back and play old video games, but to inspire someone to create art is a very special thing that I’m proud to be a part of.

JMR: In the AVGN episodes you’ve covered almost every genre in movies, from action (Bugs Bunny’s Crazy Castle), musicals (How the Nerd Stole Christmas), to horror (A Nightmare on Elm Street). Is there any specific genre you’d like to do more of? Is there a genre that you find difficult to do?

James: That’s a good question. The theme may arise from the game itself. There’s lots of possibilities.

JMR: “Romantic Comedy” may be one genre not tackled in the AVGN series, although the movie did have that angle covered to an extent. With many shows on the Cinemassacre website from AVGN episodes, “Board James” episodes, “James & Mike Mondays”, and the yearly “Monster Madness”, there is quite a lot of other content such as audio commentaries for favorite films (“Dracula”, “White Zombie”, etc), movie reviews, and original films. What are examples of the proudest work?

Mike: Before I started editing “James & Mike Mondays” on a weekly basis, I was the primary editor for “Monster Madness”. I am really proud of the work James and I did on that series. I feel that my best editing work to date was my work on “Monster Madness”. And I’m also proud that it introduced so many people to classic horror films they never watched before. There are a lot of people that weren’t into horror movies until they watched James talk about them, and I’m proud to have been apart of that.

James: Obviously my only feature film (The AVGN Movie) which took 8 years to make, but as far as web videos go, I really liked my movie-location documentaries like Rocky Jumped a Park Bench (2008), Blob Town (2010), Follow that Marshmallow (Ghostbusters) (2010) and A Trip to Sleepy Hollow. Some of my favorite recent productions were the Board James 2015 season, mainly the big finale Nightmare and Beyond. Also the Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde: The Game: The Movie; Trailer. And also the recent Mega Man AVGN episode. Also can’t forget The Dragon in my Dreams, and Cinemassacre 200. Also Legend of the Blue Hole (2004) and The Deader the Better (2005).

JMR: Any chance of reviving any dormant shows such as “Over-Analyzers” or “Audio Slaughter”?

James: Thanks for mentioning those. If I had the time, I would. Probably more so “Audio Slaughter” because we need some kind of musical representation on the site, being a big rock and classic metal fan.

JMR: I imagine that “Audio Slaughter” could help with content coming from others especially Bootsy. Seeing in videos in the “Bootsy Beats” series, there is a huge record collection in the background assuming that is all his and not just for decoration purposes. Gotta round out a few final questions, sadly. What keeps Cinemassacre going?

James: I keep going as a vow to my younger self, but also it’s the fans who keep me going. When I was a kid, I had no audience, so I never underestimate that. I’m very glad people enjoy what I do.

JMR: Any last messages for readers?

Mike: There are a lot of factors that keep Cinemassacre going. One of the main things I learned from James was how prolific he was. I learned very quickly that to do this, we have to keep continually pumping out videos. Fortunately, they are extremely fun to work on because it’s such a creative process. It’s so much fun producing the content that it’s actually harder to take a break from it than anything else. We constantly have an overflow of video ideas, that it can actually be harder to step away from it than anything else.
On top of that, the fans are so supportive, continually giving us suggestions for new videos. So it’s a combination between personal satisfaction and satisfying the audience. Prior to being a producer at Cinemassacre, I never had a job that was any fun. And that’s a big part of it as well, what we are doing is just fun to create. So why wouldn’t we want to keep doing it?

Bootsy: It’s been 10 strong years, and we’d be nowhere without the support of our fans. There has never been a moment when we’ve ever forgotten that.

James: Simply thanks for watching. I hope to keep the entertainment coming for many years.

JMR: Awesome, guys. Thanks for the time. Keep doing what you do and here’s to another 10 years!