An Editorial By John Camarena
There are so many different types of YouTube channels out there, from the broad to the scarily specific. Some real gems may get passed up if you don’t sometimes search for things outside of your regular interest zones or feel adventurous on a thumbnail. But I’m here to dig through the dregs of content to filter out some unique or otherwise good channels that don’t get the attention they deserve. All of these that we’ll be looking into are channels I too am a fan of, and therefore can also serve as an insight into my inner workings.
Classic horror film and retro gaming enthusiast James Rolfe’s “Angry Videogame Nerd” character actually predates Youtube itself. Making videos since he was a child and posting online since 2004, he created a unique brand of comedy videos focusing primarily on criticizing retro games from the 80’s that were known for their ridiculous difficulty. Games like Back to the Future, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Karate Kid, Castlevania 2 and Legend of Zelda 2 were all on the Nintendo Entertainment System, which is due to the character originally being called The Angry Nintendo Nerd; the name was modified to avoid copyright later on. Not long afterward, the Nerd covered other consoles and games as well as accessories like the Powerglove. The Nerd made his mark by having a unique way of reviewing games in which he will become increasing agitated by the games’ difficulty, drink beer, and eventually unleash a colorful stream of imaginative expletives. It’s a style that has since been copied with varying degrees of success, but there’s nothing like the original. The Nerd is still going strong to this day, and James will also appear as himself in some offshoot videos like Rental Reviews and James & Mike Mondays, and a personal favorite of mine, Monster Madness, in which he’ll give a short review on horror movies new and old, and themed runs such as the complete Godzilla series or every Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street. There was even a movie in which he reviews arguably the worst game of all time: E.T. Some notable reviews that I love to revisit include his review of the Atari, NES and SNES Star Wars games, his review of the Virtual Boy, and the Wish List episodes 1 & 2, which was like a time capsule from the 80s.
2. Red Letter Media:
Now, shifting focus from retro games to popular movies, we have Red Letter Media. First rising to almost overnight prominence after the likes of Simon Pegg and Damon Lindelof tweeted about it, their 70 minute Phantom Menace review broke down all the things that I subconsciously hated about the Star Wars prequels but lacked the general understanding of the language of cinema at the time to truly articulate. The narrator, a Mr. Harry S. Plinkett, speaks in what can only be described as a homicidal maniac’s voice and his choice of things he finds funny would corroborate that. That being said, the man behind the voice, Mike Stoklasa, is a former film student who has written and directed several projects under his own production company now known as Red Letter Media, and is well versed story structure, shot composition, and possesses a sharp wit when pointing out inconsistencies and gaps in the logic of the screenplay. The Plinkett reviews actually started with reviews of the Star Trek: The Next Generation movies, in which he points out that the character of Picard was written almost as an exact opposite of his TV character for the sake of making the movies more action-driven. From there, we have gotten all the prequels, 2 of the 3 Disney sequels, and an assortment of other films such as Titanic, Avatar, Baby’s Day Out and Cop Dog. With their newfound success and attention, the channel began to branch out to some less scripted fare, from Half in the Bag, where they review one or two movies that are currently still in theaters, to RE:VIEW, where they do an in-depth analysis and praise some of their favorite classics movies such as The Rocketeer, Tremors, and Ghostbusters; and The Nerd Crew, where they essentially make fun of nerd culture in general. There’s also Best of the Worst, in which they will randomly, and sometimes creatively, choose from their massive collection of VHS tapes and have a roundtable discussion about them, ending with them destroying whichever they vote was the worst viewing experience. If you love film and want to listen to a bunch of interesting characters making fun of each other while also making some great observations about the movie industry, you can’t go wrong here, just be warned that they won’t shy away from joking about inappropriate things or events.
3. Girlfriend Reviews:
The most recent entry into my regular video rotation is a cute video series by early twenty-something Youtubers Matt and Shelby, better known as Girlfriend Reviews. The gimmick here is that Shelby was a backseat gamer that decided to start commenting on the games her boyfriend would play from her own unique point of view; not being an avid gamer herself, she brings some interesting and humorous insights into video game tropes that are normally taken for granted. Things such as overly convoluted storylines or play mechanics come under her scrutiny as she questions why they have to be the way they are. Eventually she started joining in and getting some first-hand experience, and also branching out into other media such as one of my favorite videos: watching Star Wars: A New Hope for the first time as an adult. Their videos are funny, well-edited, and very entertaining. So much so in fact, that there were rumors on the channel’s subreddit page that Matt and Shelby were just actors and the videos were actually being professionally produced by some marketing company. This is doubtful, although there is a suspiciously clean level of polish to their videos, they are not outside the realm of a couple of plucky kids with some video editing software and a razor sharp eye for meme humor. Three good videos to watch are the Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening review, in which she stops three-quarters of the way through and just plays the Untitled Goose Game; Doom, where she realizes her potential for enjoying bloodshed; and Bioshock, where she really goes into detail about the setting and art deco design juxtaposed with the horror of the story.
These are great primers for some good pop culture consumption, all from very different yet highly entertaining points of view, and really just the tip of the iceberg for deep-diving into the depths of my own geekdom. And no, you’re eyes are not tricking you, Macauly Culkin has appeared two of the three channels discussed today, since he is branching out and embracing the Youtuber culture with channels that he also finds entertaining.
An Editorial By John Camarena
The End of 2019 brought us some genuinely awesome entertainment of the sci-fi, fantasy, and comic book variety to our TV screens. We at the Geeks’ Watch podcast had some less than stellar viewing experiences early on; looking at you, Star Trek: Discovery, Electric Dreams, Carnival Row, and the last season of Game of Thrones! And while there were a few bright spots intermittently, it wasn’t looking like there would be much to look forward to. But thankfully I was proven way wrong. We ended up getting some of the best watching experiences of the year pretty much back to back just as it came to a close, and my faith in humanity has been restored! So let’s break it down and see what made these shows so great…
A sequel to the seminal classic by Alan Moore and Dave Gibson. My initial trepidation with this show was that it would have no involvement whatsoever by the writer/creator of the series. Moore famously cut ties with DC after he felt the company was just trying to commercialize his works and diminishing their value in the process, so he had zero involvement with the previous attempts to capitalize on the property, from the 2009 Zach Snyder movie to the prequel series Before Watchmen. The movie was good, not great, as it made some changes, some for better and some not so much, and the prequel comics had some interesting ideas but felt like fan fiction more than a part of the canon. Add to that, the show was going to be run by Damon Lindeloff, someone whom I had cursed to the heavens for ruining the script for Prometheus and making Lost feel like a meandering mess. But I was told The Leftovers was good so I gave it a shot. Right off the bat, the trailers didn’t seem that interesting. It looked confusing and a little silly with what looked like police wearing yellow masks, a brief shot of Night Owl’s airship Archimedes, or Archie for short, and a tease of Dr. Manhattan. This series was to be a sequel to the graphic novel, set in the present time some 34 years after the events in the story. Whatever, let’s see what it’s about. From the very beginning, this was not a show that was messing around. It begins during the Tulsa Massacre and continues in an unrelenting and uncompromising narrative about race relations, past transgressions on current generations, Redfordations, and moving forward. The true genius of this surprise hit is that it doesn’t attempt to rehash the plot points of the novel, but expound upon them. Miniscule details and mentions from the novel turn out to have surprising consequences. Questions set up 30+ years ago are answered, some in unexpected ways, and more than anything, the show provided us with a way to supplement the viewing experience with a collection of documents mirroring the world-building segments from the end of each issue of the original via the Peteypedia website. This show was deep, well thought out, and respectful of the source material. Three of the episodes in this singular season were three of the best hours of television watching in a good while, with some interesting story telling and cinematography. All the new characters were interesting and striking in their own right, definitely up to the standard set by the original. It didn’t deserve to be this good and yet here we are, wishing that Lindeloff will decide to come back for a second season. As it is now, this will probably be a stand-alone miniseries, but even so, it was satisfying with enough plot threads left over that should they decide to continue, I will be there waiting to devour it.
Now this show had a bit more expectation behind it. Being set about 5 years after the end of Return of the Jedi, a time period not yet explored in the new Disney continuity, we follow a Mandalorian bounty hunter just trying to be the best bounty hunter he can be. Within the Star Wars fandom, there are subsections devoted to this class of characters, with their cool armor and mysterious history, it felt like it was going to try to make both the fervent fans and more casual followers happy. Not a balancing act I’d like to tackle. But in the capable hands of Jon Favre, and with guests like Taika Waititi, Bill Burr, Clancy Brown, Ming Na-Wen, among others, this show turned out to be arguably better than the recent spate of movies in the Skywalker saga. And that’s not even touching on the incredible cultural impact that a certain baby has had. The Child, referred to by pretty much everyone as “baby Yoda”, has shifted the zeitgeist of what Star Wars can be. With the tone of a sci-fi western and a dash of Lone Wolf and Cub thrown in, The Mandalorian has become a runaway success and Disney cannot license baby Yoda merchandise fast enough to meet the demand. It’s a simple story, predictable even, but feels like such a breath of fresh air in a stale series that it, and the upcoming Clone Wars final season, may be the cure for the lackluster cinematic entries.
Now for the last show we watched just before the end of the year, The Witcher is not a series I was too familiar with. Outside of knowing it was a video game and book series, and some memes about taking a bath, I had no real anticipation for what this ended up being. The first trailer looked interesting, and to be honest, I was happy to see Henry Cavill in something after his absence from Shazam! hinted that he might no longer be involved in the DCEU. I love fantasy, magic, alchemy, monsters and swordfights, and this show looked like it was set to deliver all that, but I wasn’t truly sold until the first time Cavill’s Geralt of Rivia, when confronted by a group of angry villagers, realizes he’s going to have to fight his way through and kill them all. His exasperated “Fuck” was so well-delivered that I was hooked from that moment. All in all, I enjoyed this show more than I thought I would, even though I felt like I only understood what was going on maybe 75% of the time. Characters like Jaskier, the annoying bard that just grows on you, and the innocent-turned-power-hungry Yennefer, all have wonderful chemistry with our lead protagonist. Even long, drawn out scenes with crazy amounts of confusing plot elements, while obtuse, are never boring.
While 2019 was a dumpster fire of a year, it was great to finish it out with an explosion of good content. And if only 2 of these 3 shows continue to develop, that’s alright by me. We already got three good seasons and for the first time in a long time, I have hope for what’s to come.