WarGames

Game On

The Best and Worst Video Game Movies of the ’80s

Flashback with IFC's '80s Weekend July 30th and 31st.

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Photo Credit: MGM/courtesy Everett Collection

With video games becoming madly popular in the 1980s, it was only a matter of time before Hollywood found ways to integrate Pac-Man, Tron and the rest into movies. Some were rad, some were bogus. Here are our picks for the best and worst video game-themed movies from the 1980s. For more retro fun, be sure to watch IFC’s ’80s Weekend.

Rad:

1. Tron

Many of the effects in this 1982 Disney film still look great today. Tron was a double winner: a good movie about a video game that spawned a good video game (and a worse sequel 28 years later). Even better: a video game Easter egg in the movie, where you can see and hear Pac-Man.


2. The Last Starfighter

What if being great at a video game could get you noticed by its inventor? And then put into space to fight aliens? And then make you a hero to an entire people? That’s the premise of this ’80s cult favorite, which promised a never released arcade game in the credits. We’re still waiting…


3. WarGames

In our current era of high-profile computer hacks, Matthew Broderick almost causing nuclear war with a video seems prescient. In fact, the movie scared President Ronald Reagan so much, it led to some of the first cyber security legislation.


4. Cloak & Dagger

WarGames star Dabney Coleman continues his complicated relationship with 1980s technology, playing a dual role of dad and imaginary friend/spy in this family thriller. In an early example of video game/movie synergy, the filmmakers teamed up with Atari, who repurposed an in-development game called Agent X as a Cloak & Dagger arcade game.


Bogus:

1. Joysticks

One of the many T&A flicks that littered cable during the ’80s, Joysticks is not for the kiddos. The story revolves around employees trying to prevent the shutdown of their video arcade. But really, it’s just an excuse to show scantily clad coeds. As is required in most movies from the 1980s, Joe Don Baker plays the bad guy.


2. The Wizard

What could make you turn on Kevin Arnold himself, Fred Savage? How about a 100-minute infomercial for all things Nintendo, disguised as a runaway’s quest to win a video game tournament? Just squeaking in to the 1980s with its December 1989 release, The Wizard portends the product placement-heavy movies we’d be inundated with in the coming years. It also portends Tobey Maguire, who makes his film debut (with a sweet mullet) in a non-speaking role.


3. Nightmares

“The Bishop of Battle” segment of this horror anthology film finds a young Emilio Estevez as J.J., a punk rock-loving teen obsessed with a video game called… Bishop of Battle, a game so difficult that no one has gotten to its Level 13. 13? That sounds spooky! And sure enough, when our boy gets there, the game takes on mystical powers and J.J. must fight the video nasties in the real world. The graphics are surprisingly crisp, unlike most of the performances in the movie.


4. The Dungeonmaster

Featuring Z-grade special effects and Richard Moll (aka Bull from Night Court) as a bad guy, this low budget flick is ripped off from, er, heavily inspired by Dungeons & Dragons and early computer RPG games. Plus, it features a cameo from the metal band W.A.S.P.!

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Home Run

Hank Azaria Gets Thrown A Curve Ball

Brockmire Premieres April 5 at 10P

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Unless you’ve somehow missed every episode of the Simpsons since 1989, then surely you know that Hank Azaria is one of the most important character actors of our time. He’s so prolific and his voice is so dynamic that he’s responsible for more iconic personalities than most folks realize. Basically, he’s the great and powerful Oz — except that when you pull back the curtain the truth is actually more impressive. And now Hank is coming to IFC to bring yet another character to the TV pop culture hive mind in the new series Brockmire. Check out the trailer below.

Based on the following Funny or Die short and co-starring Amanda Peet, Brockmire follows the story of imploded major league sportscaster Jim Brockmire as he tries to resurrect his career by calling plays for a floundering minor league team in a podunk town.

The series is written by Joel Church-Cooper (Undateable) and produced by Funny or Die’s Mike Farah and Joe Farrell, meaning that there’s funny in front of the camera, funny behind the camera–funny all around. Sounds like a ball to us.

Brockmire premieres April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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Car Notes

Portlandia On People Who Can’t Park

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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If flagrant bad parking takes nerve, then retaliatory note writing takes neuroses. Watch Fred and Carrie take passive aggression to next level in Car Notes, the new Portlandia web series presented by Subaru. The first episode is yours right here and now, and you can see every installment of Car Notes anytime online, on the IFC app and on demand.

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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Nick Kroll and John Mulaney To Host Spirit Awards

The Spirit Awards Air February 25 LIVE on IFC.

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The 2017 Spirit Awards have finally found their frontmen: Nick Kroll and John Mulaney. And it’s no wonder. Just marvel in their splendid chemistry back when they appeared on Comedy Bang! Bang!:

The pair are prolific within the performing arts community: television (Kroll in The League and The Kroll Show, Mulaney as a writer of IFC’s own Documentary Now!), theater (including Broadway’s current Oh Hello Show), and stand-up comedy. In fact, it’s entirely possible that emceeing an awards show is one of the few remaining line items on their professional bucket lists.

It’s important to caveat this announcement, however. Unlike the bigger and more ubiquitously known awards shows, the Spirit Awards are not, well…boring. (We’re talking to you, Oscar.)

They’re funny. They’re honest. They have quality to match the red-carpet fanfare. And that’s alarmingly special. Last year’s show included some legitimately historic moments, like when transgender actress Mya Taylor won best supporting female, or Kate McKinnon’s hilarious and timely parody of Carol. See more highlights here to get the flavor of the Spirit Awards and read all about Film Independent to dig deeper.

The 2017 Spirit Awards air live February 25 at 5P ET exclusively on IFC.

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