"The King of Kong: A Fistful of
Directed by Seth Gordon.
Release Year: 2007
Review Date: 8/31/07
Two old-skool video game movies in the same
year? It must be luck; after watching the incredible
Ghosts" at the
2007 Sundance Film Festival, I was all over the new
film "The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters" since it featured a
different angle of the rivalry between former quarter-chomping
experts that was worthy of a new documentary.
"The King of Kong" follows just three
people, really. First, there's Billy Mitchell, the
internationally renowned "Video Gamer of the Century" for his work
with Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, and Donkey Kong back in the early 80s.
Then, we get Steve Wiebe, Some Guy back in Redmond, Washington
who--despite a lovely wife and two kids and work that loves him as
much as he loves it--simply is a Man with No Luck. Back in
2005, Steve randomly decides to buy a Donkey Kong machine to put in
his garage, and while playing it obsessively, learns that Billy has
the high score for the game and then begins his quest to take down
the champ. The third major player in the movie? Walter
Day, the Twin Galaxies genius who still, EVEN TO THIS DAY, runs the
Twin Galaxies website to make sure that gamers have one source to
determine who's the best in the ultra-competitive world of gaming.
This documentary is a mix between truly
great comedy (Mitchell is quite the character, much as he was in
"Chasing Ghosts") and a hint of drama as Steve attempts to claim the
record. It's also fantastic for anyone who has played older
games and especially if you've played Donkey Kong, which for my
money is still the single-hardest old-skool game ever made.
(You know how even the worst gamer can beat that first level of
Pac-Man, or Robotron, or Defender? Donkey Kong is so hard that
many people lose their three "men" in under a minute.)
Watching Steve try to master the game, especially when you have
played it yourself, really sits on you as you try to imagine the
crazy number of hours that he neglected his family to try and get
good at the game.
Director Seth Gordon is wise to mix things
up during his short 80-minute film, since no one wants to just watch
Steve play Donkey Kong for 80 minutes. He pulls interviews
with Steve's family & friends, other experts in the gaming community
and from Twin Galaxies, and just gives the nerd in all of us plenty
to soak up during the film. The film drags badly for about 20
minutes during a sequence at Funspot (a famous arcade in New
Hampshire) where Steve attempts to break the world record;
otherwise, it clicks along at a great pace and was surprisingly
entertaining for my roughly-fifty-person crowd last night.
Hopefully, this will whet your palette for "Chasing Ghosts", if they
ever find a distributor.
Rating: $9.50 Show
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Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard