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Movie Review: The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
Directed by Seth Gordon

One of the most intriguing documentary ideas was a must-see from the moment I saw the trailer and especially the inspired title.  And man, is this one of the most entertaining pieces of reality cinema you’ll ever see.

It’s not uncommon to find someone who is ordinary in most respects who is talented at one particular thing.  In fact, they may be so talented at it that they come off as a total dick when they speak about it or get in conversations with their colleagues.  The one that is considered “the best” often takes great measures in keeping the crown, even when the evidence is stacked against them.

In The King of Kong, this dick comes in the person of Billy Mitchell, the world record holder in the classic arcade game Donkey Kong.  A little over 800,000 points set back in 1982, outclassing all of the competition in an official session, his record appeared to be safe for all-time. 

Enter Steve Wiebe, a down-on-his-luck, but happily married-with-children contender who checked out the Twin Galaxies website and thought he could break the record.  And with video evidence he was able to prove that he beat the record, with over a million points.  The record was going to be allowed until some half-assed suspicion crept in, brought on by Mitchell himself, and the score was not recognized on a technicality.  Wiebe was encouraged to come to a place in New Hampshire called Funspot to publically come out and play the game, possibly set the record in front of “the pros” and settle it once and for all.

And Wiebe continues to prove himself, while Mitchell, slinking in the shadows, never ready to go mano-a-mano with Wiebe, finds ways to one-up Wiebe in peculiar ways.

This is the perfect kind of documentary, where you have a hero, a villain, and perfect “character development,” along with a trip down memory lane and discussion of the video game itself, considered to be among the hardest games to master.  You’ll get interesting tidbits about Donkey Kong, what happens when a player reaches “the end” of the game and reaches the “kill screen,” and the best part of all: nerds (and I use the term respectfully: a nerd is any person who cares deeply and knows much about something that most others don’t) who talk about video games in an over-serious fashion to the point a new term will definitely be circulating soon: Chumpatized, which is even on the film’s poster.

What can I say?  One of the best movies you’ll see this year.


Comment from Jonathan
Time: August 17, 2007, 5:15 pm

Been looking forward to this since I heard about it a few months ago. Don’t know when it will make it to my neck of the woods, but I will definately check it out. At least I get to see “Superbad” this weekend.

Comment from Jonathan
Time: August 17, 2007, 7:48 pm

Also, and I’m sure you didn’t see it yet since their is no review, I thought I would let you know that if you can find “Hot Rod” anywhere still, it’s definately worth checking out. I’m sure it’s not on par with “Superbad,” but much better than most SNL alum films. “Hot Rod” is pretty much everything I was hoping “Anchorman” and “Talledega Nights” would be for Will Ferrell. Too bad, Samberg didn’t get the same kind of audience as Ferrell, but I’m sure his time will come.

Comment from The Projectionist
Time: August 19, 2007, 6:23 pm

Yeah, I’ve been meaning to catch Hot Rod, it didn’t come to my theatre so I have to make special arrangements to watch it, which always sucks. But I’m sure I’ll see it soon.

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