EVERYTHING!
  • OVERALL
    5.0
    SUPERB
  • Feature
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
THE GOOD
EVERYTHING!
THE BAD
Even the "bad" stuff in the special features (there is NOTHING wrong with the movie whatsoever) is better than most DVD features I've seen lately. BUY THIS!
THE FEATURE
This was one that I heard such good things about that I was glad to receive this DVD to review. I was living in Minnesota when this was released theatrically and it was nowhere within a two-hour radius of where I hung my hat (i.e. I don't have a hat). As the astounding ratings continued to pour in for this doc*mentary about a classic gaming rivalry, I wasn't quite sure why. Two guys going after a record in Donkey Kong? Try pitching that to a studio a few years ago (FYI, a fictional remake is in the works). However, this is something you really have to see to believe, folks, and this is honestly one of the best doc*mentaries I have ever seen.

The film revolves around the rivalry that flared up between the longtime world record-holder in Donkey Kong, Billy Mitchell and longtime player but newcomer to the professional gaming circuit, Steve Wiebe. After Wiebe was laid off from his job (which happened the day him and his wife signed on their house), he wanted something to pass the time, which was when he rediscovered Donkey Kong, and the world record of 847,200 points that Mitchell had held since 1982... and that no one has come even close to since. With nothing to do, Wiebe actually managed to not only beat the record, but shatter it with a score of 1,006,000, which he had videotaped and sent in to the official gaming headquarters Twin Galaxies, in Ottumwa Iowa. Steve became a semi-celebrity. Obviously, that record hadn't been come close to in a few decades, Twin Galaxies sent out some people to verify that the board wasn't corrupted and after they found a package from Roy Schillt, a longtime nemesis of Mitchell, the score immediately was tarnished by association. From there, we delve into both of these very opposite lives: Mitchell, the flashy, insanely-confident champion and Wiebe, this mild-mannered, somewhat-downtrodden sort of guy that started going for the record, basically for something to do while he figured out his next move.

The nature of this whole gaming world just is so rife for interesting characters that the whole nature of this rivalry, on a game that of such difficulty and legend, with a record that stood for so incredibly long before this doc*mentary, it's more than icing on the cake... it's almost the stuff of legend. While the obvious focus of the flick is Mitchell vs. Wiebe, David vs. Goliath, we are introduced to a wealth of intriguing video game people along the way too that serve as a superb supporting cast. People like Walter Day, who basically founded organized gaming and the Twin Galaxies organization, Steve Sanders, Mitchell's best friend and also a gamer/lawyer and Brian Kuh, a 30-year-old banker who retired to play video games full-time, only make this doc*mentary and this world all the more fascinating.

I really can't tell you much more about the actual movie, because director Seth Gordon has framed and structured this doc*mentary so damn well, that it'd really be a shame to tell you anything more. I will tell you this: this hits you over the head with a barrell and a hammer and lures you into this world by this framing and with this whole culture of gaming in America in a way that few movies can. This is simply a film and a doc*mentary that will be talked about for ages.
THE EXTRAS
We get a good deal of extras here, and it starts off fittingly enough where the movie left off. The Saga Continues gives us a wealth of facts on the events that happened after the film had finished and before the final DVD was due. They present these facts in a fun format: a modified version of the opening crawl from the Star Wars flicks. I can't really say what they are unless you want spoilers, which you shouldn't, but let's just say it's a great start to the features after you just watched the flick.

Next up are 10 different segments of Bonus Footage and this one starts out great too, with some Q&A sessions from the festival circuit that bring up some even more interesting facts. It is funny to see this sort of transformation in Wiebe from this mild-mannered guy in the film who's kind of been kicked around, to a guy who really seems genuinely happy and even has a little swagger in his step. After the Q&A sessions, we have reaction from Steve Sanders, Billy Mitchell's best friend, which is very cool as well. After that we get a piece on Billy Mitchell's unique style, a clip from the Roy Awesome self-produced video, which is really something else, a bit on Wiebe's music, a bit on Walter Day, a music video, an old-school Twin Galaxies TV update from the 80s, some strategies from Steve on Donkey Kong and, the last one is just great, which is side-by-side gameplay of both Mitchell and Wiebe's record performances, which features commentary from a few gaming experts. It's a great way to close this Bonus Footage out and we get a lot of peripheral material here the complements the movie just perfectly.

Next up are some Extended Interviews, 11 in all, from the likes of Billy Mitchell, Steve Sanders, Brian Kuh and other smaller "characters" from the film. The first ones are rather interesting, but most of the lesser-known people from the flick aren't really that interesting because, well, we don't see much of them in the flick. We do get to see a few world records happen at FunSpot, like Brian Kuh conquering Joust II, which was pretty cool. I see what they were trying to do, trying to give all these interesting people more of a piece of the flick, and showcase some of the other different classic games... but while some of the stuff is decent, it's not really necessary viewing compared to the other features.

A Really, Really Breif History of Donkey Kong is up next, and it lives up to its title. It's only a minute long, including a super-fast credit roll/flash and it is a fun little watch.

Arcade Glossary is next, and it's a general glossary of gaming terms used throughout the movie, which should almost be viewed prior to watching the movie, for those with no arcade experience. Most of the rest is picked up throughout the movie, or common knowledge.

i am 8-bit is the last feature, and it's just a showcase of unique art and matching music based off some of these classic games. Nothing much here, but a neat little way to end out this smashing DVD.
THE VIDEO
The film is presented in the widescreen format, in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio.
THE AUDIO
The sound is handled through the Dolby Digital 5.1 Stero Surround Sound format.
THE PACKAGE
This is done pretty damn well also. The front is done rather simply, with a shot behind Wiebe at the Kong machine with his arm raised victoriously (if you look closely the top of the game has charactiures of Wiebe, Mitchell and Day), with some praising critic quotes below it, and the title card and, a first that I've seen, a Certified Fresh Tomatometer banner from Rotten Tomatoes, stating that this film accrued an astronomical 99% "Fresh" rating (as of 11/16/07) at the very top. That rating, which I've never seen for a film with this many reviews, simply speaks for itself. The back has more critic blurbs, a few random pics from the movie, a synopsis, special features listing and the billing block and tech specs. They even go further here with some reversable cover art housed in a clear casing. The backside is a nice drawing from Scott Campbell that appears to capture the whole FunSpot environment, though no particular people from the film. Even the artwork is awesome!
THE FINAL WORD
So, you might be thinking that you don't care about video games, or that you don't care about world records or things like that. I can tell you that I haven't played Donkey Kong since I was probably 8, and I didn't like the damn game that much to begin with. I liked Paperboy more, but that's just me. I've never heard of Billy Mitchell before seeing this movie, and I could've cared less about his record. That being said, if you just give this magnificent film a chance, it's structured and captured in a way that it will MAKE you care. It makes you care about this odd little world you may not have known ever existed, and introduces you to these characters that you immediately have feelings for, one way or another and shows you this unique embodiment of the famous quote: "It's not how you win or lose, it's how you play the game." Simply astonishing, folks.

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