Beauty and the Best


The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters Review

Really? Has no one here done a movie review in over a month? I'm mostly just the video game guy but let me take a look and see what movies I have that All Good Fans might like to hear about. Wait, video games, movies - I've got it! The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. So crowd around everyone while I tell you about one of, if not the most, entertaining documentary I have ever seen.

Don't just take my word for it, this film has a 96% fresh rating on 
Rotten Tomatoes but of course you come here exactly because you want my word for it it, so here it is, followed by some more. King of Kong tells the story of Steve Wiebe, a father & husband who is laid off from his job so decides to pass the time by buying a Donkey Kong arcade cabinet and attempting to break the world high score.

The film follows Wiebe after he does nearly the impossible by actually succeeding. His almost 
Asperger level dedication to the game is amazing to see. He practiced day & night, made charts to determine ways with which to rack up more points and was so unilateral towards his goal that his high score submission tape has him continuing to play while his toddler throws a tantrum for him to stop because he needed help going to the bathroom. That scene is actually a little excruciating to watch, truth be told, but it's just the beginning. 

Little did Wiebe know that doing so would bring him into a strange world of aging gamers still holding on to their glory days from the golden age of video arcades, where they achieved quasi celebrity-like status for reaching world high scores in similar games such as
Pac-Man, Frogger, Centipede, and others. And these scores are regulated by an equally strange group from the Twin Galaxies Arcade headed by the eccentric, if also lovable old enthusiast Walter Day.

Not all the members of this cabal are as lovable as Wiebe is though (the previous world record holder for Donkey Kong is a man by the name of Billy Mitchell whose claims to fame are his high scores and personally branded hot sauce). Now Billy Mitchell sells himself like he sells his hot sauce so he wasn't about to let his position slip without a fight, thus setting up the conflict of the film.

Mitchell produces questionable evidence proving that he outdid Wiebe's score and through the rest of the film, Wiebe tries to reclaim his prize while feeling stonewalled by a culture and political system that is all new to him. It's a real underdog story and while real life rarely has true villains or heroes, the film clearly sets its position on whom it thinks are which. It may not make for the most unbiased documentary film-making but it sure is fun to see unfold.

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And as documentaries go, this one also has some pretty good production values with editing tricks, animated segments, musical cues and more. It's an extra level of polish that really helps this stand above a lot of other films of the genre and adds to it's often surreal feeling. Make no mistake, however, that this is a real life story filled with more colorful characters and intrigue than a lot of fiction could ever muster. So much so that a scripted film adaptation is apparently in the works.

I would definitely recommend the original King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters though, not just to fans of video games but to anyone who likes good stories or learning about different subcultures. It was originally released in 2007 so there's also lots more to learn about these people, the game and all of the sagas surrounding in the years that followed but you can start by finding this either on disc or digitally from your provider of choice.

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A Christmas Carol (1951) Review

Everyone has their own traditions around the holidays. One of the ones my family and I share is annually watching Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. It's a classic piece of western literature which has been adapted and retold dozens, if not hundreds or thousands of times and we all have our definitive version. Some of you may most enjoy George C. Scott, Patrick SterwartMichael CaineScrooge McDuck or even (God forbid) Jim Carrey in the starring role. In my mind however, there is only one Ebenezer Scrooge and that is Alastair Sim from the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol.

Yes and I am talking about the original called "A Christmas Carol" and not that colorized BS version of the movie renamed "Scrooge". I find the original black and white adds a lot of atmosphere. That was how it was supposed to be seen and that's how I watch it. For those of you who aren't familiar with the story, let me first welcome you to the planet Earth. It's really a nice place in a lot of ways despite what our news broadcasts say. And A Christmas Carol is an 1843 novel about a miserly old businessman named Ebenezer Scrooge who has lost his connection with his fellow men & women and can no longer even enjoy holidays like Christmas.

After working late on Christmas Eve and retiring home for the night, he is met by the ghost his former business partner Jacob Marley. Marley tells him that his selfish and callous deeds will lead Scrooge to eternal torment in the thereafter but that there is still hope. Scrooge would then be visited upon by three more spirits of Christmas who would take him to his past, the present and future in order to show the folly of his ways. In the extremely off chance you haven't experienced the story before, I won't give away what happens next but instead talk about what makes this version so special.

As I touched upon before, this movie has great atmosphere. The old film grain and contrast really works to this film's advantage because frankly 19th century England was a pretty depressing place and it genuinely makes certain scenes frightening.
Michael Hordern as Jacob Marley is terrifying as he wails about how mankind was his business. And that brings me to the performances. The supporting cast ranges from competent to excellent. Tiny Tim seems a little spry for a dying child but others like Bob Cratchet, or Old Joe or Scrooge's business associates all add their own layer of personality to this film.

But it all hinges on the performance of Alastair Sim. He does a wonderful performance that gives the slightest hint that even though he really doesn't like Christmas that he says such over the top things (like how people who celebrate Christmas should be boiled in their own pudding) more-so because it amuses him to annoy them as they have him. He excellently portrays resentment, fear, contrition and glee and you do believe it's all coming form the same character, the same person.

That's why of all the versions to see, this is the one. But most of all, A Christmas Carol is a story of redemption. Afterwards "it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us".  And that's something that all people could learn from every day of the year, not just Christmas. I would most of all recommend reading the original novel but If you haven't seen this 1951 version of A Christmas Carol, do so. It's currently available on DVD or if you leave your television on long enough over the next week or so, it will definitely be on at some point. In any event, have happy holidays from all of us - at All Good Things.

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Batman: Mask of the Phantasm Review


December 4th marks the release of the third Christopher Nolan Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises for home release. It was a film met with mixed reactions from viewers though I don't think anyone would say that this was the best Batman movie ever. So then which one is? Many would reply its prequel The Dark Knight or Tim Burton's 1989 Batman as their answer and while both are very well made & enjoyable films I would have a different answer. Instead, I would say the often overlooked Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is in fact, the best Batman movie ever.

Released in 1993, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is part of the Batman: The Animated Series canon, which was already known for its mature storytelling, unique art design that painted on black paper instead of white paper to give the art deco Gotham City's night the long shadows it was known for, as well as its excellent voice work from actors like Kevin Conroy as Batman or Star Wars' Mark Hamill as The Joker. These two actor's performances proved to be so iconic that they both continued to provide their interpretations up until most recently 2011's hit game Batman: Arkham City and thankfully both are cast in this film.

All the elements that made the TV series so great are kept in place for this movie and it uses every moment of its running time to tell an excellent tale about Batman's origins as the Batman, a mysterious new vigilante called The Phantasm who is killing criminals for which Batman is being blamed and even some parts revealing of the enigmatic Joker's history before he became The Joker.

Also I should mention the incredible score composed by Shirley Walker who not only did a great job emulating the style set by Danny Elfman for the 1989 film but in many ways surpasses even him in setting the tone for Batman. Both epic and melancholy, her music will echo in the back of your head for hours or days after hearing it.  I find it leagues more appropriate than Hans Zimmer's frenetic drums used in the most recent films.

So why may have you not heard of this film if it's so great? Unfortunately it was released around the same time as Tim Burton's sequel 
Batman Returns so many people maligned this as the child friendly version of Batman. I assure you that is not true in the slightest. This is in every way the superior Batman movie and there are several ways for you to now watch it for yourself. It has been released to DVD both on its own and as part of a combo pack with the straight to video Batman & Mr. Freeze SubZero, along with your usual digital distribution services. For all you Batman lovers and especially those disappointed by The Dark Knight Rises, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is definitely something to see.

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"The Hobbit" (1977) Review

blogEntryTopperI have a real treat for you today All Good Fans, I'm home from my local Value Village where I found a copy of The Hobbit on DVD just sitting in a bin! It must be some rough cut which accidentally made its way out of the studio. That's even better than when someone found a rough draft of the Star Wars script in my local library. Its cover doesn't even have the actors, just some of what I assume to be concept art. I'm so excited that I had to start writing this before even watching it. So keep reading and be amongst first to know everything you have wanted to about Peter Jackson's the Hobbit.


This is not Peter Jackson's The Hobbit. Upon watching for ninety seconds I can tell you this is definitely not Peter Jackon's The Hobbit. How embarrassing. I guess I'll just have to review it anyway. Instead keep reading to be amongst the who knows how many to know everything you never knew you wanted to know about Rankin Bass' The Hobbit.

The Hobbit, for those of you who don't know, is the 1937 story about Bilbo Baggins; a reserved fixture of his Hobbit community who one day receives a visit from a wizard and twelve Dwarfs that wish to hire him as their expert treasure hunter (e.g. burglar) on a grand adventure across the land to take back what's their from a powerful dragon. Of course, Mr. Baggins has no need for dragon treasure, knows nothing of burgling nor has ever been on an adventure but he reluctantly joins them anyway and begins his unexpected journey through Middle-Earth. On his journey, Bilbo learns just how great the world is through its fantastic creatures & settings, changing himself from a quiet homebody to an adventurer of legend.

This version of The Hobbit was released as an animated television special in 1977 from the same production company that would later make The Last Unicorn and Thundercats as well as animated by oh, Topcraft! Topcraft was an animation team who's members later formed a new company you may have heard of called Studio Ghibli. I've got to admit, the animation in this is pretty sharp, especially for 1970s television and I generally really like the art direction/character designs they used even if they took some, shall we say, creative liberties in those designs. For example, Gollum looks like a frog with ears and Smaug has a cat for a face. Now it's been a long time since I've read the novel but to be fair, I don't recall it ever specifically saying he DOESN'T have a cat for a face.

But likewise, the plot and dialogue stay surprisingly faithful to the source material with the exception of few omitted sections (such as the part with Beorn) and some plot points streamlined due to time constraints. It really makes me wonder how Peter Jackson intends to stretch this story out into three movies when this one did it in, let me check my DVD, 77 minutes! Even the music uses the actual lyrics from the poems and songs in the novel, which is a nice touch and now that we've brought it up - the music. Oh the music.

The Hobbit [Õîááèò] (1977) SATRip ñêðèíøîò4
The music is, honestly, it's pretty cheesy. So much so that South Park even made references to how goofy it is with their infamous Lemmywinks episode. Try the links to compare and you'll quickly hear what I mean. Otherwise the sound is generally quite good. The cast includes Hans Conried as Thorin Oakenshield, um Otto Preminger as Thranduil and uh John Huston as Gandalf? What?! Alright, it's an excellent if not random collection making the cast and they do a great job portraying the characters, maybe even better than their live-action counterparts. So overall, I like this. I really like this.

I'd recommend it and if you would like to see this version to compare it with the Peter Jackson version, officially coming to theaters on December 14, 2012, then it is available on DVD along with various digital streaming services. Surprisingly, despite the upcoming live-action adaptation however. I unfortunately could find no plans to release this on Bluray, which is a shame because if nothing else this is a fun little adventure that should not be forgotten even if future versions turn out to be even better.

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