Published at: March 10, 2007, 6:41 p.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with a look at the first two films (of at least 5 planned before I sleep) I saw today at SXSW, one of them already a frontrunner for the best of the fest.
KING OF KONG
At Sundance I saw a video game documentary called CHASING GHOSTS which was about the world of video game champions, using a 1982 photoshoot for Life Magazine as a jumping off point. I really liked it (click here to read my coverage of that film), but I'm so glad I saw it before THE KING OF KONG, which was playing concurrently with GHOSTS in Park City, GHOSTS at Sundance and KONG at Slamdance.
CHASING GHOSTS really does an amazing job of setting up THE KING OF KONG and seeing it first is beneficial to both flicks because THE KING OF KONG is a much better documentary and I have a feeling if I saw it first I wouldn't have liked CHASING GHOSTS nearly as much as I did.
KONG is kind of a Rocky story about a normal guy, down to earth... kind... who decides to try to break the world record score for DONKEY KONG, the record set in 1982 by a guy named Billy Mitchell.
This guy is a joke and, as the documentary unfurls, he also proves to be a giant douche bag. Manicured beard, crazy mullet, but the kind you'd find in upper-scale suburbs, not the do-it-at-home trailer park mullet. Not to mention he has an ego the size of Saturn.
That's not to say he doesn't have talent. He's an assclown, but he knows how to drive the funny little car.
The real success of the film is that it focuses on two people, the challenger Steve Wiebe and Billy Mitchell. It really does feel like a bizarro Rocky story. You find yourself rooting for Steve because he is such a normal, ego-less guy and he's fighting Billy Mitchell, who is very much an Apollo Creed. Talented, but so full of himself and full of flash and glitz that you just want to see him taken down. Although, I will say Billy doesn't have the competitive spirit that Creed had. In fact, he's portrayed as a petty coward throughout the documentary, contradicting himself when it suits him, etc.
They managed to make a film that has that nostalgia for us geeks, but doesn't solely play to us. It could be any competition... boxing, poker, chess, checkers, hurdle, pole-vault... it doesn't matter that it's a video game competition. It's accessible to anybody.
The director, producers and Steve himself were at the screening. I didn't realize it, but Steve was sitting behind me during the screening... so he probably heard me whisper "douche-bag" to myself each time Billy Mitchell did something to fuck him over in the documentary. To give you an idea of how the audience was affected by Wiebe as a person, when he was introduced by director Seth Gordon he not only got applause, but a standing ovation from the full crowd.
Gordon also announced that on top of Picturehouse releasing THE KING OF KONG this August, he's also made a deal to remake it as a narrative feature. I'm going on record now saying that Nathan Fillion needs to play Steve Wiebe... and I'm not a Serenity/Firefly nut, but this guy looks just like Fillion and Fillion has that humble, everyman quality, especially in WAITRESS.
THE KING OF KONG is one of those rare documentaries that is both totally engaging and completely entertaining. Seek this out when Picturehouse throws it on screens August 17th.
WHEN A MAN FALLS IN THE FOREST
This review will be super long.
Dylan Baker is great. Timothy Hutton was pretty decent. Sharon Stone didn't wear make-up and cried about being old.
Baker plays a kind of Milton-type character, withdrawn, anti-social. He's a night janitor at the business where Hutton works. Hutton's marriage with Stone is falling apart, he likes to take sleeping pills and sleep through his life. Sleep is a common thread with the parallel stories of these two men. Baker listens to instructional tapes to master lucid dreaming, which leads to some really fun dream sequences.
Seeing Dylan Baker play quirky weird is worth seeing this movie, which isn't poorly made, but just ultimately kind of bland. You've seen it before. Even though I made fun of Stone above, she does a good job, too. Nothing is really bad, but it's a solid C, a 2.5 out of 5. Worth watching if you have nothing else to watch or really really really love Sharon Stone, Dylan Baker (like me), Timothy Hutton or Pruitt Taylor Vance.
Okay, got a couple more movies coming up today. Looks like I'll hit my 6 movie target! Fingers crossed!!!