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Alliance Films' January '08 Releases

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (January 28/08)

Unquestionably the most engaging and flat-out entertaining documentary since Murderball, The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters follows would-be Donkey Kong champ Steve Wiebe as he attempts to topple the almost unattainably high score held by Billy Mitchell since 1982. Though filmmaker Seth Gordon sporadically places the emphasis on less-than-enthralling tangential elements, there's little doubt that the increasingly antagonistic relationship between Wiebe and Mitchell ultimately transforms the proceedings into a classic underdog story. Gordon's success in portraying Wiebe as a sympathetic, utterly likable figure proves instrumental in the film's success, as Wiebe - a family man with a history of failed endeavors behind him - comes off as someone the viewer can't help but root for. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Mitchell, a smug douchebag who instantly establishes himself as the film's villain due to his smarmy persona and devious modus operandi (his refusal to even acknowledge Wiebe at their first encounter is nothing short of remarkable). The end result is a documentary that'll hold the interest of even the most rabid anti-video game detractor, and it's certainly not difficult to see why the film has managed to garner such a passionate following in the months since its theatrical release.

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Rocket Science (January 28/08)

Despite an opening half hour that sporadically threatens to overwhelm the viewer with quirkiness, Rocket Science eventually comes off as an engaging and surprisingly affecting little drama that's buoyed by Reece Thompson's superb central performance. Thompson plays Hal Hefner, a shy, stuttering teen who's taken aback after the verbose Ginny Ryerson (Anna Kendrick) invites him to try out for their school's debate team. His self-confidence boosted by his attraction to Ginny, Hal agrees to give it a shot - although, due to a series of events too spoilerish in nature to reveal, he's finally forced to turn to turn to former debate champ Ben Wekselbaum (Nicholas D'Agosto) for help. Rocket Science marks the feature-length fictional debut of Spellbound filmmaker Jeffrey Blitz, and there's little doubt that the writer/director's penchant for stylized, downright self-conscious dialogue initially holds the viewer at arm's length from the characters. The increasingly unpredictable storyline - coupled with some seriously impressive performances - does ensure that the film improves substantially as it progresses, however, and it's ultimately impossible not to connect with Hal's dogged (if futile) efforts at reinventing himself. In the end, Rocket Science would certainly seem to bode well for Blitz's future endeavors as a narrative filmmaker - assuming, of course, he's able to curb his more overtly oddball tendencies.

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About the DVDs: Alliance Films presents The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters and Rocket Science with flawless anamorphically-enhanced transfers, and while the latter comes equipped with only a brief behind-the-scenes featurette and a music video, the former arrives on DVD as a full-fledged special edition. As such, the disc includes two commentary tracks, a quick update on what the various participants have been up to recently, extended interviews, an animated short, and much more.
© David Nusair