HEART-WRENCHING DAVID AND GOLIATH STORY
Steve Wiebe is a hard-luck science teacher who got laid off from his previous job the same day he closes on a house. Billy Mitchell is cocky and runs a successful hot sauce company with his busty wife. It's clear from the outset of the documentary The King of Kong—about the two men and their quest to set the world record for Donkey Kong—that Mitchell is better than Wiebe at just about everything, including the video game. But director Seth Gordon is still able to turn their one-sided rivalry into the year's best sports flick.
CELEB-FILLED SPORTS BAR
In the 1940s and '50s, Toots Shor's place on West 51st Street was New York City's hottest nightclub, a place where Mantle, Monroe, Gifford and Gleason hobnobbed with local cops and reporters. The joint jumps again in the documentary Toots, a loving but honest ode to Shor directed by his granddaughter. His trademark was a well-poured cocktail, but Shor's expert mingling of sports and Hollywood is what really made his club shine.
OVERDUE DVD RELEASE
Fifty-six years after it hit theaters, Jim Thorpe: All-American finally got DVD treatment. The entertaining biopic is carried by Burt Lancaster, who was early in his transition from beefcake (his early nickname was the Grin) to serious thespian (he got his first Oscar nomination two years later).
WELCOME TREND FOR HISTORY BUFFS
Highlight films are soooo 2006 thanks to NCAA on Demand. Four years ago the NCAA began digitizing the 20,000 hours of videotapes in its archives—and now it's started selling DVDs of individual postseason games. Only NCAA championship events are available, which means no Division I-A football. But there are plenty of gems in the vault, including March Madness contests from as far back as the 1939 title game and Mia Hamm (right) winning the women's soccer championship at North Carolina.
ENGROSSING STRAINED CHITCHAT
The between-innings small talk on the 1959 show Home Run Derby, released on DVD in 2007, wasn't exactly enthralling. (Sample—host Mark Scott: "It must be tempting to swing at some of those pitches." Mickey Mantle: "It is.") But it offered a look at what some of baseball's biggest stars were really like; something that banal had to have been genuine.