Arcsoft TMT 3 is completely incompatible with Win 8. If I recall correctly, it won't even install.
I've had problems with Media Player Classic Home Cinema. It wasn't working correctly in its default configuration, nor with the madVR setup either.
I was trying several different free players at the time and found another that wouldn't play mkv and m2ts files correctly, but I don't remember if it was GOM Player or Pot Player.
VLC works very nicely in Win 8, so I've been using it and Arcsoft TMT 5.
As for the Start programs, most people really like Start8, even though it costs $5.
I've been using ClassicShell, and though it is easy to install and use, it does freeze sometimes when you click the start button to bring up the list of programs. The hesitation only lasts about two seconds, but its still annoying. Apparently the issue is loading the icons for the programs and the author is working on getting the list of programs to pop up first and then load icons, but a new version hasn't been released.