Video Game Review: Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow Over Mystara (Arcade)

I really dug the hell out of the Dungeons & Dragons arcade game, Tower of Doom. That one felt like it was greatly inspired by the awesome Golden Axe series, except they really expanded on what those games did and created something with more diverse enemies, great looking levels and multiple paths to reach the end.

This game, Shadow Over Mystara, is a direct sequel to Tower of Doom and with that, was created in the same style on what I would assume was the same engine. It reuses elements of the previous game but also expands further, making this one hell of a fun experience to play.

Additionally, there are so many character choices you can play as in this game. Even just experimenting with them all as you progress is a lot of fun. Each character has its own set of pros and cons like a regular table top Dungeons & Dragons campaign should.

Furthermore, the game is chock full of so many baddies of various types. The boss battles are also a lot of fun and simply progressing through this game gives you a good sense of accomplishment.

This is just a really great game and while it does take a good amount of time to beat for an arcade beat’em up, the time flies by pretty swiftly.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: its predecessor, as well as the Golden Axe games and Altered Beast.

Film Review: Golden Eyes (1968)

Also known as: Hyappatsu hyakuchû: Ôgon no me (original Japanese title), Booted Babe, Busted Boss, Ironfinger Strikes Back (alternative titles)
Release Date: March 16th, 1968 (Japan)
Directed by: Jun Fukuda
Written by: Jun Fukuda, Ei Ogawa, Michio Tsuzuki
Music by: Masaru Sato
Cast: Akira Takarada, Beverly Maeda, Tomomi Sawa, Andrew Hughes, Makoto Sato, Yoshio Tsuchiya

Toho Co. Ltd., 80 Minutes

Review:

Since I thought Jun Fukuda’s Ironfinger was a pretty solid spy comedy, I wanted to give its sequel a watch, as well.

Fukuda is mostly known, at least in the States, for being one of the two most prominent directors of classic Godzilla pictures. While he doesn’t seem to be held in the same regard as Ishiro Honda, I always saw the two directors as fairly equal. Honda, however, did more of the earlier Godzilla films, where Fukuda did more of the later ones, which some fans like less due to them becoming more and more kid friendly as the franchise rolled on.

Fukuda did lots of other pictures over his career, though, especially for Toho, who loved pumping out quick sci-fi/tokusatsu fare. But between those movies, Toho also had Fukuda do these cool, ’60s spy flicks.

It’s obvious that these films are inspired by the James Bond movies of the era, as well as other spy flicks. At the time, there were many spy comedies like this, which sort of parody the genre but don’t completely deconstruct it like the Austin Powers movies would do later on.

This one pretty much follows the beats and tone of its predecessor but I didn’t enjoy it as much. There are some insanely goofy moments and some of the more over-the-top antics felt like they were too hammy.

For instance, there’s a gunfight scene where the heroes throw two assault rifles closer to the baddies and then shoot the rifles with their own guns, lifting them into the air from bullet ricochets where they fire and kill the villains. It’s f’n ridiculous and while it’s funny, it’s a “jump the shark” moment that happens pretty early into the film.

Still, I did enjoy Akira Takarada in this, as the spy hero. He’s just a good, fun actor and he was in dozens of Toho pictures and also worked with Jun Fukuda quite a bit.

Now I did miss Mie Hama in this one but since these movies are essentially ripping off James Bond, we can’t have the same chick in both films.

In the end, this isn’t as good as Ironfinger but it’s still cool and enjoyable if you like ’60s spy comedies.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: its predecessor, Ironfinger, as well as other ’60s spy comedies.

*No trailer available online.

Documentary Review: ReMastered: Tricky Dick and the Man In Black (2018)

Release Date: 2018
Directed by: Sara Dosa, Barbara Kopple
Written by: Jeff Zimbalist, Michael Zimbalist
Music by: Johnny Cash, Glen Matisoff (music coordinator)
Cast: Johnny Cash (archive footage), Richard Nixon (archive footage)

All Rise Films, Triage Entertainment, Netflix, 59 Minutes

Review:

Tricky Dick and the Man In Black is the story of how Johnny Cash and Richard Nixon crossed paths during a turbulent time in America. A time that was more turbulent than now, if you can believe it.

This covers how Nixon reached out to Cash to get him to perform at the White House, which is a hell of an accomplishment for any artist, regardless of who’s got the keys to the country. And this obviously happened before Nixon’s crimes would be exposed and he would go on to severely damage the reputation of the United States government.

Anyway, in 1970, Cash did perform at the White House. However, Cash soon developed some serious reservations about it as it became apparent to him that his ideals clashed with that of the president.

This examines what led up to the concert at the White House and the reasoning behind how Cash ultimately wasn’t happy with the regime that was in charge of the land he loved.

Overall, the subject matter was damn interesting but I feel like this documentary was too short and didn’t really get deep enough into the mud. But this story is mostly told through talking head interviews by people who aren’t Cash and Nixon, as they’re no longer with us.

This was still a worthwhile and entertaining watch, however. It just needed more meat and felt incomplete. 

Rating: 6.25/10

Video Game Review: Final Fight (Arcade)

Final Fight is a pretty badass side scrolling beat’em up game from the era where I spent a lot of time in arcades. The era that was probably the peak, as far as arcade games were concerned but then arcades started to fizzle out not too long after.

This game exists in the same universe as the Street Fighter series and a lot of the characters from Final Fight would appear in Street Fighter-related games over the years.

With that, this is an incredibly well-crafted, fluid, fun, smack a bitch kinda game.

Final Fight is just a blast to play and it’s aged really well and is definitely one of the best games of its type. While I enjoy Double Dragon a bit more, Final Fight beats out the vast majority of its competition from the same era.

The characters all look cool as hell, the levels are neat and the overall playing time and pacing of the game is damn near perfect.

This would go on to spawn sequels and to see its characters used, again and again, in other Capcom games from the early ’90s till current day.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other Final Fight games, as well as similar side scrolling beat’em ups like the Double Dragon series, the Streets of Rage series, Crime Fighters, etc.

Film Review: Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure (2003)

Also known as: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure (complete title)
Release Date: December 20th, 2003 (TV)
Directed by: Nick Marck
Written by: Matty Simmons
Based on: characters by John Hughes
Music by: Nathan Furst
Cast: Randy Quaid, Miriam Flynn, Dana Barron, Jake Thomas, Ed Asner, Fred Willard, Sung Hi Lee, Beverly Garland, Eric Idle, 

National Lampoon, Elliot Friedgen & Company, Warner Bros. Television, 83 Minutes

Review:

Full disclosure, I didn’t go into this with any anticipation of it being good or all that enjoyable. I just wanted to complete my mission of reviewing all the National Lampoon Vacation movies, so that also included this shitty, made-for-television spinoff.

That being said, for being a really shitty movie, this was more palatable than I had thought it would be. I guess the main reason is because Randy Quaid is just charismatic and the goofiness of Cousin Eddie works, even if the script is bad and most of the jokes don’t land as intended.

It’s not Quaid’s fault that the material was so bad but he does the best with it and you find yourself still cheering for the lovable loser. Hell, you cheer for him more than the franchise’s main character, Clark Griswold. Why? Well, because Cousin Eddie isn’t a self-absorbed prick. He actually just wants to give his family the best Christmas possible despite their seemingly perilous situation.

In the end though, this is still awfully written to the point that the movie just never builds enough steam to make you give much of a shit. I also don’t think I laughed once and spent more time scratching my head over some of the movie’s more ridiculous moments like Cousin Eddie’s fishing debacle.

Still, Randy Quaid was as enjoyable as he could possibly be in this.

Rating: 3/10
Pairs well with: the other Vacation movies, as well as other National Lampoon films.

Book Review: ‘Ted DiBiase: The Million Dollar Man’ by Ted DiBiase, Tom Caiazzo

“The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase is one of my all-time favorite wrestlers and honestly, he might be my top guy.

Although, there are a lot of old school wrestlers that I hold in really high esteem, most of them being heels because, even as a kid, I always loved the villains.

Wrestling villains were always more fun to me and there weren’t many that were as good at being bad as Ted DiBiase.

The first time I remember seeing DiBiase, or at least noticing him, was the WrestleMania IV pay-per-view, which I watched with my cousins, as it was our annual tradition until this year, where none of us could make ourselves care about the current WWE product to make an effort to watch the two-day spectacle.

Anyway, I also loved DiBiase’s earlier work before he went to WWF to become “The Million Dollar Man”. In my teens and twenties, I acquired a lot of DiBiase’s other work from Texas, other territories and All Japan. Once I really deep dived into his career, my appreciation grew even more.

So I was pretty stoked to read this book. And for the most part, it’s really good, as it’s a true biography that goes through Ted DiBiase’s life from childhood to the days after he retired from being a full-time wrestling personality.

However, this is a book put out by WWE and with that, the WWE stuff is a bigger focal point and even though this covers DiBiase’s life outside of that one company, I feel like I wanted a lot more of his Texas and Japan stories.

In the end, though, fans of Ted DiBiase should probably still enjoy this. It covers a lot of phases in his life and it also doesn’t get overly heavy on the religious stuff, as he put his focus on that part of his life after leaving the squared circle behind.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other books on the history of the old school territory wrestling business, as well as biographies on the personalities who lived it.

Video Game Review: Golden Axe II (Sega Genesis)

As I kid, I seemed to like Golden Axe II slightly better than the Sega Genesis port of the original game. However, as an adult, I see this as just more of the same with the only difference being a few new sprites for new enemies and new levels. Other than that, the graphics and the gameplay didn’t improve and this was very obviously just made using the original games assets with some tweaks.

That doesn’t mean that this is bad or a waste of time. The original game is pretty great for what it is and this is just more of that. It’s really just an extension of that already solid game, which is probably why it sold really well and there weren’t too many complaints from players.

I thought that the game was still a lot of fun and I actually found it a bit easier than its predecessor. But then again, I’ve been blowing through all the Golden Axe games, lately, and maybe my skills are just coming back to me after all these years.

In the end, if you’re a fan of the series and specifically the original game’s Genesis version, there really isn’t a reason why you shouldn’t enjoy this one too.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Golden Axe games, as well as the Gauntlet series and other sword and sorcery video games of the 8-bit and 16-bit eras.

Film Review: Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. (1998)

Also known as: Nick Fury (Argentina, France, Italy, Poland)
Release Date: May 26th, 1998 (TV)
Directed by: Rod Hardy
Written by: David Goyer
Based on: Nick Fury by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
Music by: Kevin Kiner
Cast: David Hasselhoff, Lisa Rinna, Sandra Hess, Neil Roberts, Garry Chalk, Tracy Waterhouse, Tom McBeath, Ron Canada

Fury Productions Limited Partnership, National Studios Inc., 20th Century Fox Television, 90 Minutes

Review:

“Contessa Valentina de Allegro Fontaine. Quite a mouthful when you try and wrap your tongue around it. Don’t let the blue blood fool ya, Pierce. Val’s an old hand at the sexpionage game, aren’t ya?” – Nick Fury

I remember seeing the ads for this on television back in 1998 and thinking, “Yeeeeeeeesh…” Because of that, I never watched this but I have seen some scenes and clips over the years.

If I’m being completely honest, though, there probably wasn’t better casting at the time than David Hasselhoff to play the classic Nick Fury in a low budget, TV movie that was, more or less, a failed pilot for a series.

Watching this now, I really like Hasselhoff and I think that he nails the look and chutzpah of the comic book Nick Fury pretty well. It just sucks that the rest of the production around him is really terrible and it actually brings down his performance.

If someone came up to six year-old me in 1985, handed me a Jim Steranko Nick Fury comic and said that the dude from Knight Rider would play him one day, I probably would’ve been beyond ecstatic. But alas, we got a picture that failed from top-to-bottom.

The plot is fucking terrible and makes little to no sense. For most of the movie, Fury has been exposed to a deadly toxin but it doesn’t even start to effect him till like the end of the movie, when he’s hunting down the chick that poisoned him but can also cure him. I guess the toxin isn’t all that bad if this dude can fight like nothing is wrong with him for half the movie. And if anyone knows the character Viper, once she poisons you, you’re pretty much immediately fucked.

Whatever.

This could’ve been pretty damn great and led to a decent Marvel Comics television show in an era where people would’ve really ate it up. Instead, we got a poorly written, awfully directed piece of crap, starring a guy that could’ve brought great things to the table if someone behind the scenes gave half a shit.

Rating: 3/10
Pairs well with: other Marvel films before the 2000s changed everything.

TV Review: Lost Territory: The Best of Continental Wrestling (2019)

Original Run: April 24th, 2001 (DVD Box Set)

Jadat Sports, 5 Episodes, 401 Minutes (total)

Review:

This was a five-disc set that I found on Amazon for a pretty good price, considering how much stuff was packed onto each disc.

This is a compilation featuring matches and angles specifically from Continental Championship Wrestling in the era when it was ran by Ron Fuller.

CCW is a little known territory to those outside of Knoxville in the ’80s. In more recent years, thanks to tape traders in the ’90s getting the ball rolling, the small wrestling territory has become more widely known due to how bonkers some of the angles were and because of how much talent moved in and out of the company.

Watching this collection is like watching a who’s who compilation of legends featured in matches most people haven’t seen.

This was a pretty cool set and watching each disc was a treat and they flew by rather quickly.

All in all, this was a great set bought at a great value. What’s not to love for the old school wrestling aficionado like myself?

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling compilations of the territories in the ’70s and ’80s.

Video Game Review: Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode (NES)

The first Golgo 13 for the original Nintendo is a game I used to love playing. But I hadn’t picked it up in years. Since I’ve been thinking about doing a deep dive into Golgo 13‘s anime series and movies, I figured I’d revisit the video games, as well.

This is still a lot of fun and I really liked games like this that didn’t just have one playing style. Here, you have a side scrolling shooter but then you get to use vehicles, go on sniper missions and also go underwater.

Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode has a lot going on for it. Each stage of the game brings something fresh and unique and for a NES game, this is pretty long and takes a few hours to beat if you know where to go and what to do. Back in the day, I had to explore and figure out which steps to take.

For the time, the graphics are pretty good and the sound is great. However, it’s the story that makes this such a cool game.

This came out in an era where games didn’t have complex stories like they do in modern times. But this game took it to a level gamers hadn’t seen in 1988. This sort of has RPG vibes to it in how you talk to informants and other NPCs, get clues and directions and more pieces to the plot. While I think much was lost in the English translation, as was common with old NES games, the story still lured me in when I was a wee li’l lad.

Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode is a neat game. It’s held up well and is still engaging and fun, even if all the first-person shootout sequences do become a bit tedious and annoying after awhile.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling shooters from the era, as well as the second Golgo 13 game and Rescue: The Embassy Mission.