Contra (1988 - NES)

The main reason I replayed this game is because I wanted to make a video of me beating it without dying, which I succeeded in after only a few nights of playing. While I wouldn't expect everyone who plays this game to be able to do that, it at least proves that it's possible, and that it's definitely possible to beat the game without using the 30-life code, unlike what a lot of internet sources claim.

With that said, I used to play Contra all the time when I was younger, both on my NES and in the arcade, so I have intimate familiarity with it. I originally said in my Top 100 that I liked Super C more, but I'm not 100% sure I still agree with that sentiment. Contra's two 3rd-person view base levels are amongst the weaker moments in the game, but I'm not too fond of Super C's second overhead level with the randomly-appearing mouths, either.

Anyway, despite the claims from many that the game is impossible, it's still often regarded as a classic. At least I won't disagree on that last one.

Rating: 3.5/5

The Castle of Cagliostro (1979 - DVD)

This movie was my first foray into anything Lupin the 3rd-related, and much like the Tenchi movies, it assumes some familiarity with the characters and premise while not being entirely inaccessible to newcomers. After stealing what turns out to be counterfeit money from a casino, master thief Arsene Lupin the 3rd travels with his partners in crime to a mysterious castle that he believes to be the source of the phony bills. On the way, he becomes (willfully) involved in a scheme to rescue a princess who is held prisoner in the castle by an evil Duke who wants to marry her and gain access to a hidden treasure that can be uncovered via an ancient puzzle involving rings.

The story tends to be way more on the comical side than the serious. Lupin performs such derring-do feats, like climbing up sheer walls and leaping across castle turrets, that when he is finally injured to the point that his adventure has to momentarily come to a halt, all I could do is think, "Really?" He is also like oldschool Batman in that any gadget he needs for the current situation, he magically has. Where, for example, did he get the costume to look just like Inspector Zenigata? Or the fake ring? Or the robot dummy of himself? Or all the fireworks in his coat? Don't tell me he just happens to keep them in his car.

The real reason for anyone who is a fan of oldschool videogames to watch this movie is to see what an incredible amount of influence it had on certain game series, particularly Castlevania and Ys. (I made a list of them here.) Outside of videogames, even the ending of The Great Mouse Detective seems to have been inspired by this film.

Though I wouldn't claim it to be a great movie, it is a fun romp. Incidentally, I watched it in English and I have to wonder why so much swearing? I'm not offended by it, of course, but it seemed odd considering most of the movie is rather kid-friendly.

Rating: 3/5

Hellboy Animated: Sword of Storms (2006 - DVD)

Sword of Storms strikes me as a movie intended for people who are already Hellboy fans and want to see him going on more adventures, as opposed to being something intended to draw in any new fans. If you've seen any modern superhero cartoons, like Batman: The Animated Series and similar shows that followed in its footsteps, then this may feel a bit by-the-numbers.

Through a demon's magic, Hellboy is transported to ancient Japan and goes up against a series of monsters based on Japanese mythology. Imagine Alice in Wonderland if she kicked the crap out of the Caterpillar and the Cheshire Cat and the Queen of Hearts. While the movie did hold my attention, I never really felt all that connected to any of the characters and I didn't feel the solution to beating the demons made much sense, but I can't explain why without revealing the ending, so read this post if you want to know.

Oh, and one more thing - Writers, please don't ever use that "random baby or baby carriage in peril" trope to create a sense of tension. It's especially pointless when it happens in this movie because once that scene is over, the story never returns to it. I'm not kidding when I say I will drop a score at least half a point if I ever see this trope in anything. It annoys me to no ends.

Rating: 2.5/5

Labyrinth (1986 - DVD)

Despite being a huge fan of the Muppets, Labyrinth, from Muppets creator Jim Henson, is not a movie I feel real strongly about. The story involves a teenaged girl named Sarah who, when charged with babysitting her baby brother, wishes him to be taken away by the Goblin King (played by David Bowie). When the wish comes true, Sarah realizes her mistake and must embark on a journey through a huge, confounding maze in the Goblins' kingdom to rescue him.

Along the way, Sarah must solve riddles, find the right passages, and team up with some of the maze's inhabitants, and this is where the movie falters a bit for me - I'm not that fond of any of the characters. Hoggle, a troll-like being, may not be so bad if he wasn't so flippin' ugly to look at. And that little dog that rides around on a sheepdog is just plain annoying. The movie also takes way too long to get out of that farting swamp setting.

Along with being a fantasy adventure, Labyrinth is also a coming-of-age metaphor, as Sarah has reached the point in her life where she must decide between hanging onto the fantasy worlds of her youth or accepting grown-up responsibilities. At least the movie has the decency to imply that there is room for both, whereas lesser writers than Jim Henson might not be willing to compromise.

Rating: 3/5

Thunderball (1965 - DVD)

A really long James Bond movie that ends in the most incomprehensible underwater fight scene I've ever laid eyes on (Where are all those guys coming from? Who's fighting who? Who the heck is winning?) The dominant impression it left on me is that this is one of the main Bond flicks that the Austin Powers series parodies, so watching it made me get some more of the references, but didn't necessarily make me a bigger fan of James Bond.

I also found the beginning very confusing. Was it just coincidence that Bond was at the same hotel as the bad guys or what? I had no idea what he was doing there and why people were trying to kill him before anything had happened yet.

Rating: 2.5/5

Garfield as Himself (1982 - DVD)

This is a DVD that contains the first two Garfield TV specials, Here Comes Garfield and Garfield on the Town, and the last special, Garfield Gets a Life.

When I was a kid, I had a virtual obsession with Here Comes Garfield. I watched it whenever it aired. I eventually taped it on a VHS tape and watched it over and over again. And then, at some point, I got old enough to realize that... there's not really much to it. Garfield and Odie do some stuff, get taken to the pound, escape - and that's it. One thing I really loved was the songs, especially "Here Comes Garfield" and "Long 'Bout Midnight" performed by Lou Rawls. As an adult, I also noticed some jokes that only adults would get - at the very least, the fact that I didn't get them as a kid probably explains why I had no memory of them, despite having rewatched it so many times.

Garfield on the Town, which seems to be a parody of West Side Story, involves Garfield discovering his long-lost family. This one I only saw once as a kid, and twice as an adult. Both times as an adult I was bothered by the fact that Garfield didn't stand up and help his family fight the rival cat gang in the end, especially since he fought off the gang's leader on his own earlier.

Garfield Gets a Life would be more appropriately titled, "Garfield Helps Jon Get Laid", except I guess that's actually more inappropriate, but literally that's what it's about. This one I felt was the weakest of the three, though the art style is closer to that of the Garfield and Friends animated series than the previous two.

I don't dislike these specials, but I'm not going to give them a really strong recommendation outside of Garfield fans, who have probably already seen them by now anyway.

Rating: 3/5

The Original Transformers, Season 3 Part 1 (1986 - DVD)

There's an episode of Transformers Season 3 in which the characters find a long-lost asteroid containing a database of the Transformers' history. But before anyone can glean any information from this wonder, it is promptly blown up and destroyed. That episode is like a metaphor for this entire season - its purpose seems to be aggressively erasing everything the first two seasons built up.

For those who aren't in the know, after the Transformers movie came out, a lot of the Season 1-2 characters, including Optimus Prime, were killed off and the entire show changed as a result. Season 3 is set several years in (what was then) the future (2006 to be exact) and is supposed to be darker and more serious, but it's hard to think of it that way with the addition of annoying childish characters like Daniel and Wheelie, characters like Sky Lynx and Trypticon that look far too obviously like toys, and fights that end like something out of Looney Tunes.

Now, if I try to forget about the Season 1-2 changes and concentrate on these episodes for what they are, it still can be difficult finding much to like. The first four parts of the season's opener, "Five Faces of Darkness", are actually quite ambitious and interesting (though things fall apart in the final episode due to bad animation mistakes and the above-mentioned Trypticon fight). "Web World", an episode where Cyclonus takes new Decepticon leader Galvatron to an alien planet for mental health treatment, is one of the best episodes of this set as it really made me feel sorry for Galvatron, which is quite an amazing feat considering he's the villain and cartoons of this era didn't often intentionally try to make you side with bad guys. I also really like the design and look of the Predacons, a group of five animal-based Decepticons who can combine into one big robot named Predaking.

But no matter how hard I try, I just can't bring myself to like Rodimus Prime, the new Autobot leader. Sure, Optimus Prime was a jerk at times, but Rodimus's idea of protecting a planet's resources from Decepticons is to blow it up (see "Fight or Flee"). Yeah, it's a good thing he wasn't in charge when the Autobots landed on Earth in Season 1. I've also had a very strong beef with the "Chaos" episode ever since I was a kid - In this episode, Autobot "old-timer" Kup kills the titular monster that he's been scared of for years, even though there's no hard evidence the monster ever did anything other than scare people. (Not to mention that Kup's actions against Chaos look like they could've doomed the entire planet to destruction.)

I could probably list a dozen or more other things I don't like about this season (Quintesson backstory, Autobot Matrix of Leadership), but this "capsule" is long enough already. I'm just going to end it by saying that despite it having a few bright spots here and there (and still being better than Transformers Energon), I'll probably never be a huge fan of Season 3.

Rating: 2.5/5



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