Thursday, December 29, 2016

What's Rambo Doing on His Day Off? #23

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The mayor of Oktoberfest has had a massive heart attack! Rambo jumps in with some timely rescue breathing.

As seen in Rambo: The Force of Freedom episode 35: The Iron Mask.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Murder She Wrote Recaps: S3E3: Unfinished Business

Road trip! Jessica Fletcher and her Cabot Cove cohorts, Sheriff Amos and Doctor Seth, take a drive to Juniper Lake Resort, where the cabins are $20/night, the drinks are strong, and an investigation into a mysterious death from 30 years ago is heating up again––with Seth as one of the suspects.

The stress of having a close friend under suspicion clearly wears on Jessica, because when the local sheriff's investigation doesn't meet her rigorous standards, she gets all huffy and threatens to call the governor.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

What's Rambo Doing on His Day Off? #22

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John Rambo puts a book to its best use: keeping the sun out of his eyes while he naps in the attack jeep.

As seen in Rambo: The Force of Freedom episode 33: Freedom Dancer.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Murder She Wrote Recaps: S3E2: Death Stalks the Big Top, Part 2

While trying to clear her brother-in-law Neil's name, Jessica runs afoul of the obstructionist mayor. In a rare display of hypocrisy, she tells him he has no authority to get involved in a police investigation, but no one calls her on it.

After a rival circus promoter is also murdered, Jess is knocked out with a chloroformed rag and dumped in a burning motel room, only to be saved at the last minute by a recently released Neil.

Later, she confronts the true murderer under the big top and somehow gets him to reveal his actions by convincing him to theorize about what he WOULD have done if he HAD committed the murders. When Jessica realizes this won't be enough for a court of law to convict the man, she has a couple of carnies start shoving him into a cage with a hungry tiger until he panics and reveals where he hid a bloody hacksaw, which is enough to seal his fate.

The episode ends with Jess revealing to Courteney Cox and her father that Neil is alive and well. The father considers faking his own death to escape from his terrible wife.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Let's Talk About Rambo: Episode 32: Swamp Monster

Crisis on the bayou!

The locals are terrified by what they believe is a swamp monster, even though within seconds they should have identified it as simply a floating tank with a spiked steamroller on the front.

"Hey guys!"
Luckily, one of the swampfolk is Turbo's Uncle Oliver, who makes a late-nite to Turbo's high-rise city apartment call to get the Force of Freedom on the case.

What's Turbo Doing on His Day Off?
Turbo and Rambo leave KAT at home and travel to the bayou, where they quickly encounter several deadly animals
Rambo does NOT like water moccasins.
before finally encountering the swamp monster, which is being piloted by Sgt. Havoc. He tries to incinerate them with the tank's flamethrower, possibly the most questionable weapon one could choose to mount onto an aquatic assault vehicle. Havoc threatens to "burn down the entire swamp!" to get at Rambo, which: good luck.

Rambo escapes and swims to the SAVAGE swampbase,
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which appears to consist of one watchtower and one sod house on a large sandbar. Way to take advantage of the Homestead Act, guys. Their plot: to construct a satellite dish for unspoken purposes. Pretty sure that's not even illegal.

Rambo climbs to the top of the watchtower to confront Warhawk,

who pulls out a broadsword and cuts a rope, dropping Rambo through a trapdoor and into the area between the legs of the watchtower, which doubles as a prison cell.

Then they hang Rambo by his arms from a tree branch so that he's waist-deep in the water.

"If the crayfish don't finish you, maybe the leeches will!" Warhawk cackles before leaving. He does not have a functional grasp of which aquatic species are most deadly.

Nevertheless, the swamps crayfish and leeches quickly move in for the kill(!) before Rambo escapes, blows everything up, and makes it back to Uncle Oliver's shack just in time for dinner. On the menu? Crayfish stew!



Somebody make this into a t-shirt!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

What's Rambo Doing on His Day Off? #21

A young boy is being threatened by an oddly proportioned bear. John Rambo springs into action, his only weapon a hot dog. Against the park's clearly posted regulations, he throws the frank, distracting the bear and saving the boy.

As seen in Rambo: The Force of Freedom episode 31: Terror Beneath the Sea.

Murder She Wrote Recaps: S3E1: Death Stalks the Big Top, Part 1

We start the episode by meeting yet another Fletcher niece: a pre-Friends Courteney Cox. When she anonymously receives a silver leprechaun in the mail, she takes it as incontrovertible proof that her grandfather Neil (Jessica's late husband's brother) must have actually faked his death in that boat explosion so many years ago.

Jessica tracks Neil to a traveling circus, but when she's stonewalled by the tight-knit carny community, she must resort to a classic Fletcher ruse. Disguised in a plaid muumuu and heart-shaped sunglasses, she befriends a baby elephant and baby chimpanzee and infiltrates the circus just in time to see Neil being carted away for allegedly murdering a stagehand that had unsuccessfully hit on all the women of the circus the previous night.


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Let's Talk About Rambo: Episode 31: Terror Beneath the Sea

Colonel Trautman, on another cold-weather vacation, stops at an Eskimo village in the Arctic Circle, where he's told that a killer whale has been attacking to the settlement. He's skeptical—since when do killer whales a.) attack humans or b.) do anything outside of the water—but the chief's claims are proven true when a vicious orca starts breaking through the ice from below

The only thing he hates more than igloos? Army planes.
and destructively sliding through the village at an incredible rate of speed,

breaking igloos left and right

Has he no respect for these Eskimos' boot game?
and even taking out a dogsled. It's the most effective and tactically sound piece of villainy this show has ever seen.

After the orca rampage, SAVAGE shows up on snow windsurfers to capture everybody,

Judging by the lines, there were ice skates on those windsurfers too?
confirming Trautman's worst fear: that the orca is the newest member of the terrorist organization.

Rambo rounds up KAT and Turbo and goes to check things out. The orca, taking a page straight out of Jaws' playbook, destroys the back of their boat

and tries to get KAT to slide into his mouth.

KAT avoids being Quinted, however, by jumping onto a floating piece of ice, then Rambo rescues her by jumping onto the other edge of the ice piece, catapulting her back onto the boat. The orca—which we can now see has cybernetic implants!—begins chasing Rambo across the ice floe. Rambo's only recourse is to shoot a bunch of icicles, which fall onto the killer whale, causing it to sink into a deep depressive state.

I'm not joking.
There's no rest for the weary, though, as we soon learn that the cyborca's implants allow an evil scientist to give it stern vocal commands and chastisement, pushing it back into action. Luckily, though, Rambo stops the scientist, learns that the orca's name is Korak, and then decides to give Korak "a night to think things over."

The next morning, Rambo feeds Korak a couple of fish and instantly a strong bond with him.

The new besties immediately embark on an infiltration mission together down to SAVAGE's undersea base.

Rambo, holding onto Korak's dorsal fin, is disguised as a conspicuous mass of seaweed, and General Warhawk lets them in, thinking that Korak has a message for them. So presumably he has some way of conversing with Korak, but sadly, we never see it, because Rambo—in his only moment of weakness ever—is soon held at gunpoint. Luckily, Korak uses his tail to fling Sgt. Havoc into the fray, allowing Rambo to blow up the base and escape in a submersible.

Our two heroes share a tender look as they escape to freedom,

"Rambo love Korak."
and Korak immediately finds a mate to swim off with.


Friday, August 26, 2016

What's Rambo Doing on His Day Off? #20

Having conversations with whales while scuba diving!

BONUS!: What's Colonel Trautman Doing on His Day Off? #1

Listening to the radio while winter camping!

As seen in Rambo: The Force of Freedom episode 30: Snow Kill.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Working Out With Hulk Hogan

If you’re anything like me, there are two main obstacles to getting fit: lack of motivation and boredom with your workout routine. That’s why, in a recent bid to get my life together, I jumped into an eBay bidding war for the ultimate in exercise technology: a 1985 cassette titled “Hulkamania Workout Set 40 Minute Audio Program.”

That’s right, Hulk Hogan, known worldwide for his 24-inch pythons and also for his large biceps, shared all his most effective workout secrets with the world over 30 years ago. Honestly, knowing this, it’s kind of surprising there’s even an obesity epidemic in America anymore.

$15 later, it was mine. I set it up in my living room, put some athletic gear on… and hit play.

Things begin with the ring of a bell and an announcement that Hulk Hogan is still the champion of the world to the sound of his original theme song, which—true fact!—was later repurposed into “Ravishing”, the second-best Bonnie Tyler song of all time. Give it a listen and just try not to slam that big nasty giant Big John Studd afterwards:

After a few bars of the tune, Hulk himself finally speaks: “Whoa whoa whoa whoa!” Apparently Hulk is recording this on a whim after a match, an impressive feat of multitasking.

The Hulkster launches immediately into a five-minute motivational speech about the benefits of exercising (including saying that he needs “good, strong tag team partners!” which seems like a bit of false advertising). We’re dealing with a very early Hogan here, one who hasn’t quite got a handle yet on all his trademark catchphrases. For example, instead of throwing out a classic “brother” at the end of all his sentences, he’s saying “Daddy” instead. Pretty off-putting. Also, he is repeatedly calling working out “hangin’ and bangin’”, which is so weird that I love it.

Ten minutes in and there’s still no sign of a workout. Instead, Hulk is going through a five-point list of workout—excuse me: hangin’ and bangin’—tips.
1. “Take it easy when you first start.” Done and done, Hulkster.
2. “Dress properly. Wear something loose and always wear sneakers.” Because I was doing this in my dining room, I was going socks only. Nobody tell Hulk, please.
3. “Make sure you have plenty of room. Don’t work out in a place where you could trip over rugs or anybody’s old sneakers!” This tip is so specific that I have to imagine Hulk once hurt himself by trying to hang and bang in a shoe closet.
4. “Pick a time to workout that is convenient for you.” AKA “I needed to come up with an extra tip to get to a nice round five in total.”
4.5 “Always wait an hour or so after a meal before you exercise.” I think that’s a swimming rule, Hulk.
5. “Workout with the help of an adult.” I had this one covered! After I bought the tape, I’d convinced my tag team partner in life for the past nine years to join me for this momentous event. However, when it was time to finally start with the hangin’ and the bangin’, she backed out, claiming she’d already been to the gym that day. Betrayal! Now I know how the Hulkster felt when Miss Elizabeth chose stay in a neutral corner during the main event of Wrestlemania V.
Finally, it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty. First: the warm-up, in which Hulk instructs me to run in place, do some jumping jacks (“Get those arms way out there!”), and then jump rope for a few minutes each. At this point, I realized that the tape was originally sold with actual hangin’ and bangin’ equipment. I would have to make do with common household objects. In this case, my common household imaginary jump rope.

Next up: stretching! The Hogan Method of Stretching involves doing three different stretches for a total of five minutes. “Do the other three tomorrow!” says Hulk, seemingly implying that there are only six total stretches in all of existence. I think stretching theory has advanced greatly over the last 30 years.

Finally, without any more pretense or instruction (which would have been helpful, as there has been not one hint of a discussion on technique on this tape so far), the Hulkster says it’s time to start hangin’ and bangin’. From this point on, the rest of the tape is mostly a musical accompaniment to your workout. Luckily, the music is great—lyric-less ‘80s rock with plenty of synths and sax solos.

And in case you’re slowing down? Every 20 or 30 seconds, the Hulkster pops in with encouraging comments! Some of my favorites: “Keep a pushin’ and a pumpin’!” “Don’t you dare give it up, man!” “Push! Push, little dude!” In a low voice: “Don’t slow dowwwwwn… the Hulkster’s watchin’ you!”

This continues until the tape just stops out of nowhere.

More of the same here, except that as the tape rolls on, Hulk’s comments get noticeably further and further apart. Either the Hulkster was running out of things to say, or, more likely, whoever edited the tape didn’t do their math correctly.

Then, before you can even lift an ice cream maker over your head for the 50th time, Hulk yells “BODY COOLDOWN! We’re not done until the cooldown is completed! You gotta be too cool to fool!” And there it is. The first tangible workout tip of the entire tape: If you don’t cool down after hangin’ and bangin’, you’re vulnerable to being fooled. And the best part is this: since he said it before I cooled down, I believe it, brother!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Let's Talk About Rambo: Episode 29: Lagoon of Death

John Rambo and KAT are chilling in Venice, overseeing the renovations to a historic museum. Rambo appears to be super in art, but KAT probably wishes she was hyperextending somebody's elbow.

Incredibly, Gripper and Sgt. Havoc are riding by on a classic Venice gondola at just this moment. They're on their way to a local monastery, where they hope to force the monks to create high-tech missile nosecones from ceramics. They assume that the monks can do this within six hours of being kidnapped. After Gripper spots Rambo through his binoculars...

Apparently he was doing some sightseeing.
... Havoc can't help but take a few shots at Rambo and crew with a rocket launcher. The museum is almost destroyed and Rambo has to swing on a rope to save a burly workman while KAT just hangs out. Rambo asks KAT if she saw where the rockets were being fired from. KAT does not know.

"Why would anybody want to destroy this beautiful old building?" KAT asks, as though they just found some graffiti on the walls instead of just having three canal-to-air rockets shot at them.

SAVAGE's base turns out to be this really cute little house built out on the lagoon. General Warhawk is pissed that yet again Rambo has coincidentally shown up in the same location as one of his schemes. That's the risk you run when you've got schemes going down in literally every corner of the world, says I. Havoc reassures Warhawk that it's just because Rambo is "an art lover." They discover Rambo's hotel but it's too late to launch an assassination attempt tonight so they decide to wait until morning.

The next day, Rambo's pizza breakfast is interrupted by Mad Dog and his gang, who are riding their attack three-wheelers through the streets(?) of Venice and yelling that they "can't wait to cut that turkey into spaghetti!" Rambo stops lecturing KAT about the high quality of Venetian glassware just in time to fend off the attack by weaponizing his pizza, discus-style, and then turning his patio table into a deadly ramp that Mad Dog can't avoid jumping off of.

As Mad Dog escapes in a speedboat, Rambo gives chase in the attack jeep. He drives up ahead, gets on an overhanging bridge, and slices off the back half of their boat with a surprisingly short burst of machine gun fire!

Then he jumps on the sinking boat and beats the crap out of him.
It might be the most Rambo thing I've ever seen, and let me remind you that I've seen Rambo ride on the back of a great white shark.

From there, SAVAGE decides to put their plan—a plan Rambo would know nothing about if they hadn't alerted him to their presence in Venice twice for no reason—into action. Meanwhile, Rambo and Turbo are checking out an arm-wrestling bar in search of Havoc. The competitors refuse to tell Rambo anything unless he goes OVER THE TOP on their asses.

Which he does.
These arm wrestlers really know what's going on in town.

While Rambo does recon on the monastery in the attack chopper, the rest of the Force of Freedom meets with local political leaders to outline the situation. The mayor, concerned about his approval rating if the media finds out, wants to bomb the monastery—which apparently the media would be totally cool with?—but Rambo shows up just in time to stop him. It seems that there's for some reason a lot of precious art in the monastery that Rambo wants to preserve. The mayor agrees and offers him tanks, guns and planes. Rambo refuses: all he needs is some old clothes for KAT and one gondola full of fish.

You can guess what happens next.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

What's Rambo Doing on His Day Off? #19

Overseeing the renovations of a historic museum in Venice.

As seen in Rambo: The Force of Freedom episode 29: Lagoon of Death.

Monday, June 6, 2016

What's Rambo Doing on His Day Off? #18

John Rambo scales a tree and rescues a frankly embarrassed-looking cat from its vile branches. KAT, meanwhile, is nowhere to be seen.

As seen in Rambo: The Force of Freedom episode 28: Night of the Voodoo Moon.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Murder She Wrote Recaps: Season Two Finale: If the Frame Fits

It's episode 22 of season 2, and Jessica pulls double duty by sniffing out both a murderer and a notorious art thief named Binky. In a convoluted twist, it turns out that the man framed by a grieving father for the murder and subsequently cleared actually did commit the murder after all.

Jessica also has some strange conversations in which people tell her "They met at a ski resort. You know what that means." and "It's the '80s, Ms. Fletcher. Promiscuity isn't page-one news anymore!"

New York City Danger Watch: The local police chief, a former NYC cop, says that in his previous job, he often encountered people who had been murdered for their cab fare.

Friday, May 6, 2016

What's Rambo Doing on His Day Off? #17

John Rambo plunges his signature blade into a perfectly sized pumpkin as the rest of the Force of Freedom watches in rapt anticipation on All Hallow's Eve. Could it be? Yes! He's creating the ugliest jack-o-lantern Turbo has ever seen!

As seen in Rambo: The Force of Freedom episode 27: Return of the Count.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Point-Counterpoint: How Would You Fix SAVAGE?

When it comes to fictional terrorist organizations, you've got your Cobras, you've got your Spectres, you've got your V.E.N.O.M.s, and you've got your Syndicates. What do they all have in common? Not a high success rate, true; but you can't deny that each of them has a coherent—if twisted—vision at its core that is put into action in ways that offer a reasonable chance at success.

Then you've got SAVAGE. Led by General Warhawk alongside Sergeant Havoc, Gripper, Nomad, and others, SAVAGE has never even come close to succeeding in any of their operations and, if we're being honest, has never even had one plot that makes the tiniest lick of sense. Sure, the level of competition they're facing is a lot higher than that of their contemporaries. John Rambo is an unstoppable juggernaut of martial competence and down-home, redwhiteandblue-blooded American common sense. But SAVAGE's schemes could be foiled by the Scooby Doo gang.

In this Point-Counterpoint, we will explore the most sensible solutions for bailing out the sinking ship that is SAVAGE and getting things back on track from an organizational perspective.

Ross: Point. There are a lot of problems with SAVAGE, but the most prominent, in my opinion, is that the economics of their schemes make absolutely no sense. Why dig a hole beneath the Washington Monument to threaten to hide it unless your $10 million ransom demand is met? The underground excavation had to have cost at least that much already. The entire project is going to be in the red even if it's successful! Also: Why threaten international landmarks with the goal of raising $50 million to get an International School for Terrorism off the ground? That's not long-term thinking, that's spending on a personal vanity project that's not going to pay any dividends to shareholders for at least four years (if it's a classic university-style institution) or even longer (if they're taking it in more of a post-graduate direction). Examples like these are why I'm going to have to say that the quickest way to clean up this organization is to hire an experienced financial planner. Make a budget and follow it to the decimal.

Dusty: Counterpoint. Agree the schemes make no economic sense but I feel that the fix is more complex than a mere budgeting exercise. SAVAGE needs to invest in some personal development for its employees. Perhaps SAVAGE should spend some money on getting General Warhawk an MBA and he can then focus on financial leadership. Perhaps Gripper, Nomad and the others should at least get associate's degrees. An educated workforce is a more productive workforce! Hell, even some project management certifications would go a long way in SAVAGE. First step for General Warhawk after gaining his MBA: write a mission statement for SAVAGE and stick to it. If the mission is to inject chaos into the world then so be it, but don't go making schemes to collect paltry ransoms if your end goal is pure chaos. Get that mission statement straight, Warhawk, and use it to guide the leadership of your organization.

Ross: Point. Sure, investing in your workforce is important, we can't deny that. But there also have to be consequences for failure. Gripper has bungled everything he's ever touched with his flesh hand and everything he's ever clutched in his claw hand. This is a man who inexplicably tipped over a forklift he was driving when he was just feet away from escaping with printing plates for American currency. At some point, he simply must be put on a Performance Improvement Plan if not outright fired or reassigned to non-mission-critical duties. Yes, a claw hand is a gnarly accoutrement for any evildoer. But this is—or should be—a results-driven endeavor, and while he's got the look, he's just not producing. Is SAVAGE even organized enough from a human resources perspective to make this happen?

Dusty: Counterpoint. You place an employee with a disability on a PIP for failing a task due to his disability and you are signing up for a lawsuit. Let's face facts: Gripper is employed because SAVAGE needs to retain employees with disabilities. Moving on. Perhaps SAVAGE should consider de-centralizing its management and instead of a top down command style place more of the creative plan hatching on the lower level employees. Maybe, just maybe, if the lower-level grunts had more of a hand in the forming of the schemes they would feel a greater sense of ownership and pride therefore be more conscious of their actions and do less bungling. 

Ross: Point. I can see that you're coming at this from a very populist, labor-centric viewpoint, and I respect that.

Dusty: Counterpoint. I just want to know what SAVAGE wants more. Do they want to kill Rambo, make money, rule a country/world, or just cause general chaos? It's not clear and that is very frustrating. If they can just settle on one of the objectives and focus all resources on that I think they will start to see some positive results.

Ross: Point. Couldn't agree more with you there, and I'm going to go one step further and say that until they accomplish it, their sole focus should be the destruction of Rambo. Rambo is the lynchpin of all their failures. Without Rambo in the picture, there's a lot more leeway for absurd schemes and under-qualified employees. 

Dusty: Counterpoint. I can't argue against your logic on the previous point. That's right, the forces behind Point-Counterpoint are in complete agreement on this one. Therefore, General Warhawk should hold an organization-wide town hall meeting to deliver the new mission statement. The SAVAGE mission statement reads: Murder Rambo. That's it. Simple and direct. With focused and relentless pursuit I have no doubt they will wear Rambo down and it won't be long before he makes a mistake, allowing SAVAGE to fulfill the mission.  

Beware, John Rambo, once General Warhawk graduates with his M.B.A., your days are numbered.  

Monday, April 18, 2016

Let's Talk About Rambo: Episode 26: Death Merchant

Rambo, KAT and Turbo are driving the attack jeep, hurtling toward the gates of the Death Merchant's sizable, booby-trap-filled palatial rural estate. This is possibly the best way to open any episode of any TV show, and also the second booby-trap-filled palatial rural estate that the Force of Freedom has stormed in the last three episodes. They soon encounter their first booby trap when the wrought-iron gates to the mansion grounds rotate 90 degrees toward them and fire the spikes off the top of their bars. "Now I know why he's called the Death Merchant!" KAT exclaims, indicating that maybe they were planning to attack this guy for no reason.

The second booby trap, another round of spikes shot from an underground launcher, takes out the attack jeep (NO!), leaving Rambo and company charging the mansion on foot alongside a previously unseen ninja clad entirely in white. This appears to be the inauspicious debut of White Dragon, my most-anticipated new Force of Freedom member.

Check out that robotic sword-delivery system.
He quickly makes his presence felt by joining in on a cooperative team strike to explode the door to the Death Merchant's mansion: Rambo throws a grenade, Turbo launches helmet rockets, KAT shoots her uzis, and White Dragon shoots one single-hand crossbow bolt. Thanks for contributing, White Dragon!

Inside the mansion, the team is soon set upon by some very non-threatening-looking robots.

Seen here in Turbo's helmet vision.
Rambo melts them with a flamethrower, then uses it to heat up the door knobs to an unbearable temperature in the Death Merchant's control room so he can't escape. The Death Merchant turns out to be an old skinny bald guy with glasses and jacket with poofy shoulders like Snow White's dress. Not very threatening.

The Force of Freedom chooses to bring him into custody by riding a commuter train back to civilization.

Everybody act casual!
SAVAGE is on a nearby ledge, Sgt. Havoc leveling a rocket launcher toward the slowly moving train. "Kill the Force of Freedom!" Warhawk exhorts him. "But don't hurt the Death Merchant!" They're sitting right next to each other! General Warhawk has unreasonable expectations. And also—AGAIN—stunningly misplaced priorities. Maybe they could just blow up everyone and find another Death Merchant someday. If you're in charge of SAVAGE, your number-one goal should always be to kill Rambo, full stop. Nuke that train from orbit. Drop one of your many stolen submarines on it. I don't care, just don't handcuff your mildly competent subordinates by asking them to make an impossible rocket launcher shot.

Luckily, Havoc improvises with the classic villain tactic of getting what you want by putting innocents at risk. He uncouples some of the train cars—which inexplicably go hurtling in the other direction on flat ground—allowing him to rescue D.M. while Rambo uses a convenient nearby jetpack to save the commuters.

Rambo and company then track SAVAGE to Egypt, where they wander around town trying to find them by showing civilians posed studio photos of all the bad guys!

Did they get this out of the SAVAGE press kit?
Sure enough, one of the citizens is a secret traitor, and the battle is on. SAVAGE is more dangerous and encumbered than ever, with each team member wearing enormous, bulky backpacks created by the Death Merchant, which give them access to one extra weapon apiece.

In the midst of battle, Rambo unleashes a special move he calls "the old melon trick": opening the back gate of a melon cart, releasing a tidal wave of melons onto the ground that causes his enemies slip and fall.


Friday, March 11, 2016

Let's Talk About Rambo: Episode 25: The Halley Microbe

Rambo and company are hanging out with KAT's brother, David, at a secluded science base on a tiny island in the ocean. They're watching David as he operates the jumbo refrigerator-sized guidance computer that's bringing a probe back to Earth after it's gathered some space dust left in the wake of Halley's Comet (which actually did pass the Earth in February 1986, well within in this show's timeframe).

Little do they know that they're about to be infiltrated by Black Dragon, who's set on cementing his position as SAVAGE's most successful operative. It's a low threshold to surpass. BD's choice of approach? Underwater! Having tied cinder blocks to his feet, he's walking on the ocean floor. 
He's wearing a giant clay pot on his back that's presumably full of air. Upon reaching the island, Black Dragon scales the wall with handheld magnets and makes his entrance through a ceiling vent. In a reversal of traditional ninja tactics, he uses a smoke bomb to herald his arrival, throwing it into the control room and appearing when the smoke dissipates.

Black Dragon then does that classic anime move where you swing your sword once and cause a giant flash of light, then, a few seconds later, the thing you chopped falls apart, cut cleanly in half. His target: the guidance computer. Half of it falls on David and we get a deep close-up of Rambo's bulging muscles as he lifts it, which gives BD enough time to escape. This might be the most effective operation SAVAGE has ever attempted.

The computer being destroyed means that SAVAGE now has guidance control of the Halley probe. To stop them, Rambo and team try to fix the computer by pushing its two severed halves back together. When this for some reason doesn't work, Rambo lays his trademark knife across the keyboard and the computer springs back to life! 
The squiggly technological energy lines prove it's working.
They've reestablished control, but it's too late: the probe crashes onto a small-town church somewhere in the middle of America, and the race is on to see who can retrieve it first. Meanwhile, in the town, the probe has sprung a leak, releasing the Halley space dust into the air. The microbe in the dust turns all the adults of the village into raging maniacs, which the Force of Freedom is tipped off to by all the Molotov cocktails the townsfolk start throwing at them when they arrive.

Rambo ends up getting chased through a cornfield on a motorcycle. Knowing he can't attack the innocent people, he lures them into a barn, drives his motorcycle up a ladder to the loft, jumps it out a window into a stack of hay bales, and then shuts the door, safely trapping all the people within. Because one of them touched him, he allows himself to be tied up for the trip back to base, knowing that an enraged Rambo would be a threat to the world. "Whatever you do," he tells David and Turbo, "don't untie me."

In the next scene, Rambo and company are walking around the base trying to figure out how the microbe works. 

Rambo then goes off into the woods to look for some kids who ran away from town, leaving an opening for SAVAGE to attack the base and steal the probe. When Rambo turns the tables and invades their base to steal it back, he learns that the reason they were after it was to steal its guidance system so they could more accurately fire their missiles, which seems like a stunning case of misplaced priorities if you ask me.

Rambo proves he's not above biological warfare when he unleashes the microbe upon the SAVAGE forces and steals the probe back during the ensuing chaos. Upon returning to the States, David reveals that the microbe can't affect anyone whose adrenaline is pumping, then demands that those kids from earlier try to hit his inside curveball.


Friday, February 26, 2016

How Popular is Bo Jackson in Japan?

As the most overpowered video game character of all time, you might think that Bo Jackson, the purest distillation of the running back, would have a huge following in Japan, the homeland of video games. Sadly, a recent interview with Tecmo Super Bowl's director, Shinichiro Tomie, revealed that this is not the case.
“Unfortunately, he is not well known in Japan. But he is always someone of high popularity to me!” Tomie said. “When I first saw him play on television, it was quite a big impact. This raised the question, ‘How do I represent that big impact through a game?’ Specifically, how could I show his uniqueness in the game? In the end, we struggled with how to calibrate his max speed. We wanted to show how “unstoppable” he was in the game.
Read more about Bo, the inception of Tecmo Bowl and Tecmo Super Bowl, how hard it is to find people in Japan, and more in the full feature—"The Fathers of Tecmo Super Bowl"—over at!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Let's Talk About Rambo: Episode 24: Mephisto's Magic

No days off this time—we start in media res with Rambo and company flying a biplane through the skies above Philadephia. It seems Col. Trautman got a hot tip that SAVAGE was trying to steal the Liberty Bell, and indeed! The Force of Freedom spots the bell being towed away through the sky by a SAVAGE plane. Rambo does the only logical thing: he jumps onto the bell, shoots the rope, then, while plummeting toward the ground, he attaches an American flag parachute to the bell with suction cups and deploys it, gliding slowly to freedom. Excuse me: to liberty.

The life this man leads!
But this is only the tip of the iceberg! Trautman gets a multi-page, single-spaced letter from General Warhawk claiming that SAVAGE is going to destroy ALL of America's symbols of freedom unless they receive a payoff of $10 million, which feels like a super reasonable ransom amount.

Before the team can do anything to stop this plot, they run into thorny mess of jurisdictional red tape when a U.S. general demands that the Force of Freedom be replaced by military personnel. What is Rambo, I ask you, if not military personnel. Even worse, that cocky-ass bastard refuses to cancel today's magic show at the Washington Monument!

The magician in question is none other than Mephisto,
whose voice is literally identical to Freddie's from Scooby Doo, and
whose Egyptian-themed show is the perfect cover for smuggling the turbaned Nomad into the area. Eh, close enough. For his first trick, Mephisto somehow conjures Rambo and a leopard into a cage together. (Hilariously, the general sees this as Rambo interfering with his orders to stay away.) Shockingly, despite the fact that wrestling jungle cats is one of Rambo's favorite hobbies, he chooses to escape rather than fight the beast. But he's not in time to stop Mephisto from straight-up vanishing the Washington Monument, which I definitely did not think he had in him.

Rambo gives pursuit in the attack jeep, even driving straight through that famous reflecting pond by the monument. When that's not enough, he commandeers a police scooter under the pretense of a "Pentagon Priority!" He promptly drives it straight into the subway (that famous DC subway!) almost gets run down by a train, and then pops out at the exact part of town where Mephisto and Nomad have driven their jeep. Rambo's internal compass and urban tracking abilities are unimpeachable.

Mephisto only has one option left. He drives to the pier, and he and Nomad hop in a barrel, which has a false bottom and is sitting over a trap door on the dock, underneath which they get into a speedboat and drive away. Couldn't have just left the speedboat by the side of the dock, mmmmmmnope.

But it was worth it to fool this corncob pipe bystander!
It all leads up to a one-man assault on a freighter, which I swear to god Rambo ends up doing at least once or twice a week. But in another twist of fate, Mephisto swaps the Washington Monument in the ship's hold(!) for a bunch of dirt, leading that U.S. general to call for the Force of Freedom's disbandment.

Trautman buys the team one more day by waiting until his secretary has gone home for the day to try to file the paperwork, and then clumsily putting the order into his paper shredder instead of his fax machine because he's extremely unused to having to handle routine office tasks by himself. Perfect deniability.

It all comes to a head at Mephisto's palatial 20-acre estate in Virginia, which is described at times as a fun house, a haunted house, and a magical mansion. Its booby traps include:

  • Machine gun-wielding skeletons that pop out of coffins
  • A trap door that turns into a massive wooden slide populated by ventriloquist dummies created in the visages of famous SAVAGE members that throw huge knives at whoever's on the slide
Sleep when you're dead
Sadly, Rambo busts into Mephisto's computerized control room and captures him before we get to see any more of his frankly outstanding home, then reveals that he didn't even steal the Washington Monument after all—he just somehow built another goddamn trap door underneath it, hiding it from view.