Friday, January 25

Last Blood

You know what happens next...

As what I now see a perfect way to end a long, hard and tiring week, I just saw Rambo tonight at Rockwell. RAM-freakin'-BO. I have to say that I wasn't too confident in this film some time ago. The trailers had a B-movie feel and cheapness that I disliked, and the snippets of over-the-top gore made me feel that the movie had gone too far in its obvious desire to get back the glory of the 80's Superhero. However, the last couple of weeks and quite a few positive (even glowing) reviews caused me to unerringly make my way to the movie theater, prepared for a night of unrelenting bloodletting.

Rambo is the fourth film in the series starring Sylvester Stallone as everyone's favorite Vietnam Vet, master archer, commando and Synonym for Gratuitous Violence. It's been twenty years since John Rambo (Stallone) exterminated Russian Spetsnaz Troops in Afghanistan, and since then he's been living a simple life in Thailand, wrangling snakes for a local pub and catching fish with his bow-and-arrows. It doesn't take long for a group of American church volunteers to arrive and ask for Rambo's help in getting into Burma. Through a quick montage of real-life atrocities in current Burma/Myanmar (which is in the grip of a 60-year, genocidal civil war), we know that Burma is NOT a good place to be, and Rambo repeatedly tries to get the white folk to give up on their humanitarian mission. However, strong-willed Sarah (Julie Benz) eventually convinces Rambo to take them on his boat, by rekindling a bit of the selfless soldier buried in the somewhat puffy old Rambo.

Of course, it doesn't take long for the shit to hit the fan when the local Burmese troops arrive and find the village where the missionaries are dispensing aid, and things get REALLY nasty. When the church that sent the volunteers send in a squad of mercs to get their people out, Rambo is ready and raring to get back into the killing mood. And it's not just because he cares about the missionaries (though he does). It's an excuse for him to unleash the animal he's kept cooped up inside of him all these years. That scary, freakin' force of nature that Colonel Trautman molded and turned into the perfect battlefield tool. It's one last try to be RAMBO once more.

And RAMBO is what this movie is- unadulterated, unrestrained and brutally frank, to be quite honest. This film's violence does NOT hold back; it pushes the envelope of the R-rating, not only for the kinetic bloodletting and realistic portrayals of carnage, but for the way that men, women and children are seen murdered coldly by merciless monsters in fatigues and combat gear. The imagery melds the gory scenery of Private Ryan and The Killing Fields in no small detail, but thankfully doesn't wallow too much so as to turn stomachs. But make no mistake- bodies get mangled, exploded, ripped apart. Blood spurts and flows more so than in any of the previous three films put together. This is probably how REAL munitions do real damage to human bodies, and it isn't pretty. But it is DAMN fascinating to watch.

To be honest, it would have been horrifying if the villains- a battalion of truly despicable, murderous, sadistic, rapine Burmese soldiers- weren't as gloriously deserving of their end as they are in this film. These baddies get to have their way for quite a lot of the film, so when Rambo and the good guys FINALLY get to give it back, they GIVE and then some, and it's glorious. Fist-pumpingly glorious. Bad guys get ground into hamburger and it's freaking awesome. This is no watered-down Die Hard 4.0-excuse for Rambo. This is Rambo, an apology and vindication for the cartoony and over-the-top Rambo III. It isn't pretty at all, but darn, this is what it is. And for what it is, it bloody succeeds.

In the end, Rambo isn't rocket science. It's not the most politically-correct or tasteful of films. But it DOES do what I thought films today couldn't... end a beloved franchise with a resounding, bloody BOOM and not a whimper. Welcome home, John. Glad to have you back.

Thursday, January 24

Me and Manikako

Here's me at the waiting area of The Salt Mines with a peculiar visitor. It's an oversized Manikako, a doll made from old clothing. It's the mascot of the Non-Government Organization/Movement of the same name- Manikako, which has recently been started. The goal of Manikako is all about getting people to donate their old clothes and cloth scraps so they can be used in a program of workshops to teach poor kids how to make their own Manikako dolls. And hopefully, they can make a living out of this cute new handicraft. Or at least make their own big, saggy companion like this big, droopy fellow sitting to me. You can find Manikako donation boxes in selected malls and locations like The Podium, RCBC Plaza in Makati and in UP Diliman.

Oh, and I'm the one on the LEFT.

Wednesday, January 23

Mag-Avatar Muna Tayo!

Nickelodeon Avatar Magazines. MINE!

Thanks to my cousin Jeremy (THANKS, JEREMY!!!), I finally got copies of the two released Nickelodeon Avatar the Last Airbender Specials. Each issue is chock-ful of Avatar goodies, including articles and fun sections, artwork and news about the episodes and the final season. But of course the best parts of the mags are the Avatar comics, drawn by brilliant artists who truly capture the look and feel of the show- that fill in the gaps between the events shown in the episodes. So finally, I know now how the Water Tribes captured the Fire Nation ship they had in "The Awakening", how Zuko and Mai hooked up prior to "The Beach" and learned what got the Earth King to go off to wander the world as a humble man. Cool stuff!

Thanks again, Jeremy! The Avatar fan in me is PLEAS-ED. Hoho!
Haunted Europe

I've watched the first two episodes of the Ghost Hunters spin-off show, Ghost Hunters International, thanks to the wonders of the web. Basically, it's the same format as the parent show- a team of paranormal investigators enter a suspected haunted location, set up their cameras, recorders and other equipment, and then go a-prodding and a-prowling for the things that go bump in the night.

So far, the show is all right... though I have to say that much of what I liked, or felt familiar with, in the original show were the strong personalities and character of the two lead investigators, Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson. Here, we have a new team leader, Robb Demarest, followed by a bunch of familiar faces from the first show (Donna La Croix, Andy Andrews and Brian "Run, Dude!" Harnois, as well as recurring European comrade Barry Fitzgerald. For the most part, the show has the same vibe, albeit it's lighter on the personal elements and character interaction that the first show had- these will probably build up or develop as the show goes on.

As for the investigations themselves, the first couple of episodes took up the aptly-named Chillingham Castle in England, Mary King's Close in Scotland, the Lucedio Abbey in Italy and the Nanteos Mansion in Wales. They're all suitably creepy and steeped in history. So far, no big catches on video, but several chilling EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) have been picked up. The investigators are a varied lot- Brian is his usual, entertaining self; Donna seems to be the perpetual beacon for entities to approach, while Andy seems to be a lot more competent and active this time around. Barry is, with his heavy accent, quite interesting to watch, particularly when he speaks Latin to try and draw out some responses from the Euro-spooks.

While I like GHI, I'm hoping that TAPS returns soon with more episodes based in Haunted America as well. But it's all well and good. I never get tired of creepy fun.
Dark Night

I just found out to my shock and dismay that actor Heath Ledger is dead. It was so sudden that I found myself thinking, 'it's probably just a marketing gimmick for the Batman movie...' But sure enough, the news is all over the web. The Australian-born actor was found dead in his NYC apartment. Police haven't given out the cause of death, but do not suspect foul play- drugs were found at the scene but it's still unsure what all the circumstances are.

It's really too bad- Ledger was a fine young actor and I have to say I was impressed with his performances in the few films I saw him in. Well, at least audiences will get one last taste of his prowess as The Joker in The Dark Knight, his last film. The movie is currently in post-production.

Monday, January 21


Early this morning, I learned from my mom that a nearby townhouse was broken into last night. The owners were away on some trip, and had just rushed back after learning of the jarring news. As far as I can tell, the thieves made off with stuff like a laptop, stereo system, cash and jewelry. There's talk that it was an inside job, given how the thieves knew what to take, when to take it and so on. Scary.
I shudder to imagine some blasted thief entering the rooms where I and my parents live. But what can we do but stay vigilant, keep our housemates informed and to always stay mindful that outside our door, everything is fair game.

Man, I wish I had a Vanishing Ray for real. Hopefully prayer and prudence will be enough to keep us safe.