TR Review-a-Palooza: The Walking Dead, Ninja Attack, Avengers, Totally Tubular ’80s Toys, Sherlock

I know some of these are late, but once I decided to do a few reviews I figured I’d go ahead and do everything I wanted to talk about.

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? If you’re so sick of zombies you refuse to watch The Walking Dead, I honestly think you’re missing out. It’s just so different from other zombie flicks and books and games and whatnot — it’s slow, methodical, and immensely creepy, despite (or maybe because of) there only being two actual moments of peril in the 90 minute premiere. As usual, I think the AV Club summed it up best:

What The Walking Dead does is make the horror about surviving,
not failing to survive.  It places its characters in situations of such
hopelessness, of such uncertainty and paranoia, that survival is both
the only goal worth pursuing and the very thing that turns you into a
monster worse than any zombie.

Exactly. Now, I haven’t read the comic, so I honestly can’t compare the two. But I can tell you the show looked like an actual movie, probably thanks to director Frank Darabont, and for me, the draw is that this zombie movie never ends, the lights don’t go up, and the danger never goes away. I’m really looking forward to more.

? Remember a little while ago when I reviewed a book called Badasses, about history’s greatest, uh, badasses? My buddy Matt Alt has written a book called Ninja Attack, which is pretty much the all-ninja version. It’s a mini-encyclopedia of ridiculously dangerous ninja, men who controlled ninja, men who hunted down ninja, and other ninja-related awesome people. It lacks Badasses‘ bombast, but makes up for in actual facts and scope. It’s a basically a book of awesome ninja shenanigans throughout Japanese history, and if that doesn’t sound like good reading to you, I don’t know what. You can order it here for only $10.

? The third episode of the Avengers cartoon has already aired — well, more specifically the 7th, since the microsodes technically make up the first four episodes — and it’s my favorite cartoon ever. This is primarily because I was big Avengers nerd in my youth, and I prefer them over DC stuff. But Marvel has still made a tremendous cartoon for both kids and adults, for what might be the first time ever. The amount of comic cameos and nods is amazing, not least of which is that Captain America still hasn’t shown up yet. The show has seriously reached into the bottom of the Marvel vault for some seriously cool, obscure villains, and not just Red Skull and Loki and the like. None of the characters are stupid, there’s no learning curve for their powers or being heroes, there’s no morals being hamfistedly forced into episodes. Now, it’s definitely as kids cartoon, so there’s very little actual physical damage seen, and no blood. But even within those Disney XD standards, the show is absolutely action packed. Avengers is, without a doubt, exactly the cartoon I would have wished for as a kid. I wouldn’t change a thing, seriously.


?? The subject matter of Totally Tubular ’80s Toys shouldn’t be much of a surprise; basically, Mark Bellomo has just made a coffee-table book/ode to the decade and its pop culture. Mostly this is by covering the biggest toys of the decade — including action figures, dolls, videogames and board games — as well as a bit of movies and TV. It’s not definitive by any stretch of the imagination, but even I found some forgotten classics of my youth when reading it (Hot Wheels Crack-Ups, anybody?). The main draw is the beautiful toy pics, which remind me of the joy of looking through the Sears Wish Book as a kid. I think it’d be a great holiday gift for nerds.

? When I watched the first episode of Sherlock, the modern retelling/reimagining/re-whatever from Stephen Moffat (the guy who is currently in charge of Doctor Who), I had pretty high hopes, and I was still blown away. It’s like Moffat saw Guy Ritchie’s Robert Downey Jr. version — which I thought was fine, but no better than fine — said “Hell no,” and immediately churned out a script tailor-made to the nerdiest Holmes nerd (of which I include myself). The modern setting dilutes none of the original characters (unlike how the movie’s action scenes diluted its characters); the performances of Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and Martin Freeman are genuinely stellar — when Cumberbatch explains how he knew pretty much everything Watson upon meeting him and holding his cellphone, my mouth was literally agape in awe. And Freeman’s Watson is… look, I know Freeman just got hired as Bilbo in The Hobbit, but in all honesty, I’d much prefer more Sherlock than two Hobbit movies. Really. The show airs as Masterpiece Mystery on PBS if you want to check it out.