Category Archives: Reviews

Reviews of movies, toys, comics, collectibles, and anything else I can get my grubby hands on!

“Summer Wars” DVD & Movie Review

Released in Japan in 2009 and brought to America courtesy of Funimation, “Summer Wars” tells the story of high school student Kenji Koiso, who excels at math, and is working for Oz during the Summer. Imagine if the social and gaming aspects of Facebook combined with banks, stores, and every other facet of life from hospitals to electricity, and there you have Oz. Natsuki, the girl of his dreams, invites Kenji to join her for a week at her family’s home to celebrate her grandmother’s 90th birthday, but little does he know he must pretend to be her boyfriend while he is there. On his first night over, Kenji’s Oz account is hacked by someone called “Love Machine,” and things quickly go awry for not just Kenji, but the entire planet as every human being is connected to Oz. The family soon comes together and overcomes various adversities to take on Love Machine and save the planet, even if they are just one family against a powerful hacker… and that is as much as I can say without spoiling things.

The first time I saw “Summer Wars” was on the Funimation Channel, and while I missed the beginning and just started towards the middle of the second act, I was completely enamored and hooked. The animation is gorgeous and smooth, with vibrant colors that take you from the quiet nature of the Japanese countryside, to the hustle and bustle of the cyber world of Oz. Watching it on TV, I saw the dubbed version, which I still loved due to some great voice-over acting from an experienced cast.

The film was directed by Mamoru Hosoda, who also directed The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, The Digimon movie, and several others, as well as animating other prolific series through his career. Hosoda helmed the ship at Madhouse for this film, and has produced a great work of art. If the name “Madhouse” sounds familiar to you, it may be because they are also the creative team behind many other great titles, including Redline, Paranoia Agent, Rideback, Sakura Wars, Wicked City, and many of the Marvel Comics anime titles just to name a few of the dozens of animes they have made.

Breaking up the real-life scenes is that world of Oz, which is where the creativity of Madhouse truly shines. Thousands of unique creatures habituate in this online universe, each one with their own animated character. Most of the action happens in this place as well, including the fight scenes with Love Machine and the family, which are spectacular, exciting, and dramatic. There is a real sense of tension and urgency in these scenes, translated with what is happening back in the real world, on a level that few animes can capture without going over the top.

Funimation put out a two-disc DVD (or Blu-Ray) set of Summer Wars, and both are filled with goodies. The first disc features the full-length film with your choice of dubbing or subtitled film, as well as the option to hear a commentary with the english voice-acting team. Disc two features all of the special features, which include trailers and TV spots, and interviews with the original Japanese voice-over actors, as well an enlightening interview with Hosoda himself. While the trailers are no big deals, the interviews are interesting and shed some info on how the actors approached their characters, and discuss the depth of the film, while the director talks about filmmaking and how Summer Wars went from a concept into a masterpiece.

The DVD set also comes with four art cards inside, that feature the avatars of some of the characters in the film. The cards are double-sided, so you are technically getting eight cards, depending on how you want to look at it.

Summer Wars won several awards including the 2010 Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year, the 2010 Japan Media Arts Festival’s Animation Division Grand Prize, and the Anaheim International Film Festival’s Audience Award for Best Animated Feature. Is it any wonder they won so many with this piece of work? Summer Wars is a great film on multiple levels, and while the satire of social networks is at the forefront, at the end of the day is about family ties, and just how strong one family can be. Amazing animation, great voice acting, and an original script combine for one masterpiece of a film that I could not give a higher recommendation to.

You can buy Summer Wars on DVD from Amazon.com for around $15, and it is absolutely a must have for anime fans.

You can also buy Summer Wars on Blu-Ray for around $30 new.

If you liked this anime review, you may also like these: FLCL: Anime Classics Special Edition review, “First Squad: The Moment of Truth” DVD & Movie Review, and “Redline” DVD & movie review

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“FLCL” DVD Review

In 2001, three of the mega-power creators in Anime joined forces to create one of the most ground-breaking series since… well, since their other series. Combining influences from Japanese and American pop-culture and zeitgeist, “FLCL” (also called “Fooly-Cooly”) was something that viewers had never seen before, and blew their minds clear out of the water.

Funimation released a brand new version of this landmark series as part of their “Anime Classics” line, but is it worth the money, or should you skip this DVD like the plague? Let’s find out!

The official series synopsis from Funimation describes the show like this:

Naota is a detached sixth-grader afflicted by the pangs of puberty. He’s fooling around with his brother’s ex-girlfriend when a crazed girl on a motor scooter runs him over, brains him with a bass guitar, and moves into his house. This pink-haired girl, Haruko – who claims she’s an alien – hurls Naota into the middle of a mega-corporation’s secret agenda. Oh, and now giant battling robots shoot from his skull. Mix in mind-bending animation and tunes that echo through your cerebellum to top off the trip that will have you falling hard for FLCL.

I could not have done it better, but the meat of the show lies deeper than the obvious storyline. Much like “Neon Genesis Evangelion”, the plot itself is merely a catalyst to the development of the characters in the show. The meta-world they live in is what makes the show stand out amongst other animes that would take a much more direct take on the emotional output of the protagonists. Even the episodes that do not focus on the main characters of the show move the story along, and develop the mindsets of this young cast.

This one-disc DVD contains all six episodes of the show: 1. Fooly Cooly, 2. Fire Starter, 3. Marquis de Carabas, 4. Full Swing, 5. Brittle Ballet, and the series finale, episode 6. FLCLimax. Each episode is dubbed and subtitled, and FLCL is one of those series where I prefer the dub since the acting is just so good. On top of the series, this new version of the DVD includes about 10 minutes of outtakes with those voice-over actors, several music videos with the familiar songs you heard in the series, commentaries by the directors, and the famous closing credits of the show without text blocking your view of the awesomeness.

While there are some noticeable changes from the manga to the anime, this stylish show mixes mind-bending animation with a rocking soundtrack that will make you think like no other series. After reading the manga, I had a better grasp of what the show was about, which is the thin veil between reality and the world of dreams. This helps to explain a lot of the bizarre visuals and references you see through the show, but the anime took a unique spin on the manga and created deeper stories with their lead characters, adding much more depth and intrigue to them all.

It’s hard to discuss FLCL without giving away spoilers, and more so to simply describe what happens in the show since it’s an experience unto itself. The special features on the DVD are all very exciting. While I wish there were behind-the-scenes features documenting the animation and creation process, i Know that is wishful thinking since this was a series that was essentially created over a decade ago. However, the director commentaries are enlightening, and also as humorous and inane as the show itself. For example, the first episode’s commentary spends about five minutes discussing the rationale for why certain characters are left-handed, and why that is important to the show, as well as why southpaws are so much “cooler” than righties.

Fans of the music in the show will love this DVD, since it includes all your favorite tunes in full-length combined with snippets of the show. The songs are also subtitled so you can finally figure out what “The Pillows” were singing about with their thick Japanese accents, although after hearing some of the lyrics, I rather enjoyed not knowing what they were saying (“Revengeful lobster” and “grungy hamster”?).

Overall, the special features truly make this DVD stand out from the previous FLCL release and complete the experience, since that is what FLCL is – an experience. You can not just watch it once, it’s a series that you will love to view again and again, to either enjoy the animation, try to flesh out the story deeper, or just rock out to the music. FLCL has the total package, and was an important stage in the development of the studios involved in creating it. If you have never seen it, this is a must buy, and if you have, it’s time to watch it again in a new way.

You can buy FLCL: The Complete Series on Amazon for $21.99 new, and it is completely worth it (especially considering I used to pay double that for half of the series on VHS when it first came out).

You can also grab FLCL: The Complete Series on Blu-Ray at this link here

If you liked this anime review, you may also like these: “First Squad: The Moment of Truth” DVD & Movie Review, and “Redline” DVD & movie review

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Ghost Hunters International Season Two: Part 1 DVD Review

Ghost Hunters International Season Two: Part 1 is, as the title would imply, the first DVD set release of the past season of Ghost Hunters International. The SyFy original series once again sends an investigative team around the globe to collect information on paranormal hot spots. The DVD release is four discs containing 13 episodes, reflective of the long seasons that GHI enjoys on SyFy, so there are a lot of hours to watch. However, Ghost Hunters International Season Two: Part 1 is disappointingly minimalistic and can only be recommended for die-hard fans of the show.

The lack of pizazz in the DVD set is noticeable before you ever actually put on the show. The packaging is a single DVD case with a sleeve over it containing the exact same cover art as the box. In what would be a standard container for a single disc, all four DVDs are stacked on one spool. Most TV series’ DVD releases use some kind of larger, fold-out box to give each disc its own spot in the package.

This bare-minimum packaging decision has more than just aesthetic drawbacks. If you’re looking to use the box GHI came in to store it and intend to go through the DVDs enough to justify buying them, retrieving individual discs from the single spool can be annoying. It’s a minor inconvenience, obviously, but just reflects poor design.

The first three discs are exactly what they say on the tin: each of the first 13 episodes of season two, shown in order, exactly as they aired on SyFy minus advertising content. The fourth disc of the set is where the new material and, simultaneously, the biggest missed opportunity came in.

I am not a fan of Ghost Hunters International and having to look through this DVD set did not win me over to the series. Though, I actually thought that it would when I first previewed the bonus disc.

See more details after the jump. Continue reading Ghost Hunters International Season Two: Part 1 DVD Review

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Zombie Apocalypse Essentials: Gerber Gator Machete Pro

If this particular weapon seems familiar, it is because it is. The Gerber Gator Machete Pro is used by Glenn from the AMC series The Walking Dead. Before you get your underoos in a bunch, let me clear up a little misconception about this; it is NOT a prop. The same guys who made the Bear Grylls knives have rolled out an entire ‘Apocalypse Kit’, which includes the aforementioned machete which we’ve been lucky enough to test out ourselves. Let’s take a closer look, shall we.

Click. Click, click, click. Nothing. Your once impressive 9mm or shotgun is nothing more than a paperweight at this point. Sure, you can throw one like a brick and hope to slow down the reanimated corpse of the local high school wrestling coach, but you won’t hinder his forward progress much. And, yeah, you can swing the shottie like a Louisville Slugger hoping to knock a few skulls out of the park, but that’s not exactly ideal either. Equip yourself with the sharpest ten and a half inches of cold steel this side of Atlanta and you won’t ever have to worry about bullets again, that is of course, as long as they’re not being fired in your direction but I digress.

If you ever encounter walkers on your journey or need to move covertly through the forest to a safe zone, you’ll need one of these suckers to avoid giving up your location or making a temporary shelter. Gerber’s multipurpose machete can take out a branch up to 1 1/2″ in diameter with a single swing and make quick work of all bones between the base of the skull and the bottom of the neck.

Gerber Gear constructed this with a full tang gives you maximum durability, so you won’t need to worry about breaking the blade off in some random brain muncher. One of the most impressive features of this weapon is the Gator grip. It feels like it belongs in your hand. Even when sweaty, my grip remained constant and comfortable allowing me to continue swinging away. Should you happen to lose grip on the 6″ handle, the lanyard will keep you from dropping your prized possession.

As with all blades, the Gerber Gator Machete Pro will eventually start to become dull after prolonged use. Not to worry, it comes with a sharpening stone inside the military grade nylon sheath. Military grade means it’s built to withstand the nastiest of nasty environments without failure from wear, mold, or mildew. Not enough? It quickly attaches to your belt when you need to free your hands. Think of it as a holster for your new sidearm.

Not only do they run out, but every bullet fired gives you away. The living dead know where you’re at and so do the bandits running around stripping people of their food and weapons. Using a machete gives you the advantage of stealth. A few swoops with this and you’re good to go. Just be sure to protect your hands since you will be fighting in close quarters. You can buy your Walking Dead machete HERE.

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Comic Review: “Dragon Age: The Silent Grove” #1

 

Dark Horse Comics brings you another issue one comic with Dragon Age: The Silent Grove; one of several 99 cent digital comic book issues available through digital.darkhorse.com, or through the Dark Horse app available on Android (beta) and iOS. This new series will be bi-weekly, alternating alongside the new Prototype digital series going for the same price.  Like the Prototype digital comic series, Dragon Age also has its lead writer working on the story in David Gaider, who also wrote the novels based in the same universe titled The Stolen Throne, The Calling, and Asunder.

Unlike the Prototype 2 comic series, the place in the Dragon Age series’ storyline in which this comic takes place isn’t as concrete. There is, however, a brief prologue citing a few previous events such as a civil war and battles against the darkspawn, but that’s as far as it goes.  The comic does is introduce you to the protagonist, King Alistair Theirin, and his two wise cracking companions, Isabella the thieving pirate and Varric, the dwarven spymaster.

As the story progresses, you’re given bits and pieces of each of the three characters’ strengths and weaknesses as you find out where they are, where they’re going, why they’re with one another, and what the good king is looking for. There’s quite a bit of interaction between the three characters, and that’s where their personalities shine through. While the characters move from location to location and interact with one another, you also get a feel for the world around them and the dangers they face, too.

This, so far is the difference between Dragon Age and its sister comic, Prototype 2. While Prototype 2 narrates everything from the beginning, telling the reader outright of the events of the game to where the comic starts, Dragon Age shows you. Even though neither comic spoils much of anything from the games previous to their stories (just in case you feel the need to go play them after reading the comics), Dragon Age’s approach gives you a different way to enjoy the story, even though both are established in a way not having prior knowledge of the material doesn’t hurt the experience.

The artwork greatly helps enhance the experience. Chad Hardin’s attention to detail on everything from armor and jewelry to hair stubble and rock textures fit well into the medieval feel Dragon Age is known for. The choice to use solid pencil work instead of inking was a good choice to make, giving it a more rustic look. That’s not to say Hardin should be given full credit for the great artwork Dragon Age has. Michael Atiyeh’s coloring skills, with mood setting contrast and great color control really bring the pages together. It’s somewhat painterly, but it’s not quite since the line art is still prominent, which isn’t a far cry from the cover art created by Anthony Palumbo. The cover serves its purpose. It’s pretty and shares everything good the art on the inside of the comic is; just more painterly.

So far, there is a lot of content based in the world of Dragon Age; three novels, a web series, multiple online games, other digital comics, an anime cartoon and even a table-top role playing game. The universe is pretty big to say the least. The story has developed a huge fan base that David Gaider has successfully ported to multiple mediums, and it seems this comic is just as well done. If you’re a fan of his work or the game, it’s no question you should get a hold of this comic, and if you’re new to the series and into dark fantasy set in medieval times, then this is still worth the read. Dragon Age: Silent Grove #1 is available now in Dark Horse Comics’ online store.

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Comic Review: “Prototype 2 – The Anchor, Part 1”

Over the past few months, Dark Horse Comics has been on a roll with releasing quite a few new series and first issues. Keeping on with that is the digital mini-series, Prototype 2: The Anchor; one of several 6 issue, 12-page, 99 cent issues available through digital.darkhorse.com, or through the Dark Horse app available on Android (beta) and iOS. This is a part of a series acting as a bridge between the first Prototype game released in 2009 and its sequel set to be released some time in 2012. Comics based on video games like this aren’t all that new or innovative, much less often canon. However, unlike most others, Prototype 2’s writer, Dan Jolley, is the writer for the two video games this comic gets its material from.

The first game is set in New York City where a plague known as Blacklight is spreading through the Manhattan borough. Whoever comes in contact with this disease becomes infected and mutates into different kinds of ravenous monsters, attacking all that aren’t infected. Amongst the chaos is the protagonist of the game and of this comic, Alex Mercer; a man with no apparent past who, through his infection, becomes a powerful living weapon.

If you never played the game or never completed it but have a sparked interest from the premise, there isn’t anything to worry about. There isn’t any information you need from the game to follow what’s going on. This story picks up one year after the first game’s ending with Alex Mercer globetrotting and trail blazing to find a place where he’d realize his lost humanity. Through his trials and setbacks, Mercer seems to have become somewhat jaded but not quite cynical.  Despite his increasing hate for humanity as a whole and his increasing urge to detach himself from the rest of the world, he still carries on as a hero would during extreme circumstances.

This comic is straight to the point, cut and dry, and very easy to digest. Though it doesn’t go much into explanations into how Mercer’s powers work, they explain just what they need to when needed through text at times and through visuals at others.  Speaking of visuals, Paco Diaz does a pretty good job illustrating this story.  His art in this comic is clean, consistent between the relation of figures and space for the most part, and moderately dynamic when necessary. Diaz’s line art is complimented by Michael Atiyeh’s color job; exercising proper color control, which adds to the mood of each setting throughout the comic without being overbearing.

If you’re a fan of the franchise and intend to play the second game slated to come out later this year, then it’s worth a read. If you’re not a fan and have a dollar to spare, then it’s still worth a read. Sincerely, this comic isn’t mind blowing, but it is pretty good, and in a world where you’re going to spend four times as much for comics with roughly eight more pages of content, it’s a good deal. If you are interested, you can find Protype 2 #1: The Anchor, Part one in Dark Horse Comics’ digital comic site right now for your viewing pleasure.

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Zombie Apocalypse Essentials: Blackhawk S.O.L.A.G. HD with Kevlar

 

Despite what your ego tells you, you’re going to need all the protection you can get when the zombies attack. I hear you ask, “Gloves? Really?” Yep, you betcha’! Scientists predict that 73% of survivors will be infected from a bite wound. The most vulnerable, and at the same time least protected, part of our body is our hands. Think about it, we reach out with our hands to grab stuff, leave them dangling at our sides as we walk, and will be forced to use them for defense once the ammunition runs out. Keep reading to find out why every prepper should have a pair of these hardcore gloves if they want to survive the Zombie Apocalypse.

Blackhawk S.O.L.A.G. (Spec Ops Light Assault Gloves) HD with Kevlar will protect you from yourself and those who think Cheetos stained digits are the cat’s meow. Designed with SWAT missions in mind, these gloved are heavy-duty, ergonomic (comfortable), and offer leather-covered molded hardshell knuckle/finger protection. This is key, you see, because when you’re actively engaged in close quarter combat with the undead you are susceptible to being bitten. You may have the goal of piling the dead-dead bodies to properly dispose of them in a blazing inferno only to realize the body you grabbed wasn’t really dead-dead. Chomp. Now you’re infected.

Let’s imagine that scenario a little differently this time. You and your pal have the same goal, but this time you’re wearing a pair of gloves (but not these ones) and the body is motionless. You douse the tower of zombies without realizing you splashed a little on your hands. You go to light the match and suddenly…. you get where this is going. Good luck surviving when you have melted little stumps trying to squeeze off rounds as Death watches with bated breath.

If you had been wearing Blackhawks’s gloves you would’ve been fine. How? They had the foresight to make these fine gloves flash and flame resistant. Hey, when you’re on the battlefield things can get crazy. But all of this sounds good on paper, but how does it stack up when put to the test? Luckily for us, our friends at Blackhawk send us a pair to try. Here’s what I found to be true.

  • Getting bit still hurts, but my flesh was never opened up as a result.
  • The gloves add a certain “cushion” when landing a punch. It hurts about the same when on the receiving end, though.
  • The back-of-hand and wrist adjustments provided a sense of security and stability to my wrist. Even when running, you won’t feel like the gloves will fly off.
  • The nylon loop on the wrists made it incredibly easy to put on and attaching it to carabiners comes in handy when you need to keep the gloves off without losing them.

Z day is upon us. I suggest you take this opportunity to protect the two hands God gave you. You won’t regret not mixing bodily fluids with the living dead if your digits are chomped. The friends you meet along your journey will appreciate you being able to give them an extra hand, because they don’t have any after that bon fire accident. You can get yourself a pair here.

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Comic Review- “Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi: Force Storm”

Dark Horse Comics is releasing the prequel of all prequels within the Star Wars universe.  John Ostrander and Jan Duursema of Star Wars: Legacy fame return together again to tell the tale of  the Jedi’s beginnings.  In this origin story, we’re introduced to the ancient warrior monks known as the Je’Daii (go figure, huh?). We follow through their trials and sacrifices as they come to reach an understanding of a new mysterious energy. This strange force seemingly called upon them to gather on the planet Tython, in the center of the galaxy to learn how to harness its power as well as the balance between light and dark.

Or so you’re lead to believe when you read the teaser description on Dark Horse’s website. Roughly two thousand years of origin history (and potentially dozens of issues worth of story making material) are explained, in a nutshell, in about eleven pages. From there, the reader is introduced to a few characters, both hero and villain, residing in places familiar to Star Wars fans.

That’s a bit of a letdown. The first six of those eleven pages are dedicated just to the gathering of the very first Je’Daii, which consists more of visuals than reading. Then in another five pages, the reader is handed another two thousand years of civilization creating, heartache, war and loss with Je’Daii holding it all together while becoming more sophisticated in their use of the Force. You’re shown images of families, tyrants and others tied together by these fighting monks, but it’s just passed over as though, in the grand scheme of things, all that is irrelevant.

Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. It’s the first issue, so it’s difficult to gauge from this point. It’s not just a first issue, but it’s a first issue of an origin story that starts before a ton of other stories in just about every sort of media you can think of. Honestly, with all the bases they cover in just these twenty four pages, if I were to go more into detail, I’d be spoiling a lot for you.

The artwork for this series isn’t terrible, but it’s not likely to be a vocal selling point for this comic. Though it’s easy to follow the story, the page design here is uninspiring. At times, Jan Duursema makes attempts to create dynamic panels, but falls short half heartedly. This is most evident when presented with action sequences. There’s a scuffle at the end of the comic where, no matter how any times I look back to it, I can’t tell what’s going on. It really feels like the characters lost track of the floor and are just floating and flipping around, while trying to understand the concept of space they’re presented with.

The inking isn’t the best either. Dan Parsons’s ink work is used to create many a necessary texture with heavy lights and darks, but there isn’t much of anything as far as proper line weight to express stress, mood or lighting. That task was left upon the colorist, Wes Dzioba. Despite color seeming somewhat redundant with the heavy inking job done on most of these pages, it ties everything together, more so with the backgrounds. The figures, however, feel a bit bland. Still, the artwork isn’t bad. It’s just not award winning, but I should mention that the cover art by Gonzalo Flores is very attractive, as it should be. True, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but this cover would spark the interest of just about any Star Wars fan to pick this book up.

If you are a Star Wars fan, you should definitely pick this one up. The potential is there for a good series. Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi: Force Storm is currently available for pre-order on Dark Horse’s website or you could just wait until it hits the stands on February 15th.

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Zombie Apocalypse Essentials: Books That Will Save Your Life

Sirens have been blaring for hours. The stench of burning corpses and death penetrate your nostrils, violating you like “Rampage” Jackson doing an interview. Only the sound of low groans fill the air, making the drop of an empty cartridge pierce the nearly silent night. Life as you once knew it is nothing more than a distant memory. The promotion you wanted, seeing Episode One in 3D, and hoping your landlord will let you slide until payday are things you no longer care about anymore. Nearly everyone you have ever know has either been devoured by a mob of zombies or they themselves have been infected and are now on the hunt for flesh. Left to your own devices, you could only hope to live long enough to see another Friday. Thankfully, there are a few books that will not only prepare you for what is to come, but increase your chance of survival as you either wait for rescue or trek to the nearest safe point.

As we’ve mentioned previously, if you’re going to survive Z-Day you’ll need special gear. But what good is the gear if you don’t have a plan? Our friends over at ThinkGeek sent us a little zombie book bundle in hopes that we’ll survive long enough to give them that five bucks we still owe them. The guys here at NerdNewsToday wish you nothing but the best when the hammer drops and we highly encourage you to read these two books: ‘The Zombie Survival Guide‘ by Max Brooks and ‘The Zombie Combat Manual‘ by Roger Ma, and the take the ‘Zombie Survival Aptitude Test‘ by Casey B. Bassett. Next is a breakdown of what’s between the covers of each.

The Zombie Survival Guide – The author of ‘World War Z’, Max Brooks, expounds on key elements and strategy to surviving in the end times. This detailed book is just shy of 250 pages excluding an “outbreak journal” in the back. Broken up into seven major categories, Brooks’ lessons are many and vast. Page after page you’ll learn to distinguish truth and myth, which weapon is best for a specific scenario (close range/long range), as well as a profile of the many common locations (supermarkets, banks, hospitals,etc…) survivors usually try to hole up in and set up camp. I can personally attest that I would undoubtedly die within the first 24 hours because of my ignorance. Knowing the pros and cons of many types of shelter and weapons has greatly impacted my own personal plan of attack.

One of the best features in this book are the illustrations. They may be in black & white, but the visual aids come in handy when describing the ideal living quarters or how remain undetected while on the run. The last third or so of the text is detailed record of attacks dating all the way back to 60,000 B.C in Katanda, Central Africa. These accounts can give you a glimpse of what it’s like to be literally preyed upon by the living dead. Knowing what others have tried and failed to accomplish affords the reader the opportunity to learn from their mistakes as they attempt to live to see another day.

With over one million copies in print, it’s no wonder this New York Times bestseller has captivated the hearts and minds of geeks everywhere. The Zombie Survival Guide leaves no stone unturned, or no room unchecked if you prefer, and is the most trusted source for the tactics you’ll need to survive.

 

The Zombie Combat Manual – The back cover reads, “When the bombs stop falling… When your ammunition runs out… When the dead are still attacking… Will you be ready?” What I find eerily fascinating about this 296 page treasure is just how realistic it is. Eventually your supply of shotgun shells and homemade explosives will be depleted. This is the primary reason that any weapon with a finite number of uses is, at best, as decent secondary line of defense. As a survivor, whether alone or not, you will be faced with the nightmarish task of defending your unarmed self against at least one reanimated corpse. Even if you’ve read Anderson Silva’s ‘MMA Instruction Manual‘, you’ll still find yourself in a world of hurt (or worse!) if you don’t know the basics of hand-to-hand combat.

If for nothing else, buy this book to see the hilarious depictions of the numerous ways to defeat a zombie. While the pictures are laugh out loud funny, they’ll help you remember where to aim  for when swinging a machete, how to utilize proper footwork to avoid being directly in front of an assailant without tripping over your own feet, and how to property transport a child to safety should you ever have the need. My favorite section of the book is the weapon selection and combat strategy. Knowing the advantages and disadvantages of the weapons available to me in a time of crisis may just save my life in the future. What’s more is that I now have military-esque knowledge of how to win the war survive.

 

Z-SAT: Zombie Survival Aptitude Test – Think you know enough to survive the Zombie Apocalypse? Are you willing to bet your life on it? You will never know if you are knowledgeable enough unless you take this test. This 90+ page test will take a few hours to take and then grade yourself (no cheating!). After completion, you will be given a grade, just like in school. The only difference is that if you bomb this test you don’t get detention or grounded – you’ll die a premature death. All of the questions are multiple choice where you fill in the little circle next to the correct answer. Most questions offer four choices while there are a few True and False scatter throughout. Some questions are straight forward while others require to examine a picture to find the correct answer.

The confidence instilled in the student after taking and hopefully passing this test is enough to push the biggest nerd to a whole ‘nother level. Without this book you’re only guessing at how much you know and how good you’ll be at surviving after the world crumbles around you. Please don’t leave your fate in the hands of a whimsical guess.

 

These books weigh roughly two pounds and take up very little space, making them perfect to carry along on camping trips, long flights, and running from shelter to shelter after Z-Day. I require no thanks for sharing this information with you. Buy them. Read them. Survive. That, my fellow nerds, is thanks enough.

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“Sinners and Saints” Movie Review

Anchor Bay’s latest DVD release, “Sinners and Saints,” starring Johnny Strong, Kevin Phillips, Method Man, Tom Berenger, Costas Mandylor, and Bas Rutten, has just come out earlier this month. Direct to DVD is typically translated to mean a “meh movie,” so can this film overcome that distinction, or will you be seeing this on the clearance rack at Wal-Mart? Let’s take a look and break this thing down!

Here is your quick spoiler-free synopsis of the film:

“In the gritty New Orleans underbelly, beleaguered Detective Sean Riley is trying to cope with the death of his young son and his failed marriage. Facing a probable suspension from the department, Riley is teamed with a young homicide Detective, Will Ganz, to help solve a series of brutal murders that have plunged the city into a major gang war. The two quickly realize there is something much bigger and far more sinister going on than either could have ever imagined.”

Johnny Strong’s character, Sean Riley, is that douchebag at the bar that purposely cock-blocks you, purely because he can. He is pretty unlikeable in the beginning of the movie, trying to play that bad-ass cop with a heart of gold gimmick. Unfortunately, him and his team of cops at the start of the film just come off as braindead morons who must have skipped every class at the Police Academy, otherwise they would know how to properly enter a barricaded home with an armed gang inside. This is hardly a spoiler alert, but their terrible police work is what gets most of Strong’s unit slaughtered instantly (with him being the convenient sole survivor). Even after getting to know him halfway into the film, he is still not the most riveting character emotionally (I would call it flat acting), but the dude can fight and shoot and that is what matters in a movie like this.

Strong’s partner in the film ends up being a homocide detective played by Kevin Phillips, who will be appearing later this year in George Lucas’ “Red Tails” film. On his own, Phillips is bland, but when teamed up with Strong, the two bounce off each other nicely. That seems to be the best that can be said about our two leads, is that it takes another actor to push them to make their skills better. Depending on the scene, sometimes the characters will be stronger than in others, so just be patient and hang on tight for the pay-off.

The most interesting character to me was the one of the villains, played expertly by Louis Mandylor. His modest insanity and bad guy tactics are fun to watch, augmented by his Australian accent that makes anything he says sound more intense and evil. Costas Mandylor plays the main baddie, who reminds me of Michael Ironside from “Total Recall” in the best way possible.

The film gets interesting pretty quickly, as a strange group of mercenaries begin storming various locations and beginning a disturbing series of human-arson acts. Speaking of which, in terms of graphic violence, “Sinners and Saints” implements a mainly digital series of special effects for their gunshots and blood, but they make up for that with their revolting burn victims that are rather crucial for the plot. Nothing like a charred body to wash away the taste of a CG shootout.

While the acting in the film is not superb, it’s good enough for a direct-to-DVD release. It’s not a group of laughably bad actors trying to get a break, but some decent up-and-comers who are growing their chops, so kudos to the casting director for finding a solid cast that makes the film work.

The film features some other notable actors like Tom Berenger, Sean Patrick Flannery, and Method Man in supporting roles. Method Man is definitely the most interesting character of this group, but I can not say anything else without spoiling what happens. MMA fans will recognize Bas Rutten in this film as one of the main villain’s enforcers, named Dekker. Most of the time, Rutten just stands vigil as a silent bodyguard with the director tossing an occasional reaction shot his way in various scenes with his boss. His fight has the most MMA techniques in it, but being a bad guy means that he most certainly will die, and his death is quite entertaining.

Most of the action scenes are shootouts in urban settings, typically a strong hold situation where one group is trying to assault another’s hide-out or location. There is a very cool knife fight towards the final act of the film that is gritty and exciting, and made me wish there was more hand to hand combat rather than gun fights. Diana Lee Inosanto, daughter of Dan Inosanto, was a co-producer on this film, so it is no surprise that we would get such a wonderfully choreographed blade fight scene, I just wish Bas Rutten had a chance to get his hands dirtier and help have more hand to hand fights in the movie.

Overall, I was modestly impressed with the plot for the film and how involved I became in the cast and conspiracy of what was happening. While the acting will not win any awards, this is a group of promising young actors who are growing into their abilities, so consider this your chance to see them before they hit it big. “Sinners and Saints” harkens back to the good ole’ action films of the 80’s and 90’s, but with a modern flair and broad group of supporting actors to flesh this detailed plot out.

You can order “Sinners And Saints” from Amazon for around $12. The DVD also includes deleted scenes, and a very short behind-the-scenes feature. If you are a fan of action films, give it a shot (pun intended).

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