Past Entertainment

For the week of 5/14/10

RPP Board Game Review

‘Wits & Wagers Family’ expands on first versions success
By Ezra Mann (Editor in Spoof)

Review also posted at the Pauls Valley Daily Democrat

One does not have to look far to see examples of the entertainment industry retrofitting products popular to previous generations for the latest batch of offspring. Unfortunately, sometimes the elements that made those things classic are removed for the sake of raking in the most dinero.
From video games like rebooting Sonic the Hedgehog to Movies like Spiderman with the departure of Tobey Maguire, there is no end to the examples. Yet, the latest offering from North Star Games is able to take what made it’s immensely popular trivia game so fun and bring in a whole new group of players. “Wits & Wagers Family” found a way to make this hit even simpler, yet still challenging enough for all ages.
Like the game that came before, it is quick to learn and can be played well under half an hour for ages 8 and up, but this time it has been modified to work with 3-10 people instead of 4-20 players. In other words the party is still there, but instead of a poker like playing surface with chips to match it fits a night with parents and their kids.
Another key element carried over is that all answers to the questions are numerical guesses for which people decide what is the closest without going over. The betting system is still there too, but instead of poker chips you bet with up to two meeples, which are little wooden people, and you can only score up to four points a round (a fact my friends and I found out after we’d scored incorrectly halfway through). The questions are more evenly distributed across age range so while the wee ones may do well on modern pop culture; they’ll still have to try to outthink their folks later on.
After the final points were tallied I have to say that it was just about as much fun as the original mind boggler. The only thing I really got frustrated about was when topics about what kids like today came up on the question cards (darn whipper snappers confusing us semi older coots).
Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if many people temporarily forget that there is anything else going on as they get hooked with up to 300 possible inquiries. In fact, if I were actually paid to play stuff like this I might run out of time to write the reviews (wink wink). For proving that this idea is only as limited as the imaginations behind it I give “Wits & Wagers Family” four out of five cheers.
‘Iron Man 2’ a worthy sequel
By Ezra Mann

Review also posted at the Pauls Valley Daily Democrat

There are few things in this world that will make geeks beat their chests more like jungle gorillas other than fighting robots and giant explosions. Science fiction to them is like contact sports is to professional athletes.
Like any dedicated member of science fiction fandom, the latest comic book adaptation from Marvel was on my radar from the moment I heard about the first film. After thoroughly enjoying the first super mechanical suit guy movie, this one was a must see and like the previous I was not disappointed. “Iron Man 2” was a sequel that settled for nothing less than keeping the series fresh.
I will admit that at first it was a bit hard to follow with the story leaping around before finally settling with some explanation. Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) pick up somewhat after the first film left off where he announced he was indeed the man behind the weaponry.
This time around he not only has to face off against a super villain, but against the U.S. Government through Senator Stern (Garry Shandling), self control again and the very power source that keeps him alive. Our crime fighting tin can must prove for a second adventure he can overcome ridiculous odds and it may be no surprise that the bad guy Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) isn’t exactly going to take pity on the situation. But what is a great hero without his entourage, slightly changed best friend because of actor issues, that include gal as well as company backbone Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).
The biggest plus of this movie is that it is just plain fun to watch and it proves with War Machine/Lt. Col. James 'Rhodey' Rhodes (Don Cheadle) that side-kicks don’t have to suck. It fits a variety of audience tastes which allows you to focus on getting to know characters better or works if you just want to see someone evil get the wrong stomped out of them.
Arguably if the film had been dragged out even further we could have had an even deeper silver screen offering, but I think Hollywood has done enough to over-think comic book legends. In the days of cheaper ticket prices I would seriously consider seeing this a second time. In any case if you love this genre of flicks, you will get the greatest impact by seeing it while it is still in theaters.
I’m not sure I’d call it a full family film, but you should be able to include anyone over the recommended age range of 13. Those who have followed Stark for years should expect him to be far from done with at least a third movie planned as well as roles in spin-offs.
Speaking of spin offs, it would be nice to finally see some kind of hero vs. hero feature so that fans can finally not have to settle for animated DVD releases. Yet, FYI, these can still be made, but to compliment big works instead of doing storylines directors are too shallow to take on. For keeping me entertained until the last punch, I give “Iron Man 2” four out of five AA meetings.

Images are copyright of Marvel, Fairview Entertainment and NorthStar Games.

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