The 10 Nerdiest Things of 2016

It's been a heck of a year.  People moan about 2016 for various reasons, but instead of looking back at any negatives of the year, here are the things that I enjoyed out of 2016.  Instead of posting several different lists for movies, tv shows, board games, etc, I decided to just combine them all together! Let me clarify - some of these items have been around for awhile, but 2016 was the year I was introduced to them.  And for me, whenever the year would get me down in one way or another, it was these 10 things (among others) that would lift my spirits.

10. Star Wars Roleplaying Game

Although Rogue One was a close contender for this list, I'll kick off this list with the Star Wars Roleplaying Game from Fantasy Flight Games.  At this point, I have 4 different versions of a Star Wars RPG on my shelf, but the FFG version is by far my favorite.  I had run Edge of the Empire in a previous year, so putting it on this list might be cheating, but this year was the year that I actually got to fully explore the game.  Previously, I didn't understand completely how the system worked and was figuring out pieces of the game on the fly.  This year, not only did I get the chance to figure out how the game was played (more on that in a bit), but I sat down with my friends and recorded an excellent campaign for The Dirtbags of Holding podcast.  If you haven't heard that series please go listen now!  Of the campaigns we have done so far, it has to be my favorite.  The pilot I came up with, Scratch, has to be the most fun character I have ever role played, and I know for a fact I'll be dusting off that character sheet at some point in the future.  If you've ever wanted to explore the Star Wars universe, even if you've never played a roleplaying game before, this game is worth taking for a spin.

9. The Campaign Podcast

Image from oneshotpodcast.com

Image from oneshotpodcast.com

How did I learn to play the Star Wars RPG?  Well, 2 of my fellow Dirtbags, Cory and Jimmy, introduced me this year to a podcast called Campaign.  The Campaign Podcast on the One Shot Network is an actual play podcast that features Kat Kuhl as game master along with a cast of awesome characters playing through FFG's Star Wars game.  It has action, comedy, drama, and a crap ton of Star Wars.  Once I gave this podcast a try, I quickly burned through the 70+ episode backlog in order to get caught up with the story.  If you want to get a feel for how good (or bad) this system could be used, then you need to give this podcast a shout.

8. Numenera

Image from montecookgames.com

Image from montecookgames.com

This year was also the year I figured out what the heck this Numenera game that I kept hearing about was.  Starting out as a Kickstarter in 2013 that raised over half a million dollars, Numenera is a science fantasy Role Playing Game that takes place in a billion years into the future.  Eight great civilizations have come and gone on Earth, and now you play as characters in the Ninth World, exploring the world and finding remnants of the previous civilizations.  The line between technology and magic is very thin in this game, as players get "Cyphers" - one use bits of technology (called Numenera in the setting) that can do all sorts of mysterious things.  This game, and the Cypher System that powers it, intrigues me so much.  It revolves around letting the GM easily make adventures and stories, while not being completely light on mechanics like other narrative focused games.  In fact, Monte Cook Games, the company that produces Numenera, touts that you can use the Cypher System to create adventures right on spot.  Here's an example of one of these instant adventures, hosted by the company at Gen Con this year (see if you can hear me in the audience shouting suggestions!).

7. Scythe

If you had told me at Gen Con that the board game Scythe by Stonemaier Games would end up on my Top list of 2016, I never would have believed you.  Scythe is a resource management/area control game set in an alternate World War I era….with giant mechs.  Yeah, sounds like it would be right up my alley right?  However, when I gave this game a try at Gen Con, it seemed very complicated and too complex for me.  Fast forward a few months, and I decided to pick up a retail copy of the game at a nearby store.  Since I had played with the Kickstarter version, I *had* to of course pick up the metal coins and realistic tokens.  Then, the game seemed complex to set up so I *really* needed to get The Broken Token insert.  Makes total sense…..  By this point I had gotten a few plays in of the game and was completely sold in.  The components, the artwork, the strategy, all of it just hits me right in the sweet spot.  I even took it home for Christmas and taught my dad how to play - and he normally is not much for very complicated games.  Yet we played the game multiple times together over the break - and had a blast doing it!  This is a game I can't wait to take out again, and I feel that purchasing the expansion for the game is in my near future.

6. Legends of Tomorrow

Image from cwtv.com

Image from cwtv.com

I love the DC Comics TV shows that are on the CW network.  So when I heard about "Legends of Tomorrow", a show where some of the characters spun off from previous shows "The Flash" and "Arrow" time travel to stop a massive plot, I was sold.  Featuring characters such as Captain Cold, Firestorm, The Atom, and Rip Hunter, the first season of the show had its problems but was still enjoyable to watch.  If that was all that I had seen, however, it would not have been enough to end up on this list.  Luckily, the first half of the second season has come out, and has made this show a part of my "must watch" TV each week.  Now, I can not stand to be behind in this show, for they have taken out what didn't work in the first season and cranked up what did work to 11.  Not to mention, the huge crossover episode "Heroes vs. Aliens" between Supergirl/The Flash/Arrow/Legions of Tomorrow put together is easily the best live action work that DC has put out in years (sorry Batman v. Superman, but you had some serious problems).  With drawing in at least 3.3 million viewers each night, I'm probably not the only one who felt this way.

5. Ice Cool

This game completely caught me by surprise.  Ice Cool, by Brain Games, is a dexterity game where you flick penguins around a school trying to score fish before the hall monitor hits you.  The penguins are weighted like "weeble-wobbles" so that they are always wobbling around and can result in some special trick shot maneuvers.  Here is a play through of the game, if you want to see the game at work.  It is such a simple game that was sold to me as a kid's game but I've had more fun playing this with adults than I have kids.  You can get some really ridiculous shots in some times, which makes the game more than a straight skill game.  One randomly good move can get you caught up, and is hilarious to watch someone try and repeat the same shot.  This game is a ton of fun that you can play with all of your friends and family, so I encourage you to give it a try.

4. Overwatch

Image from playoverwatch.com

Image from playoverwatch.com

Anyone who truly knows me will not be surprised to find a Blizzard video game on this list.  Overwatch is the company's latest game, a team based first person shooter that plays a lot like Team Fortress 2.  Players take on different roles and try and score objectives instead of a traditional "deathmatch" style game.  These traits that make the game different from classical shooters like Call of Duty are exactly why the game appeals to me so much.  In this game, I don't have to be the best crack shot, as I can help my team by shielding them from damage or healing them instead.  There's a whole layer of strategy that you don't get in other games.  Not only that, but Blizzard puts their heart and soul into everything that they do, which means that you get a game with all different kind of characters.  Each character has a detailed backstory that builds to the overall lore of the game.  Playing this game with my friends has become a big thrill for me over the past few months.

3. Pokémon Trading Card Game

For a reason you will find out soon enough, I have gotten really back into Pokémon this year.  Like, in a big way.  I've been playing through different versions of the video games, buying up related shirts, artwork, etc.  However, the biggest way I've been "catching them all" is through the Pokémon TCG.  All of us here at the Renshaw house have jumped on the bandwagon of the game, at the right time it seems as Pokémon celebrated it's 20th anniversary last year.  All through the year, The Pokémon Company did several events to get people back to that 90s nostalgia, including releasing a set featuring artwork from the original version of the game.  Suffice to say, every time we go to the store now, we are picking up booster packs of the card game and enjoy opening them to see what we've "caught".  We don't get to play the game too much but we still have plenty of fun collecting the cards together.

2. Pokémon Go

I've been an off and on Pokémon fan since the 90s, but what sparked this most recent bout of Poke-mania?  Oh, you know, just a tiny mobile game called Pokémon Go.  Taking the world of Pokémon and fusing it with our own, Pokémon Go was an unstoppable force during the summer.  Oh, and Pokémon Go is still a thing, despite what some would lead you to think.  From a peak of 40 million players, less than 15 million people still play the game as of October 2016.  That's still more people than the population of Illinois!  My wife, daughter, and I all play Pokémon Go, and we love going out to places and walking (or driving in this colder weather) around catching various Pokémon.  Ashley and I will have dates where we go out and just sit around at a popular place for Pokémon and catch as many as we can together.  People scoff when they hear that I've actually spent money in the game for items and such, but spending $5-10 for an hour or more of entertainment together is a pretty cheap date, in my opinion.

1. Deadpool

Image from foxmovies.com

Image from foxmovies.com

If you are reading this blog, chances are you've already seen Deadpool, the movie about the violent and vulgar Marvel comic mercenary .  You might know how great it is.  Why do I think it is better than everything else on this list?  Typically, when I enjoy a movie a movie in the theater, I can't wait to purchase it on DVD/Bluray/iTunes.  If I really like a movie, I'll even rewatch it a couple of times after it releases.  I've probably watched Deadpool over 10 times by the this point, and it hasn't even been a whole year since its theatrical release.  This movie is perfect for me in so many ways - the superhero genre, the humor, and the way it doesn't take itself serious at all.  Every time that I watch the movie, I laugh at the same parts.  It never gets old!  Granted, this is not a family movie, nor even a movie I would ever think about showing Chloe.  Still, the enjoyment I have gotten from this movie definitely solidifies its place here on the top of my list.

What About 2017?

Now that we've talked about last year, let's look ahead and briefly see a couple of things that I'm looking forward to this year.

(Movies) Superheroes.  More superheroes.  And did I mention superheroes?  There's a lot of comic book based movies coming out this year that I am really looking forward to.  I don't even have to wait very long, as The LEGO Batman Movie (probably the one I want to see the most) comes out February 10th.  On the opposite side of the year, we get to see if Batman v. Superman will redeem itself as Justice League opens in November.  Inside of those layers of DC bread, we have lots of Marvel goodness that will be drawing people into the theaters.  Between Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, and Logan, Some are predicting that Marvel will rake in over 3 BILLION dollars.  That's a lot of dough - I hope the movies turn out to be good!

(TV Shows) DC is already killing it with all of their CW shows, but in addition to more episodes of my favorites, the show I'm really intrigued about is DC's latest attempt.  Powerless is a new comedy debuting on NBC that features goofy scientists making all the high tech gadgets that the world needs when superheroes fighting supervillains is an everyday occurrence.  I thought the idea of a comedy in the DC universe was a weird idea, until I saw the promo.  The show reminds me a lot of another show I enjoyed, Better Off Ted.  If it can be even half as good as that show, and with the talent that is behind the show, it may turn out to be a real winner.

(Games) This year, I'll have many Role Playing Games that I'll be trying out for The Dirtbags of Holding podcast, but I think the one new game that I'm the most curious about is Starfinder by Paizo.  Taking the Pathfinder ruleset and throwing it into science fiction, Starfinder releases during Gen Con this year.  If you want more information about this game, I did an interview with James Sutter, the Creative Director behind the game.  Paizo has a radical fanbase and I'm sure the game will sell very well, but the real reason I'm curious about the game is that Paizo has a great staff of creators who weave together awesome adventures and gameplay.  Thus, Starfinder is bound to be a very interesting RPG experience.

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So there you have it.  What tickled my fancy in 2016 and what I'm anxiously awaiting in 2017.  What about you?  What did you enjoy last year, and what are you looking forward to this year?

Mickey Mouse: Evil Emperor or Savior of the Force?

In case you were living under a rock last week, it was announced that Disney has bought out Lucasfilm from George Lucas. This includes both the Star Wars and Indiana Jones properties, and it was also revealed that a seventh Star Wars film is in the works as well and will be coming out 2015. What do I think about the matter? Read onwards to discover....

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Okay, I understand I'm a little late on this bandwagon, but many of the geeks that I associate with on the internet and in real life keep asking what I think on this matter, so I figured it was still worth blogging about. Plus, it will probably save my marriage, as Ashley has heard my thoughts on the matter so much that she starts to groan whenever somebody brings up Star Wars around me.

First of all, let me get this part off of my chest: every nay sayer that I hear/read about talking OMG STAR WARS IS RUINED! EPISODE 7 IS GOING TO HAVE MICKEY MOUSE IN A DUEL WITH JAR JAR!! makes me want to go into a Hulk-style rage. Do you hear how dumb that sounds? Yet that was about 60-70% of my twitter feed the day that the deal was announced. To those people, I offer one piece of evidence:

Did you see the Avengers?

Yes, this current deal with Lucasfilm is nothing new to me. Us comics fans were in a very similar predicament a few years ago when Disney purchased Marvel Comics. Honestly, that's probably why I get so mad at all the stupid things people say because they are the exact same things that people were saying was going to happen to Marvel. Yet, Disney has shown to have little to no impact on the comics-side of Marvel, and as far as the movies are concerned, they have the high amounts of cash required to give us a quality Avengers movie. Granted, it has been a few weeks since I re-watched the Avengers, so I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure Mickey Mouse wasn't fighting alongside Iron Man. So the collective nerd culture needs to settle down a bit.

Instead, lets talk about how this is a good thing for Star Wars. Most of us fans will agree that while George Lucas did a wonderful job with the original 3 movies, the prequel movies were garbage. Honestly, can our new mouse overloads bring us anything worse than Jar Jar? I think that in recent years some of the best Star Wars stories have come from people other than Lucas (The Clone Wars, the Old Republic video games, etc.). It's time to give somebody else a chance to tell their Star Wars story. Sure, Lucas might still be around as a creative advisor, but I'm cool with that. That means he can give pointers and ideas, but ultimately there is somebody who can choose to listen to him or ignore him.

So what is Star Wars VII going to be about? As someone who has not read that many of the books, I really do not care that much. If they decide to ignore the books, so what? Welcome to the same club as us comics fans. You think Avengers or the Nolan Batman movies followed the backstories to the letter that have been in the comics for several decades? Nope. They took ideas and concepts from those stories and used them to tell their own stories, and I honestly think any new Star Wars movies will be in the same boat. Don't like that idea? Well, you've got hundreds of Star Wars books you can go read instead, go do that.

IN CONCLUSION: 2015 is currently shaping up to be an interesting year for movies, as we will witness a new Star Wars movie, Avengers 2, and a Justice League movie. Two out of those three movies are owned by Disney, by the way. I hope that all three will be great, and there is always the possibility that any of those three wont be, but I will eagerly wait in anticipation.

Do you agree? Which of those three are you excited most about? Leave a comment below telling me your thoughts.

 

Why I Was Disappointed By The Dark Knight Rises

What? You might be saying to yourself right now, How could someone as big a Batman fan as Chris be disappointed by that movie? Everyone else is talking about how great it is. Come forth, reader, as I explain my mixed feelings on the matter.

 

In the midst of all the horrible news surrounding Aurora and the shooting (my prayers go out to all the friends and families of the people involved), I decided to go see The Dark Knight Rises, the conclusion to the Batman trilogy that I have loved so much. Now, before I got into why I was disappointed, let me explain myself a bit. This movie was epic. It was a fitting piece to the Nolan trilogy, tying itself back into the other two movies so seamlessly that it makes me wonder if Christopher Nolan had planned this all along. From a movie goer perspective, I loved this movie. It is the Batman fan in me that is conflicted.

 

For three hours, I sat and watched, both curious and anxious as to how Christopher Nolan was going to end his tale on Batman. Afterwards, when it was all said and done, I felt....conflicted. It was a very weird feeling, as I could not completely explain why I felt the way that I did. To put it into perspective, when I saw Batman Begins for the first time, I was so completely amazed and excited. I couldn't stop talking about it for weeks.

 

For The Dark Knight, I was still amazed/excited about the movie, but for different reasons. Mainly, I was very much impressed with Heath Ledger's Joker. In fact, I think part of my disappointment with The Dark Knight Rises stems from the fact that we will never get the conclusion that was supposed to happen: the conclusion where Batman and the Joker face each other for the final time. The Joker storyline in The Dark Knight was left open, but because of the death of Heath Ledger we will never know what the 3rd Batman movie would had been like if he had been in it.

To me, my biggest letdown was the ending. I am not going to spoil anything, but I enjoyed the way that the movie set up Batman with obsticles that he had to rise above - I just didn't like the fact that these obsticles led to the conclusion that we got. Honestly, I spent a long time trying to think of what I would have done in Nolan's place. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that the end of the movie should be chopped off and we needed a fourth Batman movie.

It was at this point I realized why I was disappointed by The Dark Knight Rises: a series that I had come to love was over. The conflicting feelings that I had were the same as when my favorite TV shows come to a finale - you may enjoy the ending, but you hate the fact that its over. Now that I have figured this out, I want to go see the movie again and just enjoy it for what it is. Actually, what I really want to do now is watch all three movies back to back and take in the movies as a trilogy and see how I feel then.

Bottom Line: Go see the movie. It is a very good movie; and I want to know what you think. Am I off base here? Did you feel any differently? Let me know.

 

My Take On SDCC 12: Marvel Movies - Phase 2

This past weekend was the end all be all of conventions: the San Diego Comic Con. A lot of great stuff was announced this past weekend, and I thought I would take a few posts to talk about the things that stood out to me. These posts will only be a small subset of the TONS of stuff that was announced, so if you want to know what you missed I suggest you head over to a news site like Major Spoilers. First up on the plate: Marvel's Phase 2 of Avengers movies.

To be honest, I really did not see this coming. I should have, seeing as how Phase 1 finished this past May with the release of the Avengers movie. There has been a lot of talk about Iron Man 3, but I was shocked to see what Marvel had up its sleeves. So, lets jump right in:

May 3rd, 2013 - Iron Man 3

The most predictable announcement that was made, it was only a matter of time before we saw Robert Downey Jr. don a new Iron Man armor. Don't get me wrong; I LOVE his portrayal of Tony Stark, I just have some misgivings about the movie given the fact there is a brand new director on board (and the fact that we know that Iron Man 2 was not all it could have been). Not only that, but look at this armor:

Is it just me, or is that a bit too weird? I just hope its a special armor, like the suitcase armor, and won't get much air time.

Bottom line: not looking forward to the armor, but I am curious to see how the villian the Mandarian is portrayed on the big screen.

November 8th, 2013 - Thor: The Dark World

Isn't this really soon? Doesn't it seem like we just got the first Thor movie? Also, what is with the November timeframe? Is Marvel really going to get a crowd to come to the theaters on a random weekend in November? If it was Thanksgiving or Christmas, I would understand (more) what Marvel was thinking. All pessimism aside, I am really excited for this movie. Honestly, I know next to nothing about Thor, so I have NO idea what to expect for this movie.

Bottom line: it seems a bit rushed, but I can't wait to see some trailers later this year/next year.

April 4th, 2014 - Captain America: The Winter Soldier

I KNEW IT! I positively knew while watching the first Captain America movie that Marvel was building towards this in some form. Here is the big question, though: will they follow the comics and set the story in the Cold War, or will this be a challenge for the post-Avengers Steve Rogers. I would love another Cap themed time piece set in the Cold War, but the safe bet is this will be another movie for Chris Evans to shine in.

Bottom line: considering the first Captain America was my favorite movie of last summer, this movie is probably the one I am looking forward to the most.

August 1st, 2014 - Guardians of the Galaxy

Really? Do you know what the Guardians of the Galaxy are? Me neither, but then again I am not a big Marvel fan. This movie is the one I am scratching my head about. It is hard enough to drill up interest in characters that are big with comic readers but not well known outside the comic book store, but now they are investing a lot of time and money into a property that even most comic fans are familiar with.

Bottom line: ????????

Sometime after that - Ant Man

Wasn't this movie supposed to be the next movie after Avengers? The fact that once again Marvel still has not released a date for this movie concerns me.

Bottom line: is anyone really looking forward to this movie? I'm hoping that I am wrong and the movie is worth the wait.

So, looks like we have a very interesting set of movies coming out soon. But what about Avengers 2?? Forget the other movies, I just want more of Joss Whedon making Avengers movies! What do you think? Are you actually looking forward to Ant-Man? Am I completely wrong about Guardians of the Galaxy? Hit me up in the comments below and let me know what you think, or as always email me at chris@ocdcast.com.

 

Movie Review: Thor

As you may have heard on the latest OCD podcast (#33), I was able to get a early sneak preview of Marvel Studios latest movie based on one of its beloved comic book characters: Thor.  Was a boom or bust (you already know the answer if you listened to OCD #33)?  Read on to find out.... I'm not even going to waste time on this one: this movie was EXCELLENT.  It had everything needed in order to make a good comic book movie.  Leading up to this movie, I was very worried about how the character was going to be adapted for the big screen, as Thor is not a character many people are aware of.  In addition, he is a very complicated character, and thus the reason why I was worried about how he was going to be portrayed on screen.  Let there be no doubt, however, Chris Hemsworth is Thor, fully personifying the God of Thunder.

The movie starts off with Thor being brought to Earth, and then flashes back to explain Asgard and leads up to Thor's downfall.  I thought this was a very good way of opening the movie.  Starting the movie off on Earth as opposed to some place called "Asgard" grounded the movie and made it easier for people to be educated on who this man was.  The flashback does a nice job of tying in the character with the Norse mythology which he is based off of and makes the idea of the "Norse Gods" actually being advanced life-forms who visited primitive man very convincing.  Even things such as the way the Asgardians travel between worlds is shown as being very mechanically-based instead of relying more on "magic".

However, as good as the movie is, it is not perfect.  The entire length of time that Thor is banished to Earth is maybe 2-3 days.  In that time, he is supposed to make a complete turn around from arrogant jerk to sympathetic hero.  The movie plays this off very well, but its one of those things that you think about later and go "wait a minute....".  This is such a small comment though, and should not keep you from going to see this movie.  I've seen reviewers rate this movie up as good as the first Iron Man, and I am inclined to agree.  In fact, I think I'll go see the movie again this weekend.

CONCLUSION:  SEE IT.  What, you're still reading this and haven't left to go see it yet?  I'm disappointed.  By the way, if you keep an "eye" on the movie, you may catch a cameo that hasn't been advertised and is pretty cool.  And MAKE SURE TO STAY AFTER THE CREDITS!  That should be a standard disclamer for Marvel movies, and as always it made me very giddy towards the movies yet to come.

Disagree with me?  Post in the comments below and tell me!

Movie Review: Fast Five

This weekend, the fiancé and I went to go see a couple of movies. The second one I'll talk about later this week, but right now I'm going to focus on "Fast Five", the latest in the Fast and the Furious saga. First of all, I'd like to preface this by saying that I've never seen any of the Fast movies all the way through. I've seen bits and pieces of movies, the most being of the third one, Toyko Drift. Having said that, there were only a few things that Ashley needed to explain to me during the course of this movie. For the most part, the movie is very open to people whether you've seen the other movies or not.

As you might expect, the plot of the movie is not exactly the highest caliber: many of the original cast from the first two movies come together to pull off "one last job" against one of the largest drug lords in Rio. At the same time, they have to stay one step ahead of a federal agent who is out for their hides, played by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. The story plays itself out as much as you might expect, most of the surprises you figure out right before they are revealed.

However, that's not the reason that the Fast movies are so popular. The action scenes are what make this movie. They are filled with suspense, lots of high tech gadgets and some excellent cars. The movie rarely has any down points as there is almost always some action right around the corner.

CONCLUSION: Netflix/Redbox it. Unless you are a die-hard Fast fan, this is something you can probably wait to see in another form for a lot cheaper. However, if you are out at the theaters and are looking for an awesome action flick, this is a movie you're going to want to see.

What?!? How did I miss this!?!

This is the first of many blog posts to come that I hope will complement the podcasts.  This past weekend I bought the Blizzcon Virtual Ticket and I hope to do a blog wrapping up all my favorite moments.  But first, those of you who have been listening to me for awhile might remember that I am a HUGE Back to the Future fan (25th anniversary Blu-rays come out today btw GO GET THEM NOW!), and I was surfing around the internet when I found this article on io9.com (http://tinyurl.com/24jr4o9) that talks about 14 things from Back to the Future that have come true, and 4 that haven't yet and one of the things that hadn't happened (yet) was the hoverboard.  However, they included a link to an article by Gizmodo that you must see! http://gizmodo.com/5549271/a-real-working-hoverboard-exists

Apparently this artist went out and created a pseudo-working hoverboard, meaning it floats but not if you stood on it.  He even presses down on it a bit and you see the board respond and go back to equilibrium.  I agree with the article, if one guy can do this, imagine if a big company put its R&D money into it!  This needs to happen ASAP!

Iron Man 2 Review

So like many other people, I attended the midnight showing of Iron Man 2. Let me waste no time here...that movie was AWESOME!! Whatever else I may say here, don't get the impression that I hate the movie. The action is way better in this one compared to the first movie, much more chances to see some metal madness flying around. Once again, Robert Downey Jr pulls off Tony Stark perfectly. Honestly I'd pay money no matter how messed up the rest of the movie might be just to see him act out Stark.

A lot of people have been saying the movie doesn't hold up to the first one, and I dunno if that's fair. The first movie had to be really great, as the character wasn't really well known by non comic book fans so to draw a crowd it had to be spectacular....which it was. This movie didn't need to, as evidenced by all the hype surrounding it.

In case you've forgotten, the end of the first movie saw Stark reveal to the world that he was Iron Man. This movie picks up right where that one left off, with the credits reminding us of the press conference (reminded me of the credits scenes in the Spider-Man sequels). We then get thrown right into the mix, seeing Tony living it up as a celebrity superhero, with the US government not too happy about that. In the best non-action scene of the movie, we get to see Tony sass and humiliate a senator in front of a live TV audience.

The only complaint I have with the movie is that after all of this it starts to lag for awhile. After it is discovered that someone else has created versions of his technology and confronts him about it at (another) televised event, this being a race he's participating in. During this fight, the suitcase armor he pulls out here is so epically awesome. I almost wish they didn't give that part away in the trailers because it would have made the moment even better if I hadn't seen it coming .

At this point, faced with this and some other serious problems due to choices made in the first movie (I like the reference back to it btw), Tony begins to close in on himself and starts moping just a tad bit. It made perfect sense for him to be this way and RDJ pulled it off fantastically, but I personally enjoy the confident cocky Stark more. Which, after a sweet confrontation with Rhodey, we begin to see that Stark return. The movie just seems to take off at this point, and any doubts about the rest of the movie are erased.

So, like I said before, Iron Man 2 is a very enjoyable movie. I think the recasting of Rhodey was unfortunate, but I almost prefer Don Cheadle now to Terrance Howard. My one suggestion to everyone out there is to watch the first movie again before checking out this one. I did, and it made the experience even better. But I sawthe first movie twice in the theaters, something I just may have to repeat for this movie as well!