Week-End Review goes to the Movies (& comes back with some links)

Last Weekend (movie) Reviews: Twofer at the Theater

Iron Man 2
Action/Drama, 2010
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow
Director: Jon Favreau

While “origin stories” are interesting, I’ve found that when it comes to certain movie franchises, I like the sequels more. We know how the hero became who he (or she) is, and now we can just watch them do their thing. This is especially gratifying when the hero is facing a strong and equally intriguing nemesis – think Spider-Man 2 or, as an even better example, The Dark Knight.

Granted, I’m not all that strong on my comic-book folklore, but perhaps Iron Man doesn’t have that sort of nemesis – at any rate, he doesn’t in Iron Man 2. Or perhaps it’s the fact that Iron Man isn’t a secret identity any more either – by now, everyone knows he’s brilliant tech-whiz billionaire Tony Stark (since he unmasked himself). In any case, Iron Man 2 doesn’t quite have the intensity and compelling story of the first outing. Fortunately, it still has Robert Downey Jr. as Tony/Iron Man (he and the suit “are one”), who continues to make the character strangely appealing. For me, that’s the main appeal of this series – spending some time with this engaging and aggravating character, mostly when he’s not in “the suit.”

Iron Man 2 is a fun couple of hours, but if you’ve already heard “it’s not as good as the first one,”…well, you’re hearing it one more time. I enjoyed it, but in my opinion, it’s an also-ran to the original.

Robin Hood
Action/Drama, 2010
Starring: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett
Director: Ridley Scott

Speaking of “origin stories,” it turns out that the latest movie version of Robin Hood essentially is one. Most of us know the story of the medieval English outlaw who “robbed from the rich and gave to the poor,” and who was hunted by King John and the Sheriff of Nottingham – but where did he come from? (Yes…England. Nottingham. I got that. Be quiet. I had a penpal in Nottingham for years, by the way. If you’re reading this – hi, Wendy!)
This version of Robin Hood suggests that he was an archer in King Richard I’s army during the Crusades, where he met the soldiers who would eventually become his compatriots. As the army literally fights its way back home through France, the king is killed in battle, and his nobleman Robert of Locksley is entrusted to return his crown to England, where it will be bestowed on Richard’s younger brother John. Locksley and his men are ambushed, and found by Robin and his men; Robin takes on the mission to return the crown and and to inform Locksley’s father, Sir Walter, that his son is dead.

I don’t want to get too far into the plot details, or else this won’t be a mini-review anymore. Having said that…England has grown weak under Prince John during Richard’s absence, and the French see an opportunity to capitalize on it. The nobles vow to resist, despite a lack of resources or support from their corrupt new ruler. Their resistance is invigorated by one Robin Longstride, who has so impressed Sir Walter of Locksley that he is now filling the role of the late Robert, acting as son to the blind and infirm Walter and husband to Robert’s wife, the Lady Marian.

This is a different Robin Hood, not as “swashbuckling” as the classic (as embodied by Errol Flynn; we shall ignore Kevin Costner) – more arrows, fewer swords, and a lot more grit. Given its director and star, it’s tempting to call it “Gladiator in Sherwood Forest” – and in some respects it is, although not much of the action actually happens in Sherwood Forest. I didn’t have any real expectations for this film, which may have been part of why I enjoyed it. I’ve found Russell Crowe pretty watchable in just about anything and this movie was no exception, but I’m not sure he had a lot to work with in the part as it was written. I really liked the strengthening of Lady Marian, though – definitely a woman who could stand and fight alongside, or in place of, the men – and Cate Blanchett was just right for the role.

If there’s a sequel, we’ll probably get more of the traditional Robin Hood legend – the Sheriff of Nottingham was barely in this one. However, it was an interesting spin on an old story, and I’m glad I saw it – and didn’t see Entertainment Weekly‘s review until afterward.

images via MoviePoster.com

Dispatches: Links from Across the Blogiverse this Week

10 warnings for new parents…that you’ll need in about 13 years. Speaking of warnings: have the spoiler police gotten just a bit overzealous? (I say yes, sometimes they have…what do you think?)
The “F word” is off-limits in this house. And outside the house, is your child prepared to meet the world? (Note: “We’re not raising kids, we’re raising adults” is my viewpoint as well, which is one reason I’ve always liked MaryP)
Need a little comforting? Start by making a list! Also comforting, sometimes: passing up perfection and daring to be adequate

Friday Fill-ins #177

1. A Golden Retriever, spotted anywhere at any time, never fails to make me smile.
2. I’m looking forward to going back to the East Coast next month!
3. The water running while my husband washes the dinner dishes is what I’m listening to right now. (I cooked, he’s cleaning up – thanks, honey!)
4. Potato salad must have potatoes in it! ☺
5. Pasta carbonara at dinner was the best thing I ate today (“today” being Thursday night as I write this).
6. Today was less annoying than yesterday.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to relaxing at home, tomorrow my plans include not having too much planned and Sunday, I want to get some posts ready for Armchair BEA next week!

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