Mid-Week Review: Brave, Brave Sir Robin

Robin Hood (Movie – 2010)

Welcome, ye merry men and women! Tis but another installment of ye old MWR. What ho? A review of the latest Robin Hood flick, me thinks.

Okay, that’s enough of that …

We all know the story of Sir Robin of Loxley: A nobleman becomes disenfranchised with the class system of feudal Europe and decides to fight the man by stealing from the wealthy and giving to the po. Along the way he finds love (Lady Marian) , a nemesis (Sherriff of Nottingham), and bromance (Merry Men).

Over the years there have been many, many iterations of this story. A few come to mind: Errol Flynn’s gaunt tight-clad heroism; Prince Costner’s aged rouge with charm; Mel Brooks’ hysterical Manly Men in Tights. I’ve enjoyed them all.

When it came to the latest installment, I had but one question: Could they bring something to this story that hadn’t already been done? On paper, I was hopeful. The cast looked top notch (Russell Crowe & Cate Blanchett as Robin and Marian respectively), the director had street cred (Ridley Scott of Gladiator, Alien, and Blade Runner fame), and the scope looked epic (this was going to Robin Hood Supersized). Why then, was I left wishing for merrier days?

The Story:

First things first, this is not the Robin Hood you know. This Robin (Crowe) is not a nobleman, and is in fact not Robin of Loxley at all. He is a somewhat lowly archer in King Richard the Lion Heart’s army. The King is busy trying to conquer lands (not in the Crusades, btw), and is portrayed as a somewhat less than desirable fellow (somewhat true). When the King is killed in battle (sort of really happened), the real Robin of Loxley (the King’s right-hand man) is tasked with taking the crown back to England. Unfortunately, Robin of L is bushwhacked on the way by the French (damn the French!), but before they can make off with the crown the other Robin/Crowe intervenes. Crowe runs off the French and agrees to the dying Robin of L’s last wish: he will take the crown back to England and also take his sword back to his father.

Crowe is accompanied by a group of fellow archers/warriors who really only seek their freedom. You see, before they scared off the Frenchies, Crowe-Robin and these boys had been locked up by the King for disorderly conduct. During the chaos that ensued after the King’s death, they escaped. Now that they have been tasked with returning the crown they decide to disguise themselves as the nobles who had been escorting the crown in the first place.

Confused? So was I. This is perhaps the first place in the movie that the plot goes all wonky.  It's a sign of things to come.

Plowing right ahead, Crowe-Robin does in fact return the crown to an even less-savory new King. Crowe-Robin then takes the real Robin’s sword back to the father of Loxley. Once in Loxley, he finds Dame Marian tending to the family land while her husband’s away at war. After breaking the news to her about dead Robin, Crowe-Robin takes the sword to Daddy Loxley only to find that the Old Man is blind and a little crazy. Papa Loxley, realizing that the King will likely take their land once he’s gone as there is no male ere, convinces Crowe-Robin and Marion to ‘pretend’ that Crowe-Robin is the REAL Robin of Loxley.

See what they did there? Yeah, I thought it was thin as well. Suffice to say, the rest of the story follows the same flimsy pattern, so we’re going to skip ahead …

The French are secretly planning to overthrow England (when are the French not secretly planning to do something despicable?), and it’s up to Crowe-Robin to convince the new buffoon King that it’s not the poor who are trying to destroy him.

The Cast:

Crowe (other Robin) and Blanchett (Marian) are the glue that holds this movie together. I found their chemistry to be genuine, and their acting to be excellent. Blanchett provides a grounded, almost earthly, version of Marian that seems very at home in the squalid medieval England. Crowe is not the charming Robin of past films, but is just dynamic enough to balance his inherent tough-guyness.

The rest of the cast perform well, but mostly take a very big backseat to Crowe and Blanchett. There is no Morgan Freeman this time around, and the character of the Sherriff of Nottingham might as well not have been there at all.

How was the Movie?

Disappointing. There were so many things that could have gone right for this movie. However, I was underwhelmed by the majority of it. The cast wasn’t deep enough, the music not inspiring, the scenery (while beautiful) nothing that hasn’t been seen before, and the story was all over the place. I’m neglecting to mention major plot points so as not to spoil it, but there is something revealed at the end of the movie that should have been shown in the first scene. It wasn’t, and as a result I spent the entire movie trying to fit this Robin Hood into what I knew about the story coming in. I was distracted from the start.

It isn’t awful, but I’m confident in saying it won’t be what you’re expecting. This one should probably be a rental.

Get Moving Monday ... AWWWOOOOOO

Wow! What a weekend … My computer crashed, so I spent the majority of the weekend just trying to get everything back up and running. This post is proof that I’ve managed a small level of success in that department.

However, in spite of all the chaosery, I did manage to get a couple of writing related tasks accomplished.

1) I met with my online critique group Sunday morning to finish up the two part crit of my WIP. The group has been so helpful (you rock the block LB & Julie), and I’m raring to run through the manuscript again with fresh ideas.

2) I met with my ‘live’ critique group Sunday afternoon to discuss chapters 8 & 9 of the aforementioned WIP. During this meeting we got on the subject of the three act story structure. It proved to be a nice refresher, so I thought I’d make it today’s topic.

I always plan a story around the idea of the three act structure, but sometimes it gets lost a bit in the drafting. The idea behind this structure is to provide a simple (yet time tested) approach to telling a story. It’s as basic as it sounds: each story can be viewed in three major sections (beginning, middle, and end) with each section serving some purpose. For the sake of review, I’ll offer the highlights of the concept:


The first act would be used to establish the foundation details of the story such as setting, cast, and plot. The events, problems, and/or goals that set the main character into motion would also be introduced.

POOP + FAN MOMENT (PFM) #1: The first act typically ends with the main character (mc) encountering a significant story related problem/conflict/twist/revelation that sends the story into the second act.


The second act of the story is used to show how the event or problem introduced in Act 1 unfolds as it relates to the setting, cast, etc. This is the hero’s journey, and the place where the bulk of the story telling takes place.

POOP + FAN MOMENT #2: The second act typically ends with a major complication or a rising of the stakes in the mc’s quest. In short, it’s something that will propel the story into the climax/final act.


The final act serves as a resolution to the problems introduced in the first act as well as any other issues that might have cropped up during the second act.

Let’s use the familiar children’s story of Little Red Riding Hood (LRRH) as an example:

Act 1: LRRH’s grandmother has taken ill (the problem), so she decides to take her some food (goal). Unfortunately, Gran lives outside of the village, so LRRH is going to have to travel through the dangerous woods to help her.

PFM #1: Shortly after leaving the village LRRH encounters the wolf. Wolfy doesn’t attack right away (let’s save that!) for fear of getting caught by the villagers and hunters. He decides to stall LRRH by suggesting she pick some flowers for Gran. He then proceeds to try to make it to Gran’s before LRRH. (Where he can presumably bushwhack her in private.)

Act 2: LRRH finally makes it to Gran’s, but finds that grandma has taken a turn for the worse: apparently grandma has sprouted fur, fangs, and taken on a bad case of fleas. Alas! It turns out that it’s actually the wolf dressed as grandma and he has eaten her alive! (Hey, this isn’t the watered down version you tell your kids.)

PFM #2: The wolf catches LRRH and eats her too! This cannot end well, right?

Act 3: A hunter finds Wolfy all fat-bellied and sleepy, and then proceeds to cut him open and save Gran & LRRH (guessing wolf bellies aren’t air tight?) Gran gets better, LRRH is saved = happy ever after.

Three act structures are pretty simple, no? Sadly, I’m finding the application to be a bit trickier than the theory, but I really believe it to be a sound way of telling a story. So my question to y’all: Have you used three act structures in your own stories? If so, to what success? If no, can you fit your story into this structure?

As always, happy writing this week and a funny!

Mid-Week Review

George Washington once said, “A rolling stone gathers no moss.” I confess, I totally made that up, but I bet he wishes he’d said it. At any rate, I’m introducing a few changes to my blog structure this week. In an attempt to keep the content a‘moving, and also provide ‘stuff’ of worth, I’m going to add a few regularly occurring features. The rundown is as follows:

Get Moving Monday – To start each work week I’m going to be offering some general thoughts on the writing world, motivation, some point/counter-point arguments, and essentially post stuff similar to my previous posts.

Mid-Week Review – Every Wednesday I’m going to be reviewing music, movies, and literature. I’ve chosen to review these mediums, because they all inspire my writing in various ways.

Fab Five Friday – I’m going to run through my five favorite writing related web finds from the week. Basically, share with you the stuff that I can’t live without as an aspiring author.

Sound Off Saturday – I’m going to post a poll where you, the readers -okay, by ‘readers’ I mean that one guy that stops by on occasion trying to sell me Nike Air Jordan’s -can share your opinions.

So without further delay (drum-roll please), I give you the inaugural Mid-Week Review:

Iron Man 2 (Movie)

For the sake of full disclosure, you should all know that I’m a sucker for robots that blow stuff up (who isn’t, really?). That being said, it’s no wonder that Iron Man 2 has been on my geek-dar (radar for the cool impaired) for quite some time. The first Iron Man movie (2008) rocked my socks with over the top action sequences, a superb cast, and a surprisingly tight story. So I was looking forward to strapping in and taking an action-packed rollercoaster ride that promised to make the original offering seem like a whirl on the teacups by comparison.

The Story:

Billionaire Tony Stark has it all: money, babes, prestige, and zero conscience. His family (namely his father) has built a fortune manufacturing weapons for, at least in Tony’s mind, the betterment of the world. However, when Tony is mortally injured and kidnapped by a terrorist organization that is determined to destroy the world using weapons manufactured by his own company, he is forced to confront the fact that his family business might be doing more harm than good.

As any good techno-genius-billionaire would do, he sets his know-how and money to work by building a super-suit that is essentially indestructible and also utilizes a power source that keeps him from dying of the injuries he sustained. Now, as Iron Man, he’s vowed to rid the world of violence and taken on the role of ‘world superhero’.

After declaring himself as Iron Man to the world (at the end of the first movie), Iron Man 2 picks up with Stark basking in the glory of his Iron Man success and fame. Unfortunately, he has also garnered the attention of the U.S. government, who would like for him to hand over the technology behind the Iron Man armor (presumably so that they can use it). Stark refuses on the grounds that the world is safer than ever because of Iron Man, and that there’s no need for any other protection. Soon after, Stark is attacked by a madman who has unlocked the secrets of the Iron Man technology and also happens to have a long hate-filled past with the Stark family. Although Stark survives, he finds his life spiraling out of control as he struggles through personal issues (his relationship with his father and his assistant/love interest Pepper), a continued decline in his health (due to the injuries he sustained in the first movie), and the growing realization that he doesn’t have as much control as he once thought.

Will he be able to find the cure for his illness, reconcile with his past, salvage the only meaningful relationship in his life (with Pepper), and stop a super-powered maniac from destroying him?

The Cast:

To be clear, while I’m a fan of comics, the Old Shell Head (as Iron Man is referred to in the picture books) has never been one of my favorite characters. Tony Stark, the man behind the mask, is an over-the-top playboy billionaire who womanizes, drinks, and smarms his way through life. His only real problems seem to be that the technology that he uses to power his super-powered iron suit occasionally gives him fits, he has some daddy issues, and there are a handful of requisite evil bad guys trying to beat him up. In short, his character always seemed too shallow for my taste, and his story not that compelling.

The first Iron Man movie changed that. Most of the credit is undoubtedly due to the performance given by Robert Downey Jr., the actor who portrays Tony Stark. He so comfortably filled the shoes of Stark that I had trouble distinguishing between what I really thought Downey Jr. would be like in real life, and what he was presenting on screen. The most important trait the Downey Jr. brings to Stark (that is lacking in much of the comics, in my opinion) is an inherent likeability. Jr.’s Stark is a funny guy you could imagine throwing back a cold one with at Chili’s just before he runs outside, gets into his Ferrari, and speeds off. He’s real in an ‘ordinary guy who happens to be super-smart and a gabillionaire’ kind of way.

For Iron Man 2, Downey Jr. reprised his role, and delivered an equally humorous and grounded performance. He was also joined by Gwyneth Paltrow, who portrays Pepper Potts, Stark’s assistant/love interest. Paltrow’s performance, while nothing Oscar worthy, is perfectly understated (yet confident), and provides Stark with some much needed humanity. Paltrow also offers an accessible beauty that (so I’m told) the fanboys eat up. In other words: it’s not hard to imagine chatting her (or someone similar) up at the local sports bar or comic shop. Her co-star, Scarlett Johansson, on the other hand offers no such subtlety in her beauty. Johansson appears in the film playing the role of a super spy who has been sent to keep tabs on Stark. She also acts (although somewhat loosely) as a love foil for Stark and Potts. Johansson spends a good portion of the film in revealing clothing and also performs several gymnast-esque fight sequences. Her lines are few, so she serves mostly as eye candy and offers some comedic fodder for the movie.

The villains in this movie are played by the always dirty looking Mickey Rourke and a clean cut Sam Rockwell. Rourke plays as Ivan Vanko, the son of a Russian scientist who vows to destroy Tony Stark for sins the Stark family has committed. Ivan builds his own super-powered suit using Stark’s own technology. Rourke is intense, as always, and displays enough anger to make such an outlandish vendetta believable and feel somewhat less contrived. Rockwell plays as Justin Hammer, an arms manufacturer that sees Stark as his nemesis. Hammer provides Vanko (Rourke) with the means/weapons to defeat Iron Man. Rockwell does an admirable job with a role that seems to be more for comedic relief. Hammer is sort of the Tony Stark wanna-be.

How was the Movie?

The first Iron Man movie set a high bar in the fun department. It’s sort of the anti-Dark Knight, offering glitz over gritty, and humor over brooding. It pulled it off wonderfully. I found Iron Man 2 to be the perfect sequel, surpassing the first in all areas. There was less need to flesh out back story (as is often the case in 2nd movies), so the action starts right away and rarely lets up (something we writers can learn from). There are plenty of laughs, and the special effects will be some of the best you’ve ever seen. It’s a romp that offers more style than substance, but enough of both that you’ll feel satisfied. The soundtrack is filled with rock anthems and the scenes are packed with beautiful people, explosions, and awesome sports cars. The result is that, for a couple of hours at least, you’ll feel like Tony Stark and cheer for Iron Man.

While it’s not perfect (a hint of a drag in the middle when Tony’s life really hits the crapper, and a plot that is too similar to the first movie), I can’t imagine anyone not having fun with this one.

4 out of 5 Gophers


My opponent never tires … never gives up. I’ve spent the last several weeks hacking at his very soul, using weapons that should have reduced him to nothing more than a few well ordered pages. Yet still he remains, fat and bloated on the excess imagination he’s devoured.

He’s fearsome to behold. His stare is the stare of 10,000 coffee saturated hours. His breath has the disgusting reek of superfluous conjugation. Adverbs slip from his every pore like maggots. They seek out new works to infest, and for every one I cut down, six more take their place! Hardened layers of exposition take the shape of cruel horns. They jute out at every angle, and I fear they are too numerous to file down. Bad dialogue has grouped to form rows of razor sharp teeth that tear at my fingers and rip away the flesh of my resolve. I’ve come to fear the sight of my opponent as one fears the shadow of his own death.

Our arena is a temple of unfulfilled dreams, half-drank glasses of wine, and dying promises. Signs of our epic struggle surround me; severed pages, dead plots, useless character sketches, and disemboweled how-to-books litter every surface. Yellow sticky notes are splashed on the walls like the blood of order-craving insects that’ve gotten squashed beneath my foe’s heavy boot. A once hardy chair now crumbles under the perpetual weight of a cruel master; the once glimmering desk is only a scuffed prop in an out of control war. How a creative heart could survive in such a despairing place is beyond reckoning.

Yet survive I must. Too many good people have succumbed to the Manuscript Beast. Some have given him their lives, a lucky few have only lost years. His reign must end! I see now that to best him I will need an arsenal of exceptional tools:

I will need The Sword of COURAGE to fight the doubts of those who say I cannot win.

I will need The Shield of STRENGTH to endure the hours, days, and weeks of battle that still lay ahead.

I will need The Spear of WISDOM to attack my opponent’s weaknesses.

Lastly, I will need The Armor of HEART to sustain me when my rational mind is turned to poison by the Beast’s relentless assault.

*** Note from the author ***
This post is dedicated (in fun) to all of you who have been fighting through edits. It sucks, but I’m convinced that we can (and will) win. Happy writing this week, and go give the Beast some hell for me!