Without looking at a synopsis for a film, I honestly thought when I saw the title Mystery, Alaska that we were going to get a film like Fargo for example. I thought maybe it would be a town with a dark secret, but that is definitely not the case. In Mystery, Alaska, they pride themselves on their ability to play hockey in a town that has sub zero temps almost all year round. One day a former townee (Hank Azaria) returns from New York with news that NHL hockey powers the New York Rangers want to challenge the team to a traditional pond hockey game. The town accepts the challenge with some doubters, but they’ll soon have to realize that there are a lot more internal problems they’ll need to solve before they take on the hockey power. The film stars Russell Crowe (Robin Hood) as John Biebe, Burt Reynolds (Smokey And The Bandit) as Judge Burns, Mary McCormack (Private Parts) as Donna Biebe, Colm Meaney (Con Air) as Mayor Pitcher, Lolita Davidovich (Gods And Monsters) as Mary Jane Pitcher, Maury Chaykin (Entrapment) as Bailey Pruitt, Ron Eldard (Sleepers) as Skank Marden, Kevin Durand (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) as Tree, Scott Grimes (Robin Hood) as Birdie Burns, Rachel Wilson (The Glass House) as Marla Burns, Adam Beach (Flags Of Our Fathers) as Galin Winetka, and the film was directed by Jay Roach (Trumbo).
This was actually a very good film that has the feel of The Mighty Ducks and the look of every other sports film released in that time frame. It’s the true underdog story of a small Alaskan hockey team that does the impossible by playing a pro team. The thing that is unique about this film is the challenges a lot of the actors face in the film like infidelity, corporate takeover, as well as other social issues. Russell Crowe was great, Burt Reynolds was very good, and just about everybody in the film did a great job. I loved the cinematography in the film especially during the big hockey game. These kinds of ideas make you wonder if a game like this would be possible, but I honestly doubt it. The players union would probably never approve of it in the first place. The idea of a spot uniting a town is not so far fetched as sports is a common thread for people and various towns all over America. One of my favorite things about the film is the cameo from Mike Myers (Shrek) who plays a character that is a parody of hockey commentating legend Don Cherry. That was definitely a highlight for me to see him in this film. I know Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 38% rating, but I really enjoyed the film because it was more than just a hockey film. That is why I have decided to give the film an B+ for a final grade.
I am about to go on a Oscar Isaac binge and for good reason I might add. He is an incredible actor who is slowly becoming one of my favs after roles as Poe Dameron in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Nathan in Ex Machina, Blue in Sucker Punch, and he is about to be Apocalypse in X-Men: Apocalypse. In today’s film, Robin Hood, he plays King John in this origin story about Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe). King Richard (Danny Huston) was killed in battle and it’s up to his most trusted friend to return the crown. The only problem is that he is killed in an ambush and Robin agrees to bring his sword back to his father. Once Robin returns the sword to Sir Walter Loxley (Max Von Sydow), he is asked to pretend to be his son while England boils away in turmoil due to a traitor to the crown. The film also stars stars Mark Strong (Kingsman: The Secret Service) as Godfrey, Cate Blanchett (The Monuments Men) as Marion Loxley, William Hurt (The Incredible Hulk) as William Marshal, Mark Addy (The Full Monty) as Friar Tuck, Matthew Macfadyen (Frost/Nixon) as Sheriff Of Nottingham, Kevin Durand (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) as Little John, Scott Grimes (American Dad!) as Will Scarlet, Alan Doyle (State Of Play) as Allan A’Dayle, and the film was directed by Ridley Scott (Gladiator).
You should know going into a film like this that you can guarantee that it’s going to be well made when it’s Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe. A team that looked to repeat the success of Gladiator some ten years or so before it. As I said above, this is the origin story so it’s pre-steal from the rich and give to the poor Robin Hood. It explains how he became who he would eventually become in the story we loved as children. One of my favorite things about period pieces like this (because it is after all) are the sets, costumes, and the cinematography. You know that the costumes are going be done very well leading you to believe that you are in the 14th century or whenever this takes place. The sets are going to be showing you a time you were like where are the streets, Chipotle, and the shopping malls? Oh yeah because this takes place in the medieval times so those didn’t exist yet and not for a heck of a long time. The cinematography was absolutely amazing showing you the lush green of England and some of the shots of the ocean when the French are coming. Oh yeah, then there’s that thing called acting and it’s pretty phenomenal in this film especially Oscar Isaac as the mad and immature King John. The film may not be as amazing as Gladiator, but it’s hard to repeat the exact magic of a film and so there is no point in fretting over it and just watch the film. I am going to give Robin Hood, an A for a final grade.
I never got the chance back in the day to check out the film Smokin’ Aces which looked like a bad ass movie. That is until today and that is why I am presenting it to you guys as today’s challenge film. Buddy Israel (Jeremy Piven) was a wannabe gangster Las Vegas performer who decides to turn snitch for the FBI against a rival crime family. Now he needs protection because a hit has been put on his life to make sure that he never gets the chance to snitch. The hitmen are coming from everywhere and anywhere to try and collect on it, but the FBI has to get to him to get him out before the hitmen come. The film also stars Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool) as Richard Messner, Ray Liotta (Goodfellas) as Donald Carruthers, Joseph Ruskin (The Scorpion King) as Primo Sparazza, Ben Affleck (Dogma) as Jack Dupree, Peter Berg (Collateral) as “Pistol” Pete Deeks, Martin Henderson (The Ring) as Hollis, Common (Run All Night) as Sir Ivy, Andy Garcia (The Godfather Part III) as Stanley Locke, Alicia Keys as Georgia, Taraji P. Henson (Date Night) as Sharice, Chris Pine (Star Trek) as Darwin Tremor, Kevin Durand (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) as Jeeves Tremor, Tommy Flanagan (Sons Of Anarchy) as Lazlo, Joel Edgerton (The Gift) as Hugo, and so many more.
This movie has a wild and crazy collection of a cast that includes a mix of 80’s, 90’s, and the stars of today all rolled into one awesome cast. Matthew Fox plays the head of security of the casino/hotel, Jason Bateman plays a weird lawyer, Curtis Armstrong who played Booger in Revenge Of The Nerds is in this movie as well. Chris Pine plays an insane character who belongs in a Mad Max movie which shows you how over the top insane and awesome this film was. One thing is for certain, you never have to question Jeremy Piven and his performance because he is a top notch actor that delivers. Ryan Reynolds doesn’t really open up in the film until the last half of the film, but when he does he also delivers. He certainly does in this film as a drugged out paranoid wannabe mob boss. The action in the film at one point becomes non stop as double crosses and hots just keep coming. I will say one thing if you have never seen the movie you may think it’s over at one point, but the ending of the film may shock you. There is a lot that is revealed and of course I will not spoil it for any of you. I really liked this movie and I have to be honest and say that I went into it with no expectations and it paid off. It was tough to decide a grade for this film because it lies on the B+/A- border and that’s how I’ll keep it.