July 22, 2010

MRQE Rewind: Best Spy Movies

When the news broke that the FBI tracked down and arrested members of an alleged Russian spy ring, I couldn't help but think of the then-upcoming Salt, especially when photos turned up of the alleged "femme fatale." Maybe--just maybe--this might have been the most genius movie marketing job ever pulled. Unfortunately (for my "out-of-the-box" thinking)--but fortunately (for the sake of national security)--the news was merely life on the verge of imitating art. With Salt opening this weekend, and with our Cold War fears now coming back (like everything else from the '80s), we shake and stir the espionage genre, ranking the best-reviewed spy movies. This week's ranking includes Bond, Bourne, some spies hunting aliens, and two of the best Hitchcock thrillers. Before you check out the full list, indulge in a few gems below -- yeah, baby!

30. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
MRQE Metric: 66

What better way to kick off the list? Austin Powers certainly is the grooviest flick on the list, and one that goes on to spoof some of the most iconic characters and plot devices of the genre--namely those from the early '60s James Bond movies with Sean Connery. Contrary to popular belief, Dr. Evil is not based off of Mike Meyers' former boss, Lorne Michaels, but rather from the villain in You Only Live Twice. Dr. Evil's plot to hijack nuclear warheads for "one…million dollars" was totally ripped from Thunderball. And--of course--who could forget such colorful character names as Alotta Fagina?

Enjoy this classic scene…

26. The Bourne Identity (2002)
MRQE Metric: 68

A spy who cannot remember… Robert Ludlum's best-selling 1980 spy novel hit the big screen in 2002, with Matt Damon taking the lead as Jason Bourne. Featuring some of the greatest action sequences of the year, including a thrilling car chase through Paris, The Bourne Identity thrilled critics and audiences in the summer of '02. We first encounter Bourne aboard a ship off the coast near Marseille, and we follow him as he uncovers his true identity, and the people who are tracking him down. Bourne was a breakout role of sorts for Damon, who prior to the movie wasn't really considered an action star. Damon later paired up with director Paul Greengrass for the two even more thrilling Bourne sequels (both of which make the list). A fourth Bourne movie was announced in June, but there has yet to be any official word as to whether Damon or Greengrass will be returning.

Matt Damon discovers who he is...

16. Men in Black (1997)
MRQE Metric: 74

An addition from the so-called "spy-fi" arm of the genre, Men in Black finds Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as secret agents protecting Earth from intergalactic scum. Based off of the comic book series of the same name, Men in Black was a summer hit, in a time when summer blockbusters were defined by the addition of Will Smith to the cast. However, Jones and Smith almost didn't make the flick. Clint Eastwood was originally considered for the role of Agent K, while Chris O'Donnell was the first pick for Agent J. After they both turned down the roles--and after David Schwimmer also passed on Agt. J--Jones and Smith were eyed. With Steven Spielberg as producer promising a better script, Jones and Smith felt confident in accepting the roles. The success of Men in Black, led to a 2002 sequel, which underperformed the original in both quality and in the box office (while the sequel was a box office success that year, it didn't have the same return as the original).


5. Goldfinger (1964)
MRQE Metric: 84

How could we make a list of the best spy movies, and not include Bond . . . James Bond? In fact, Mr. Bond appears not once, but five times on our list! Maybe he should appear more, but that would be unfair to all the other spies. Goldfinger remains as the best-reviewed film of the franchise--from the notorious death of Bond girl Jill Masterson by gold paint, and the famously named character Pussy Galore, to some of the franchise's most iconic villains, Goldfinger and his manservant Oddjob (with his lethal hat), it's hard to argue why. The plot, to steal gold from Fort Knox, finds Bond stateside working with the C.I.A. to thwart Goldfinger's attempt at grabbing the one metal he loves most of all. Goldfinger became the first Bond movie to be classified as a "blockbuster" at the box office. In fact, it's success grew so fast that was included in the Guinness Book of World Records as the fastest grossing film of all time, though the film has since been eclipsed by the likes of The Dark Knight and Avatar.

Who could forget this classic scene and famous line?

3. Notorious (1946)
MRQE Metric: 87

Sure, we got James Bond, but no spy movie list is complete without the films of all-time thrill-master Alfred Hitchcock. His best spy thrillers took the numbers 6, 3, and 1 spots; but here we're highlighting Number 3, Notorious. Truly one of Hitchcocks's most notable, Notorious is a post-World War II espionage love triangle. Of course, with the sexy back-drop of Rio de Janerio, how can love not be in the air? The entangled story of Alicia (Ingrid Bergman), Devlin (Cary Grant), and Alex (Claude Rains), begins when Devlin, an American government agent, recruits Alicia, a daughter of a convicted Nazi spy, to infiltrate a group of Germans in Brazil. Alicia soon falls in love Devlin, and things get complicated when he needs to convince her to seduce Alex, one of the aforementioned Germans and a friend of her father's. Alicia ends up marrying Alex in an attempt to uncover his past. We won't spoil the ending, but love truly prevails.

The Notoriously long kiss...

There's more iconic films to be had than just these five. Head over to MRQE to see all 30 of the Best Spy Movies.

July 20, 2010


The most anticipated title coming to home video this week is probably a toss-up between The Runaways and The Losers. However, I'm sure there are few of you were waiting for the Bruce Willis/Tracy Morgan buddy-cop flick, Cop Out, to come out. Plus, if you're looking for some solid drama, there's a few critic favorites, including one Oscar-nominated doc, and a film from South Korea. Here's our picks for this week.

Featured DVD:

The Runaways
MRQE Metric: 58

The story of the formation of '70s all-girl punk band The Runaways. Director Floria Sigismondi and Producer Joan Jett worked closely on the story, focusing on the relationship between Jett (Kristen Stewart) and lead singer Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning). Yes, may liberties were taken from the actual story, but man, do Stewart and Fanning look a helluva lot like their real-life counter-parts! Blu-ray includes audio commentary with Jett, Stewart, and Fanning, plus interviews with the real-life band members.

Buy The Runaways (DVD) on Amazon!
Buy The Runaways (Blu-ray) on Amazon!

Cop Out
MRQE Metric: 37

Director Kevin Smith turns his camera to the buddy-cop genre, with Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan as two NYPD officers on the hunt for a stolen rare, mint-condition baseball card. This is Smith's first time directing a film he did not write, so some of the charm from his earlier works are not found here -- that's not to say there isn't a good deal of laughs. DVD comes with deleted scenes. Blu-ray exclusives include digital copy plus "Maximum Movie Mode--re-dubbed, "Maximum Comedy Mode"--where Kevin Smith and Seann William Scott host an in-depth look at the movie.

Buy Cop Out (DVD) on Amazon!
Buy Cop Out (Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy) on Amazon!

The Losers
MRQE Metric: 51

Ripped from the Vertigo comic, which in turn, was adapted from a 1970's DC comic, The Losers follows five members of the elite United States Special Forces sent to the Bolivian jungle on a search and destroy mission. The team is soon betrayed, and that's when things get bloody. Yes, this does sound like The A-Team, but with Zoe Saldana on board, who's to complain? Bonus features include a deleted scene, interviews with the comic book artists, interviews with Saldana, and three behind-the-scenes featurettes.

Buy The Losers (DVD) on Amazon!
Buy The Losers (Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy) on Amazon!

MRQE Metric: 85

South Korean director Bong Joon-ho's drama about a widowed mother trying to prove the innocence of her son who is accused of murder, was South Korea's official submission for last year's Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. While it didn't get the nomination, it did receive rave reviews from critics during it's limited theatrical release in March.

Buy Mother (DVD) on Amazon!

The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers
MRQE Metric: 76

Nominated for the Academy Award for Documentary Feature, The Most Dangerous Man in America, documents the story of the Daniel Ellsberd, the Pentagon Papers, and its publication in The New York Times in 1971. Ellsberg was a high-level Pentagon official who leaked 7,000 pages of these top secret documents to the New York paper, resulting in a landmark Supreme Court case. Bonus features include interviews with Naomi Wolf, the author of the book on which the film is based, and "The Nixon Tapes" featuring 13 minutes of audio clips in which former President Richard Nixon discusses Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers with his inner circle.

Buy The Most Dangerous Man in America (DVD) on Amazon!

Buy The Most Dangerous Man in America (Blu-ray) on Amazon!

Catch up on all the latest DVD and Blu-ray releases on MRQE!

July 15, 2010

MRQE Rewind: Disney's 20 Best Live-Action Movies

Disney's latest, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, opened this Wednesday, and while it earned mostly dismal reviews it got us thinking about the non-animated films that make up the studio's iconic vault. While films like The Shaggy Dog or Old Dogs (what's with Disney making bad movies with the word "dog" in the title?) might make us cringe, we cannot discount the studio's more revered live-action movies. So, grab your umbrella and don your pirate's hat as we take a look at Disney's 20 best-reviewed live-action movies. We highlight a few gems here. Head on over to MRQE for the complete list.

MRQE Metric: 66/100
In 1988, Jamaica surprised everyone by entering the Winter Olympics bobsledding competition. While they didn't go on to win the gold medal, they did inspire everyone with their "underdog" story. The 1993 film, starring John Candy, did change some facts about the team's origins, but despite a few Hollywood liberties (John Candy's character and all the team members are fictional, they didn't actually carry the sled on their shoulders over the finish line after crashing, opposing teams were supportive of Jamaica and let them use spare sleds), the movies does do a good job of teaching us that with hard work and dedication we too can make dreams come true. Disney loves great sports drama, and this moral can inspire kids and adults alike, therefore it's no surprise that Remember the Titans (2000), and Miracle (2004) also makes the list.


MRQE Metric: 68
Before she had her troubles with the law, young and cute Lindsey Lohan was a Disney darling. While the original 1961 film didn't have enough tabulated reviews to make the cut, the 1998 remake certainly remains as a worthy counterpart, especially since much of the same tone and spirit is captured within. In this version, Dennis Quaid and Natasha Richardson fill the shoes originally worn by Brian Keith and Maureen O'Hara, as a couple who divorce soon after marrying. Their twin daughters, Hallie and Annie, both played by Lohan, are separated at birth, only to re-unite years later at a summer camp. From then on, the girls try everything in their power to get their parents back together. Lohan appears later in our list, in the remake of Freaky Friday.


10. The Rocketeer (1991)
MRQE Metric: 72
From the comic book by Dave Stevens comes The Rocketeer, a sort of throwback to the Saturday sci-fi adventure mantinees from the 1930s and '40s. Turning the comic to the screen, with director Joe Johnston, Disney had high hopes for the film, expecting it would turn into a trilogy (in fact, many cast members were contracted for sequels).  However, in spite of an all-star cast that included Billy Campbell, Jennifer Connelly, and Alan Arkin, the film could not find box office success. Part of the problem was the use of 1930's Art Deco, which some critics felt distracted from the story. Other problems included the promotion of the film, and it's poster which focused more on the character of the Rocketeer than the cast. Regardless, The Rockteeer did receive a fair share of favorable reviews, many of whom enjoyed the film's homages to the serials of the past.


MRQE Metric: 73
Since 1954, there has been many adaptations of Jules Verne's classic novel, but none are more memorable than this "whale-of-a-tale" from Disney. James Mason's portrayal of Captain Nemo stands out in our minds, just as much as the iconic submarine, the Nautilus, and the epic battle with the giant squid. Certainly one of Disney's most costly and elaborate films, 20,000 Leagues is one of the studio's first to feature Hollywood stars (Mason, Kirk Douglas, and Peter Lorre) as well as stunning special effects for its day. 20,000 Leagues went on to win the Academy Award for special effects.


5. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
MRQE Metric: 74

Johnny Depp borrowing from Keith Richards, Orlando Bloom supplying the swoon, and Keira Knightley giving guys a run for their money . . . how can you not find enjoyment with Pirates of the Caribbean? However, its earliest conception, the idea of another film adaptation of a Disney ride made many questions whether it could be successful. Two previous attempts at adapting rides were dismal: 2000's Mission to Mars was inspired by a Tomorrowland attraction, but found no heart with critics. And, 2002's The Country Bears was just an all-out failure. Fortunately, this time around Disney struck box office gold, as the film's swash-buckling story, sweeping sets, and thrilling performances reminded audiences and critics alike just how much fun movies can be. Pirates of the Caribbean spawned two equally successful sequels, and a fourth is on its way to a 2011 release.


Want more great live-action movies from Disney? See the rest of the films that made the list!
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