December 21, 2010

The 10 Best Travel Movies of All Time

Whether it's a jaunt in the station wagon to see Grandma or a grand European backpacking tour, travel is a ubiquitous element in film. We teamed up with Huffington Post Travel to present an homage to the best of the best travel movies. There's a bit of everything in this list, whether it be the typical family vacation or a more exotic getaway. So, pack your bags, don't forget your passport, and get lost in the Ten Best Travel Movies as determined by the critics.

10. The Darjeeling Limited (2007) - MRQE Metric: 65
This Wes Anderson gem is a colorful and quirky ride through the best of India. Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman play three very different brothers who are brought together by their father's death. Rallied together by the brother played by Owen Wilson, the trio sets out on a strange journey on a meticulously designed train in the hopes of finding spiritual enlightenment. Their constant bickering leads to them stumbling into strange situation after strange situation, including letting a cobra loose on the train(!). It's all punctuated by Anderson's trademark hipster soundtrack, of course, and everyone learns a valuable lesson about family, but it's the exotic backdrop that makes the film work.

9. Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) - MRQE Metric: 74
This sexy Spanish romp is among the best of Woody Allen's last several efforts. Two young women (named Vicky and Cristina, surprise) are living the tourist's high life in—you guessed it—Barcelona. When they both become entangled with a passionate and temperamental artist, a complicated romantic triangle forms. And, this is all before the arrival of the artist's ex-wife, a particularly vivacious Penélope Cruz. The result is a sultry and clever look at the complications that can emerge from vacation flings. Unsurprisingly, the city of Barcelona becomes just as important of a character as the lovelorn stars, and Allen films it with all the attention that he does his leading ladies.

8. Into The Wild (2007) - MRQE Metric: 74
Based on a true story, this Sean Penn directed 2007 release chronicles the life of Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch), a favorite son from a well-off family who becomes disenchanted with the trappings of middle class suburbia. Eschewing his identity and donating his personal wealth to charity Christopher sets out into rural Alaska in order to find himself. His travels lead him to forming significant but fleeting connections with people, as Christopher always pushes himself to keep moving. Both Christopher's dedication to going it alone and his lack of knowledge about wilderness survival lead to inevitable tragedy, but it's the portrait of a unique and strong-willed individual that makes Into The Wild a fitting and unforgettable memorial.

7. National Lampoon's Vacation (1983) - MRQE Metric: 74
No matter how miserable your childhood memories of forced family fun are, I guarantee that the ones depicted in National Lampoon's Vacation are worse. The super-comedy franchise of the 1980's starts here, written by the decade's favorite son, John Hughes. The troubles of the Griswolds as they set out on a road trip to a theme park are seemingly endless, but even the most ridiculous complications are humanized. Everyone has been on the family road trip from Hell before, so we all can empathize with Chevy Chase and company's determination to get to Wally World no matter what. There's no escaping it: the Griswolds are us!

6. Easy Rider (1969) - MRQE Metric: 76
This rough and tumble road trip helped to define the cinematic landscape of the 1960’s & 70's. It's also a stark and engrossing look at the emerging American counterculture. Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper's careers were defined here, playing two bikers seeking Mardi Gras and spiritual enlightenment. It's not all peace and free love here, though, as they come up hard against the old-fashioned and judgmental establishment. All roads lead to tragedy here, though, and all involved are headed for an explosive conclusion. Keep your eyes peeled for a young Jack Nicholson in one of his first memorable roles as a philosopher comrade of the heroes.

5. Before Sunrise (1995) - MRQE Metric: 81
Richard Linklater brings us this dreamy look at a brief encounter between two tourists in Italy. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delphy meet by chance on a train. On a whim and a sense of a mutual and deep connection, the two spend the evening walking around Vienna. They both know from the start that this time spent together can only be brief before real life intrudes. This limitation is also a sort of freedom. Hawke and Delphy feel that they have nothing to lose in this new and beautiful place, so their interactions are filled with unashamed emotional intimacy. Bring your handkerchiefs to this one, folks.

4. Roman Holiday (1953) - MRQE Metric: 82
Rome is for romance in this classic love letter in film form. Audrey Hepburn was born to play the role of a sheltered princess who manages to escape her handlers in order to experience the city on her own terms. She runs into the dashing Gregory Peck, a cunning American reporter who at first shelters Hepburn from the authorities in the hopes of the scoop of the century. Soon, however, his intentions grow more altruistic as the relationship between the two grows deeper. The ending is bittersweet, but there's plenty of fun along the way; adorable scenes of the duo puttering around Rome on a Vespa and frolicking among the fountains have entered the public cinematic consciousness.

3. 127 Hours (2010) - MRQE Metric: 83
Danny Boyle's recent film is a testament to the human spirit, not to mention the human stomach. Another astounding biographical film, 127 Hours follows extreme adventurer Aron Ralston and his dangerous predicament when he becomes trapped in a Utah mountain range. The hours turn into days and, without any means to seek help, Ralston will be forced to make some heart stopping decisions in his quest to survive. James Franco plays Ralston with respect and dedication (Franco received a Golden Globe nomination for his performance; an Oscar nod is equally likely), but it's the truth of Ralston's ordeal, a lone human spirit in the midst of the sublime and treacherous wilderness, that makes this a gem.

2. Up (2009) - MRQE Metric: 90
I hope you kept your handkerchief from Before Sunrise; you'll need it even more here. Pixar has made a name for themselves with their ingenious blend of clever humor and heartwarming sentiment. Never is this mixture more successful than in the 2009 film Up. Audiences were wowed by beautiful vistas that old codger Carl visited in his balloon house and the adventures that followed, but there's more to this than colorful set-pieces and talking dogs. Carl's epic journey, after all, was inspired by the vacation that he and his wife planned for decades but were never able to enjoy together. It's this sense of regret, as well as the film's focus on the strength of the couple's love, that makes Up just as much of an emotional ride as it is a fun one.

1. Mr. Hulot's Holiday (1953) - MRQE Metric: 90
Director Jacques Tati wanted to poke some fun at the inability of 1950's holiday-goers to truly relax and take time off, even while on vacation in supposedly relaxing environments. The result is a French classic, filled with gentle satire and laugh-out-loud slapstick, which still captivates and amuses the audiences of today. Tati himself stars as the titular Monsieur Hulot, who wreaks merry havoc at a seaside resort in his quest for vacation nirvana. Monsieur Hulot's hapless adventures sparked an entire series of films, but none of them can quite compare to this engrossing and hilarious debut; it's a perfect tribute to travel.

December 17, 2010

MRQE's 10 Best of 2010: The 10 Best Documentaries

Some of cinema's biggest thrills this year didn't come from Hollywood's explosion-packed blockbusters. Instead, 2010's documentaries served up some astounding stranger-than-fiction looks at the world. This year's offerings run the gamut from astounding nature scenes to geeky comedies to hard-hitting current events pieces. One thing's for sure: real life is never boring.

10. Oceans
MRQE Metric: 73
Disney's latest edition in their wildlife documentary series takes us under the sea, but it's a very different place than The Little Mermaid would have you believe. Instead of cute singing fishes, we're treated to majestic vistas of underwater seascapes, inhabited by peaceful species and fearsome predators alike. These visuals are just as gorgeous as what you can see in Avatar, except that they're all one hundred percent real. The constant barrage starts to get old after a while--too many breathtaking reveals of sea life while an angelic chorus harps on will do that to you--but you'll definitely leave the theater smiling.

9. Best Worst Movie
MRQE Metric: 74
Ever heard of Troll 2? Don't be surprised if you haven't--it was made in Utah on a shoestring by a no-name Italian director, with actors recruited off the street, a nonsensical script, and shoddy special effects. The end result was about as awful as you'd expect from the previous sentence, and Troll 2 sank into the annals of forgotten bad cinema. But twenty years later, a strange thing happened: people started to really become devoted to this movie. Best Worst Movie looks at this strange phenomenon and manages to track down some of the “actors” (one is a dentist) who find themselves suddenly thrust into the spotlight for a crappy role they took twenty years ago. A loving tribute to a truly horrible movie and the people who love it, Best Worst Movie is the best thing to come out of a cinematic stinker in quite some time.

8. Waste Land
MRQE Metric: 76
The last purely feel-good documentary you'll read about on this list, Waste Land is about the garbage pickers of Rio de Janeiro, a population living in abject poverty, and the Brazilian artist, Vik Muniz, who becomes more and more involved with their community. Inspired by their tenacity and spirit, Muniz recruited several of them to serve as muses for his large-scale artworks,which were constructed among the garbage heaps of Brazil. Every step of the way, he took pains to involve the trash pickers in the process of creating the art, even going so far as to take the subject of one of his works to an auction to see it sold off. A fascinating and, yeah, heartwarming look at an artist and the forgotten community that he fell in love with.

7. The Tillman Story
MRQE Metric: 76
This infamous case of friendly fire and military cover-up becomes an engrossing and chilling film. The Tillman Story seeks to scrape away the propaganda and the heroic symbols and presents former NFL linebacker, Pat Tillman, as the flesh and blood person, filled with hopes and opinions and desires, that he really was. The film takes pains to present the unvarnished truth; at the same time, it doesn't take any unneeded potshots at one political side or the other. This results in a well-reasoned final product that, without taking any partisan sides, exposes pressing issues that all Americans should be concerned with. The other heroes in the film are the tenacious members of Pat's family, who refused to take no for an answer in their relentless search for the truth of what really happened to their loved one.

6. Exit Through The Gift Shop
MRQE Metric: 79
This movie is directed by provocative street artist Banksy (or maybe it isn't) and is about Banksy's art, except when it isn't about Banksy's art and is about an eccentric middle-aged would-be videographer of street artists who eventually meets Banksy and gets caught up in the exciting world of guerrilla art. Except that he's not that good of a videographer. And his own “unique” art looks an awful lot like deliberate Banksy knockoffs, but the art world fawns over it just the same. Oh, and all of it is true . . . except when it isn't. The result is more than a little confusing, but as a cinematic experience it's second to none.

5. Restrepo
MRQE Metric: 80
Named for a fallen soldier, Restrepo follows one platoon situated in Aghanistan over the course of a year. Rather than pontificating on the larger picture or adding to the chorus of political opinions over the conflict, the film instead focuses solely on the individuals behind the uniforms, the grunts who are stuck, day in and day out, between a rock and a hard place. The candid nature of the documentary allows the audience to see the soldiers as non-glorified, uncensored people instead of a faceless entity. Restrepo gives these individuals an opportunity to voice their distinct selves, and for that the filmmakers should be commended.

4. Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
MRQE Metric: 80
This witty and rollicking look at one of America's premiere comediennes, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work is the result of more than a year of footage, condensed into just under ninety minutes. The result is an entertaining and insightful look into exactly how driven this celebrity is. Most of us know Rivers from her endless red carpet stints, but the film points out how she was entertaining audiences with her raunchy and candid routines at a time where female comedians were few and far between (and usually self-censoring). The round-the-clock chronicling of Rivers forms a hilarious and sometimes poignant portrait of a lady at the top of her class.

3. Inside Job
MRQE Metric: 80
This timely and no holds barred look at the recent financial crisis should also be heralded as the scariest movie of the year. Matt Damon is the narrator, but the other recognizable names are all ripped from the headlines: figures like George Soros and Elliott Spitzer are profiled. Through interview after interview, fact after undeniable fact, filmmaker Charles Ferguson reveals the corruption and cronyism that led to the current economic disaster, but also points out how the fallout was both predictable and avoidable. An incendiary molotov cocktail of a movie, Inside Job is guaranteed to provoke: if you're not angry, you're not paying attention.

2. Boxing Gym
MRQE Metric: 80
Boxing Gym is the latest documentary from legendary director Frederick Wiseman (Titicut Follies and countless other classics). Don't expect any heart-pounding prize fights or rags-to-riches tales here--Wiseman has a different vision in mind. His portrait of Richard Lord, a former boxer who now runs a somewhat ramshackle gym in Texas, focuses on the little moments rather than the drama and pathos, and is the better film for it. Lord is shown as a gentle-hearted but fiercely dedicated man who has opened his gym to men, women and children alike. For fifty dollars a month, anyone is welcome to train: not for glory or for money, but simply for the love of physical activity and the hope of achieving discipline. Instead of a grand overlying narrative, Wiseman just shows Lord and his pupils at work. The result is surprisingly engrossing.

1. A Film Unfinished
MRQE Metric: 82
A huge winner at documentary festivals worldwide, A Film Unfinished takes a weighty, huge subject and explores it with both care and skill. The documentary deals with a recently discovered reel of film from a piece Nazi propaganda depicting the Warsaw Ghetto. This missing footage dramatically changes the preconceived notions about the nature of the previous footage: it becomes increasingly obvious that much of what the world has accepted as truth has been meticulously and deviously staged. It's hard to elaborate on exactly how devastating the material in A Film Unfinished is. A Film Unfinished is often difficult to watch, but certainly a necessary and important piece of restored history.

December 14, 2010

2011 Golden Globe Award Nominations Announced

The nominations for the 68th Golden Globe Awards were announced this morning, with some surprises. However, there's little shock for the two movies with the most nominations, including Best Picture - Drama: The King's Speech, with seven, and six for The Social Network.

Perhaps the biggest shock from Hollywood Foreign Press's announcement is the The Tourist's nomination for Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical; and it's two stars, Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp, with nods for their respective roles. The film received generally mixed reviews (MRQE Metric: 47). Perhaps, other more deserving films could take the spot. Burlesque, another bag of mixed love from critics (MRQE Metric: 48), also is nominated for the same category.

Other surprises include snubs for the Coen Brothers' epic remake, True Grit. Plus, Danny Boyle's travel thriller, 127 Hours, only got nods for Best Screenplay, and Best Actor, but not for Best Director or Best Picture - Drama.

Non-surprises include Inception and The Social Network battling for Best Screenplay, Best Director and Best Picture - Drama.  Expect The Kids Are All Right to take home it's Golden Globe for Best Picture - Musical or Comedy. Plus, the Best Actor - Drama category is a battle royal with Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network), Colin Firth (The King's Speech), James Franco (127 Hours), and Mark Wahlberg (The Fighter) all up for the win.

The Golden Globes are often considered a good telling of what will get nominated--or win--the ultimate prize: the Academy Award. However, in recent years, the big winners tended to differ. The full list of film nominees is below. Who do you think will take home the awards? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. The Golden Globes will air live on Sunday, January 16 at 8 pm on NBC.

Nominees for Film

Best Picture - Drama

Best Picture - Musical or Comedy

Best Director
Darren Aronofsky - Black Swan
David Fincher - The Social Network
Tom Hooper - The King's Speech
Christopher Nolan - Inception
David O. Russell - The Fighter

Best Actor - Drama
Jesse Eisenberg - The Social Network
Colin Firth - The King's Speech
James Franco - 127 Hours
Ryan Gosling - Blue Valentine
Mark Wahlberg - The Fighter

Best Actress - Drama
Halle Berry - Frankie and Alice
Nicole Kidman - Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence - Winter's Bone
Natalie Portman - Black Swan
Michelle Williams - Blue Valentine

Best Actor - Comedy or Musical
Johnny Depp - Alice in Wonderland
Johnny Depp - The Tourist
Paul Giamatti - Barney's Version
Jake Gyllenhaal - Love and Other Drugs
Kevin Spacey - Casino Jack

Best Actress - Comedy or Musical
Annette Bening - The Kids Are All Right
Anne Hathaway - Love and Other Drugs
Angelina Jolie - The Tourist
Julianne Moore - The Kids Are All Right
Emma Stone - Easy A

Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale - The Fighter
Andrew Garfield - The Social Network
Jeremy Renner - The Town
Geoffrey Rush - The King's Speech

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams - The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter - The King's Speech
Mila Kunis - Black Swan
Melissa Leo - The Fighter
Jacki Weaver - Animal Kingdom

Best Screenplay
Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy - 127 Hours
Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg - The Kids Are All Right
Christopher Nolan - Inception
David Seidler - The King's Speech
Aaron Sorkin - The Social Network

Best Animated Feature

Best Foreign Language Film

Best Original Score
Alexandre Desplat - The King's Speech
Danny Elfman - Alice in Wonderland
A.R. Rahman - 127 Hours
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross - The Social Network
Hans Zimmer - Inception

Best Original Song
"Bound to You" - Burlesque - Music by: Samuel Dixon, Lyrics by: Christina Aguilera and Sia Furler
"Coming Home" - Country Strong - Music and Lyrics by: Bob DiPiero, Tom Douglas, Hillary Lindsey and Troy Verges
"I See the Light" - Tangled - Music by: Alan Menken, Lyrics by: Glenn Slater
"There's A Place For Us" - Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader - Music and Lyrics by: Hillary Lindsey, Carrie Underwood and David Hodges

December 11, 2010

Trailer Watch: Thor is unleashed!

The Thor trailer has hit, and sure enough the Internet chatter is swelling. Kenneth Branagh lends his art-house eye to Marvel's hammer-wielding Norse superhero, played by Chris Hemsworth. Coming May 2011, Thor is the next Avenger in line to get his cinematic due, as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which also includes Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, and the upcoming Captain America: The First Avenger. The pace is on as we move closer and closer to the 2012 release of The Avengers.

Thor (2011)
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman

December 9, 2010

MRQE Rewind: The 10 Best of 2010 - The 10 Best Comedies

Not a lot of surprises on this list, as the Judd Apatow-style of awkward slacker humor continues to fill up this year's comedy offerings. That doesn't mean that the films on this list aren't funny, though. In a year filled with economic uncertainty and other bummers, it's nice to know that you can still forget your troubles for a few hours and let it all go.

10. Youth in Revolt
MRQE Metric: 62
The first Michael Cera movie on the list (but not the last), Youth in Revolt is a cracked look at the usual teen love story. Cera plays Nick, a neurotic loser who manages to court teen dream Sheeni. When distance and disapproving family threaten to dissolve the fledgling relationship, Nick is desperate to hold on to his girl. At wit's end, he concocts an elaborate alter ego – rebellious Françoise Dillinger. The Françoise persona works like a charm, but also works to get Nick into a whole heap of trouble. Quirky and episodic, Youth in Revolt managed to charm more critics than audience members; the film came and went relatively quickly at the box office.

9. It's Kind of a Funny Story
MRQE Metric: 63
Based on a novel by Ned Vizzini, this adaptation follows depressed teenager Craig (played by relative newcomer Keir Gilchrist), who checks himself into a psychiatric hospital following a suicide attempt. While initially wary of his fellow patients and eager to return home, Craig quickly falls in with Bobby (Zach Galifianakis), who becomes his guide of sorts to life in the ward. Unsurprisingly, there's also a pretty teenage girl for Craig to woo, but It's Kind of a Funny Story is about more than that. Bittersweet as well as bitterly funny, the movie transcends stereotype in order to portray both Craig's burgeoning young adulthood and Bobby's attempts at putting his life back together.

Movie Videos & Movie Scenes at

8. I Love You Phillip Morris
MRQE Metric: 64
This one's been shelved for a while, but it's finally hitting theaters in time to be included on this year's list. Based (somewhat) on a true story, Jim Carrey plays a conman who gets pinched by the cops after some elaborate moneymaking schemes. Once inside, he falls head-over-heels for the titular Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor, in a rare comedic role). The rest of the film chronicles Carrey's often over the top efforts to stay with Morris, even when it means sneaking in and out of jail over and over again. Cautious distributors, put off by the raunchy content, kept this one from being released in the States until recently; it's already played to some acclaim overseas.

7. The Other Guys
MRQE Metric: 65
Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg are the list's oddest couple in this homage to the buddy-cop comedy. The two play “the other guys,” the ones who are always overshadowed by the type of showboating police officers who usually star in these kinds of movies. Frustrated by their incompetence, the bickering pair soon gets in way over their heads in the hope of achieving some long-overdue glory. A bit predictable but great for fans of cop comedies, The Other Guys has some amusing sight gags and a few brilliant cameos (watch out for Samuel L. Jackson and The Rock as rival top cops).

Movie Videos & Movie Scenes at

6. Get Him to the Greek
MRQE Metric: 65
A sequel of sorts to Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek hosts a similar over-the-top mix of raunchy humor and slacker style. Jonah Hill plays a low-on-the-totem-pole record label employee who gets saddled with accompanying rock star Russell Brand to a career-restarting concert in L.A. Brand, of course, plays the misbehaving rock star to the hilt, and his misbehavior turns what should have been an easy task into an epic road trip. Don't miss Puff Daddy as an over the top record executive (a.k.a, playing himself).

Movie Videos & Movie Scenes at

5. Nanny McPhee Returns
MRQE Metric: 66
This is the unexpected dark horse of this list: a British children's film where the humor never gets too rough. Despite it's family friendly tone, the second Nanny McPhee film is charming and clever enough to earn its place on the list. Emma Thompson reprises her role as the mysterious title character with more tricks up her sleeve than Mary Poppins. This time around, she appears at a whimsical country home, where Maggie Gyllenhaal is being run ragged by a brood of little English brats. Gentle hilarity ensues, including an entire menagerie of adorable baby animals.

Movie Videos & Movie Scenes at

4. Greenberg
MRQE Metric: 66
This is not your typical Ben Stiller movie. Audiences who expected Stiller's usual recipe of slapstick and silliness were often bewildered when faced with this quieter, mumblecore-influenced portrait of aimless adulthood. Greenberg (Stiller) is a walking pile of marblemouthed neuroses, wandering around Los Angeles like a ghost. His bumbling attempts to gain both meaning and human companionship are at once excruciating and hopeful. The Squid and The Whale's Noah Baumbach is behind this film, which makes you wince as much as it makes you laugh.

Movie Videos & Movie Scenes at

3. Easy A
MRQE Metric: 71
This raunchy teen comedy is reminiscent of a classic John Hughes' film. Sassy teen outcast Olive (Emma Stone) does a favor for her bullied gay friend by pretending that they've done the deed. Not only does the raunchy charade work, but more and more boys come calling, eager to lose their fake virginity in order to gain social currency. Olive becomes a high school sensation, but she soon learns that being perceived as a slut, fake or not, isn't all it's cracked up to be. Scandalous but smart, Easy A is a throwback to a golden age of high school comedies.

Movie Videos & Movie Scenes at

2. Kick-Ass
MRQE Metric: 73
This loud and rambunctious comic book adaptation takes a big swing at the superhero film. Total geek Dave Lizewski, inspired by the comic books he reads at a vicious rate, sets out to become a real life superhero. Real life, of course, isn't like comic books; Dave gets his own ass kicked even more than he manages to foil small time criminals. This one got a lot of press for its portrayal of the violet-haired and extremely violent young Hit Girl, but Nicholas Cage is the one who steals the show as her unhinged father. Extremely violent and extremely edgy, Kick-Ass criticizes the excesses of the superhero genre while wallowing in it at the same time. It's a fine line to walk, but critics largely agreed that Kick-Ass succeeds.

Movie Videos & Movie Scenes at

1. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
MRQE Metric: 75
Based on the graphic novel phenomenon, this love letter to geek culture opened to much fanfare but not a lot of box office. Be that as it may, this movie is destined for cult status at full speed. Chock full of dorky humor and a hipster soundtrack, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a riotous and candy-colored love letter to the video game generation. Michael Cera (again) plays slacker hero Scott Pilgrim. When he becomes besotted with punk rock chick Ramona Flowers, Scott, against his will, is enlisted to defeat her seven evil exes in order to win her hand. Romance, intrigue, and some pretty awesome fight scenes ensue. My personal favorite on the list, Scott Pilgrim is ridiculously fun to watch.

Movie Videos & Movie Scenes at

December 2, 2010

MRQE's 10 Best of 2010: The Best Thrillers of the Year

It was a good year for the genre, with audiences and critics alike eating up thriller after thriller at the box office. Whether a big budget heavy hitter or a small indie flick, each entry on this list provides an intense and heart-pounding cinematic experience.

Shutter Island
MRQE Metric: 70
This twisty psychological whodunit is yet another team-up between Martin Scorcese and Leonardo DiCaprio. Based on a novel by Dennis Lehane, the film follows DiCaprio as a U.S. Marshal sent to the mysterious Shutter Island asylum to investigate the seemingly inexplicable disappearance of a notorious patient. Naturally, all is not what it seems, and DiCaprio is quickly thrust into a maze of lies, shifting allegiances, and deeply buried secrets. You'll either love or hate the twist ending, but at least it makes thematic sense. With Scorcese behind the wheel and DiCaprio turning in a solid performance in front of the camera, the result is solid and captivating.

Movie Videos & Movie Scenes at

Never Let Me Go
MRQE Metric: 71
This beautiful and leisurely adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's recent work is a sideways look at a brave new world. At first glance, Hailsham appears to be a typical English children's academy, complete with adorable British youngsters. Of course, they turn out to be gathered there for a far more sinister purpose – to elaborate more would be to give the game away. The film follows three Hailsham students from childhood into young adulthood as they forge friendships, romances, and conflicts. Bright young things Carey Mulligan, Spiderman to be Andrew Garfield, and Keira Knightly portray the three students, who become increasingly desperate to escape their inevitable destinies. Bring some tissues to this one: the last act is a tearjerker.

Movie Videos & Movie Scenes at

The Town
MRQE Metric: 74
Directed, co-written and starring Ben Affleck, The Town provides a look (albeit a tad sensationalized) at Boston's crime scene. Affleck, of course, has the meatiest role as a career bank robber who starts to want to leave the life after taking a beautiful hostage (Rebecca Hall). Going legit isn't that easy, of course, and he encounters resistance both from his robber buddies and the FBI agents (including Mad Men's Jon Hamm) hot on his trail. Not the most original story, to be sure, but The Town nails it out of the park.

Movie Videos & Movie Scenes at

MRQE Metric: 76
This Sundance darling has one of the most unique premises of the year: Ryan Reynolds in a coffin, with no idea of how he got there and no idea of how to escape. A claustrophobic nightmare, to be sure, and Spanish director Rodrigo Cortes wrings every available bit of tension out of the situation until the tension is nearly palpable to the viewer. Reynolds gives a bravura performance, and a good thing, too, as we're stuck down there with him in an unrelenting, real-time experience.

Movie Videos & Movie Scenes at

The Ghost Writer
MRQE Metric: 77
Ewan McGregor helms an all star cast in the film that many called a return to form for director Roman Polanski. McGregor plays an accomplished ghost-writer hired to cover the memoirs of a charismatic but scandal-ridden former prime minister (played to the Tony Blair hilt by Pierce Brosnan). Unsurprisingly, the skeletons in the closet (secrets and dead bodies alike), begin to pile up, to the point where the in-too-deep McGregor can't leave, no matter how much he tries. This moody piece plays out like a 1970's paranoia throwback, providing tons of atmosphere (and a pretty predictable plot).

Movie Videos & Movie Scenes at

Animal Kingdom
MRQE Metric: 78
This stark Australian gem is the least well known of the films on this list. Darkly comic and chock full of unforgettable characters, Animal Kingdom is a stark look at the Melbourne underworld. After his mother's overdose death, the teenage J is sent to live with his seedy relations and is swiftly plunged into a world where crime rules. Helmed by J's Machiavellian grandmother, the family is craven, corrupt and violent, willing to commit atrocities in order to stay on top. The inept and brutal police, fronted by Guy Pearce, are just as awful. Revenge and recriminations pile up until they're almost unbearable, but the film is too captivating to let you look away. Be prepared for a bumpy ride and no happy endings with this one.

Movie Videos & Movie Scenes at

Winter's Bone
MRQE Metric: 82
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at this year's Sundance, Winter's Bone is an indie gem from writer and director Debra Granik. Set in the poverty-stricken Ozarks, the film follows Ree, a teenager who is forced to hold her dysfunctional family together. Her no good deadbeat father has disappeared, leaving the family home in jeopardy: he's put the land up as bond, and if he can't be found, the property reverts to the government. Ree's struggle to find her father sets her up against her friends and neighbors, desolate characters stranded in a desolate landscape. Granik's direction is relentless and without hope, and the result is a stunning look at a part of America that's inconceivable to outsiders.

Movie Videos & Movie Scenes at

MRQE Metric: 82
Summer's box office juggernaut has earned its place in the top two. Awash with dazzling setpieces and a convoluted heist storyline, Inception is easily one of the top films of the year, whatever the genre. This is Leonardo DiCaprio's second appearance on this list, proving himself to be one of Hollywood's biggest names when it comes to quality pictures. The question isn't whether or not Christopher Nolan and company will win come awards season as much as exactly how big their win will be. I'd bet the house on Inception cleaning up at the Oscars.

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Black Swan
MRQE Metric: 83
This one just hit the theaters and it's already garnering rave reviews from its tour of the major film festivals. The latest from visionary Darren Aronofsky takes a look at the highly competitive world of ballet through the eyes of Nina (Natalie Portman), an aspiring star. When Nina is given the opportunity of a star turn in the troupe's latest production, the arrival of an alluring and vivacious rival provokes a conflict that's just as psychological as physical. Black Swan opens in limited release this Friday, and I for one will be there with bells on.

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127 Hours
MRQE Metric: 83
Based on a heartstopping true story, 127 Hours is a tour de force for indie darling (and part-time student in approximately every university in the NYC area) James Franco. Franco's performance as Aron Ralston, an adventurer who became trapped in a Utah mountain range, has been garnering some serious Oscar buzz, and while 127 Hours features copious flashbacks, the film lies largely on his shoulders. Danny Boyle, fresh off his Slumdog Millionaire success, lends his massive talent to the proceedings. The infamous amputation scene, which has been sparking audience faintings across the country, was shot with multiple cameras in one take – quite an achievement.

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For more thrills and chills, check out our list of the 50 Best Thrillers of the 2000's!

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