March 30, 2011

MRQE Rewind: Mind-Bending Thrillers for April Fool's Day!

This Friday is April Fool's Day, the unofficial holiday that celebrates the practical joke. Oh, how I fondly recall from my youth: the bubble-wrap covered toilet seats, the fake spills on the rug, the pop quizzes administered by my third grade teacher...come to think of it, not very fond when you're on the receiving end. But always fun when you're pulling the prank!

This April Fool's we have Source Code, a new sci-fi thriller starring Jake Gyhllenhaal. Gyhllenhaal plays a soldier who wakes up in the body of a stranger and finds out that he has only eight minutes to stop a bomber from blowing up a train. Sounds exciting. A main character, caught up in a mind-bending caper, not knowing if someone is potentially pulling the prank on him! Here at MRQE, we decided to celebrate the prankster with a look back at some of the head-scratching sci-fi movies that have puzzled, tricked and entertained audiences over the years.

Time Bandits (1981) - MRQE Metric: 75

When it comes to disorienting the viewer, director Terry Gilliam is in a class of his own. With an oeuvre of strangely surreal films, everyone knows a Gilliam movie by style alone. Time Bandits is a sci-fi, fantasy epic that follows a young boy who inadvertently travels through time with six dwarves. He encounters everyone from the likes of Napolean to King Agamemnon, while confronting figures like the Supreme Being, and Evil itself! Heavy stuff, but Gilliam handles the puzzling material with whimsy. A few of his fellow Pythons add to this merry and occasionally disturbing experience. Kudos.

Minority Report (2002) - MRQE Metric: 80

Awesome, awesome, awesome film . . . did I mention it was awesome? Steven Spielberg's Minority Report, based on a classic Philip K. Dick short story, puts Tom Cruise in a future society where crimes are foreseen by abnormal "pre-cogs" before they are committed. Cruise plays John Anderton, a cop on the run, trying to clear his name of a murder he has yet to commit. Someone is pulling the strings in this one, but I won't reveal any spoilers. You'll have to see this futuristic action-adventure for yourself. Great output by Mr. Spielberg. If only he'd get back to telling such imaginative stories.

Back to the Future: Part II (1989) - MRQE Metric: 76

This is a personal favorite of mine, and probably the most popular film on the list. Robert Zemeckis left a lasting mark on popular culture with his time-traveling trilogy. Back to the Future: Part II is a fun ride, and of the three films, certainly the farthest stretch of the imagination. Marty Mcfly travels back to the future, then back to the present, then back to the past to alter the present, encountering his "other self" in the process. And along the way, of course, the one, the only . . . Biff:

It won't win any prizes for its time traveling logic (flux capacitor?), but it's fun to follow Marty along in his hi-tops and a tricked-out Delorean. The story is not too tricky on the viewer; it's lighthearted and easily enjoyable.

Total Recall (1990) - MRQE Metric: 71

AHNOLD! The governator makes an appearance on my list as Douglas Quaid in this sci-fi classic. Quaid is a regular guy seeking a virtual vacation to Mars via a memory implantation. No big deal! But the operation goes astray when Quaid instead receives the memories of a secret agent. An awesome adventure ensues and Quaid is trapped in a prank of colossal proportions! With a fair share of red herrings and two-faced betrayal, Total Recall still confuses me to this day. But it's always an excellent watch.

Twelve Monkeys (1995) - MRQE Metric: 78

Gilliam strikes again. I could probably devote an entire post to this smoke and mirrors mastermind. Twelve Monkeys rightly deserves the attention. Rarely does Gilliam tackle anything resembling a straightforward narrative. And Twelve Monkeys might be the closest thing to that. Starring Bruce Willis as a convict in a dystopian future, he is sent back in time to investigate the beginnings of a virus that has wiped out 99% of the population. However, after he is mistakenly sent to the wrong year, ending up in a mental institution, Willis has to figure out an escape while tracking down an underground terrorist known as the Twelve Monkeys. Despite my linear description, the movie is somewhat convoluted. Everything appears very natural and convincing, but it's a trippy ride. Just what Gilliam intends for his audience: admire the detailed wallpaper, as the room is spinning in circles. Based on the French short-film, La Jetée , Twelve Monkeys actually stands well on its own as a deranged sci-fi thriller. And Brad Pitt plays a good loony in a supporting role.

Johnny Mnemonic (1995) - MRQE Metric: 39

Keanu Reeves' masterpiece! April Fools! A lot of people have seen The Matrix, and Speed (which is making a comeback on cable this month), but many have overlooked this clunker. Reeves plays a courier in a future metropolis who carries around massive amounts of data for companies due to a cybernetic brain implant. When he overloads on information, he faces a 24-hour deadline before his head explodes. And of course a deadly company that wants his data is pursuing him as well. Suffice it to say, it's not very good. However it has achieved something of a cult status over the years. And one can make a case that the future-Neo learned the error of his ways, going on to greater success in the mind-bending genre.

March 26, 2011

WTF of the Week: Producers are giving money away.

Courtesy: Rouge
The directors of Skyline have another trailer project in the works.
Here’s an age old enigma for you to roll around in the old noggin, only with a Hollywood twist: instead of pondering the chicken and the egg, you can reflect on which came first – the trailer or the film?

Apparently the Strause brothers, Colin and Greg, have the answer. The fraternal filmmaking duo creates trailers first – before principal photography even begins – in order to sell their movie. This is the formula that spit out the utterly forgettable Skyline (MRQE Metric: 38).

So these brothers worked some sort of used car magic to get their last picture financed, and according to, Strause Inc. is at it again, all this despite the meager box office success of Skyline.

They are filming a trailer for an admittedly interesting concept, War of the Ages, a time-warping 3D epic which will put some of history’s greatest generals (heavy hitters like Napoleon and Julius Caesar) against one another.

Concept aside, whatever happened to writing an engaging script, you know with three solid acts and a gripping climax, before looking to get a project financed? Careful guys, your Hollywood work ethic is showing.

Even more mind-boggling is the willingness of a producer to fork over a hefty budget without ever even knowing what actually happens in the film. It just goes to show YOU, the buying audience, that studios don’t care what they’re showing you so long as they can get you in the theaters with a good two-minute trailer.

Can anyone say Sucker Punch? Yes, it’s a double entendre.

March 24, 2011

Trailer Watch: Super, Fast Five, Super 8

Today is March 24th, and despite what the snow on the ground is telling us, Spring is, in fact, here! And there's a new batch of trailers that have me psyched: an IFC-produced comedy, and two big-budget movies in store for this summer. Super stars Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page as a super-hero duo. Fast Five, the newest Fast installment, looks like an action feast for the eyes. And Super 8 raises a few goose bumps as a promising collaboration between Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams. Super, Fast Five, Super 8! Yes, those are movie titles, and yes you should be excited! SUPER EXCITED! The great thing about a trailer is that it only has to show promise for two and a half-minutes to hook you, so set some time aside at your cubicle, and let's get to it:

Director: James Gunn
Cast: Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Kevin Bacon
Release Date: 5/1
Super comes out in a few weeks. Although it's not a big budget affair, it is the newest slant on the superhero genre. Rainn Wilson plays a regular guy (what else is new?) who--with the help of his sidekick (Page)--turns into a costumed vigilante in order to win his wife (Liv Tyler) back from a coercive drug dealer (Kevin Bacon). I'm actually looking forward to Super. It's not "block busting," but rather "car hood poking," as Rainn Wilson shows in the trailer. I like a little quirk in my comedy for the pre-summer mix. Kevin Bacon looks promising. And Liv Tyler is only in there momentarily, so I could get into this.

Director: Justin Lin
Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson
Release Date: 5/29
With the success of The Fast and Furious, it comes as no surprise that studios are rushing out this next installment. I cannot see how this movie wouldn't make money. Awesome special effects (live-action, mind you), cool cars, an apparently mindless heist plot and of course Mr. Mark Sinclair Vincent aka Vin Diesel. He stepped away from the franchise for a while, tried to helm his own Riddick trilogy that tanked, and now he's back behind the wheel. Along with Paul Walker, and the Rock, Fast Five looks to be another breakaway hit for the summer.

Director: J.J. Abrams
Cast: Elle Fanning, Amanda Michalka, Kyle Chandler
Release Date: 6/10
So what if the trailer pinches a few drops from the classic Spielberg formula. The flashing car lights, the blank staring sheriff and all the other effects of some mysteriously catastrophic event on a quaint, little town. And so what if the film literally takes place in the seventies, mop tops and all, regaling viewers with Spielberg Americana. Super 8 won't be the first time the iconic auteur tries to recapture past glory (Indiana Jones & The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull anyone?). Nonetheless, I'm on board because it's J.J. Abrams, the mastermind behind the Star Trek reboot and arguably Spielberg's heir. I'll be there opening night, munching popcorn, ready for a few new surprises.

MRQE Rewind: Strong Women in Film

With the upcoming Zack Snyder film Sucker Punch coming out this weekend, we thought it would be appropriate to create a list of the most powerful female roles in film. Forever, Hollywood has broadcasted and embodied the idea of the leading man and the powerful roles they play. Though, from films like the bio-pic Frida (starring Salma Hayek), depicting one of the world’s most talented modern artists, to Steven Spielberg’s The Color Purple, which embraced racial divides and sexism, woman prove they can be a presence and influence in films; they can hold their own and embody the role of the lead character. View the list below and let us know who you think the strongest leading ladies are.

Charlie's Angels (2000) - MRQE Metric: 63

To begin let’s start off with a trio of women that probably could make James Bond nervous, the ladies of Charlie's Angels. The concept of three gorgeous women working for a private investigation agency began in the late 1970’s with a television show of the same name that originally starred Farrah Fawcett, Kate Jackson, and Jaclyn Smith. Later in 2000, Joseph McGinty Nichol, known as McG, directed the revamp of this film, which held the stunning cast of Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, and Lucy Liu. Released to decent critic allure, these women held their own and proved that a little ass-kicking can go a long way.\

G.I. Jane (1997) - MRQE Metric: 58

Ridley Scott's G.I. Jane redefined what a strong woman was and how she was viewed in the Military Corp. Starring Demi Moore--shaved head and all--she played the role of an U.S. Navy Special Warfare Group trainee, Lt. Jordan O'Neil. Her character was required to go through a grueling process, which was both physically and emotionally, challenging. After dealing with pressure from authorities and stress from training Lt. O’Neil, came out on top to prove everyone wrong; a truly "anything you can do, I can do better" moment.

Frida (2002) - MRQE Metric: 69

Art legend, Frida Kahlo, was a Mexican painter that died from failed health, with suspicion of an enforced overdose. Between her marriage to famed Mexican painter Diego Rivera, and her affair with Leon Trotsky, Frida was a true lover. She also possessed a talent and skill, which came forth in her quite personal paintings, that excelled her to international fame. In 2002, Salma Hayek took on the role of portraying this legendary surrealist painter. Falling short of their 14 nominations from academies across the board, one would think this film would have received more recognition – between the Academy, Golden Globes, BAFTA, and Screen Actors Guild Awards, Frida only won four titles, which were mostly makeup and music. Still a strong role to play, Salma Hayek as Frida was flawless in this film.

Persepolis (2007) - MRQE Metric: 82

Persepolis is a French animated film about a young girl living during the Iranian Revolution. When an outspoken, juvenile girl, Marji, attempts to stand up for her beliefs in 1970’s Iran, her parents send her off to school in Vienna. Realizing the changing world of Iran, Marji, upon returning home, is faced with the challenge of deciding what life to live. Her confidence, passion, and ambition come forth and echo to women about power and stance in society. The film is shot in a black-and-white style that makes the film look more vintage, and the role played by Chiara Mastroianni as Marji is both remarkable and noteworthy. She brought her character to new depths unseen before in on-screen.

Mulan (1998) - MRQE Metric: 79

Another animated flick we put in this category is Mulan, one of the most beautifully animated Disney pictures to ever to hit the silver screen. Released in 1998, Mulan is about the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan. This film was widely successful due to the close anthropological relation it had to the true Chinese culture (before production, Disney sent all their designers to China to observe the Chinese environment so the film could be comprehensible to both the Asian and Western markets). This film has been critically acclaimed for its success on both the U.S. and foreign markets and for such a strong acceptance among the Chinese audience.

Chicago (2002) - MRQE Metric: 82

“Chicago, oh, Chicago!” Talk about strong women, within the first twenty-minutes of this flick, one woman kills her husband and sister for sleeping together, while another shoots her boy-toy and makes her husband take the blame. From sex, to scandal, to celebrity and fame, these women want it all and they--in the end--successfully, possess it all. They have the looks, they have the talent, and they have the charm to get out of basically anything. This film was nominated for numerous awards and won Best Picture at the Academy Awards and Golden Globes in 2002.

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) - MRQE Metric: 92

Jean Louise “Scout” Finch, of 1962's To Kill a Mockingbird (played by Mary Badham), is the protagonist; and, with the support of her kid brother Jem (played by Phillip Alford), they both realize how dark the world can be. Their father is a lawyer, and through sneaking around and following him, these two young children were exposed to things like racism, prejudices, and the evils of murder. This unveiling of the harsh real world helped Scout to not only support her father in his trial, but to be a guidance of wisdom for her father through the harsher times in the film. Scout taught herself to turn her vulnerabilities towards the world into optimistic view points. This film was praised it was the first rendition of the 1960 novel by the same title written by Lee Harper.

Erin Brockovich (2000) - MRQE Metric: 74

Erin Brockovich is one of Julia Robert’s strongest roles and one that truly launched her into fame and big Hollywood stardom. Talk about a powerful and strong woman, Brockovich, which is based off a real story, chooses to stand up as a single mother against the U.S. West Coast energy corporation the Pacific Gas and Electric Company for malpractice. This woman, through working as a desk clerk filing pro-bono papers, discovers wrong in a company, blows the whistle, and chose to fix it. Brockovich eventually won her case against and was rewarded $333 million for the lawsuit, which was to be divided amongst the 648 plaintiffs in this case. This film can make you laugh and cry, though the universal emotion of the audience upon seeing this flick is, "Wow, that woman really did something remarkable. You go girl!"

The Color Purple (1985) - MRQE Metric: 78

Then we have The Color Purple. This challenging and emotional film usually leaves audiences quite speechless. Dealing with poverty, racism, and sexism, The Color Purple stars Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey. This flick was an early 1900’s glance into life in North Carolina. Both produced and directed by Steven Spielberg, he was given much negative criticism for this film due to the racial issues that arose in the black community as the production of a white producer/director. Yet still, The Color Purple was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and five Golden Globes, but only won Goldberg a Golden Globe for her role as Best Actress in a Drama. This flick was originally adapted from the 1982 novel by Alice Walker and in 2005 became a Broadway musical.

Million Dollar Baby (2004) - MRQE Metric: 84

One of the few female athletic films that exists on the market today, Million Dollar Baby is memorable not only for the solid role Hilary Swank undertook, but also the dress she wore to accept her Academy Award for Best Actress. This flick is about an established ex-boxer played by Clint Eastwood that brings up a young, aspiring heavy hitting amateur female actress played by Swank. Million Dollar Baby taught young girls to follow their dreams no matter what profession or hobby they desired to possess. A great film all around and truly the embodiment of a powerful woman; this flick was a Blockbuster smash.

Check out these Honorable Mentions:

March 23, 2011

Remembering Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor was born on February 27th, 1932 in London, England. She was the daughter of American art dealers working in London. When Taylor was three her family moved to America to avoid to the Second World War. They resided in Los Angeles, California and from here Taylor's life as a child star to mature actress exploded.

At an early age she was lusted after for her beauty and allure. Taylor was born with a human mutation that caused her to have a double row of eyelashes, which gave her eyes an exceptional illusion on screen. Taylor's fame continued to increase and she broke domains in 1960 when 20th Century Fox offered her a million-dollar contract to play the title role in Cleopatra. Taylor has held over seventy-five leading roles in either film, television, or voice overs. She is known for her roles in Butterfield 8, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, among many, many more.

Throughout Taylor's life she was mostly praised by critics for her dynamic, and enchanting roles. She was nominated for five Academy Awards, winning two for her performances in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Butterfield 8. Bosley Crowther of the New York Times considered Taylor "terrific" in his 1958 review of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Crowther furthered his infatuation with Taylor in his 1963 review of Cleopatra calling her a woman of "force and dignity" and how inside her is "impressively compacted the arrogance and pride of an ancient queen." This seems quite true, since Taylor came as close to a queen in America as maybe that of Jackie O. Variety published in 1959 that the only "major asset" to Butterfield 8 was Taylor, and to ice off the cake, Roger Ebert in 1967 speaks of Taylor in Reflections in a Golden Eye as "proving once again as she did in 'Virginia Woolf' that she really can act, believe it or not." It seems across the board, critics wanted to see her fail, but remained thoroughly impressed; not a bad résumé of critic acclaim to accumulate after sixty years on the scene.

Yet, Taylor was not just an actress. She was a socialite, philanthropist, and true lover; being married eight times to seven men in a forty-six year period producing four children. Taylor was active in AIDS/HIV awareness campaigns and devoted much of her life and money to fighting the cause. She believed in Kabbalah, and was an active member in Kabbalah centers around the world, as well as, transforming Michael Jackson into a Kabbalah believer in 2005, during his sexual assault trials. Taylor was also known for her love of white diamonds, as well as, her desire to travel the world and see every inch of the globe.

Elizabeth Taylor passed away on March 23, 2011. She will forever be an international influence that helped define the golden age of Hollywood. Taylor will be remembered for her spirit, beauty, passion, and flawless charisma that she pushed forth in throughout the world.

Blogger and movie buff plots the filming locations of IMDb's Top 2000 Films

Explore Edmund Helmer's map!

What would you do if you had a whole day to kill? Watch a movie? Read a book? Take a walk? Maybe do all three? For movie lover and movie blogger, Edmund Helmer, he spent his days plotting the filming locations of IMDb's Top 2,000 Films on a custom Google map. According to his blog post, his idea was born out of his love of Tarsem Singh's The Fall, who's many sets captivated him--a film that, according to IMDb, lists over 40 listed filming locations in all parts of the world. Helmer spent one whole day plotting each location on a Google map, but he didn't stop there. As his love for discovering film locations flowered, he added to his map. And, since The Fall doesn't crack the Top 2,000 Films rated by IMDb users, this map actually includes locations for 2001 movies.

What Helmer created is nothing short of stunning. With this map, you can easily see some of the more popular filming locations in the world--it's certainly no surprise as New York, Los Angeles, and London are just covered with little yellow dots; so much so that they become black splotches. Equally interesting are films that have used some of the most remote locations in the world, such as Dr. Strangelove filming in Greenland, or The Spy Who Loved Me filming in the dead of Canada's Northwest Passage. It's also fun to see the movies that filmed around your neighborhood--I do remember the hubbub that ensued when Salt filmed the next town over from my hometown on Long Island.

Helmer does point out that Google could not find all of the locations of the 2,000 films. The troubling spot? The Bermuda Triangle. Go fig!

Original Source: Switched

March 21, 2011

Movies Revisited: Mulholland Drive (2001)

Courtesy: Universal Pictures
Naomi Watts and Laura Harring in Mulholland Drive.
This week, I went back to the start of the millennium for David Lynch's psychological thriller, Mulholland Drive (MRQE Metric: 77).

Here is what I gather this time around: The film starts out in a limousine late one night in the Hollywood Hills. Rita (so called, and played by Laura Harring) faces her driver at gunpoint, when a car filled with screaming teenager’s crashes into them. Out of the wreckage walks Rita, disoriented and with no memory of her identity. She finds shelter in the home of a random woman who has left on business. Meanwhile Naomi Watts plays Betty, a bright-eyed young actress arriving to Hollywood seeking fame. She stays in her aunt's home, which happens to be the same house in which Rita is hiding. Betty is surprised to see Rita, standing frozen in the shower, but assumes that she is a friend of her aunt's. But when she speaks to her aunt and discovers that Rita is no friend at all, she decides to help the stranger anyway. Betty is curious about Rita's predicament and naively wants to help her link together her story. "Just like in the movies," Betty says. Their investigation leads them to another apartment where a woman lays dead. The identity of the dead woman, or how Rita knows her, is a mystery.

Meanwhile, in another scene, a slick movie director refuses to cast a certain actress in his upcoming movie, despite the pressure from two deranged Mafia men. And in another, an unnamed man confronts a nightmarish dream in the back of a diner.

And that is the most concrete narrative you'll get, the only road map for Mulholland Drive. Proceed at your own risk. Surreal imagery and bizarre characters cross paths in random, nonsensical ways. Characters change identities and settings overlap; one feels submerged in a bizarre dream, filled with love, treachery and impending doom. In other words, a David Lynch experience!

I spent a few classes in college studying Lynch. His films tend to spark academic discussion, typically involving a Freud reference or two. Say what you will about the limitless interpretations of dreams. Lynch has carved out a very successful career as a film auteur that challenges his audience with very strange stuff from the subconscious.

It's not for everyone . . . and I don't mean that as a euphemism. I really don't think there's a conventional, or predictable response to his films. That's what makes them interesting. It also makes Lynch box office poison. He's not a commercial director, and Mulholland Drive floundered on the big screen, grossing a little over $7 million domestically. His are not the movies you eagerly curl up on the couch to watch.

But I'm definitely a fan. Blue Velvet, Eraserhead and The Elephant Man are phenomenal films. I was totally wigged out by Lost Highway. Twin Peaks was a trip as well! And it was great seeing a cameo from Michael J. Anderson in Mulholland Drive; he was the little man from the series. Here's a taste of what you're missing:

Naomi Watts is great. It's not a star-making role, but she makes it a star-turning performance. She plays Lynch's campy and innocent dialogue with an urgency that never seems cheated. Which is important when the film lends itself to a few false realities. Ten years later, Lynch's mystical ode to Hollywood is as bizarre as ever. Check it out, if you dare!

Watch Mulholland Drive on Amazon!
Download Mulholland Drive on iTunes!

Box Office Wrap-Up: The Cold Cinema

Courtesy: Dark Fields Production
Bradley Cooper in the low-grossing, yet still #1, Limitless
The moon may have been full in New York City this weekend, but the box office was empty. Cold and lonely, new release Limitless scored a meager $19 million -- just enough to claim the top spot, while other premieres, The Lincoln Lawyer and Paul, flopped. Rango and Battle: Los Angeles managed to also stay in the top numbers, making $15.3 and $14.6 million respectfully. These numbers are low compared to what we were seeing weeks ago with Academy Award winners like True Grit, Black Swan, and The King's Speech all of which broke an $100 million in gross mark. This weekend resulted in a big economic hit at movie and production houses, as no one expected so many films to be such flops.

Starting on top was Bradley Cooper's latest flick, Limitless. The film made a solid $19 million; and with a production budget of $27 million this flick will definitely break even. But, still critics are having mixed reviews about this flick -- some love the alternate twist, and others think it is quite predictable; though, if numbers continue to carry Cooper and cast will produce a successful revenue.

Then we have Rango, which has been trending in the box office for three weeks and counting. One of the only fluidly successful films out now, the latest endeavor from Johnny Depp has produced an already strong $92 million gross. With numbers like this, and the film still fresh in audience's minds, Rango is likely to be in the top of the box office for an extended time.

Next is Battle: Los Angles, a film receiving horrendous reviews, but is surprisingly top three this weekend with a $14.6 weekend. A flick about aliens invading Los Angeles for water seems to most out dated and dry. Not a film that really excites us, the only people checking this out are probably die-hard sci-fi fans.

At fourth was The Lincoln Lawyer, the law flop that only took in $14.3 million. Matthew McConaughey has seemed to have lost his close fan base, and with creeping numbers like this, The Lincoln Lawyer will likely not make anything over $40 million in it's run. Audience's will just have to wait for the next drama starring a Hollywood hunk.

Additionally, right behind that was sci-fi flop Paul, starring Seth Rogen, which only garnered $13.1 million. This new comedy about aliens, comic books, and the FBI, found praise with critics. While the numbers may not prove to make this film a Blockbuster smash, it will still make audiences laugh.

So, all in all, the box office was quite dry. But, still with spring approaching there is a lot more to look forward to, with the big releases of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, X-Men: First Class, and Captain America. Additionally, next weekend we can't wait for Sucker Punch - check out our blog later in the week for more strong women like this!

Box Office Results (Mar. 18 - Mar. 20):

  1. Limitless (MRQE Metric: 60) - $19 million
  2. Rango (MRQE Metric: 75) - $15.3 million
  3. Battle: Los Angeles (MRQE Metric: 46) - $14.6 million
  4. The Lincoln Lawyer (MRQE Metric: ) - $13.4 million
  5. Paul (MRQE Metric: 62) - $$13.2 million
  6. Red Riding Hood (MRQE Metric: 36) - $7.3 million 
  7. The Adjustment Bureau (MRQE Metric: 66) - $6 million
  8. Mars Needs Moms (MRQE Metric: 59) - $5.3 million
  9. Beastly (MRQE Metric: 41) - $3.3 million
  10. Hall Pass (MRQE Metric: 44) - $2.6 million

March 19, 2011

WTF of the Week: Darren Out, Geeks Aghast.

Director Darren Aronofsky is out as
director of The Wolverine.
It was almost too good to be true; like the time the most popular girl in school said hello and actually used your first name. Darren Aronofsky--the director with the 'stasche, the man behind Pi--signed on to helm The Wolverine, Fox's sequel (and resuscitation) of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. But, just like when you found out that Brooke only said hello because she wanted you to do her calculus homework, the dream is dead as Mr. Aronofsky has stepped down.

Admittedly, this is not the usual "wait, what?" WTF fare; it’s more of a WTF: Why God? Why!?!?

Wolverine is one of the most popular comic icons in the industry today, and he's arguably at the top of Marvel Comic's cadre of costumed characters. Aronofsky taking the lead was supposed to do for this franchise what Christopher Nolan did for Batman: give it new life, with a darker edge that stays true to the essence of the character. Fanboys across the globe had faith that the Black Swan director would be able to keep his unique vision intact by standing up against the incessantly greedy, evil-hearted BIG STUDIO SCUM (cue dramatic and over-the-top villainous music) who rip the soul from every film they produce.

According to Deadline, it was nothing more than time that conspired against the project, as Aronofsky did not want to spend close to a year away from his family with the film scheduled to shoot in Japan.

This will go down as one of the greater "What If's" in film and comic fans' memory.

March 18, 2011

Trailer Watch: A peak at Deathly Hallows Part 2

Making its way around the Internet today is a behind-the-scenes peak into the upcoming final installment of the mega-franchise that is Harry Potter. Warner Brothers smartly spliced up the 7th and final book into two movies, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I (MRQE Metric: 71), found much box office success upon its release in November. The film claimed a domestic gross of $294.8 million, and is currently the third most profitable installment in the franchise, according to Box Office Mojo.  Part II will likely be just as profitable, if not more so.

Part II is due in theaters on July 15, and to whet your appetite, here's the featurette, which describes Part II as delivering "big emotion" and perhaps being the most intense Harry Potter yet! Are you excited for the final installment or are you sad that there will be no more Potter? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

March 17, 2011

MRQE Rewind: The Best Lawyer Flicks

Coming out this weekend is The Lincoln Lawyer. Matthew McConaughey plays Micky Haller, a young Beverly Hills lawyer that manages his business from the back of his Lincoln town car. He takes on a high profile real estate case that proves more complex than he anticipated. The film is the newest in a long line of legal thrillers and dramas that have won audiences over for decades. This is a winning formula: a young, morally conflicted lawyer taking on the trials, and tribulations, of our legal system. And we love seeing the good guy come out on top. Here are my favorites, the movies that give some meaning to right over wrong.

10. The Verdict (1982) - MRQE Metric: 72

Paul Newman plays a boozed up Boston lawyer in this contemplative legal drama directed by Sidney Lumet. The case revolves around a misdiagnosed patient who sits in a coma, pitting Newman's lawyer against a hospital run by the Archdiocese of Boston. Although I find the pace of The Verdict to be somewhat lagging, what makes it worthwhile is Newman's fascinating performance. One of the elder statesmen on my list brings weariness to the role and makes the story that much more human. If I'm ranking performance, Newman's number one! And despite lacking the punch of a thriller, it is a great, enduring legal drama that you rarely see come out of Hollywood.

9. The Firm (1993) - MRQE Metric: 64

At Number 9, we have Paul Newman's heir, Tom Cruise in The Firm. Newman and Cruise teamed up for Color of Money, and I'm sure Newman had a few pointers for the young Top Gun star's career. Not a bad choice with this thriller, adapted from the John Grisham novel. Cruise plays a hotshot young lawyer who joins a big law firm and quickly reaps the benefits of its success. But after the murder of two associates, he is caught in a bad case of his own. The bad guys, including Gene Hackman, are sinister, and Tom Cruise is, well, Tom Cruise. This was when he was fun to watch, and you rooted for him! The Firm is a classic, and it is not Cruise's last appearance on my list.

8. Michael Clayton (2007) - MRQE Metric: 77

At Number 8, it's my man George Clooney in one of the better triumphs of good over evil that we've seen in recent years. Michael Clayton is the quintessential "down-on-his-luck" fella, a compulsive gambler who can't catch a break. He's a "fixer" for his law firm, someone who is meant to clean up the dirty situations. But when a close friend and fellow attorney ends up dead, Clayton decides to investigate the apparent "suicide," only to uncover a massive corporate conspiracy, leading up to an exciting showdown in the film's finale between Clayton and the icy corporate lackey played brilliantly by Tilda Swinton. The legal conspiracy at stake is not important. Clooney drives this film, in arguably the best performance of his career.

7. Amistad (1997) - MRQE Metric: 75

Amistad does not get much credit in the Steven Spielberg pantheon of spectacular films. But I've always admired the film for its ambition and the tackling of powerful subject matter. Based on the true story of a slave rebellion that occurred on a ship bound for the American colonies in 1839, the film delves into the legal proceedings that followed, which decided if the Africans were deemed personal property or stood as people with individual rights. Anthony Hopkins plays John Quincy Adams in a thoroughly amusing role, and a cast of players including Morgan Freeman, Stellan Skarsgard and Matthew McConaughey (!) make this film a worthwhile historical drama.

6. The Hurricane (1999) - MRQE Metric: 74

The Great Rubin "Hurricane" Carter gets his story told in this biographical film. It follows the wrongful accusation of the former middleweight boxer for triple murder and the nineteen years he went on to spend behind bars. Only when a group of pen pals--led by an under-privileged youth from Brooklyn--respond to his case and decide to investigate, is Carter's sentence given proper consideration in U.S. Court. Although this is arguably a boxing movie, I would say that the intense work done by Carter's supporters in overturning his case, nearly twenty years after conviction, makes this story one of the most inspiring legal dramas to ever hit the big screen. And The Hurricane should have won Denzel Washington a Best Actor award! But that's just my opinion.

5. My Cousin Vinny (1992) - MRQE Metric: 66

And for a little relief from the dramatic fare, we have My Cousin Vinny at number 5. Joe Pesci plays the eponymous character, a fast talking New Yorker, who drives out to rural Alabama with his sassy girlfriend, played by Marissa Tomei, to defend his cousin in a local murder trial. Despite Vinny's inexperience and his irreverent attitude toward authority, he ends up winning the case with smarts that surprise everyone in court, including himself. The film is a comedy, but what makes it great is the story. In one of the few films on this list that takes place primarily in the courtroom, it excels with a very clever--and surprisingly intricate--legal plot that captivates. Plus, Joe Pesci and Marissa Tomei are incredibly fun together on-screen.

4. Philadelphia (1993) - MRQE Metric: 73

Sorry folks, back to the drama, and an intense drama at that. Jonathan Demme's Philadelphia was the timeliest film on my list upon its release. When this courtroom drama came out in 1993, the AIDS epidemic was still a very sensitive, controversial topic. Tom Hanks delivers a memorable, if not haunting performance as Andrew Beckett, a lawyer who was wrongfully laid off from his law firm after contracting the AIDS virus. Inspired by a true story of one of the first AIDS discrimination cases, Denzel Washington plays the lawyer who represents Beckett, overcoming his own personal prejudice in the process. Director Demme masterfully films a courtroom setting that is both disarming and deranged. In the end, the Beckett team wins, providing one last courageous victory for Hanks' character before succumbing to the disease.

3. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) - MRQE Metric: 92

You do not get more courageous than my choice for number 3. To Kill a Mockingbird is read and watched in classrooms across the country. And Atticus Finch--played by Gregory Peck--is the quintessential good guy for the courtroom genre. ATTICUS FINCH...the name just exudes good guy awesomeness. Adapted from the novel by Harper Lee, this legal drama centers around Peck's character, a hard working, ethical attorney in who defends Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a young white woman in 1930s Alabama. As the trial progresses, and ugly Southern prejudices surface, Tom's innocence grows clear. But the verdict goes against Robinson and Finch is left at a loss. Rarely does a legal drama depict injustice as its final outcome, which makes To Kill a Mockingbird that much more resonant.

2. 12 Angry Men (1957) - MRQE Metric: 86

In another classroom staple, at number 2 is 12 Angry Men. I vividly recall watching this film in my 8th grade Civics class. Directed by a young Sidney Lumet, this film teaches more about the impact of the average man on our justice system than any other film on my list. Did the teenage boy murder his father? Initially 11 out of 12 members believe so, but Henry Fonda convinces each juror that there is reasonable doubt. This film accurately presents the kind of power and responsibility held by the most average (and moody) US citizen. Every character in this film has his moment. Kudos to Sidney Lumet for shooting the entire film in one room and keeping the tension so thick you can cut it with a knife.

1. A Few Good Men (1992) - MRQE Metric: 69

My number one is a personal favorite. I must have watched this film dozens of times in college. A Few Good Men is a classic. "You want the truth, you can't handle the truth!" is arguably one of the most memorable movie lines in recent memory. Penned as the first feature by Aaron Sorkin, the movie centers around a young lawyer for the US Navy--played by Tom Cruise--who takes on the murder case of a Marine officer at Guantanamo Bay. With an all-star cast including Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore and Kevin Bacon, there are definitely a Few Good Actors in the lineup--especially Nicholson, who plays a real baddie. Justice is served in the end. With some great acting, a great score and some interesting twists, this is my favorite legal flick.

March 14, 2011

Box Office Wrap-Up: Another Weak Weekend

Aaron Eckhart stars in box office winner "Battle: Los Angeles"
Courtesy: Columbia TriStar
The box office this weekend saw numbers that were quite unusual. The top grossing film only made $36 million and everything else fell short. Top films used to gross on average $40-$50 million the opening weekend, though now it just seems everyone is disappointed in Hollywood. Maybe in the following weeks--with big flicks like Sucker Punch, Thor, The Hangover Part II, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, and X-Men: First Class--the box office will start to see bigger numbers with stronger stars.

Coming out on top from this pre-Spring weekend was Battle: Los Angeles. The sci-fi actioner made $36 million, though critics are saying the flick is weaker than that of similarly-themed Independence Day. Battle: Los Angeles is about invading aliens and their desire to take over a city like Los Angeles for water, when everyone knows the water quality in L.A. is horrid; seems like quite a dry plot-line to most critics.

Coming in second is CGI-western Rango with $23 million. Critics love this movie's original plot, animation, as well as it being another off-beat character to add to the extensive list of classic roles on Johnny Depp's resume. Certainly a great film for audience members of all ages, Rango is likely to stick around the box office for a while.

At third is Red Riding Hood sucking in $14.1 million. With Amanda Seyfried just as wide-eyed as her killer wolf, audiences found it hard to engage in such a dry flick with a quite predictable outcome. Everyone knows the story of Little Red Riding Hood but this film has a darker, more mysterious twist, which gave critics the impression that director Catherine Hardwicke failed with over-acting and a far too choppy plot. It would be surprising if this flick held ground at the box office for the next few months or even weeks.

Coming in fourth is The Adjustment Bureau with $11.5 million. In only two weeks this Matt Damon/Emily Blunt mash-up has made a $68 million gross. Critics feel that this is a decent flick; maybe not Damon’s best work (everyone loves the Bourne series), but definitely manageable. Expected to be grossing a lot more money in the following weeks due to Damon’s established fan base, The Adjustment Bureau may find competition next week with Matthew McConaughey's The Lincoln Lawyer.

Finally in fifth is box-office flop Mars Needs Moms, which made a meager $6.8 million. Critics blasted the film for its dry jokes and biased storyline that makes it predictable and boring. Most audiences seemed to have forgotten about Mars Needs Moms already and are looking for the next animation smash. Let's just call this one a little Disney disaster.

Hall Pass is still grossing money at the sixth spot, with a $5.1 million weekend, and Beastly, at #7, earned just over $5 million. Next week, Paul (starring Seth Rogan), will guarantee a laugh and some decent box office numbers, and The Lincoln Lawyer will probably be more aesthetically pleasing than entertaining but can still claim a strong gross.

Box Office Top Ten (March 11 - March 13):
  1. Battle: Los Angeles (MRQE Metric: 45) - $36 million
  2. Rango (MRQE Metric: 74) - $23 million
  3. Red Riding Hood (MRQE Metric: 34) - $14.1 million
  4. The Adjustment Bureau (MRQE Metric: 66) - $11.5 million
  5. Mars Needs Moms (MRQE Metric: 59) - $6.8 million
  6. Hall Pass (MRQE Metric: 44) - $5.1 million
  7. Beastly (MRQE Metric: 42)  - $5.1 million
  8. Just Go With It (MRQE Metric: 37) - $4 million
  9. The King's Speech (MRQE Metric: 85) - $3.6 million
  10. Gnomeo and Juliet (MRQE Metric: 57) - $3.4 million

March 13, 2011

WTF of the Week: An eclectic Hollywood equation.

Colin Firth has an interesting follow-up to his Oscar-winning
performance in The King's Speech.

So, let’s add this up: according to the Los Angeles Times, two Academy Award winners, an action-guru director and a screenwriter who starred in a breakout television series (pun intended as you’ll see). The Oscar winners are none other than Hollywood darling Nicole Kidman, who won the Best Actress Oscar for 2002’s The Hours, along with the star of 2010’s Academy magnet, The King’s Speech, Best Actor winner Colin Firth. The director is Chan-wook Park, whose claim to fame is the innovative martial arts revenge flick Oldboy. Filling perhaps the oddest portion of this equation is Wentworth Miller, the star of television’s Prison Break, and screenwriter of this little enigma.

The sum: Stoker.

In a not so subtle nod to author Bram Stoker, the film is a vampire tale with a love story and some family drama thrown in for good measure. Firth is in line to play the dashing uncle of Mia Wasikowska, an uncle with some bad nighttime habits. Kidman has been cast as Wasikowska’s mother, their surname is Stoker – hence the nod.

Now if all of this isn’t intriguing and bizarre enough, there’s the directing of Park to consider. He can absolutely capture the mood of a man with dark secrets and a vicious streak within – just look at Min-sik Choi’s performance in Oldboy. It’s going to be interesting to see how Park channel’s that energy into this decidedly different genre.

If nothing else, this is a team of professionals put together in what should be one of 2011’s better films.
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