April 8, 2011

MRQE Rewind: Animals on Film


Animals always make great characters. With Born to Be Wild being unleashed to theaters this weekend, we thought it was right for us to explore the many great animals that graced the silver screen. As Born to Be Wild explores the African animal kingdom, and the way humans dedicate their lives to saving these endangered species, we focus on the films that explore the relationships animals have with one another or with humans. Whether graceful whale, or mega gorilla, or crazed rabid dog, these animals truly left a print in cinema history.



Jaws (1975) - MRQE Metric: 91

Beginning with a blockbuster smash, Steven Spielberg's Jaws is the first big "high concept" blockbuster; and it stars a killer shark hungry for human flesh. Based on a novel by Peter Benchley--who had little to no voice in the production of the film--Jaws was produced on a solid $7 million budget and went to gross over $470 million dollars around the world. Jaws, the character, develops almost-humanistic characteristics as it terrorizes the small port town of Amity. The film being so successful, went on to spawn three sequels.




Babe (1995) - MRQE Metric: 86

On a softer note, the 1995 classic Babe, stars a cute little pig. With the storyline about life on an Australian farm and interactions amongst other animals, Babe has become a benchmark film for animal lovers. Being nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Babe remains as an emotional film about animal relationships, the universal emotion of love, and the reality of how similar animals truly are to humans.




King Kong (1933) - MRQE Metric: 88


Then, there is the 1933 film King Kong, starring Fay Wray and a massive, city demolishing gorilla. Kong, the gorilla, has now become a movie icon, appearing in comics, articles, books, paraphernalia, theme parks, and even video games. The original film was produced as a fantasy monster flick and received great critic reviews. The film ends with the classic line by Carl Denham, played by Robert Armstrong, saying, "No, it wasn't the airplanes . . .  it was Beauty killed the Beast." In spite of his death, Kong was resurrected twice: once in 1976 with a young Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange; and then again in 2005 with Naomi Watts.




Free Willy (1993) - MRQE Metric: 69

From gorillas to whales, we have none other than Free Willy, a movie about a troubled boy, Jesse (played by Jason James Ritcher), who bounces from foster home to foster home. When Jesse comes in counter with a killer whale, named Willy, that has gone through similar troubles as him--being taken from his family and the wild at a young age--Jesse connects with this animal. When Willy's life falls into danger, Jesse does everything in his power to save him. The critic response to this film was very mixed, but ask any child that grew up in the 90's--this flick was a tear jerker and remains a classic film; who could forget that epic jump?




The Black Stallion (1979) - MRQE Metric: n/a


Francis Ford Coppola's The Black Stallion is one of the most beautiful tales ever told, with a truly stunning star: Arabian stallion, Cass Ole, playing the main
horse in the film. A truly gorgeous, long, and lean horse, the relationship that builds between Cass and "supporting" character, Alec Ramsey (Kelly Reno) is enchanting. From being deserted on an island to becoming an elite competitive horse racer, this is a flick everyone should see.




Born Free (1966) - MRQE Metric: n/a


1966 British dramatic film Born Free is about a real-life couple living in Kenya that raised a lioness, Elsa, from birth. Elsa is an emotional lioness who shows many human-like characteristics. She's protective, loving, and cautious about the world and people around her. The film hits a climax when Elsa is of age to be released back into the wilderness and her adoptive human parents do not know what to do.  director James Hill's fascinating work won a Globes Globe for Best Motion Picture - Drama. And, who could forget the eponymous song, which picked up an Academy Award? This film is a must see for any young audience.




Paulie (1998) - MRQE Metric: 64

Paulie is the 1998 family flick about a comedic talking parrot voiced by Jay Mohr. While Paulie may not be as powerful of a character as some others on this list (King Kong would crush him), the humor he produces is unparalleled. Winning awards and nominations across the board, from the ALMA to BAFTA to Young Artists Awards, this film was well accepted among critics and audiences alike.




Cujo (1983) - MRQE Metric: 66


Growing up we may have all wanted pets like Willy, Cass, or Babe, but nobody ever wants a dog like Cujo, a killer St. Bernard that takes over a small town in Maine. Director Lewis Teague did a fascinating job recreating the classic novel by Steven King. Cujo, a once nice puppy, contracts rabies and goes insane. He becomes a killer - everyone and anyone that enters his house becomes a victim of his attack. Rated as one of Bravo's top 100 Scariest Movies, this is a must see flick for the horror movie fan.




Stuart Little (1999) - MRQE Metric: 63

Up until now, every character on our list has been a real animal; and, while Stuart Little is a fictional CGI mouse voiced by Michael J. Fox, the film should be no exception. Featuring real humans and a real cat along with the computer-generated mouse, this film was nominated for an an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. Based on the classic children's book, Stuart Little (also starring a pre-House, Hugh Laurie) is an adorable film about a mouse who is adopted into a family of humans. One of the strongest relationships produced is this film is the unique bond that develops between the family cat, Snowbell, and Stuart. The eventually untale of love and adaptation that comes forth in this film is a great life lesson for an audience of any age.




Project X (1987) - MRQE Metric: n/a

Chimpanzees have always been known as some of the most intelligent creatures on Earth - aside from humans, of course. The 1987 film Project X, directed by Jonathan Kaplan, stars Matthew Broderick as a United States Air Force trainee working with an chimp. Broderick plays Jimmy Garrett who is directed to help train the chimp, Virgil, in sign language, as well as, automated flight training. Ironically, this film was produced as an undercut to the ethics of animal research, though the producers were eventually accused of animal cruelty by the United Activist for Animal Rights.

1 comment:

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