Certified Fresh Picks from the WB Vault

Celebrate the studio's 85th anniversary with some of their best.

by | August 27, 2008 | Comments

It’s the third-oldest American movie studio: the company that brought us Rin Tin Tin, convinced the world that the talkies were here to stay, and eventually grew into one of the largest conglomerates in the world. Yes, we’re talking about Warner Bros. — and for good reason: the WB is turning 85 this year, and they’re
celebrating by giving away gifts. Eighty-five, to be precise — they’re opening their vaults and making a great big stack of their finest films available via iTunes.

Naturally, RT took this as a perfect opportunity to revisit some of our favorite moments in Warner Bros. history,
looking closer at some movies that present a solid cross-section of the studio’s best titles — and that are Certified Fresh, to boot. It would take a much longer list to truly do
any studio justice, of course — but then again, to really do it right, you’ve got to watch the movies.
So sit down with our list, open up your iTunes account, and get ready to be entertained all over again. Happy Birthday, Warner Bros.!




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The Maltese
Falcon

Release year: 1941
Tomatometer: 100%

We love to bellyache about the constant stream of remakes coming out of Hollywood, but the fact is, some pretty great movies have been remakes — including this one, which followed the 1931 adaptation of Dashiell Hammett‘s novel onto the big screen with Humphrey Bogart taking over for the first Sam Spade, Ricardo Cortez. (See? Sometimes things are better the second time around.) Everything you know about the way hard-boiled gumshoes are supposed to act comes from this story; matter of fact, even if you’ve never seen it, you’ve most likely seen every essential plot device pop up in countless other films. As eFilmCritic‘s Scott Weinberg succinctly put it, “Best in noir, best in Bogie, one of the best ever.”

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from iTunes




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Bonnie & Clyde

Release year: 1967
Tomatometer: 91%

Call it the Natural Born Killers of its day: Arthur Penn‘s take on the story of the Depression’s hottest bank robber couple broke taboos, set new standards for graphic onscreen violence, and helped kickstart the New Hollywood era. It also made Warren Beatty a pretty penny: the future Dick Tracy passed up his standard producer’s fee for a 40 percent take of the gross. Once the box-office receipts started piling up, Warner Bros. wasn’t alone in wishing it had a bigger piece of the action — more than one lawsuit alleging defamation of character was filed by the heirs of Bonnie and Clyde’s compatriots and victims, and the real-life Blanche Barrow publicly complained that the movie made her look like “a screaming horse’s ass.” The critical response was far more favorable: Emanuel Levy echoed many of his peers’ sentiments when he said Bonnie and Clyde “forever changed the course of American cinema.”

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from iTunes




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Blazing Saddles

Release year: 1974
Tomatometer: 89%

By 1974, the Hollywood western — and American race relations — had seen better days. Leave it to Mel Brooks to take them both, knock their heads together, Three Stooges-style, and come up with Blazing Saddles, the one and only film to put Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, and Count Basie on the same screen. Saddles is best remembered for its filthy bits, particularly the iconic campfire scene, but like South Park 25 years later, a fairly sharp social satire lurks beneath the shockingly offensive exterior. As Mark Bourne of DVDJournal noted, “Its humor is the palliative that lets Brooks mock prejudices and, with gloves off, prejudiced people.”

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The Fugitive

Release year: 1993
Tomatometer: 94%

Most TV-to-film adaptations are either played for laughs or acquire them through unintentional means, but Andrew Davis‘ 1993 take on the hit 1960s serial drama was a powerful, exhilarating exception — and it made a pile of money to boot. Forget all about the regrettable spinoff and just revel in the taut, pulse-pounding glory of Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones playing against each other in a good old-fashioned game of cat and mouse. And we do mean old-fashioned: The Fugitive was perhaps the last man-on-the-run blockbuster that didn’t rely on high-tech gizmos and the Web to get from point A to point B. Time‘s Richard Schickel wasted no words in calling it “a first-rate thriller.”

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from iTunes





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Three Kings

Release year: 1999
Tomatometer: 93%

Just a few years earlier, if you had told someone that one of 1999’s best-reviewed films would star George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, and Ice Cube, you’d have had to forgive the guffaws that would have greeted your prediction. But David O. Russell‘s Persian Gulf War saga helped restore some of the box-office luster Clooney lost with Batman & Robin, proved that Wahlberg’s revelatory starring turn in Boogie Nights was no fluke, and provided Cube with a temporary detour on the way to starring in cuddly family films. Oh, and it’s also really good, blending harrowing war action with bursts of comedy, an on-the-ground soldiers’ perspective, and a nifty heist storyline. Russell famously made few friends on the set, but whatever his methods were, they worked; the Toronto Globe and Mail‘s Rick Groen called it “perhaps the first feature of merit to come out of the Gulf War.”

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from iTunes