The wonderful Warner Archive debuts four new films today and I have one set to give away! These are lesser-seen films from three of the greatest musical performers of all time, including Gene Kelly’s dream project, a film displays his talents in three different all-dance stories and Judy Garland’s first teaming with her most frequent co-star.
Yolanda and the Thief Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremer (of “Meet Me in St. Louis”) star in this fantasy musical about a man who poses as an angel to swindle an innocent heiress but…well, see if you can guess.
Invitation to the Dance Gene Kelly stars in a film that was his own project — all music, no dialogue, with three stories told through three different styles of dance. Kelly plays a clown, a Marine, and Sinbad the sailor.
Little Nellie Kelly Judy Garland plays a headstrong Irish lass who defies her father to marry the boy she loves but dies in childbirth. And she also plays the daughter, named for her mother. Her songs in this film include “It’s a Great Day for the Irish” and “Singing in the Rain.”
Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry Judy Garland again, her first time with frequent co-star Mickey Rooney. They get support from Sophie Tucker and several top character actors in the story of an actress and a jockey and a high-stakes horse race.
To enter for these movies, send me an email at email@example.com with Warner’s in the subject line and don’t forget your address! I will pick one winner at random on March 20. Good luck!
According to this movie the two universal human imperatives are the need to find out whether we can contact the dead and the need to use Google to do so. Can we please de-Google-ize movies? I love Google, too, but it is impossible to make a compelling movie scene out of someone typing into a search engine and scrolling through the links that pop up.
Clint Eastwood’s latest film is a meditation on death, with three entwined stories. A French journalist survives the tsunami but is haunted by visions from an NDE (near-death experience). An English boy sees his twin brother die and desperately tries to find a way to communicate with him. And an American factory worker resists his gift for acting as a conduit between the living and the dead. There are some powerful and moving moments, but the film overstays its welcome and fails to deliver on its promise.
There are people who are consumed with the need to talk with those they have lost, to ask forgiveness, to forgive, to know there is something, someone there. And then there are those who do communicate with the dead, and can be just as consumed with the need to get away from them, whose most important lesson from those who have passed over is that they need to make a life among the living. George (Matt Damon) is one of those. He once had a website and a business doing “readings” for those who want to reach out to their loved ones who had departed. A book was written about him. He appeared on television. But the comfort he brought to those who found some sense of completion in his ability to connect to the dead was outweighed by his own inability to disconnect from the messages he was carrying.
Then there is Marie (Cécile De France), a successful French television journalist on vacation with her producer/boyfriend on an Indonesian resort when the tsunami hits. This is Eastwood as his best, a stunningly powerful sequence that will leave the audience feeling swept into the pounding power of the ocean. Marie glimpses a vision of what might be the afterlife when she is briefly near death. After she returns to France the concerns that occupied her before — her ambitions, the stories she covers, even her relationship — are not as important to her as understanding what she saw and what it means. When once she was excited to appear in posters for Blackberry, now she is interested in a more profound form of communication.
Jason and Marcus (played interchangeably by real-life twins George and Frankie McLaren, a nice touch to show their close connection) are British twins who are exceptionally devoted to one another. They have to be. Their mother is a heroin addict, so they have to work together to take care of her and of each other and keep the social workers from finding out what is really going on in their home. Jason, 12 minutes older, is the more verbal and the decision-maker. He is killed and Marcus sees him die. He is put in foster care while his mother goes to rehab. He is alone. And he needs, desperately, to find a way to talk to the brother who is in every way the other half of himself. He tries a number of psychics but they all seem to be well-meaning fools or downright fakes.
Nothing that happens later in the movie lives up to the inexorable, thundering, power of the tsunami, which makes the under-imagined images of the afterlife seem thin and tepid. Eastwood’s own score (he is an accomplished jazz musician) is nicely understated and evocative. And it was a relief that the heroin-addict mother and the foster parents were not Dickensian ogres. But the stories meander. The movie could lose half an hour easily — until they all come together for a conclusion that feels inadequate. When a magician shows you a hat, you are entitled to see a rabbit. No rabbit here.
It’s one of the hottest roles in Hollywood. Who will play Katniss Everdeen, the heroine of the wildly popular The Hunger Games series from author Suzanne Collins? The trilogy explores a post-apocalyptic planet where teenagers combat gladiator-style, to the death, in a gruesome but wildly popular form of reality television. Brave, resilient, determined Katniss, who saves her sister’s life by taking her place in the games, must save not only herself, but her humanity, finding a way to stay alive while protecting her sense of justice as well.
Reportedly, actresses considered for the part include Saoirse Ronan (“Atonement”), Emma Watson (“Harry Potter”), Ellen Page (“Juno”), Chloe Moritz (“Kick-Ass”), and Hailee Steinfeld (“True Grit”). But it appears that they are choosing Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar-nominated for last year’s “Winter’s Bone” and star of this year’s Sundance favorite “Like Crazy.”
I hope so — she is a brilliantly talented actress. Here she is talking about “Winter’s Bone” and the challenges she looks for in the roles she picks.
The upcoming five-part miniseries starring Kate Winslet is a good reason to visit the original movie version of Mildred Pierce, with an Oscar-winning performance by Joan Crawford. She plays the title character, who sacrifices everything to give her daughter the benefits of wealth and status only to find that she has raised a shallow, selfish monster.
Based on the book by noir novelist James M. Cain and directed by Michael Curtiz (“Casablanca,” “The Adventures of Robin Hood”), it is the story of a woman who is determined that her daughters will have money and social position. She leaves her out-of-work husband and hides from her daughters her job as a waitress. Veda (Ann Blyth), the older daughter, is a snob who is furious when she finds out the truth. The younger daughter dies of pneumonia. Through sheer determination (and the manipulation of the men around her), Mildred establishes a chain of restaurants and marries an upper-class, though impoverished, playboy to help Veda’s social climbing. When Veda turns out to be just as ruthless as Mildred — on her own behalf rather than to care for someone else, Mildred is called upon for one final sacrifice.
This was Joan Crawford’s first starring role at Warner Brothers following a humiliating termination of her contract at MGM. Curtiz did not want her for the part (he wanted Bette Davis, who turned it down because the character had a teenage daughter). Crawford’s own sense of determination and resentment is part of what made this her best-remembered performance. Carol Burnett’s funny “Mildred Fierce” parody is a loving tribute to this classic film.