Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is a good thriller…with a good ending. Not a great ending (I wish one of the main characters’ story was not left unresolved) but still satisfying. And, maybe famed NYC director Sidney Lumet left that one character’s end unresolved because that’s how life is…sometimes left hanging. From the way it starts to the way Lumet structures the story (told from different POVs), this one is original. Basically, it’s a robbery-gone-awry story which we’ve all seen over and over again in films. But Lumet adds an extra twist here that keeps you guessing until the end. Not Lumet’s best movie…(can anyone say Twelve Angry Men???) but compared to some of the lame thrillers out there, this one is one of the best of late.
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Ninotchka is most famous and known for that fact that it’s a Greta Garbo comedy. Garbo was a well-known actress…iconic almost…so when she made her first comedy, I guess it was natural that the film’s tagline of “Garbo Laughs” revolves around only her and not around the movie, director, or other cast members. Don’t get me wrong…Garbo is great in this classic, though I feel that she is a excellent part of a excellent comedy ensemble that was put together and made to work seamlessly by famed comedy director Ernst Lubitsch, who helmed other comic classics such as The Shop Around the Corner and Trouble in Paradise. Also, the screenplay here is written by a pre-directing Billy Wilder and his early partner Charles Brackett. Garbo plays a Russian who heads to Paris to check up on three comrades who are supposed to be selling some famed Russian jewels. Garbo’s character, Ninotchka, is a stern, tough woman who despises Paris and all of its lavishness. This is, until she meets Leon, who represents everything she loathes around capitalism, but she falls for him anyway. Since Wilder, Brackett and Lubitsch’s work often goes unnoticed next to Garbo’s aura, while you’re watching his masterpiece, make sure you occasionally take your eyes off the goddess and take note of the stellar filmmaking.
Cary Grant. Grace Kelly. The French Rivera. Separately, all three things look pretty darn good. Together…watch out. Director Alfred Hitchcock knew how to capitalize on the beauty of all three when he made To Catch a Thief—Grant is never more handsome, Kelly is never more beautiful, and the Rivera is so alluring it just seems to call out to you to come and dive into its beaches. The story of the film revolves around a series of recent cat burglaries, which may or may not have been done by former thief Grant. Kelly plays a young socialite who enjoys teasing and seducing Grant, especially after she finds out he used to be a burglar. Hitchcock also teases the audience here—much of Thief’s dialogue is done tongue-and-cheek. Grant is perfect for that “light” tone…he has already proven in other Hitchcock movies (Suspicion and Notorious) that he can play the dark, brooding leading man. In Thief (and then later North by Northwest), Grant takes on a more satirical, even jovial persona that makes him more appealing to the audience and to his leading lady. Watching To Catch a Thief is just pure fun…fun to watch Grant and Kelly play cat-and-mouse and fun to imagine yourself in the midst of picturesque France.