Today in Movie History: March 27

If gritty crime dramas are your game, Michael Mann is your director. And while I’d cite the likes of Heat, Manhunter and Collateral as unabashed masterpieces, they are preceded by Thief which set the pace for those triumphs to follow. James Caan plays a brilliant jewel thief trying to go straight, enticed into one last score that goes dreadfully wrong. Mann succeeds by upending those cliches as much as honoring them, and considering that it was his first feature production, his technical command of the medium is breathtaking. Thief opened today in 1981.

Dreamworks’ Monsters vs. Aliens has faded a bit in the public’s mind since it opened — we’re not exactly hurting for quality animated features these days — but I maintain it sits near the very top of their canon. Its fresh, funny and loving homage/parody of 50s monster movies hearkens back to Joe Dante at his best, and there’s even a little feminist twist in there to keep us on our toes. It opened today in 2009.

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