Director in Focus: Brian De Palma – Redacted



Redacted (2007)

So we have caught up with Brian De Palma’s body of work. Redacted goes back to a lot of the same territory as 1989’s Casualties of War. We have American troops in a foreign land and the sexual violation of a native girl is the crux of the conflict. There’s one soldier who above all the rest is still virtuous. This was one was written by De Palma as well and really shows off his weakness as a writer. However, there are some interesting technical elements to the picture, and it really easy very experimental for De Palma, both in its making and the distribution.

Told through soldiers’ personal video diaries, CCTVs, news footage, and user submitted online videos, this is based on a true story where a squad of American soldiers were responsible for the rape of 15 year old girl and the subsequent murder and burning of both she and her family. The film did not do well upon its release, and in no way is this a great movie. However, many of the criticisms were jingoistic blather about De Palma wanted to imply that all soldiers are evil monsters. The fact that one of the squad members goes to the authorities with what happens must have gone over their heads. Its part of this thoughtless creed of “support the troops” which many interpret as do not question or think critically about the actions of the military. I don’t believe every soldier over there is some sort of sociopath, but I believe the culture that surrounds the military breeds that in people who leaned that way in the first place. That said, De Palma doesn’t present either the villains or the hero of the film in an interesting way at all.

The two vile soldiers who perpetrate the rape and murder are drawn cartoonishly broad. There are even scenes where they cackle like the hyenas in The Lion King. The hero is also without flaws and there’s nothing remotely interesting about him. The type of evil that is most interesting is the kind that comes out of mundane and ordinary people. When you have two characters who appear to be walking cliches they don’t come off as truly intimidating at all. A good filmmaker would make us like these guys, show us sympathy for them, and then reveal their darker nature. It makes us question ourselves. Even Sean Penn in Casualties of War, of which De Palma is really ripping himself off on, was a character I understood. Even though his action were abhorrent I could see what he saw in the world. What I did like was De Palma trying to do more with his camera. His typical POV shots were incorporated as part of the soldier’s diaries and there’s some interesting work done with website video.

Looking back on the films of Brian De Palma I have to defend him as a cinematographer. He may not always be a great all-around storyteller but he is one of the best cameramen I’ve ever seen. The level of tension he can generate in a film is amazing, and its all done through some of the tightest editing around. The moment in the prom scene of Carrie, as Amy Irving is figuring out what the bullies are about to do is such a perfect example of that. So much information is told without words, simply looks and cuts. The museum scene in Body Double should be shown to every wannabe filmmaker of how to tell a voluminous story in a only a few minutes and without a single piece of dialogue. Even watching the worst films of De Palma’s, I always knew he would amaze me with the camera. Sadly, his career has been marred by too many failures in a row. According to IMDB, De Palma appears to be working on a remake of his great rock opera Phantom of the Paradise (seen before I started this marathon), a prequel to The Untouchables sub-titled Capone Rising, and The Boston Stranglers, based on a true crime book about the theory that multiple men were placed under the umbrella of one serial killer. My hope is that De Palma can still find a way to produce good films again, I know he has it in him and I think there’s a strong possibility that he can rally a comeback in the same way that Francis Ford Coppola has been doing.

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Back Issue Bin: Animal Man #1-26



Animal Man #1-26 (1988-1990)
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Tom Grummett, Chas Truog, and Doug Hazelwood

It’s no secret that I love Grant Morrison’s work. He’s like the second coming of Julius Schwartz, the crazy DC Comics innovator of the Silver Age mixed with metaphysical, post-modern sensibilities. Just a year after Watchmen’s publication, Morrison wrote what was in many ways a response to Watchmen’s attempt at realism. With Animal Man, Morrison created a hyper real look at the comic book reality and its the relation of creator and creation. The fact that these were mainstream comics published by DC, yet so innovative and experimental is amazing. Its hard to see anything like this happening again, though there was a brief attempt with Brian Azzarello’s Architecture and Morality mini-series in 2006, more on that later.

Animal Man was created decades before, in 1965 in Strange Adventures. The character could take on the abilities of what ever animal life was in the vicinity, so if a bird was around he could fly, if an elephant was close he could charge with massive strength, etc. The character was pretty flat an uninteresting, and even ironically became a member of a team called The Forgotten Heroes in the early 1980s. It was in the late 1980s, that the young upstart Morrison, newly imported from the UK was given the character. DC deemed it fairly safe to test the young writer out on a superhero with little fanbase invested in him, so if he screwed up it wouldn’t cause very much damage. What Morrison managed to do was turn Animal Man into one of the most complex and interesting characters DC published. The character continues on in popularity, having been a major player in events in the last five years, as well as getting his own eight issue mini-series.

Morrison began things by making Buddy Baker, the civilian identity of Animal Man, a family man. He had a wife, Ellen, and two kids, Cliff and Maxine. In the first story arc of the series, Buddy become involved in a battle between fellow animal-linked hero B’Wana Beast and a company using animals for scientific testing. The story is dark and poignant and there aren’t your typical hero versus villain battles. B’Wana Beast dies and Buddy is changed significantly. In resulting stories he goes vegan, his powers now linked to the emotional spectrum of animals, feeling their suffering. Morrison doesn’t let him get away with this easily, and Buddy ends up in some heated arguments with Ellen who doesn’t appreciate Buddy forcing his personal lifestyle change on the rest of the family. As you can tell, this is not the sort of thing you expect from comic books and its incredibly refreshing.

The most mind blowing story up this point came in Animal Man #5, “The Coyote Gospel”. In this story, a humanoid coyote wanders the desolate roads of the American southwest. He’s hunted by an obsessive truck driver who kills him, only for the coyote to rise from the dead again and again. Animal Man, who plays a very backseat role in this story, shows up and the coyote hands him a scroll. The story shifts to the content of the scroll which explains that this coyote came from a universe very much like that of the Warner Brothers cartoons. The inhabitants lived in a state of un-death, dying but constantly ressurecting. This coyote finally became fed up and question his world’s creator. The creator, depicted as a man in a plaid pants and wielding a paintbrush condemned the coyote to wander other worlds. Morrison pulls us back to show that to Animal Man’s eyes the scroll is unintelligible chicken scratch. He tells the coyote that he can’t read this and at that moment the trucker fires, shooting the coyote point blank in the head and killing him. The final full page panel is off a hand drawing this scene which has faded away partially at the bottom as just a simple pencil sketch.

This single issue serves as the thesis statement for the rest of Morrison’s run on the series. He begins to deconstruct the ideas of continuity in comics and how Animal Man’s original creator and his own intentions for the character are drastically different. Morrison looks at the idea of the multiverse and about what happens to comic book characters who are forgotten and never used. All of this culminates in a meeting between Animal Man and Morrison himself. What also has to be one of the trippiest moments in comics books occurs during this run, as Animal Man has gone to a mountaintop and taken peyote in an attempt to break free from the physical constraits of his universe. In this moment, he suddenly feels that he is being watched, then looks right up at the reader, shouting that he can see you, that he knows you are watching. Chills!

As further reading, Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang got together for a very small series of back up stories in the mini-series Tales of the Unexpected (2006). Much like Morrison’s stories, these explore the nature of forgotten characters and their relationship with their creators. The series is a lot of fun and features some crazy characters (Genius Jones, Infectious Lass, The Gorilla Brigade) as well as poking fun at DC’s editorial staff. It’s available in a collected edition titled Architecture and Morality.

Comics 101: Green Lantern Part 2

Hal Jordan was now the Green Lantern of Earth again. Kyle Rayner was still Ion, containing the power of the Green Lanterns without needing a ring to wield it. Guy Gardner and John Stewart were both Lanterns again and lived on Oa, the homeworld of the Green Lantern Corps training new recruits. Things were good. What they didn’t know is that Sinestro was busy in the Anti-Matter Universe, forcing the Weaponeers to construct a massive Yellow Lantern, which mimics the Central Battery on Oa, where the green power came from. With his own yellow battery, Sinestro created multiple rings sending them out to those beings in the universe that inspired great fear. Once his Sinestro Corps was assembled, they led a brutal assault on Oa, killing many Green Lanterns in the process. The battle was unlike anything the universe has ever seen and raged on to eventually come to Earth. Kyle Rayner was stripped of his Ion powers, but managed to get a ring in time to join the Corps. Sinestro was captured, but not before the Guardians allowed the Lanterns to compromise their values and use their rings to kill.

Sinestro was locked up in Sciencell on Oa but told Jordan that the “Blackest Night” was coming, and in this time of darkness Jordan would be compromised. Jordan was shaken up but worked to distract himself. The Guardians adapted to the new threat of the yellow rings of fear but establishing the Alpha Lanterns, regular Corpsmen transformed into emotionless judges, meant to keep the Corps in check. Meanwhile, other rings created from different aspects of emotion were manifesting in the universe. In Sector 666, the demonic Atrocitus vomited up a bloody red ring of rage. On a distant serene planet, two rebel Guardians made blue rings of hope. On the all-female world of Zamaron, its inhabitants made violet rings of love. And deep in a cavern on Okaara, one lone figure clutched an orange ring of greed. All of these various Corps began to get into conflicts and change the dynamics of the universe. In the Anti-Matter Universe, a jet black lantern manifest black rings of death, and these would change everything.

While the Corps worked to hunt down Sinestro’s soldiers still out there, using their rings to torture innocent beings, Hal Jordan encountered the Blue Lanterns and found his could use his green ring in conjunction with a blue one. He also ended up in Sector 666, where a red ring of rage overtook him for a little while. Sinestro was being transferred when his Corps arrived to liberate him and all hell broke loose. The War of Light began, all the various colors battling each other. As they were distracted, an old villain named Black Hand brought the scourge of the Black Rings to Earth. These rings were keyed only to the dead, and allowed hordes of dead heroes and villains to be resurrected as dark versions of themselves. At the time characters like Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, and Hawkman were all dead and came back as monstrous Black Lanterns.

After a few days of fruitless battle, the Black Lanterns merely reconstructing themselves, its discovered that if two Lanterns of different colors use their powers together they can destroy a Black Lantern. Across the globe the battle rages and its revealed that Nekron, a being who controls death has been making the rings. It’s also discovered that an entity lives in the Earth who generates a White energy that creates a single ring and single Lantern. Sinestro gets ahold of it and fails, with Hal using its power to drive Nekron and the Black Lanterns away. Before the White Lantern vanishes, it resurrects a handful of heroes and villains. Through battle, Hal and Sinestro have reached a tentative alliance. Currently, Hal and girlfriend Carol (now wielding a Violet ring) have discovered that the Red Lantern, Atrocitus is on Earth looking for the source of his rage power. The White Lantern has also reappeared in New Mexico, forming a crater where it landed, and much like the sword in the stone is immovable.

Comics 101: Green Lantern Part 1

In Comics 101 I breakdown a comic character’s back history in an easy to understand way for newbies.

The story of Green Lantern began in 1940 with Alan Scott. Unlike the latter and more long running Green Lantern, Scott was based in mysticism and magic. He is a railroad engineer at the time and discovers a mysterious green lantern that imbues him with a magic ring. The ring gives him the power to fly as well as manifest constructs from it. Scott ended up being a founding member of the Justice Society of America, a World War II era precursor to the Justice League. He also had two children out of wedlock, Todd and Jennie who would grow up to be the super heroes Obsidian and Jade, respectively. Scott is still around, as a member of the JSA, and partnered with his old pals plus some new blood. But the core of the Green Lantern story really began in 1959.

In the late 1950s, the Silver Age of Comic Books began. DC has sort of pulled back its superhero publishing, with Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman being about the only remainders. Julius Schwartz, the editor in chief at the time was wanting to take names used by heroes back in the 1930s and 40s and create all-new characters around them. This time around, Green Lantern was to be ace pilot Hal Jordan. While testing an experimental craft for his employer Ferris Air, Hal was pulled by a mysterious force to a crash site in the middle of the desert. There lay a dying alien wearing a strange green and black uniform. His name was Abin Sur and he told Hal he was part of the Green Lantern Corps, an intergalactic police force. Sur was dying as a result of the crash and Hal was deemed the only one on Earth worthy to wield the ring. Hal accepted and became Earth’s Green Lantern. The ring held 24 hours worth of energy and would have to be recharged in an accompanying lantern. The only catch in its seemingly invulnerable power was an impurity that made it vulnerable to the color yellow in spectrum. Hal would go on to battle a cavalcade of odd 60s appropriate villains, but his arch-nemesis would always be Sinestro.

Sinestro was also a Green Lantern, but unlike Hal, he saw his place as using the ring to control the population of his home planet Krougar. The masters of the Green Lantern Corps were known as the Guardians of the Universe, small blue skinned men whom demanded total submission from all the Corpsmen. Sinestro and the Guardians clashed and as a result he was stripped of his ring. Enraged that this power would be taken from him, Sinestro sought out other sources. He found a way into the Anti-Matter Universe, a sort of reality underneath our own and home to the Weaponeers. The Weaponeers constructed a new ring for Sinestro, a yellow ring that specifically affected the power of the Green Lanterns. While the green ring used the aspect of Will, the yellow ring tapped into Fear to feed itself. For years, Sinestro plagued Hal Jordan and was eventually killed.

Along the way, other Earthmen took up the ring. Hal would become increasingly annoyed with the Guardians dictates and leave the Corps. In time social worker Guy Gardner became a Green Lantern, as well as architect John Stewart. Hal also befriended many of the alien Corpsmen: Kilowog, a lumbering brute, Tomar-Re, one of the most noble of the Lanterns, Salaak, a typically annoyed and distant being, and Arisia, a young girl whose family were a long line of Lanterns. Things went dark when Hal’s home town of Coast City was attacked by Mongul, an alien warlord. Mongul’s massive engine city/ship destroyed the city and killed everyone there. Hal became obsessed with using his power to fix things, rebuild Coast City. This obsession led him into madness and he began to kill other Green Lanterns to amass a large collection of rings. The Guardians were desperate to stop him and resurrected Sinestro. The two old enemies clashed and in the end the Guardians, the GL Corps, Hal, and Sinestro were obliterated. Except for one solitary ring.

This ring found its way to Earth and into the hands of young artist Kyle Rayner. Unlike Hal, Rayner had no one to teach him how to use the ring so he underwent a lot of trial and error. In time, he joined the Justice League and established himself as the one true Lantern. Hal returned as a villain, Parallax, infused with an almost infinite power. Parallax attempted to destroy reality and recreate it in his own image but the heroes of the DC Universe stopped him. He returned once more when Earth’s sun was being devoured by an alien Suneater. Making the ultimate sacrifice and redeeming himself, Parallax flew into the sun, reigniting it. He was rewarded for this act of bravery and made The Spectre, the manifestation of God’s wrath. Kyle Rayner continued on as the Green Lantern and eventually unlocked a power in his ring that turned him into a being called Ion, a sort of pure manifestation of the Green power.

Things changed suddenly when Kyle crashed to earth, after having been missing in space for a few months. Along with this, Coast City suddenly appeared rebuilt. All of Earth’s former Lanterns (Guy Gardner, John Stewart, and even Alan Scott) became involved as Hal Jordan was reborn, as well as The Guardians of the Universe and all of the dead Corpsmen. It turns out that the source of the rings’ power was a cosmic entity known as Ion, while Sinestro’s ring was powered by Parallax. The Lanterns battle the now unleashed Parallax entity while Sinestro returns from the dead. In the end the Corps is restored, but Sinestro returns to the Anti-Matter Universe with some big bad plans for the Green Lanterns….

Continued

Criterion Fridays – Summer Hours



Summer Hours (2008, dir. Oliver Assayas)
Starring Juliette Binoche, Charles Berling, Jeremie Renier

It’s always refreshing to see a film made for grown ups. Too often American dramas dumb things down, maybe out of a lack of talent in the writer or maybe a lack of confidence in the audience’s intelligence. Here director Assayas looks at the strange dynamic of being both the adult child of a parent and a parent to your own children. In one position you are still looked on as an infant or adolescent and in the other you are the supreme authority. This difficult place is used to examine how we deal with death and responsibilities placed on us by the dead. The whole thing is a very naturalistic, quiet piece of cinema that is rewarding and ambiguous. The answers we receive will be as open ended as the characters in the film, and like them, we have to learn to happy with that.

Helene has just turned seventy-five and has come to terms with the fact that her life is coming to an end. She takes her eldest child, Frederic aside and explains to him how the family’s vast art collection and the country home they grew up in is something she wants him to maintain and make sure her grandchildren can bring their children to. Helene dies soon after her children make their last visit to the house, all of them caught up in busy lives: Frederic in Paris, Adrienne in America, and Jeremie in China. Frederic comes together with the siblings who all want to sell off the artwork and the house as they don’t have the funds or time to maintain the property. Frederic concedes and they go about cataloging the contents of the home. Frederic maintains a sense of guilt as he watches the promise to his mother fade away.

Summer Hours is a film that will demonstrate how programmed you have become by cliched Hollywood plot devices. There is a never chance anything of major conflict with occur, no one is going to explode in an emotional rage and there will be no ironic twist of fate. This is a very relaxed film about a family and the compromises we all make as a part of families. Frederic never really puts up a fight and its hard to be angry at him. As much as his mother loved the collection her uncle had amassed and she inherited, it is almost impossible for her children to maintain it. What is interesting is how Frederic’s teenaged daughter, Sylvie feels a strong emotional connection to the country house. The opening scene is of her and her little cousins running through the woods, playing, being children. The final parallels this, but with a more bittersweet tone as it is the last time she will be there.

This is not a film that has a message for you. Assayas simply tells the story of these three adult siblings, lives without melodrama, dealing with the aftermath of the death of a parent. What you are meant to get out of the film is what ever you want. So often in American mainstream cinema scripts are locked into formulaic beats and its all about hitting certain plot notes by certain page numbers. Here no one is rushed along, no one reveals some deep dark secret. Its very refreshing, and beautiful, and ultimately stays with you a lot longer than a script that sloppily goes didactic. If you are looking for an incredibly thoughtful film that lets you decide what you want it to mean, then I think you’ll be in for a treat with this one.

Event Fatigue: The Thanos Imperative



The Thanos Imperative: Ignition
Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art by Brad Walker

The Thanos Imperative #1,2
Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art by Miguel Sepulveda

The year I really got into reading comics seriously (1991) was the same year Marvel released the epic mini-series The Infinity Gauntlet. At the time, it was just a really cool cosmic story with all the big Marvel superheroes (Spider-Man, Hulk, Captain America, etc.) battling a cosmic despot named Thanos who had gathered the Infinity Gems, jewels imbued with great power and sought to sacrifice existence to Death, his lover. He actually succeeded, destroying reality, with a few heroes saved inside a pocket with him. Captain America eventually got his hands on the Gauntlet and brought back all of creation and Thanos was exiled. For years since, Thanos has returned, seeking the sweet relief of Death, which is what he believes is perfection. About five years ago he was finally killed off, but it seems someone doesn’t want him to have the rest he craves.
For the last six years, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning have been redefining the cosmic elements of the Marvel Universe. Starting with a mini-event called Annhilation, they brought together The Silver Surfer, Thanos, Nova (think Marvel’s Green Lantern), and many more to tell a story that created a status quo for the space faring characters. Since then there have been two more Annhilation mini-series, a War of Kings storyline, and then a Realm of Kings storyline. It sounds like a lot, but instead of doing monthly series its all been pretty much contained to 3 to 6 issue minis. Along the way Nova has gotten his own ongoing, and some of the characters have assembled into a team known as The Guardians of the Galaxy, but its the sort of epic crossover event that isn’t taking up a billion titles and becoming too complex to follow. Abnett and Lanning really cut their teeth on handling a huge cast with DC Comics’ Legion of Super-Heroes in the 90s, a futuristic science fiction series featuring over two dozen adolescent metahumans and aliens. What they’re doing at Marvel is taking all these disparate elements that made up the cosmos and finding logical connections that make the whole thing much more cohesive.

Storywise things kicked off when the Inhumans, an earthbound race of people genetically modified by aliens decided to track down their creators and usurp them. Their creators were the Kree Empire, a militaristic society devastated during the aforementioned Annihilation storylines. The Inhuman leader Black Bolt took the throne of the Kree Empire and went to war with neighboring Sh’iar Empire. If you are familiar with your X-Men comics, you’ll know the Shi’ar are partially responsible for poor Jean Grey becoming the Phoenix. At this point in time, the Sh’iar were ruled by Vulcan aka Gabriel Summers, brother of Cyclops. Vulcan was a cruel leader and he and Black Bolt clashed in a epic battle that ended with them both dying and a tear forming in space. Over the next few months, both the Kree and Shi’ar dispatched vessels to probe this growing tear in space time and what they found was parallel universe where death no longer existed. Sounds good, right? Well, the way death was nullified appears to be through some sort of arcane pact with Lovecraftian elder gods. Now the forces of this parallel reality are swarming into the Marvel Universe attempting to “bless” them with undeath. When you have a character like Thanos who has a bizarre romantic relationship with the embodiment of Death there’s bound to be some conflict.

The first thing that stands out about the three pieces of these mini-series so far is the stellar artwork. There’s a two page spread in Thanos Imperative #2 that involves joined fleets of Kree, Shi’ar, other species, Galactus, The monolithic Celestials, and other cosmic beings battling the enemy fleet emerging from the tear in space. Its one of those moments where a still image is anything but static. Despite the lack of sound in real space, you can hear the unloading of thousands of laser cannons, energy blast explosions, and all out cosmic war. The Silver Surfer is drawn in a very interesting way as well by Sepulveda. He is almost featureless, his face simply a blank silver head and it really works. The effort has always been to humanize the Surfer but I like the idea of really making him alien and distant. The level of power he possess should eventually make him feel that he has little in common with mortals.

The series has shown great pacing and made its shocking reveals perfect. Every issue so far has ended on a well earned cliffhanger that’s making me chomp at the bit for the next issue. It was also a brilliant idea for the ongoing series of Nova and The Guardians of the Galaxy to go on hiatus till the end of this mini series. It helps avoid the glut of cross overs that fill space until we can get back to the core of the story. Because these are not core Marvel characters the stakes actually feel high. Reading an earthbound Marvel title, you know that Iron Man isn’t going die and that Spider-Man will make it out alive. With these characters you know its not beyond the possibility that they could die, that the heroes could lose. Because of the quality of work of Abnett and Lanning with the Marvel cosmic line so far I have huge confidence in this story to deliver. It’s definitely worth your time and puts a lot of summer blockbuster films to shame.

Hypothetical Film Festival – Brothers

It’s as simple as the title, films that have very prominent brother relationships at their core.



American History X (1998, dir. Tony Kaye)

Everyone remembers Edward Norton as the terrifying, swastika tattooed skinhead. The scene where he curbs a young black man who had broken into his house is gut wrenching. What’s interesting is how he so embodies evil in the flashbacks during the film, yet is an incredibly sympathetic character when reformed. His younger brother, played by Edward Furlong, is high school student struggling to understand how his older brother has turned his back on their family’s white power ways. In many ways the film is a race against time picture, Norton is desperately trying to get his little brother to stop being motivated through hate before something terrible happens to him.

Capturing the Friedmans (2003, dir. Andrew Jarecki)

In the 1980s, Arnold Friedman, a Long Island resident was arrested for possession of child pornography. As investigations continued police believe that Arnold and his son Jesse were sexually molesting students of private computer lessons they gave in the home. The two other sons in the family become strained as the family is marked as a pariah in the neighborhood. The evidence for the case is based entirely on the testimony of the students, and it could be interpreted that these confessions were encouraged by the authorities. But that doesn’t explain the magazines, or the overall strangeness of this family and these three brothers. A very disturbing film that, much like in real life, leaves you with a lot of answered questions.



Straw Dogs (1971, dir. Sam Peckinpah)

While the main plot concerns Dustin Hoffman and his British bride being plagued by the local thugs of her hometown, those thugs are brothers through their life together in this small village. In particular, David Warner as Henry Niles, a mentally handicapped man whom tags along with the boys in a major piece in the story. The film is violent and hard to watch. Hoffman basically cracks after being pushed too far by the thugs and precedes to murder them all. By the end of the film Hoffman has take Warner into his care, and Warner has shifted from being the brother of his villagers to a brother with Hoffman. His final line of the movie “I don’t know my way home” is incredibly poignant given the larger context of the film.



Mean Creek (2004, dir. Jacob Aaron Estes)

Mean Creek is a film about actors you are familiar with doing very dark things. Actors from Nickleodeon and Disney Channel shows are featured here as well as a Culkin brother. It seems Sam (Rory Culkin) is bullied endlessly by George (Josh Peck). Sam’s brother and his friends invite George out for a rafting trip with the intention of humiliating George on camera and then showing it to the kids at school. Things go wrong, someone dies, and the group are forced to deal with dark subjects you would never expect them to have to. A body has to be hidden, police have to be lied to, and their innocence is completely destroyed by the end of the film.



Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007, dir. Sidney Lumet)

Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke star as brothers whose choices have led them down some very sad paths. Hoffman is a successful investor who has been dipping in the company till to fund his drug habit. Hawke is divorced and estranged from his daughter, he needs money to prove he can share custody. Hoffman suggests they knock over their parent’s jewelry store, knowing that insurance will cover the losses. They send in a third party and things go very bad. The film is told out of sequence and it definitely works well. We see the heist, not knowing who any of these people are, then we jump back and see how it was put together. We see a funeral then we see the brothers hatching their plan. This is probably one of the darkest films about brotherhood and a criminally overlooked film from a master director.