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Critic wrangle: “Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead.”

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"It's not fair!"
Sidney Lumet‘s last film, "Find Me Guilty," trickled in and back out of theaters last year before most had a chance to even notice that it starred Vin Diesel… with hair! A box office flop, the affable mafia courtroom comedy did have its critical defenders, though others greeted it with a shrug — fine, but nothing on Lumet’s ’70s glory days. But Lumet’s latest, the bleak thriller "Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead," has no such indifference to overcome; amidst the overwhelming acclaim (the strength of which we’re a bit surprised by — our own review from NYFF is here) are mentions of it being one of the year’s highlights and one of Lumet’s best in years. At the Village Voice, J. Hoberman deems it "less Sidney Lumet’s comeback than his resurrection…a violent family melodrama that is his strongest movie in at least two decades." "[I]n the context of the glitzy, ADD-edited, steroidally pumped spirit of the modern megaplex thriller, that no-frills Lumet style, revived — triumphantly — in his mesmerizing new crime drama, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, looks like poetry after all" writes Owen Gleiberman at Entertainment Weekly. A.O. Scott at the New York Times calls out the acting, particularly the greatness that is Philip Seymour Hoffman: "while never for a moment soliciting our empathy, Mr. Hoffman makes us care about this man, the scale of whose ethical failures gives him a kind of negative grandeur." He "is huge but mesmerizing" adds David Edelstein at New York. "[A]s Hoffman comes to a boil under Lumet’s sympathetic gaze, the movie transcends melodrama. The horror seems rooted in an ancient woe."

At Slate, Dana Stevens ties "Devil" back to Lumet’s authoritative heist-gone-wrong work "Dog Day Afternoon": "it revisits that movie’s claustrophobic suspense and deep compassion for its characters—abject, grasping everymen who truly believe they’re only one act of violence away from everything they’ve ever wanted." David Denby at the New Yorker, on the other hand, is entertained but unmoved by the heightened performances: "We can enjoy the mayhem without feeling sorry for any of them." "Ultimately, the film is just a smart caper picture with some good performances," writes Noel Murray at the AV Club, "but at times it’s very smart, and Hoffman’s performance in particular is one of the most natural and unexpectedly affecting that he’s given in years."

Dissenters: Andrew Sarris at the New York Observer is put off by "Devil"’s nihilism: "nihilism has never been my strong suit in the cinema, though I imagine younger cultists of a certain type can never get enough of it." Andrew O’Hehir at Salon writes:

For me at least, the evident strengths and laudable intentions of "Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead" (and even the appeal of Marisa Tomei in her undies) are overwhelmed by an implausible plot verging on unintentional comedy and a panoply of Noo Yawk dirt-bag supporting characters who might’ve seemed awkward on a 1993 episode of "NYPD Blue." In an era that’s brought us the dense dialogue and ambiguous characterizations of "The Wire" and "The Sopranos," this movie (like almost all Lumet films, truth be told) has the subtlety and moral complexity of a demolition derby.

And for Armond White at the New York Press: "Lumet and Masterson make it so easy to be judgmental about sub-mental characters. This moral failure goes past condescension into obnoxious, cynical bemusement… Before the Devil is pathetic, a Hollywood tragedy."

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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