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In Marketplace Commentary

It's not what's inside the bottle that matters to Molly; it's actually the bottle itself.

In Marketplace Commentary

Philip Seymour Hoffman was terrific as a desperate man in "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead." recommends, Feb. 8, 2014

It's time for the latest batch of recommendations from, this time talking about a speaker, some sweet bottles and a final goodbye to one of our generation's finest actors.

id America TouchTone Bluetooth speaker – This compact speaker comes in a range of colors, from black and white to red, mint, pink, blue and beyond – though I like the white one, which matches my Mac stuff – and offers great sound at a reasonable price, $79.95. We often fire it up in the office to provide some ambience while we work. It's super easy to use, which is key for me. I turn on the Bluetooth on my phone or desktop, and they automatically find and set up the speaker. You can also use it as a speaker phone, though I haven't had much need for that and so haven't tried it. It's got a wireless range of more than 30 feet and a battery life around four hours, and there's a line in if want to plug it in directly. Bobby Tanzilo

Lucky beer bottles – There's nothing particularly impressive about the taste of this Euro Pale Lager-style beer, but the bottle it comes in – green glass in the shape of a buddha – makes a great flower vase. I drank a Lucky beer recently at The Noble, 704 S. 2nd St., and, after washing it out the next day, stuck a daisy in it for a downright adorable centerpiece. Plus, it's nice to have something to show for my beer consumption other than a hangover, and it reminds me not too drink too many. The Buddha can rock that belly, but I'm not so sure I could. – Molly Snyder

"Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" – "A lot of deaths feel sad. Philip Seymour Hoffman's feels like a robbery." I didn't know Philip Seymour Hoffman or even have just quick anecdote about a brief run-in or something like that. I've also never known anyone really personally with a serious addiction, so overall, I felt writing something about Hoffman's death would be unnecessary, and the words were hard to find. In fact, that tweet from Time columnist James Poniewozik pretty much says it all for me: It truly feels like he was taken from us. He was one of Hollywood's most gifted, effortlessly transformative actors, and it hurts to know we'll never see what other memorable roles and performances we'll get to see from him.

Besides a few films already in production ("God's Pocket" and "A Most Wanted Man," which both just had their premieres at Sundance, along with the final two "Hunger Games" films, the latter of which he will reportedly be digitally created for, which is a terrible idea), we'll no longer ever be able to look forward to a new Hoffman character. Luckily, he left us a roster of unbelievable ones, from "The Master" to "Capote" to "Almost Famous" to "Boogie Nights" to even a blockbuster like "Mission: Impossible 3."

I want to recommend one that not many have mentioned: "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," Sidney Lumet's 2007 dark thriller about a pair of desperate brothers (Hoffman and Ethan Hawke) who plot to rob their parents' jewelry store, and things go bad. It's a brilliant movie, a modern Greek tragedy that's sinister and sharply put together, and it's made even more impressive when you think that the man behind it – Lumet, truly a legend with "Dog Day Afternoon" and "Network" – was in his 80s. Crime thrillers directed by people half Lumet's age don't have the energy and bravado of "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead." It's dynamite, and the "Rashomon"-style story crackles with tension all the way into its gut-punch of an ending.

Then there's Hoffman. It's not a performance often mentioned among his best, but it sums up a lot of what he did so incredibly well. He's playing a terrible guy, the mastermind behind their doomed plot to rob their parents, but he gives him such layers. Hoffman gives this sad, pathetic and desperate man humanity. When his father confesses to him that he wasn't the father he should've been, it looks like years of anger and hurt are bubbling up inside of Hoffman.

Unfortunately, "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" isn't on Netflix Instant. Very few of his movies are ("Punch-Drunk Love," "The Talented Mr. Ripley," "A Late Quartet" and "Hard Eight" are the only ones). But it's very much worth seeking out. It's Hoffman at his best, doing what he did best: not merely creating a character on screen, but a human being in all of its humanity. – Matt Mueller


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