Legal download: Siblings on demand

The world of film is changing. For one thing, there’s not much actual film anymore. The future is digital; more and more, it’s streaming on our computers, too. Every week in Legal Download, we survey the landscape of online movies to bring you a snapshot of what’s available. This week, celebrate the love of brotherly movies — and sisterly ones, too — with five siblings films good enough to rival the best of any genre.


As the story in my family goes, when my younger brother was born, my father called me from the hospital to personally tell me the news. “My wish came true,” he says I said. Then my brother came home and started following me around everywhere and I realized my wish had become a nightmare (I kid! [mostly]). That’s the tension at the core of sibling movies: You can’t live with ‘em, you can’t kill ‘em because then your parents would get mad. In that spirit, here are five movies you can watch at home right now to celebrate familial love or wallow in fratricidal rage, whatever your wish.

On iTunes
Directed by Jay and Mark Duplass
$6.99 to rent

There have been other sibling filmmaking teams — the Coens, the Wachowskis, et. al. — but there has never been another sibling filmmaking team more committed to making films about siblings than Jay and Mark Duplass. Both of their 2012 features are about battling brothers: In the hilarious and moving JEFF, WHO LIVES AT HOME (also available on iTunes), stoner Jeff (Jason Segel) keeps butting heads with Pat (Ed Helms) over their differing views of the universe; in their latest, THE DO-DECA-PENTATHLON — which was actually produced several years ago, just before the Duplasses moved onto larger, Hollywood productions like JEFF and 2010′s CYRUS — Jeremy (Mark Kelly) and Mark (Steve Zissis) reignite their longstanding feud with a new iteration of their 25-event, one-on-one Olympics, “The Do-Deca-Pentathlon.” Fans of the Duplasses work from THE PUFFY CHAIR will know what to expect next: understated, improvised performances, scruffy, off-the-cuff filmmaking, and a delicate balance of comedy and drama. And, of course, two warring kinfolk.

Directed by Bryan Poyser
$3.99 to rent, $14.99 to purchase; $4.99 to rent, $19.99 to buy in HD

Rudy (Chris Doubek) has just been left by his wife, Diana (Heather Kafka). He’s living in his car. You don’t want to know where he’s showering. Things can’t get any worse — and then they do. Rudy’s brother Paul (Girls‘ Alex Karpovsky) comes to town on a book tour and invites Diana on a ski vacation. Furiously jealous, Rudy follows in secret and then sets out to sabotage Paul and Diana’s rendezvous. The three-way war between Rudy, Diana and Paul gives LOVERS OF HATE a cringy yet compelling vibe; as things get more and more uncomfortable you’ll want to cover your eyes, but the suspense of Rudy’s deceptions will keep you sneaking peeks between your fingers. LOVERS OF HATE earned writer-director Bryan Poyser a John Cassavetes Award nomination at the 2011 Spirit Awards, and appropriately so; the film bears that hallmark Cassavetesian flair for awkward familial struggles and low-budget ingenuity. With just three actors and one primary location, you can’t make a movie that’s cheaper, or more intimate, than this.

On Netflix
THOR (2011)
Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Free for streaming plan members

The draw of this Marvel Comics superhero movie is the flashy computer-generated imagery, but the emotional resonance comes from the surprisingly dramatic conflict between two bickering brothers: brash and irresponsible Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and conniving and mewling Loki (Tom Hiddleston). These two Norse gods each want to get their hands on the throne of Asgard, currently held by their father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins). But after a preemptive strike against the evil Frost Giants goes awry, Thor is stripped of his power (but not his six-pack abs, thank Odin) and banished to Earth. There he joins up with some intrepid astronomers (Natalie Portman and Stellan Skarsgård) and learns a lesson in humility, honor and self-sacrifice. The stuff on Earth is fun, and the story of a leader’s heir obsessing over the one enemy his father couldn’t defeat suggests a few Thor-ge W. Bush metaphors, but all the best scenes belong to Hemsworth and Hiddleston. Though Loki’s kind of a god-size jerk, he’s easy to relate to: If your brother was that handsome and cool, wouldn’t you be jealous too?

On Amazon Instant Video
Directed by Tamara Jenkins
$2.99 to rent, $9.99 to purchase

This 2007 drama — not to be confused with Oliver Stone’s new film, which is about a pair of bros, not brothers — stars Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney as an estranged brother and sister who reunite when their father, Lenny (Philip Bosco), succumbs to Alzheimer’s. In stark contrast to many other indies about dysfunctional families, there are no wacky misadventures or magical emotional breakthroughs to help the Savages solve their problems, just the small but epically dramatic struggle of day-to-day life. After Lenny’s girlfriend dies, he’s left homeless, and it falls to Hoffman and Linney to find him an appropriate living situation. As they squabble over the right nursing home for their father, deeply buried secrets are exposed, resentments are revealed, and relationships are tested. Written and directed by Tamara Jenkins, THE SAVAGES explores the all-consuming nature of family responsibility. This is why they’re called the ties that bind; because even in death they’re awfully hard to untangle.

On Hulu Plus
SISTERS (1973)
Directed by Brian De Palma
Free for Hulu Plus members

Speaking of unbreakable family ties, few are harder to sever than the ones between Siamese twins like Danielle and Dominique (both played, superbly, by a pre-SUPERMAN Margot Kidder). About a year ago, Danielle and Dominique were physically separated, but the procedure was not without — well, at the risk of spoiling things, let’s just call them complications. This brilliant puzzler from Brian De Palma is the first of his ’70s suspense masterpieces, full of the director’s ingenious recombinations of past cinematic classics: SISTERS features references to Hitchcock’s REAR WINDOW and VERTIGO, and Michael Powell’s PEEPING TOM, which provides the title of the Candid Camera-esque television show that opens the film. Its story of troubled twins offers fertile ground for an exploration of one of De Palma’s favorite themes, doubles and doppelgangers, amplified by one of De Palma’s favorite techniques: the split screen.