The documentary assembles most of Cazale’s colleagues in addition to a few younger actors who revere his genius: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Gene Hackman, Richard Dreyfuss, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Steve Buscemi, and Sam Rockwell, as well as directors Sidney Lumet and Francis Ford Coppola, and the one and only Meryl Streep, who was once Cazale’s girlfriend. They all speak of one thing: that Cazale was brave enough to show human weakness onscreen, which is something that, today, is seen hardly at all. The documentary is directed by the unsung Richard Shepard (Oxygen, The Matador, The Hunting Party, Dom Hemingway, etc.), who is no stranger to great performances himself.
This low-budget, Spanish-language time-travel film proves that you can do wonders with some big ideas and not much money. Nacho Vigalondo’s Timecrimes (2007) takes place in just a few locations with just a few characters, but manages some big thrills and some clever twists. As it begins, a middle-aged man, Hector (Karra Elejalde), who is balding a little and has a bit of a paunch, has just moved with his wife to a new country home. He’s relaxing by looking into the nearby woods with his binoculars and is surprised to see a beautiful young woman (Barbara Goenaga) undressing, as well as... something else.
He investigates and finds a scary figure wrapped in pink bandages. Fearing for his life, he escapes into a building and ducks into a weird machine. It turns out to be a time machine, and Hector finds himself transported one hour into the past. From there, Hector learns a bit more about what’s been going on, and must try his best not to alter the timeline. But there’s quite a bit more at stake. Ultimately, this movie is not for those who require a strictly linear narrative. But for those who love the subgenre, this is certainly one of the best time-travel movies ever made. Compact, exceedingly clever, and with clear visual cues, it was immediately tapped for an American remake, but so far, this is the only version out there, and the only one we need.
The Muppet Movie (Hoopla)
Released in the summer of 1979, The Muppet Movie was the first feature film based on the hit TV “variety” puppet show (1976-1981), and in moving from the small screen to the big one, really stepped up its game. It included several “how did they do that?” moments, including a shot of Kermit the Frog riding a bicycle. Geared for both kids and grown-ups, and a clever meta-movie full of movie in-jokes, it begins in a projection room as Kermit prepares to show the story of the Muppets to... all the Muppets. In flashback, we meet Kermit (voiced by Jim Henson) in his swamp, deciding to go to Hollywood, and along the way, picking up Fozzie Bear and Miss Piggy (both voiced by Frank Oz), the Great Gonzo (voiced by Dave Goelz), and others.
Meanwhile, the evil Doc Hopper (Charles Durning) wants to use Kermit to help promote his chain of frog leg restaurants, and, presumably, to be a main dish. They also face a Western ghost town, a giant Animal (voiced by Frank Oz), runaway balloons, and other road-movie-type obstacles. Younger audiences won’t recognize the many human cameos, including Bob Hope, Orson Welles, Richard Pryor, Milton Berle, James Coburn, Mel Brooks, and others, though they may recognize Steve Martin as an insolent waiter. Even so, after all this time, the movie still manages to beautifully mix smart humor with lovable characters and a handful of great songs (“The Rainbow Connection,” “Can You Picture That?”, “Movin’ Right Along,” etc.). James Frawley directed, from a screenplay by Jack Burns and Jerry Juhl.
Triple 9 (Vudu)
Australian director John Hillcoat is proving himself a master of genre filmmaking, ranging from Westerns (The Proposition) to gangster flicks (Lawless) to dystopian futures (The Road). His Triple 9 is a story of crooked cops, mixed-up straight cops, troubled criminals, and terrifying lady mob bosses. Its story may not be air-tight, but the gritty use of Atlanta, Georgia, locations, and the colorful gallery of characters and the various shades of gray they embody make this a more than worthwhile entertainment.
A group made up of crooks (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Norman Reedus, and Aaron Paul) and dirty cops (Anthony Mackie and Clifton Collins, Jr.) are working for a Russian mob boss’s wife (Kate Winslet), who hopes to get her husband out of prison. One of the crooks (Ejiofor) has a son with the wife’s sister (Gal Gadot), and the boy is being used as leverage. The team is asked to pull off an impossible job, requiring a fake “triple 9” (officer down) call, which will act as a distraction for all the cops in the area. Meanwhile, troubled war veteran Chis Allen (Casey Affleck) is a good cop who realizes something is up. Woody Harrelson completes the picture as police detective Jeffrey Allen, Chris’s uncle. The terrific Australian actress Teresa Palmer appears in a small role as Chris’s wife.