CATEGORIES Comedy, Drama, Foreign Language, Independent, Lionsgate Films, Sony, New on DVD, Cinematical Indie, War, DVDs, CinematicalPaul Verhoeven in his native land, making an independent movie about a hot naked woman and Nazis? That's got to be my pick of the week. Of course, this being Verhoeven, he subverts expectations, at least according to the critics, and produces a film with a serious intent in mind. And the result was so good it prompted Cinematical's Ryan Stewart to declare it "the best film of 2007 so far" when he reviewed it in April. I'm talking about Black Book, Paul Verhoeven's "sweeping war epic ... following a Jewish girl on the run in Nazi-occupied Holland." Sony Pictures' DVD features an audio commentary by Verhoeven, who is usually entertaining on yak tracks, and a "making of" feature.
William Friedkin's films have been generally derided for many years -- pretty much everything since The Exorcist in 1973 -- though, personally, I have a soft spot for the failed Sorcerer, really love To Live and Die in L.A., and am glad that Cruising has recently received some critical reevaluation. Though it didn't make much of a ripple at the box office, Bug seems to be a comeback of sorts for him. Our own Jette Kernion wrote: "Bug blends paranoia, trust and love into a riveting story, driven by intense characters." She also commented very favorably on the "incredible" performances, especially the one by by Michael Shannon, but also those by Ashley Judd and Harry Connick, Jr. The Lionsgate DVD includes both a commentary by director Friedkin and a discussion with him.
If you're looking for something a bit further out of the mainstream, Ten Canoes sounds like the best bet. The critics were pretty well united in their praise. Stephen Holden of The New York Times said it "interweaves two versions of the same story, one filmed in black and white and set a thousand years ago, and an even older one, filmed in color and set in a mythic, prehistoric past." The Palm Pictures DVD sounds like it's worth a rental.
Also out are two comedies: mockumentary Chalk (about high school teachers) and Jake Kasdan's The TV Set (about a television pilot). Several friends of mine -- and many festival audiences -- thought Chalk was hilarious, while The TV Set has received mixed response. Perhaps the respective subjects will help you decide if you'll want to check those out.