Right across the street from my apartment sits a nice, fat, corporate-owned video rental store that I rarely visit. It's conveniently located and if I rent older releases I can keep them for a week, but I've simply fallen out of the habit of renting in person. Online rentals are even more convenient, and if I'm patient, most US releases come to video on demand and eventually premium cable. I could admit that I'm just too lazy to schlep across the street to return my rentals, but I'd rather imagine that I'm trying to stay on the cutting edge.

Recently, though, I ventured into the store. Based solely on its premise, I was predisposed to like Yo-Yo Girl Cop: Japanese schoolgirl recruited as a secret agent for a government organization armed only with a yo-yo. It sounds an entertaining action flick; sadly, director Kenta Fukasaku, son of the late, great Kinji Fukasaku, sucks all the joy out of the concept. The action is shot in the fashionable, quick cut, crazy angle, handheld style, but without any grace or distinguishing rhythm. That's typical of the entire picture, which stitches sequences together without any style, wit, or originality, to diminishing and wearisome effect. The DVD includes a 40-minute "making of" feature that is informative and makes me curious to see the original films and TV show.

Paul Verhoeven'sBlack Book was just as good as everyone has been saying, including our own Ryan Stewart and Christopher Campbell: a rollicking, humanistic Nazi adventure thriller that sizzles right up until it goes off the rails to deliver a heavy-handed message about man's inhumanity to man (as if the preceding two hours hadn't already made that apparent). I'm sorry I missed it on the big screen, though. Carice VanHouten is stunning.

William Friedkin'sBug was even better than I expected from reading Jette Kernion's review; a mesmerizing descent into madness that I resisted initially. It's so powerfully cohesive, though, and features such amazing, award-caliber performances from Michael Shannon and Ashley Judd that my objections melted away. Friedkin is especially forthcoming about his strengths and weaknesses as a filmmaker in an interview on the DVD, which helped make my trip across the street surprisingly worthwhile.
categories Features, Cinematical