The week of Dec. 14 proves to be yet another with less than usual fanfare as the holiday season continues its approach. The wave of Disney animated offerings takes a week off while the majors decide which sprinklings of recent films will make the grade with the usual catalog backdating.
Leading the relatively small list of major recent offerings is Paramount's special edition of Simon West's ("Con Air") "The General's Daughter" ($29.99 SRP). Featuring a running audio commentary by director West, as well as deleted scenes, trailers and a making-of featurette, the film about an army investigator's (John Travolta) search for the persons responsible for the rape and murder of a prominent base commander should be another big step in the right direction for Paramount DVD. With so many great films in its vast archive, many of its releases would do well to receive such treatment.
New Line hopes to knock out audiences when it issues the Michael Patrick Jann-directed "Drop Dead Gorgeous" ($24.98 SRP). Essentially the story of a small-town beauty pageant that turns mean and vicious, "Drop Dead Gorgeous" features a hot, young cast, including Kirsten Dunst and Denise Richards. New Line's DVD includes a script-to-screen screenplay as a DVD-ROM feature, as well as the original theatrical trailer.
If the concept of Dunst and Richards willing to do anything to be beautiful isn't your thing, one can always pick up her other DVD release of the week, "Dick" ($24.95 SRP). Teamed with Michelle Williams ("Dawson's Creek"), Dunst plays one half of a clueless pair who wind up as official White House dog walkers after a routine field trip to Washington, D.C., during the Nixon administration finds them witness to dirty deeds that the federal government would like to cover up as quickly as possible. Columbia/TriStar's special edition of "Dick" features a running commentary by director Andrew Fleming and screenwriter Sheryl Longin, as well as a making-of featurette, deleted scenes and an isolated music score.
Though few films are really indie anymore (considering the majors own the vast majority of the formerly indie studios), a host of quasi-indie features hits shelves this week.
Leading the way is director Francois Girard's highly praised picture "The Red Violin" ($29.98 SRP). Starring Samuel L. Jackson and Greta Scacchi (among others), the film follows the magical path of the world's most perfect violin --an instrument that brings with it obsession and passion as it travels around the world over miles and ages. As it should be, the music-critical feature offers the obligatory isolated soundtrack, as well as the original theatrical trailer.
Director Alain Berliner's 1997 feature "Ma Vie En Rose ("My Life in Pink")" ($27.95 SRP) hits stores this week. The Golden Globe-winning story of a young boy who believes he is a girl trapped in a boy's body stars Michele Laroque, Jean-Philippe Ecoffey, Helene Vincent and Georges Du Fresne. The film garnered a number of award nominations and positive reviews culminating in its Best Foreign Language Film nod at the 1998 Golden Globes.
Not to be confused with the John Frankenheimer film of the same name, Mario Bava's 1960 horror epic "Black Sunday" ($24.99) hits shelves in an uncut European edition. The story follows the unfortunate decision of two doctors to dig up the crypt of a 17th century witch, resulting in her resurrection and a host of horrific deeds. Image Entertainment's special edition includes a running audio commentary by Bava scholar Tim Lucas, as well as the original theatrical trailer, a photo and a poster gallery.
If suspense is the item of the day, director Philip Noyce's extraordinarily visceral "Dead Calm" ($19.98 SRP) will more than hit the spot. Starring Nicole Kidman, Billy Zane and Sam Neill, the film follows two grieving parents (Kidman and Neill) who hit the open seas in an attempt to get over the loss of their dead child. Instead, they come across a mysterious shipwreck and its sole survivor (Zane). Over the course of its 96 minutes, "Dead Calm" will do a wonderful job of creating unbearable tension and features some of Zane's best work to date.