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Roland Emmerich
Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Emmy Rossum, Dash Mihok, Jay O. Sanders, Sela Ward, Austin Nichols, Arjay Smith, Tamlyn Tomita
Writing Credits:
Roland Emmerich, Jeffrey Nachmanoff

Where will you be?

From the director of Independence Day comes a “spectacular” (ABC-TV) roller-coaster ride that boasts pulse-pounding action and “sensational, mind-blowing special effects” (New York Observer). When global warming triggers the onset of a new Ice Age, tornadoes flatten Los Angeles, a tidal wave engulfs New York City and the entire Northern Hemisphere begins to freeze solid. Now, climatologist Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid), his son Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal) and a small band of survivors must ride out the growing superstorm and stay alive in the face of an enemy more powerful and relentless than any they’ve ever encountered: Mother Nature!

Box Office:
$75 million.
Opening Weekend
$45.033 million on 3471 screens.
Domestic Gross
$102.543 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
Spanish Dolby 2.0
French Dolby 2.0

Runtime: 123 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 10/12/2004

Disc One
• Audio Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Roland Emmerich and Producer Mark Gordon
• Audio Commentary with Co-Writer Jeffrey Nachmanoff, Director of Photography Ueli Steiger, Editor David Brenner, and Production Designer Barry Chusid
• “Audio Anatomy” Interactive Sound Demo
• Deleted Scenes
• Inside Look
• DVD-ROM Materials


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 29, 2004)

After four years since his last effort - 2000’s The Patriot - director Roland Emmerich returns with a big-budget disaster flick. Somewhat reminiscent of Emmerich’s biggest hit - 1996’s Independence Day - this film stands as Emmerich’s first movie without long-time partner producer Dean Devlin. The latter’s absence didn’t seem to hurt too much, as Day became a moderate hit with an eventual gross of $186 million.

The movie opens on the Larsen B Ice Shelf in Antarctica. A group of climatologists led by Professor Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) witness a massive collapse of the shelf. At a conference on global warming, he warns that current trends could eventually lead to another ice age in the long term. Represented by Vice President Becker (Kenneth Welsh), some figures attack him, but others like Professor Terry Rapson (Ian Holm) want to know more.

The pair will soon deal with the issue in more than an academic sense when the research station supervised by Rapson discovers rapid temperature drops in the sea. The weather starts to go bonkers around the world. It snows in India and enormous hail strikes Japan. Back home in DC, Hall doesn’t know about any of this just yet. He tries to deal with his estranged wife Lucy (Sela Ward) and distant son Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal) when the latter begins to flunk his classes. Hall plans to deal with Sam when he drives the boy to the airport; Sam’s scholastic decathlon team needs to go to New York for a competition. This doesn’t help his cause, as Sam remains aloof towards his dad.

The funky weather strikes the US en route and almost down’s Sam’s plane. When the kids make it to the Big Apple, they see birds flee the city and the remaining animals go nuts. During their competition, the rain starts to pour while the kids get to know other school teams. This creates some tension when Sam’s cute teammate Laura (Emmy Rossum) - on whom he clearly has a crush - attracts romantic interest from private school stud JD (Austin Nichols).

Before too long, they’ll have bigger worries. Rapson’s team discovers more and more aquatic temperature drops and tells Hall his findings. Rapson thinks that the current changes that might cause an ice age are now coming into effect and will work much more quickly than anticipated. They need to use Hall’s theories to predict the changes.

After all the smaller concerns, true disasters strikes when radical disturbances attack Los Angeles. These culminate in a series of tornadoes that devastate the area. This puts more pressure on Hall to quickly concoct his model, as no one else offers any useful theories. The powers that be don’t support him, but they have no choice but to go along with his attempts. Hall’s work indicates that the ice age will strike in no more than six to eight weeks. Hall urges the Vice President to take decisive action, but the chilly executive maintains his opposition to the theories. Cold weather rapidly starts to sweep down from the north, and that spreads a pattern that begins to move south.

Back in the Big Apple, the rain keeps a-falling, which ultimately keeps Sam and friends stuck there. After they try to drive out of town and fail, they hole up in the New York Public Library as a wall of water floods the city. Along with other survivors, they attempt to stay alive and await rescue.

Climactic conditions complicate the situation. Hall discovers his earlier projections were wrong - instead of six to eight weeks, it looks like the new ice age will strike in only about a week. When he finally gets a chance to speak to Sam, he tells the boy to stay where he is, keep alive during the imminent freeze and he’ll come to save him.

This sets up the rest of the film. Indeed, the ice age cometh and puts virtually all of the territory between Hall in DC and Sam in New York into a frozen state. Determined to keep his word, Hall takes off to walk to New York and rescue his boy.

Isn’t Day the kind of movie they weren’t going to make anymore after September 11? With its shots of decimated buildings, Independence Day was cited as a specific no-no in the days after the 2001 tragedy. Many felt audiences wouldn’t have a taste for celluloid disaster after this real-life atrocity.

I guess the pundits were wrong. As I already noted, the movie did pretty well at the box office, though it didn’t turn into a massive smash ala Independence Day, but it surpassed any other Emmerich flick; both The Patriot and Godzilla topped $100 million but fell well short of this flick’s take.

Not that this means one should expect anything unusual for an Emmerich movie, as his usual tendencies show up here. To prepare for this review, I tried to find out why Devlin didn’t work with Emmerich after five straight movies together. I couldn’t discover anything definitive, but one fan related that they parted ways because Emmerich wanted to make more serious flicks instead of the same old popcorn films.

If Emmerich ever said that, he lied! Granted, Day does take on a more socially relevant subject matter than usual. Godzilla sort of tried to warn us of the dangers of nuclear testing. However, it didn’t attempt that to a substantial degree, as it mostly existed to show the destruction caused by a big lizard in Manhattan.

Day goes for a substantially deeper social context, but it remains an excuse to destroy locations and show massive calamity. And you know what? That’s absolutely fine with me. The worst parts of Day stem from its less-than-subtle preaching about the dangers of global warming. Hey, I’m on Emmerich’s side, but the movie doesn’t make its points with slightly holier-than-thou attitude.

As usual for this sort of film, Day includes some questionable science and silly moments. For example, the participants battle off insane cold with a tiny blaze in a fireplace. However, the movie doesn’t really suffer due to these moments. One can’t go into this sort of flick and expect flawless logic; it’s the kind of movie that requires you to turn off your brain and just go with it.

For the movie’s first half, that works fine. Much of the real action occurs during the initial hour. We see lots of destruction, and since that’s the main appeal of this kind of film, it fares nicely. The effects are generally convincing and the program packs a good impact.

During the second half, however, matters degenerate. That portion of the flick focuses more on the interpersonal stories than the devastation; we still get some action pieces, but not as many, and the movie concentrates on the characters. Since it offers pretty thin personalities, this makes matters less than involving. The project enjoys a good cast, and they do fine in their roles, but they don’t get much to do with the parts. They’re left with fairly two-dimensional personalities; we care about them in the abstract but don’t grow to think more of them than that.

Ultimately this leaves The Day After Tomorrow as an erratic but generally entertaining movie. It plods during its second half and never becomes fully satisfying. However, it generates enough excitement and drama to stand as a moderately engaging disaster film.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio A+ (DTS) A (DD)/ Bonus B

The Day After Tomorrow appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The visuals lacked significant problems but didn’t quite prosper well enough to get up to “A”-level.

Sharpness presented the only minor issues. Most of the movie came across as nicely detailed and distinctive. However, some shots looked just a little soft, largely due to a bit of light edge enhancement. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, though, and the movie lacked any form of source defects.

With its preponderance of snow and ice, Day didn’t offer a very broad color scheme. Nonetheless, its hues came across smoothly. The film displayed its chilly bluish tint well, and the occasional brighter tones looked concise and vivid. Blacks were deep and firm, and low-light shots appeared appropriately dark but not too thick. Overall, this was a good transfer.

Based on experiences with prior Roland Emmerich movies, I expected stunning audio from The Day After Tomorrow, and I got it. The movie boasted both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks, and each one fared wonderfully. The DTS mix worked just a little better, but viewers will feel happy with whichever one they choose.

With all the violent weather elements, Day featured a myriad of exciting auditory situations, and the DTS mix explored these enormously well. The first half of the flick offered the broadest range of information. Hailstorms, tornadoes, walls of water - the movie packed in a slew of dynamic and involving elements. It also handled the quieter sequences well, with audio that presented a natural sense of atmosphere. The mix used the spectrum to great effect, as it featured many bits and pieces from each of the five channels and meshed them together smoothly.

The track didn’t disappoint when it came to audio quality. Speech always sounded concise and crisp, with no issues related to edginess or intelligibility. With all the effects, music got stuck in the background, but the score came across as bright and lively. The effects were the stars of the show. They sounded accurate, dynamic and vibrant. Highs seemed clear and lows appeared enormously deep and powerful. The entire thing packed a real wallop.

Why did I go with a slightly higher grade for the DTS mix? I felt it exhibited noticeably superior bass response. For the Dolby track, low-end could sound somewhat loose and boomy. Those concerns never became serious, and if I’d not heard the DTS track, they might not have stood out at all. However, they became apparent by comparison and made the DTS version the better of the pair. It’s an active and immersive auditory wonder to behold.

The Day After Tomorrow includes a mix of supplements, though not as many as one might expect from this sort of “A”-list flick. We get two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from co-writer/director Roland Emmerich and producer Mark Gordon, both of whom sit together for a running, screen-specific chat. As exemplified in the discussion that accompanies The Patriot, Emmerich can be extremely inarticulate. His prior pairings with producer Dean Devlin exacerbated this tendency; Devlin didn’t say a whole lot, so Emmerich was left with tons of space to fill. He did so in a less than concise manner.

Happily, matters improve substantially here. Unlike Devlin, Gordon proves lively and chatty, so Emmerich doesn’t get the chance to babble. They focus on a lot of technical elements and only occasionally delve into other issues. We learn a lot about effects, sets, locations and logistics, though they provide a smattering of information about the cast, the script, and creative topics. For example, Emmerich tells us about the story’s origins and development as well as how 9/11 affected it.

Tons of happy talk shows up here, and the level of information generally seems slight. However, this becomes a very entertaining track thanks to the hyper presence of Gordon. As with his Speed commentary, Gordon offers an irreverent presence and he’s not afraid to make fun of his own movie. He gleefully points out plot flaws and other mistakes, and he even mocks himself for all the praise he gushes. Emmerich gets caught up in the energy, and this actually seems to focus him, as he proves more interesting than in the past. Will you learn much from this track? Probably not, but you’ll have a lot of fun along the way.

For the second commentary, we receive notes from co-writer Jeffrey Nachmanoff, director of photography Ueli Steiger, editor David Brenner, and production designer Barry Chusid. It sounded like the men sat in pairs and recorded separate running, screen-specific commentaries that later got cut together. It appears that this split the participants into Steiger/Chusid and Nachmanoff/Brenner teams. The piece flowed smoothly nonetheless, as the editing made it work.

One can infer the topics of conversation via a scan of the men’s titles, as the subjects follow expected dimensions. We learn about modifications made to the original script, deleted sequences, altered pieces, and reworking some parts via editing. We get notes about the cinematography and the look of the film along with visual effects and those challenges. Some of the more technical elements get a little dry at times, but usually the material remains interesting and useful. I especially like the discussions of rewrites and editing as they give us a solid feel for how much work goes on after the script is done. The whole package offers a good look at the nuts and bolts elements of making Day. It’s not quite as entertaining as the Gordon/Emmerich track, but it’s much more illuminating.

Next we discover two deleted scenes. We get “Scene 25: Gary’s Shady Deal/Taka Dies” (two minutes, 45 seconds) and “Scene 209-210B: First Version of Jack and Jason After the Big Freeze” (3:44). In case you’re wondering, “Gary” is a self-absorbed stockbroker who bribes a bus driver in the final cut, and “Taka” is the cell-phone user who gets bonked on the head in Tokyo during the hailstorm. Their subplot was unnecessary and merited excision. The second scene offers a little more character definition but slows down an already plodding part of the movie, so it was also a good cut.

Audio Anatomy touts itself as an “interactive sound demo”. This allows us to examine the “RAF Helicopters Scene” via seven different stems: dialogue, helicopter sound design, engines, ice and wind, sound effects, foley, and music. We also get the chance to hear them all packed together. The 109-second segment offers a cool way to inspect the various elements, though it’s too bad the track only uses 2.0 audio and not the full 5.1 capabilities.

Folks with DVD-ROM drives can access additional features. I checked these out weeks before the DVD’s release, however, and they weren’t active yet. As such, I can’t comment on them, though they promise a lot of exclusive materials.

Finally, we get Inside Look, an “exclusive insider’s look at upcoming projects from Fox”. This presents a trailer for the summer 2005 Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie flick Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

An inconsistent but mostly interesting disaster flick, The Day After Tomorrow demonstrates the usual strengths and weaknesses seen in the films of Roland Emmerich. It includes some solid action pieces and production values but suffers from thin characters and a dull story. The DVD offers good picture along with stunning audio and a small but useful set of extras. A pretty positive DVD for a reasonably entertaining movie, Day at least merits a rental.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5245 Stars Number of Votes: 61
10 3:
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