Latest Software Reviews
In the breezy comedy Raising Helen, Kate Hudson's fast track to agenting in the modeling business gets sidetracked when her sister's three kids move in with her after a fatal accident kills their mom. With the exception of a couple of surprisingly touching moments and the mega-talents of Joan Cusack, no feathers are ruffled too much, leading to the predictable conclusion with lots of smiles and hugs.
Cusack is just fabulous as Jenny, the other sister who "should've" gotten the kids, since she's already a great mom. But alas, the will is read, Hudson is the requested kid-keeper, and off we go. Performances are uniformly fine: Hudson shines, as does Hector Elizondo as a caring boss and My Big Fat Greek Wedding star John Corbett as a pastor and potential love interest.
There are no dark shadows, alleys, or menace in this film's Manhattan, and the Queens neighborhood depicted is full of immediately friendly neighbors and observant codgers who watch over the goings on. Hudson's hair is angelically golden, the brisk New York environs are tidy, and the homespun interiors of Cusack's home are warm and inviting. The disc offers Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and a 1.85:1 anamorphic picture, and the extras are straightforward: deleted scenes, director/writers commentary, a Liz Phair video, and a fun blooper reel.
Raising Helen is a showcase for Hudson, but the script doesn't call for the kids to realistically grieve—that's what makes this a triumph for Hudson and Cusack, but not for the movie itself.—Tony DeCarlo
DVD: The Day After Tomorrow—20th Century Fox
The Day After Tomorrow tells the story of what would happen if global warming got so out of control that the ocean's currents were affected and a second Ice Age descended upon the earth. It's your typical lighthearted natural-disaster movie. Dennis Quaid stars as the climatologist who first discovers the problem, and Jake Gyllenhaal plays Quaid's son, who becomes trapped in New York City under a blanket of snow and ice. It's not the most feasible plot ever concocted; but, if you can suspend your disbelief long enough, you'll certainly enjoy the remarkable special effects. Try not to grimace during the dialogue.
As cringingly bad as the storyline is, the 2.35:1 anamorphic video makes up for it. The quality is awesome, with nary an artifact or bit of noise to be found. The movie takes you back and forth from white, snowy scenes to dark, interior shots and video moves between the two with ease. Colors are detailed and absorbing, too. Just as good is the audio, which is lively and active. Choose from a Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS track; they both sound great. The surrounds were engaging and really made you feel like you were in the middle of Mother Nature's wrath, while the sub got its own full-time workout.
The DVD presents two commentary tracks: one with director Roland Emmerich and producer Mark Gordon; a second with writer Jeffrey Nachmanoff, cinematographer Ueli Steiger, editor David Brenner, and production designer Barry Chusid. You shouldn't have any questions about anything after listening to these tracks. An interactive audio demo shows you the secrets behind layering the sounds of a helicopter crash. Slide the disc into your PC for more making-of tidbits. Rumor has it that the UK version will be a two-disc set, so maybe any missing extras will make it into a special edition over here.—Amy Carter