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I'm probably the least qualified reviewer on the site to look over this title, as disaster films rarely interest me. They're often times wildly far fetched, pitting man against nature and having man emerge victorious. I find it incredibly absurd. If nature wants to pummel mankind's sorry arse into oblivion with a tsunami, earthquake, flood, or meteor, it's going to do so. For those not particularly a fan of the sub-genre such as myself, enter 10.5 Apocalypse, a miniseries that mixes realism and camp dialogue together to create a pretty fun experience.

10.5 Apocalypse
Set in the aftermath of the original miniseries 10.5, we now find the North American continent in total chaos from a magnitude 10.5 earthquake. While the obvious star of the miniseries is Mother Nature and the wicked temper-tantrum she throws down, we're also treated to a few sub-plots for when she's not ripping open the earth. Our main storyline follows President Paul Hollister, his geological advisor Dr. Samantha Hill played by Kim Delaney (both from the original miniseries), and her ex-geologist father played by Frank Langella. Our secondary storyline involves a pair of brothers played by Oliver Hudson and Dean Cain working on a FEMA rescue team. The two stories intertwine when the brothers embark on a mission to rescue Samantha Hill's father from a collapsed building for he may be able to stop impending doom. It's unquestionable that the damage that's already gone down is horrific, but it's incomparable to the devastation that awaits North America in this miniseries; a pissed-off fault line is threatening to rip apart the entire continent.

My expectations for the visual effects of any miniseries are pretty slack. I went in expecting some major cheese shots of the earthquake and it's aftermath, but found none. To my surprise, the visual effects of 10.5 Apocalypse are on a par with your average blockbuster disaster flick. Through a well-balanced mixture of miniature work, large set pieces and CG shots, we're painted a brutal picture of mother nature's wrath. Even in its most obviously computer generated shots, 10.5 Apocalypse is still believable. The director of photography for the miniseries is Dennis McHugh, who not surprisingly also worked on disaster films Armageddon and Dante's Peak.

As the miniseries rampaged on, I kept hearing the President exclaim "We've got to find a way to stop that fault line!'" as if it were even possible. I began to worry that 10.5 Apocalypse was going to pull something lame half an hour before the end and devise a ridiculous plan to stop mother nature. By the time the final act was upon me, I had realized that whatever happened next would decide my opinion on the entire product. I won't reveal the ending here, but it's fantastic and really made the whole ride worthwhile for this reviewer.

10.5 Apocalypse
It would've been criminally easy for 10.5 Apocalypse to have been a miniseries made great by its visual effects alone, having the earthquake cause as much damage as possible just for the sake of blowing things up. Thankfully this isn't the case, and 10.5 Apocalypse charms on several different levels. Writing isn't particularly bad, although the story is stronger than the dialogue (At least no one says anything to the effect of "The United States Government just asked us to save the world. Anyone wanna say no?"). Composer Henning Lohner crafts an energetic score to accompany the action, being both exhilaratingly thrill-packed and at times, dramatic and moving. All of these elements combine to give the miniseries a very high production value for a miniseries.

The cast of 10.5 Apocalypse is plastered across the front cover of the release, and for good reason. The film is led by Kim Delaney, who is unfortunately upstaged by nearly everyone around her. The only female performance worth highlighting is that of Barbara Eve Harris, giving a fine portrayal of a strong presidential aide thrust into a difficult and chaotic situation. Stargate's Beau Bridges is especially enjoyable as the United States President, giving an at times downright cheesy feel to the character but all in good fun. My favorite cast member was Frank Langella, giving his best performance since Skeletor in Masters of the Universe. Bridges and Langella lend the production quite a bit of credibility even when the dialogue does just the opposite. Former Superman Dean Cain is somewhat wasted in a smaller role, although enjoyable to have on screen all the same.

So what earns 10.5 Apocalypse a lowly rating of six when I claim to have liked it so much? The nauseating work of cinematographer David Foreman. The man almost single-handedly ruins the entire miniseries. Watching his handi-work, you'd think the phrase "Hey, remember that shot in the Blair Witch Project?" was heard quite a bit on this set. I'm familiar with director John Lafia's films and rapid-zoomshots aren't exactly his trademark. I believe cinematography this ridiculously poor is only justifiable when you're trying to divert attention away from something; be it bad effects or bad acting and this miniseries was short on both. The best advice I can give to an evidently talent-less hack like Foreman is to invest in a tripod, hire a competent steadi-cam operator, and never touch the zoom function again so long as you live. Let's all hope they don't re-hire him for 10.5 Armageddon.

10.5 Apocalypse
Video
As is customary with Echo Bridge Entertainment, technical specifications aren't stated online or on the packaging so it becomes an annoying game for me to figure out what they are and I'm becoming fairly skilled at it. 10.5 Apocalypse is served up in 1:85:1 widescreen and looks as good as you'd expect a miniseries of sorts to look. The picture is clean evidently having been digitally polished, tinted and tweaked. Some of the effects shots play out a little blurry, but this may be intentional. I've no complaints in the video department.

Audio
I'm fairly confident that Echo Bridge has given 10.5 Apocalypse a Dolby Digital 2.0 track, and a very full one at that. At first glance, a 2.0 track would be a great injustice to the epic nature of the miniseries, but the track works surprisingly well. Even when things aren't collapsing and exploding, 10.5 Apocalypse sounds good. Though I always prefer a 5.1 track, this is admittedly one of the better 2.0 tracks I've come across. Come to think of it, it may be the sound design I enjoyed so well, but either way; no complaints here either.

Extras
It's an absolute shame to find that this miniseries doesn't have any supplemental material to speak of. Even a promotional talking heads featurette would've been interesting, but we're not even treated to that. Most of all, I'd love to know how some of these effects were created. Echo Bridge, you really disappoint me here. You couldn't have even included the promotional trailer that played on your website? It's cheap if you ask me. Speaking of cheap, this release is without closed captioning or subtitles, features that I've come to appreciate in recent years. I see no reason why deaf or hard of hearing folks wouldn't enjoy a good disaster show just as everyone else would, so Echo Bridge, why leave them out?

It's worth mentioning that the disc is outfitted with some wonderfully animated menus that show the quake's damage and feature Lohner's brooding score. Chapter selection menus are designed to look like a computer monitor tracking the disaster across the map. These clearly took some effort, which makes the lack of supplements even more disapointing.

10.5 Apocalypse
Overall
For someone who doesn't ordinarily enjoy disaster epics, I liked 10.5 Apocalypse. Sure it's got cinema-cheese written all over it, but it's harmless fun. Don't go into it expecting high art and you might find the experience enjoyable. Since I'm not much for television, I missed both this and the original miniseries when they were originally broadcast but wouldn't be against watching the original if it's anything like what I've seen here. Worth a buy? It's questionable. Worth a rent? Definitely.


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