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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

ICE QUAKE -- DVD review by porfle

ICE QUAKE (2010) is one of those made-for-SyFy movies that you can take or leave without it having any noticeable effect on your life either way.  If you take it, the extended forecast is "bland" with scattered moments of mild excitement. 

When a massive ice shelf collapses in the Russian arctic, one consequence is that people in a small town in Alaska start falling into gaping fissures, freezing to death from the escaping gases, or getting nailed by erupting ice geysers.  Most of this is occurring on a particular mountain, which--naturally--is where geologist Michael Webster (Brendan Fehr) takes his whiny family to look for a Christmas tree.  It isn't long before they're all menaced by the aforementioned natural hazards plus an avalanche or two.

Back at the base of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Col. Bill Hughes (Victor Garber) and his geek squad follow the impending disaster in the "Oh, My God" room, the place where people in SyFy Channel movies look at computer screens and say "Oh, my God" a lot.  They discover that a massive amount (gigatons, even) of methane gas is flowing underground and creating havoc wherever it goes.  As is typical of this type of low-budget disaster flick, the event has the potential of ending all life on earth, which gives the characters something exciting to talk about.

ICE QUAKE is the kind of effort that chugs along as well as it can within its limited resources without ever managing to be more than mildly watchable.  A big drawback is the Un-Steadicam camerawork that's distractingly wobbly (not counting the earth-tremor scenes that are supposed to look that way) and tends toward unintentional Dutch angles.  Performances aren't all that strong, either--Fehr is so bland as Michael that one wonders who the heck he beat out for the role, while Holly Dignard as his wife Emily expresses extreme emotion by putting on a "yucky" face. 

As a scientist trying to alert the military to the impending methane menace, Rob LaBelle (WATCHMEN, DARK STORM) isn't bad in his brief screen time.  Jodelle Ferland and Ryan Grantham are also pretty good as kids Tia and Shane Webster--Ferland, who was in THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE and has been on "Stargate" a couple of times, even gets second billing.  The big puzzle is what Victor Garber (TITANIC) is doing in this, especially since he's pretty miscast as a military officer.  He spends much of his time in the "Oh, My God" room with a coffee cup grafted to his hand, and whenever he has a dramatic line he neutralizes it by taking a long swig of java.

The frequent use of CGI is pretty well done because, I suppose, it's hard to mess up snow and ice effects compared to rendering dinocrocs and sharktopi.  There's also an impressive shot of a helicopter in distress while trying to reel in an injured man on a stretcher, although the actual crash looks typically fake.  Some other vehicle-related CGI is similarly unconvincing, while the massive explosions seen in the finale are about as good as can be expected. 

The rest of the action consists mainly of people either running around in the snow dodging fissures or gaping at their computer monitors.  The film does manage to generate a moderate amount of suspense at the end as a series of detonations intended to stop the methane flow threaten to blow up some of our beloved main characters. 

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and English and Spanish subtitles.  Bonus features consist of "The Making of 'Ice Quake'" and a trailer.

I didn't actively dislike ICE QUAKE, and it serves its purpose as a time-waster, but apart from that there really isn't much to say for it.  It's the kind of movie that you watch because the remote control is out of reach and you don't feel like getting up.

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