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Sunday, March 31, 2013

EARTH'S FINAL HOURS -- DVD review by porfle

If you're a regular viewer of SyFy original movies, chances are you've seen our Armageddon-prone little planet on the verge of total destruction more times than you can shake a Shaky-Cam at.  Anchor Bay's new DVD release of EARTH'S FINAL HOURS (2012) is the latest example of how worldwide apocalypse, SyFy-style, is only a bad CGI effect away at any moment.

Of course, these movies are like sausage--if you like one, you'll probably like the next one.  (The director, David Hogan, also churned out the SyFy potboiler BEHEMOTH.) This one follows the usual recipe in which some odd scientific anomaly occurs, escalates, and threatens the whole world unless our heroes can figure out a way to stop it, often with some secret-government bad guy opposing them in pursuit of his own selfish agenda. 

In the meantime, there's a lot of tense dialogue between people who are either in closed rooms or standing around out in fields--in other words, budget-friendly locations--talking a lot about the ongoing crisis that is mostly a bunch of techno-babble occasionally depicted in a few brief SPFX shots. 

The imminent apocalypse of EARTH'S FINAL HOURS involves some pseudo-science that sounds even less probable than usual, originating from something known as a "white hole."  This is the other side of a black hole--that is, what the black hole sucks in, the white hole spits out.  Unfortunately for us, a nearby white hole has just expectorated some incredibly dense matter, a baseball-sized chunk of which burrows into North America and comes out the other side of the world in Australia. 

This slows the Earth's rotation to a crawl and neutralizes the Van Allen Belt, making the weather unseasonably warm in addition to creating these neat energy squiggles that descend from the sky and sweep over the ground disintegrating bad guys who happen to be holding the good guys at gunpoint (this happens at least twice).  One good thing about these SyFy flicks is that the cheap CGI is starting to look a little better these days although it's still pretty blah.

Robert Knepper ("Stargate: Universe", SEAL TEAM SIX: THE RAID ON OSAMA BIN LADEN) gives a pretty good performance as John Streich, one of the rare government agents who's an honest-to-goodness good guy, as does Julia Benson (also of SGU) as science consultant Chloe.  They're investigating a rogue scientist who's working on the impending problem on his own when the first white-hole debris hits our atmosphere and, out of all the billions of people on the planet, just happens to blow a bowling ball-sized hole through the scientist's torso. 

It isn't long before Streich and Chloe discover a sinister conspiracy behind the whole thing which prompts his superior, the evil Lockman (Michael Kopsa), to hunt them down even as they seek out the original scientist's partner Dr. Rothman (Bruce Davison, WILLARD, X-MEN) who's being held in a government-run sanitarium. 

With Rothman's help, Streich and Chloe race to locate the hidden command center for two satellites that can correct the Earth's rotation (don't ask me how) before the bad guys can get there first and use it all for their own nefarious purposes.  (I'm not a rocket scientist or anything, but I'm going to have to call B.S. on about nine-tenths of the "science" involved in this story.)

Davison does his part as the old reliable semi-big-name guest star while Knepper and Benson keep the story lurching along.  Not so great is Cameron Bright of the "Twilight" saga as Streich's son Andy, one of those annoying teenaged rebel-geniuses who can magically "hack" into top-secret government files as easily as using Google.  As you might guess, Andy pretty much saves the world with his laptop while renewing his troubled relationship with his dad in the process (awwww). 

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby 5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  No extras.

A great deal of low-budget sound and fury and lots of frantic altercations and scurrying around in circles make EARTH'S FINAL HOURS seem a lot like the feature film edit of an old serial.  (A pounding musical score by Michael Neilson makes it all seem more exciting than it really is.) It's kind of hard to summarize because none of it really makes any sense, which matters little if you just switch off your mind the same way the filmmakers seem to have done when they came up with this largely unfathomable tall tale.

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