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Ring of Fire(TV) (2012)
No synopsis for Ring of Fire.
For more about Ring of Fire and the Ring of Fire Blu-ray release, see Ring of Fire Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on June 8, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.0 out of 5.
Starring: Michael Vartan, Terry O'Quinn, Ian Tracey, Brian Markinson, Brendan Fletcher (I), Patrick Gilmore
Director: Paul Shapiro
» See full cast & crew
Ring of Fire Blu-ray Review
It's a disaster, all right.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, June 8, 2013
I was living in Portland, Oregon, when Mt. St. Helens erupted on the morning of May 18, 1980. It was a sleepy Sunday morning, unusually sunny for a late spring day in the Pacific Northwest, and I had rather uncharacteristically turned on the television for no particular reason. Within seconds, two unexpected things happened. First, whatever show was on television got interrupted by a news bulletin and then almost simultaneously my front door was being pounded, which I soon discovered was a buddy of mine who played in the band I had at that point excitedly telling me that St. Helens had just exploded. Over the next hour or so, amazing changes occurred. The sunlight dimmed, until it was virtually like dusk, and then a slow steady procession of ash starting falling, like ugly gray snow. It fell for hours (days, actually, at least intermittently), burying Portland in a sooty, smelly, and really weirdly dusty coating. For weeks afterward, it wasn't unusual to see most people wearing surgical masks (I still remember attending that year's Rose Festival and watching Mayor Connie McCready drive by waving to the masses with her surgical mask intact). In fact, banks starting putting up warning signs telling people they had to remove their masks before entering the premises. The economic devastation and human toll exacted by this natural disaster is legendary, but I can give you a more personal example. Years later, I bought my first house, which was an old 1910 monstrosity that had not been properly maintained for many years. I got up on a ladder to see why the gutters were hanging so precariously from the eaves and discovered one reason was that they were still full of untold pounds of caked, almost solid, volcanic ash. Having lived through a real volcanic disaster in Oregon (yes, Mt. St. Helens is in Washington, but we got the bulk of the detritus), I'm probably not particularly tolerant of fictional volcanic disasters set in my home state. But my hunch is even if you've never traveled to the Pacific Northwest and don't care one whit about volcanoes and whatever spew they may emit, you also won't be particularly tolerant of the tepid and lethargic Ring of Fire.
The late nineties saw the putative reboot of the "disaster film" with the help of outings like Dante's Peak and Volcano. Ring of Fire traverses much the same territory as those two films, while mixing in a kind of weird quasi-fracking element that may remind some of the recent non-disaster film (well, depending on how you define "disaster film") Promised Land. In the case of Ring of Fire, this deep underground drilling activity is not meant to extract natural gas, but oil. But here's the thing: has anyone involved in Ring of Fire ever been to Oregon? Do they think anyone here would ever approve any kind of deep drilling, especially on what the film itself defines as a Nature Preserve? Perish the thought. For better or worse, Oregon is home to some rather rabid environmentalists. We are, after all, the state that instituted reforms like bottle bills that require consumers to return containers for a refund of a deposit. There are annual clean-ups of our totally public beaches (every inch of Oregon's coastline is open to the public —no private property here), fêtes that attract thousands of citizens each year in a show of civic pride. Portland has innovative mass transit and is one of the biggest bicycle capitals in the world, both elements of which contribute to our (usually) pristine air quality. So right off the bat, without any of the frankly silly addenda that dot Ring of Fire, the telefilm has a foundation built on—well, quicksand.
Ring of Fire evidently aired in two parts on the Reelz cable outlet, a network with perhaps the second silliest moniker in television, after Syfy. And in fact Ring of Fire plays much like a Syfy telefilm, replete with a "didn't I see them in. . ." cast of television stalwarts and some alternately iffy and okay looking CGI. The telefilm also follows the well worn disaster film tradition of introducing us to a gaggle of characters, then letting all hell break loose as we ride a wave of Russian (or perhaps more appropriately Oregonian) Roulette to see who will live and who will die. One of the main problems here is that Ring of Fire is incredibly ponderous for more than its first hour, very slowly laying out one character after another with tiny hints of the mayhem that will ultimately ensue. My personal hunch is that many viewers will be using their chapter skip buttons to get to the "good bits", meaning a series of earth shattering explosions that either puts characters in peril or just downright kills them.
The characters here are simply ciphers, disaster film staples like a crusading scientist (Michael Vartan, Alias), a crusading environmentalist (Lauren Lee Smith, CSI) and an evil crusading oil magnate (Terry O'Quinn, Lost) who just happens to be the crusading environmentalist's father. So much crusading, so little time—though at close to three hours, perhaps too much time for less patient viewers. There's not a surprise to be had in Ring of Fire. We have the requisite bus full of kiddies on a field trip at ground zero. We have the intrepid workers caught in the bowels of a Poseidon Adventure-esque climb toward daylight. We have lava encroaching on everything from SUVs to sports cars. And the threat of a worldwide meltdown of Biblical proportions. The less said about one main character's brain aneurysm, the better.
The really funny thing about Ring of Fire, at least for cynics like yours truly, is its title. There's already a rather good IMAX offering by the same name that I reviewed for Blu-ray.com a couple of years ago. But those of you who keep up with such things may know that there's a newish made for television film essaying the relationship between June Carter Cash and Johnny Cash that also bears the same title. (There are actually a few other feature films that are similarly named.) I can't help but wonder what some unsuspecting consumer might think, hurriedly buying this online in hopes of seeing Jewel as June and instead getting Terry O'Quinn marauding through the Pacific Northwest. Talk about a volcanic explosion.
Ring of Fire Blu-ray, Video Quality
Ring of Fire is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Gaiam Vivendi and Sonar Entertainment with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1. Technical data on this shoot is pretty hard to come by, but my hunch is this was shot on HD video, which offers a typically sharp and clean looking image that nonetheless is somewhat flat and textureless looking quite a bit of the time. Fine detail is admirable throughout most of the two parts of this made for television film, but some of the CGI looks rather soft and some of it looks downright hokey (the CGI fire elements tend to fare the worst, while some of the actual eruption scenes look quite convincing). Colors are nicely saturated and accurate looking (save for several sequences which have been aggressively color graded to the blue side of things, evidently to mimic "day for night"). Contrast is also quite strong and consistent, allowing the viewer to make out good shadow detail in some pretty dark interior scenes, especially with regard to the workers trapped underground.
Ring of Fire Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Ring of Fire's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is perhaps the most convincing thing about this film, at least from a technical standpoint. Immersion is excellent and there is more than ample use of low frequency effects, offering some great rumbling moments as several explosions wreak havoc. There's actually some good use of the surround channels for some more fanciful foley effects, as in the opening sequence when a bunch of dead fish plop up to the surface of a lake where our focal scientist is doing some experiments. Dialogue is cleanly presented, though is occasionally slightly buried in what is often a very busy and noisy mix.
Ring of Fire Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
No supplements other than a sneak peek for another disaster outing called Eve of Destruction are offered on this Blu-ray disc. (I never include trailers or quasi-trailers as part of my official score in supplements).
Ring of Fire Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
My sense is that the most salient Ring of Fire most viewers will experience if watching this pretty lamentable exercise is heartburn. This is about as by the numbers as you can get, but unfortunately the filmmakers weren't able to even count very high. For those who are undemanding and like to watch stuff get blown up without having to worry about niggling concerns like plot or character, this Blu-ray offers really nice looking video and some amazing sounding audio.
Ring of Fire Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Ring of Fire Blu-ray - May 6, 2013
Gaiam Vivendi Entertainment and Sonar Entertainment have officially announced that they will release on Blu-ray Ring of Fire. The action-packed disaster movie features an all-star cast including Michael Vartan, Terry O'Quinn, and Lee Smith. Street date is June ...
Ring of Fire Blu-ray, Forum Discussions
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