Another cheapie disaster-movie-of-the-week (see also '10.5: Apocalypse'), 'Category 7: The End of the World' is one of the better entries in the bargain-basement genre. It pulls together the usual cavalcade of lower-rung has-been stars, truly lame CGI, and Michael Crichton-like pseudo-science, while still managing to be nothing less than a hoot for most of its overinflated, 169-minute runtime. 'Category 7' is, of course, totally stupid, but at least its fun.
Get a load of this synopsis. Gina Gershon plays one of the heads of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, who must do battle with a series of mammoth, mysterious weather disasters that are demolishing the world's biggest cities. As landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and Mount Rushmore fall to ruin, she calls in "rebel meteorologist" Ross Duffy (Cameron Daddo), who runs something called the Extreme Weather Lab and spouts all sorts of subversive theories about global warming and the like. Assembling a crack team of the world's best weather researchers (including Shannon Doherty, Randy Quaid, and Tom Skerritt), they set about trying to stop the calamity. Things get even weirder when a religious crazy (Nicholas Lea) shows up with some idiotic plot to unleash the "plagues of Egypt" and bring about doomsday. Really, I ain't making this up.
'Category 7' doesn't depart from the typical TV flick formula. We get the usual boring set-up, with lots a ominous portents of the disaster to come, plus a cross-section of characters whose fates we are supposed to care about. But 'Category 7' does a better job than most productions of its ilk, mainly because the cast is rather capable. I've always liked Gershon (if only 'cause she was in 'Showgirls'), and she's sassy and smart enough here that she takes a nothing character on the page and makes her fun to watch. Lea is also over-the-top as the religious dude, so the third act, with him facing off against Gershon and her team, manages to bring a wacky edge to 'Category 7' that goes far beyond the stock CGI-fueled climaxes of these types of movies. Even Skerritt and Quaid (both obviously cashing paychecks) are old pros, and are able to spin some of the hoariest quasi-scientific dialogue ever written and make it sound, well, almost believable.
The production values of 'Category 7' also aren't that bad. Okay, they aren't great, but the film doesn't cheat nearly as much as the comparable (but inferior) '10.5: Apocalypse,' which constantly cut away to jittery close-ups of actors' faces to disguise the lack of an effects budget. The CGI of 'Category 7' is still pretty cheap, but at least they show a lot of it, and what's disaster-porn without the disaster?
Needless to say, 'Category 7' is nothing more than a time-waster. It's also three hours of your life you'll never get back. But if you're into this kind of stuff (and I admit to wasting more than one Sunday afternoon watching my favorite Irwin Allen flick for the tenth time), you might get a kick out of it. Of all the recent made-for-TV disaster epics, 'Category 7' is definitely one of the more enjoyable ones.
Presented in 1080i/MPEG-2 video (1.78:1), this is another budget-priced Blu-ray from Echo Bridge that falls into the actually-not-bad quality department.
The source is in spiffy shape, with no major blemishes aside from what appears to be intentional graininess. Colors are deeply saturated if a bit plugged up, and fleshtones are accurate, except for some stylized interiors. The CGI shots are noticeably softer/fuzzier, but otherwise there is a fair amount of detail to the image, even if I was never blown away. Blacks and contrast are also solid. The encode is fine for MPEG-2, but there is frequent noise and some banding, plus the occasional motion artifact, but for a TV flick, not bad at all.
Echo Bridge includes four audio options (all English): DTS 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps), Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (448kbps), PCM 2.0 Stereo (1.5mbps) and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (192kbps). None thrilled me, but the DTS is the strongest.
This mix is fairly involving, with some heft to the surrounds. Discrete effects are more prominent than I would have expected, if too obvious in the mix. Dynamic range is fine, with solid low bass for a TV flick and clean highs. The forgettable score is just that, and weakly blended in the mix. Dialogue is occasionally muffled, but generally well balanced. Finally there are no major anomalies to the source.
Nope, there are no extras. Well, unless you call a "TV Trailer" (aka cheap video preview) for 'Category 7' an extra.
'Category 7: The End of the World' is a better-than-average TV disaster flick, one with a solid B-movie cast and some decent CGI effects. This Blu-ray is pretty sparse, but it at least delivers good video and audio for the price. Considering this is such a cut-rate value, 'Category 7' is worth considering if you actually like the flick. Otherwise, leave as a rental.