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Jan de Bont
Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, Cary Elwes, Jami Gertz, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Lois Smith, Alan Ruck, Sean Whalen, Scott Thomson, Todd Field
Writing Credits:
Michael Crichton, Anne-Marie Martin

The Dark Side of Nature.

The house rips apart piece by piece. A bellowing cow spins through the air. Tractors fall like rain. A 15,000-pound gasoline tanker becomes an airborne bomb. A mile-wide, 300-miles-per-hour force of total devastation is coming at you: Twister is hitting home. In this adventure swirling with cliffhanging excitement and awesome special effects, Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton play scientists pursuing the most destructive weatherfront to sweep through mid-America's Tornado Alley in 50 years. By launching electronic sensors into the funnel, the storm chasers hope to obtain enough data to create an improved warning system. But to do so, they must intercept the twisters' deadly path. The chase is on!

Box Office:
$92 million.
Opening Weekend
$41.100 million on -unknown- screens.
Domestic Gross
$241.688 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Fullscreen 1.33:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 113 min.
Price: $24.98
Release Date: 3/26/1997

• Cast and Crew Biographies
• Trailer


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Twister (1996)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 8, 2008)

1996ís Twister was a mess of a movie. I could spend all day covering the various faults of that film. Plot? None that I could find. Oh, I suppose that the filmmakers would like you to consider that nonsense about the "twister-chasers" attempts to get their tornado-detection device off the ground Ė literally - to be a real storyline, but it isn't. It's simply a justification for sending people toward a tornado - the natural reaction, of course, is the opposite - and then documenting the ensuing chaos.

Acting? Wooden at best. Twister boasts a fairly decent cast. I have a long-standing policy whereby I cannot hate anyone who was in Aliens - boy, does Paul Reiser push the boundaries of that! His work in Twister doesn't actually inspire me to dislike Bill Paxton, but it doesn't help, either. As for the overrated Helen HuntÖ well, like Paxton, she manages to deliver her lines and move us toward the tornadoes adequately. Anything else is lost. Jami Gertz seems to be distracted - perhaps she's hoping for that Square Pegs reunion - and the rest of the cast, from laughable "villain" Cary Elwes to the "lovable" stereotypes of Hunt's crew... they're some good actors who needed a paycheck, I guess.

Subtlety? God, no! No strains of ambiguity are to be found in Twister. You are constantly hammered over the head with whatever thought the film wants you to have at that moment. At times it feels as though there should be subtitles that serve like the "applause" signs in TV studios: "boo", "cheer", "laugh" - it's all about as subtle as that sign.

At the end of the day, however, I have to make this confession: somehow, beyond all possibility of reason, Twister is a damned entertaining film. In a way, it's like Jurassic Park times ten. Critics knocked Park because of its less-than-scintillating characters and clear lack of plot. Well, Twister makes Park look like damned Shakespeare!

But just as the excitement of the scenes with the dinosaur attacks in Park forgave the film's lack of story, so does the fantastic execution of the "tornado attacks" in Twister make it an adrenaline-pumping thrill ride. Director Jan De Bont has no clue how to work with actors or to tell a coherent story. He does, however, know how to stage action scenes that leave audiences gasping for air. That's what he did in Speed, that's what he does in Twister, and he does it well. As dull and stiff as the "story" scenes are - ie, the stuff that happens when the cast arenít chasing a tornado - the meat of the film, the bits with flying cows and exploding trucks, will knock your socks off.

The DVD Grades: Picture C-/ Audio A+/ Bonus D-

Twister appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 and in a fullscreen version on this double-sided, single-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. I thought the transfer was watchable but flawed.

Most of my complaints stemmed from sharpness. I noticed some mild to moderate edge haloes at times, and these contributed to a lack of definition in wider shots. Most of the movie looked pretty good, but more than a few images came across as a little blurry and without great delineation. I noticed no jagged edges, but I saw a little shimmering on occasion, and I witnessed a few source flaws. Sporadic examples of specks and marks appeared, though these remained modest.

Compression techniques werenít all that hot back in 1997, especially since Warner crammed the 113-minute movie onto a single-layered disc. I wasnít extremely bothered by the digital artifacts, as the brightness of the movieís mostly daytime exterior settings made them less noticeable. However, other shots meant that the artifacts became much more obvious and distracting.

Colors were good but a little dense at times. The movie went with a natural palette that usually seemed nice. However, a few instances looked a little thick. Blacks were deep and tight, while shadows showed fairly good clarity. Though some dark shots were a bit opaque, most of them came across as natural and smooth. The transfer showed its age and had too many problems to earn a grade over a ďC-ď.

No such complaints came with the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Twister. This sucker blasted right out of the starting blocks and rarely let up at any point. The soundfield seemed unbelievably strong and encompassing. It featured a nice complement of ambient sounds during the few quiet scenes and really flew during the storm scenes, which provided some of the most exciting and wildest audio I've heard. The roar from the tornadoes appeared stunningly forceful, but it never degenerated into just a massive attack of noise. The localization remained terrific as each speaker clearly pumped discrete sound. I'd be hard pressed to think of any ways they could have improved upon this mix.

Thankfully, the quality of the audio also seemed very strong. Dialogue appeared consistently natural and warm, with no intelligibility problems, though the sheer volume of the effects occasionally overwhelmed the speech to a small degree. Music sounded clear and crisp, with good dynamic range. Best of all, of course, were the effects, which simply overwhelmed the viewer. They came across as clean and realistic and never betrayed the slightest hint of distortion, even during the loudest scenes. I won't say that Twister provided the best sound design ever, but it's on a very short list of the top mixes. The soundtrack remains stunning.

Donít expect much in the way of extras here. We get the flickís trailer as well as Cast & Crew listings for director Jan De Bont and actors Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, Jami Gertz and Cary Elwes. These offer very perfunctory bios and filmographies.

Although Twister remains a flawed film, it still delivers a powerful punch where it counts. It's a pure adrenaline rush that got my blood pumping from the very start and rarely let up until the end. The DVD provides inconsistent picture and insubstantial extras along with some of the best 5.1 audio Iíve ever heard. Twister isnít a classic, but if you can overlook its numerous flaws, itís still a blast.

To rate this film visit the Two Disc Special Edition review of TWISTER

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