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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.

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

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 113 min.
Price: $9.98
Release Date: 1/1/2011

• Audio Commentary with Director Jan De Bont And Visual Effects Supervisor Stefen Fangmeier
• “Anatomy of the Twister” Featurette
• “The Making of Twister” Featurette
• Music Video
• “Chasing the Storm: Twister Revisited” Documentary
• “Nature Tech: Tornadoes” Documentary
• Trailers


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Twister [Blu-Ray] (1996)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 13, 2014)

It's clear why 1996’s Twister made a strong $241 million in the US during its theatrical release: it hit screens on my 29th birthday. People all over the US know that I stand for flash over substance, so due my love of special effects extravaganzas, the citizens of this great nation flocked to movie theaters for one reason alone: to honor me. And I thank them for it, although next time I'd prefer that they just send me all that money.

Television weatherman Bill Harding (Bill Paxton) used to study severe storms, and his separated wife Jo (Helen Hunt) continues that pursuit. This takes Bill and his new fiancée Melissa (Jami Gertz) on the road to find Jo, as Bill needs her to finally sign the documents that’ll finalize their divorce.

Jo doesn’t just chase tornadoes: she studies them as well, and she develops technology that may allow forecasts additional advance notice of upcoming twisters. Bill finds himself caught up in these endeavors – and a battle against a rival team led by colleague Jonas Miller (Cary Elwes). We follow Bill, Jo and the others as they pursue tornadoes and place themselves in harm’s way to advance their research.

Kind of like me, Twister is a mess. I could spend all day covering the various faults of the film. Plot? None that I can find.

Oh, I suppose that the filmmakers would like you to consider that nonsense about the attempts to get the tornado-detection device off the ground – literally - to be a real storyline, but it isn't. It's simply a justification for sending people toward tornadoes - the natural reaction, of course, is the opposite - and then documenting the ensuing chaos.

Acting? Wooden at best, though Twister boasts a surprisingly good cast. I have a long-standing policy whereby I cannot hate anyone who was in Aliens Aliens, though Paul Reiser really pushes the boundaries of that! Paxton’s work in Twister doesn't actually inspire me to dislike him, but it doesn't help, either.

As for Hunt… 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 long-overdue Square Pegs reunion - and the rest of the cast, from laughable "villain" 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 can be found in Twister, as the film constantly hammers you 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, I think 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. 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 aren’t chasing a tornado - the meat of the film, the bits with flying cows and exploding trucks, will knock your socks off.

Is that enough to make Twister an exciting and fun movie? Yeah, I think it is. I wish the film had fewer clichés and more substance, but I still enjoy it. As basic popcorn entertainment, it’s a relative winner.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B-/ Audio A+/ Bonus B

Twister appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This wasn’t a great transfer, but it had a fair number of positives.

For the most part, sharpness was good. Occasional examples of slightly soft shots materialized, but these weren’t extreme. Most of the movie displayed nice clarity and accuracy, though I did think that the actors’ faces often took on a waxy look. I don’t know if that stemmed from too much digital noise reduction, but I felt skin sometimes appeared less than natural. I noticed no jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement was absent. Source flaws also created no concerns during this clean transfer.

Colors were good at all times. The movie went with a natural palette that seemed fairly lively and full. Blacks were deep and tight, while shadows showed good clarity. Low-light shots offered appropriate density and lacked excessive opacity. The softness and waxy skin made this a “B-”, but it was usually more than satisfactory.

Virtually no complaints came with the Dolby TrueHD 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.

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 remained stunning.

How did the picture and sound quality of this Blu-ray compare to those of the 2008 Special Edition DVD? Audio seemed a bit more dynamic and full. Prior versions were demo-worthy for lossy formats, but the Dolby TrueHD mix offered a little more range and punch.

Visuals showed some improvements, even though the extra resolution of Blu-ray tended to spotlight problems the restrictions of DVD hid. For that format, the DVD was very sharp and clear, whereas the softness/waxiness was more obvious during the Blu-ray. I do think that the Blu-ray provided the superior visuals, but it wasn’t as good as it could have been.

The Blu-ray replicates the extras from the 2008 DVD. In addition to two theatrical trailers, we find a running audio commentary from director Jan De Bont and visual effects supervisor Stefen Fangmeier. They were recorded together for this running, screen-specific track. Of course, we learn a lot about the effects, but we also find info about cast and performances, shooting on location and dealing with weather, real tornadoes and research, story and characters, music and audio design, and a mix of other production topics.

De Bont and Fangmeier are a chatty pair so almost no empty pauses can be found during this track. They get into many production subjects. I feel De Bont and Fangmeier spend too much time mentioning how good the effects are, but nonetheless they offer some solid information about the film. They maintain a high level of energy and make this a pretty good little track.

Next we find two featurettes: Making of Twister and Anatomy of the Twister. “Making” lasts 13 minutes, 50 seconds as it presents remarks from De Bont, Fangmeier, producer Kathleen Kennedy, VORTEX director Erik Rasmussen, and actors Bill Paxton, Helen Hunt, Jami Gertz, and Cary Elwes. “Anatomy” runs eight and a half minutes and features Paxton, De Bont, Elwes, Kennedy, Gertz, and Fangmeier.

Although they're separate pieces, the two programs might as well have been combined, for little differentiates them. Each contains unique information but both follow similar routines. The programs detail issues during the shoot and that concerned the effects, plus we see some real-life tornado video. Both featurettes remain firmly in the promotional-puff-piece vein, but I found them to offer enough information to make them worthwhile. However, they don't substitute for a comprehensive documentary.

Another repeat component comes via the music video for "Humans Being" by Van Halen. This three and a half minute clip is pretty much a total loss. The song is terrible and the video itself is dull and ordinary; it follows the same old "lip-synch combined with film shots" formula we've seen so many times. Die-hard Van Hagar fans might enjoy it, but I sure don't.

Chasing the Storm: Twister Revisited lasts 28 minutes, 56 seconds. It features De Bont, Paxton, Fangmeier, special effects supervisor John Frazier, and stunt coordinator Mic Rodgers. The show looks at how De Bont came onto the project and convinced the studio its effects would be viable, cast, characters and performances, story choices, practical and visual effects, weather on location, stunts, production design, and audio.

“Revisited” offers a technical look at the film. Given the nature of Twister, that doesn’t come as a surprise, but it does disappoint that we don’t get more actors or other creative talent. This becomes an efficient look at some effects and other nuts and bolts issues.

For a more fact-based look at twisters, Nature Tech: Tornadoes fills 45 minutes, 15 seconds. The History Channel documentary features remarks from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Severe Storm Laboratory’s Harold Brooks, University of Oklahoma Department of Meteorology Professor Howard Bluestein, the National Weather Service’s David Andra, Storm Prediction Center Warning Coordinator Dan McCarthy, NOAA’s Doug Forsyth, KWTV (Oklahoma City) chief meteorologist Gary England, KWTV staff meteorologist Mike Armstrong, National Center for Atmospheric Research’s Josh Wurman, University of Oklahoma grad students Robin Tanamachi and Chris Weiss, Texas Tech University research associate Russell R. Carter, Texas Tech grad student Ameri B. Gurley, Texas Tech civil engineering Professor Chris Letchford, Van Wert OH Emergency Services Director Rick McCoy, and storm spotter Dennis Bowen. We learn about the causes of tornadoes, research/detection tools and methods, the work of “storm chasers”, and various aspects of twisters.

The documentary tends to be pretty dry, I must admit. It gives us a decent look at facts about tornadoes and related research, but it doesn’t pack as many of the real-life shots we want to see. I think we get more images of spinning radar dishes than we do twisters. This gives the program a less sensationalistic tone, but it’s also less enjoyable. Seriously – if we watch a show about tornadoes, we really only want to see lots of them!

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 Blu-ray provides decent picture, excellent audio and a pretty good collection of supplements. Though this is the best edition of Twister to date, the problems with the transfer make it a mild disappointment.

To rate this film, visit the 2008 review of TWISTER

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main