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WARNER

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Jan de Bont
Cast:
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

Tagline:
The Dark Side of Nature.

Synopsis:
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:
Budget
$92 million.
Opening Weekend
$41.100 million on -unknown- screens.
Domestic Gross
$241.688 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 113 min.
Price: $14.96
Release Date: 6/1/2004

Bonus:
• 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
• Cast and Crew Biographies
• Trailer


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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: Special Edition (1996)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 8, 2008)

It's clear why Twister made a strong $241 million in the US during its theatrical release; it hit screens on my 29th birthday in 1996. People all over the US know that I stand for flash over substance, and in honor of 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 money.

Kind of like me, Twister is a mess. 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 – 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! Bill Paxton’s work in Twister doesn't actually inspire me to dislike him, but it doesn't help, either. As for the overrated Helen 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 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 aren’t 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 C+

Twister appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While the transfer suffered from no overwhelming flaws, it seemed less than stellar.

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.

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. Overall, this was a fair transfer.

No such complaints came with the soundtracks of Twister. This DVD offered both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mixes. What differences existed between the two? None that I could discern. I flipped back and forth between them every few minutes as I watched the film, and I could not discover anything to differentiate the two. To my ears, the two tracks sounded virtually identical.

Which was good, since Twister remains one of the all-time great demo DVDs for audio. 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.

The original DVD of Twister offered few extras - just a trailer and some biographies - so the SE is a step up in that department. First 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.

Two featurettes appear on this DVD: 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.

A little more video material can be found here as well. We get 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 VH fans might enjoy it, but I sure didn't.

Finally, the DVD finishes up with two trailers plus a Cast and Crew section that features decent biographies of Hunt, Paxton and De Bont. It’s not a great collection of extras, but it beats nothing.

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 decent picture and extras along with some of the best 5.1 audio I’ve ever heard. If you like “check your brain at the door” flicks, then Twister deserves your attention.

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

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