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TWISTER
Two Disc pecial Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, Jamie Gertz, Cary Elwes, Lois Smith, Phillip Seymour Hoffman
Director:  Jan De Bont
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio:  Warner Bros.
Features:  See Review
Length:  113 Minutes
Release Date:  May 6, 2008

“Has anyone ever seen an F5?  What would that be like?”

“The finger of God.”

Film ***

I’ve been fascinated by tornadoes for as long as I’ve been on the earth.  I’ve never seen one in person, and most of the time, when I’m in my right mind, I’m thankful for that.  But I can still remember the first time I saw a trailer for Jan De Bont’s Twister and thinking, “man, this movie is MADE for me.”

I saw it several times in the theatre and countless more times on DVD.  It’s just one of those eye-popping thrill rides that never seems to lose its sense of wonder or fun.  True, the more I watch it, the more the flaws glare out at me, but come on…those storms are cool, and that’s what I paid my admission price to see.

Jan De Bont got his start as a cinematographer for the likes of Renny Harlin, so he knew a thing or two about action before he helmed his first feature Speed.  By the time Twister blew in, it was clear that De Bont had mastered the art of the big-budgeted crowd-pleasing empty-headed popcorn flick.  His movies may have been light on substance, but knew what audiences wanted to see, and gave them plenty of it. 

The plot of Twister, such as it is, involves a newly-divorcing storm chasing couple, Jo Harding (Hunt), who still lives for the chase, and Bill (Paxton), who seems to have given up the thrill for a settled in life reporting on the weather and dating his new flame, Melissa Reeves (Gertz).  But storms are a-brewing, and with a new technology aimed at mapping tornadoes with more accuracy than ever before, the bickering twosome and their motley grew of renegade meteorologists are off and running.  No need to wait for the twisters…these guys actually FOLLOW them.

And, of course, there's the obligatory bad guy, a rival chaser (Elwes) who has corporate sponsorship (are you kidding me?) and tons of top notch equipment, but not the instincts.  Yes, friends, scientists are squaring off against each other in a no-holds barred match!

The real treat is the tornadoes, which get bigger, badder and faster as the film goes along.  They deliver the spectacle, and make up for the more questionable parts, like all the hoaky dialogue and the seeming miscues, such as why it seems nobody’s hair is flying around when they’re so close to an F5 killer storm.  But no matter.

It’s no lecture on storms, and so much the better for it.  If you want to learn a thing or two, there are plenty of specials that will fill your head with meatier matter.  But Twister is what you want when you feel like putting the brain in neutral and the adrenal glands in overdrive. 

BONUS TRIVIA:  Steven Spielberg is one of the executive producers of the film.

Video ***1/2

This is a solid anamorphic transfer from Warner…earlier editions of this movie were a little shaky, but the improvements are appreciated.  There is less compression noticeable this time around, and better contrast in the many darker scenes.  There’s still a touch of noticeable grain here and there, but nothing distracting.

Audio ****

This is still probably my favorite disc to grab in order to demonstrate my sound system.  The 5.1 audio is expansive, immersive, and runs the gamut from subtle and atmospheric to china-rattling volume.  The surrounds envelop you in the storms, and the constant chaos and dynamic range make this one about as good as it gets.

Features ***

This two disc special edition starts with a commentary from Jan De Bont and visual effects supervisor Stefen Fangmeier and some trailers, all on the first disc.  The second disc contains a new retrospective featurette revisiting the film, The History Channel documentary on tornadoes, the HBO First Look special on the film, and the Van Halen video for their song “Humans Being”.

Summary:

Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high, maybe there’s someone who can tell me why I like this silly film so damned much.  I guess it’s just a marriage of the right subject matter to the right viewer.  Twister gets me charged up like few films can do, and this new special edition DVD from Warner makes the ride all the more fun.

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