Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Into the Storm Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
In the span of just a few hours, the city of Silverton is ravaged by an unprecedented onslaught of the most furious twisters they’ve ever seen. The entire town is at the mercy of the erratic and deadly cyclones, even as storm trackers predict the worst is yet to come. Most people seek shelter, while others run toward the vortex, testing how far a storm chaser will go for that once-in-a-lifetime shot.  Told through the eyes and lenses of professional storm chasers, thrill-seeking amateurs, and courageous townspeople, “Into the Storm” throws you directly into the eye of the storm to experience Mother Nature at her most extreme.
Film (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Richard Armitage (The Hobbit: An Unexpected  Journey) plays Gary,  Vice-Principal of the local high school and dad to two teenage boys.  His sons, Donnie (Max Deacon, “Hatfields & McCoys”) and Trey (Nathan Kress, “iCarly”) are typical rebellious teenagers, but they are also dealing with the death of their mother and not quite getting along with dad.  Gary has directed Donnie to have the students make a video time capsule.  When his multimedia skills can be of use to his crush Kaitlyn (Alycia Debnam-Carey, The Devil’s Hand), he blows off recording graduation and follows her to an abandoned factory to finish an environmental project.

Documentary filmmaker Pete (Matt Walsh, Ted) has been attempting to catch nature’s fury on camera for the past three months.  His team includes camera man Jacob (Jeremy Sumpter, “Soul Surfer”, “Friday Night Lights”) and the scientist he’s blaming for their failures ( Sarah Wayne Callies, “The Walking Dead”).  As the money men are ready to pull the plug, a tornado warning sends the team scrambling.  They encounter bigger and badder twisters than most people have ever seen as a series of funnels devastates the school and the town Gary and his sons calls home. As everything around them is destroyed, the storm chasers in their tank-like vehicle named Titus, offer the only chance for survival for the strangers they encounter.

I’m a huge fan of what I call weather movies, including Twister and The Day After Tomorrow.  Admittedly, I don’t even need a particularly plausible story to go along with the weather related death and destruction. I’m thrilled to have a new rainy day movie to add to my collection.  The recent Sharknado films are where I draw the line on realism.  Watching the special features, I learned that some of the incredible aspects, like a fire tornado are actually real things.

It’s pretty obvious where the story is going from the beginning. Tragedy will teach the dad and kids to appreciate each other.  The film-maker that only cares about himself will have some kind of selfless act and most, but not all, will barely survive the storm.  Even if you know where the story is going it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the windy, rainy ride. For a film like this, an average story is more than sufficient.  The most important thing is do the twisters look real?  I can happily report they do.  It’s clear that the funnel clouds are as much of a character as the actors and there was great attention was paid to every detail.  They’ve consulted with storm chasers, realized that the digital debris is as important as the tornadoes and have made a believable film.
Video (4 out of 5 stars)
Into the Storm’s 1080p high definition presentation holds up well to the destructive force of the subject matter. The detail is good, so that you’ll notice the items flying around the twister. With computer generated twisters complimented by artificially darkened skies you’ll definitely feel like a storm is brewing.  Regardless of how dark and dreary it gets, the action is still clean and the Blu-ray is more than satisfactory.
Audio (4 out of 5 stars)
You can’t have the tornado blow past you without the whistling of the wind and the sounds of carnage all around.  Into the Storm’s DTS HD-MA 5.1 mix offers an immersive experience for the listener. When the hail starts to fall, and the storms power surges you’ll feel the weight of the wind and be glad you are safe in your living room. Throughout all the chaos, dialogue comes across cleanly and without distortion.
Extras (4 out of 5 stars)
Into the Storm proves that you don’t always need a long list of extras. The three Blu-ray features are informative, entertaining and just the right lengths. The features are the perfect complement to the film, with tornado details without wasting hours of your time explaining the plot you just saw unfold.

The Blu-ray contains the following extras:
  • Into the Storm: Tornado Files (10:42) – A discussion of the types of tornados, the Fujita scale for measuring them and the importance of visual accuracy, and consulting the experts.
  • Titus: The Ultimate Storm-Chasing Vehicle (8:17) - A tour of Titus, and the real storm chasing vehicle, The Dominator 3. Details are given on the specs of the vehicle and the shortcomings (the leaks) they discovered during filming.
  • Fake Storms: Real Conditions (5:30) - The filmmakers look at simulating the effects of the tornado with wind machines, rain towers and real (man-made) hail. The cast discusses filming 1/3 of their scenes in pouring rain and the unique conditions they faced.

Note – the standard definition DVD contains only Fake Storms: Real Conditions.

Summary (4 out of 5 stars)
Into the Storm is not an Oscar worthy film.  It’s got a fairly predictable story arc, but the actors sell it well with their well played characters. What the movie really has going for it is it's super cells, wedge tornados, rope tornados and fire tornadoes wreaking their destruction. With it's near constant rain and the fantastic audio and video quality that makes you believe it’s all happening outside your window, this is my new favorite weather movie. I love these kind of weather related disaster movies, but before this movie all I really had was Twister and 2012, but Into the Storm has bigger tornadoes and more of them. I know Twister was made quite a few years ago, but it’s clear that today’s storm chaser would have better equipment and vehicles as they face more extreme weather than anyone used to encounter. If you like wind and rain, I recommend Into the Storm for your weather disaster section (assuming all people separate their movies into genres like I do).

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