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Some folks have complained that the plot of TWISTER ($25) is so thin that it makes runway models look like sumo wrestlers. While I have to agree about the thinness of the plot line, TWISTER doesnít pretend to be great cinema. Itís a popcorn movie, plain and simple. Personally, I like TWISTER for what it is- an opportunity to shut down my brain and be carried away by some very impressive CGI tornadoes. TWISTER stars Helen Hunt as Jo Harding, a scientist/storm chaser who is trying to gather new information about tornadoes, in order to create a better early warning system against Mother Natureís fury.

Bill Paxton portrays Bill Harding; Joís estranged husband and former storm chaser, who tracks down Jo in the field to finalize their divorce. However, when a series of tornadoes start touching down, Bill decides to help his fellow storm chasers deploy a new piece of hardware to gather data on the inner workings of the weather phenomenon. Of course, getting in the path of one of the most destructive forces on the planet doesnít sit well with Billís new fiancťe Melissa (Jami Gertz). TWISTER also features a very minor subplot involving a group of corporate sponsored storm chasers, led by Dr. Jonas Miller (Cary Elwes), a rival scientist who is trying to beat Jo and Bill to critical data on the nature of tornadoes. Director Jan de Bont stages the action sequences with flourish, and as I stated above, the CGI tornadoes will blow one away. The cast of TWISTER also includes Lois Smith, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Alan Ruck, Sean Whalen, Scott Thomson, Todd Field and Joey Slotnick.

This is the second time that Warner Home Video has released TWISTER on DVD. The initial release carried the THX quality seal, however that disc was produced during the very early days of the DVD format and delivered a less than impressive visual quality. Fortunately, Warnerís new Special Edition release of TWISTER rectifies many of the visual problems associated with the initial DVD. TWISTER is presented in its proper 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio, plus the DVD features the anamorphic enhancement for playback on 16:9 displays. The image is sharp and well detailed, although it is not as detailed as some newer films appear to be. Colors tend to be somewhat muted, which seems to be the result of the way the film was color timed to give it a continuous overcast appearance during daylight scenes. Because of this, most of the hues tend to take on an earthen tone. Flesh tones appear accurate, plus there are a number of sequences that do offer better color saturation than the majority of the film. There are no problems with either chroma noise or bleeding during the presentation. Blacks are accurately rendered, but shadow detail is somewhat less than stellar. Of course, this is also something that I would have to attribute to the way the film was filtered and color timed. TWISTER has been authored to utilize two layers, which allows for a rather large amount of data (both video and audio) to be encoded onto the DVD. Because of all the movement in the image, TWISTER isnít exactly the easiest film to compress into the MPEG-2 format. However, the authoring house that produced this DVD has done an impressive compression job, keeping noticeable traces of artifacts to a minimal level.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack on the DVD absolutely rocks. It is totally overblown and showy, but it really makes the TWISTER experience even more exciting. During the storm sequences, sounds swirl around the entire soundstage. Additionally, while the swirling effect is happening, other sound effects that coincide with the on screen action are dropped in with pinpoint precision. Dialogue reproduction is very clean and manages to remain very intelligible, even during some of the loudest sonic assaults. Bass reproduction is very strong, which give the soundtrack all the punch it requires. A French Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as is an English DTS soundtrack, which appears to be running at an impressively high bit rate. Subtitles are available on the DVD in English, French and Spanish.

The interactive menus make use of full motion video, animation and sound to create an enjoyable interface. Through the menus, one can access the standard scene selection and set up features. TWISTER also includes a number of supplements, which are also accessible through the menu system. Director Jan de Bont and special effects supervisor Stefan Fangmeier provide a running audio commentary that fans will find worth listening to. Also included are two featurettes, The Making Of Twister and Anatomy Of The Twister. The former runs less than 15 minutes, while the latter runs less than 10. There are two theatrical trailers on the DVD, as well as the Van Halen music video for the song "Humans Being." Cast biographies/filmographies fill out the supplements.

Despite being a little light on the story, I think TWISTER is a whole lot of fun as a movie. Warner Home Videoís new DVD edition of the film certainly makes it worth acquiring for anyone who missed it the first time around, as well as those who didnít. Recommended.




DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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