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Into The Storm (Blu-ray Review)

Into-The-StormInto The Storm came out this summer during the reign of Guardians Of The Galaxy.  The film had a pretty solid opening weekend, but in the end couldn’t manage to recoup its budget from the domestic audience.  However, overseas this movie seemed to work like gangbusters.  To date, it has taken in $112 million.  And that makes sense.  Its a movie based on big disaster action sequences that play on their own without having to follow that in depth of a plot.  The only thing that would have worked it even better would be the addition of having it released in 3-D over there.  Steven Quale directs his follow up to Final Destination 5 (The best film of that series), showing even more penchant for disastrous attack situations.  If you’re not familiar with Quale, he comes from the James Cameron tree, in terms of background leading up to directing.  He’s done various crew and second unit work for Cameron’s films like Avatar, True Lies and The Abyss.

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Film 

Silverton, Oklahoma is our central location for the events of this film.  We follow a couple of groups here during a massive storm featuring cyclones and plenty of destruction.  Our main group is a team of storm trackers making a documentary, hoping to get right in the middle of their storm in their tank-like storm tracking vehicle called Titus.  At the local high school, its graduation day and we spend time with the principle and his two sons.  The sons are filming seniors for a time capsule project.  Then there are some hillbillies trying to amateur storm track and a love interest for one of the sons who are involved, too.

Into The Storm is a really odd take on the found footage aesthetic.  In that the aspect is really barely used and seems really unnecessary.  Quale is getting some really cool coverage to begin with, so I don’t understand why they are using it.  It doesn’t really help and characters too much and the action sequences are good without it.  It never truly helps to get you to “feel” a part of the action because its never there long enough or you keep moving between that shot and other more structured film-like ones to trust and dive into what you’re experiencing.  Its not bad, and those who despise the gimmick should feel safe to know that this film barely qualifies.

As just a reel of some disaster action sequences back to back to back, this movie is definitely some solid popcorn fun.  While I was watching it, I couldn’t help but think this movie was probably a lot more fun on the big screen.  These sequences are well orchestrated and feature some really cool stuff.  However, it does try to get over ambitious at one point with a big time international airport somehow in this super po-dunk town.  This sequence (referenced a lot in the trailer), seems almost like an afterthought.  The CG in the scene is also a little too obvious.  Going this big wasn’t needed at all, considering the ground-level work they were doing was carrying the movie just fine.

The biggest problem with the film is that its largely flat and generic when it comes to its characters.  Its main issue is that it has too many and too many subplots to go with it.  There’s not enough time for it to be anything but cliches and stererotypes to carry the story.  It then becomes the who plays the poor material best to liken or warm you to a character.  Sarah Wayne Callies and Matt Walsh do a terrific job considering the subpar characters in the movie.  And its not everyday you get to see Matt Walsh lead a film.  On the other hand you get Richard Armitage who is completely flat, and pretty unlikeable, even though his character is built to be some sort of hero with a redemptive arc.  He’s just wildly uninteresting and struggling to mask his accent the entire time.  Those are the ones who stick out most, the others, like most of the characters in the film are completely forgettable due to poor material.

Into The Storm is all right.  Its getting to be a played out phrase, but this totally falls into the mindless “turn your brain off” category.  Its mainly an uninteresting story surround by some impressive disaster sequences.  Put quite simply, Into The Storm is no Twister.  This was sold as a found footage disaster weather movie, and you’ll be surprised to find out how little they actually play into that.  Its a weird hybrid, and most of it is used on the Titus for some coverage on shots.  So yeah, just much your popcorn and sit and wait for stuff to be destroyed.  And no worries either, this one is pretty short.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  The film features video from different sources.  Some of which feature some poorer or distorted quality, but this is by design.  The more high resolution video is quite great.  Raindrops on windshields is visible by every bead of water sliding in the wind.  Scratches, scuffs and smudges on the Titus are all clearly visible.  Clothing fabrics and texture look quite good in this picture too.  The image is pretty sharp and crisp and makes the destruction all the more greater.

Depth:  As I said in my review, this movie could have been in 3-D.  There are some sweet wind sweeping moments.  Early on there’s a scene where Sarah Wayne Callies is being held, floating in the air, as the storm is trying to pull her in that features some excellent depth of field.

Black Levels:  Blacks are pretty solid, if not a little more on the gray side.  Detail is visible on all surfaces and hair without any sort of hidden detail.

Color Reproduction:  Blue is a color that sticks out a little more.  The film seems to have a blue filter all over it.  Most colors are made to look more natural and used.  The graduation scene prior to the storm is where things get a chance to pop and burst from the screen.

Flesh Tones:  Consistent and a little on the cool side.  Detail on facial features like stubble, scratches and wrinkles is all visible and highly resolved.

Noise/Artifacts:  Clean

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese

Dynamics:  This is an awesome 5.1 track that is awesome and always active.  Impressively, the effects never overpower the dialogue in the film.  And the storms get pretty damn loud.  Volume placement is accurate.  The sounds are clear, well-rounded and distinct.  I think this 5.1 track single-handedly makes this film all the more watchable and enjoyable.

Low Frequency Extension:  The sub is put to work whenever the Titus turns its engine on.  The cyclones bring a nice hum, but its the ensuing destruction that will rumble your viewing area quite good.

Surround Sound Presentation:  This track puts your right in the middle of the action.  As the storm swirls around so does your speakers.  There is plenty of action occurring in your rear speakers as well as motion and volume placement being extremely accurate in the front.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is crisp and clean.  It also is impressively clear and very audible during all the action sequences.

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Extras 

Into The Storm comes with a DVD Copy and UltraViolet Digital Copy of the film.

Into The Storm: Tornado Files (HD, 10:48) – This featurette has the director, a storm chaser and effects artists discussing different types of tornadoes and how they translated it into the film.

Titus: The Ultimate Storm Chasing Vehicle (HD, 8:23) – Discusses the vehicle in the film, its construction and talks about real life storm chasing vehicles.

Fake Storms: Real Conditions (HD, 5:37) – The cast talks about filming in such rigorous conditions.

Steven-Quale QA

Director Steven Quale Q&A

Q: What is it like directing actors with the added distraction of extreme weather elements?

A: It was a real challenge to get a performance with all the distracting noises of the wind machines and rain towers.  The loud noise of the equipment made communication very difficult and I had to rely on hand signals.  One advantage to all the wind and rain is that it gave the actors something real to play against when shooting with green screens.

Q: What is the most exciting part about directing high-energy, intense films?

 

A: The most exciting thing about directing high-energy, intense films is taking the audience into a world that feels real.

Q: What can you tell us about Titus and how similar is it to a real storm chasing vehicle?

 

A: The Titus was designed by David Sanderford and has the same functions that a real storm chasing vehicle would have.  The most important features are two hydraulic outriggers that can fire spikes into the ground to hold the vehicle in place during the 100 mile per hour winds of a Tornado.  The Titus also has a motorized turret that allows a camera to photography a 360 degree view of any severe weather systems.

Q: What special features can we expect to see on the Blu-ray / DVD?

 

A: The Blu-ray/DVD for “Into the Storm” will have several behind the scenes features showing how we were able to realistically recreate the weather conditions of a tornado.  It also has a segment where world famous storm chaser Reed Timmer explains all of the types of tornados in or film and how they compare to the real ones that he has chased. 

Q: What interested you in this story and joining as Director? 

A: What attracted me to “Into the Storm” is being able to take the audience right into the center of a tornado.  To experience what it is like to see and hear the unimaginable power that a tornado can unleash.  I also wanted to explore how different people react to such an extreme event.

Q: How is Into the Storm different from previous tornado movies?

A: “Into the Storm” benefits from the advances in visual effects over the years so the tornados look much more realistic.  It also differs from other tornado movies in that we are not just following storm-chasers –  we have a  diverse group of unrelated people who are thrust together during the adversity of the storm and we get to experience how each of the different people react under the pressure of the storm.

Q: How does the film mix big visual effects with a grounded human element?

A: You experience the tornados through the eyes of the main characters and thus you have a vested interest in what everyone does.

Q: You have an extensive background in visual effects.  Tell us about what went into making this film look and feel real.

A: The most important thing to make this film look real was weeks and weeks of extensive research.  I studied every single video of any severe weather and tornado footage I could find.  Every major type of tornado was based on actual footage of real tornados.  In addition to the visuals I insisted on having the sound feel as real as possible and that is where academy award winning sound supervisor Par Hallberg shined with his amazing soundscape.  You really feel like you are in a tornado with the rumbling sound.

Q: Did the film require practical effects in addition to visual effects?

A: The films visual effects work so effective because they are a mix of practical physical effects such as wind machines and rain towers combined with the digital tornados and debris.  For the last half of the film, almost every shot required rain and wind machines.  We dropped a real truck in close proximity with Richard Armitage.

Q: How did the tornadoes act like characters in the film?

A: “Into the Storm” has several different types of tornados ranging from thing rope tornados, fire tornado to a large two mile wide wedge shaped tornado.  Each of these tornados act like characters in that they have unique qualities that make them different.

Q: Why do you think audiences are so interested in disaster films? 

A: People are always drawn to what scares them and they love to experience something that takes them on a thrill ride in the safety of movie going experience at home or in the theater.

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Summary 

Warner Bros has put together a nice little package for Into The Storm.  The extras may be short, but they are actually pretty damn informative and both help enhance the appreciation for the subject matter of the film and the film itself.  The film’s presentation is nothing short of outstanding too.  I think its a popcorn munching, kick back and just watch the destruction on a Saturday afternoon kind of film.  Its nothing great, but a 90 minute escape, you could do way worse.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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