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BMZ Review: Tornado Alley
By Ross Anthony

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The Eye of the Storm
Written by: Ross Anthony
Source: Ross Anthony's Hollywood Report Card
Date: July 21, 2011
Rating:  

     

Category: Reviews

Threatening, charcoal clouds watercolor-wash across the gigantic large format screen. Lightning flickers in and out with menacing might. Wind bends bark and branches as if they were toothpicks, then rushs through that massive sound system with the might of river currents breaching timid banks. Like filmmaker Sean Casey, we are all naturally fascinated by nature's tornadoes. And perhaps, like Casey, we, too, would like to climb into some incredibly impenetrable object, with lots of windows, and experience the full magic, mystery and fury of a twister head on. What an education in nature! But, why work that hard? Why not just let Sean chase the storms. Let him rush, hurry, prepare, then miss, only to capture that moment after years of effort. Let Sean deliver the tempest to us in the safe school of the Imax theatre. Together with the Vortex 2 team of scientists scraping the skies for data, the film seeks to make us students of this ferocious weather event. You don't even have to get wet. To put it another way, for the price of a film ticket you can become a pupil in the eye of the storm.

The massive large format shots of stormy skies are, indeed, what this film does best. The word "awe" was undoubtedly created to describe such visuals. Sadly, the production fails to fully indulge in them. Viewers will be forced to suffer through some rather routine prep work, team coordination, and lots of shots of trucks on the highway. Yes, all of that is interesting, educational, and even important, but it is not "big screen" material. I'd have liked editors to condense these small screen moments as to give triple (at least) duration to those gorgeous storm shots (tornadoes forming, formed, or neither). One solution would be to ditch some of the video and simply roll the coordinating audio (as narration) over the storms. And/or roll the B footage in much smaller boxes on the storm filled screen.

Still, the film is a great curiosity-piquing primer in the direction of meteorological science. It dramatically (and even emotionally) displays the passion, dedication, and skills needed to go into "the field" to soak up data. But, it comes up a little empty on just how the data collected is used to form conclusions (and the specifics of those conclusions as well). A brief CG graphic is used to show how warm moist wind blows up from the coast and rises over Kansas as an integral part in tornado creation. But this clip feels far too incidental. The production could have used many more such visual explanations. A summary of sorts is included at the tail end in an attempt to pull the piece together. The summary sounds rather scientific; but that's the problem, the final word is predominately verbal in a visual format.

As a production, Tornado Alley could be greatly improved. But, those wonderful storm, tornado, and hail shots really are not to be missed. And with my final word, I'd just like to encourage the filmmakers to release a second version comprised entirely of those glorious storm shots and a magnificent score.

B/B+



Copyright © 1998-2011. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit: www.RossAnthony.com. For Adult & Teen Novels written by Ross Anthony visit: www.RossAnthony.com/books.

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