" I guess you used up all the ugly in the family "

MRQE Top Critic

Alias: Season Three

In its third season, Alias pulls off a hat trick with another round of pulpy page-turner adventure —Matt Anderson (DVD review...)

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If you’re steadfast in your belief that all movies should involve fascinating character development, intriguing plots, scintillating dialogue, memorable acting and a smidgeon or two of nuance, there’s no reason for you to see Into the Storm, a disaster movie in which tornadoes have more presence than any cast member.

If, on the other hand, you’re looking (apologies in advance for the upcoming pun) to be blown away by weather effects that come raging out of Hollywood’s increasingly sophisticated bag of tricks, Into the Storm may be just your cup of destruction.

Disaster!... if you like that sort of thing
Disaster!... if you like that sort of thing

A confession: I’ve always been partial to disaster movies, and, no, I don’t care what that says about my twisted psyche. I’m probably dating myself, but I developed my love of big-screen mayhem with such ’70s disaster classics as The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and The Towering Inferno (1974). More recently, I enjoyed 1996’s Twister. I even gave the benefit of a very large doubt to director Roland Emerich’s much-derided The Day After Tomorrow (2004).

I could name more, but those films give you an idea about the kind of movies that tempt me to set critical standards aside and enjoy massive bouts of big-screen destruction.

That returns us to Into the Storm, a movie that uses the worn-out concept of footage shot by amateurs (I hate that) and a no-name cast to support an intense special effects show that culminates with the largest tornado ever.

We’re talking an ominous black mass that descends on a small Oklahoma community, filling the screen and moving toward us with unforgiving fury.

Into the Storm gets off to a rocky start, but I’d be lying if a I said I didn’t feel the movie’s visceral impact as it chronicles a single day in the life of a tornado-besieged Oklahoma community.

Still, a few less-than-favorable observations are necessary: This late-summer weather orgy would have been better had the filmmakers avoided a stupid late-picture joke, refused to dispense hopeful — but thoroughly unconvincing — end-of-picture bromides and taken enough time to give the characters a few hints of real complexity.

Among the characters who share screen time with the tornadoes: a widowed high school principal (Richard Armitage) with two video-shooting sons (Max Deacon and Nathan Kress), a storm-chasing meteorologist (Sarah Wayne Callies), and a maniacal storm-chaser (Matt Walsh) who’ll risk anything to capture tornado footage. Alycia Debnam Carey plays a high school student who becomes stranded in a paper mill with one of the aforementioned brothers.

Two gleefully moronic characters (Kyle Davis and Jon Reep) have been added, presumably as someone’s idea of comic relief.

John Swetnam’s screenplay makes a stab at providing background and conflict, but these efforts seem like perfunctory acknowledgements of screenwriting duties in a movie that’s really trying to be a seat-rattling stormfest.

High points from director Steven Quale include a ruined high school graduation, subsequent destruction of the entire school, cars that are tossed into the air as easily as volley balls, fallen electrical wires, eerie funnel clouds and vast expanses of flattened tract homes.

The movie’s contribution to the world of big-screen vehicles is a tank-like gas guzzler called Titus, which features extensions that spring from the vehicle’s sides and bore into the ground to make it tornado resistant — at least that’s the plan.

It’s difficult not to think that the movie’s string of tornadoes blew away the script along with most of the small fictional town of Silverton, but this is a case of forewarned is forearmed.

Need I say more? Probably not. My advice: Know what you’re getting into, and if you like this sort of thing, go get hammered.