Film Review – TWISTER (1996)

TWISTER (1996, USA, 113m, PG) ***½
Action, Adventure, Drama, Thriller
dist. Warner Bros. (USA), United International Pictures (UIP) (UK); pr co. Warner Bros. / Universal Pictures / Amblin Entertainment / Constant c Productions; d. Jan de Bont; w. Michael Crichton, Anne-Marie Martin; pr. Ian Bryce, Michael Crichton, Kathleen Kennedy; ph. Jack N. Green (Technicolor | 2.39:1); m. Mark Mancina; ed. Michael Kahn; pd. Joseph C. Nemec III; ad. Dan Olexiewicz.
cast: Helen Hunt (Dr. Jo Harding), Bill Paxton (Bill Harding), Cary Elwes (Dr. Jonas Miller), Jami Gertz (Dr. Melissa Reeves), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Dustin Davis), Lois Smith (Meg Greene), Alan Ruck (Robert ‘Rabbit’ Nurick), Sean Whalen (Allan Sanders), Scott Thomson (Jason ‘Preacher’ Rowe), Todd Field (Tim ‘Beltzer’ Lewis), Joey Slotnick (Joey), Wendle Josepher (Haynes), Jeremy Davies (Laurence), Zach Grenier (Eddie), Gregory Sporleder (Willie), Patrick Fischler (The Communicator), Nicholas Sadler (Kubrick), Ben Weber (Stanley), Anthony Rapp (Tony), Erik LaRay Harvey (Eric (as Eric LaRay Harvey)).
A white-knuckle ride following a group of storm chasers, brilliantly filmed by de Bont and his crew with notable sound design and visual effects work. During the approach of the most powerful storm in decades, university professor Hunt and her underfunded team of students prepare a ground-breaking tornado data-gathering device, which was conceived by her estranged husband, Paxton. When Hunt tells Paxton that the device is ready for testing — and that their privately funded rival Elwes has stolen the idea and built his own — Paxton re-joins the team for one last mission. Echoes of Howard Hawks amidst the natural destruction make this worth seeing. Hunt and Paxton are likeable leads and spar well off each other. They are given a witty script and an assortment of oddball supporting characters as their “professional” group. Gertz is charming as Paxton’s delightfully naive fiancée, who gets caught up in the adventure. The story may have more than its fair share of cliches, but the set-pieces are excitingly staged if a little far-fetched in the lack of injuries Hunt and Paxton sustain amongst the flying debris.
AAN: Best Sound (Steve Maslow, Gregg Landaker, Kevin O’Connell, Geoffrey Patterson); Best Effects, Visual Effects (Stefen Fangmeier, John Frazier, Habib Zargarpour, Henry LaBounta)

Film Review – WESTWORLD (1973)

WESTWORLD (1973, USA, 88m, 15) ***½
Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller, Western
dist. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) (USA), MGM-EMI (UK); pr co. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM); d. Michael Crichton; w. Michael Crichton; pr. Paul N. Lazarus III; ph. Gene Polito (Metrocolor | 2.39:1); m. Fred Karlin; ed. David Bretherton; ad. Herman A. Blumenthal.
cast: Yul Brynner (Gunslinger), Richard Benjamin (Peter Martin), James Brolin (John Blane), Norman Bartold (Medieval Knight), Alan Oppenheimer (Chief Supervisor), Victoria Shaw (Medieval Queen), Dick Van Patten (Banker), Linda Gaye Scott (Arlette), Steve Franken (Technician), Michael T. Mikler (Black Knight), Terry Wilson (Sheriff), Majel Barrett (Miss Carrie), Anne Randall (Daphne), Julie Marcus (Girl in Dungeon), Sharyn Wynters (Apache Girl), Anne Bellamy (Middle Aged Woman), Chris Holter (Stewardess), Charles Seel (Bellhop), Wade Crosby (Bartender), Jared Martin (Technician).
Michael Crichton wrote and directed this tale set in a futuristic theme park where paying guests can pretend to be gunslingers in artificial Wild West, Roman and Medieval settings populated by androids. After paying a sizable entrance fee, Brolin and Benjamin are determined to unwind by hitting saloons and shooting guns. But when the system malfunctions the escapist fantasy suddenly takes a dark turn. Crichton builds his setting with humour and not-so subtle comments on fantasy fulfilment, but it is not until the system failure, embodied by Brynner’s steely cold robot gunslinger, that the story catches fire. The finale, with Brynner’s relentless pursuit of Benjamin, is full of tension and can be seen as a major influence on John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN (1978) and James Cameron’s THE TERMINATOR (1984). Crichton himself would revisit his plot in a different setting for his novel “Jurassic Park”, which was sensationally filmed in 1993 by Steven Spielberg. Followed by FUTUREWORLD (1976). Later adapted for TV as Beyond Westworld (1980) and Westworld (2016- ).