Review: Will 'Into the Storm' stir up 'Yolanda' flashbacks?

Posted at 08/07/2014 12:55 PM | Updated as of 08/07/2014 2:37 PM

MANILA - The month of August could be the best of times or the worst to watch a movie like "Into the Storm," the new tornado thriller from director Steven Quale. Here's a list of reasons why you might want to watch this movie.

1. It's an update on "Twister," the 1999 tornado movie starring Bill Paxton, Helen Hunt and a very young Philip Seymour Hoffman. Thankfully, there are no bickering lovers during a storm chase and no weepy psychiatrist saying that storm-chasing is a metaphor.

2. It's already raining every day. Suspension of disbelief is easier when memories of "Glenda" and "Jose" are still fresh. Better yet, watch this video of people being blown off their feet during Typhoon Glenda to get a feel for this movie.

Got it? Now you're ready.

3. Sick of the weather? Here's your chance to get a feel of hailstorms and tornado winds without bringing an umbrella.

4. My first impression after seeing this movie: "Into the Storm" should come with seatbelts. Runs on pure adrenaline. This is the first authentic thrill-ride of 2014 because it perfectly captures what it feels like to be on a roller coaster in the middle of a thunderstorm. Even the faux documentary style works, lends it a touch of authenticity, like watching an uncut YouTube video or a newsreel without an anchor doing a voiceover.

5. Director Quale blows his budget on the effects while getting a few stars to anchor the movie. They get Richard Armitage (Thorin Oakenshield in the Hobbit movies) who channels a skinnier Gerard Butler presumably because the "300" star is busy. They also get actor (Scott Lawrence) who sort of looks like US President Barack Obama, also because the real Obama was busy. In the movie, Not Obama and Not Gerard Butler play principal and vice principal of a school in Silverton that's about to get hit by a series of tornadoes. (If Gerard Butler was the vice principal, he would shout "This is Silverton!" and then kick that tornado in the nuts.) Anyway, Not Obama and Not Gerard Butler have to conduct a graduation ceremony, which is interrupted as the tornado hits. A portion of this scene is shown in the movie trailer; it's much worse in the movie as the tornado rips up the school while the school kids cower. If you've got a fear of invisible giants ripping up roofs, this movie is not for you. Mother Nature has a serious mad-on and this scene just nails it.

6. The other POV characters include a group of storm-chasers, a teenager who wants to go on a date with the high school hottie and two rednecks who just want to get rich on YouTube. The rednecks get the thinnest of characterizations here: their dialogue can be summed up to "We're gonna be rich!" and other variations as they chase the tornados in their pick-up truck.

Max Deacon plays Donnie, a teen filming "time capsules" at the start of the movie who puts himself in danger when he plays hooky with his high school crush. Donnie feels neglected by his dad (Vice Principal Gary - Not Gerald Butler): his decision to skip the graduation ceremony only to get buried under a devastated warehouse drives the drama of this film. You don't know if these characters will survive because they're not played by well-known actors. It's anything goes for this movie.

Sarah Wayne Callies plays Allison Stone, a mom who is leaving her young daughter temporarily to chase storms. Her boss is Pete (Matt Walsh), who is obsessed with taking footage of a tornado from inside its eye. Guess which one makes it out alive?

7. A word on the style: It mashes the "found footage" and documentary genres to come up with a rough and real movie that ditches the pop polish of the Hollywood entertainment factory. You've got unknowns talking straight to the camera about where they want to be 20 years from now and you go: why are they spending time on this? Will this be relevant to the story? And then the storm hits the fan and you go, is anyone going to survive this? Stuff just got real.

8. This movie raises a lot of fears: fear of drowning, fear of flying GI sheets, fear of invisible hands lifting you off your feet. The scene in the school where the roof is being ripped apart reminded me of that video where reporters were hiding in a church during Typhoon Yolanda. It's one thing to be thrilled about seeing a CGI storm, quite another to experience the real thing. Will "Into the Storm" give us "Yolanda" flashbacks? I don't know.

9. "Into the Storm" is less about the narrative and more about the experience. The question on people's minds could also be - "DVD or moviehouse"? Some movies are best experienced on the big screen and this is one of them. Better yet, see it in a moviehouse with the best sound quality. The feel of a movie seat humming and shaking because the storm is so loud will give you chills.