NYC: Tornado Terror

Film review by Thomas M. Sipos




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NYC: Tornado Terror  (2008, dir: Tibor Takacs; writer: T.S. Cook; cast: Nicole de Boer, Sebastian Spence, Jerry Wasserman)





Mini-twisters pop up around New York City, as a prelude to massive electrical tornadoes. Sounds good, but don't be fooled by the cover. This cheapo, annoying TV movie could have been better.

So many things wrong with this inept film...

* Flat Acting. Nicole de Boer was quite good in Cube, so it's surprising to see her give such a flat, one dimensional performance here. Her character loves her husband (yet no chemistry in the actors' kisses), she struggles with the possible death of her niece -- lot's of stuff going on here. Yet de Boer always performs flatly.

All the actors are flat, lifeless, one-dimensional. From the hero firefighter, to the evil NASA boss, to everyone

* I'm gonna blame the lousy script and directing. Despite the characters' struggles, they're written as black-and-white stereotypes.

I don't know what political axes writer T.S. Cook has to grind, but every character is either incredibly wise, brave, and noble -- or craven and weaselly.

De Boer plays a brilliant weather scientist who works for the City of New York. (Apparently, they have a weather department.) She's smarter than NASA. NASA is portrayed as uniquely evil. The NASA representative is an evil idiot. De Boer has a plan to stop the tornadoes with dry ice, whereas NASA wants to seed them with silver iodide.

De Boer dismisses NASA as "They're not scientists! They're a bunch of bureaucrats!"

When the NASA guy overrules the mayor (who listens to de Boer) the mayor accuses NASA of being "the military" and of them wanting to "maintain the illusion of civilian control." NASA wants to call the shots, while pretending the mayor is still in charge.

Poor screenwriters often try to create drama by having the characters argue. But because they argue for argument's sake, it comes off as pointless bickering. The good and bad guys in this film are always snapping at each other. We're supposed to root for the "good guys," but I can't sympathize with their arrogant testiness.

The "good guys' " self-righteous arrogance is annoying as hell. De Boer's husband (Sebastian Spence) has some city job, and takes over command of the city, essentially instigating a coup. But it's okay. He and his wife are the only ones who can save the city. He sits in his weather command center barking pointless, obvious directives to his emergency vehicles. Things like: "They haven't evacuated the library yet? Somebody put a fire under their ass!"

Just why anyone would be safer outside of the library building, with all those tornadoes in the streets, than inside of the library -- or just where they are supposed to be evacuated to -- is never addressed. The husband's "life-saving" commands are vapid and pointless in the extreme. He's dramatically barking commands for the sole purpose of being dramatic.

His pointless commands, and his wife's seeding of the clouds (which she orders against NASA's orders) save the city.

The junk science is weird. We're told (with arrogant self-righteousness) that these mini-twisters are caused by global warming. What isn't? Apparently not much. These mini-twisters also contain lightning. Balls of electricity emanate from these twisters. And they're cold. A group of people are frozen solid by one passing tornado.



* Speaking of the bad directing ... in once scene, an electrical ball floats about a hallway. A woman stares at it, backing off. People scream at her to stand back. But then this woman, separated from the rest of the group, just wanders slowly around and about this electrical ball, keeping it a few feet ahead her, not looking too frightened. Finally, the electrical ball zaps her with lightning, so she fries.

She looked like an inept extra, wandering about the set, not getting any clear direction from the director as to what she should be doing or thinking.

But ... is it fair to judge a film like this by the quality of the writing, acting, and directing? After all, you buy this film to watch special effects.

I'd have given this film 3 stars if the special effects had been great. But they're not. They start off okay. A few nice mini-twisters early in the film. Two people flung into the air. A small plane crash. A group of frozen people.

But we don't see them freeze. Likewise, we hear dog howls, then see their empty leashes. Apparently the dogs had been sucked up by the tornado -- which we didn't get to see.



Worse yet -- de Boer averts serious disaster. I'd thought all those brief, small, tornado effects were a buildup to colossal special effects of New York City being utterly destroyed over the course of 30 to 45 minutes -- just like the DVD cover promised.

Instead -- nothing! The self-righteous heroes take command of NYC and its emergency services, defeat NASA's idiocy, and dissipate the tornadoes.


If I'm gonna sit through so much junk science, and annoying, one-dimensional stereotypes, I at least expect a lot more Big Disaster Film Special Effects Destruction than in this film.

I bought this film because of de Boer (who I love in Cube) and the tornadoes, and I was disappointed on both counts.

This film was shot in Vancouver and it shows. If you're familiar with New York City, as I am, you won't be fooled despite the CGI backdrops (which look like backdrops).

I could forgive that too if the film had ended with some major, kick-ass devastation. Too bad it ended with a whimper, not a bang.

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