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“It’s a twister! It’s a twister!”: Rating movie tornadoes

“It’s a twister! It’s a twister!”: Rating movie tornadoes (photo)

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Creating a tornado in a film has always been a test of the limits of special effects, but most people, luckily, haven’t gotten up close and personal with enough of them to spot the differences.

Keith Cecere and Rich Ruggiero, both active storm chasers (and co-stars in IFC’s storm-chasing mockumentary “Funnel of Darkness”), have.

That’s why they’ve offered their judgments on five movies known for their wicked weather sequences, which they’ve rated (both for the effects and the acting — hey, everyone’s a critic) on the Fujita scale, a scale for rating tornado intensity, from f1 (weakest) to f5 (strongest).

“Twister” (1996)
Directed by Jan de Bont

Rich Ruggiero: This classic gets an F5. The effects are really good — and it came out 13 years ago! In special effects time, that’s like 200 years. There’ve been a lot of advancements since then, but the filmmakers did a sick job with what they had back then. I love the various shapes the twister takes — they stayed away from the more stock shapes and kept it interesting. My main criticism is that there’s no way they’d be unscathed after that nader (storm chaser shorthand for tornado) passed over them. Keith did have a tornado pass over him once, but it ranked lower on the scale than this one. At the very least, some serious cuts and bruises would have come from this intercept. Plus, Helen Hunt, chasing tornadoes! She’s come a long way from her early days experimenting with PCP in after school specials.

“The Wizard of Oz” (1939)
Directed by Victor Fleming

Keith Cecere: We give “The Wiz” an F3. It’s been a while since I’ve seen this one, but of course it immediately came to mind. I’m pretty impressed with the nader in it, and the sound design is good too. We have some T.A.R.D. (tornado audio recording device) recordings that would show that the actual sound produced by a tornado is slightly different, but they didn’t have that type of technology to reference. The acting I cannot vouch for: these idiots are completely hamming it up with their “it’s so windy my legs just fly in the air when I try to get into the cellar.” The shape of the funnel is really what redeems “The Wiz.” You’d think they would automatically go for the straight wide funnel, but they opted for more of a rope. Nice touch.

Night of the Twisters (1996)
Directed by Timothy Bond

RR: F2. They chose to emphasize the destruction in this one. The nonstop chaos is fun to watch, and it’s always cool to see a toilet shoot its water through the vent pipe on the roof (a strange thing to highlight, but thank you). So for that, we start our rating with F5. However, the acting is so terrible that “NOTT” automatically loses three points — the only person that can act is the baby, and I’m sure they recorded all those cries after the shoot with a different baby. And the twister is just thrown in there, your basic wide funnel, whatever. The fact that it’s backlit by lightning has a special place in our hearts, but that’s about it. Also, the editing sucks.

“Devil Winds” (2003)
Directed by Gilbert M. Shilton

KC: Another F2. “Devil Winds” has got to be the best/worst name you could ever come up with for a movie about tornadoes. I love it, because it’s the cheesiest thing in the world. I’d be lying if I said “Devil Winds” did not inspire our band Black Wind. We actually wanted to be called Devil Winds at first, but got into some legal trouble with the film’s producers. Regarding the film, I don’t buy the twisters. There’s one in there that forms way too quickly. The dynamics of these puppies are also not very convincing, and they seem to all have the same shape. Tornadoes come in many shapes and sizes, so you should really be choosing from a wide palette when making your tornado movie. The one thing I do like is the addition of the airplane in the chase. That’s something that we’ve always wanted to get into, because we could get some really sick shots from up above, but for now we stay on the ground.

“Category 6: Day of Destruction” (2004)
Directed by Dick Lowry

RR: F1. This one sucks: there is no Category 6 for tornadoes, these guys have not done their research. And why would they choose Vegas? The only thing I like about it is that the guy in the executive suite at Caesars Palace is such a cheeseball. I think the filmmaker is trying to make a comment about philandering when he has the guy sucked out of the window, GHB-spiked cocktail in hand. I’d go so far as to say that there’s a larger comment here about consumerism and excess in general, given how two gigantic (and incredibly fake-looking) twisters tear Vegas apart. The movie also seems to have no plot, but that’s not really what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about tornadoes. And the tornadoes are super-cheese. They did a better job in “The Wizard of Oz,” and that movie was made in 1939!

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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