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Review: Into the Storm 

**

For a movie that feels like an also-ran afterthought in this blockbuster summer season, Into the Storm features some excellent visual effects that in their own way are about as impressive as anything else I've seen created by CGI wizards over the past few months. Whether it's a stationary airplane or a struggling person being whisked into the sky by one of the record number of tornadoes destroying the town of Silverton, the effects (visual and aural) are both ferocious and frightening. Unfortunately, they're wasted in the service of a film that's otherwise a slog to sit through, thanks to a pedestrian script, characters who are either bland or obnoxious, and yet one more ill-advised use of the "found footage" format.

Those professionally interested in the tornadoes include the yin and yang of storm chasers, a profit-motivated jerk (Matt Walsh) and a compassionate single mom (The Walking Dead's Sarah Wayne Callies). Those personally affected by the tornadoes include a single dad (Richard Armitage, back to normal size in between Hobbit films) and his two teenage sons (Max Deacon and Nathan Kress). There are also a pair of insufferable rednecks (Kyle Davis and Jon Reep) seeking YouTube glory by performing Jackass-like stunts, and in their case, we firmly find ourselves on the side of the weather, hoping that a house will fall on them Wizard of Oz-style.

At any rate, the character-based sequences only provide connective tissue between the impressive destruction, and unless you count the fact that no one mentions global warming as a possible cause for the storms' irregularity or the fact that the inept high school principal (Scott Lawrence) looks eerily like Obama, there's not an ounce of substance or subtext. Welcome, therefore, to what's basically The Weather Channel: The Movie.

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