Of all the Warren Miller films that are making their way to DVD this fall (Cold Fusion, Ride, and Storm), Miller's 2002 offering shows the most promise right up front. Storm opens with bang, but instead of rock music, it's a thunderstorm that looks and sounds magnificent on this DVD. Following the thunder and lightening are 5 minutes of the fastest downhill rides, sickest tricks, and painful wrecks I've seen in a long time.
Unfortunately, the film goes down hill from there (pun intended? You be the judge). Although Storm features all the cool stuff fans have come to expect, such as daring jumps, amazing locales, and hilarious bloopers, this one doesn't quite measure up. It took me awhile to figure out just what went wrong with this one.
The biggest problem with this film is that too much time is wasted on interviews or getting to the top of the hill. Sure, this usually adds some reality to the otherwise unbelievable stunts, but too much is too much. I found myself saying, "Show the skiing already" way too many times during the hour and a half show. Each segment is short enough as it is, and with two or three minutes devoted to non-action shots, the fun stuff seems to dwindle away real fast.
Another issue is the music. Instead of the loud, in your face rock, Storm features a little slower melodies, and in one instance, even some orchestra sounds. This takes the punch out of some of the finer moments, and doesn't meet the standards of adrenaline pumping madness.
That's not to say this isn't still a good Warren Miller film. It is. It offers the great tricks, the best of which happens to be BMX hopping and jumping around through some very precarious urban and desert spots. The Outlaw Air Exposition in Breckenridge, Colorado, is another amazing sight to see. Naturally, the film also has some comedy, this time around it's old footage of skiers trying to get to the lift by walking (or is that sliding?) over hardpacked granular snow.
Another entertaining non-ski related segment showcases four skiers/boarders as they spend the day at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center. Chris Paulding, Chris Anthony, Kina Pickett, and Jeff McKitterick see what it's like to wake at dawn, compete in a biathlon, then jump into a frozen lake with skis and a giant backpack. Sure, it's not as exciting as watching a boarder float through the air off a giant jump, but it is fun to see how our military trains in the harsh climate.
In the end, Storm is a good ski film for those looking to get excited for the coming season. However, it's only a mediocre Warren Miller flick. It has the same elements, but it lacks that pizzazz of his earlier releases.
Storm is presented here in its original 4x3 aspect ratio, and it's a pretty nice transfer. Colors are bright and the snow looks so pristine, so clean and cold it gave me the chills. As with any film shot on location in varying weather conditions, some minor problems occur occasionally, such as slight graininess in night shots and some general softness throughout. However, for the bulk of this film, detail is very solid, with the mountains, riders, and snow all having nice texture. The few halo effects I noticed weren't that objectionable since they don't appear on screen for long.
You can ignore the 2.0 audio track because the Cold Fusion DVD comes fully equipped with a very powerful 5.1 Dolby Digital track. The speakers really blast, especially during the opening scenes of thunderstorms. The low end could've been lower, but for the most part the sound features some nice booms. The rears aren't used actively and the left-to-right sound movement is rare, however, when they are used, they're done rather nicely. Voices sound well placed in the center channel during interviews.
THE BONUS FEATURES
As with the other Warren Miller DVDs, there's not much here. You get three trailers all mixed into one preview. The trailers include Cold Fusion, Storm, and Ride. You also get a making of featurette that chronicles the journey to the South Georgia Islands. Although it's not the greatest behind-the-scenes featurette I've ever seen, you do get some nice shots of a huge, icy blue glacier and plenty of on location interview.
Storm isn't the greatest Warren Miller film out there. The music isn't as upbeat as its predecessors, and there's simply not enough snow action. Still, for those in need of a quick fix of the winter variety, you can't go wrong with a rental.