(On cable TV, July 2011) There’s no way around the fact that this made-for-TV-movie struggles in presenting a wide-scale unnatural disaster on a shoestring budget. It’s in the nature of the thing, and it’s a small wonder to see how many low-budget SF movies actually try to deliver on catastrophe. Naturally, some indulgence is helpful in watching this kind of movie: It’s better to squint a little and focus on what the filmmakers were attempting to do rather than focus on the unconvincing special effects and flat cinematography that follows low-budget filmmaking. In a generous mood, it’s tempting to suggest that Metal Tornado’s premise is more original than most and just convincing enough to suspend disbelief: As satellite power generation becomes possible, a flawed experiment creates the titular metal tornado that runs along underground iron ore and sucks up anything metallic in its path. The techno-babble isn’t completely dumb, Lou Diamond Phillips makes for a likable hero, there’s some cleverness in the usual plot template and the quantity of special effects almost make up for their quality. It builds, it plays, it ends –basically, it does what it was designed for. This being said, Metal Tornado doesn’t rise much above the usual made-for-TV-Sci-Fi-movie level: as one would expect from budgetary limitations, the dialogue is dull, the plot points are expected, the camerawork is plodding, and the re-use of actors/characters gets increasingly ridiculous rather than powerful. Mistakes abound, including non-magnetic metals being sucked into the tornado, but they’re not nearly as hilarious as the last act, which wipes out Paris but manages to triumphantly save… Pittsburgh. As an added treat, Canadians may have fun spotting the small tell-tale details that betray the film’s shooting location. I spotted the Canada Post mailboxes, but I was a bit surprised to find out, reading the credits, that the film was shot locally, in/near Ottawa. (“metal tornado Ottawa” is just a search away to tell you that it was shot in summer 2010, featuring local talent and in exotic locations such as Wakefield.) The local connection alone makes it a must-see in my case… but I can’t vouch for you the farther away you feel from Ottawa.