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Oh, the Weather Outside is Frightful...

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By Chris Kavan - 06/04/14 at 04:55 PM CT

So, here in the Midwest the summer means dealing with the constant threat of terrible weather. It's all thunderstorms, straight-line winds, flash floods, to the ultimate phenomena, the tornado, around here, you better be prepared. Meanwhile the West is dealing with high temperatures and conditions so dry that a record fire season is all but guaranteed. And I can't forget the people on the coasts, as hurricane season is also in full force and you can bet on at least some causing major damage before the year ends. So, in honor of this rash of terrible weather - I present my favorite films about... terrible weather, because if you can't beat 'em you might as well enjoy 'em.

I have to start off the list with the ultimate guilty pleasure film - the 1996 movie Twister. Starring Helen Hunt as a woman obsessed with tornadoes (after watching her dad get taken by one at a young age), Bill Paxton as her science-minded ex (who unwillingly finds himself a part of her latest venture after the weather turns particularly perfect for a series of tornadic activity) - also along for this ride is Cary Elwes as the slimy corporate sell-out (along with all his nice shiny black vehicles) and an assortment of It's a Twister! Drive Bill Paxon, Drive!weirdos and freaks, including Philip Seymour Hoffman in one of his earlier film roles, Alan Ruck, Sean Whalen, Jeremy Davies and Todd Field. The film is not going to win any acting awards - cheesy as all heck - as is the story. But even though it's nearly two decades old, those tornadoes still look pretty impressive - and it's just a fun ride. We'll see if audiences are still in the mood for this kind of thing as the upcoming Into the Storm, dropping in August, looks to put you right into the mix, adding a found-footage aspect to coming face-to-face with natures most devastating monster. Now, being from Nebraska, I can say with absolute certainty that a tornado warning is something you best take seriously. I haven't experienced a tornado first hand (and hope I never do) but I have seen the devastation it leaves behind. Twister tries to balance light-hearted moments with the danger - but I can never take things too seriously. It's a fun movie, nothing else.

If you don't like the wind, how about the water? As in water, water everywhere - and it will crush you like a bug. The Perfect Storm (based on a novel, based on a true story) has George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and John C. Reilly (amongst others) as the crew of a commercial fishing boat who venture out, unaware that they are about to face a weather pattern that creates - well, see the title. Rogue waves got nothing on this film - as monstrous waves pound the puny boat (by comparison). I've seen enough episodes of Deadliest Catch (yes, I realize it takes place in an entirely different ocean) to know that weather is nothing to scoff at. The Perfect Storm isn't the greatest film ever made - but to imagine yourself in that situation just makes you shudder.

In terms of reality, you won't find many meteorologist who support the film The Day After Tomorrow. In fact, the film is probably as far removed from reality as 2012 in terms of depicting actual events. But, hey, this is Hollywood, if you want reality, go see a documentary (in fact, go watch An Inconvenient Truth, maybe you'll learn something). But The Day After Tomorrow is so good because it takes New York gets a little chilly in The Day After Tomorrow.what might happen and, to quote Spinal Tap, cranks it up to 11. New York gets hit by massive waves (then freezes along with the half the country), Americans begin going over the border to Mexico to escape to looming disaster. Ah, a new ice age - the best way to put all our worst ecological nightmares up there for everyone to see - in such a blatant way, too. Just like Twister, you can't take it seriously, but, man, what a ride.

On the other hand, in the Midwest everyone also knows the greatest danger in winter comes not from the snow, but from the ice. Specifically the lurking danger known as Black Ice - that kind you can't really tell is there, until you hit it and slide off the road. Two films capture the wonder of dealing with this frozen hell: the first is Ang Lee's poignant drama focusing on 1970s suburbia - The Ice Storm. Granted, most of the film is dealing with the people, not the actual ice, but it does play an important role in the heart-breaking final act. On the other hand, you have the escapades of a group of criminals trying to escape an ice-locked city in The Ice Harvest (taking place in Wichita, KS - not too far from me, actually). Again, the film is more about crosses and double-crosses, but the weather has its own part to play, that's for sure.

There are plenty of other films you could also watch to fill the ranks: Hard Rain, Noah, the opening sequence of The Wizard of Oz, older films like Deluge, Typhoon or The Hurricane (not the one with Denzel). Weather isn't the most popular film topic around, but when it hits, it hits hard.


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