Movies to watch on a snowy, icy evening in winter

By Eleanor Ringel Cater

Sure, it’s sunny and nice now. But not so long ago, Atlanta had a little problem with, um, a little snow.

However,  I’m not in the finger-pointing business — unless it’s at something on a movie screen.

Herewith a few movies in which snow just won’t let go — either as frigid backdrop or active predator.

Anyone remember that South American rugby team that crashed in the Andes in 1972?  Well, Frank Marshall, who helped Spielberg and Lucas birth Indiana Jones, does. Or did. In 1993 he made a movie called “Alive,” based on that story.

What we get is a sometimes inept survival saga that embraces the notion —  You are who you eat. After their plane crashed, 16 team members stayed alive (hence the title) an amazing 10 weeks until rescued. And how did they do it?

The old-fashioned Donner Party way. That is, they ate their dead. (and it didn’t taste like chicken). The best survival dramas are essentially character studies. Think “Lord of the Flies” or “The Grey.” Or, more recently, “All is Lost” and “Gravity.”

One trouble with “Alive” is, it’s difficult to sort them out, with the exception of the two “names,” Ethan Hawke and Vincent Spano (at the time). And when you’re having trouble discerning who’s still alive and who’s joined the buffet, well, that’s a problem.  Still, the picture has a certain spirit — like an Outward Bound trip gone bad. And even those of you who didn’t spend 20-24 hours in your car or on a stranger’s couch will have to agree, you got off easier than these guys.

It’s the Rockies vs. Rocky in “Cliffhanger,” which has some very rocky mountain highs (and lows). Sylvester Stallone stars as a member of the Rocky Mountain Rescue Unit who’s pretty much lost his nerve after a botched mission. He and his colleagues, Janine Turner and Michael Rooker, run afoul of some baddies led by John Lithgow. They want help finding three suitcases stuffed with cash that landed somewhere in the deep snow after a mid-air heist gone wrong.

The movie is at its vertigo-inducing best in its jaw-dropping opening sequence. If you have even the slightest fear of heights, you might want to stay out in the lobby by the popcorn machine. Later, the picture gets tangled up in plots, sub-plots and loads of stunt folks dangling every which way they can. But I cannot stress this enough: if even climbing up a ladder is a problem, be advised, “Cliffhanger” may give you a cliff-hangover.

It’s the sub-zero humans more than  the sub-zero temperatures who are the problem in the Oscar-winning “Fargo.”  Still, the snow is ever-present in this Minnesota-set black comedy about greed, murder and morning sickness.

Frances McDormand won an Oscar for her role as a very, very pregnant police chief, based in Brainerd, Minnesota  (Home of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox).

The plot: sleazy car salesman William H. Macy hires two thugs, played by Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare, to kidnap his wealthy wife. Then they’ll all split the ransom her rich Daddy (Harve Presenell) coughs up.

The directors, the Coen brothers, say the film is loosely based on actual incidents. Well, sure. Reality-based or not, their movie exists in some surreal cinematic convergence of Mayberry, Twin Peaks and SNL. And you will find out how much a wood-chipper can chop a certain something… if that wood-chipper did chop that certain something.

Enjoy the sunshine.

Eleanor Ringel, Movie Critic, was the film critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for almost 30 years. She was nominated multiple times for a Pulitzer Prize. She won the Best of Cox Critic, IMAGE Film & Video and Women In Film awards. An Atlanta native, she graduated from Westminster and Brown University. She was the critic on WXIA’s Noonday, a member of Entertainment Weekly's Critics Grid and wrote TV Guide’s movie/DVD. She is member of the National Society of Film Critics and currently talks about movies on WMLB and writes the Time Out column for the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

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