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Too hot? Cool off with a movie

Cold-weather films on DVD include ‘The Thing,’ ‘Ice Storm’

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MIAMI — It's true that South Florida offers no shortage of ways to beat the suffocating August heat. Sometimes, though, it's just too hot to lie by the pool or hit the beach or even hop into that sweltering car and drive out to the air-conditioned multiplex.

Sometimes, it's a lot more tempting to simply crank up the A/C, power up the DVD player and bring winter into your living room. Here, in no particular order, is a list of movies of varying quality that have one thing in common: Frigid weather figures into the plot in some way — the colder the better.

"The Thing" (1982): Frigid weather is a veritable character in John Carpenter's remake of the 1951 Creature Feature classic, about a group of scientists in the Antarctic battling a shape-shifting alien in their midst.

"Alive" (1993): Fact-based re-enactment of the 1973 plane crash that left a Uruguayan soccer team stranded in the snow-swept Andes for more than two months with nothing to eat but each other. You won't see that on "Lost"!

"Quintet" (1979): Little-seen curiosity from director Robert Altman, recently released on DVD for the first time, takes place during a post-apocalyptic Ice Age in which a traveler (Paul Newman) braves subzero temperatures in search of his brother and is led to play the titular (and deadly) game. Bizarre attempt at existential sci-fi is laughably pretentious and often incomprehensible. But there's something strangely entrancing about watching such actors as Newman, Fernando Rey and Vittorio Gassman trudging around the glacial landscape.

"The Ice Storm" (1997): Ang Lee's masterful adaptation of the Rick Moody novel details the ruinous effects of counterculture morals on a 1970s Connecticut suburb during a paralyzing winter storm.

"March of the Penguins" (2005): The weather doesn't get much colder than in Antarctica, where Emperor Penguins willingly embark on long treks each year, braving blizzards, ice and unimaginable temperatures in order to breed.

"Ice Age" (2002): It may lack the wit and snap of a Pixar movie, but this computer-generated 'toon makes great use of its glacier-ridden setting.

"Snow Day" (2000): So-so family comedy about the hijinks that ensue after severe snowfall shuts down a town is enlivened by the eclectic nature of its cast, which includes Pam Grier, John Schneider, Chevy Chase and Iggy Pop.

"The Fast Runner (Atanarjuat)" (2001): Enthralling, awe-inspiring drama about love and murder among the Arctic Circle's Inuit people. Shot entirely on digital video, because ordinary film cameras wouldn't work in the subzero temperatures. Runs almost three hours but feels like 90 minutes.

"Ice Station Zebra" (1968): This adaptation of Alistair MacLean's novel, about a military rescue operation at the North Pole, is far from director John ("The Magnificent Seven," "Bad Day At Black Rock") Sturges' finest hour. But for a Saturday matinee, it's perfectly fine, right down to the amusingly cheesy special effects.

"Touching the Void" (2003): Director Kevin Macdonald takes an unusual approach to this documentary about a horrible mountain-climbing accident in the snowy Peruvian Andes, alternating between real-life participants' recounting the event and a harrowing re-enactment by actors.

"The Day After Tomorrow" (2004): Laughably bad disaster epic about the perils of global warming is saved by some grade-A special effects, including the sight of New York City buried under snow and ice.

"Cliffhanger" (1993): Sylvester Stallone pulled off a mini-comeback with this enjoyably preposterous action extravaganza about a mountain climber who is tricked into helping a gang of crooks stranded in the snow-covered Rockies.

"Fargo" (1996): Arguably the best movie from Joel and Ethan Coen, this comical murder mystery could be described as film blanc — or a film noir set against a backdrop of blindingly white snow.

"Cold Fever" (1995): Quirky gem about a Japanese businessman who is forced to cancel his Hawaiian vacation and travel to Iceland to pay homage to his dead parents. Director Fridrik Thor Fridriksson makes his country's frozen vistas as seductive and inviting as a tropical landscape.

"Nanook of the North" (1921): Often hailed as the first feature-length narrative documentary, Robert Flaherty's landmark portrait of a year in the day-to-day life of an Eskimo and his family living in Canada's frozen Hudson Bay region remains utterly absorbing. Although some of its sequences were later discovered to have been staged, the movie is often at its most intriguing at its simplest moments, like a demonstration of how to build an igloo.