EDITORIAL: Movies to warm your cold winter

(photo from www.britannica.com)

A new editorial initiative that just came down the pipe on Examiner.com where my work gets published was the topic of "Winter Escapes."  Their angle was more of a travel and local event one, but, to me, movies are two-hour winter vacations unto themselves, whether it's on your couch at home with a blanket, a significant other, and some hot chocolate or out at your glamourous local theater for a little getaway.  Here are some movies I recommend to beat the winter blues.  Since two hours is not enough a vacation, I've decided to pair my suggestions up.  Four hours or more ought to make for a nice winter escape on a weeknight or a weekend afternoon.  Enjoy!

BLUE CRUSH and SOUL SURFER-- To me, warm-weather movies start with the great state of Hawaii and when most people think of Hawaii, they think of surfing.  Blue Crush, with its girl power fun, andSoul Surfer, with its heartfelt true story, are the two best.  How they get those cameras to shoot in, over, and under huge waves blows my mind every time.  (trailer and trailer)  (Soul Surfer full review)

FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL and THE DESCENDANTS-- While talking about Hawaii, I should mention 50 First Dates, but I personally cannot stand Adam Sandler or Drew Barrymore.  Instead of that trash, for more Hawaii, I'm going with Russell Brand and Jason Segal's antics vying for Kristen Bell's affections in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.  I'll take that to Sandler anytime.  Also, as a more respectable partner, I offer my #1 movie of 2011, according to my recent "10 Best" list, and that's The Descendants.  Featuring the best performance of George Clooney's career, it's a great film of a more realistic Hawaiian setting that Elvis swinging his hips in Blue Hawaii (though that movie does just fine in it's own way to offer a warm setting).  (trailertrailer,  and trailer))  (The Descendants full review)

DIRTY DANCING and A WALK ON THE MOON--  There must something in the air in upstate New York to make two hot little forbidden romances in the Catskills.  The best of the best is, of course, Dirty Dancing.  Starring Jennifer Grey and the late Patrick Swayze, that's the kind of summer romance ladies still dream about.  For something similar but a little different, give the under-seen gem A Walk on the Moon a try.  Directed by Tony Goldwyn with Diane Lane and Viggo Mortenson, it follows a married woman's brief affair with a travelling hippie salesman right during the Woodstock festival.  It's a very good movie if you've never seen it.  Give it a try.  (trailer and trailer)

INTO THE BLUE and FOOL'S GOLD--  While the Caribbean isn't Hawaii, I'd say it's hot enough, especially if Jessica Alba is rocking bikinis for the guys in Into the Blue and Matthew McConaughey is showing off his tan for the ladies in Fool's Gold. Both are treasure hunting movies that make you want to dive right in with them.  (trailer and trailer)

DR. NO and DIE ANOTHER DAY-- Speaking of hot bodies and beaches, there might not be a more iconic bathing suit movie scene than watching Ursulla Andress emerge from the Jamaican surf in front of Sean Connery's James Bond in the first film of the franchise, Dr. No.  Halle Berry definitely did her best to pay homage to that scene with one of her own, 40 years and 20 films later, in Die Another Day with Pierce Brosnan.  Every spy movie should have a prerequisite beach scene and at least one warm-weather stop in their globe-trotting storylines.  (trailer and trailer)

VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA and UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN-- Maybe the warmth you need is from the Mediterranean heat of Europe instead.  Javier Bardem sweeps Scarlett Johansson, Penelope Cruz, and Rebecca Hall all of their feet through the summertime in Spain in Woody Allen's relationship comedy/drama Vicky Cristina Barcelona with excellent scenes shot throughout the country.  Following that up, go with Diane Lane again in Audrey Wells's Under the Tuscan Sun where she hopes to find romance overseas.  Europe never looked so good as it does in these two films.  HONORABLE MENTION: Not a summer or warm movie, but just as pretty and European is the recent Midnight in Parisalso from Woody Allen.  (trailertrailer, and trailer)

OUT OF AFRICA and THE ENGLISH PATIENT-- If Europe isn't warm or exotic enough or cheesy romantic comedies aren't epic enough for you, go across the Mediterranean to continent of Africa for a pair of Oscar winners.  Sidney Pollack's 1985 Best Picture winner Out of Africa, with Robert Redford and Meryl Streep, should give you the warm, epic scope you are looking for.  If that's not enough sand for you, dial up Anthony Minghella's 1996 Best Picture winnerThe English Patient.  Swoon with every shadowy sand dune and every pensive stare from Ralph Fiennes.  (trailer and trailer)

DESPERADO and ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO--  Speaking of deserts, there's definitely some heat across the border in Mexico.  Robert Rodriguez's El Mariachi trilogy offers a guy's kind of dose of summer heat.  Take the second (Desperado) and third (Once Upon a Time in Mexico) parts home.  The men get a big dose of bullets and Salma Hayek while the ladies get the smolder of Antonio Banderas and Johnny Depp.  By the way, they are two of the best trailers in the business (trailer and trailer).

SAHARA and THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN-- Staying with more desert adventure, I sweat and reach for sunblock just watching the preview to the desolate setting for Matthew McConaughy's Dirk Pitt treasure hunt Sahara.  Pass me a cold glass of water.  To flip that on it's head, a different preview blows that imagery away when you see Herge's comic come to life in Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin when a full-sail ship turns sand dunes into waves.  Both are swashbuckling stuff!

DANTE'S PEAK and VOLCANO--  Now, if a desert is still not hot enough to break your winter shivers, then the only answer I have for you is the magma and lava of earth's destructive volcanoes.  Whether it's Tommy Lee Jones trying to save L.A. or Pierce Brosnan heading up a mountain, you're not, scientifically, going to get any hotter than lava.  (trailer and trailer)

THE HANGOVER and AMERICAN PIE 2-- For more a shenanigan kind of movie time, look to R-rated comedies to kick winter blues.  The warm locale of Las Vegas in The Hangover points us in the right direction for sure.  While you might not want to find a tiger or Zach Galifianakis in your room, you will close your eyes and dream of taking the top down in a convertible and the charms of Vegas itself.  Secondly, watching Jim, Stifler, and the guys make the most of their summer vacation in American Pie 2 will help us all wish school was over early.  Movies like that remind that summer is only as far away as we make it.  HONORABLE MENTION: For a more old-school school and summer vacation homage, look to Fast Times at Ridgemont High from director Amy Heckerling and writer Cameron Crowe.  If Sean Penn's Spicoli doesn't bring you a feeling of summer on the way, Phoebe Cates and her bikini will.  (trailertrailer, and trailer)