Reviews of Weather Movies by Weatherpeople
Both weatherpeople and Hollywood special effects extravaganzas rely on heavy use of green screens. We asked a few of the former to weigh in on the latter.
HERE’S YOUR FILM FORECAST
Morning Meteorologist, WJZY Fox 46 in Charlotte— aka “The Dancing Weatherman” | @fox46nick
Two thumbs up for Twister? Eh, maybe when pigs–err, cows–fly.
This storm-chasing classic hit theaters in 1996. I was 13 at the time—young enough to be totally fixated by the action, but old enough to know I probably wouldn’t have to look out for flying cows in my lifetime. Still, this movie has a special place in my heart because it piqued my interest in weather. I’ve been a meteorologist for fifteen years and it’s partially thanks to Bill and Jo Harding.
On a scale of 1–5 stars, I give Twister a solid 3.5 (but, hey, that’s one star more than Ebert gave!). The entertainment is there, but this film has some serious flaws when it comes to science. Here are a few—the first two are tied to safety:
Throughout the film, Bill and Jo take risks that would get most storm chasers seriously injured. Realistically, there’s a good chance these two would have been hit by the debris swirling around them at least a dozen times. The storm chasers also took shelter under a bridge, which makes the meteorologist in me cringe. A bridge turns into a dangerous wind tunnel during a tornado.
How accurate is it: Back to the cow scene. The cow is being propelled by a waterspout. Waterspouts are very weak and usually only register as an EF0 or EF1. It definitely wouldn’t have been strong enough to lift a cow.
8-time American Ninja Warrior/Meteorologist News12 Connecticut | @joemoravsky
Frozen is one of the best Disney princess films since Beauty and the Beast. Not only does it focus on the wonder and magic that you would expect from Disney, but it also hits the mark with belting songs and witty humor. I have watched this movie roughly 20 times…that’s what happens when you have three kids! Okay to be fair, maybe half of those views were just me on the couch alone, but I digress. As I said, Frozen is magical. The weather seems spot on throughout the film but becomes unrealistic when ice flows freely from Elsa’s hands, or how she manipulates the ice around her.
At the end of the film, Elsa gives Olaf his own “personal flurry.” Some people may think that a flurry might work to sustain Olaf, but I don’t think it would be sufficient to keep him in his icy state. A cloud over his head in the assumed 70–85°F summertime heat would only cause some shade but would not cause the air or ground temperatures around him to suddenly drop to 32°F. The falling flurry would lower the temperature slightly but would not be enough to keep Olaf from becoming a puddle! I believe Olaf would need a full-blown blizzard miracle to give him a chance to remain in snowman form. Frozen was definitely an amazing movie, but was only a magical fairytale when it came to the manipulation of ice.
How accurate is it? The meteorological accuracy of this film is spot on up until Elsa has ice flowing freely from her hands to create giants, Olaf, and personal clouds. It would be amazing to have the ability to control the weather, but for now, it’s just a fairytale!
Chief Meteorologist, NBC15, Mobile, Alabama | @alansealls
The Sound of Music
The Sound of Music opens in the clouds, literally. The sound of wind supports aerial views of the rugged Austrian Alps with glaciers. Lowering in altitude to calm lakes in verdant valleys, the camera finds Maria, joyously singing in a meadow. The backdrop is rolling hills, capped by bright cumulus clouds. Perfect weather and sweeping vistas set a tone of happiness, and purity that flow through the movie and soundtrack.
In only one scene is there rain. In the gazebo first-kiss duet, with Liesl and Rolfe, distant thunder rumbles, followed by rain, and then lightning and thunder. Maria (Julie Andrews) later explains to the children that lightning and thunder are just talking to each other. She follows, in song, with allusion to the water cycle. “Raindrops on roses,” later adding, “Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes. Silver white winters that melt into springs. These are a few of my favorite things.”
The movie’s final scene is the family climbing a mountain bathed in golden sunshine, having escaped the Nazis pursuing them. The sunshine and sapphire skies imply freedom. The closing song ends, “Follow every rainbow, until you reach your dream.”
The Sound of Music remains one of my favorite movies. If it is on TV, I stop, drop and watch. I rate it 10 rainbows, or 5 out of 5 stars.
Is it accurate though? Meteorologically, characters are dressed correctly for the high-altitude mountain scenes. How much snow remains on the mountains, a half-century after filming, would be an interesting climate change study. There is a common but incorrect Hollywood trick where lightning and thunder happen simultaneously. Unless lightning strikes within a few yards, there is always a gap between lightning and the thunder that follows. Maria certainly left that out of her explanation.
Storm Chaser, Tornado Trackers | @tornadotrackers
Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is a highly entertaining and beautifully animated film about an aspiring inventor whose latest creation is accidentally launched into the stratosphere resulting in a series of technicolored and delectable food-weather anomalies. All manner of scrumptious edibles begin to rain down onto a small town struggling to recover from a past of pure anchovy-based diets. The movie’s epic third act climaxes with a globe-encompassing food hurricane that rains down enormous pieces of food, complete with a spaghetti tornado (my favorite part) that carves a trail of destruction. It’s utter cuisine-infused-weather chaos, and it is a delight. While clearly a fictitious story, I’d like to imagine there’s a parallel universe where such savory atmospheric phenomena are occurring and an alternate version of myself is enraptured in pure delectable bliss while storm chasing pasta twisters, meatball hail, ice cream blizzards, and foodicanes. Beyond the thrill of precipitable foods, there is an important message for kids (and adults) about being true to yourself and embracing all of your quirks. Don’t be afraid to be different. Being a lifelong weather nerd whose popularity level in jr. high/high school was…nominal, it’s a message I can echo to my own kids. As visual artist James Victore once wrote, “The things that made you weird as a kid, make you great today.”
CAUTION: This movie may result in a sudden increase in appetite. Prepare accordingly!
Meteorological Accuracy: Despite our best efforts to control large-scale weather patterns, man’s attempts at altering the atmosphere have only been marginally successful through cloud seeding, which can modify rain or suppress hail over a very small area (though its effectiveness is still highly debated). Therefore, it is with a heavy heart that I declare Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs a meteorologically inaccurate film.
Morning Meteorologist, Siouxland News at Sunrise, Sioux City, SD @weather_katie
One of the more classic and recognizable weather films in movie history, Groundhog Day has solidified its place in popular culture since its release in 1993. And now being stuck living the same day over and over again is something that is highly relatable to most of humanity thanks to the year that was 2020. Phil Connors, played by Bill Murray, is a TV weatherman with a heart of coal. Selfish, cranky, and downright mean, Connors starts out as an abrasive character, but throughout the movie and some lessons learned the hard way sees the error of his ways and turns his life around.
The role of a broadcast meteorologist is fairly accurately portrayed in the film, with scenes where Connors is filming against the old-style blue screen chroma key wall as well as reporting out in the field. These are two common tasks that meteorologists perform as a part of their daily routines. His photographer, Larry, and producer, Rita, are also accurately portrayed as they attempt to create a news story about Punxsutawney Phil and his shadow.
All in all this is a fun film to watch on a night in, and one you may enjoy watching again and again and again and again.
Meteorological accuracy: As for the forecast given by Connors at the onset of the film, it seems inaccurate. The snow system wouldn’t just “skip” over a town as he suggests. If you look closely at the graphic used in his weather report, convection is already taking place across the Ohio Valley, which would indicate that rain/snow is already falling and would likely continue to fall over Pennsylvania as the system moves east.
This is the movie that kicked off one of the most infamous weather-related franchises of all time. From the moment of its release this movie has haunted meteorologists. If you ask someone to list off all weather movies that have been made, Sharknado is one of the first ones to come to mind simply because of its place in pop culture. It feels as though the creators originally intended for it to be a genuine sci-fi thriller, however society had other plans. This movie quickly gained a cult following due to its absolutely ludicrous premise.
Within the first five minutes of watching any viewer can tell that this movie was made with a budget far too small to produce any decent CGI effects, giving the whole film a very fake and cheesy look… and that’s what fans love about it. It is a bare bones, chaotic, unrealistic, sci-fi adventure, but most importantly it is funny. Comedy, though mostly unintentional, is what carries this movie and this franchise. It is so ridiculous that you can’t help but laugh when you watch it. The physical humor of sharks flying through the sky biting people’s heads off pairs surprisingly well with the corny dialog throughout the film. Love it or hate it, most would agree that they at least got a laugh out of it.
Meteorological accuracy: Although tornadoes have been known to pick up fish, frogs, and yes, cows, sharks are much smarter. In fact, sharks are known to sense changes in pressure associated with storms, which leads them to swim to deeper waters and away from any waterspouts. This makes it highly unlikely that a waterspout would pick up a shark, let alone thousands of them.
Glenn ‘Hurricane’ Schwartz
Meteorologist, NBC10’s First Alert Weather Team, Philadelphia
The Day After Tomorrow
I was wrong. Sort of. As a meteorologist for 40 years and film buff I had to see The Day After Tomorrow in the theatres as soon as it came out in 2004. But as I recall, I came out of the theater more angry than entertained. I had wanted to yell out, “How could they take an important subject like rapid climate change and make it so ridiculous!” but held back. Helicopters freezing instantly and falling from the sky. People freezing instantly. A tidal wave drowning all of New York City. People then outrun the tidal wave to safety. I wanted to throw my popcorn at the screen.
But watching it again 16 years later, I found a new appreciation for the film. Maybe it was worthwhile after all. Here’s why: The movie was a giant hit. Could anything close to reality be such a hit? Could it reach an audience that included millions who didn’t know about or didn’t accept the science of climate change? No way. When we can’t see the climate changing in real-time, we find other things in life to worry about. The director, Roland Emmerich, is famous for big disaster movies with great special effects. Maybe this was the only way to get the masses to see a “Cli-Fi” (Climate Fiction) movie.
The climate scientist was the hero. And the politicians didn’t want to hear the warnings; they worried more about the COST of doing anything (just like many do today). They were the ones who admitted they were wrong after seeing the warnings come true. The best line: “If we don’t act now, it’s going to be too late.” A cliché…yes. But true.
How accurate is It? As long as you understand the unbelievable exaggeration of EVERYTHING, the movie is entertaining overall.