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Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights

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Dirty Dancing Havana Nights

Image credit: Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, 2004

I’m not going to pretend that this sequel holds a candle to the original Dirty Dancing. I don’t care what re-makes or sequels come down the pipeline, there will never be another Patrick Swayze. However- if you’re looking for a fun film with fabulous vintage clothes, gorgeous Cuban aesthetic, and the ever-adorable Diego Luna, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights (DVD/Download) has you covered. Plus- bonus Swayze cameo!

In the same spirit of the original, Havana Nights follows a “good girl” who falls in love with a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. Katey can’t stand the entitled American jerks of her own social set, so when a cute Cuban waiter rescues her from the mean streets of Havana, she jumps at the chance to befriend him and spice up her ballroom dancing with some Latin moves. Even Patrick Swayze pops up as the hotel’s dance instructor, in a strange Johnny Castle time-warp. But even 17 years later, he’s still got the moves.

I’ve already featured the recipe for a classic mojito with the much-more-authentic revolution film I Am Cuba, as well as a watermelon sandia with the original Dirty Dancing. So why not combine the two? While watching Dirty Dancing Havana Nights, I recommend drinking a Watermelon Mojito.

Watermelon Mojito

2-3 Fresh watermelon cubes

2 oz white rum

Fresh mint leaves

2 tsp sugar

1 oz lime juice

Club Soda

Muddle watermelon, sugar, lime juice, and mint in the bottom of a glass. Add rum, then top with club soda. Stir gently to combine.

Watermelon Mojito

I’ll admit, this movie is mainly just a great excuse to ogle Diego Luna and drink mojitos. And damn if that Wyclef Jean song isn’t just as catchy as “Time of My Life”. Now that Americans can finally visit Cuba again, it might be time to dust off my Spanish and figure out the visa situation. But only if I can dance like a gringa and yell “Cooba!”  Cheers!

National Lampoon’s European Vacation

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national lampoons european vacation

Image credit: National Lampoon’s European Vacation, 1985

Sure, we all had fun on that trip to Walley World. And Christie Brinkley will be missed. But when the Griswold’s go to Europe, hilarity ensues. There have been a lot of sequels made to National Lampoon’s Vacation, but my favorite will always been this week’s Cinema Sips pick, National Lampoon’s European Vacation (DVD/Download). For anybody who traveled to Europe before the internet or TripAdvisor, you’ll get it.

With a new Audrey and Russ, but same old Clark and Ellen, the Griswolds embark on a free gameshow trip across the European continent. They find tiny, bathroom-less hotel rooms in London, rude waiters and hookers in Paris, and car thieves in Rome. Plus- Eric Idle on a bicycle. Everywhere. Directed by Amy Heckerling, with a script written by John Hughes, this is 80’s slapstick raunchy comedy at its finest. This movie isn’t trying to be anything more than a satire of international travel, and in that respect it succeeds beautifully. Even now, in the age of websites and online reviews, it’s still possible for a boorish, entitled American to be stuck in a tiny European closet of a hotel room, wondering where they put the real shower (not the little phone booth in the corner with the trickling water feature). And by entitled American, I mean myself of course.

If you’re attempting to travel around the world by alcohol, the easiest solution is beer. All of Europe seems to have a firm handle on good beer, so instead of a cocktail this week, I’ll be drinking a European Beer Flight*.

 

European Beer

*(note, Trader Joe’s had ZERO British beers so I had to improvise….)

I think the reason these Vacation movies have always worked so well, whether it’s the 1st or 4th, is that despite the dumb jokes and sight gags, there’s a little bit of truth in all of them. I may not have backed my car into Stonehenge, but I have nearly collapsed on museum steps from sheer tourist exhaustion. And I KNOW I’ve eaten a microwaved frozen dinner at a Roman café. It paired really well with Campari. Cheers!

Return to the Blue Lagoon

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return to the blue lagoon

Image credit: Return to the Blue Lagoon, 1991

Remember when movie studios used to wait over 10 years to make a movie’s sequel, rather than 10 months? Maybe they thought audiences forgot about the original by that point, clearing the way for a nearly identical plot structure. How else to explain Return to the Blue Lagoon (DVD/Download), technically a sequel to the Brooke Shields/Christopher Atkins romance classic, but in my mind more of a reboot. Do I care that they’re basically the same movie? Of course not!

I actually saw Return to the Blue Lagoon years before The Blue Lagoon, and I gotta say- I prefer the sequel! Mainly because I never found Christopher Atkins remotely attractive with his labradoodle perm, but also because these new kids seem to have a better handle on thatched hut engineering. Milla Jovovich is abysmal in Return, but hey, what do you expect when her biggest task is to hide her nipples behind her long hair and feathery jewelry?  And Brian Krause looks like a blonde Taylor Kitsch in minimal clothing, so that’s just all kinds of irresistible.

Although these teens didn’t need alcohol to loosen their inhibitions and relax (being naked all the time tends to do that anyway), I still prefer watching this with a tropical tiki drink. While viewing Return to the Blue Lagoon, I recommend drinking a Blue Beachcomber.

Blue Beachcomber

2 oz light rum

1 oz blue curaçao

1 oz lime juice

.5 oz maraschino liqueur

.5 oz simple syrup

Shake all ingredients together in a cocktail shaker with ice, then strain into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with an umbrella.

Blue Beachcomber

For anybody who fears that this is just a romance novel in cinema form, let me re-assure you- it’s actually Jaws with better looking actors.  There are some serious close calls with a hungry shark, and this one actually looks like a real predator (as opposed to Spielberg’s mechanical version).  But I admit, there’s also a lot of butt and side boob action.  Have I convinced you to yet to give this one a chance??  Cheers!

Grease 2

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Grease 2 pink ladies

Image credit: Grease 2, 1982

Warning: you’re going to want to stock up on alcohol this month. For the next several weeks, I plan on highlighting some fantastic guilty-pleasure film sequels. Yes, many of them fall into the “so bad it’s good” camp, but what’s wrong with that? The way I see it, alcohol can only improve these forgotten gems. First up is my favorite on any terrible sequel list, the 1982 gem Grease 2 (DVD/Download). What- you didn’t know there was a follow up to the classic musical Grease? And that it stars none other than future-Rex Manning, Maxwell Caulfield?? Yes it’s true- this movie exists and it is AMAZING.

Despite being an obvious rush job in an attempt to squeeze a little more money out of the Grease box office juggernaut, this sequel has a lot of things working for it. Number one is Michelle Pfeiffer, in her first starring film role. I would go as far as to say she’s even better than Olivia Newton John, but that’s just my opinion. Next is the cavalcade of 50’s movie stars such as Connie Francis, Eve Arden, Sid Caesar, and Tab Hunter as the substitute Sex-Ed teacher. Let’s just say, there’s a song called “Reproduction” and things get…. weird. Finally the script has traded motorcycles for busted cars, and it is HOT. Here, tight leather pants make sense. In the original Grease– eh, not so much.

One thing that does carry over from the first film is the ultimate girl gang The Pink Ladies. They might be missing the acerbic charm of Stockard Channing, but they’ve gained Paulette the Marilyn Monroe-wannabe, and Sharon (best quote: “We’re gonna die and I’m wearing my mother’s underwear!”). And let’s not forget little Pink Lady-in-training Delores, played by future TV star/Louis CK BFF Pamela Adlon. In honor of this stone cold bunch of weirdos, while watching Grease 2 I’ll be drinking a Pink Lady Redux

Pink Lady Redux

3 oz gin

1.5 oz heavy cream

1 oz applejack

1 oz grenadine

Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously until chilled and thoroughly mixed. Strain into a chilled coupe glass.

True story- the soundtrack to Grease 2 was the first cassette tape I ever owned. Blame it on TV networks who aired this relentlessly on Sunday afternoons in the late 80’s, my love of pink satin, or my pre-teen crush on Adrian Zmed, but I can still recite every lyric by heart. Maybe this is a terrible movie, but it’s my terrible movie. And perhaps, after a few drinks, yours too. Cheers!

 

Nocturnal Animals

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Nocturnal Animals

Image credit: Nocturnal Animals, 2015

“Revenge is a dish best served cold.”

I can think of no better phrase to sum up the stunning Tom Ford film Nocturnal Animals (DVD/Download). From the shocking opening credits to the final drink in a hip Los Angeles restaurant, I found myself mesmerized by the visual storytelling. Sometimes hard to watch, but nevertheless hypnotic, this is a film that stays with the viewer long after it’s over.

My confusion and revulsion over the opening sequence (to quote my husband, “What the f*ck are you watching??”) made me wonder what I’d gotten myself into. But then, all became clear as the beautiful people wearing beautiful Tom Ford clothes came on the screen. Amy Adams is cold and distant as the wealthy art gallery owner, startled by a ghost from her past in the form of a manuscript written by her ex-husband Edward. The film simultaneously tells the story of their doomed young marriage, and Edward’s reactionary revenge manuscript.  Jake Gyllenhaal is quickly becoming an actor I will watch in just about anything, and he’s perfect as both the fragile writer, and tortured subject of his own story. Aaron Taylor Johnson and cinema MVP Michael Shannon round out the cast in Nocturnal Animals’ movie-within-a-movie, in which every scene of West Texas hell looks like a painting.

Texas is such a strong presence in this film, simultaneously the dangerous setting of Edward’s story and also the real-life setting of his failed marriage. Watching Michael Shannon’s character step over dusty scrub brush is like watching the sheriff in an old John Wayne film. While viewing Nocturnal Animals, I recommend drinking an Old Fashioned Texan.

Old Fashioned Texan

2 oz Red Handed Bourbon (from Treaty Oak distillery in Dripping Springs, TX)

½ oz simple syrup

2-3 dashes angostura bitters

Orange peel

Pour bourbon over large ice cubes in a rocks glass, and add the simple syrup and bitters. Stir gently to combine. Run the orange peel over the rim of the glass, and drop in the drink.

Old Fashioned Texan

This film spoke to me not only as a lover of cinema, but as a writer. As Edward says, “If I write it down, it will last forever.” With his manuscript, he’s expelled all of his love and pain and anger onto his alter ego in the story. It’s a very personal tale and also…. not.  I can’t wait to see what Tom Ford has up his perfectly tailored sleeve next because whatever it is, I’ll be there.  Cheers!

High Fidelity

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High Fidelity

Image credit: High Fidelity, 2000

True story- the one and only time I’ve ever been carded and turned away from a movie was High Fidelity (DVD/Download) in April 2000. I was 16 years old, a recent transplant to Central Pennsylvania, and stunned to find myself smack dab in the Bible Belt. For months afterward, I waited impatiently to see what erotic, taboo tales awaited me in the R-rated and undoubtedly-risque High Fidelity.  Imagine my surprise and outrage that not only was there nothing “R” about it, but also that I was unnecessarily delayed from seeing what would become one of my all-time favorite films.

My Top 5 lists on Cinema Sips are a direct homage to this comedic gem, so in lieu of a proper plot description I think it’s more appropriate to list off my Top 5 High Fidelity Scenes:

  1. When John Cusack plays the new Beta Band LP in his niche Chicago record shop, causing all the customers fall under its spell. Perfect music moment.
  1. Lisa Bonet sings “Baby I Love Your Way” by Peter Frampton. I too, always hated that song. And now I too, kinda like it.
  1. Jack Black berating a customer for wanting to buy a copy of Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You”. In answer to his subquestion, it is definitely better to burn out than to fade away.
  1. The making of a Top 5 List of songs about death. This is absolutely a conversation I want to be a part of.
  1. Barry Jive and the Uptown Five singing “Let’s Get it On”. And just like that, Jack Black the Movie Star was born.

Although the Nick Hornby novel this film was based on is set in London, I love the decision to set the movie adaptation in Chicago. The city itself becomes like another character in the film, so to that end we should definitely celebrate this midwestern metropolis with its namesake drink. While watching High Fidelity, I recommend drinking a classic Chicago Cocktail.

Chicago Cocktail

2 oz Brandy

Dash of Triple Sec

Dash of Bitters

1 oz Champagne

Stir Brandy, Triple Sec, and Bitters together in a shaker filled with ice. Strain into a chilled coupe, and top with champagne.

If you happen to find yourself celebrating Record Store Day later this month, don’t be too put off by the employees at your local vinyl shop. They actually do know a lot about music, so let them make suggestions. They may not be able to give relationship advice, but if you’re looking to find a band that picks up where Echo and the Bunnymen left off, they’ve got your back. Cheers!

Back to the Future

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Back to the Future

Image credit: Back to the Future, 1985

I was thrilled to get a reader request for this week’s film Back to the Future (DVD/Download) because it’s one of those obvious classics that I have a tendency to overlook on Cinema Sips. It’s such a part of everybody’s shared film experience, and I’m excited to think about it from a cocktail aficionado’s standpoint. As Lorraine says, “Everybody who’s anybody drinks.” Whether it’s 1955, 1985, or 2017, alcohol is always cool. I wish I could say the same for Pepsi.

Watching Michael J. Fox travel back in time to when his parents were teenagers always gets me thinking- would I have been friends with my parents in high school? Would I have been considered cool in 1967? I like to think that my penchant for bold prints and Beatles records would have tipped the scales in my favor, but who knows? I certainly wouldn’t have had the magnetic personality of Michael J. Fox, who is charming as hell in any decade. Teaching his nerdy dad how to woo his mom and fend off school bully Biff (ahem, sorry, President Biff) is no easy feat, but Fox pulls it off and still manages to get to the clock tower in time for the DeLorean to be struck by lightning. This movie is so Hollywood.

Pepsi must have brokered quite the deal with Universal to get such prime placement in not only this film but its subsequent sequels. I’m sure they wish they had a DeLorean right about now, taking them back to a time before tone-deaf ads. Despite the recent bad press and my natural preference for Coca-Cola, I have to make an exception this one time. While watching Back to the Future, I recommend drinking a Hard Pepsi.*

Hard Pepsi

5 oz Pepsi

1.5 oz Amaretto

.5 oz lemon juice

Build drink over ice, stirring gently to combine.

Hard Pepsi

Word of advice, don’t be like George and live it up with some chocolate milk. Be like Lorraine, the closet bad girl/future alcoholic who knows how to have a good time. We’re only young once. Unless of course, your name is Marty McFly. For him, time and age are all relative. Cheers!

*Yes, that’s right, I own this movie on LaserDisc and still have a functioning LaserDisc player. How’s that for going back in time??