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Planet of the Apes

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Image credit: Planet of the Apes, 1968

I have no idea how this happened, but somehow, I’ve become a massive fan of the Planet of the Apes franchise (Disc/Download). Watching the original 1968 film for my weekly “Bad Movie Friday” tradition turned into a lost weekend of Ape movies, including the original five as well as the more-recent four. You’d think I would have gotten tired of watching man and “beast” clash after a few of these, but nope! I was riveted by superior storytelling, endings that left me wanting more, and thought-provoking social commentary.

When an astronaut (Charlton Heston) crash-lands on a distant planet approximately 2,000 years in the future, he’s probably just hoping for a fresh water supply and breathable air. What he gets instead is a topsy-turvy world where primates walk, talk, and hunt the nonverbal humans roaming the barren land like wild animals. Kudos to the special effects teams for making the apes look equal parts cheesy and realistic, like something from a Disney ride that will haunt your nightmares. It wouldn’t be the 1960s if we didn’t also throw in a beautiful woman with teased hair and ripped-to-shreds clothing, a la Raquel Welch in One Million Years B.C. (played here by Linda Harrison as Nova). The movie raises a lot of interesting questions, such as what constitutes humanity, and how enlightened can a society ever be while there is still one group at the top and a different group at the bottom, but it’s also an action-packed flick of pure escapism. In other words, exactly what I need right now.

Although Dr. Zira rejects bananas in Escape From the Planet of the Apes, it’s still a common stereotype for primates to be seen eating them. And after viewing a parched nuclear wasteland for several hours, I need a frozen cocktail. While watching Planet of the Apes, I recommend drinking a Banana Daiquiri.

Banana Daiquiri

2 oz Gold Rum

1 fresh banana, sliced

1 oz Cointreau

1 oz Lime Juice

1/2 oz Coconut Cream

1 cup Ice

1/2 oz Dark Rum

Combine first six ingredients in a blender, and blend until chilled. Pour into a hurricane glass, and top with a floater of dark rum.

If you’re looking for a fun way to spend a weekend, I cannot recommend these movies enough. They were practically designed for our modern binge culture, most clocking in at around 90-100 minutes each, and always with a “WTF??!!!“-ending that leads immediately into the next installment. Part of me wishes I’d stopped at the fifth movie Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973) without sullying the experience with the Tim Burton iteration, but pushing through allowed me to get to Rise of the Planet of the Apes, one of the most successful reboots I’ve had the pleasure of watching. These apes have something to say, and thankfully, this film made me want to stay and listen till the bitter end. Cheers!

The Devil Wears Prada

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Image Credit: The Devil Wears Prada, 2006

As many of us have transitioned to remote or hybrid work schedules over the last two years, it can be difficult to remember what it was like reporting to an office every day. Hollywood has certainly made its share of stellar workplace comedies (The Apartment, 9 to 5, Office Space, etc.), but when it comes to sheer eye candy, you can’t beat The Devil Wears Prada (Disc/Download).

Starring Meryl Streep as Runway magazine editor Miranda Priestley, and Anne Hathaway as her tortured assistant Andrea (or Ahn-DREA as Miranda likes to condescendingly purr), this film offers a humorous glimpse at the inner workings of the fashion industry, perhaps a little more realistically than its predecessor Funny Face (another favorite of mine). Streep is caustic perfection in her role as one of the most powerful women in fashion, and it’s to her credit that this villainous character is such a complex one. We see the pressure she’s under, the entire industry that depends upon her, yet it’s hard to excuse away her constant fat-shaming of employees, or underhanded business deals. You respect her, and at the same time, loathe her. Luckily, Emily Blunt and Stanley Tucci round out the cast, bringing a much-needed dose of fun to this abusive workplace situation. I will watch these two in anything, particularly when it involves them wearing haute couture and making snide comments. Can I get a spin-off??

When choosing a cocktail this week, I wanted to pick something as classic as Miranda’s style, but also reflective of her signature way of speaking. Somehow, she manages to come off polished and outrageously cruel at the same time. While watching The Devil Wears Prada, I recommend drinking this Acid Tongue cocktail.

Acid Tongue

2 oz Navy-strength Gin

2 Limequats, quartered (can use Key Limes if Limequats aren’t in season)

3/4 oz Simple Syrup

Muddle the limequats in a shaker with simple syrup. Add in gin, and ice. Shake until chilled and combined, then strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with citrus slice.

If we’re going by the ingredient list, this drink is really just a gussied-up gimlet. But I like to think it has the Miranda Priestly touch: strong gin for a strong, powerful woman, a little sweet in the right circumstances (she clearly wants to be a good mom to her twin girls, although it’s unclear if she actually is), and an obscure citrus fruit that will no doubt start a trend. You heard it here first, folks- Limequats. Soon to be in magazines and expensive cocktail bars near you. Cheers!

Heaven Can Wait

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Image credit: Heaven Can Wait, 1943

Apparently, the gates of Hell are guarded by some extremely fabulous art deco furniture. At least, that’s how it appears in Ernst Lubitsch’s 1943 masterpiece Heaven Can Wait (Disc/Download). Starring Don Ameche as the recently deceased Henry Van Cleve (a man who thinks he’s done nothing in life to deserve a spot in Heaven), this movie is essentially Henry’s memoirs, as told to the guardian of Hell, His Excellency. Lucky for us, Henry’s life was one of Technicolor, romance, and whiskey- the perfect blend!

Set in the years between 1872 and 1942, the movie tells the stories of Henry’s “misdeeds”, which were actually, as it turns out, examples of his big heart. They were often things that society and/or his family frowned upon, yet Henry did them without malice, and usually for the right reasons. That’s the key to understanding Heaven Can Wait, for a person’s worth shouldn’t be measured in things like perfection or altruism, but in love and good intentions. Henry wasn’t perfect, but deep down, he was good. And damned if he didn’t have one of the most charming bookshop meet-cutes with his future wife, played by the lovely Gene Tierney. The romance sneaks up on you in this movie, but when it hits, it hits hard.

According to Henry, when he dreams of Heaven, it is a Heaven full of whiskey and soda. I might choose a different cocktail for my own personal afterlife (I like to believe there are rivers of French ’75s up there), but let’s at least see if he’s onto something. While watching Heaven Can Wait, I recommend drinking a Whiskey Soda.

Whiskey Soda

2 oz Whiskey (your favorite brand)

4 oz Club Soda

Citrus garnish

Build drink over ice, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with a citrus twist.

It’s a testament to the film’s script that what is essentially a comedy of manners turns out to be such a profound philosophical work of art. With humor and fantastic lines that make you ache inside they’re so good, we learn what the phrase “a life well-lived” actually means. If you believe in Heaven and Hell, then you know Henry carved out his spot in the good place long ago. Cheers!

Cool Hand Luke

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Image Credit: Cool Hand Luke, 1967

I’ve never been a fan of movies featuring dusty, sweaty actors, but when that movie contains Paul Newman and his impressive abs, all bets are off. Cool Hand Luke (Disc/Download) is an ironic title for a movie about an extremely hot man in an extremely hot place, but I’ve since realized there are a lot of ways to be cool. Leave it to this icon to school us.

I suppose winter is a great time to watch a film about a sweltering prison camp in the Deep South because you’ll really want to stick your head in a snowbank after Luke’s forth or fifth trip to “the box”. I don’t know what I expected going into this, but it wasn’t a Shawshank-esque tale of a maligned prisoner rising up against his sadistic guards. Frankly, I didn’t know work camps like this existed in the prison system after WWII. Paul Newman is perfect in his role as the smart, charismatic Luke because the viewer falls under his spell right along with his fellow prisoners. We believe that Luke is the one guy who can escape this hellhole because his smile, his zen attitude, his tenacity in an egg-eating competition tells us so. He doesn’t have much in the world, but he’s got the one thing that matters—grit.

Speaking of eggs, I’ll admit I had a hard time watching Luke chow down on fifty of the hard-boiled variety, his abs slowly disappearing under a sulfurous cloud of bloat. I like eggs, particularly in a cocktail, but only in moderation. While watching Cool Hand Luke, enjoy this classic egg-white cocktail, the Rum Sour.

Rum Sour

2 oz dark rum

¾ oz Lemon Juice

¾ oz Maple Syrup

1 Egg White

Combine rum, lemon juice, maple syrup, and egg white in a shaker without ice. Shake vigorously for ten seconds, then add ice. Shake for another thirty seconds to chill, then strain into a coupe glass.

With a strong supporting cast that includes Academy Award winner George Kennedy, Dennis Hopper, and Harry Dean Stanton, this classic film is one I wished I’d watched sooner. Don’t let the dust and sweat turn you off—this is a damn cool flick. Cheers!

Ocean’s 11 (1960)

Image credit: Ocean’s 11, 1960

The list of “New Year’s Eve” movies on my radar has always been depressingly short. Often, the holiday is tacked onto a Christmas flick, where the characters in turmoil have to resolve their issues before the ball drops. So imagine my delight to find one where New Year’s Eve stands alone, actually playing a pivotal role in the plot. The original Ocean’s 11 might not be as engrossing as Steven Soderbergh’s remake (truthfully, the first half of this draaaaaags), but it presents our booziest night of the year in an interesting context, as the perfect time to rob a casino in plain sight.

Despite some bad press Frank, Sammy, and Dino have gotten over the years, I still kind of love The Rat Pack. Sure, they were the epitome of toxic masculinity, but their reign over pop culture coincided with a time when style reigned supreme, and people actually got dressed up to go to Las Vegas. Last I checked, sweatpants now count as couture on the casino floor (ugh). These suit-wearing “rats” seem like the natural fit for a movie about an illegal group project, and indeed, they’re best when they’re all in a scene together. It’s only when they break apart into smaller pairs that the film becomes a snooze. But still, if you enjoy watching Sammy Davis Jr. sing and dance as much as I do, and always wondered what the Vegas strip looked like in 1960, this film is definitely worth a watch. Just, maybe feel free to fast forward to the heist. After an hour and a half of strategizing over highballs, I wish I had.

Part of the gang’s plan to disable four casinos on New Year’s Eve is to cause a blackout. Given the heavy holiday crowds, plunging the gambling floors into darkness is guaranteed to create mass hysteria and distraction. While watching Ocean’s Eleven, toast the birth of cool with this Blackout cocktail.

Blackout

1 ½ oz Gin

¾ oz Blackberry Brandy

½ oz Lime Juice

Champagne

Combine gin, blackberry brandy, and lime juice in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a martini or coupe glass. Top with champagne.

If you’ve turned to The Apartment as a NYE watch in the past, Ocean’s Eleven might make a good double-feature since Shirley MacLaine has a memorable drunk scene in this with Dean Martin. I won’t spoil the ending, but let’s just say it feels ultra-appropriate for the personal trash fire that was my 2021. It can only get better from here. Cheers!

Desk Set

Image credit: Desk Set, 1957

I’ve got a question for EMERAC—which 1950s film starring Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy will put me in a retro holiday mood? The answer, of course, is Desk Set (Disc/Download), the delightful romantic comedy written by Nora Ephron’s parents Phoebe and Henry. If it’s one thing the Ephron family understands, it’s how to make smart people fall in love.

If you’ve never seen this movie before, you might be shocked to learn that in the days before Google, actual humans were employed to answer mundane trivia questions from the general population. As reference librarian Bunny Watson, Hepburn looks perfectly at home surrounded by books, speaking authoritatively into a telephone. However, her peaceful workplace is soon disrupted by the arrival of Spencer Tracy and his living room-sized computer. EMERAC threatens both Bunny’s job and her pride when, due to a severe lack of communication, she and her co-workers start to worry the men upstairs will replace them all with a machine. Can Bunny save her status as the leading human computer? Will she ever get a chance to wear that gorgeous green dress from Bonwit Teller’s? WILL SHE MAKE IT TO THE OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY?? Watch and learn the answers to these burning questions.

Speaking of questions, one in particular came up while I was watching this film. Spencer Tracy’s character Richard seems awfully excited to be served something called “Floating Island”. Not having a reference librarian of my own to call up, I turned to Google to find out what this dish is. Turns out, it’s straight out of a Julia Child cookbook, and can be easily modified into a cocktail. While watching Desk Set, I recommend drinking an Eggnog Floating Island.

Eggnog Floating Island

3 oz store-bought Eggnog (I used Trader Joe’s oat milk version)

¾ oz Dark spiced rum

¾ oz Brandy

2 cups milk

For Meringue:

3 large egg whites

¼ tsp cream of tartar

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

Ground Nutmeg (for garnish)

Edible Glitter (for garnish)

  • Combine eggnog with dark rum and brandy, pour into martini glass, and place in the fridge to chill.
  • Pour milk into a skillet, and turn on the heat to simmer.
  • Next, make the meringues. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar, and beat until they hold stiff peaks. Add sugar slowly, beating until the whites are stiff and glossy.
  • Scoop some (about the size of an egg) onto a spoon. Drop into the simmering milk on the stovetop, and cook for 2 minutes, turning meringue over halfway through. Repeat with as many other meringue scoops as you want.
  • Using a slotted spoon, transfer poached meringue to a clean towel, then onto a wax-lined sheet. Refrigerate for 1-3 hours.
  • Once the meringues have cooled and set, place one poached meringue on top of the eggnog in your martini glass. Dust with ground nutmeg and edible glitter. Serve with a small spoon.

I admit, this cocktail is a little more involved than I normally care to get. However, the holidays are always a good time to try out new recipes you don’t have time for the other eleven months of the year. And if you’re not up for anything complicated, you can always just pass a bottle of bubbly around like these boozy librarians—I’ll never tell. Cheers, and happy holidays from Cinema Sips!

The Silent Partner

Image Credit: The Silent Partner, 1978

If you’re burned out by the sentimentality and commercialization of Christmas, have I got a movie for you. The Silent Partner (Disc/Download) is an unexpected holiday find, though a fantastic one. Nothing like a little Santa bank heist to put me in the yuletide spirit!

With a screenplay by Curtis Hanson, I knew I was in for a twisty, suspenseful good time. What I didn’t expect was how dark this movie would ultimately turn out to be, like a mashup between Hitchcock and Argento. Elliott Gould plays a bank teller with a dead-end love life who stumbles onto a mall Santa’s plot to rob his local branch. In an effort to finance his exotic fish collection (yes, you read that right), he starts secretly stashing money from the bank’s till before the impending robbery occurs. When the crime actually happens, St. Nick (Christopher Plummer) walks off with a little bit of money, while Gould ends up with the real fortune. However, this mild-mannered everyman didn’t bet on Santa being a twisted sadist who will stop at nothing to get his rightful share. I won’t spoil all the surprises this movie has to offer, but let’s just say Capt. Von Trapp looks great in panty hose.

Although The Silent Partner is an extremely suspenseful movie, rest assured there are a lot of fun, campy moments too. Boobs abound in this 1970s bra-free wonderland, under everything from cheeky t-shirts (my favorite: “Penalty For Early Withdrawal”), to slinky cocktail dresses. Elliott Gould’s character is perpetually horny, but I really can’t blame him. These bankers like to party, and things get a little loose. This holiday season, let’s toast a bygone era with this Blowfish cocktail.

Blowfish

2 oz Canadian Whiskey

1 oz Lemon Juice

½ oz Crème de Cassis

½ oz Simple Syrup

1 dash Angostura Bitters

Combine all ingredients in a shaker over ice.  Shake until chilled, then strain into a tumbler with a large ice ball.

I love the Toronto location of this movie because we rarely get to watch a film shot in Canada that’s actually set in Canada. As it turns out, our neighbors to the north have a lot to offer. That list includes (but is not limited to) John Candy, funny Monopoly-looking money, and a really bizarre take on Christmas.  Cheers!

Switched for Christmas

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Image credit: Switched for Christmas, 2017

Whether you consider it a Christmas miracle or pandering gimmick, you can’t deny Hallmark set the bar high with a film featuring not just one, but TWO Candace Cameron Bures. Back when she was D.J. on Full House, crimping her hair and developing a one-day eating disorder before Kimmy’s pool party, this actress made me feel seen.  And now that she’s starring in all these Christmas movies, making cookies and wearing cute outfits, I feel seen all over again. I love planning parties, hanging with my nieces, and petting my rescue dog, so naturally I had to check out this week’s Cinema Sips pick, Switched for Christmas (Disc/Download).

I went into this expecting a standard brain-swap plot a la Freaky Friday, but was pleasantly surprised to find that no, it was just twin sisters who enjoy deceiving their friends and family. One sister likes fancy, fussy parties, while the other likes homey, sentimental parties. Each thinks the other has it easier, so they decide to switch places for the Christmas season. Because it wouldn’t be a Hallmark movie without a bland romance, the twins each find love interests, and there’s a confusing bit of name explaining at the end. I admit, I had difficulty keeping the characters straight, especially when both Candaces started dressing well and wearing their hair long and loose. Would a ponytail or side bun have been so hard??

One of the main plots involves Schlubby Candace planning a Christmas party for Fancy Candace’s real estate development firm. She enlists the help of a hunky architect (who is WAY too excited about Christmas parties), and together they make an intricate gingerbread village. Let’s enjoy a little taste of the Hallmark holidays with this Gingerbread White Russian. 

Gingerbread White Russian

2 oz Whole milk

2 oz Vanilla Vodka

2 oz Kahlua

1 1/2 tsp. Molasses

1/8 tsp Ground Ginger

Cinnamon

Sugar

Gingerbread Man Garnish

Mix the cinnamon and sugar together, and pour onto a plate. Wet the rim of a glass and dip in cinnamon/sugar. Fill with ice, and set aside.  Combine milk, vodka, Kahlua, molasses, and ginger in a shaker with ice.  Shake until chilled, then strain into prepared glass.  Top with gingerbread man.

Ultimately, I liked this extended Balsam Hill ornament commercial a whole heck of a lot.  It wasn’t too sweet or sentimental, Candace looked great (as always), and we got the added casting bonus of a Center Stage alum. I call that a win, win, win.  Cheers!

An Affair to Remember

Image credit: An Affair to Remember, 1957

If, like me, you’ve run out of Douglas Sirk films to watch, yet still feel the powerful pull of the melodrama, look no further than this week’s Cinema Sips pick An Affair to Remember (Disc/Download). With its beautiful 1950s gowns, sappy dialogue (“Winter must be cold for those with no warm memories…”), and romantic cruise ship setting, Leo McCarey has picked up where Sirk left off. Just let me grab my fur stole and champagne coupe- it’s time to set sail.

Starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr as star-crossed lovers who randomly meet on a European voyage, this film has me yearning for the days when cruising the high seas meant high fashion and sophisticated cocktails instead of buffet lines and Legionnaire’s. Kerr’s stateroom is MASSIVE, like a perfect mid-century modern time capsule, and it’s a wonder she leaves the room at all. But of course, she must leave it if she’s going to bump into the suave Cary Grant, playing American playboy Nickie Ferrante, who has one foot down the alter and another in a starving artist’s loft. He “paints pictures” the way Rock Hudson “renovates barns” in All That Heaven Allows, but I guess it doesn’t matter what hobby you turn to when you’re that good looking. People will buy whatever it is he’s selling.

Because Nickie’s family roots are in a villa along the French Riviera, I’m bringing in some Mediterranean flavors with this festive drink. While watching An Affair to Remember, I recommend drinking a Pink Champagne Life cocktail.

Pink Champagne Life

1 oz fresh-squeezed Clementine juice

4 oz Pink Champagne

2 dashes Orange Bitters

1 Sprig Rosemary

1 Clementine peel

Add clementine juice, champagne, and bitters to a coupe, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary and clementine peel.

Although parts of this movie take place at Christmas, I’ve struggled to define it as a “Christmas Movie”. I suppose if you’re looking for an excuse to drink more champagne around the holidays, you may as well pop this one in. After all, Cary always looks great near a Christmas tree. Cheers!

Dinner at Eight

Image credit: Dinner at Eight, 1933

Last year around this time, I watched Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner because I thought it was a movie about people eating. Too late, I realized my mistake (I was already three drinks in before anyone even mentioned the dining room). This year, Dinner at Eight (Disc/Download) has fooled me anew, offering all the promise of a five-course meal with none of the calories. Really, after a year of pandemic weight gain, maybe that’s a good thing. I’m not sure who in Hollywood started the trend of “movies with dinner in the title that have nothing to do with dinner,” but let me just say, I am here for it every Thanksgiving. After a big meal, the last thing I want to see is more food.

There are a lot of familiar faces in this flick (Barrymores! Glenda the Good Witch!), but the true standout is Miss Jean Harlow. As soon as she appears onscreen, lounging in a silk bed eating bon-bons in the middle of the day, I am putty in her manicured hands. She takes a character that could have been a silly throwaway and turns it into the one thing that saves this movie from being too full of itself. Harlow is radiant in her satin negligees, platinum blonde hair, and hilarious facial expressions, and I find myself waiting for other actors’ scenes to end just so she’ll come back. Dinner at Eight is built around the premise of a group of upper-crust New Yorkers gathering for a dinner party, all of them hiding their own personal secrets, but the thing that sets Jean apart is she lets it all hang out. She doesn’t have time for bras, or politeness- in other words, the ideal dinner companion.

As these neurotic people navigate bankruptcy, career suicide, alcoholism, and afternoon trysts, I can’t help but think that Millicent Jordan’s bar cart better be stocked- they’ll all need a strong drink by the time a meal is actually served! Let’s toast them with this autumnal variation on a Manhattan, the Big Apple Martini.

Big Apple Martini

2 oz Applejack Brandy

½ oz Sweet Vermouth

1 oz Apple cider

Dash of Angostura Bitters

Luxardo Maraschino cherry (for garnish)

Combine liquid ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a Luxardo Maraschino cherry.

If you’re like me, you’ll get so wrapped up in the drama of this movie that you won’t even remember these characters are eventually supposed to break bread. As the day gets longer, and eight o’clock seems oh so far away, you start to realize that in the world of Classic Hollywood dinner parties, time doesn’t exist—it’s merely a suggestion. Cheers!