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Author Archives: LizLocke

Ghost Town

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Image Credit: Ghost Town, 2008

It’s unfortunate, really, that the world has largely ignored a perfectly great autumnal New York rom-com for so many years. Nora Ephron movies usually get all the credit for long walks through a golden-hued Central Park, but I ask you to also consider the Ricky Gervais/Téa Leoni comedy Ghost Town (Disc/Download) when you’re waxing poetic about bouquets of sharpened pencils and leaves gusting across the sidewalk. I may be writing this post in the springtime, but in my opinion, a movie trip to New York in the fall is always a good idea.

It’s surprising to me that Ghost Town is not a remake of a 1930s or ‘40s comedy because it feels like something of that era, evoking films such as Here Comes Mr. Jordan, Heaven Can Wait, or even It’s a Wonderful Life. Death breeds an appreciation for life, forcing an unsympathetic character to change his pessimistic ways and let others in—in this case, surly dentist Bertram Pincus. Ricky Gervais plays Dr. Pincus with quick-witted, deadpan humor, and although not the first actor you would think of as a romantic leading man, he slowly steals a recent widow’s (Téa Leoni) heart, along with mine. After a colonoscopy mishap (kudos to the screenwriter for finding relatable humor in that situation), Bertram awakes with the ability to see dead people. Unfortunately for him, New York City is filled with ghosts trying to get messages to their grieving loved ones. One such ghost is a tuxedo’d Greg Kinnear, who died in the act of leaving one hell of an emotional wound on his wife. Can Dr. Pincus heal the hurt? Can he, as a dentist and a brilliantly funny man, fix her smile? Ahhhhhhhhh this movie is just too cute.

If you’re familiar with New York-set romantic comedies, then you’ll recognize a lot of locations in this. The filmmakers hit all the big ones—Central Park, the Egyptian Wing of the Met, cozy West Village bistro, etc. But it’s at the Carlyle Hotel bar where we learn Dr. Pincus’s favorite drink, a Pimm’s Cup. Classy Greg Kinnear tries to steer him toward a Sapphire Martini, which he grudgingly drinks, but it’s not until Téa Leoni orders her own Pimm’s later on that we know these two lonely hearts are made for each other. Matchmaking through cocktails—I love it! While watching Ghost Town, do yourself a favor and pour yourself a classic Pimm’s Cup.

Pimm’s Cup

1 ½ oz Pimm’s No. 1

2 oz Sparkling Lemonade

2 oz Ginger Beer

Cucumber ribbon

Orange and lemon slices for garnish

Fill a glass with ice and add the Pimm’s. Top with sparkling lemonade and ginger beer, stirring to combine. Garnish with cucumber ribbon and orange/lemon slices.

There are a lot of variations on this recipe, so feel free to experiment with different combinations of lemon and ginger. The main thread through all of them is Pimm’s, fresh fruit, and a sweetly sour sparkling soda. The fact that Bertram Pincus is a Pimm’s lover makes total sense to me; he’s complicated and sweet, just like his favorite cocktail. Cheers!

Insomnia

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Image Credit: Insomnia, 2002

If you’re like me, the pandemic years really messed with your sleep. Watching the film Insomnia (Disc / Download), I can relate to Al Pacino with his glassy stares and confused expressions because they’re mine. What day is it? Did I wash the conditioner out of my hair? Did I leave too many loose ends hanging on a crime I committed while delirious from lack of rest? Things I ask myself on a daily basis now.

A tight psychological thriller directed by Christopher Nolan, Insomnia stars Al Pacino as Will Dormer, a hot shot LA detective sent to Alaska to work a teenage girl’s homicide case. He’s got his own internal affairs investigation percolating back in California, but for now, he’s focused on the task at hand: find the murderer. Things get muddled when he accidentally shoots his partner, and the only witness is the killer he’s searching for. Thus begins a cat and mouse game of trying to nail the bad guy while still protecting his own secrets. Robin Williams turns in an elegant, terrifying performance as pulp novelist Walter Finch, whose real-life crimes are even more twisted than those in his books, and seeing Pacino and Williams together is akin to watching Michelangelo and DaVinci working side-by-side. Hilary Swank does her best to not get lost in their shadows, playing a local detective trying to solve crimes while magnanimously shaking off Dormer’s misogynist language. Her name isn’t “honey”—it’s Detective Burr. Learn it, Dormer.

Although there are a lot of tense scenes in this film, one of the best is set in a remote Alaskan fishing cabin shrouded in fog. As police officers chase the murderer through soupy air, visibility is about as low as the chances of making it out there alive. While watching Insomnia, I recommend drinking a Fog Cutter cocktail.

Fog Cutter

2 oz Orange Juice

1 oz Lemon Juice

½ oz Orgeat

1 ½ oz White Rum

½ oz Gin

½ oz Brandy

½ oz Amontillado sherry

Citrus wheel garnish, or fresh mint

Combine orange juice, lemon juice, orgeat, rum, gin, and brandy in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a tiki mug filled with ice. Float sherry on top, and garnish with a citrus wheel and/or mint.

Part of Dormer’s problem throughout this movie is that the summer sun never sets on this northern town. He can try to block the light out in his motel room as best he can, but like truth, it always manages to seep in. Thus when sleep comes, and it does finally come, it’s a hard won relief. Cheers!

Yours, Mine and Ours

Image Credit: Yours, Mine, and Ours, 1968

Lucille Ball is having a moment. From podcasts to documentaries to feature films, it seems the whole world is in love with Lucy again. Thanks to Nick-at-Nite reruns in the mid-90s, I’ve seen every episode of her iconic television show (including several spin-offs), so imagine my delight in discovering a more earnest side of Lucy in the hilarious romantic comedy, Yours, Mine and Ours (Disc/Download).

Don’t get me wrong—as Helen North Beardsley, Lucille Ball is still extremely funny. But it takes more than wacky facial expressions and slapstick physical comedy to handle a brood of eighteen (yes, EIGHTEEN) children. In a tale that is basically The Brady Bunch on steroids, widowed nurse Helen meets cute with widowed Naval officer Frank in the commissary, bumping their overflowing shopping carts into one another. It isn’t until later, when they finally go out on a date, that they reveal their true number of offspring- eight for her, ten for him. Setting aside all my thoughts about birth control and smart family planning, it becomes obvious that these two are made for each other. Blending their family proves a challenge, as does finding a big enough house, but as Frank and Helen prove, with enough love and a little discipline, anything is possible.

Of course with families this large, it’s not all smooth sailing. Before they can make it to the altar, Frank’s kids spike Helen’s drink so she’ll make a fool out of herself at the initial meet-and-greet. She asks for a light screwdriver and gets a mouthful of gin, scotch, vodka, and a tiny splash of OJ. Ball’s face is priceless, as is Fonda’s description of the sabotage as “the alcoholic Pearl Harbor”. Let’s come up with a tastier version of this abomination, hopefully one that won’t cause you to dump mashed potatoes onto a little girl’s lap. While watching Yours, Mine and Ours, I recommend drinking this wonderful-wonderful Screwball cocktail.

Screwball

1 oz Orange Gin

1 oz Vodka

½ oz Cointreau

½ oz Lemon Juice

½ oz Simple Syrup

1 oz Fresh-squeezed Orange Juice

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass filled with fresh ice.

If you’re celebrating the Academy Awards this year, this is a great drink to make because it references two nominees—Being the Ricardos and Licorice Pizza. Paul Thomas Anderson doesn’t specifically reference Yours, Mine and Ours in his script for LP, but Gary Valentine’s role was inspired by his childhood friend Gary Goetzman (who played Henry Fonda’s son, and one of Lucille Ball’s drink spikers in this classic film). And once you’ve gotten Nicole Kidman’s Lucy out of your system, treat yourself to the real thing. You won’t regret it. Cheers!

The World’s Fastest Indian

Image credit: The World’s Fastest Indian, 2005

If you’re looking for a solid feel-good movie this week, then you definitely want to check out the Anthony Hopkins gem The World’s Fastest Indian (Disc/Download), about legendary New Zealand motorcycle racer Burt Munro. For anyone who’s ever had a dream, but worried you’ve missed your chance to make it happen, Burt’s here to prove you wrong.

Watching this movie, I can’t help but draw comparisons to Meryl Streep’s performance in Julie & Julia. Like Julia Child, Burt Munro is here to charm even the most surly American, along with the neighbors back in New Zealand who aren’t exactly thrilled to watch him pee on his lemon tree or torch his backyard. He’s a folk hero with a heart of gold, and it’s this gregariousness that helps him get to the Bonneville Speedway in Utah with very little money, no US connections, and a forty-year-old bike held together with homemade parts and offerings to the gods of speed. They say it takes a village, and in Burt’s case, it takes a trans hotel night clerk, a used car salesman, a Native American, a Vietnam soldier on leave, a police officer, and group of pure-hearted fellow speed demons to get him to the starting line. What he does after that is pure Burt Monroe magic.

My cocktail this week is inspired by some motor oil-themed gin I was gifted recently, cleverly titled “Engine”. Check out that fun container! While watching The World’s Fastest Indian, conjure the flavor of the Bonneville salt flats with this Salted Gin Paloma.

Salted Gin Paloma

2 oz Engine Gin

1 oz Grapefruit Juice

1/2 oz Lime Juice

1/2 oz Simple Syrup

2 oz Club Soda

Lime Wedge

Salt

Prepare a glass by running a wedge of lime around the outside, then dipping in salt. Add ice, and set aside. Combine gin, grapefruit juice, lime juice, and simple syrup in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into prepared glass. Top with club soda, and stir gently to combine. Garnish with a citrus wedge.

If Burt was the underdog racer at the Bonneville Speedway in 1967, then this movie is also an underdog racing biopic. Although not as flashy as Grand Prix or Ford v. Ferrari, The World’s Fastest Indian is pure heart. Just because something is old, or doesn’t star chiseled Hollywood eye candy, don’t count it out. Bob’s your uncle- it may just win the race after all.

Chocolat

Image credit: Chocolat, 2000

Happy Valentine’s Day to all you Cinema Sips readers! Since the marketing machines want to fill us with chocolate today, I decided to lean into it with the delightful Lasse Hallström gem, Chocolat (Disc/Download). Honestly, I’m more of a sour gummies gal myself, but damned if this movie doesn’t have me rooting around in the kitchen for some leftover Lindor truffles or hell, even an opened bag of chocolate chips. Bring on the cocoa, tout suite!

Starring Juliette Binoche as chocolatiere Vianne Rocher, this begins almost like Mary Poppins, with a north wind bringing an unconventional woman and her magic chocolate ways to a small, buttoned-up French village. She wears cute, colorful 1950s dresses, and (heaven-forbid) red shoes– ALERT THE MAYOR! In opening her Mayan chocolate shop, she brings pleasure and connection to people who have been ruled by piety and fear for far too long. But in doing so, she opens herself and her young daughter up to those same connections, making it harder for them to leave on the gust of the next north wind. She meets her equal in Johnny Depp’s traveling Irish musician, who for once hasn’t hid his face behind makeup and prosthetics, and let’s just say chile-dusted chocolate isn’t the only hot thing in this movie. A sweet story that still packs an emotional punch (thanks, Judi Dench), Chocolat is like the perfect truffle- sweet, a little bitter, with a creamy center that melts in your mouth.

Speaking of chocolate treats, I decided to try my hand at Vianne’s Mayan hot chocolate. Although my instant cocoa is probably no match for hers, this recipe still warms you in the best of ways. While watching Chocolat, I recommend drinking this Spiked Mayan Hot Chocolate.

Spiked Mayan Hot Chocolate

1 packet Dark Chocolate instant powder

3 oz Water

3 oz Milk

2 oz Sotol

1/2 oz Chocolate Liqueur

1/4 tsp Chili Powder

1/4 tsp Cinnamon

3 dashes Aztec chocolate bitters

Cinnamon Stick garnish

Combine all ingredients in a pan on the stovetop, stirring until warm and combined. Pour into a mug and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Vianne claims her hot chocolate has no booze, to which Judi Dench’s eccentric Armande calls bullshit, but I have no problem admitting to jazzing my cup up with some Sotol, a delicious cousin of Mezcal. Whether you like your chocolate spiked or not, this recipe will make you feel like you’re sitting in the Chocolaterie Maya, gossiping over mugs of warm goodness and a slice of cake, all made with pure love. Cheers!

Ghost

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Image credit: Ghost, 1990

We all know the infamous scene. Patrick Swayze spoons Demi Moore with his body as she’s throwing a pot on the wheel, unapologetically ruining her hard work, but it’s okay because he’s PATRICK-freaking-SWAYZE. “Unchained Melody” plays in the background as their hands get messy with wet clay, and the foreplay quickly heats up. Ghost (Disc/Download) is a romantic, sexy film, but it’s also so much more than that. Paranormal thriller, murder mystery, comedy, heist—this one straddles genres like Demi straddles that wheel, and I dare you to find the person who doesn’t like at least something about this movie.

Meanwhile, there are those (okay, me) who like everything about this movie. The heartfelt romance between Swayze and Moore’s characters, the sweet friendship ghost-Patrick finds in the unlikeliest of places with psychic Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg), the twisty-turny murder plot, and yes, even the special effects. Although nowhere near as polished as what we’d see today, for 1990 they were fairly impressive. And let’s not forget the script, which only hits harder with each passing year. Now that I know what it feels like to lose a loved one, I understand the desperation in these characters in a way I couldn’t have thirty years ago. They’d give anything for one more second, one more touch, one last opportunity to say what they’re feeling. This movie isn’t selling love, or redemption, or revenge, but rather… hope. Hope that “one more second” is possible.

I know a lot of people don’t believe in ghosts, but I am not among them. In fact, I have one that haunts my home bar (no joke). Swizzle sticks have moved on their own, ice tongs have clattered to the ground, and the dog once growled at a bottle of Cointreau like it was a poltergeist. So let’s celebrate my inebriated invisible friend with this silver-toned tiki cocktail, the Ghost Orchid.

Ghost Orchid

2 oz Silver Demerara Rum

¾ oz Lime Juice

¾ oz Pineapple Juice

½ oz Crème de Violette

½ oz Orgeat

Lime wheel and orchid flower for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a hurricane glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a fresh orchid and dried lime wheel.

As someone who is married to a potter, I can tell you the wheel scene is not as sexy as it appears. They don’t show the clay-splattered laundry, the dust tracks all over the floor, or the never-ending piles of cups and saucers littering the kitchen counter. But you know what is sexy? A person who can make something with their hands, who sees what others can’t. Who sees the potential, the hope, even in a wet ball of mud. Because maybe, that person sees the same hope in you too. Cheers!

A Knight’s Tale

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Image credit: A Knight’s Tale, 2001

After sitting through Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel (2021), which has been measured and found very wanting, I decided to put on a much more upbeat picture featuring armored men on horseback with sharp objects. A fun addition to Heath Ledger’s tragically short filmography, A Knight’s Tale (Disc/Download) is what happens when a director who is not Baz Luhrmann wants to make a Baz Luhrmann-style movie set at the Renaissance Festival. Is it perfect? No. But the music will remind you of your dad’s favorite classic rock station, and Heath is a great onscreen kisser. This, of course, makes it worth our time.

Closely resembling the feral child in Mad Max for the first chunk of the story, Heath plays William Thacker, a poor squire to a noble jouster. When the nobleman suddenly dies, William decides to take his place in the tournaments. He is aided by his fellow squires and struggling writer Geoffrey Chaucer, who has falsified documents declaring the peasant to be Sir Ulrich von Lichtenstein of Gelderland. William cuts those unflattering dreadlocks, gets some fancy armor made by a feisty Scotswoman, and practices his jousting to the tune of War’s “Low Rider”. This is a true rags-to-riches story as William aims to change the stars of destiny that would have him remain a poor servant. He must defeat frequent film villain Rufus Sewell while still holding onto the one thing that has gotten him this far, against all odds- his pure heart.

If you want a drink inspired by the changing of one’s stars, look no further than this classic apple brandy-based cocktail. It feels period-appropriate to me, and after enough of these, you may be line dancing along to David Bowie’s “Golden Years” right along with Heath and Shannyn Sossamon. While watching A Knight’s Tale, I recommend drinking this classic Star cocktail.

Star

1 ½ oz Apple Brandy

1 ½ oz Sweet Vermouth

3 dashes Angostura Bitters

¼ oz Simple Syrup

Pinch Edible Glitter

Dried lemon wheel (for garnish)

Combine apple brandy, vermouth, bitters, simple syrup, and glitter in a shaker with ice. Stir until chilled, then strain into a glass. Garnish with a lemon wheel.

While this movie doesn’t quite get me over the hump of actually wanting to attend the Ren Fest, it’s an enjoyable way to experience the time period from the privacy of my own home. And if you needed any more encouragement, let Heath in leather chaps be the thing that tempts you to press Play. Cheers!

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!