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Category Archives: Action/Adventure/Heist

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

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Image credit: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Sometimes, you just need a good excuse for a Tiki cocktail. And what better excuse than Walt Disney’s CinemaScope extravaganza 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Disc/Download)? With island names like Volcania, and talk of “grog”, this movie seems like a perfect match for drinks involving fire and rum. Let’s climb aboard the Nautilus and pour one out!

Starring James Mason as Captain Nemo, with Peter Lorre, Paul Lukas, and Kirk Douglas as the men tasked with investigating a mysterious “sea monster”, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is based on the Jules Verne novel about the adventures of a futuristic underwater ship in the 19th century. What makes this such a joy to watch is the sheer opulence of the production design, with pipe organs, circular viewing portals, and grand salons not often found below deck. Additionally, the cinematic practical effects make this a true fantasy experience. You can practically taste the saltwater coming off that giant attacking squid, or feel the warmth of a lush, blue, tropical isle thirty seconds before the natives attack.

Speaking of tropical, with location shooting taking place in the Bahamas and Jamaica, a rum-based drink is practically required. This one is a slight variation of the Sea Serpent’s Embrace, served at Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar in Disneyland. In a fun twist, I’m setting it on fire by using a hollowed-out lime filled with overproof rum. When watching 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, I recommend drinking this Volcania cocktail.

Volcania

1 ½ oz Dark Rum

1 ½ oz Gold Rum

¾ oz Gin

¾ oz Brandy

¾ oz Falernum

½ oz Passionfruit Syrup

1 oz Lime Juice

1 oz Orange Juice

1 oz Pineapple Juice

16 oz Crushed Ice, divided

½ Hollowed-out lime

½ oz Overproof Rum

Combine all ingredients with a cup of ice in a shaker. Shake until chilled, then strain over a glass filled with a fresh cup of ice. Top with half a hollowed-out lime filled with overproof rum. Light it on fire.

If sexy, bearded James Mason in a tight knit turtleneck does it for you, then you’ll definitely want to give this film a watch. Even if you’re not into sci-fi, there’s enough adventure in this to make 20,000 Leagues worth your time. It is, indeed, a whale of a tale. 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.

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!

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!

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!

Tremors

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Image Credit: Tremors, 1990

If you follow along with Cinema Sips on social media, then you know the pandemic ushered in a new weekly tradition in my house: Bad Movie Friday. While I may have started out watching disaster movies in an attempt to make myself feel better about the actual disaster happening just outside my door, eventually this evolved into a weekly date with a pepperoni pizza and so-bad-it’s-good cinema, covering everything from Armageddon to Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, to The Stuff. To be clear, I actually love most of the movies I’ve watched on BMF, including this week’s blog pick, Tremors (Disc/Download). Just because it’s “bad” doesn’t mean it can’t be entertaining.

Believe it or not, I’d never actually seen Tremors before last week. But now… I’m hooked! Thank goodness my library copy came with Tremors I, II, III, AND IV because I absolutely must find out what happens to the residents of Perfection, Nevada and their subterranean killer worms. Had I known Kevin Bacon had a starring role as Valentine McKee, or that Reba McEntire plays a survivalist badass, I probably would have watched this movie a long time ago. Also, with its string of laugh-out-loud lines and Kevin’s hillbilly accent, I was in deep danger of snorting my drink. Standout quote? “I found the ass end!” Cinema gold, I tell you.

Speaking of drinks, a little bit of research yielded the interesting fact that this movie’s original concept title was “Land Sharks” because these worm/snake Graboid creatures behaved like sharks on dry land. Autumn is the perfect time for a beer shandy cocktail, so I’m combining a little Landshark Lager with a twist on the classic Nevada cocktail. While watching Tremors, I recommend drinking a Landshark Bite.

Landshark Bite

6 oz Landshark Beer

2 oz Grapefruit Juice

1 oz Gold Rum

1/2 oz Lime Juice

1/2 oz Simple Syrup

Grapefruit Bitters

Gummy Worm (for garnish)

Build drink over ice, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with a gummy worm.

If, like me, you feel like collapsing by the end of the work week, I highly recommend the Bad Movie Friday tradition. It’s nice to shut the brain off for a couple hours, not think about whether a plot or a character makes sense, and just let the special effects and campy acting carry you away. And if you need an excuse to have that extra drink, just know a little more alcohol can only make these movies better. Cheers!

The Great Escape

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Image credit: The Great Escape, 1963

This might make me a traitor to the 1960s, but I’ve never totally understood the lure of Steve McQueen. After watching several of his films recently… I still don’t. (side note: am I the only one who realizes this man had a terribly unflattering haircut???). However, this week’s film The Great Escape (Disc/Download) is so much more than just a McQueen vehicle (pun-intended). Rather, it’s a well-choreographed ensemble piece that surprised me at every turn.

First, I assumed that a movie about military prisoners in World War II-era Germany would feature scene after scene of torture and random killings at the hands of the Nazis. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. The film opens with a jaunty Elmer Bernstein score, where we catch our first glimpse of a POW camp that encourages gardening and crafts instead of starvation and forced labor. It’s all so… civilized? I was slightly amazed by how frequently the prisoners are left to their own devices, allowing them time to dig three tunnels, sew new clothes, forge documents, and manufacture gadgets to aid in their escape. My second surprise was that although McQueen gets top billing, he doesn’t necessarily get the most screen time. I actually thought Charles Bronson and James Coburn were the true MVPs of the cast. Watching Bronson crawl through those tunnels with his RIPPED arm muscles was a sight to behold, and I can’t help but be reminded of my late father, who served as a tunnel rat in Vietnam. Now it makes sense to me why he owned this movie (and why I’ve now inherited it)- it wasn’t about McQueen. It was always about The Tunnel King.

You’d think alcohol would have no place in a POW camp, but remember this is a civilized camp. Prisoners make their own hooch with the potatoes they’ve grown, which serves two purposes—getting rid of the excavated tunnel dirt, plus letting off a little steam. This week, pay tribute to those Allied prisoners of The Great Escape with this Dirty Martini!

Dirty Martini

2 ½ oz Potato Vodka

½ oz Dry Vermouth

½ oz Olive Brine

Olives for garnish

Combine vodka, vermouth, and olive brine in a shaker with ice. Stir until well chilled and combined, then strain into a martini glass. Garnish with olives.

It’s so interesting that the escapees didn’t just want their freedom—rather, they wanted to force the Nazis into devoting valuable resources to recover the prisoners. In that sense, the escape was successful. Yes, it has an unsatisfying ending for some of the characters, but nevertheless, this remains a fantastic cinematic example of what it means to be brave, selfless, and strong. Cheers!

Snowpiercer

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Image credit: Snowpiercer, 2013

It takes a lot to suck me into a story where everyone is cold, dirty, and unhappy, so it goes without saying that I was not expecting to love this week’s film Snowpiercer (Disc/Download). But after my initial watch, I remember turning the television off, staring at the blank screen, and breathing a single word- “Wow.”

Recently adapted for the small screen, Bong Joon-ho’s dystopian sci-fi action film has many similar themes to his 2019 hit, Parasite (which I also loved). Class warfare takes center stage as Chris Evans leads an army of peasants from the back of a continuously moving train, to the front section where rich folks enjoy such luxuries as sushi and saunas. This locomotive carries the last remaining humans on earth (after climate change and man’s follies have turned it into a subzero wasteland), and instead of a peaceful egalitarian community of survivors, overlord Wilfred has created a closed loop ecosystem of haves and have-nots. With a cast that includes Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, Jamie Bell, and Ed Harris, just to name a few, Snowpiercer is that rare movie that keeps me on my toes from beginning to end. But beyond the flashy action sequences, there’s a real sense of pain and hope and desperation to these characters that makes me want to keep watching. I’ve got to see if there’s an end to this terrible trip.

Throughout Snowpiercer, food is used as a metaphor for the characters’ privilege, or lack thereof. From Ed Harris’s steaks to Tilda’s rare sushi, down to the gelatinous bug bars that the tailies consume (sorry, “protein bars”), this train’s menu is all over the place. I had a little fun this week with the protein bar theme, making a snack fit for us alcoholic peasants. While watching Snowpiercer, I recommend trying a Boozy Bar.

Boozy Bar

3/4 cup Water

1/3 cup Vodka

1/2 cup Jell-O (any flavor)

1 tsp Activated Charcoal Powder

Boil water and vodka together, then stir in charcoal powder and Jell-O. Remove from heat, and stir until gelatin is dissolved- about 2 minutes. Pour into block molds, and chill overnight. When firm, carefully run a knife around the inside of the molds and turn the blocks out onto a plate. Slice and enjoy!

This film always leaves me with a lot to think about, such as how castes can have a symbiotic relationship, each of us relying on the other to survive, whether we realize it or not. I have no idea which section I’d be relegated to on this train, but dear God let’s hope it’s not the nursery school. Now that would truly be my dystopian nightmare. Cheers!

Bottle Rocket

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Image credit: Bottle Rocket, 1996

Longtime readers of Cinema Sips know I’m a sucker for any movie with a pool, and now that the weather’s warming up, I’m ready for an onscreen dip. Bottle Rocket (Disc/Download) manages to make a crappy motel pool look like Shangri-La, and although the comedic heist script is an absolute joy, let’s be clear—I’m mainly here for the swimming.

Despite the fact that Bottle Rocket was never a commercial success, critics nevertheless came away from initial screenings with the sense that this was the start of something major. The symmetry; the Mark Mothersbaugh soundtrack; the deadpan comedy style; the saturated colors—all hallmarks of Wes Anderson’s unique body of work. This film is the genesis, a place where we can come to view tiny glimpses of his brilliance, feeling like we just entered a world that’s somehow better than our own (even though it’s just a nondescript, forgettable Texas town). Small is the word I keep coming back to—small budget, small-time crooks, small in scope; however, the movie leaves me with BIG feelings. The romance between Luke Wilson’s character Anthony and the motel maid Inez is so beautiful, it’s enough to make even the worst skeptic believe in love at first sight. That pure, simple moment when you realize the person you love feels the same way in return—like a bottle rocket exploding in your heart.

Of course it wouldn’t be a Wes Anderson movie without a zany cast of secondary characters, one of which is simply called Applejack. It’s a tiny role, but pivotal to the final heist of the film. And lucky for me, cocktail-inspiring as well.  While watching Bottle Rocket, cool off with an Applejack Collins.

Applejack Collins

1 ½ oz Applejack Brandy

½ oz Orgeat

½ oz Lemon Juice

3 oz Club Soda

Combine Applejack, orgeat, and lemon juice in a shaker with ice.  Shake until chilled, then strain into a Collins glass over fresh ice.  Top with club soda and stir gently to combine.

I’ve talked a lot about how this was the start of Wes Anderson’s career, but let’s not forget brothers Owen and Luke Wilson, who also broke into Hollywood with Bottle Rocket. With their Texas drawls, dented noses, and good hair, the Wilsons were practically destined for stardom. Lucky for us, this weird little ‘90s indie film had enough fuel to propel them up there.  Cheers!

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

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Image Credit: The Man from U.N.C.L.E., 2015

I can think of a lot of films deserving of a sequel that never came, but at the top of my list is Guy Ritchie’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Disc/Download). A cult-classic within the romance genre community, this 1960s-inspired spy thriller was born to have as many offshoots as Mission: Impossible or Danny Ocean’s crew. Why didn’t it? Because someone in Hollywood clearly hates me.

But seriously, what was the problem??? If I had to guess, I’d say that people just weren’t ready for such a cinematic love letter to the sixties. After all, most of the classic television shows that spawned successful movie franchises have all been updated for modern times. What’s great about The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is that it recreates the era in which the original series took place, probably to a great deal of time and expense on the part of the studio. However, you simply can’t deny the appeal and beauty of this aesthetic. The Pierre Cardin-inspired dresses modeled by Alicia Vikander are my dream wardrobe, and if you’ve never seen Henry Cavill in an expertly tailored vintage suit… well, let’s just say you better keep an ice bucket on hand. And speaking of hot, can we talk about that dance between Vikander and Armie Hammer? She’s a cheeky British operative in disguise, he’s a no-nonsense KGB agent, but put them in a luxury hotel room with pajamas and a song from Dirty Dancing, and the result is a scene that’s forever etched into my brain. In my house, we don’t call this flick The Man from U.N.C.L.E. We call it, “Sexy Pajama Slap-Dance Movie”.

Because the action largely takes place around Rome, I decided to make a cocktail that’s bright, sparkling, and reflective of the Eternal City. While watching The Man from U.N.C.L.E., I recommend drinking a classic Negroni Spagliato.

Negroni Spagliato

1 oz Campari

1 oz Sweet Vermouth

3 oz Prosecco

Orange Slice (Garnish)

Build drink over a large ice cube, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with a slice of orange.

Although we’ll probably never get a direct sequel to this film, I’m happy to report that Guy Ritchie managed to sneak some nods to U.N.C.L.E. in his latest release, The Gentlemen. It features a badass female mechanic, a cast of hot men, classic tailoring, a well-curated soundtrack, and even a Man from U.N.C.L.E. movie poster hanging in the background! This might be Ritchie’s way of closing the book on U.N.C.L.E., but I’m still clinging to any sign that we’ve not yet reached the end of the road for Solo and Kuryakin. After all, we still have Nazis to fight, and hot men still gotta work. Cheers!