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Category Archives: Action/Adventure/Heist

Twister

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twister

Image credit: Twister, 1996

Sometimes, you just want a big, dumb blockbuster where everybody’s crisis is far greater than your own. Enter the 1996 CGI-cow extravaganza, Twister (Disc/Download). Part romance, part thriller, part comedy (thanks, Philip Seymour Hoffman!), part domestic drama, this movie attempts to be all things to all people. Call it the great cinematic equalizer- no matter who you are, you can find something to like about this tornado disaster flick.

Here’s the thing: I love Helen Hunt. I love everything she’s ever done, and I don’t understand why we can’t have more Helen Hunt. Paired with Bill Paxton (RIP), she truly shines- even in unfortunate clothes from the Gap. In the midst of a half-hearted divorce, she and Paxton banter as well as Hepburn and Grant in The Philadelphia Story, immediately conveying to the audience that his new fiancé won’t make it to the end credits. As they bicker and flirt, these two scientists are also in a race to put a tracking device in a tornado, the ultimate goal being better data and modeling. Eventually the skies turn dark, the cows and pickup trucks start flying, and we’re left on the edge of our seats to see how close they can get without being sucked into the vortex.

As the movie progresses, the twisters get bigger and badder. The ultimate storm is an F5, something that’ll destroy everything in its path. Unless of course you tether yourself to a water pipe with a cheap leather belt- then you’re fine. The world will explode around you, fire and sharp objects will rain down, but your Gap khakis will remain wrinkle-free. While watching Twister, I recommend drinking this spicy F5 Margarita.

F5 Margarita

3 oz Habanero tequila (Infuse Reposado tequila with a few slices of habanero pepper for 1 hour, then strain).

1 oz Paula’s Texas Orange liqueur

1/2 oz Agave Syrup

1 1/2 oz Lime Juice

1 Tbsp Chili Powder

1 Tbsp Salt

Dried Lime garnish

Combine chili powder and salt on a small plate. Run the edge of a lime around the rim of your glass, then dip in the chili salt. Fill glass with ice, and set aside.  Fill a shaker with ice, habanero tequila, orange liqueur, agave, and lime juice. Shake until chilled, then strain into prepared glass. Garnish with a dried lime slice.

Twister is a great summer blockbuster that still holds up, even though some of the science and technology seem pretty antiquated by now. What allows this film to stand the test of time is the fantastic acting and a script that actually puts  human relationships first, rather than special effects.  Flying cows are great and all, but what I really want is a happy ending for these two crazy exes. Cheers!

A Life Less Ordinary

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A Life Less Ordinary

Image Credit: A Life Less Ordinary, 1997

Exactly as advertised by the title, forgotten ’90s romantic thriller A Life Less Ordinary (Disc/Download) is truly anything but ordinary. If you like your love stories with a dash of kidnapping, attempted murder, black comedy, and a pair of cursing angels, then this one’s for you.

Directed by Danny Boyle and starring Ewan McGregor, this film initially fell victim to high expectations. People went in hoping for another Trainspotting, and came out wondering what the hell just happened. Yes, the soundtrack is as superb as their previous film together, but that’s where the similarities end. In A Life Less Ordinary, Ewan McGregor plays a janitor and aspiring romance novelist (!!!) who falls on hard times. He takes his boss’s daughter hostage (Cameron Diaz), not realizing she’s a feisty badass who wants to piss off Daddy. The two scheme to get the ransom money, while falling deeper in lust with one another. Meanwhile, they get some help from a couple of potty-mouthed angels (Holly Hunter and Delroy Lindo) who are on a mission to unite two humans in true love. The plot meanders at times, but McGregor and Diaz have such great chemistry that you keep on rooting for them, especially when he serenades her at a karaoke bar. I cannot resist Ewan McGregor singing. Ever. Also, given the stir that Stanley Tucci’s arms have created during quarantine, I feel it’s important to mention his shirtless scenes in this film. Do with that information what you will.

When we first meet Cameron Diaz’s character Celine, she’s playing a game of William Tell with her butler, a gun, and an apple. Let’s honor her marksmanship with this cocktail that combines apple cider, fiery tequila, and scotch- the Poco Loco.

Poco Loco

1 oz Habenero-infused Añejo tequila (Infuse tequila with a few slices of habanero pepper for 1 hr, then strain)

½ oz Scotch

1 ½ oz Apple Cider

½ oz Lime Juice

½ oz Simple Syrup

Dried Apple Slice for garnish

Pour all liquid ingredients into a shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with apple slice.

Poco Loco

There are a lot of strange elements to this film, but A Life Less Ordinary is still one of my favorite romances. It posits the theory that love isn’t just two people randomly meeting and making it work, but a supernatural occurrence as well. Call it destiny, call it divine intervention, call it the work of two fallen angels who just want to get off this garbage dump we call Earth, but Perfect Love is out there, even if it looks a little crazy sometimes. Cheers!

Mad Max: Fury Road

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Mad Max: Fury Road

Image credit: Mad Max: Fury Road, 2015.

Chris Locke, for Splotch! here, guest correspondent for Cinema Sips (and husband of Liz Locke).

On the surface, Mad Max: Fury Road (Disc/Download) is a two-hour car chase, with a heavy dose of shoot-em-up, which makes it easy to see why my wife skipped seeing it in favor of some Jane Austen / Currer Bell movie with lots of stuffy accents and wooden buttons.  But Proust and Joyce don’t really fit the Splotchlife Criteria for Good Movies.

Three ingredients indicate huge potential for a high-quality movie.  Dust, dried blood, and fast cars.  It’s not that all good movies have these things, or that all movies with these things are good.  It’s just that in the Venn Diagram of Good Movies, there is a huge overlap between the circles that contain them.*

The problem is, my wife judged this movie based on the trailer, which doesn’t serve it justice.  Mad Max: Fury Road is a wild ride filled with themes of redemption, reluctant commitment, survival of the underdog, and once the viewer realizes it’s really not about Max, the whole thing changes.  This is the story of Furiosa, a tough-as-nails woman risking her life to save other more vulnerable women.  And where does she take them?  To the land of women, of course!  It’s an authentic feminist dream wrapped in an action burrito of explosions and motorcycles, and when you look for the parallel romance stories (between Nux and Capable, but also the classic “enemies-to-lovers” pairing of Max and Furiosa), there is certainly enough to entertain any open-minded person.

Still not convinced? Look at it as an allegory of our current times. The whole story revolves around a bunch of warmongering starving diseased sycophants blindly following a sadistic obese tyrannical maniac who causes their hardships, hoards the resources, holds the power to save the people, and convinces the less fortunate to blame themselves.  “Do not, my friends, become addicted to water. It will take hold of you, and you will resent its absence!” he says, as he dumps their most precious resource down the side of a dirty rock cliff, then shuts it off before they can get what they need.  This guy is a real piece of work.

The main characters try to escape their situation and then (SPOILER ALERT) realize the best thing they can do is not to escape, but to go back to where they live and fix it.  They overthrow the tyrannical government and give the people what they need.  It’s a real breath of fresh air, especially given the situation we are currently suffering through.  The greatest thing that comes from this movie: the message that you don’t have to escape.  You can stay and fight for change.

My wife has come around on this movie, but she needed a frozen beverage to do it. She said all the dust and heat made her uncomfortable. Even while we were sitting in air conditioning. Whatever. So if you’re a ninny, watch Mad Max: Fury Road with this Frozen Milk Punch. If you’re a real man, sprinkle some dirt in a rusty can of warm water and call it a day.

Frozen Milk Punch

1 cup Whole Milk

1/2 cup Bourbon

1 cup Crushed Ice

1 tsp Vanilla extract

2 Tbsp Simple syrup

1 cup Vanilla Ice Cream

Grated Nutmeg

Blend together first six ingredients until creamy. Garnish with a pinch of grated nutmeg.

Frozen Milk Punch

*Footnote: Secondary indicators include (but not limited to) apocalypse, kidnapping, homemade weapons.  Tertiary indicators include amateur surgery and a scene where the protagonist hangs upside-down from a moving vehicle with their face inches off the ground.  Unfortunately, this movie does not contain any of the following: a cop close to retirement, a vendetta, a briefcase full of unmarked bills, Nicholas Cage, double cross, horses (as transportation, never as pets), a time bomb, or a heist.  The salvation of the harem may be interpreted as a caper for academic purposes.

Panic Room

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Panic Room

Image credit: Panic Room, 2002.

During the initial days of Covid-19 and the ensuing food/supply shortages, I panicked. Not knowing how long I’d be trapped inside my house, or under what conditions, I stocked up on pain reliever, tonic water, and white wine (the essentials). Maybe seeing paper goods and yeast already gone from the shelves made me nervous. Or maybe I’d just seen this week’s film Panic Room (Disc/Download) one too many times.

You see, in this 2002 thriller directed by David Fincher, Jodie Foster and Kristen Stewart would have been FINE if only they’d been prepared. Instead, Foster has to open the door of their panic room to a crew of murderous thieves because her daughter didn’t pack her insulin. Which then leads poor K-Stew to be trapped in a tiny room with Forest Whitaker and Dwight Yoakam (the country music star who, after almost twenty years, remains this movie’s greatest casting mystery). Granted, they only moved in a few hours before the break-in. But as someone who saw once saw world order collapse in front of her eyes in the HEB toilet paper aisle, I’m now a firm believer in being ready for anything.

Unfortunately, in this film, alcohol leads to sloppiness. Jodie Foster’s character Meg spends the evening drowning her divorce sorrows with a bottle of red wine, as her hip, androgynous daughter smirks over Diet Coke and pizza. Maybe if she’d had the wine and Coke together, she wouldn’t be so out of it when the robbers arrive. While watching Panic Room, I recommend drinking this Kalimotxo cocktail.

Kalimotxo

3-4 oz Red Wine (I use Tempranillo)

3-4 oz Mexican Cola with cane sugar

Lemon Slice

Build drink over ice, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with a slice of lemon.

Kalimotxo

I give Meg a lot of grief for not being prepared, but actually I’m quite impressed by her MacGyver capabilities in a crisis. Hard wiring a phone to call out? Creating a fireball that’ll vent outside the panic room? These are not things I could do myself. But give me alcohol, mixers, and ice, and I promise to make us all a lot more calm. Cheers!

Back to the Future

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Back to the Future

Image credit: Back to the Future, 1985.

I don’t know about you, but I could really use a trip right now. A trip back to a time before Covid-19 exploded across the world and cancelled everything. A particular disappointment for me personally has been the cancellation of the 2020 Turner Classic Movies Film Fest, which was my big surprise Christmas gift from a VERY generous husband. I’d wanted to attend for years, and now… I have to wait another year. To take the sting out of this huge disappointment, and to keep me entertained while I’m social-distancing at home, I’ll be featuring several of the movies I’d been looking forward to seeing at the festival this month. First up is Back to the Future! (Disc/Download)

In case there was any doubt, this is a MOVIE. A big, epic flick that was meant for popcorn and a packed theater. I had to make do at home by watching it on LaserDisc, but honestly this giant record-sized disc really brought the ’80s to my living room. As Huey Lewis began to sing about the Power of Love, and Marty McFly made googly eyes at the girl with the great hair, I remembered why I love this movie so much. It’s got all the flash and magic of a big-budget Hollywood production, but it’s also got heart. Imagine being able to meet your parents as teenagers, or even your grandparents when they were just middle-aged; knowing them as people and not just photographs? And what if you could change the course of history and make the present day just a little bit better? I personally wish the DeLorean could take us back to 2016 so Marty could help us defeat another misogynistic bully, but maybe that stuff only happens in the movies. Or…Back to the Future Part 4???

Lest we forget, none of this time travel would be possible without Doc Brown. He figured out the plutonium/Flux Capacitor stuff, and even put his life on the line with a van full of Libyan terrorists (yeah, things were weird in the eighties). Let’s honor him with this simple Doc Brown’s White Lightning.

Doc Brown’s White Lightning

4 oz Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda

1.5 oz Sugarlands Shine Hazelnut Rum

1 scoop Vanilla Ice Cream (optional)

Fill a glass with ice and pour in Hazelnut Rum. Add cream soda, and stir gently to combine. Top with Vanilla Ice Cream, if desired.

White Lightning

I don’t have a DeLorean, or a Flux Capacitor, but I do have something even more incredible: movies. It’s classic movies like Back to the Future that will get us through this tough time, and remind us that great art can’t be cancelled. It lives on, through LaserDisc, DVD, Blu-Ray, Streaming, and eventually someday again, a big theater filled with popcorn and people.  Cheers!

 

John Wick

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John Wick

Image credit: John Wick, 2014

I did the unthinkable recently when I sat down to watch all three John Wick movies, back-to-back. Six hours of Keanu Reeves, guns, and dogs. Of course I was drunk for this. If you’ve been on the fence about watching this franchise, I’m here to tell you… it’s not that bad.

I resisted these movies for a long time because I didn’t think I could watch a constant stream of bullets flying, bodies falling down like dominoes, and the visual illustration that human lives are expendable. The thing that finally sold me was Keanu. He’s the epitome of Hollywood action star, with his brooding looks and expensive suits. The plots get wilder with each installment, but at their essence they’re all about revenge. Whether it’s John Wick getting revenge on the people who killed his dog and stole his beloved car, or other people getting revenge for the ones Wick has killed, nobody can let anything go. It’s all very black-and-white, which makes the bold cinematography even more impressive. These gunfights could have taken place in an empty parking lot and people still would have watched. But by setting them in a hall of mirrors, or a glass box full of other glass boxes, I want to watch.

As I’ve said, there is a very unfortunate doggie death setting the whole chain of events in motion. It’s brutal. But Keanu does a truly heroic thing at the end of the first film by adopting a shelter dog. Sure, he kind of abandons it in the next two films, but I suppose waiting in a taxi or hotel is preferable to waiting around in a cage at the pound. While watching John Wick, I recommend drinking this Rescue Dog cocktail.

Rescue Dog

1.5 oz Grapefruit Vodka (I like Frankly Organic Vodka)

.5 oz Aperol

.5 oz Lime Juice

3 dashes Grapefruit Bitters

2 oz Sparkling Wine

Combine Vodka, Aperol, and lime juice, and bitters in a shaker with ice.  Shake until chilled, then strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Top with sparkling wine and stir gently.

As far as I can tell, John is not a big drinker. But he does spend an awful lot of time in dark nightclubs, so the cocktail culture is definitely there. I encourage you to watch these with a drink (or several), and remember- adopt don’t shop. Cheers!

Out of Sight

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out of sight

Image credit: Out of Sight, 1998

I tend to spend a lot of time explaining the romance genre to people.  The books I read (and attempt to write) usually feature intelligent, capable heroines who find love in unexpected places, and never compromise their own integrity for a roll in the hay.  Elmore Leonard and Steven Soderbergh tackled romantic suspense with this week’s film Out of Sight (DVD/Download).  And the weird thing is, they got it SO RIGHT.

I’m going to warn all you ladies who are still mourning the loss of bachelor George Clooney- he is at absolute peak sexiness in this film. As Jack Foley, the bank robber with a heart of gold, he’s charming, a little dangerous, and oh so chivalrous. When he meets-cute with Jennifer Lopez’s federal marshal Karen Sisco, sparks fly along with bullets. They’re trapped in the trunk of a car together, and instead of copping a feel, he banters with her about old movies. Be still my heart! Karen follows him from Miami to Detroit, Jack gets caught up in a burglary gone bad, and even when things get dark (as they always do in an Elmore Leonard novel), Lopez and Clooney still share a crackling chemistry.

One of my favorite scenes is when these two star-crossed lovers pretend to be strangers in a bar, just for one night. With the snow falling outside, they’ve got bourbon and a steamy attraction to keep them warm. Let’s keep this cocktail simple with just a dash of ginger liqueur.

Bourbon & Ginger

2 oz Bourbon

.75 oz Ginger Liqueur

Combine bourbon and ginger liqueur over a large ice cube. Stir to chill.

Out of Sight is smart, sexy, and everything I love about romance. As Jack says, you’d be surprised what you can get when you ask for it the right way. Hollywood- I’d like more films where love is inconvenient, yet unavoidable. I want an intelligent script, and I want the heroine to be a total badass. And if it’s not too much to ask, I would like more Don Cheadle. Is that clear enough?  Cheers!

Guest Post: The Running Man

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running man

Image credit: The Running Man, 1987

Greetings CinemaSips readers!  This post has been guest-written by the semi-sophisticated gentleman at Splotch!  The opinions expressed herein may not necessarily reflect those of Cinema Sips or its affiliates.

Let me tell you some of the things I love about The Running Man (DVD/Download).

This movie really knows how to get the party started. Arnold Schwarzenegger refuses to blow up some rioters, which leads to a military-grade fistfight in a flying helicopter with no doors!  It’s insane.  And it only gets better.  Arnold (The Butcher of Bakersfield) is sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. But nobody’s ever built a prison that can hold the Governator.  He stays almost long enough for the opening credits, but there aren’t enough faces to punch.  So he leaves prison, meets the love of his life, goes to the airport, and somehow ends up on a TV game show.  (I know, it sounds too good to be true.)  As it turns out, the game show is the perfect vehicle for Arnold to show off his unparalleled mastery of the one-liner.

Here are some other things I love about The Running Man:

  • Dystopian Hawaiian shirt (Arnold’s second worst look ever)
  • A Danish strongman named Sven plays a strong Danish man named Sven
  • The original host of Family Feud watches an old lady drop the F bomb on live TV
  • Professor Tanaka (AKA the butler from PeeWee’s Big Adventure) plays hockey
  • Cigar-chomping Schwarzenegger in a beard and suspenders (his best look ever)
  • Frank Zappa’s son and the drummer from Fleetwood Mac make a great team
  • A Venezuelan singer squares off against an electrified stalker in tighty whities

There’s so much I can say about this movie, I feel like I’ve just barely scratched the surface.  The deeper you dig, the deeper it goes.  But in the interest of brevity, let’s get to the drink.

The Plain Zero

2 oz silver tequila

1 oz Maraschino Liqueur

1 oz lime juice

Luxardo Maraschino cherries, in syrup

Fill a glass with crushed ice.  Put the boozy stuff in about halfway.  Drizzle cherry syrup on top.  Look into the nearest camera and yell “NOW PLAIN ZERO!”

I hope you enjoy this movie as much as I do.  And if you need more help living the Semi-Sophisticated Life, head over to Splotch!

Batman

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Joker with cocktail

Image Credit: Batman, 1989

Cinema Sips has always had a bit of a female bias (yes, yes, I like pink drinks and rom-coms- what a crime), but this month, I’ll be shaking things up by watching “Man” movies.  That’s right- the ones I’ve rolled my eyes at, checked my phone during, and thought, God there needs to be more women in this. But maybe with a cocktail, I’ll feel more generous. Kicking things off is the classic superhero film Batman (DVD/Download).

Although my heart actually belongs to Batman Returns (don’t get me started on how much I adore Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman), I think it’s important to go back to where the modern superhero film began. Sure, there were some cheesy caped crusader films and TV shows of the 60’s and 70’s, but Tim Burton’s Batman ushered in a new era of artistry. Suddenly, the audience was seeing dark, mesmerizing cinematography, lavish production design, and genuinely good acting in place of all the onomatopoeias. Michael Keaton brings a level of humanity to an iconic character that has never been matched since, and Jack Nicholson’s manic Joker performance manages to be fun and frightening all at once. And by frightening, I’m referring of course to his purple satin chef’s hat.

Speaking of the Joker, his nefarious plot to poison the citizens of Gotham through make-up and hairstyling products is pretty genius. Funniest scene: news anchors, afraid to use any products, showing up on the air looking like they were just on a 3-day bender. In tribute to the Joker and his crazy style, I recommend drinking a Smilex Surprise.

Smilex Surprise

1 ½ oz Smirnoff Grape Vodka

½ tsp grape Kool-Aid (for color)

½ oz lime juice

Club Soda

Fresh Limes

Build drink over ice, stirring gently to combine and dissolve Kool-Aid powder. Garnish with fresh lime slices.

Smilex

I’ve always found Batman to be the most fascinating of superheroes because at the end of the day, he’s simply a rich guy with gadgets and extensive martial arts training. He’s a human being who struggles with the same dichotomy that most of us feel from time to time, like we’re one person to the world at large, and someone totally different to ourselves and those close to us.  Michael Keaton really makes you feel this struggle, with nary a nipple in sight.  Many Batmen have come and gone, but if you’re like me, you never forget your first. Cheers!

The Pink Panther

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pink panther

Image Credit: The Pink Panther, 1963.

Let me begin by saying I have absolutely no idea what is happening in this movie. Blame the Campari, blame the dazzling beauty of young Robert Wagner, but I couldn’t make heads or tails of Blake Edward’s 1963 comedic caper farce The Pink Panther (DVD/Download).  And yet- I couldn’t look away.

I’ve always been fascinated by the 1960’s Jet Set, even before Don Draper and his bizarre Palm Springs weekend. From the designer clothes, to the exotic travel, to the day-drinking, I love it all. This movie picks up where Slim Aarons’ photography leaves off, adding a healthy dose of Henry Mancini’s delightful jazz to an already-glamorous fever dream. I went into this film thinking Peter Sellers would be the star of the show, and indeed his Inspector Clouseau was the most entertaining character. There just wasn’t nearly enough of him. Instead we’re left watching David Niven romance Claudia Cardinale on a tiger-skin rug, while Robert Wagner attempts some playful sexual assault on Clouseau’s wife (I guess back then rapists were just called “playboys”? Ick.). I *think* there’s a jewel heist at the center of it all, but I have no idea who’s doing the heist, or why, or who the jewel belongs to in the first place. Also, despite the sly pink cartoon we all know and love, the Panther is not the thief, the Panther is the jewel. The Phantom is the thief. Still with me?  Yeah, didn’t think so.

Whether they’re in Paris, Rome, or a glamorous Italian ski resort, these people drink A LOT of champagne. Doesn’t that sound like the life? In my opinion, Campari makes it even better, turning a hum-drum mimosa into a sophisticated brunch cocktail.  While watching the Pink Panther, I recommend drinking a Campari Sparkler.

Campari Sparkler

2 oz Campari

2 oz fresh orange juice

1 ½ cups Pink Champagne

Orange slice for garnish

Combine Campari and orange juice in a shaker with ice, and shake until chilled. Strain into a flute or wine glass, and top with pink champagne. Garnish with an orange slice.

Campari Sparkler

There are good caper films, and then there is The Pink Panther. Had I not been long-obsessed with 1960’s style, I might have given up halfway through. But instead I poured another drink, accepted the fact that I would never understand the plot of this movie, and just spent the remaining hour admiring Claudia Cardinale’s wardrobe and makeup. There are worse ways to spend an afternoon. Cheers!