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Category Archives: Action/Adventure/Heist

The Karate Kid

Image credit: The Karate Kid, 1984

Before going down the Cobra Kai rabbit hole (if you don’t know what this is, GET A NETFLIX SUBSCRIPTION NOW!!!), I decided to revisit the film that inspired the world’s new favorite soap-opera-for-the-middle-aged. Plus, with Halloween right around the corner, it seemed like a good time to examine the genesis of my childhood nightmares—those motorcycle-riding blonde villains in their skeleton costumes and terrifying makeup. The Karate Kid (Disc/Download) is a nostalgia trip to the 1980s, but you know what? I’m pretty excited to go back.

First things first—Ralph Macchio was and still is a BABE. Pre-teen Liz was all about sweet Daniel and his luscious olive skin, and don’t even get me started on that dopey shower curtain costume. So creative! My husband loves to champion his theory that Daniel LaRusso is the real bully of The Karate Kid, but I wholeheartedly disagree. Daniel does not dress up like a creepy skeleton and beat a kid within an inch of his life. He does not sweep the leg. All he does is fall for the wrong single girl (sorry Johnny, you had your chance), and douse his tormentor with water. However, the fact that my husband and I have such differing opinions on this proves that the film has very layered, nuanced characters. This is not just a group of one-note villains and heroes. They all have complex backstories, none more so than that of Daniel’s sensei, Mr. Miyagi. As a child watching this movie, Miyagi’s tragic past didn’t even register to me. But as an adult, my heart breaks for the war hero whose wife and child perished in a Japanese Internment Camp. The fact that this role was played by comic Pat Morita with such dignity and honesty (for he, too, had spent time in the camps), makes it all the more powerful. This is not just a movie about martial arts; this is a movie about finding the hero within oneself, even when the world may have turned its back on you.

My drink this week is an ode to Mr. Miyagi’s low-key, retro style. I can just imagine him sipping a tiki beverage in his Japanese garden, watching Daniel wax-on/wax-off. While watching The Karate Kid, I recommend enjoying this Hai Karate cocktail.

Hai Karate

2 oz Aged Rum

1 oz Lime Juice

1 oz Orange Juice

1 oz Pineapple Juice

1 tsp Maple Syrup

1 dash Angostura Bitters

Dried citrus/Luxardo Cherry for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then pour (unstrained) into a glass. Garnish with citrus slices and Luxardo Cherry.

One of the things I love so much about the television show Cobra Kai is that it goes out of its way to pay tribute to the fan-favorite aspects of The Karate Kid. Cutting in scenes from the movie, they weave a story that feels contemporary and classic all at once. We feel the joy of an ‘80s muscle car blasting power ballads, the thrill of finding familiar faces on our screens once again, and above all, we feel the loss of Mr. Miyagi. Daniel tries to spread his teachings of balance and peace, and somehow it feels like the big battle of our modern times. Can the Miyagi-do principles of tolerance and inclusivity triumph once again, or will the bullies win this round? I guess we’ll find out in about forty-four more days. Cheers!

To Catch a Thief

To Catch a Thief

Image credit: To Catch a Thief, 1955

I’ve taken a lot of cinema travels this summer, so it’s fitting that I end the season with one last trip to the French Riviera. Alfred Hitchcock’s classic To Catch a Thief (Disc/Download) will make you feel like you’re sipping champagne at the Carlton Hotel in Cannes, before meeting your lover for a sexy rendezvous. This week, say bonjour to style, suspense, and sun-drenched 1950s beaches.

This is one of those movies I could watch with the sound off and still feel like I got my money’s worth. To see Grace Kelly slink across the screen in her gorgeous Edith Head costumes is such a treat, but then Hitch had to go and add the Mediterranean Sea. And champagne. And Cary Grant in a lovely French farmhouse. Is he TRYING to make me swoon? If you like the Ocean’s Eleven trilogy, you’ll really enjoy this plot involving a retired cat burglar trying to clear his name after a string of “copycat” jewel thefts. Cary latches on to Grace Kelly’s jet set heiress, using her to draw the real thief out. But somewhere between sunbathing, picnicking, and enjoying the fireworks from a luxury hotel room, she falls for him. Can Cary catch the thief? Can Grace catch Cary? Can the world stop catching coronavirus so I can go to the French Riviera for real???

As previously mentioned, this is a champagne-heavy movie. For my cocktail pairing this week, I’m adapting the classic French Riviera cocktail into something a little more bubbly, and a little more American, in a nod to Grace Kelly’s roots. While watching To Catch a Thief, I recommend drinking this Copycat cocktail.

Copycat

1 ½ oz Bourbon

½ oz Rum

1 tsp Apricot Jam

½ oz Lemon Juice

1 oz Honey Syrup (2 to 1 ratio, honey to water, boiled then cooled)

3 oz Champagne

Combine Bourbon, rum, apricot jam, lemon juice, and honey syrup in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass filled with fresh ice. Top with champagne, and stir gently.

Copycat

This spritz cocktail is perfect for lounging near the beach or pool in your couture, as I know we’re all doing during quarantine. Maybe just me? No matter your plans this Labor Day, I hope you get to take a day off, and I hope that day off involves a fabulous movie or two. Cheers!

Jurassic Park

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Jurassic Park

Image Credit: Jurassic Park, 1993

Admit it- the second you saw Jurassic Park (Disc/Download) had hit Netflix this summer, you cheered a little bit inside. I’m typically not one for big blockbusters, but I’ll always have a special place in my heart for that old T-Rex with the tiny hands. I remember seeing this in the theater when it came out in 1993, and during the parts where my eyes were actually open, I knew I was witnessing something incredible. Twenty-seven years later, it still gives me chills.

There have been a lot of sequels, but in my opinion, Steven Spielberg’s original is the undisputed best. Special effects have come a long way since this was made, becoming slicker and smoother as the years passed, but damn if these dinos don’t look insanely real, even by today’s high standards. Watching this as an adult, I can appreciate the true awe these characters must have felt, in a way I couldn’t before. Imagine, you’re an archeologist who’s spent your whole life trying to piece together dinosaur bones, then some crazy nut in a Panama hat tells you he’s extracted dino DNA from fossilized mosquitoes, hatched some new creatures in the lab, and you can actually go see them in a Central American amusement park. This would be like someone telling me there’s a classic Hollywood theme park and for the price of admission I get to ride around in a vintage Corvair and shake hands with the cloned, VERY REAL versions of Doris Day and Cary Grant. What wouldn’t I give for a chance like that? Of course, Doris doesn’t have the claws of a raptor or the natural instinct to tear the flesh from my bones, but nevertheless, we don’t really know what she’s like without her morning coffee. Things could get ugly.

With any jungle-set film, I enjoy a good tiki beverage. Of course I had to incorporate those dino eggs somehow, plus the whole gory death motif. While you take a trip to Isla Nublar, I recommend drinking this Isla de Sangre cocktail!

Isla de Sangre

1 1/2 oz Black Rum

1/2 oz Beet Juice

1/4 oz Angostura Bitters

1/2 oz Lime Juice

1/2 oz Orgeat Syrup

1 Egg White

Dried Blood Orange garnish

Combine rum, beet juice, bitters, lime juice, orgeat syrup, and egg white in a shaker. Shake vigorously for 10-15 seconds, then add ice. Shake again for another 15 seconds, and strain into a glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with a dried blood orange slice.

Isla Sangre

I want to give a special shout-out to sexy mathematician Jeff Goldblum, in his finest performance to date. It takes a special kind of person to show up to the jungle in a black leather jacket, but he’s got the confidence to pull it off. Me? I like the looks of that Panama hat. Cheers!

 

Jeeps

Movie jeeps, spotted in the Bastrop, TX Dinosaur Park

 

TRex

Lucky to be alive.

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!