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Category Archives: Comedies

Being John Malkovich

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Being John Malkovich

Image Credit: Being John Malkovich, 1999

If you could crawl into the mind of a celebrity, who would it be? For me, the answer is easy- Nicholas Cage. Not only would it likely be a weird and wacky ride, but I might be able to save him (and the rest of humanity) from some truly terrible films. In this week’s film Being John Malkovich (DVD/Download), one of the great American actors of the 20th century becomes the host du jour. Why did screenwriter Charlie Kaufman choose actor John Malkovich? Because it’s just fun to say Malkovich.

Directed by Spike Jonze, Being John Malkovich has all the movie elements I love. Unusual sets (7 ½ floor, anyone?), puppets, good-looking celebrities going ugly (YIKES Cameron Diaz), and famous actors playing themselves. As greasy-haired puppeteer Craig Schwartz, John Cusack slides through the portal into John Malkovich’s mind and eventually opens the actor up to a slew of other people taking possession.  As the film progresses, we start to examine what makes a person uniquely themselves, and how much of our minds are controlled by outside influences.

Although many people try to inhabit the mind of Malkovich, the 105-years-young Dr. Lester has perhaps the biggest claim to this coveted mental real estate. It’s his building where the portal on the 7 ½ floor exists, and he’s spent his life drinking carrot juice to stay vital. Wouldn’t it be great to find a cocktail that reverses the aging process? I’m willing to try if you are. While watching Being John Malkovich, I recommend drinking a Carrot Collins.

Carrot Collins

3 oz carrot juice

¾ oz lime juice

1.5 oz spiced rum

¾ cup ginger beer

1 oz mint simple syrup

Combine all ingredients in a collins glass over ice. Stir gently, and garnish with a sprig of mint.

Carrot Collins

One of the most interesting scenes in the film is when John Malkovich goes through his own portal, landing inside his own mind. What he encounters is a collection of Malkovich clones, who can speak only his surname; or as he puts it, “a world no man should see.” I can empathize. A room full of Liz Locke’s? TERRIFYING. Cheers!

Friends With Money

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Friends With Money

Image Credit: Friends With Money, 2006

Middle age is a really weird time for friendships- something I’m finding truer and truer the older I get. Some people in their 30’s and 40’s have kids and a mortgage, while others still live like they did in college and may or may not have a roommate.  Some have flourishing careers that pay lucratively, and some are still figuring it out while working temp jobs.  This disparity, and the conflict it creates, gets examined in this week’s film Friends with Money (DVD/Download).  A thoroughly lovely picture, it asks the question- how do you stay friends with someone after your lives have diverged so completely?  In what ways does money complicate a relationship?

Jennifer Aniston’s character Olivia is (on the surface) the most dysfunctional within her group of friends. She’s working as a maid, chasing after a married man, and obsessively hoarding sample size cosmetics. She falls into a toxic relationship with a younger man, but endures him because… what else is there? Yet as the film progresses, we see that her other three friends don’t necessarily have it all figured out either. The characters played by Catherine Keener and Frances McDormand may have flourishing careers, but their marriages are questionable at best, and McDormand is a simmering kettle of suburban rage. And then there’s Joan Cusack, who has a trust fund, and pretty much no problems. It’s a stance we don’t often see in film and literature; normally more money = less happiness. But thing is, she and her husband are really happy because they don’t spend all their time arguing about money.

Although I find myself most identifying with Frances McDormand’s character (who among us hasn’t wanted to scream at someone who cuts in front of us in the Old Navy line??), I still find Jennifer Aniston’s Olivia incredibly relatable.  I’m such a sucker for sample size anything, particularly cosmetics and alcohol.  So while watching Friends With Money, find some fancy samples at your local liquor store and try them out.  Minimal commitment required.

money bottles

I’m a huge fan of most of director Nicole Holofcener’s films (such as Walking and Talking, Lovely & Amazing, and Enough Said). But Friends with Money is the one that I keep thinking about as things change with my life. The concept of money is so intriguing because everybody is striving for it, hoarding it, or eschewing it, but nobody wants to talk about it. It’s like our lives and relationships are revolving around this completely forbidden subject. Finally with this film, the conversation is started. Cheers!

I Heart Huckabees

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I Heart Huckabees

Image Credit: I Heart Huckabees 2004

No, this is not a film about Mike Huckabee and his daughter Sarah (thank goodness). Rather, I Heart Huckabees (DVD/Download) is a bizarre existential comedy that’s like the most interesting philosophy class you never took in college. It makes me ponder the meaning of life, as well as the inexplicable popularity of Shania Twain.

Directed by David O. Russell (pretty aggressively according to the infamous viral video ), Huckabees stars so many great actors it’s almost impossible to keep track. Jason Schwartzman is perfect as the environmental crusader struggling to understand the meaning of coincidences, Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin play his hired “existential detectives”, Isabelle Huppert is a sexy rival detective, Jude Law and Naomi Watts play corporate shills for the Huckabees Corporation, and even Mark Wahlberg turns in a surprisingly brilliant performance as the petroleum-hating fireman and fellow philosophy student of Hoffman/Tomlin/Hubert.  What is Huckabees really about? It’s hard to say. But if we’re examining philosophy in relation to this film, I find myself squarely in the “everything is the same, even if it’s different” camp. There are so many characters and subplots that it’s dizzying at times, but in the end, they’re all under the blanket of this wonderfully unique movie.

I’ve wanted to try experimenting with activated charcoal cocktails for a while, and Huckabees provides a perfect opportunity. A favorite existential method of discovery is to place a person inside a zipped bag, allowing the darkness to let one’s subconscious thoughts rise to the surface. The great thing about this black cocktail is that there could literally be anything inside of it. I’ve chosen a recipe that is light and tart, but if you want a heavier kick, that’s your call. Who’s to know?  Bonus points if you smear the charcoal all over your face like Naomi Watts while wearing a bonnet. While watching I Heart Huckabees, I recommend drinking a Blanket Statement.

Blanket Statement

1 ½ oz aged rum

Pinch of activated charcoal*

½ oz grapefruit juice

½ oz lime juice

¼ oz Orgeat syrup

¼ oz Maraschino liqueur

Shake all ingredients together over ice, and strain into a chilled martini glass.

*Note: Activated charcoal can be risky combined with certain medications. If unsure, check with your doctor before imbibing.

photo by @pop_up_cobra

David O. Russell would go onto many more acclaimed pictures such as American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook, but I’ll always have a soft spot for I Heart Huckabees. I love to celebrate the truly original, and there’s definitely nothing like this film. If you find yourself wondering “How am I not myself?” in the middle of the day on a Wednesday, it’s worked its magic. Cheers!

Moonrise Kingdom

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Moonrise Kingdom

Image credit: Moonrise Kingdom, 2012

There’s nothing like young lovers and a vintage New England setting to get me excited for summer. Of course my all-time favorite example of this is A Summer Place, but with his 2012 film Moonrise Kingdom (DVD/Download), Wes Anderson created a modern summertime masterpiece. It may not have Troy Donahue in short-shorts, but Bill Murray does sport some nifty madras pants.

Set in the fictional town of New Penzance, Moonrise Kingdom features wainscotted homes full of sturdy antiques, a picturesque lighthouse, rocky beach coves, and pine forests. I can almost smell the salt air, and the vintage postcard-style cinematography is truly transporting. Like any Anderson film this one is full of bizarrely perfect casting, like Bruce Willis as a lovelorn sheriff, Edward Norton as an Eagle Scout troop leader, and Tilda Swinton as a comically severe social worker. The pre-teen lovers are both disaffected to the outside world yet earnest with one another, and as they dance in their underwear to the music coming from a portable record player, I find myself longing to be even half as cool.

There’s nothing like a freshly pressed scout uniform to make you think of summertime cookouts, the open air, and wilderness lodges. This film deserves a drink that’s crisp, refreshing, and easy to make indoors as well as out. While watching Moonrise Kingdom, I recommend drinking a Khaki Scout Cooler.

Khaki Scout Cooler

1 ½ oz Gin

2-3 dashes celery bitters

½ oz Maraschino liqueur

4-5 mint leaves

1 slice of cucumber

1 lime wedge

Topo Chico sparkling water

Muddle mint leaves and cucumber with the maraschino liqueur at the bottom of a Collins glass. Add gin, bitters, and ice. Top with Topo Chico (or sparkling water) and squeeze the lime wedge, dropping into the glass.

Khaki Scout Cooler

photo by @pop_up_cobra

I may be stuck in the fiery pit of hell that is Texas in the summer, but this movie just begs to be watched outdoors. Luckily I’ve got a refreshing cocktail on tap, a pair of madras shorts, and a portable fan. Record player optional. Cheers!

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

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Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Image credit: Forgetting Sarah Marshall, 2008.

Aloha from Cinema Sips! As I prepare to jet off to Kauai for a much-needed vacation, I’m doing my homework in the form of a Hawaiian film binge.  First up- a comedy postcard from Oahu, Forgetting Sarah Marshall (DVD/Download).

Like every Judd Apatow-associated project, this film is about thirty minutes too long (the man should really stick to television). But I am happy to see Freaks & Geeks alum Jason Segal in the lead role as recently dumped composer Peter, and Apatow regular Paul Rudd as the not-all-there surf instructor. As Peter tries to forget about his ex-girlfriend Sarah Marshall (played by Kristen Bell), he drinks a lot of frozen cocktails, flirts with Mila Kunis, and performs hilarious ballads from his vampire puppet rock opera. Yes that’s right- vampire puppet rock opera. First, this needs to be a real thing, and second- why is this not a real thing???

Nothing says getting over a breakup like planting yourself at a bar, and if that bar is in Hawaii, you’ve got to start with a Piña Colada. Bonus- imbibe more than one of these, and even Russell Brand is funny. While watching Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I recommend drinking a Piña Colada.

Piña Colada

3 oz pineapple juice

1.5 oz white rum

1 oz dark rum

1 oz coconut cream

Crushed ice

Pineapple, cherry, and umbrella (for garnish)

Combine all ingredients in a blender, and blend until you reach a smooth consistency. Pour into a glass, and garnish with a slice of fresh pineapple, maraschino cherry, and umbrella.

As this movie proves, break ups are tough, but Hawaii makes everything better. I can’t wait to see if the water is really that blue, and if the drinks are as fantastic as they look. Fingers crossed I’m right on both accounts. Cheers!

Weekend at Bernie’s II

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Weekend at Bernies 2

Image credit: Weekend at Bernie’s II, 1993.

I harbor a secret (or not-so-secret) love for most of the terrible sequels I’ve featured this month. A lot of them were favorites from my childhood that still bring me a certain amount of glee. I went into this week thinking that Weekend at Bernie’s II (DVD/Download) was actually pretty good, based on my memory from 20 years ago. Welllllll……. I admit. I was wrong. Go ahead, put in me in movie jail and make me watch Ingmar Bergman films as punishment. I deserve it.

I get a shocking amount of traffic on Cinema Sips from my original Weekend at Bernie’s post, so I know there are a lot of Terry Kiser fans out there. The first movie was ridiculous, but it was FUN! You kind of believed that it was possible for a self-centered group of one-percenters to not notice an actual human corpse in their midst. But in the sequel, all believability goes out the window with a trio of asinine plots. #1- Bernie is raised from the dead by a voodoo priestess working for mobsters. #2- the people who actually perform the voodoo ceremony are two random dudes with no connection to anything, yet they spend the whole movie following a shuffling Bernie around in search of the mob’s money. #3- Rich and Larry are back, and decide to look for the money Bernie embezzled in the first movie. They’re being trailed by Barry Bostwick, who is hired to prove that the two doofuses were in on the embezzlement. Essentially, all these people are following Bernie, I can’t keep anything straight, and I eventually throw my hands in the air and accept that this movie MAKES NO SENSE.

The one thing Weekend at Bernie’s II has going for it is a gorgeous tropical locale in the Virgin Islands. Richard and Larry spend most of their time at the hotel bar, avoiding the stench of a rotting corpse in their mini fridge (don’t ask). If you’re like me, you’ll need a lot of rum to make this funny. While watching Weekend at Bernie’s II, I recommend drinking a Voodoo cocktail.

Voodoo

2 oz aged rum

¾ oz Martini Rosso Vermouth

2 ½ oz pressed apple juice

½ oz lime juice

¼ oz simple syrup.

Combine all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a rocks filled Collins glass.

I’d like to think I’ve always had impeccable taste in movies, but this one proves that there are a few missteps in my past. It also proves that not all sequels are created equal. For every Before Sunset, there’s a Weekend at Bernie’s II, which (like Bernie himself), is long past its sell-by date. But if you must watch, by all means please- do it with a cocktail. Cheers!

*Side note-  Pretty, pretty please do not judge Andrew McCarthy for participating in this film.  I like to think that he financed his later career as an AMAZING travel writer with the money he got from this schlock.  In my opinion- totally worth it.  I highly recommend his book The Longest Way Home.

National Lampoon’s European Vacation

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national lampoons european vacation

Image credit: National Lampoon’s European Vacation, 1985

Sure, we all had fun on that trip to Walley World. And Christie Brinkley will be missed. But when the Griswold’s go to Europe, hilarity ensues. There have been a lot of sequels made to National Lampoon’s Vacation, but my favorite will always been this week’s Cinema Sips pick, National Lampoon’s European Vacation (DVD/Download). For anybody who traveled to Europe before the internet or TripAdvisor, you’ll get it.

With a new Audrey and Russ, but same old Clark and Ellen, the Griswolds embark on a free gameshow trip across the European continent. They find tiny, bathroom-less hotel rooms in London, rude waiters and hookers in Paris, and car thieves in Rome. Plus- Eric Idle on a bicycle. Everywhere. Directed by Amy Heckerling, with a script written by John Hughes, this is 80’s slapstick raunchy comedy at its finest. This movie isn’t trying to be anything more than a satire of international travel, and in that respect it succeeds beautifully. Even now, in the age of websites and online reviews, it’s still possible for a boorish, entitled American to be stuck in a tiny European closet of a hotel room, wondering where they put the real shower (not the little phone booth in the corner with the trickling water feature). And by entitled American, I mean myself of course.

If you’re attempting to travel around the world by alcohol, the easiest solution is beer. All of Europe seems to have a firm handle on good beer, so instead of a cocktail this week, I’ll be drinking a European Beer Flight*.

 

European Beer

*(note, Trader Joe’s had ZERO British beers so I had to improvise….)

I think the reason these Vacation movies have always worked so well, whether it’s the 1st or 4th, is that despite the dumb jokes and sight gags, there’s a little bit of truth in all of them. I may not have backed my car into Stonehenge, but I have nearly collapsed on museum steps from sheer tourist exhaustion. And I KNOW I’ve eaten a microwaved frozen dinner at a Roman café. It paired really well with Campari. Cheers!