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Category Archives: Comedies

Confess, Fletch

Image credit: Confess, Fletch, 2022

If you want to know the key to my heart, it’s quite simple—puns. Specifically, puns delivered by a very handsome man in a very beautiful location. Confess, Fletch (Download) ticks all those boxes by hiring Jon Hamm to play my beloved wisecracking I.M. Fletcher, and sending him to the Eternal City, Rome. Add a plethora of cocktails and a fantastic jazzy soundtrack, and you’ve got the perfect Cinema Sips watch.

I covered the original Chevy Chase film a few months back, so imagine my delight to discover the franchise was getting rebooted with my favorite Mad Men star in the lead role. Hamm has phenomenal comedic timing, and his facial expressions alone had me snorting my drink. As with the other Fletch movies, the plot is beside the point. I could tell you all about how he’s trying to track down some stolen paintings while being framed for murder, but outlandish plots are not why I watch these movies. I watch them for the clever scripts, the wordplay, and the disguises. In fact, Confess, Fletch features one of the best aliases in the history of the franchise, and yes, I’m talking about “Mr. Locke”. Maybe I’m partial, but… it’s a great name.

As for the drinks, this movie has a plethora of cocktail inspiration. Aperol Spritzes and Negronis are solid options for celebrating the Dolce Vita portion of the film, but I prefer to keep it simple. Whether you’re fending off the advances of an Italian countess or catching up with your old pal from Sterling Cooper, only a Vodka Gimlet will do.

Vodka Gimlet

2 oz Vodka

¾ oz Lime Juice

½ oz Simple Syrup

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a slice of lime.

If you’re looking for a fun, silly night at home, allow me to officially endorse Confess, Fletch. And with the addition of a tasty gimlet? Five stars. Definitely, five stars. Cheers!

Barton Fink

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Image credit: Barton Fink, 1991

Here we are again, with another “writer in a hotel” movie. I promise, Jack Nicholson does not pop out with an ax this time, though the bathrooms are decided less glamorous at the Hotel Earle. Barton Fink (Disc/Download) was a new-to-me Coen Brothers movie prior to this week, but it’s quickly risen up the ranks to Hail, Caesar! levels of adoration. A movie about a neurotic writer in the Golden Age of Hollywood? Definitely my catnip.

John Turturro plays our titular character Barton Fink, a rising New York playwright who gets chewed up and spit out by the Hollywood studio system. He heeds the siren call of Los Angeles, accepting the assignment of writing a wrestling movie that’s completely out of his wheelhouse, but something he’s powerless to decline. Once in town, he moves into a creepy rundown hotel next to a fascist serial killer and soon begins an affair with the assistant to his liquored-up literary hero. I’ll just say right now, John Mahoney as the Falkner-esque W.P. Mayhew is one of my favorite things about this film, and I wish he’d had more screen time. But I digress. One of my other favorite elements is the production design, which looks straight out of classics like Casablanca or Heaven Can Wait. Barton’s apartment might be a nightmare, but the rest of Tinseltown never looked better.

Barton has a lot of meetings over drinks (as any good writer would), so this seems like a great movie to watch with a cocktail. Let’s honor the wordsmiths of the world, toiling away on projects they may or may not ever finish, with this tasty concoction, the Last Word.

Last Word

1 oz Gin

1 oz Maraschino Liqueur

1 oz Green Chartreuse

1 oz Lime Juice

Luxardo Maraschino cherry

Combine gin, liqueurs, and lime juice in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a cherry.

I already know Barton Fink will be a movie I’ll want to watch again and again, in an effort to catch all the tiny details and nods to Hollywood’s golden era. Like that painting on Barton’s sweating wall, I can’t help but think there’s even more to this picture than meets the eye. Cheers!

Beetlejuice

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Image credit: Beetlejuice, 1988

This week, I’m proud to say I conquered a major fear. In re-watching Beetlejuice (Disc/Download), I confronted one of my life’s main recurring nightmares, in which I’m walking through a Caligari-esque hallway of doors, not sure what’s on the other side. Is it a sandworm? Is it a room full of ugly post-modern Michael Graves furniture? Is it Michael Keaton in racoon clown makeup? I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve woken up screaming in the last thirty years.

Speaking of Michael Keaton, I don’t even want to admit how old I was before I realized that the same actor played Mr. Mom, Batman, AND aggressive bio-exorcist Beetlejuice. The man is a chameleon. Revisiting this movie as an adult, it’s amazing to see the high-caliber cast director Tim Burton pulled together. Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis play ghosts trying to force a brash New York family (Jeffrey Jones and Catherine O’Hara giving MAJOR Moira Rose vibes) out of their charming Connecticut home. Winona Ryder plays the goth daughter of the interlopers, with stellar lines such as “My whole life is a dark room.” Same, girl. Eventually getting more and more desperate, the ghosts call on Beetlejuice to help them drive the city slickers away for good, which causes more problems than they’d bargained on. The special effects and makeup are pretty impressive, and a big part of what makes this movie so fun for kids (unless you were a scaredy-cat like me). But as an adult, I’m still terrified of the afterlife’s waiting room. It’s more of an existential fear than a jump scare, but still just as effective.

My favorite scenes include some delightful Harry Belafonte calypso tracks, so we may as well “Jump in the Line” with this Caribbean-inspired cocktail. With a green tint that matches Beetlejuice’s hair, this will definitely put you in the mood for Halloween hijinks. While watching Beetlejuice, I recommend drinking this Day-O the Dead cocktail.

Day-O the Dead

1 ½ oz Rhum Agricole (or silver rum)

1 oz Midori

1 oz Lime Juice

1 ½ oz Pineapple Juice

¼ oz Coconut Cream

Gummi worms for garnish

Combine Rhum, Midori, lime and pineapple juices, and coconut cream in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a gummi worm.

Although the live action Beetlejuice scared the bejeezus out of me as a small child, I had a standing date with the animated series for many years. I guess cartoon poltergeists are just less threatening. And Lydia, oh Lydia—you have my dark heart forever. Cheers!

Lover Come Back

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Image Credit: Lover Come Back, 1961

When life is busy and stressful, I find myself yearning to seize the Day. Doris Day that is. Because no problem is too great that it can’t be solved by making a date with my favorite Classic Hollywood gal pal and her coordinating pastel outfits. In Doris’s world, I don’t have to think about my endless home renovations or work demands—I can just relax and enjoy the familiar tropes of mistaken identities and enemies-to-lovers. She’s basically a classic Shakespearean comedy wrapped up in a pillbox hat.

If you’ve seen Pillow Talk, then you’ve essentially seen this week’s film Lover Come Back (Disc/Download). Doris and Rock follow largely the same formula where she’s a competent career woman (this time it’s advertising instead of interior design), and he’s a playboy rival determined to take her down while simultaneously taking her to bed. Even Tony Randall pops up again as Rock’s wealthy best friend/boss, who inadvertently sets the madcap plot in motion by putting fake commercials for a fake account on the air. Suddenly, everybody’s wild to see the mysterious new product model Rebel Davis is selling, known only as “VIP”. Rock has to find a scientist to invent it, Doris mistakes Rock for the scientist, and by the end he’s got her trying to convince him to give her his formula, and his virginity. We’re missing the dreamy Rex Stetson accent in this, but we do get Rock with a beard, so I’ll take that tradeoff.

Lover Come Back is a great movie to watch with your favorite cocktail because VIP turns out to be an alcoholic wafer cookie that’s equal to a triple martini and comes in a rainbow of colors. Apparently it tastes like an after-dinner mint, and you know what that means—time to break out the Crème de Menthe! For everyone who has ever been stuck with this green bottle in their bar after making one lousy Grasshopper, here’s another drink to make you feel like it wasn’t a totally wasted purchase. While watching Lover Come Back, I recommend drinking this VIP Martini.

VIP Martini

1 oz Chocolate Vodka

2 oz RumChata

½ oz Green Crème de Menthe Liqueur

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice, and shake until chilled. Strain into a chilled martini glass.

If you want to crank up the fun, take a drink every time Doris shows up in a new hat, or every time a VIP commercial plays. By the end, I kind of want to try it in every color. Guess that makes me the target audience—a ten-cent drunk. Cheers!

Sex and the City (the movie)

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Image credit: Sex and the City, 2008

Look, I know, we’re all extremely disappointed/fatigued by the Sex and the City franchise at this point. And Just Like That… ruined it beyond repair, shining a spotlight on all the problems of the original series, while failing to distract us with witty jokes and fabulous clothes (they weren’t that witty, or that fabulous this time around). There was also a very, very bad movie sequel Sex and the City 2, which we will not talk about. But when it comes to the first Sex and the City movie (Disc/Download), I’m not ashamed to admit- I actually like it!

Here’s the absolute truth: if you enjoyed the television show, you’ll enjoy this movie. And back in my early-twenties, I adored the show. Back then, it felt like my only real responsibility was being home in time to watch it each week. But as Carrie astutely points out in this film, your twenties are for having fun, thirties are for learning the lessons, and forties are for paying for the drinks. Now that I’m pushing forty, I’m working hard to pay for the drinks and simply don’t have time to care about trivial things such as how large Carrie’s closet is. I’m building my own large closet now, thank you very much. And it’s super stressful!!!! So while I may not have the energy for a weekly date with Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha, I don’t mind them swooping in on their cloud of privilege to distract me for a couple hours in the form of a movie.

I recently came across a cocktail in one of my favorite recipe books Experimental Cocktail Club that’s a surprising and delicious take on Carrie’s signature Cosmopolitan. This one keeps the pretty pink color, but has a much more interesting flavor profile. While watching Sex and the City, I recommend drinking this Big (Cosmo) is Dead.

Big (Cosmo) is Dead

1/2 oz Velvet Falernum

1 oz Aperol

1 oz Lime Juice

1 oz Vodka

2 dashes orange bitters

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

*Adapted from Big Cosmo is Dead recipe in Experimental Cocktail Club by Mitchell Beazley.

I may have had my quibbles with these characters over the years (STEVE- YOU ARE FAR TOO GOOD FOR MIRANDA!!!), but they’ll always have a fond place in my heart. We grew up together, found love together, drank cocktails together. Sometimes, it’s nice to pay a visit to your old friends, even after you’ve gone your separate ways. Because when something is really, really funny, you’ll always find time to laugh. Cheers!

Bringing Up Baby

Image credit: Bringing Up Baby, 1938

So a leopard, a dog, and a paleontologist walk into a bar… Not really, but this week’s film Bringing Up Baby (Disc/Download) definitely feels like one long, preposterous joke you tell after a few strong drinks.  From Cary Grant in a frilly bathrobe, to Katharine Hepburn hanging off the edge of a Brontosaurus skeleton, the hits just keep on coming.

Directed by Howard Hawks, this fast-talking screwball comedy shows what happens when a buttoned-up paleontologist (Grant) meets his match in a flighty, chaotic socialite (Hepburn). She steals his golf ball and his car, he laments the cruel twist of fate that sent this #hotmessexpress careening into his ordered life, and before you know it, they’re ripping each other’s clothes off. Things get really crazy when a “tame” leopard gets delivered to Hepburn’s mansion, the family dog buries a priceless dinosaur bone, and the circus comes to town. I love any movie with a fast-paced plot and rapid dialogue, and it doesn’t get faster (or zanier) than this. Having been a longtime fan of the Grant/Hepburn pairing in The Philadelphia Story, it’s fun to see them in the meet-cute stage of a relationship, as opposed to bickering divorcees. Almost as though Bringing Up Baby is the prequel to their later film, back when this onscreen couple was just figuring out how to be “yar”.

Fans of The Thin Man will probably recognize doggie star “Skippy”, who achieved even greater fame as Nick and Nora Charles’s pooch Asta. Here he plays George, a pampered scoundrel who likes to steal bones and hide them all over his owner’s sprawling estate. One such bone is the missing piece to Cary Grant’s prized Brontosaurus skeleton, so while you’re watching Bringing Up Baby, I recommend joining the fun with this Skeleton Key cocktail.

Skeleton Key

1 ½ oz Bourbon

¾ oz Elderflower Liqueur

½ oz Lemon Juice

4 oz Ginger Beer

8 dashes Angostura Bitters

Combine bourbon, elderflower liqueur, and lemon juice with ice in a Collins glass. Stir to combine and chill, then top with more ice, and ginger beer. Stir, and top with eight dashes of Angostura Bitters.

Fizzy and sweet, the drink also has a bit of a bite to it, mirroring the sharp tongues of our hero and heroine. For witty banter, hilarious physical comedy, and chemistry that’s off the charts, give these screwballs a watch. Cheers!

Garden State

Image credit: Garden State, 2004

A movie soundtrack is a very powerful tool. It can turn the mundane into profound, the simple into lyrical. Such is true for Garden State (Disc/Download), a film I championed and saw multiple times in the theater the summer of 2004, but with hindsight, can finally acknowledge it for what it actually is—a phenomenal collection of songs layered over a totally average collection of scenes.

First, I blame my youth. On the cusp of my senior year of college, with no idea what I wanted to do afterward, this coming-of-age story about a fully grown adult who still didn’t know what he wanted from life really spoke to me. As in The Graduate, we see Andrew Largeman (Zach Braff) return to the hometown he’d left years ago, and even though it’s not right, it’s easy. When he sinks into the couch of a long-forgotten high school acquaintance, high on ecstasy, moody Zero 7 song playing in the background, and just lets the world spin around him for one night, you feel it in your soul. However, he then makes the mistake of falling for Natalie Portman’s truly annoying “quirky ingenue”, and that’s where I lose all respect. Large, you’re not in love with the girl with the epilepsy helmet and dead hamster. I promise, this is the depression talking.

There are two things every coming-of-age story must have, and that is a flirty swimming pool scene, and a cool or unusual vehicle. In Large’s case, it’s his grandfather’s old motorcycle with a sidecar. Let’s celebrate it with a variation on the traditional brandy-based cocktail, a Rum Sidecar.

Rum Sidecar

2 oz Kraken Dark Spiced Rum

1 oz Cointreau

1 oz Lemon Juice

Orange Peel Garnish

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a twist of orange.

I may not love this movie in the way I once did, but I can confidently say the soundtrack still holds up. I remember being in New York City the week it came out, standing in line at the Times Square Tower Records, staying up all night in my parents’ hotel suite listening to it on a plastic Discman. Instead of exploring the infinite abyss of Garden State, I’d much rather reach for “Such Great Heights”. Cheers!

Valley Girl

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Image credit: Valley Girl, 1983

This week, let’s stop the world and watch a totally rad slice of SoCal life, Valley Girl (Disc/Download). If you ever wondered whether Nicolas Cage was a teen heartthrob, I am here to tell you, YES he was, and NO, his onscreen chest hair was not normal. But we love him anyway.

I thought I’d heard all the high school slang worth hearing after repeat viewings of Clueless, until I watched its 1980s precursor. As the “Juliet” of this Romeo & Juliet-inspired love story between Valley Girl and a Hollywood Punk, Julie loves to use choice phrases like “Gag me with a spoon” and “Like, fer-SHUR” during trips to the mall, the beach, and meals at the local diner. When she meets her bad-boy “Romeo”, Randy (Cage) at a party, he’s everything she shouldn’t want—he doesn’t wear pastels, he’s not likely to be voted Prom King any time soon, and his hair has a lot of product. But god, can he kiss. Seriously, young Nicolas Cage knew how to do a Hollywood Kiss, and forty years later, it still affects me.

But back to the slang. The language is what makes this film so endearingly funny, and I can’t help but think of how I’d use these words in my own life. These days, I’m in desperate need of a chill pill, but alcohol will have to do. You might think using a whole egg in a cocktail is grody, but I say that’s bogus. I use egg whites frequently, so like, why not a yolk? While watching Valley Girl, I recommend drinking this My Parents Are Gonna Flip! cocktail.

My Parents Are Gonna Flip!

2 oz Silver Rum

1 oz Pineapple Juice

1 oz Coconut Milk

1 oz Lime Juice

½ oz Simple Syrup

1 chopped strawberry

1 Whole Egg (yolk + white; no shell)

Strawberry Garnish

Muddle chopped strawberry in the bottom of a metal shaker with lime juice and simple syrup. Add ice, rum, pineapple juice, coconut cream, and egg. Shake vigorously for at least one minute to emulsify. Strain contents out into a separate glass and dump out the ice in the shaker. Put the liquid contents back into the shaker and shake hard again for 2 minutes to make it extra frothy. Strain into a glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with a strawberry.

Another standout element to this movie (beyond Nic Cage’s make-out skills) is the soundtrack. With hits from The Psychedelic Furs, Men at Work, The Plimsouls, and Modern English, the track list will transport you to a time when popped collars were all the rage, and peanut butter sushi was served as an hors d’oeuvre. One more time, for emphasis—Gag me with a spoon!!!

Fletch

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Image credit: Fletch, 1985

Y’all have no idea how much I struggled this week to find a movie that fully captures 1980s comedy. I went through a lot of picks, suffered through Girls Just Want to Have Fun, realized St. Elmo’s Fire was NOT the comedic Brat Pack follow-up to The Breakfast Club I thought it would be, before landing on that tall, tan mainstay of the ’80s, Chevy Chase. If you mistakenly thought the National Lampoon’s movies were the peak of his career, then let me introduce you to Fletch (Disc/Download).

Like a precursor to Jeffrey Lebowski and Doc Sportello, Irwin M. “Fletch” Fletcher spends his days bumming around the beach, pissing off cops, and becoming embroiled in rich white lady drama. Except the difference here is that Fletch actually has a paying job, as an investigative reporter for the Los Angeles Times. He’s undercover trying to expose a drug ring when the wealthy Mr. Stanwyk (Tim Matheson) attempts to hire him for a murder/suicide indemnity plot. I can practically hear Billy Wilder’s laughter from beyond the grave. Using a variety of disguises, Fletch manages to sniff out the real criminal plot, involving the LAPD, a secret wife in Utah, and an ex-con named Gummy. It’s a wild neo-noir comedy full of hilarious one-liners, nods to classic film, and Chase’s trademark deadpan humor. Truly, I never thought this mainstay of my Saturday afternoon movie binges could pull off a Homeless Brody Jenner look, but the man is a chameleon.

Speaking of looks, Fletch has a lot of them. Everything from surgeon, to hillbilly airplane mechanic, to Lakers basketball player, to rollerskating spiritual leader. But my favorite disguise of all is Country Club Fletch, who wears his little white shorts and polo shirts like he was born to them. Let’s toast “Fancy Fletch” with this take on a classic Royal Bermuda Yacht Club daiquiri, a drink I like to call the Proper Attire.

Proper Attire

2 oz Aged gold rum

3/4 oz Falernum

3/4 oz Lime juice

3/4 oz Paula’s Texas Orange liqueur

Lime Wheel and Pineapple leaf (for garnish)

Combine Rum, Falernum, lime juice, and orange liqueur in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with lime wheel and pineapple leaf.

It makes me happy to know this movie has been in talks for a modern reboot because the character of Fletch is a joy in any era. But when it comes to representing the 1980s, you really can’t do better than the original. The Harold Faltermeyer score, the angry old Republican country club villains, dobermans as a security system… we really did have it all. Cheers!

The Breakfast Club

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Image credit: The Breakfast Club, 1985

I’m halfway through my journey through late-20th century pivotal movie years, and after falling in love with the 1960s, then being terrified by the 1970s, it’s now time to turn my focus to the 1980s. Was it all greedy capitalists and neon clothes like nostalgia projects like Stranger Things and The Wedding Singer would have us believe? Was there an element of rebellion against the dark grittiness that preceded the era? Let’s turn to 1985 for answers, beginning with the maestro of teen angst, John Hughes.

For anyone who has ever spent a summer in Texas, The Breakfast Club (Disc/Download) will feel extremely familiar. Sitting in the air conditioning, fearful of being burned alive by stepping outside, you start to believe you’re one of these bored kids in high school detention all day. Although I can empathize with them, I’ve still never been blown away by the film as a whole. I understand it’s trying to be one of those movies where character development is more important than plot (the kind of film Richard Linklater makes so well), but I walk away from this feeling like the five main characters never really developed or changed. It’s fun to see Judd Nelson take on the authoritative Vice Principal, less fun to see him bully his classmates. Relationships and alliances are formed almost on a whim, and I frankly don’t buy that any of these people will speak to each other again when detention ends. But they had one unusual day together, and I guess that’s enough sometimes.

Speaking of unusual, Ally Sheedy makes a pretty weird cereal sandwich during the course of detention, so this week, let’s have a brunch drink fit for a teenager with terrible dietary habits. While watching The Breakfast Club, I recommend drinking this Captain Crunch Milk Punch.

Captain Crunch Milk Punch

1 1/4 oz Bourbon

1/2 oz Dark Rum

2 oz Milk

1/8 oz Vanilla Extract

1/2 oz Simple Syrup

Captain Crunch Cereal (for garnish)

Combine bourbon, rum, milk, vanilla extract, and simple syrup in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, about 30 seconds. Strain into a glass filled with fresh ice, and garnish with Captain Crunch cereal.

It’s extremely tempting to watch this movie and then ask the question, “Which one was I?” I suppose I was half-Princess / half-Brain, but maybe there was a dose of Basket Case in there too. The Breakfast Club is a movie I revisit every few years to see if it appeals to me more as I get older, and at this point the answer is still no. However, I like it enough to keep trying. On that note, save me a spot in Detention 2025, kids. Cheers!