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Category Archives: Comedies

The Lost City

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Image credit: The Lost City, 2022

I’m taking a break from my four-in-a-year posts for a special treat- a movie made THIS CENTURY! And not just a new movie, but a great movie, The Lost City (Disc/Download). I would normally wait and put it on my end-of-year Top-5 list, but this action/adventure/rom-com is so fantastic I couldn’t wait another second to pair it with a cocktail.

Starring Sandra Bullock as romance novelist Loretta Sage, and Channing Tatum as her cover model Alan, this movie is so much funnier and more heartfelt than I ever expected it to be. As anyone who knows me is aware, I love romance novels, and to see the genre represented so well here is a breath of fresh air. Loretta may think her own books are “schlock”, but as Alan points out, how could anything that brings so much joy to her readers be a bad thing? The two have fantastic chemistry, and as Loretta gets forced into a treasure hunt through the jungle (yes, this has very strong Romancing the Stone vibes), and Alan shows up to rescue the woman he’s been secretly pining for, these two both learn never to judge a book by its cover. Or its cover model. You get the idea. My swooniest moment? When Alan brings Loretta cheese, water, and comfortable shoes. Talk about a hero!

Just like in Romancing the Stone, watching two people sweat their way through a jungle (one of whom is wearing a purple sequined jumpsuit!) always makes me thirsty. Let’s celebrate the treasure found in The Lost City with this Crown of Fire cocktail.

Crown of Fire

3 oz Navy-strength Rum

1 oz Campari

1 oz Cinnamon Syrup*

1 oz Lime Juice

Mint Sprig and tiki umbrella (for garnish)

Combine ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with a mint sprig and tiki umbrella.

*Cinnamon Syrup: toast a few cinnamon sticks in a pan for 3-4 minutes. Add 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar, and simmer until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, let cool, and strain out cinnamon sticks.

It’s so refreshing to see a movie where every performer brings their A-game, from Channing and his dance moves, to Sandra and her impeccable comedic timing, and even all the way to Brad Pitt, who found a new use for his Cliff Booth martial arts training. If you’re searching for a perfect date night, then check out The Lost City, mix a strong rum cocktail, and consider it found. Cheers!

Adaptation

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Image credit: Adaptation, 2002

If you follow me on social media, then you know I’m an orchid mom. That’s right, I enjoy caring for one of the most delicate plants in nature, all for the promise of a few blooms. I like to watch as they die and resurrect themselves, over and over, like a superhero franchise. They’ve been a joy, a distraction, and an inspiration as I revise and write and revise again, hoping maybe this time, the right words will magically fall into place. Thus I can say with absolute certainty, Adaptation (Disc/Download) is a perfect film for the orchid-obsessed, and for anybody who’s ever struggled to make a story “work”.

Loosely based on The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean, Adaptation is Charlie Kaufman’s wild meta tale of a screenwriter’s quest to turn this book into a movie. Nicolas Cage plays Charlie, and he also plays Charlie’s fictional twin brother Donald, who stumbles into screenwriting like a NaNoWriMo newbie. Charlie writes smart, character-driven stories, while Donald’s are mostly plot-driven, using the formula he learned in a ridiculous workshop. Where things get weird is when the script Charlie is writing (which we see in cuts to Meryl Streep as Susan Orlean and Chris Cooper as John Laroche, subject of The Orchid Thief) slowly morphs into a “Donald script”, going completely off the rails as Charlie loses all sense of his own voice, and what he was originally trying to say. It’s a strange, bizarre twist, showing the audience what happens when people follow the formulas: we get crappy movies that focus more on outlandish plots than character development. One wonders if Nicolas Cage has exclusively been picking “Donald movies” for the past decade, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Now, back to the orchids. I love watching John Laroche wax poetic about the beauty and struggle of his obsession, and Orlean’s look of wonder at all the rare varieties mirrors my own. While watching Adaptation, I recommend drinking a Flower Show cocktail.

Flower Show

1 Egg White

2 oz Gin

1/2 oz Crème de Violette

1/2 oz Cointreau

1 oz Fresh Lemon Juice

Fill a shaker with ice. Add all ingredients and shake until frothy. Strain into a cocktail glass.

One thing the movie never discusses (and I wish it did) is the rebirth of this plant. An orchid can appear completely dead, stripped of all its beautiful blooms, but with enough care and attention, it’ll start to grow again. There’s something comforting in this, knowing that even when all hope seems lost, the thing you loved might not be gone forever. Maybe, like a writer huddled over a keyboard, it can just be… temporarily blocked. Cheers!

Ghost Town

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Image Credit: Ghost Town, 2008

It’s unfortunate, really, that the world has largely ignored a perfectly great autumnal New York rom-com for so many years. Nora Ephron movies usually get all the credit for long walks through a golden-hued Central Park, but I ask you to also consider the Ricky Gervais/Téa Leoni comedy Ghost Town (Disc/Download) when you’re waxing poetic about bouquets of sharpened pencils and leaves gusting across the sidewalk. I may be writing this post in the springtime, but in my opinion, a movie trip to New York in the fall is always a good idea.

It’s surprising to me that Ghost Town is not a remake of a 1930s or ‘40s comedy because it feels like something of that era, evoking films such as Here Comes Mr. Jordan, Heaven Can Wait, or even It’s a Wonderful Life. Death breeds an appreciation for life, forcing an unsympathetic character to change his pessimistic ways and let others in—in this case, surly dentist Bertram Pincus. Ricky Gervais plays Dr. Pincus with quick-witted, deadpan humor, and although not the first actor you would think of as a romantic leading man, he slowly steals a recent widow’s (Téa Leoni) heart, along with mine. After a colonoscopy mishap (kudos to the screenwriter for finding relatable humor in that situation), Bertram awakes with the ability to see dead people. Unfortunately for him, New York City is filled with ghosts trying to get messages to their grieving loved ones. One such ghost is a tuxedo’d Greg Kinnear, who died in the act of leaving one hell of an emotional wound on his wife. Can Dr. Pincus heal the hurt? Can he, as a dentist and a brilliantly funny man, fix her smile? Ahhhhhhhhh this movie is just too cute.

If you’re familiar with New York-set romantic comedies, then you’ll recognize a lot of locations in this. The filmmakers hit all the big ones—Central Park, the Egyptian Wing of the Met, cozy West Village bistro, etc. But it’s at the Carlyle Hotel bar where we learn Dr. Pincus’s favorite drink, a Pimm’s Cup. Classy Greg Kinnear tries to steer him toward a Sapphire Martini, which he grudgingly drinks, but it’s not until Téa Leoni orders her own Pimm’s later on that we know these two lonely hearts are made for each other. Matchmaking through cocktails—I love it! While watching Ghost Town, do yourself a favor and pour yourself a classic Pimm’s Cup.

Pimm’s Cup

1 ½ oz Pimm’s No. 1

2 oz Sparkling Lemonade

2 oz Ginger Beer

Cucumber ribbon

Orange and lemon slices for garnish

Fill a glass with ice and add the Pimm’s. Top with sparkling lemonade and ginger beer, stirring to combine. Garnish with cucumber ribbon and orange/lemon slices.

There are a lot of variations on this recipe, so feel free to experiment with different combinations of lemon and ginger. The main thread through all of them is Pimm’s, fresh fruit, and a sweetly sour sparkling soda. The fact that Bertram Pincus is a Pimm’s lover makes total sense to me; he’s complicated and sweet, just like his favorite cocktail. Cheers!

Yours, Mine and Ours

Image Credit: Yours, Mine, and Ours, 1968

Lucille Ball is having a moment. From podcasts to documentaries to feature films, it seems the whole world is in love with Lucy again. Thanks to Nick-at-Nite reruns in the mid-90s, I’ve seen every episode of her iconic television show (including several spin-offs), so imagine my delight in discovering a more earnest side of Lucy in the hilarious romantic comedy, Yours, Mine and Ours (Disc/Download).

Don’t get me wrong—as Helen North Beardsley, Lucille Ball is still extremely funny. But it takes more than wacky facial expressions and slapstick physical comedy to handle a brood of eighteen (yes, EIGHTEEN) children. In a tale that is basically The Brady Bunch on steroids, widowed nurse Helen meets cute with widowed Naval officer Frank in the commissary, bumping their overflowing shopping carts into one another. It isn’t until later, when they finally go out on a date, that they reveal their true number of offspring- eight for her, ten for him. Setting aside all my thoughts about birth control and smart family planning, it becomes obvious that these two are made for each other. Blending their family proves a challenge, as does finding a big enough house, but as Frank and Helen prove, with enough love and a little discipline, anything is possible.

Of course with families this large, it’s not all smooth sailing. Before they can make it to the altar, Frank’s kids spike Helen’s drink so she’ll make a fool out of herself at the initial meet-and-greet. She asks for a light screwdriver and gets a mouthful of gin, scotch, vodka, and a tiny splash of OJ. Ball’s face is priceless, as is Fonda’s description of the sabotage as “the alcoholic Pearl Harbor”. Let’s come up with a tastier version of this abomination, hopefully one that won’t cause you to dump mashed potatoes onto a little girl’s lap. While watching Yours, Mine and Ours, I recommend drinking this wonderful-wonderful Screwball cocktail.

Screwball

1 oz Orange Gin

1 oz Vodka

½ oz Cointreau

½ oz Lemon Juice

½ oz Simple Syrup

1 oz Fresh-squeezed Orange Juice

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

If you’re celebrating the Academy Awards this year, this is a great drink to make because it references two nominees—Being the Ricardos and Licorice Pizza. Paul Thomas Anderson doesn’t specifically reference Yours, Mine and Ours in his script for LP, but Gary Valentine’s role was inspired by his childhood friend Gary Goetzman (who played Henry Fonda’s son, and one of Lucille Ball’s drink spikers in this classic film). And once you’ve gotten Nicole Kidman’s Lucy out of your system, treat yourself to the real thing. You won’t regret it. Cheers!

The Devil Wears Prada

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Image Credit: The Devil Wears Prada, 2006

As many of us have transitioned to remote or hybrid work schedules over the last two years, it can be difficult to remember what it was like reporting to an office every day. Hollywood has certainly made its share of stellar workplace comedies (The Apartment, 9 to 5, Office Space, etc.), but when it comes to sheer eye candy, you can’t beat The Devil Wears Prada (Disc/Download).

Starring Meryl Streep as Runway magazine editor Miranda Priestley, and Anne Hathaway as her tortured assistant Andrea (or Ahn-DREA as Miranda likes to condescendingly purr), this film offers a humorous glimpse at the inner workings of the fashion industry, perhaps a little more realistically than its predecessor Funny Face (another favorite of mine). Streep is caustic perfection in her role as one of the most powerful women in fashion, and it’s to her credit that this villainous character is such a complex one. We see the pressure she’s under, the entire industry that depends upon her, yet it’s hard to excuse away her constant fat-shaming of employees, or underhanded business deals. You respect her, and at the same time, loathe her. Luckily, Emily Blunt and Stanley Tucci round out the cast, bringing a much-needed dose of fun to this abusive workplace situation. I will watch these two in anything, particularly when it involves them wearing haute couture and making snide comments. Can I get a spin-off??

When choosing a cocktail this week, I wanted to pick something as classic as Miranda’s style, but also reflective of her signature way of speaking. Somehow, she manages to come off polished and outrageously cruel at the same time. While watching The Devil Wears Prada, I recommend drinking this Acid Tongue cocktail.

Acid Tongue

2 oz Navy-strength Gin

2 Limequats, quartered (can use Key Limes if Limequats aren’t in season)

3/4 oz Simple Syrup

Muddle the limequats in a shaker with simple syrup. Add in gin, and ice. Shake until chilled and combined, then strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with citrus slice.

If we’re going by the ingredient list, this drink is really just a gussied-up gimlet. But I like to think it has the Miranda Priestly touch: strong gin for a strong, powerful woman, a little sweet in the right circumstances (she clearly wants to be a good mom to her twin girls, although it’s unclear if she actually is), and an obscure citrus fruit that will no doubt start a trend. You heard it here first, folks- Limequats. Soon to be in magazines and expensive cocktail bars near you. Cheers!

Dinner at Eight

Image credit: Dinner at Eight, 1933

Last year around this time, I watched Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner because I thought it was a movie about people eating. Too late, I realized my mistake (I was already three drinks in before anyone even mentioned the dining room). This year, Dinner at Eight (Disc/Download) has fooled me anew, offering all the promise of a five-course meal with none of the calories. Really, after a year of pandemic weight gain, maybe that’s a good thing. I’m not sure who in Hollywood started the trend of “movies with dinner in the title that have nothing to do with dinner,” but let me just say, I am here for it every Thanksgiving. After a big meal, the last thing I want to see is more food.

There are a lot of familiar faces in this flick (Barrymores! Glenda the Good Witch!), but the true standout is Miss Jean Harlow. As soon as she appears onscreen, lounging in a silk bed eating bon-bons in the middle of the day, I am putty in her manicured hands. She takes a character that could have been a silly throwaway and turns it into the one thing that saves this movie from being too full of itself. Harlow is radiant in her satin negligees, platinum blonde hair, and hilarious facial expressions, and I find myself waiting for other actors’ scenes to end just so she’ll come back. Dinner at Eight is built around the premise of a group of upper-crust New Yorkers gathering for a dinner party, all of them hiding their own personal secrets, but the thing that sets Jean apart is she lets it all hang out. She doesn’t have time for bras, or politeness- in other words, the ideal dinner companion.

As these neurotic people navigate bankruptcy, career suicide, alcoholism, and afternoon trysts, I can’t help but think that Millicent Jordan’s bar cart better be stocked- they’ll all need a strong drink by the time a meal is actually served! Let’s toast them with this autumnal variation on a Manhattan, the Big Apple Martini.

Big Apple Martini

2 oz Applejack Brandy

½ oz Sweet Vermouth

1 oz Apple cider

Dash of Angostura Bitters

Luxardo Maraschino cherry (for garnish)

Combine liquid ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a Luxardo Maraschino cherry.

If you’re like me, you’ll get so wrapped up in the drama of this movie that you won’t even remember these characters are eventually supposed to break bread. As the day gets longer, and eight o’clock seems oh so far away, you start to realize that in the world of Classic Hollywood dinner parties, time doesn’t exist—it’s merely a suggestion. Cheers!

The Four Seasons

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Image credit: The Four Seasons, 1981

Anyone who knows me know I love vacations. Talking about them, going on them, planning them—I live for escapism. So imagine my delight to discover a 1980s Alan Alda film The Four Seasons (Disc/Download), in which three couples do nothing but take vacations. Sign me up!

In addition to this fantastic premise, the cast is what really sold me. Alan Alda, Carol Burnett, Sandy Dennis, Rita Moreno—a who’s who of interesting, intelligent, funny people. We see these actors bicker and laugh as they travel from rustic New England cabins to St. Thomas yachts, and back to an ivy-covered college campus. But even in the most gorgeous, unbelievable surroundings, the characters feel so down-to-earth and real. There’s a particular scene where Alan Alda and Carol Burnett are lying in bed on the boat, listening to their friend and his new girlfriend make love in the adjacent stateroom, and they just can’t stop giggling. It makes you feel like you’re right there with them, on this ridiculous trip, with these ridiculous people. Their life is your life, for the length of this trip.

Speaking of boats, I think it’s straight-up #goals to see Jack Weston chilled out on the top deck, relaxing with a drink while everyone else argues about naked Bess Armstrong crashing the party (for all you My So-Called Life fans- yes, I’ve now seen Patty Chase’s butt).  While watching The Four Seasons, make believe you’re cruising the Virgin Islands with this Painkiller cocktail.

Painkiller

2 oz Dark Rum

4 oz Pineapple Juice

1 oz Cream of Coconut

1 oz Orange Juice

Nutmeg (for garnish)

Combine liquid ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass or tiki mug filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a pinch of nutmeg and a tiny umbrella.

I’ve always loved movies and television shows about the complexities of marriage and adulthood because they’re an opportunity for relatable conflict. Throwing people into the chaos of vacation brings existing tensions to the surface, in a way that’s believable. We’ve all been there, on this trip where not everything goes to plan, and maybe your travel companions are getting on your nerves. But knowing you can go back to your room and just laugh with your favorite person on the planet—that’s what makes it all worth it. Cheers!

Bridesmaids

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Image credit: Bridesmaids, 2011

Are you reaaadyyy to paaaaaartyyy? I know I am, and I can’t think of two better hosts than Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig. Add in a Melissa McCarthy chaser, and you’ve got yourself a ridiculously fun time with this week’s pick Bridesmaids (Disc/Download).

A rite of passage for many of us, this film perfectly captures the expense, the hassle, the camaraderie, and the sentimentality of being a bridesmaid. Kristen Wiig’s character Annie is truly every woman who has ever balanced the happiness of her friend’s engagement with the dread of knowing you’re going to have to buy a dress that (despite reassurances to the contrary), you will never wear again. Then there’s the inevitable bachelorette weekend, plus the shower, which are all enjoyable, but still… it can be a lot. That’s why we rely on alcohol to get through all these rituals. I don’t care how nice your fellow bridesmaids are, or how much you love your friend who’s getting married, there’s going to come a time when you’ll want to pound that third glass of rosé because you just cannot deal with One. More. Posed. Picture. 

Speaking of rosé, this movie is a great excuse to bust out your favorite bottle and pretend you’re at Lillian’s French-themed shower. Unfortunately, at the time of this movie’s production, Frosé was not yet a staple among the brunch crowd. But you KNOW if it had been, Helen would have had that wine slushy machine cranking non-stop. While watching Bridesmaids, I recommend drinking Frosé.

Frosé

1 bottle Rosé Wine

1 cup Frozen Strawberries

1 cup Frozen Peaches

2 oz Simple Syrup

Luxardo Maraschino cherry

Measure out 2 cups of Rosé, and pour it into ice cube trays. Freeze 2 hours (or overnight). When ready to make your drink, pour remaining wine and simple syrup into a blender, then add frozen rosé cubes, strawberries, and peaches. Blend until smooth and slushy. Pour into glasses, and top with a Luxardo Maraschino cherry. (Serves 4).

Although this film features a heartwarming romance between Kristen Wiig and Chris O’Dowd’s characters, it’s really the female friendships that make this an instant-classic to me. In a lot of ways, I root for Annie and Lillian more than I root for Annie and Officer Rhodes. Men may come and go, but hilarious brunch companions are forever. Cheers!

Emma.

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Image credit: Emma. 2020

As any frequent moviegoer will tell you, 2020 was pretty much our worst nightmare. While theaters began to shut their doors last March, we saw our hopes for carefree, popcorn-scented afternoons dashed as quickly as that animated roller coaster flings itself around a cartoon soda in the opening pre-show. Perhaps you spent some time thinking about the last movie you saw before lockdowns, wondering if you made the right call. In my case, I could rest easy knowing I went out on a high note with Emma. (Disc/Download).

Though any Jane Austen scholar will likely critique this film’s deviation from its source material, to me it captures the spirit, whimsy, and fun of the book. Plus, in contrast to Clueless (my other favorite Emma adaptation), we get to enjoy the sumptuous costumes and polite society of the Regency era. I’ll always have a fondness for “Rollin’ With the Homies,” but there’s something about a choreographed quadrille that just makes me grin from ear-to-ear. Autumn de Wilde’s directorial style shows similarities to that of Wes Anderson or Sofia Coppola- heavy on style and symmetry, light on melodrama and manic performances. Anya Taylor-Joy is perfection as our meddlesome title character, and of course I adore Bill Nighy as her lovable, hypochondriac father whose greatest foe is a chill draft. It’s a pastel world of manners and manipulation, and in a year when literally everything seemed beyond our control, it was comforting to think of another character who had to abandon her controlling ways to find happiness. I was not alone in the struggle.

In the dark days of the pandemic, I often thought about the candy-coated costumes and production design of this film. Even down to the tiniest stitch or ribbon of paint, every element was an important piece of the visual tableau. In my beverage choice, I wanted to celebrate Emma’s love of flowers and bold pastel colors. While watching Emma., I recommend drinking this Night Bloom cocktail.

Night Bloom

1 1/2 oz Gin

1/2 oz Creme de Violette

1 Egg White

1/2 oz Lemon Juice

1/2 oz Simple Syrup

2 dashes Orange Bitters

Flower Garnish

Combine Gin, creme de violette, egg white, lemon juice, bitters, and simple syrup in a shaker. Shake vigorously for ten seconds, then add ice. Continue shaking until chilled and frothy, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a flower.

As I write this, I’m about to head back to the movie theater after sixteen months away. The flick: To Catch a Thief. Hollywood still has a long way to go before it lures me back with new material, so until then I’ll be enjoying some old favorites and savoring the memory of watching Emma Woodhouse dance with Mr. Knightley for the very first time (*sigh*). Cheers!

Coming to America

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Image credit: Coming to America, 1988

There’s a rumor I’ve heard, and maybe you’ve heard it too. Apparently, a long time ago, in a land not so far away, Eddie Murphy used to be funny. You’ll forgive me if I’m skeptical—after all, I grew up in the era of The Nutty Professor. I know Eddie as the strange guy in the fat suit.  So when my husband sat me down and told me the comedian had starred in a really great 1980s rom-com called Coming to America (Disc), I decided to take a chance. And shock of all shocks—I loved it!!!

Although there are a few absurd disguises in this (Eddie as an old Jewish man? Pass.), for the most part Murphy keeps his juvenile gimmicks in check. As Prince Akeem, he’s surprisingly earnest for a man who has rose petals thrown at his feet wherever he goes. This royal yearns for true love instead of an arranged marriage set up by his parents, so he and man servant Semmi go to the most logical place for a future king to find his mate—Queens, NY! Once there, he finds shelter in a literal crime scene, a job at the local knock-off fast food joint (McDowell’s anyone?), and a sweet romance with the boss’s daughter. Rather than reveal his true identity, he pretends to be a poor immigrant student in order to ensure that his lady loves him for who he is instead of what he has back in Zamunda. Aside from some cringe-worthy scenes in a barber shop, this is a solid A+ rom-com that left me smiling from beginning to end.

Prince Akeem goes to great lengths to find his queen, but luckily you don’t have to. Just make this aptly named cocktail and pretend you’ve got Royal Bathers waiting for you in the shower. While watching Coming to America, I recommend drinking a Queen’s Park Swizzle!

Queen’s Park Swizzle

2 oz Aged Rum

½ oz Lime Juice

½ oz Simple Syrup

2-3 dashes Angostura Bitters

5-6 leaves Fresh Mint

Muddle mint in the bottom of a glass, dragging it up to coat the sides with oils. Add the rest of the ingredients and fill the glass 2/3 full with crushed ice. Use a swizzle stick to mix, until the outside of the glass becomes frosty. Fill the glass the rest of the way up with crushed ice, and garnish with more fresh mint.

If you’re curious about this film’s recent sequel (the oh-so-cleverly titled Coming 2 America– 🙄), don’t feel like you’re missing much if you decide to skip it. While it’s fun to watch some of these actors again, it in no way justifies having to sit through another Sexual Chocolate song. Randy Watson can stay back in 1988. Cheers!