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Category Archives: Musicals

Teen Witch

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Teen Witch

Image credit: Teen Witch, 1989

I’m not sure whether the How Did This Get Made? podcast is the greatest thing to happen to my Netflix queue, or the worst. It has shined a light on so many terrible (but somehow great?) movies I’d missed over the years, prompting me to turn off my normal taste barometers and see what all the fuss was about. Such was the case with this week’s film Teen Witch (DVD/Download).

Starring Robyn Lively as a teenager who discovers she has magical powers on her 16th birthday (which happens to coincide with Friday the 13th), this movie is half-John Hughes/half-80’s music video. Think sax solos, dry ice, teased hair, etc. I thought the weird musical number would be limited to just the opening credits, but no- it’s the whole damn thing (including one bizarre rap song “Top That” which I don’t totally get, but can’t look away from). Lively’s Louise is the classic smart, social reject yearning to be popular, and she achieves this goal by putting a spell on her high school classmates and wearing tighter clothes. Where Teen Witch really surprises me is with the character of her jock-hero obsession, who turns out to be a surprisingly good guy. Sure, he takes her to a sketchy abandoned house to fool around, but let’s not hold that against him. She seemed into it, rusty floor nails and all. Let’s just hope he came prepared with a CONDOM!

One of my favorite things about this movie is Zelda Rubenstein’s Madame Serena, the fortune teller/witch-guru. Totally adorable, she guides Louise through spells and potions, eventually helping her realize that she doesn’t need powers after all- she’s already pretty great. If I could be anywhere on Friday the 13th, it would be in Madame Serena’s lounge, mixing up something potent. While watching Teen Witch, I recommend drinking a Top That!

Top That!

1 oz Club Soda

2 oz Gin

¾ oz Lemon Juice

¾ oz Simple Syrup

¾ oz Blue Curacao

1 egg white

Fill a Collins glass 1/3 full with crushed ice, top with club soda, and set aside. Pour remaining ingredients into a shaker with no ice and shake vigorously for about 10 seconds. Add ice cubes and shake again until well-chilled and frothy. Strain into the prepared glass.

Top That

I know I shouldn’t like this movie, and yet, I totally do. It’s cheesy and dated and trite, but somehow that just makes it better. There’s enough romance and hormone jokes to appeal to my teen-movie sensibilities, and the out-of-focus, badly choreographed, slow-motion dance sequences are basically what’s been missing from my life. I dare anybody to top that. Cheers!

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Across the Universe

Across the Universe

Image Credit: Across the Universe, 2007.

As a teenager I was largely obsessed with everything Beatles-related (who am I kidding- I still am), so it comes as no surprise that I would adore Across the Universe (DVD/Download). Using the songs of Lennon and McCartney to tell the story of 1960’s-era star crossed lovers? Genius. Tapping director Julie Taymor to bring her signature visual-wonderland style to the project? Transcendent.

Across the Universe is essentially a patchwork quilt woven from Beatles song lyrics.  Heartsick Jude pines for Lucy, they survive the turbulent 60’s with a little help from their friends, dear Prudence sneaks in through the bathroom window, and in the end they realize that love is all you need. Through superbly choreographed songs, wildly creative set pieces, and heartfelt acting, the music of the Beatles truly comes alive. I feel every note, from Joe Cocker belting “Come Together”, to T.V. Carpio singing her heart-wrenching version of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”. It makes me understand the songs like never before.

One of the strongest symbols in the film is the strawberry, used to represent both the overt sexuality of the era, as well as the bloodshed of Vietnam. It’s a powerful and striking visual element. While watching Across the Universe, I recommend drinking a Strawberry Fields Martini.

Strawberry Fields Martini

1/4 cup strawberry juice (I used Naked Strawberry C Monster™)

1 oz cake vodka

Pink champagne

Fresh strawberry (for garnish)

Mix the strawberry juice and vodka over ice in a cocktail shaker, stirring until chilled. Strain into a martini glass, and top with pink champagne. Garnish with a strawberry.

strawberry fields

 

Despite an awful Mr. Kite musical number in the middle (honestly- wasn’t it bad enough we had to suffer through it on the Sgt. Pepper album??) Across the Universe is simply magical. So turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream- it is shining.  Cheers!

Blue Hawaii

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Blue Hawaii

Image credit: Blue Hawaii, 1961

I’ve watched a lot of Hawaiian films this month, so I’m confident in my opinion that I saved the best for last. If there’s any cinematic Hawaii I wish I could transport myself to, it’s the version seen in the classic Elvis Presley picture Blue Hawaii (DVD/Download). Some might call the film dated, but to me it’s a celluloid paradise.

I’ve never considered myself an Elvis fan, and despite my obsession with this movie, I’m still not one. Honestly, Elvis is the least interesting thing about Blue Hawaii. As the heir to a pineapple fortune, he’s somewhat of a jerk to his parents and his long-suffering girlfriend. He gets bonus points for bringing her a cute bikini from Paris, but it doesn’t make up for the time he kissed a flight attendant right in front her. Not cool. If you can stand to look past Elvis Presley The Phenomenon, you’ll see that Blue Hawaii is filled with picture-postcard-perfect Oahu scenery, vintage sundresses designed by Edith Head, and stylish classic cars. And inexplicably, a corgi frolicking in the surf. It’s bizarre, it’s gorgeous, and I can’t look away.

Adding to my love of this movie is a southern accented-Angela Lansbury, who spends most of her time ordering mai tais from her man servant Ping Pong. I’ll be taking my cue from Ms. Lansbury with this “tummy-warmer”. While watching Blue Hawaii, I recommend drinking a classic Mai Tai.

Mai Tai

1 oz white rum

½ oz Orgeat syrup

½ oz Cointreau

2 oz pineapple juice

1 oz orange juice

Dark Rum float (such as Koloa dark rum)

Pineapple spear and lime (for garnish)

Mix white rum, Orgeat, Cointreau, pineapple and orange juices in a shaker filled with ice. Pour drink into a glass with the ice, and float the dark rum on top. Top with pineapple spear and lime wedge.

 

This film gave us two great Elvis songs, “Can’t Help Falling in Love” and “Blue Hawaii”. The iconic singer is certainly charming enough, but even Elvis Presley can’t compete with the beauty that is Hawaii. I may not be able to transport myself back to 1961, but the great thing about cocktails is that they taste the same now as they did then. All I need is that Edith Head sundress and my fantasy will be complete. Cheers!

Grease 2

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Grease 2 pink ladies

Image credit: Grease 2, 1982

Warning: you’re going to want to stock up on alcohol this month. For the next several weeks, I plan on highlighting some fantastic guilty-pleasure film sequels. Yes, many of them fall into the “so bad it’s good” camp, but what’s wrong with that? The way I see it, alcohol can only improve these forgotten gems. First up is my favorite on any terrible sequel list, the 1982 gem Grease 2 (DVD/Download). What- you didn’t know there was a follow up to the classic musical Grease? And that it stars none other than future-Rex Manning, Maxwell Caulfield?? Yes it’s true- this movie exists and it is AMAZING.

Despite being an obvious rush job in an attempt to squeeze a little more money out of the Grease box office juggernaut, this sequel has a lot of things working for it. Number one is Michelle Pfeiffer, in her first starring film role. I would go as far as to say she’s even better than Olivia Newton John, but that’s just my opinion. Next is the cavalcade of 50’s movie stars such as Connie Francis, Eve Arden, Sid Caesar, and Tab Hunter as the substitute Sex-Ed teacher. Let’s just say, there’s a song called “Reproduction” and things get…. weird. Finally the script has traded motorcycles for busted cars, and it is HOT. Here, tight leather pants make sense. In the original Grease– eh, not so much.

One thing that does carry over from the first film is the ultimate girl gang The Pink Ladies. They might be missing the acerbic charm of Stockard Channing, but they’ve gained Paulette the Marilyn Monroe-wannabe, and Sharon (best quote: “We’re gonna die and I’m wearing my mother’s underwear!”). And let’s not forget little Pink Lady-in-training Delores, played by future TV star/Louis CK BFF Pamela Adlon. In honor of this stone cold bunch of weirdos, while watching Grease 2 I’ll be drinking a Pink Lady Redux

Pink Lady Redux

3 oz gin

1.5 oz heavy cream

1 oz applejack

1 oz grenadine

Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously until chilled and thoroughly mixed. Strain into a chilled coupe glass.

True story- the soundtrack to Grease 2 was the first cassette tape I ever owned. Blame it on TV networks who aired this relentlessly on Sunday afternoons in the late 80’s, my love of pink satin, or my pre-teen crush on Adrian Zmed, but I can still recite every lyric by heart. Maybe this is a terrible movie, but it’s my terrible movie. And perhaps, after a few drinks, yours too. Cheers!

 

Singin’ in the Rain

singing-in-the-rain

Image credit: Singin’ in the Rain, 1952

I don’t know about you, but I could really use some cheering up right now.  To that end, I’ll be watching the Gold Standard of movie musicals, Singin’ in the Rain (DVD/Download). From Gene Kelly’s athletic grace to Donald O’Connor’s acrobatic, gravity-defying moves, to cute little Debbie Reynold’s lighting fast tap dancing, this film is serious perfection. Add in a humorous plot about the transition from silent films to talkies and you’ve got a movie that keeps me smiling from start to finish.

I have to admit, I was never big on musicals until I saw Singin’ in the Rain. This one really changed how I viewed the genre. To watch Gene Kelly in motion is to watch a genius at work.  Even if this were a silent picture, I’d still enjoy watching it, if only for the dancing. And damn, Donald O’Connor, dancing up that wall- amazing!!! Actress Jean Hagen provides most of the comic relief as Lina Lamont, the silent film star with a voice that could strip paint. Her diction lessons result in a Lohan-esque accent that’s part British aristocracy, part Bronx, and 100% hilarious.

One of my favorite songs from the film is ‘Good Morning’, sung by Reynolds, Kelly, and O’Connor.  Bright and cheerful, this number is just a little ball of sunshine on a gloomy day. To that end, I’ve decided to set up a mimosa bar- because aren’t mimosas pretty much the best thing about mornings? While watching Singin’ in the Rain, I recommend drinking a Good Morning Mimosa.

Good Morning Mimosa

Sparkling wine or prosecco

Optional Add-ins:

-Orange Juice

-Cranberry Juice

-Pomegranate Juice

-Apple Cider

-Grapefruit Juice

-St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur

mimosa-bar

Gene Kelly made many other musicals with the famed Arthur Freed Unit at MGM, but none as timeless as this picture. I think the reason it endures is because its glee is simply contagious. Kelly spins and twirls his umbrella down a rainy street and he doesn’t care that he’s splashing around in cold puddles- he’s happy in the moment. Sometimes those moments are all too rare in our lives, but when they happen, it makes us want to hop up and yell “Gotta Dance!”  But remember folks- dignity. Always, dignity. Cheers!

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

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willy-wonka

Image Credit: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, 1970.

Happy Halloween to my Cinema Sips readers! I think we can all agree that the best part of this holiday is the candy.  I’ve never been a big fan of scary movies, so this year I plan on stuffing my face full of KitKats and watching the Holy Grail of candy movies, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (DVD/Download). (And of course I’ll be enjoying a chocolate cocktail, but we’ll get to that).

With the passing of legendary actor Gene Wilder, this movie has once again been thrust into the spotlight due to his timeless performance as imaginative candy mogul Willy Wonka. As the enigmatic Wonka, Wilder twirls and softshoe’s his way through a technicolor dreamland filled with rivers of chocolate, Oompa Loompas, and lickable wallpaper. The movie is a visual feast for both children and adults alike, and through the eyes of young Charlie Bucket, we can’t help but feel awed and delighted by literally every frame.

As an adult, I can’t watch this film and not wonder what kind of magical candy cocktails Willy Wonka would have created. Would there be some chocolate liqueur in that river? Perhaps a snozzberry champagne fizzy lifting drink? The possibilities are endless, and as Wonka himself says, “Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker.”  So true.  In the end, I always come back to the chocolate. Plain, simple, delicious. While watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, I recommend drinking a Candy Bar Hot Chocolate.

Candy Bar Hot Chocolate

1/2 oz butterscotch schnapps

1 oz Patron XO Coffee Liqueur

Caramel Hot Chocolate (I use World Market brand)

Sweetened Whipped Cream

Caramel syrup

Prepare hot chocolate according to package directions. Pour into glass mug, then add the coffee liqueur and schnapps, stirring gently. Top with whipped cream and caramel syrup.

candy-bar-hot-chocolate

Although I’d like to think of myself as an optimistic Charlie Bucket, in reality I’m really more of a Veruca Salt (hey- she’s misunderstood!).  And after a bag of Halloween candy, I fall squarely into Augustus Gloop territory.  Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is one of my favorite films, and not just because it promotes sugary treats and pure imagination.  Really, I’m just a sucker for happily ever after. Cheers!

La Bamba

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La Bamba

Image credit: La Bamba, 1987

Sometimes, a girl just needs a good excuse for a margarita. Such is the case with this week’s film La Bamba (DVD/Download). In the pantheon of cheesy musical biopics, this is one of the better ones. Music by Los Lobos, a great cast headed by Lou Diamond Phillips, and of course, those catchy Richie Valens tunes. Do I shed a tear on the Day the Music Died? OK I admit… just one.

Because of La Bamba, the world was introduced to two important things- the history of chicano rock n’ roll, and perpetual People magazine crossword clue Esai Morales.  Despite its 1950’s setting, there’s a definite 80’s sheen to the picture (a la Dirty Dancing). Santana guitar riffs, bad perms, etc. Despite wanting to mock La Bamba, it legitimately sucks me in every time. The story of young, talented Richie Valens (née Valenzuela) who at 17 was killed in a plane crash with Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper, just as his career was taking off- well, it tugs at the heartstrings.

In happier times however, there are some great scenes of Richie learning to play “La Bamba” in a Tijuana whorehouse with his alcoholic brother Bob. In tribute to Richie’s Mexican heritage, while watching La Bamba I recommend drinking a Cerveza-Rita.

Cerveza-Rita

1 bottle Mexican beer (such as Dos Equis)

2 oz tequila

1 oz lime juice

2 oz orange juice

1 oz Cointreau

Simple syrup (to taste)

Blend tequila, lime juice, orange juice, Cointreau, and simple syrup in a blender filled with crushed ice until a smooth frozen consistency. In a chilled glass, pour beer 2/3 of the way up. Top with margarita mixture.

Cerveza- rita

One can’t help but wonder what would have happened to Valens had he not died so young. Would he have become the Latin Elvis? Married Donna and pissed off her racist father even more? We’ll never know. One thing is for certain though- because of his music, and this film, Richie Valens has become immortal. Cheers!