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Category Archives: Sci Fi

Snowpiercer

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Image credit: Snowpiercer, 2013

It takes a lot to suck me into a story where everyone is cold, dirty, and unhappy, so it goes without saying that I was not expecting to love this week’s film Snowpiercer (Disc/Download). But after my initial watch, I remember turning the television off, staring at the blank screen, and breathing a single word- “Wow.”

Recently adapted for the small screen, Bong Joon-ho’s dystopian sci-fi action film has many similar themes to his 2019 hit, Parasite (which I also loved). Class warfare takes center stage as Chris Evans leads an army of peasants from the back of a continuously moving train, to the front section where rich folks enjoy such luxuries as sushi and saunas. This locomotive carries the last remaining humans on earth (after climate change and man’s follies have turned it into a subzero wasteland), and instead of a peaceful egalitarian community of survivors, overlord Wilfred has created a closed loop ecosystem of haves and have-nots. With a cast that includes Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, Jamie Bell, and Ed Harris, just to name a few, Snowpiercer is that rare movie that keeps me on my toes from beginning to end. But beyond the flashy action sequences, there’s a real sense of pain and hope and desperation to these characters that makes me want to keep watching. I’ve got to see if there’s an end to this terrible trip.

Throughout Snowpiercer, food is used as a metaphor for the characters’ privilege, or lack thereof. From Ed Harris’s steaks to Tilda’s rare sushi, down to the gelatinous bug bars that the tailies consume (sorry, “protein bars”), this train’s menu is all over the place. I had a little fun this week with the protein bar theme, making a snack fit for us alcoholic peasants. While watching Snowpiercer, I recommend trying a Boozy Bar.

Boozy Bar

3/4 cup Water

1/3 cup Vodka

1/2 cup Jell-O (any flavor)

1 tsp Activated Charcoal Powder

Boil water and vodka together, then stir in charcoal powder and Jell-O. Remove from heat, and stir until gelatin is dissolved- about 2 minutes. Pour into block molds, and chill overnight. When firm, carefully run a knife around the inside of the molds and turn the blocks out onto a plate. Slice and enjoy!

This film always leaves me with a lot to think about, such as how castes can have a symbiotic relationship, each of us relying on the other to survive, whether we realize it or not. I have no idea which section I’d be relegated to on this train, but dear God let’s hope it’s not the nursery school. Now that would truly be my dystopian nightmare. Cheers!

Spaceballs

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spaceballs

Image credit: Spaceballs, 1987

I’m just going to say it- Donald Trump stole his hair from Barf.  If you’re like me and searching desperately for a fun Halloween costume, this wisecracking Mog might be your best option. Half man, half dog- he’s his own best friend. Trump wigs are easy to procure these days, and the allusion to this cult classic Star Wars parody will make you the coolest trick-or-treater on the block.

I’ve never been a big Star Wars fan, but I am a huge Mel Brooks fan. His mastery of the art of puns is unparalleled, and Spaceballs (DVD/Download) is no exception. A robot named Dot Matrix? “Combing” the desert?? Pizza the Hut??? Genius. The plot rambles and the acting is deliciously campy, but that script is just magic. And with all the pop culture references, I feel like I’m watching a 2 hour joke crafted for entertainment geeks like me.  And with 80’s comedy greats like Joan Rivers, Rick Moranis, and John Candy populating the cast, it’s hard not to have a good time watching this.

Although this is a cocktail blog, I have to make an exception this week. Lone Starr is just too good a name to slip by. While watching Spaceballs, I recommend drinking the favorite beer of cheap Texans: Lone Star.

lone-star

Mel Brooks is one of those comedy greats whose work will still be relevant and funny long after he’s gone. I love that he is still working on projects, even in his 90’s! I know I’ve said in the past that I despise sequels, but even I would love to see Spaceballs 2: The Search for More Money. May the Schwartz be with you, Mr. Brooks. Cheers!

Flight of the Navigator

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Flight of the Navigator

Image credit: Flight of the Navigator, 1986.

As kids across America flock to see what passes for entertaining children’s movies these days, I can’t help but reminisce about some of my own summer favorites from childhood. All month long on Cinema Sips, I’ll be featuring kids movies that are near and dear to my heart, along with a cocktail pairing to make it just that much more fun. Because let’s admit, as much as we tell kids to cherish their youth, sometimes it’s pretty great to be an adult.

Kicking things off is that Fourth of July classic, Flight of the Navigator (DVD/Download).  Oh how my brother and I loved to shout “compliance!” at each other in the late 1980’s, in that weird pseudo Pee-wee Herman voice.  The story of a boy who gets abducted by aliens, then returned 8 years later having not aged a day, is the stuff of bad sci-fi, but somehow it works here.  Maybe it’s because of the Disney Soarin’ music, or the creepy puppets, or just the bad 80’s hair (ahem Sarah Jessica Parker).  But whatever it is, I loved it then and my feelings have not faded.  If anything, my appreciation for Twisted Sister has only deepened.

Inexplicably, the 1980’s technology in this film includes the R.A.L.F., or Robotic Assistant Labor Facilitator.  It’s basically a big cardboard box that delivers papers and food.  A prehistoric Amazon drone if you will.  This acronym, and the movie’s Florida setting inspired my cocktail this week, the R.A.L.F. (or, Rum And Lime Flip).

R.A.L.F.

2 oz Dark Rum

1 oz Lime Juice

1/2 oz Pineapple Juice

1/2 oz simple syrup

1 whole raw egg (yolk included)

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice.  Shake vigorously until chilled, and the egg has emulsified.  Strain into a coupe glass.

RALF

Sculptures by Chris Bathgate

No, your eyes do not deceive you- that is not a time-traveling Bruiser, come to visit us in 2016.  In fact it’s my look-a-like dog Peaches, who was very excited to see her doppelgänger on screen this week.  She thought the frisbee scene was aces, but she’s still not sure about the scary giant eyeball on the ship.  Really, neither am I.  Cheers, and Happy Fourth of July!

Gattaca

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gattaca

Image credit: Gattaca, 1997

I am well aware that Cinema Sips is severely lacking in the sci-fi genre, but this is largely because so few good ones get made. Robots, hovercrafts, bad makeup- ugh. However this week, I’m excited to watch a futuristic film that is one of my long time favorites.  Gattaca (DVD/Download) features rockets, gadgets, and gene selection, yet somehow manages to remain an intelligent, thought-provoking drama.  Finally- sci-fi I can get behind!

In addition to beautiful art deco-meets-postmodernist sets, lead actors Ethan Hawke, Jude Law, and a vacant Uma Thurman round out the eye candy quota. It’s actually no coincidence that this film stars two ridiculously good looking men. Hawke’s character Vincent buys the identity of Jude Law’s character Jerome, in an effort to qualify as a genetically superior candidate for the space program. This entitles him to blood, urine, skin samples, hair samples, and endless pithy quips from a drunken, wheelchair bound Law. In essence, it’s the inVALid with the INvalid, in a hot Odd Couple-esque pairing.

In Gattaca, Hawke and Law are like vodka and gin. They look the same, but beneath the surface are wildly different. Therefore my cocktail this week combines these two spirits, with a dash of Lillet thrown in to balance it out (the Thurman of the drink, if you will). While watching Gattaca, I recommend drinking a Vesper.

Vesper

½ oz Vodka

2 oz Gin

¼ oz Lillet Blonde

Lemon twist (for garnish)

Shake vodka, gin, and Lillet over ice until well chilled. Strain into a martini glass, and garnish with a lemon twist.

vesper

While the Vesper is more well-known for being the drink of James Bond, I think this classic cocktail is equally at home in Gattaca. While certain parts are very futuristic, there are many stylistic elements which make the viewer feel transported to the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema. Is Gattaca a sci-fi film masquerading as chic poetic drama? Or the other way around? Either way, it’s even better with a cocktail. Cheers!

Serenity

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Image credit: Universal Pictures, Serenity, 2005

Image credit: Universal Pictures, Serenity, 2005

In an effort to prove that I actually do pay attention to reader requests, I am going out of my comfort zone this week by featuring a sci-fi movie. I’ve actually had several people ask me what they should drink while watching this week’s film Serenity (DVD/Download), and rather than roll my eyes yet again at the reminder that writer/director Joss Whedon is beloved by just about everyone but me, I decided to accept the challenge. I figured, I loved his version of Much Ado About Nothing, and I love lead actor Nathan Fillion (Mr. Fillion- you will always be the very best Joey Buchanan on One Life to Live in my book!) so how terrible could this be?

Well, I’m sad to say that I just didn’t get this movie.  I gave it a chance- honest, I did. But between the explosions, spaceship chases, campy acting, and bouncing back and forth among various conflicts, I struggled to keep focus on the plot. Perhaps I would have enjoyed this more if I’d seen the TV show that pre-dated the film, Firefly. As it was, I felt like I was thrust into the middle of a story, and it was just assumed that I would like and root for all of these characters, simply because they were created by Joss Whedon.  If you’re into sci-fi, and/or you like westerns, you’ll probably love this movie.  So please don’t let my romantic comedy-poisoned brain stop you from checking it out.

Speaking of Firefly, how fortuitous that this cult-favorite TV show happens to share a name with a vodka brand! In homage to Capt. Malcolm’s southern/western/cowboy/bizarre accent, I’m using their sweet-tea flavored vodka in this drink. And as a side note, I am pretty excited to FINALLY have a use for my cactus drink stirrers, which can really only be used with a western (or sci-fi/western in this case). While watching Serenity, I recommend drinking a Seren-e-Tea-Ni.

Seren-e-Tea-Ni

2 oz Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka

½ oz lemon juice

½ oz simple syrup

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker over ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon.

serene_tea_ni

Was watching Serenity a waste of two hours for me? No, of course not. First of all, nothing Nathan Fillion-related is a waste of time for me. Second, watching River Tam’s martial arts moves was actually pretty enjoyable, like a deadly ballet. Third, I can now listen to my friends talk about this movie and actually follow what they’re saying. There are a lot of Joss Whedon fans out there, and for them I’m so glad that there’s a movie that inspires such loyal devotion. I’m not one of them, but that’s okay. I don’t have to be. All I have to do is come up with a drink that makes the viewing experience even better for us all. Challenge accepted, and mission accomplished. Cheers!