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Category Archives: Sci Fi

The Matrix

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Image credit: The Matrix, 1999

I’ll be the first to admit—I am decades late to The Matrix party. When this movie (Disc/Download) came out in 1999, to me it was only a poster on a wall, hanging in the video store where I worked after school. I must have glanced at that picture of Keanu Reeves in a trench coat a thousand times, restocked the tape boxes triple that amount, but never felt tempted to see what all the fuss was about. Well, let’s just say my indifference ended this year thanks to pandemic boredom, a reboot, and one exceptionally good trailer.

The trailer I’m referring to is that of The Matrix: Resurrections, the most recent installment of this franchise which enjoyed a buzzy streaming release last winter. One whiff of a Jefferson Airplane song and the gracefully aging face of Keanu Reeves, and I was hooked. I wanted to see what these red and blue pills were all about. But to do that, I had to watch the original Matrix, a movie I’d successfully avoided for the past twenty-three years. So… I watched it. And I got lost. And then more lost. And then I gave up around the time Joe Pantoliano was gulping his wine. “What the hell is happening in this movie?” I shouted. “What is even real???”

My husband urged me to watch it again, this time with no distractions and my smart phone out of reach. And you know what? He was right. With nothing dividing my focus, I finally understood it. In the world of The Matrix, robots have taken over, sucking energy from humans, placing them in a weird dream state while they power the grid. A few humans have broken out of the Matrix, but then they go back in, but must escape again before either their real version or their Matrix version gets killed. There are also some giant robotic squids attacking a ship at one point??? Oh, hell, maybe I still don’t get it. But the pleather costumes are glorious.

There are a lot of references to Alice in Wonderland in The Matrix, so if you’re having a watch party, it might be fun to make White Rabbits with red and blue rimming sugar. Let your guests decide which one they want!

White Rabbit

1 ½ oz Gin

¾ oz Amaretto

¾ oz Vanilla non-dairy creamer

¼ oz Lemon cream liqueur

Red and blue rimming sugar

Run a lemon around the edge of a glass, then dip in rimming sugar. Add gin, Amaretto, creamer, and lemon cream liqueur to a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled then strain into prepared glass.

This might feel like a slightly heavy cocktail (in truth it tastes like a lemon meringue pie!), but this is a heavy movie in my opinion. It plays on our fears that we are doomed to be cogs in the machine, urging us to rise up and make a change; to be “The One” in our own lives. To believe we have the power to stop bullets and stand up to those who see us as nothing more than an expendable vessel.

I think.

Logan’s Run

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Image credit: Logan’s Run, 1976

I’m stepping out of my comfort zone this week with a science fiction classic, a genre I rarely cover on Cinema Sips. But in 1976, there was a massively popular film that appealed to both miniature enthusiasts and future Plato’s Retreat patrons—Logan’s Run (Disc/Download). How could I resist?

Dubbed “the sexiest movie ever” by Friends’ Ross Geller, Logan’s Run is a pure escapist fantasy that practically screams disco era. From caftans to holograms, from Farrah Fawcett’s shag haircut to a domed city model straight out of Epcot, this movie relies on practical effects almost as much as it relies on our ability to be distracted by shiny objects. The central theme of a futuristic society where nobody is allowed to live past the age of thirty is almost overshadowed by the impressive visual achievements, which garnered the film a special Academy Award. Why is Logan running? Because he’s been forced to infiltrate and destroy a sanctuary for “olds”. If he’d asked me, I could have pointed him in the direction of Palm Springs. But instead, he goes to Washington DC, where the buildings are crumbling and Congress is basically an abandoned litter box. Sounds about right.

One truly bizarre scene (and there are a lot of truly bizarre scenes in this movie) involves a gold robot called Box that captures and freezes food from outside the domed city for use by the privileged young’uns. It also captures… PEOPLE. Cue the Soylent Green comparisons. While watching Logan’s Run, take a fun trip around the Carrousel with this futuristic frozen cocktail, the Saturn.

Saturn

 1 ¼ oz Gin

½ oz Lemon Juice

½ oz Passion Fruit Syrup

¼ oz Falernum

¼ oz Orgeat

2 cups crushed ice

Orange Twist

Add gin, lemon juice, passion fruit syrup, falernum, and orgeat to a blender filled with crushed ice. Blend until smooth, then pour into a hurricane glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

Is America really headed for a Logan’s Run-type existence? I guess we’ve got about two hundred and fifty years left to either fix all the problems or sentence ourselves to a version of doom that looks like a Florida theme park. But if feral cats really do take control of Congress, and somehow our society reverts back to being centered around shopping malls, I have one request: feathered Farrah Fawcett hair and a glittery tunic for all. Cheers!

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

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Image credit: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Sometimes, you just need a good excuse for a Tiki cocktail. And what better excuse than Walt Disney’s CinemaScope extravaganza 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Disc/Download)? With island names like Volcania, and talk of “grog”, this movie seems like a perfect match for drinks involving fire and rum. Let’s climb aboard the Nautilus and pour one out!

Starring James Mason as Captain Nemo, with Peter Lorre, Paul Lukas, and Kirk Douglas as the men tasked with investigating a mysterious “sea monster”, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is based on the Jules Verne novel about the adventures of a futuristic underwater ship in the 19th century. What makes this such a joy to watch is the sheer opulence of the production design, with pipe organs, circular viewing portals, and grand salons not often found below deck. Additionally, the cinematic practical effects make this a true fantasy experience. You can practically taste the saltwater coming off that giant attacking squid, or feel the warmth of a lush, blue, tropical isle thirty seconds before the natives attack.

Speaking of tropical, with location shooting taking place in the Bahamas and Jamaica, a rum-based drink is practically required. This one is a slight variation of the Sea Serpent’s Embrace, served at Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar in Disneyland. In a fun twist, I’m setting it on fire by using a hollowed-out lime filled with overproof rum. When watching 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, I recommend drinking this Volcania cocktail.

Volcania

1 ½ oz Dark Rum

1 ½ oz Gold Rum

¾ oz Gin

¾ oz Brandy

¾ oz Falernum

½ oz Passionfruit Syrup

1 oz Lime Juice

1 oz Orange Juice

1 oz Pineapple Juice

16 oz Crushed Ice, divided

½ Hollowed-out lime

½ oz Overproof Rum

Combine all ingredients with a cup of ice in a shaker. Shake until chilled, then strain over a glass filled with a fresh cup of ice. Top with half a hollowed-out lime filled with overproof rum. Light it on fire.

If sexy, bearded James Mason in a tight knit turtleneck does it for you, then you’ll definitely want to give this film a watch. Even if you’re not into sci-fi, there’s enough adventure in this to make 20,000 Leagues worth your time. It is, indeed, a whale of a tale. Cheers!

Planet of the Apes

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Image credit: Planet of the Apes, 1968

I have no idea how this happened, but somehow, I’ve become a massive fan of the Planet of the Apes franchise (Disc/Download). Watching the original 1968 film for my weekly “Bad Movie Friday” tradition turned into a lost weekend of Ape movies, including the original five as well as the more-recent four. You’d think I would have gotten tired of watching man and “beast” clash after a few of these, but nope! I was riveted by superior storytelling, endings that left me wanting more, and thought-provoking social commentary.

When an astronaut (Charlton Heston) crash-lands on a distant planet approximately 2,000 years in the future, he’s probably just hoping for a fresh water supply and breathable air. What he gets instead is a topsy-turvy world where primates walk, talk, and hunt the nonverbal humans roaming the barren land like wild animals. Kudos to the special effects teams for making the apes look equal parts cheesy and realistic, like something from a Disney ride that will haunt your nightmares. It wouldn’t be the 1960s if we didn’t also throw in a beautiful woman with teased hair and ripped-to-shreds clothing, a la Raquel Welch in One Million Years B.C. (played here by Linda Harrison as Nova). The movie raises a lot of interesting questions, such as what constitutes humanity, and how enlightened can a society ever be while there is still one group at the top and a different group at the bottom, but it’s also an action-packed flick of pure escapism. In other words, exactly what I need right now.

Although Dr. Zira rejects bananas in Escape From the Planet of the Apes, it’s still a common stereotype for primates to be seen eating them. And after viewing a parched nuclear wasteland for several hours, I need a frozen cocktail. While watching Planet of the Apes, I recommend drinking a Banana Daiquiri.

Banana Daiquiri

2 oz Gold Rum

1 fresh banana, sliced

1 oz Cointreau

1 oz Lime Juice

1/2 oz Coconut Cream

1 cup Ice

1/2 oz Dark Rum

Combine first six ingredients in a blender, and blend until chilled. Pour into a hurricane glass, and top with a floater of dark rum.

If you’re looking for a fun way to spend a weekend, I cannot recommend these movies enough. They were practically designed for our modern binge culture, most clocking in at around 90-100 minutes each, and always with a “WTF??!!!“-ending that leads immediately into the next installment. Part of me wishes I’d stopped at the fifth movie Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973) without sullying the experience with the Tim Burton iteration, but pushing through allowed me to get to Rise of the Planet of the Apes, one of the most successful reboots I’ve had the pleasure of watching. These apes have something to say, and thankfully, this film made me want to stay and listen till the bitter end. Cheers!

Tremors

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Image Credit: Tremors, 1990

If you follow along with Cinema Sips on social media, then you know the pandemic ushered in a new weekly tradition in my house: Bad Movie Friday. While I may have started out watching disaster movies in an attempt to make myself feel better about the actual disaster happening just outside my door, eventually this evolved into a weekly date with a pepperoni pizza and so-bad-it’s-good cinema, covering everything from Armageddon to Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, to The Stuff. To be clear, I actually love most of the movies I’ve watched on BMF, including this week’s blog pick, Tremors (Disc/Download). Just because it’s “bad” doesn’t mean it can’t be entertaining.

Believe it or not, I’d never actually seen Tremors before last week. But now… I’m hooked! Thank goodness my library copy came with Tremors I, II, III, AND IV because I absolutely must find out what happens to the residents of Perfection, Nevada and their subterranean killer worms. Had I known Kevin Bacon had a starring role as Valentine McKee, or that Reba McEntire plays a survivalist badass, I probably would have watched this movie a long time ago. Also, with its string of laugh-out-loud lines and Kevin’s hillbilly accent, I was in deep danger of snorting my drink. Standout quote? “I found the ass end!” Cinema gold, I tell you.

Speaking of drinks, a little bit of research yielded the interesting fact that this movie’s original concept title was “Land Sharks” because these worm/snake Graboid creatures behaved like sharks on dry land. Autumn is the perfect time for a beer shandy cocktail, so I’m combining a little Landshark Lager with a twist on the classic Nevada cocktail. While watching Tremors, I recommend drinking a Landshark Bite.

Landshark Bite

6 oz Landshark Beer

2 oz Grapefruit Juice

1 oz Gold Rum

1/2 oz Lime Juice

1/2 oz Simple Syrup

Grapefruit Bitters

Gummy Worm (for garnish)

Build drink over ice, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with a gummy worm.

If, like me, you feel like collapsing by the end of the work week, I highly recommend the Bad Movie Friday tradition. It’s nice to shut the brain off for a couple hours, not think about whether a plot or a character makes sense, and just let the special effects and campy acting carry you away. And if you need an excuse to have that extra drink, just know a little more alcohol can only make these movies better. Cheers!

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, I decided to accept the challenge. I figured, 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.  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-entrenched 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 Firefly fans out there, and for them I’m so glad 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!